Jan 23

The view stretched on for miles

So there I was, 11 p.m., huffing and puffing through my third bike ride of the day. OK, second ride, but third route. Still, “third ride” sounds more maniacal. I rode 39 miles this morning in London.

After a day at the office, an evening in the studio and delicious leftovers for dinner, I went to Zwift once more. Just naked mile collecting, really. I have three spreadsheets. Well … had three spreadsheets. This was the butt of a mild joke today. It was an implied joke and those are the ones that stick with you. So this evening I consolidated the three files into one single document. One part of the spreadsheet compares my top months, mileage-wise.

This morning, I topped my previous best, May 2016, when I had time to pedal and numbness to pedal through. But I realized that if I did juuuust a few more miles, I would get to a pleasing number. So I did that this evening, riding in Zwift’s made up world of Watopia. For some reason the photo capture part of the app didn’t work this evening, which is a shame. I had a great wide shot of some Mayan temples. That part is odd, since I wasn’t riding in the Maya region of Central America and modern Mexico, but rather on an island in the Solomons, some 7,000-plus miles away.

But this evening, when it was done, I set a new best, humble as it is. I tabulated a chart showing January in the saddle. That blue line, if I can stay above it throughout, would give me a record-setting year, in terms of miles. The red and green trendlines show slightly more ambitious goals.

The purple line is where I am now.

So, not a bad January.

Another part of my spreadsheet presently ranks out the best Februaries. None of them are impressive and it shouldn’t be hard to post a new superlative. I’ll start on that after a rest day or two.

The 2023 Zwift route tracker: 53 routes down, 67 to go.

Let’s clear out a few tabs. This is the feature where I link to things I’ve been keeping in a browser somewhere. Rather than have this stuff disappear forever, I can reference them here. (Blogging! I know! So wild!) Some of these are absolutely worth the effort. The last several weeks I’ve shared a bunch of pages that I’ve held open for a long time. This one here, however, is just from last fall.

Bryan Collins’ 101 design rules:

Musings, ramblings, and principles that I’ve shared with my team and randomly on Twitter. Reminding yourself of the principles that ground you is simply a good practice. Here are mine.

1. Design is hope made visible.

2. You can live your life as the result of history and what came before, or you can live your life as the cause of what’s to come. You choose.

3. When talent doesn’t hustle, hustle beats talent. But when talent hustles, watch out.

4. When you work only for money, without any love for what you do in and of itself, your work will lack energy. People will feel that. So give every project everything you’ve got, at every moment, every time.

5. A good philosopher will say: “Know thyself.” A good shopkeeper will say: “Know thy customer.” A good designer will say: “Know both.”

This might be one of the last things I opened on Twitter. And it is worth seeing. There are 96 more chestnuts for you there, should you follow the link above.

This one, meantime, has been sitting on the phone for quite some time. In hatboxes, pouches and bags lie the items that define us:

In Carson McCullers’s novel The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1940), Mick, a teenage girl, owns an old hatbox that she keeps hidden under the bed. The box contains personal valuables, ‘three mystery books her Dad had given her, a compact, a box of watch parts, a rhinestone necklace, a hammer, and some notebooks. One notebook was marked on the top with red crayon – PRIVATE. KEEP OUT. PRIVATE – and tied with a string.’ This strange assortment of things is of little material value, but of immense sentimental importance. The hatbox is her own small space, where she keeps the things that make her who she is.

Many people own such a shoebox, a drawer or some kind of chest in which they keep the things that are of strangely intimate value. The idea of these small spaces that contain things of high personal value is an overlooked part of Western culture.

Honestly, this is a good starting place, but there’s no reveal or resolution here. I was so hoping for one, something that might help to explain “Why do I have several of these?”

Know what I have several of? Tabs! These came from my phone, where I am now down to 39 tabs.

We return to the Re-Listening project, and while we are still somewhere in the late 1990s as I play all of my CDs, in order, this one is from 1995. It is also a cassette-to-disc upgrade, so I am glossing over this.

So today we’re on to Edwin McCain’s “Honor Among Thieves.” I like him, saw him live a few times in venues both big and small. I enjoyed the music because the South Carolina style appeals to my musical sensibilities of the time. “Solitude” made its way onto the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and landed in the top 40 of the Mainstream Rock Tracks, Top 40 Mainstream and Adult Top 40 charts. Also, this is the one where Darius Rucker came on to sing for his friend. It has never not been funny that McCain wound up singing harmony to his guest on his own debut single. But, Rucker was set to become Elvis at that moment, so it made sense in more ways than one.

If you look up live performances of that song, McCain has slowed it down over the years, and it works pretty well. I imagine he’s on stage thinking, “I still have to sing this song?”

Just one more, since we’re glossing over the cassette-to-CD set. I was reading something recently about someone learning how to write songs, and how to write pop songs. As I listened to this record again I found myself thinking about how that could apply to McCain’s debut. It can get fairly narrow in places here, though his work blossomed over the next few records. There are still one or two standouts on this record, and this time through, it felt like “Jesters, Dreamers & Thieves” has aged the best.

Here’s a 2004 live performance. The song was a decade old, and they let Craig Too Cool Shields take his sax out for a little spin.

We’ll hear a bit more from Edwin McCain soon. I think I have two more of his records that will show up in the Re-Listening Project.

But, coming up soon, probably tomorrow, is some wildly successful power pop. Hey, it was the nineties.

Jan 23

No, they’re not fussy chickens

I saw some birds Monday evening. They are spending some time in Dunn’s Woods, on the IU campus. Once private property, this is the southwestern part of campus. Today, this is where the 20-acre Old Crescent, is. The woods are right next to my building. The property was sold to the university by Moses Fell Dunn in 1883. This is the heart of the campus, and it’s a lovely green space. Quiet, peaceful, a lovely stroll. When all of that bird noise isn’t happening, that is.

There’s an apocryphal story about the Dunn sale. The story goes that if a tree is cut down, another must be planted in its place. It’s a great story, and would be some lovely 19th century conservationism. It’s not real. But the campus architects actually put in more trees than they take away. It’s a lovely bit of 21st century conservationism.

And the birds need them. So do the rabbits and squirrels and the rest of the critters that are in those woods, but, today, we’re thinking about birds.

It has been a long time since I’ve seen a huge flock of birds. I mean a real, stop-you-in-your-tracks, worthy of awe, collection of birds. It could be because I don’t live on one of the primary flyways. Then again, I never did.

But don’t you remember, as a kid, being mesmerized? The flowing, pulsing order of birds. The chaos and structure of so many living creatures moving independently, and unison. The slow crawl, birds moving across one section of the horizon to another. I could be outside playing and play would stop, because look at all of those birds. And when you learn and really think about migration, the miles they put in, the time it takes, those little tiny wings and great big dreams. It’s a staggering prospect.

Ahh, but who knows how accurate those flyway maps are. Maybe I was closer to one of the aviary superhighways than I thought. Or maybe the birds got lost. Who knows how far off that very generic map birds would wander? They’re just birds and there aren’t signs. Biologists and ornithologists could speak on this at great length and, I imagine, could get it down to terrain and tree cover and things to eat.

Or, as a colleague, a real outdoorsy sort, pointed out: when was the last time you took a long car trip and your car was covered with bugs? Good point, I said, but I hadn’t thought of that. I’ve been too busy wondering about the birds.

Maybe the insects went somewhere else, too. When I hear the birds today, I always look up. Now I wonder how they’re eating.

This is the section where I’m sharing things that, judged too good to close, have been sitting in open tabs for far too long. There are a lot of tabs open in my browser(s). Rather than lose them altogether, I am bookmarking some and closing them. (Novel!) And others should be shared, and then closed. So here we are, and here are today’s stars.

This is from August 2021. I’m guessing I’ve had this open for a good long while, since. Star Pitmaster Moe Cason Shares How To Make Impeccable Barbecue Brisket:

“I remember seeing all these different trailers, pits, and cookers,” Cason says. “I was just like, ‘Man, it’s just really cool! This is where I need to be.'”

After showing his skills in some 20 cook-offs that first year, the would-be chef was hooked and began branching out further to Texas, North Dakota, Wyoming, and Tennessee. In the years since, Cason has competed in hundreds of barbecue contests in various countries. He’s also been a contestant, judge, and star on Destination America’s BBQ Pitmasters and BBQ Pit Wars — solidifying his reputation as one of the best in the game.

After meeting “Big Moe” at Austin’s Treaty Oak Distilling last month, I was amazed by his immense barbecue knowledge and his incredible heart. During our conversation, I asked him about his intro to ‘cue and managed to snag a seven-step guide to barbecuing his specialty, brisket.

I can’t taste it through the browser, but those photos look great.

Speaking of photos … there’s a nice design, and some warmly charming photographs, in this April 2021 New York Times piece. Have I had this opened as a tab on my phone that whole time? I can’t say for sure, but it probably wouldn’t be the riskiest bet of the day. A Cyclist on the English Landscape:

A year ago, as a travel photographer grounded by the pandemic, I started bringing a camera and tripod with me on my morning bicycle rides, shooting them as though they were magazine assignments.

It started out as just something to do — a challenge to try to see the familiar through fresh eyes. Soon it blossomed into a celebration of traveling at home.

I live in a faded seaside town called St. Leonards-on-Sea, in Sussex, on the south coast of England. If you’ve not heard of it, you’re in good company. It’s not on anybody’s list of celebrated English beauty spots. Indeed, most of my riding is across flat coastal marsh or down-at-the-heel seafront promenades.

There’s history here, of course. This is England after all. The lonely marshes I pedal across most days are where William the Conqueror landed his men in 1066. Otherwise, except for being a haunt for smugglers, this stretch of coast dozed away the centuries until the Victorians brought the railways down from London.

Again, gorgeous photos. And, at the bottom, there are links to other interesting things. So that means … more tabs.

(I now have 39 tabs open on my phone browser.)

On my bike last night, I pedaled through Central Park. There’s nothing like New York in the fall.

As I have said before, some of the Zwift routes are realistic. Others are more fantastical. There are flying cabs in New York, for instance. And also these bridges. These bridges, which you can see through, somewhat. They look like ice. There’s a nice skyline back there, but who can look at that when you’re busy looking down.

The way the trainer works, your back wheel is connected to a drum system. It is meant to go along with the terrain, climbs are hard, downhills are easier and faster, and so on. Your front wheel is propped up, so you can’t ride off somewhere. Good thing, too. The front of my bike points at a wall and a window; it’d be a short trip! And, yet, when I see these bridges in the New York routes, and my avatar makes a turn on them, I tense up, just a bit. How am I going to hold up on this ice?

Which is silly. The ice, the real stuff, will be here tomorrow. My avatar has nothing to fear, these bridges don’t exist. Floating cabs? Maybe.

Anyway, after last night’s ride, I made another spreadsheet to chart a different sort of progress. (This makes three cycling spreadsheets. If you think this is excessive, you are correct! But I also say, N+1.) This one will compare my highest volume months. This month is ninth, all time, going back to 2010. It is the second highest January, and my second-highest month this decade. It will be in my overall top 5 when I can get back on the bike on Friday.

I wonder how many birds I’ll see between now and then.

And, yes, there are birds in Zwift. A giant pelican flew by me the other night.

Jan 23

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

It was a shame that Robby Novak had to grow up. (He’s 18 or so now.) They ended that amazing series so he could concentrate on being a kid, and that makes perfect sense in every respect of course. Still, you might have found yourself hoping that they’d pass the torch. You could have written a storyline about that — a storyline of positivity, of course.

I remember when I was first introduced to this interview, some 12 or so years ago, perhaps. It came to me as part of a conversation about the larger message, the work incomplete, and the issue at hand. All of that was, and is, true. And the interview is remarkable. The first thing you notice is the composition of the shot. But it won’t be the last thing you notice.

This was an important interview, absolutely worth your time. Go ahead and bookmark it if you can’t watch it all right now, but do watch it. And then, maybe, like me, be grateful that we have places available to dip our toes into such important source material.

The world needs more three-day weekends. I say that with all of the respect today deserves. There are a great many important people and ideas to celebrate. We could only benefit by having more opportunities to acknowledge and learn, and our communities would be better for the service. Having a few more four-day work weeks would be a nice byproduct, sure, but that’s not the point I’m after here. I figure one a month, March through October, would be a fine civic contribution.

And, on some of those days, we’d even have nice weather. Law of averages and all that. Saturday we had some sun early. It was gray and cold all day Sunday. It rained most of today. The next seven days we’ll be between 28 and 53 degrees. We might get some sun two or three of those days. We might get some snow or rain on three of those days.

Ninety more days until spring.

We played a few hands on dominos yesterday afternoon. The cat, who only swatted at the tiles one time, managed to eek out a win.

Which makes this as good a place as any to put this week’s installment of the most popular feature on the blog. It’s time to check in with the kitties.

A few days ago I was able to catch Phoebe in shadow and light. It’s a moody image, both dark and mysterious and bright and shiny. Also, stay away from her tennis ball.

Poseidon has placed an order online for a deliver, and he’s spending a fair amount of time waiting on the delivery guy to bring it to him.

I guess he didn’t spring for the overnight delivery. Smart cat.

He got a bit trapped the other night. This cat, that always wants to go outside — they’re strictly indoor pets — has to have his under-the-cover time to keep warm, you see. And if a fuzzy blanket has been deployed Phoebe will find her way to sit on it. So Saturday night …

He looks thrilled by that development, doesn’t he? Look at those eyes. He’s positively delighted to find his blanket time being intruded upon. He allowed me to take three quick photos before he left in disgust.

This is the section where I’m sharing things that, judged too good to close, have been sitting in open tabs for far too long. Today’s first tab features a poem. I ran across it near the end of 2021. That’s a long time to have a tab open, in my estimation. (But I’ve got older tabs, though, as you’ll eventually see.) Lovely poem though.

Keep Your Faith in Beautiful Things

Keep your faith in beautiful things;
in the sun when it is hidden,
in the Spring when it is gone.
And then you will find that Duty and Service and Sacrifice—
all the old ogres and bugbears of —
have joy imprisoned in their deepest dungeons!
And it is for you to set them free —
the immortal joys that no one —
No living soul, or fate, or circumstance—
Can rob you of, once you have released them.

It was written by Roy Rolfe Gilson, Spanish-American War veteran, newspaperman, author and, finally, an Episcopal rector. Born in Iowa, in 1875, Rev. Gilson died in 1933, and is buried in Maryland, where he had served in a parish. He wrote for papers in Michigan. He’s quoted in his obituary. “The best known of my works is ‘In the Morning Glow‘, and is not a child’s book, but an attempt to preserve in words something of that exquisite loveliness of the American home as it has been in its simplicity, and never more beautiful than when seen through the eyes of a little child, to whom the father is a hero and the mother a heroine, and even the toy soldiers have an identity and name.

“It is never the bizarre or unusual that makes me wish to work, but the poetry and comedy in everyday life, in the common lot … If my stories are idyllic, it is not because I wish to write pretty things, but because I have a friendly eye for those secret quests on which we pass each other disguised in foolishness, but wearing beneath a lovely raiment of dreams.”

You can read the entire book, which he published in 1908, at that link.

(So I guess I’ll have that tab open for a while … )

(I just read the first chapter — sweet and innocent and charmingly sentimental, but you knew what was coming. I’ll be reading the rest.)

If memory serves, I googled this because of something I read in a Quora answer about some job interview techniques. I’d never heard of this, neumonic, or seen the concept spelled out, and so it seemed like something to learn about.

The STAR method is a structured manner of responding to a behavioral-based interview question by discussing the specific situation, task, action, and result of the situation you are describing.

More: What is the STAR method?

The STAR method is an interview technique that gives you a straightforward format you can use to tell a story by laying out the Situation, Task, Action, and Result.

Situation: Set the scene and give the necessary details of your example.
Task: Describe what your responsibility was in that situation.
Action: Explain exactly what steps you took to address it.
Result: Share what outcomes your actions achieved.

By using these four components to shape your anecdote, it’s much easier to share a focused answer, providing the interviewer with “a digestible but compelling narrative of what a candidate did,” says Muse Career Coach Al Dea, founder of CareerSchooled. “They can follow along, but also determine based on the answer how well that candidate might fit with the job.”

I suspect this structure is useful in some circumstances. But in others, well, there are a lot of odd interview … let’s call them techniques … out there.

And now I can close these two tabs, meaning on one of my phone’s browsers I now only have … 40 tabs open. Progress!

I had a 30-mile ride on Saturday, including some outrageous (for me) power numbers. To be honest, I am not yet clear on how to interpret these things. Occasionally my watts look more impressive than others, and I’ll google them, just to see how they all measure up. On those days, I have almost-weekend-warrior sort of numbers.

For instance, Saturday I hit 1,048 watts on a sprint. What’s that mean? It means I was standing up and going hard while simultaneously trying to keep my bike in the trainer. That’s pretty close to my recorded maximum. Apparently world-class sprint track cyclists can touch 2,200 watts. So … I’m not that guy.

But then I was going up a hill and looked at the watts in the HUD graphic and …

That’s on a climb and, for me, impressive. I am in no way a climber, but I have lately been getting over small punchy hills in an almost-timely fashion. I’ve just had brief moments of good legs the last few days, basically. There’s something to be said for riding a lot. And that something is “Your legs will feel tired all of the time, but when you get them moving … ”

2023 Zwift route tracker: After today’s 25-mile ride I have completed 34 of the routes on Zwift, and there are 86 to go.

Jan 23

We almost nailed the timing

On the subject of time, what part of day is this, even? I ask because it basically looked like this, a proper Bloomington winter day, all day. Just the faintest variations of this.

In the morning there was a fog advisory, which gave way to a gloomy bank of fog in the midday. In the afternoon the fog was relieved by a grim rain, which, in turn, yielded to a foggy devil-may-care mood. In the early evening it was an attitude of You’re still looking for a change?

And that was the day. It didn’t last forever, but it held a different sort of stasis. If you were romantic about it, you could say it had a certain mysteriousness. I wouldn’t say that. We’re entering mid-January, when a boy’s thoughts turn to mid-February, when he knows, in his heart, this should be ending and spring beginning. But, then, this is a proper Bloomington winter day. There’s 95 more days of this.

Back to the Re-Listening project, where we’re just moving through all of my old CDs in the car, because why not. Some of these come with memories and stories. These aren’t reviews, but whimsy, as most music should be.

I think this was another cassette-to-CD replacement, given where this lands in my CD books, when it was released and all of that. I have a vague memory of the cassette version, anyway. Anyway, Bush’s debut was 1994, this is about 1996 for me, and I didn’t come to it late.

But what I found on this listen is that post-grunge arrived at just the right time for me to find it interesting. Sometimes music is entirely about timing, is what the Re-Listening project teaches us. And this is a good example of that. This record saw three singles go into the charts, and it went platinum six times, but this week I’ve just been “Meh.” It feels a bit more hollow this time around.

Still like Alien, though. That’s a neat little sound.

We saw them one February when I was in college. I think I might still have the tour shirt. No Doubt, Goo Goo Dolls and Bush. No Doubt had just begun to enjoy that mainstream moment of introducing most of us to ska music and selling a lot of records. Goo Goo Dolls, having not yet discovered the secret to making money doing pop ballads, were still experimenting with their punk-grunge crossover and were pretty bad, actually. Then Gavin and Bush came out and played a lot of distortion and did rock ‘n’ roll things. It isn’t on that record, but they closed the show with their cover of “The One I Love.”

And, uhhhh, that’s not what that song is about.

More Bush later, maybe future records will appeal to me differently.

Which brings us to a single I don’t remember having ever owned. And I’m trying to make sense of this. It was August. I was alone at school, waiting on my roommate to come back. I’d probably just finished classes. (Made dean’s list that term as I recall.) I wasn’t dating anyone at the moment, which would be an easy way to explain this, but, I can’t explain it.

The video is well-lit, isn’t it? Bryan Adams took this 1980s pastiche to 24 on the Hot 100 and Mainstream Top 40. It peaked at sixth on the AC chart. Other than it is a two-song single, I don’t know why I would have picked this up. I guess we’ll have to invent a story.

Let’s invent a bad story. It was a late night at Wal-Mart and I was buying snacks and this was an impulse by to justify buying anything. And, also, they didn’t have the thing I actually wanted, but this song was OK, so why not. And maybe someone will like it — because when you’re that age that can sometimes matter.

That story probably has some truth to it.

This story is certain. I bought this single because the lyrics made a heavy reference to Birmingham, and that’s what one does some time. Also, the director of the video went the extra mile to make it seem real.

Did you see the Auburn bumper sticker? Did you catch Fob James on the front page of The Birmingham News? That’s Amanda Marshall’s most successful Canadian single. While it went to number three on the RPM chart there, it peaked at 43 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S. (Canadians like us! And songs about moving on, second chances, and leaving guys like Virgil, who are just real gems, we’re all sure.)

I looked for that paper. There doesn’t seem to be an image capture of the front page. (Imagine the three paragraph aside I wrote about digitized newspaper archives and the search I undertook.)

I did find the two above-the-fold stories. The one on the left is headlined “Insurers’ legal luck may rise dramatically under lawsuit reform.”

Insurance companies that have been losers in the state’s courtrooms could reverse their misfortunes if lawmakers approve business-backed proposals aimed at overhauling Alabama’s civil justice system, legal scholars said.

The proposals, advanced by the Business Council of Alabama and passed last week by the state House of Representatives, would establish laws at least as harsh as the sweeping changes adopted in Illinois and Texas last year, legal experts in those states said.

While most debate in Alabama has focused on limiting punitive damage awards, the businessbacked proposals contain subtle wordings that would give companies _ especially insurers – a strong shield in the courtroom.

“These insurance ‘reforms’ are little more than a subsidy for the industry,” said Michael Rustad, a professor at Boston’s Suffolk University who has studied court verdicts from Alabama since 1985.

Jerry Underwood wrote that story. He stayed with The Birmingham news until 2012 or so. Then the business editor, he went into public relations, and is now writing in the blurry lines in between, best I can tell.

The lead story in that newspaper was about the governor. Fob James was wrapping up the first year of his second term.

With the nation’s capital in the clutches of political hard-liners, Alabama’s Gov. Fob James is, by contrast, generating less emotional heat.

The Republican governor, who on Tuesday completes the first year of his second term in the state’s highest office, is accessible – he’ll talk to almost anyone on his weekly call-in radio show.

And he’s seemingly mellowed since he last occupied the governor’s chair from 1979 to 1983. In December, for instance, he agreed with a caller to his show and overturned a ban on visits to members of prison chain gangs on Christmas.

Yep. Chain gangs. And that the prisoners that were one part chained work crews and, no kidding, one part tourist attraction, could now receive visitors on Christmas day was a sign of the governor going “mellow,” wrote Robin DeMonia, who is now doing strategic communication.

James also resisted federal funds for grade schools and gutted a lot of higher education. But he mellowed, see, because he dropped a costly and long running lawsuit.

Alabama has ended its fight against a college-desegregation lawsuit after spending 15 years and $25-million on it.

Gov. Fob James, Jr., last month withdrew his appeal of a federal judge’s ruling that required Alabama to enhance its two historically black public universities with new academic programs and bigger endowments.

The Governor, who called the ruling “out of sync with reality,” questioned whether Alabama A&M and Alabama State Universities were worth the extra money. But after critics blasted him for prolonging the suit, the Governor dropped the appeal.

The 1990s were a heck of a time in Alabama, basically.

I’m not sure what party James is in these days. He started out, as most people of his time and place, as a Democrat. He became a Republican and then a “born-again Democrat” when he ran for, and won, the governor’s office in 1978. Ever the opportunist, in 1994, he became a Republican once more and won the governor’s office again. These days he’s retired in Florida. A few years ago he sued one of his sons for fraud. But we’ve gotten way, waaay, off track here.

A guy named Jeth Weinrich directed that video, and I would like to compliment his choice, decades ago, of authenticity. The woman drives that car north, crosses into Tennessee and then, apparently, abandons the car in Seattle. I put this in a map, that’s one of the two ways you’d go on that 38-hour drive. But most of all, the Auburn bumper sticker was a nice touch. Good eye by the Canadians.

As for the rest of the record, there are other songs like “Let It Rain” and “Last Exit to Eden” which are overstrung power ballads. There are a couple, like “Fall From Grace” which always seemed destined for a rom-com.

And there’s this song that was surprisingly good, and still holds up well.

“Sitting On Top of the World” just missed its calling as a montage in that rom-com. I imagine something comical about painting or gardening and … maybe water skiing.

And when the too-cute couple finally get to smooching, this would be the song underneath.

I can only assume that this didn’t happen because no directors or music supervisors bought this record. And we are all the less for it.

Have you noticed the boots she’s wearing in that photoshoot yet? The 1990s were a heck of a time everywhere.

Amanda Marshall released two more studio albums after that, in 1999 and 2001. Each of them had hits in her native Canada. And then, somehow, she released three greatest hits records. There were some legal difficulties with her label, which might explain both the lack of output and mess of greatest hits. She’s been fairly private and quiet since.

But one final note. That newspaper that got us all distracted? It was published on Jan. 14, 1996. Twenty-seven years ago, Saturday. We almost nailed the timing.

Jan 23

The spring term begins, and here’s a lot of other stuff

A new semester began today. A new semester is underway. I am counting them on the access panel in my office. Each trident marks a semester. There’s a lot of memories and successful students in each. I wonder what sort of successes we’ll pack in the newest addition.

That’s a lot of semesters!

Had a nice bike ride on Saturday. One of our friends joined us on Zwift and that made us fast. Somehow I had 13 mile splits averaging 28+ mph. That’s just silly.

And while I was working hard trying to keep up, I had this idea …

Now I can capture videos of my virtual rides! Aren’t you thrilled?

Anyway, I got in 36 miles on Saturday. I didn’t ride yesterday, but I should have, so I did a quick 20 miles immediately after work, today.

More importantly, it is time for the most popular feature on the site. It’s time to check in with the kitties. (They had a busy day napping and cuddling yesterday, by the way.)

Here’s Phoebe, beating up one of her toys. Grab it in your front paws and kick it into submission by your back paws. Excellent strategy, for the most part. And it looks cute, but those little feet and claws will give you a beating!

It was a poor substitute for her favorite spring, which has been lost for a few days. I found it last night. She chased it around and under a chair. I rescued it for her. We started talking about mimicking it with other springs, maybe it has the right number of loops or something. While we wondering about that, she promptly lost it again. No idea where it is, as of this writing.

I know where it isn’t. Poseidon is, very helpfully, looking for it as well. He tells us it isn’t in the dryer.

Every day I open a thing — a closet, a cabinet, the refrigerator or some other appliance — and then close it. Then I open it and close it again, just to make sure that guy didn’t sneak in while I blinked.

It isn’t that I blink slow, but he moves fast.

I’m trying a new thing. I’m closing tabs. (I know! Crazy, right? Next you’ll find me cleaning out under sinks and vacuuming beneath bookcases … )

Anyway, there are a lot of tabs open in my browser(s). I bet you might have a similar problem. Some of them have been open for ages, and ages. Rather than lose them altogether, I am bookmarking some and closing them. (Novel!) And others should be shared, and then closed. So here we are. Today’s contenders.

The Deep Sea Is Filled with Treasure, but It Comes at a Price:

“We believe we see the world as it is,” she writes. “We don’t. We see the world as we need to see it to make our existence possible.”

The same goes for fish. Only the top layers of the oceans are illuminated. The “sunlight zone” extends down about seven hundred feet, the “twilight zone” down another twenty-six hundred feet. Below that — in the “midnight zone,” the “abyssal zone,” and the “hadal zone” — there’s only blackness, and the light created by life itself. In this vast darkness, so many species have mastered the art of bioluminescence that Widder estimates they constitute a “majority of the creatures on the planet.” The first time she descended into the deep in an armored diving suit called a wasp, she was overwhelmed by the display. “This was a light extravaganza unlike anything I could have imagined,” she writes. “Afterwards, when asked to describe what I had seen, I blurted, ‘It’s like the Fourth of July down there!'”

Bioluminescent creatures produce light via chemical reaction. They synthesize luciferins, compounds that, in the presence of certain enzymes, known as luciferases, oxidize and give off photons. The trick is useful enough that bioluminescence has evolved independently some fifty times. Eyes, too, have evolved independently about fifty times, in creatures as diverse as flies, flatworms, and frogs. But, Widder points out, “there is one remarkable distinction.” All animals’ eyes employ the same basic strategy to convert light to sensation, using proteins called opsins. In the case of bioluminescence, different groups of organisms produce very different luciferins, meaning that each has invented its own way to shine.


Scales, like Widder, worries that the bottom of the ocean will be wrecked before many of the most marvelous creatures living there are even identified. “The frontier story has always been one of destruction and loss,” she writes. “It is naïve to assume that the process would play out any differently in the deep.” Indeed, she argues, the depths are particularly ill-suited to disturbance because, owing to a scarcity of food, creatures tend to grow and reproduce extremely slowly. “Vital habitat is created by corals and sponges that live for millennia,” she writes.

And if we’re going to learn anything — we’re not, but if we were gonna — it ought to be that there’s an interconnectedness to all of this that is fragile, and important. Even among all of those different zones.

6 Ways to Keep Your Gmail Storage Free and Under 15GB:

Unlike some services (looking at you, iCloud), Gmail is pretty lenient with its free tier. You get 15GB of storage between Gmail and Google Drive, and for many people, it’s good enough. But a lot of people have been using Gmail for a decade or more now, and it’s not hard to accumulate 15GB of data over that kind of timespan.

Once you do hit the 15GB cap, you won’t be able to add files to Google Drive, and eventually, emails won’t hit your Gmail inbox. If you’ve been finding it harder and harder to avoid paying Google for more storage, here are some of the best ways to quickly free up space.

It is a slide show, but it is one of the more useful slideshows, if you’re in a space saving mode.

There. One of my phone browsers is now down to 43 tabs. It is good to make progress.

And we continue making progress in the Re-Listening project. I’m playing all of my CDs in my car. In order, that is. Not all at once. That’d be … noisy.

But some of it would sound good! That’s why I’m listening to them individually and, here, I’m just writing a few notes. These aren’t reviews, but just for fun and filler, he said 1,075 words into this post. Anyway, this installment is a greatest hits, and it seems weird, somehow, to go on and on about a record that was full of charting hits.

So let’s get to it quickly, then. Greatest Hits and their massive success aside, some of these Tears for Fears tracks were juuuuust a tiny bit before my time, initially. Oh, the big ones I know well, and you do too! But there was a sense of achievement in discovering new-to-me and thoughtful and quality Tears for Fears songs. “Woman in Chains” peaked at 36 on the Billboard Hot 100. Lovely song.

“Mad World” was not a hit in the 1980s, which was why I listened to it for the first time in 1996-or-so, but it did get some spins in 2004, reaching number 30 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart and topped the Adult Alternative Songs chart. Then it landed in a video game commercial, was the subject of a few successful covers and appeared on a game show. It’s become something of a standard filler, I guess?

“Laid So Low” was the single off the actual greatest hits. And, sure, it was released in 1992, but this is quintessential 1980s. It was a top 20 Euro hit, settled in the top 40 in Canada and elsewhere. The song was a top 20 hit in the UK, France, Italy and Poland; a top 40 hit in Canada, Germany and the Netherlands; and reached the top 10 on the US Modern Rock Tracks chart.

Curt Smith wasn’t in the band at the time, so that song was a Roland Orzabal special. He kept the band name active during the rest of the 1990s, but 30 million unit sales means you get back together, eventually. After nine years of silence, they started talking, playing and writing together again.

The Tipping Point” was a project that took seven years to produce, but it came out to good reviews in 2001 and made the top 10 in a lot of national charts, including the U.S. It also hit number one on the US Billboard’s Top Alternative Albums, Top Rock Albums and Top Album Sales charts.

Not bad for two guys climbing into their 60s, he said, hopefully, from halfway through his 40s.