Nov 23

Happy Thanksgiving

The in-laws are here. They came down last night and will spend a few days. Today, my uncle-in-law also came in. Later, there’s turkey to eat. So this is, notably, brief.

We went out for the turkey trot this morning. We were huffing for the stuffing. Hopping potholes for casseroles. Wheezed for the peas. Hying for the pie. And so on.

Look! I’ve almost got anime hair!

It’s not that I’m getting slower, it’s that I don’t run much, and never run up that many hills.

We’re also marking the fifth anniversary of the time my father-in-law smack talked his way into a Trivial Pursuit contest that he had no chance of winning. The pain was so bad he accused us of memorizing the cards. And though memorizing Trivial Pursuit cards sounds like something I’d do, I have a closet full of Trivial Pursuit games.

Near the end of the game, we got this stupid question, the orange one at the bottom.

I said, “It just so happens that I live with one of the nation’s foremost Olympic scholars. Take it away, Dr. Smith,” and I walked out of the room. And, of course, she drilled it.

For some reason, I also knew the answer to that question. (It was two.)

So this also marks the fifth anniversary of the day my father-in-law swore off Trivial Pursuit.

Now, having caught my breath from this morning’s run, it is time to think of all of the many things for which I am thankful. And to carve the turkey. This is my job for reasons that have never been discussed, and I take it seriously. After five or siz more birds, I might be pretty good at it.

Nov 23

Don’t let this fool you, it was a full, productive, day

I saw a lot of birds on Saturday. They are flying southwest here. So cliché.

It’s like they know something I do not. (There’s a lot I don’t know, so this is likely.) These geese are going a little more to the south, but only by a matter of a few degrees. It probably works out in the wind. One good breeze, one turn of a shoulder and they probably all landed in the same pond at the end of the day.

I once had a philosophical assignment about the dynamics of bird flight. Some of the people in the group were in biology-minded people and approached the question from that direction. Others looked at it more akin to a leadership, inter-personal question. There was also the issue of rotation. No bird stays at the front the whole way, right? Now, I look at the geese in the flying V and think …

That’s a lot of trust.

After Friday’s 27-mile bike ride, I had a quick 15-miler on that bright, beautiful Saturday you saw in the bird photos above. On Sunday afternoon, just before it got dark, I got out for a 21-mile ride. There is, of course, another photo of another barn. But this one also features a shadow selfie.

On my cycling spreadsheet — because of course there’s a spreadsheet for that sort of thing — I this weekend compiled a list of the most prolific bike riding month of each calendar year. Which January had the most miles, what February was the most productive, one March or another I spent more time in the saddle, and so on. So far, six of the months of 2023 are the highest volume. Makes sense: I’ve ridden more this year than any other. And in another ride, perhaps two, November 2023 will make it on that list.

There’s also a list of the best months of riding, in terms of mileage, overall. This month is about to sneak into 12th place. There’s every reason to think this month could become a top five month, overall, if the weather holds. But there will likely be no ride tomorrow, because of the weather. And there was no ride today because of real life.

This morning I had to iron. And also, there was the cleaning up of things. And then this guy arrived. Something we didn’t have the opportunity to do before we moved in, and neglected to do since then.

Talk about your flashbacks. Every so often I get the carpet cleaned, and it’s always like this. I worked at Stanley Steemer … too many decades ago, I am startled to say. It was a decent job in high school. Meet a lot of interesting people, do some useful work. And while the job was the job, no two days were ever the same. And the stories you heard …

When the bright yellow truck shows up, I’m ready to talk shop and haggle. They sent out a solo guy, which was perfect. I just ordered the two-room minimum. He gets commission, and I’d rather the cleaner get that than someone in the office. My conversation went like this.

Do you still get a commission if you upsell me?

“Yes sir.”

Great, upsell me.

“Well — ”

I’m sold.

The prices are a bit high — but what ain’t? — and part of that, I think is so that the guy can cut something off, allowing you to think you’ve struck a good deal. But I did get a good deal, relatively speaking, because I tried to make all of this easier on him. Moved all of the furniture, kept the pets away, stayed out of his way and watched his hoses for him.

He was still relatively new to working solo, I get the impression that it happens more in his shop than it did way back when. He knew what he was doing, and you could tell, or at least I could tell, that he was right on the cusp of becoming incredibly proficient with the whole thing. It isn’t rocket science, of course, but mastering anything to your maximum ability takes time, figuring out the ruthless efficiency of your every move is an art of a sort in a largely repetitive process. And he was close.

We were his fifth job of the day, and he’d worked six days straight. Everyone needs their carpet looking good for the holidays.

We kept the cats in separate bathrooms during all of this. They didn’t seem to be bothered by all of this, which surprises me. Cats can be nervous, and here was a strange dude with all of these noises and smells and … they could not be bothered to care, not really. Damp carpet underfoot was an experience, but they adapted to that quicker than people will. Maybe it’s the two extra sensory inputs.

Anyway, Poseidon, last night, celebrated the beginning of space heater season.

He’s hanging out on furniture and the other floors today, though. Who wants to relax on wet, fresh smelling carpet?

Phoebe, meanwhile, has taken a different approach to the day.

We keep a couple of small boxes for them to sit in. Sometimes a box with an unconventional shape comes through and we’ll let them try that for a time, too, to see if it takes. But, in general, they don’t have big boxes, except for around the move we did this summer. You wonder if that lodges in the cat mind somewhere: this larger shape may have a meaning, I’ll sit on it, to prevent whatever they are thinking.

Sound strategy.

Oct 23


The weirdest sound woke me up this morning. Apparently it was the heater. We turned that on last night. Maybe we didn’t exactly need it. OK, sure, it was chilly. There was a frost warning. But we could have made do with a space heater. But this seemed wise. This is a good week to give it a test. Having toured the house in April and moved in in the summer, this was the first time we’ve had need to try it out and all that.

On the one hand, you want to know the heater is working. On the other hand, we turned the heater on in October. On the third hand, we’ll have temperatures in the 70s for the next week, and it should hit 80 on Saturday. On the fourth hand, this other hand business is getting out of … hand control.

So the heater works. Also, it’s noticeable. There’s an air intake vent in the bedroom and it sounds just different enough from the other noises we’re growing accustomed to.

The things you don’t think about when you move: where all of your stuff will go, not the obvious big stuff, but the endless small things; why one closet set up is better than another; which stairs will creak in the night; if all the light switches are logically arranged and what every new sound will sound like.

My bedroom, when I was a little boy, was on the corner of the house, which was on the corner of the residential road and a busier county stretch. I laid awake enough nights in there to learn where all of the lights came from, I could tell the difference between truck lights and car lights, and learned the directions they all went, from each direction. It was watching those lights and listening to the road noise that I first came to understand the Doppler effect. I had enough nights watching those lights that I’ve compared every bedroom since to how those lights played on the walls. Ten bedrooms since, by my count, none of them have the right lights. My current bedroom is almost perfectly dark. It’s great. No street lights. But we do have this nice rumbling heater.

If we ran it and the overly ambitious ceiling fan simultaneously we could start a real weather event.

Had a nice easy bike ride this evening. My Garmin was dead. My lovely bride’s Garmin wasn’t far behind. So we just turned right and pedaled until we ran out of road.

There is a bit of video. Just a few shots from before the shadows got too long and muted everything. I’m going to find a style out of this, eventually. Just think, you’ll be here to see it evolve.

Down at the other end of the road, just after we turned around and headed back, the setting sun was making a show over our shoulders.

She dropped me not too long after that, I guess. And then I caught back up and we raced to the finish. I couldn’t get around her, but managed to stay locked right there beside her, determined to sprint longer than she did. And I did, but only barely. She said her power meter showed 588 watts during our prolonged kick, putting her in the 80th percentile. Considering she never practices sprints, that’s an impressive output.

Mine was … almost not bad.

We got back just in time to see the neighborhood’s balding tree.

Every day, that leafover grows less and less convincing. When you get right down to it, some trees are just fooling themselves.

Would that they fooled us the year ’round.

Since I mentioned it yesterday, in case you were wondering what the new Gritty phone wallpaper looks like, it looks like this.

If you like it, just right click, download this version and enjoy.

You just have to say “It’s Gritty o’clock” at the top of every hour.

Oct 23

Bringing sound in sight; breaking down stories in commercials

What a beautiful day today! Gloriously warm in the sunshine. Nice and mild in the shade. Everything you want in a day you weren’t expecting.

I don’t think I even looked at the forecast yesterday. Too busy doing other things. After getting set a new driver’s license I had to take the garbage to the inconvenience center, a trip so unremarkable that I spent the rest of the evening, and today, trying to convince myself that I had, in fact, taken a garbage can, a giant bin of recyclables and three big bags of weeds to the drop off spot.

Yes, I did that yesterday. And it was a lovely afternoon, too. That’s two days in a row! I spent the rest of yesterday afternoon, though, doing class prep.

Thursdays I’m on campus all day. Today, all day meant six hours or so. In class we started talking about audio, which was fun for me. Easy prep, and a good two weeks of complexities. Luckily for the students, or unluckily, I happen to know a thing or two about sound.

We’ve also been talking about commercials, since they are working on spots of their own as an assignment. This let me do my Bud spot exercise. I show the class this 2014 Super Bowl ad.

Then I do a 7:52 second breakdown of all of the shots and angles. Made a special, timed, edit and everything. Matching text and shots. The first year I did this the class applauded, which only encouraged me. When I did it for the second class today they took an entirely different approach, making me think I should rethink the spot I use for this exercise.

They found the commercial … lacking. Emotionally exploitive. Without purpose. I asked them why they thought so, and they explained it somewhat, making some good points along the way. It is some of those things. Curious, as this was one of the best received ads of that particular Super Bowl. It made wonder if commercial tastes are changing, and could they change in just a decade. Either way, they’re thinking critically, those students, and that’s a great thing.

Just outside my class there’s a large hydrangea busily giving up the ghost. Even in this vulnerable moment, it has a deep, handsome beauty to it.

Our drive home was at the perfect time of the evening. There seems to be something special about the autumnal sunsets here. Maybe it’s because I haven’t seen a lot of them in the last several years, or at least it seems that way. But, as I showed you yesterday, my home office windows face west, and there’s just one house and trees across the way. It gives me a nice view. If, however, you can catch the sunset out in the open, it’s a spectacular time of year for these lovely views.

Looks like I should turn this one into a painting, or something.

But not tonight. It’s been a full day, and there’s baseball and football on, but no notable commercials.

Sep 23

And now our rides are about something else

One year ago tonight … well, I’ll let me tell the story

I was walking from the control room into the studio — two back-to-back doors — just before a taping began tonight when my phone rang.

My phone never rings.

… The Yankee on the phone, clear as can be. She’s had a bike accident. She’s OK. Deputies are coming and so is an ambulance and people have stopped to help. She’s going to the hospital because she’s sure her collarbone is broken and where am I.

When I got to the hospital, she was off getting some scans. Some of her things were in the examination room they put me in, while I waited for her to come back, I studied her helmet, which had done its job and was destroyed.

They pushed her bed back into the exam room and, friends, there’s just no way to prepare yourself to unexpectedly see someone you love in a neck brace. The scans revealed that brace to be an unnecessary precaution in this case, and the next year started right there, starting right here.

She was going through that intersection when the driver of a red pickup truck caused her to crash, and then drove off without stopping. Someone else did stop to help. Her kid called the police, she called me, collected the bike and called again to check on us later that evening.

I told that woman that my wife had the three broken ribs, a broken collarbone and who knows what else. We later added a likely concussion, weeks without sleep, and a fractured shoulder blade to that list.

The surgeon was great. He’s a triathlete himself. Or he was. (It sounded, for a time, like treating her injuries had psyched him out of road riding.) He taught me a new term. Her collarbone was a comminuted fracture. He described it like this. Go out into the driveway and stomp on a small stick until its just pulverized dust. Sometimes that happens to bone. Comminuted fracture.

I didn’t sleep for more than a week. She couldn’t sleep for more than two, but the surgery, a week after, stabilized the bones — what was left of the collarbone anyway — and that was a big step.

I was fortunate to be able to stay home and take care of her those first two weeks. Her mother came for a week, and then her bestie drove in and took over the house, letting me go to work and take some naps. And, between us, we got to week four, where the patient progressed to feeling terrible.

She had months of checkups and a half-year or so of physical therapy. She got PT homework that she still has to do because, a year later, her bones are still mending. And in light of all of that, she got, we got, pretty lucky. All of that pain, hard work and the frustration involved in simply trying to get back to normal made us very lucky, indeed.

I’d like to tell the guy driving the red pickup truck where he can go, but he’s already in Bloomington.

Do you know where we were today? We were on our bikes, on a sunny, windy day, marking the anniversary.

She’s still not 100 percent, but she’s getting stronger, a process that’s been underway since her first ride back, in early March. It was almost six months off the bike, much of that under doctor’s orders. The six months since she’s been slowly regaining her confidence, which is an

When I broke my collarbone, in a 2012 accident that was plenty bad, but not nearly as rough as hers, it took me almost six full months to even want to ride again. It was 11 months for me before I noticed I had a moment I wasn’t hurting, and a year almost to the day of my surgery that I realized there were times when I didn’t feel protectively self-conscious about turning my head or shoulder. It took me more than 14-months — and a second and third specialist and more PT than I’d care to admit to — before I wasn’t in some sort of constant pain. If anything, she might be a tiny bit ahead of schedule, which doesn’t surprise me at all.

This is what I learned then, what I’d forgotten since, and what I’m reminded of today, having looked back at my own little recovery process: every little normal thing is a huge win, and they’re all worth celebrating.