Nov 23

That was a lovely weekend

All of our company has gone home. My lovely bride’s uncle headed back on Friday. Her parents on Saturday. We had company over for dinner Saturday night. The house is quite again. The cats have noticed.

And so now we are into the holiday season and, with it, in the midst of all of the blah blah blah. The stuff that takes too long to arrive, moves too fast or too slow, or both. All of it in a dizzying blur. All of it in a hold on as you can mentality. All of it with the end of the semester on the front end, as well, which brings it’s own frenetic pace, three weeks worth, which starts now.

The kitties, as you can tell, are not impressed. There is the afternoon sun, and there is no need to rush through that.

Saw more geese moving around this weekend. Or the same geese, I dunno. I’m not tagging these things. In the afternoon these were going toward the southwest.

But, in the evening, they were going northeast. Or some other geese, I dunno. I’m not tagging these things.

This was the only football game I’ve watched this year. If you’re going to watch, this is how.

Wild game, ridiculous finish, a ridiculousness of the most resolute fashion. At least the ridiculousness was kept to a minimum. All of which was better than 60 minutes of it. The view was the best part of it.

We had a different sort of view last night. A cold and rainy night, a short parade. A few fire trucks, a few Corvettes, for some reason, and three loosely grouped people we might call bands. We also saw the big guy, the ho-ho-hoer in chief. Apparently his sled is going into the shop. Or maybe the reindeer take off November. Maybe it’s a union thing. Perhaps they’re just carbo-loading.

Come to think of it, those sleighs aren’t very aerodynamic, are they? There’s a lot to answer about all of this. Fortunately, you have several weeks to explain it all to me.

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.

Nov 23

A visit to the coast, and some other stuff, too

Late Friday night, and this really sets quite the tone for the weekend, I straightened up the laundry room. I did it because it needed to be done I am an impulsive party animal. Also, I was standing right there. It’s easy rearranging cabinets, but what really sparked the exercise was I needed to reorganize the Covid cabinet. There are masks and tests and various other supplies. Somehow they all got jumbled. But you want to stack them up with respect to expiration dates. It’s a detail that appeals to me, for some reason.

Then there were some shoes to move. And a cubbyhole to straighten up. And, because the laundry room is between the garage and the rest of the house, there’s always something that is intended to go from one or the other, so I moved those things.

Then I remembered that we put up the birthday light in the laundry room, so I took a photo.

I got this for my lovely bride several years ago. It was also in the laundry room of our first house. But, in our second, everything was recessed lighting, so the fixture stayed in a box. But now it can glow again.

On Saturday, I set a new personal best for consecutive days riding the bike. It’s not a big number, but it is for me. And, after nine days in a row my legs are tired. But the weather was … mild. I overdressed, and then took off some layers. For about half an hour, and then I had to put my layers back on.

It was a day for an easy ride, and so I took one of our basic routes and rode part of it in reverse. At the bottom end of the route there is a place to turn right, but I turned left and headed into the next town. It’s the county seat. It’s careworn. And, for me, close by were a handful of historical markers. So I pedaled by and added those to the queue for the next few weeks.

On the way back, I passed this house. It is quite difficult, even at a bike’s pace, to see the shot, dig my phone out of my jacket pocket — a different pocket angle than my warm weather kit — and then get the camera app open through full-fingered gloves.

It would have been better if I could have done all of that about six seconds sooner, but I’m happy with the shot.

You’ll be happy with these shots, because they make up the most popular part of the week here on this humble little blog. It’s time to check in with the kitties.

No one has told Phoebe yet that she’ll be evicted from her favorite mid-afternoon nap spot next week. No one has mentioned Thanksgiving, and the meals we’ll eat on this table.

We haven’t told her because she’ll be intent on trying to get on the table during dinner.

Poseidon needs your attention. He needs your attention. He desperately needs your attention.

If you look closely you’ll see to scratches on his nose. He spends too much time harassing his sister. Occasionally, she runs out of patience with him and he’ll catch a swat or two right on the schnoz. He never learns from this lesson.

Other than that, though, the cats are doing well, thanks for asking.

Yesterday, we took an afternoon trip to the beach — Cape May, specifically. This little town has been a resort destination since … colonial days.

The Cape May lighthouse was built in 1859, automated in 1946 and remains in service today. It is the third lighthouse on the point. The first two locations are now underwater. If you want to go to the top you’ll have to climb 217 steps. The view might be worth it. They say you can see 10 miles away on a clear day, like this one.

We didn’t take the lighthouse challenge, but instead enjoyed the state park’s many walking trails. Some of it was on the ground, some on these well maintained boardwalks over some swampy, sandy soil.

We picked, perhaps, the best weekend for it. Bright sun, cool air and beautiful colors everywhere.

You’ll see more from the cape tomorrow. I’m spreading out the photos to cover a busy week. The busy starts today, with this evening’s class and a bunch of other work besides.

Nov 23

And it all made for a full weekend

The cats, what with the end of Catober last week, miss all of the extra attention. They never get any attention, of course. And so Catober is a big time of year. There’s the big comedown after that which, I think, is how we started doing the weekly check ins with the kitties. No matter the origin, this is the most popular weekly feature on the site.

Poseidon, so desperate for attention he resorts to gymnastics. A pole sault, if you will.

The etymology of sault is fun. It hasn’t been used with any frequency in almost 200 years. There should be a site that brings this language back to life, but it is not this site.

From colonial French sault, 17c. alternative spelling of saut “to leap,” from Latin saltus, from salire “to leap” (see salient (adj.)). Middle English sault, borrowed from Old French, was “a leap; an assault.”

Phoebe, never a big Francophile, is unimpressed by his catlike prowess. She can do tricks too, you can almost hear her sigh, but she doesn’t have to.

We think she’s more Italiano. When we first got these two, he’d respond to a strong Nein!. So we decided he was a katze. Phoebe did not care for the German, but we were able to get her attention by calling her a gatto, so we decided she’s Italian. They’re siblings. You figure it out.

On Friday, when I was preparing for my weekly visit to the inconvenience center, I found this red maple on my car.

We don’t have a red maple tree in our yard. Not one that I’ve found, anyway. There is a Crimson King maple, which stands out throughout the growing season with rich, dark leaves. But it diminished with no flourish, and then the tree sneezed one day last week and now half the tree is bare.

Tomorrow, we’ll discuss our trees a bit more.

Here is a leaf that is mine. I tracked this inside the house today. It’s from a plant, a golden leaved pineapple sage. I have to bring it inside … just as soon as I unscrew the planter from the railing.

That was an innovation by the previous owners. I now have to dig into this planter and remove a wood screw and wonder why, in good spirits and cheer, they decided to do that.

It was a busy weekend, athletically speaking. If, that is, you’ll allow for the most generous use of the term “athletically” possible under the constraints of our language. I had a 25-mile ride on Friday. Saturday, we enjoyed the mild weather and had a 30-mile ride. And there’s me, riding out under the canopy of color, over a carpet of other colors.

Maybe the orange gilet did not provide enough contrast in that particular moment.

We passed this guy late into the ride, just before darkness fell upon us. Think of it, he’s out working in his fields on a Saturday night. What else could he be doing? But that’s the job.

I wonder if it’s his field or if he works for the company that owns the equipment and they’ve been contracted to do the work. Who knows how that part works around here, or if it makes much of a difference. It’s getting late into a weekend day and he’s still putting in the hours. The crops that grow in that field might feed you or me, though, or his own family directly. And so he’s putting in the after-season work. I like to give that person a little nod of appreciation as I pass by.

A different version of that photo will eventually become a footer on the site.

We did a 5K Sunday. Here’s the shirt from the fund raiser.

Nine soldiers returning from World War 2 service started that place in 1946. It seems they were underwhelmed by the local VFW and American Legion options. They bounced around a few locations for a while, and interest waned, until they got their own spot in 1953. As the years marched on, they re-branded from Delaware Veterans of WWII Inc., to Delaware Veterans Post #1. Non-veterans have been able to join since the 1970s.

And they’ve been doing this little event for 25 years now. I told our group I only do runs on arbitrarily important anniversaries. Good cause, good year? I’ll run.

It’s a marginally hilly course, for a 5K, with the added benefit of my god-sister-in-law’s home. Their kids were out cheering us on, cowbells and all. You have to get in your best stride when you’re running in front of the little ones, just in case they know good form and decide to start judging you. It was good fun.

After that, we had a Sunday evening ride, a quick 11 miles of wondering why the sun was disappearing so rapidly.

Just clearing the legs out, riding easy at 18 miles per hour.

And then on today’s bike adventure, I put in 25 miles just to keep things moving. Here’s a colorful tree in our neighborhood. This one is, thankfully, not our responsibility, but we are enjoying the show at the moment.

And, not too far away, on the other end of the ride, a colorful show of a different sort.

Before I’d gotten far beyond that big orange maple I realized that this was going to be a ride for miles, not for speed. My legs felt so heavy and tired. And then I managed to produce one of my fastest half hours ever. I had a 23.18 mile per hour split in there. And then, when I turned and the wind shifted, everything returned to normal. Just like riding a bike.

Oct 23

Bikes and barns and books

Have you been enjoying Catober? Sadly it comes to an end this week. Cats are feted around here all year, but tomorrow is the last official day of Catober. Don’t worry, the kitties have some bonus photos planned for you. As ever, they like the spotlight. Which is why, next week, we’ll return to the regular Monday cat updates.

If you somehow missed some of this year’s Catober, click that link and scroll backward. There are five years of Catober photos with Phoebe and Poseidon to scroll through. Five years. Doesn’t seem like that should be the case. Time flies when you’re counting purr cycles.

Sorry, I had to hold a cat for 25 minutes, where was I?

Oh, yes. This was the weekend of the big weather change. Warm on Friday. Warmer on Saturday. Overcast today. Overcast and warmer tomorrow. We’ll be in the 50s on Tuesday. Next week, I think, is when we adjust the clocks, and we’ll all just get used to doing things on a different schedule until February and March, when the days start getting noticeably longer again. That’s fine, I suppose. There’s a lot to do indoors. But there are things to do outdoors, as well.

I have to bring in seven plants and set up a livable arrangement for them in the basement. We have to figure out how to protect a fig tree. What other fall maintenance needs to happen? And so on.

Also, there’s work, of course. My Monday class will have a midterm next week, so tonight’s class will be about preparing for that. And, in all of my classes, we’re now preparing for the big deep breath that will begin the last six weeks of the term. And while I’m wrapping up that fig tree — that’s what you do, I’m told, you wrap up a fig tree — I’ll be beginning to think about next semester’s classes.

It’s a pleasant enough cycle, the ebb and flow of the academic calendar. One week leads to the next and the next and then you’re thinking about the next semester, thinking about two terms at once. You’re only forever hoping you can make it be pleasant and effective enough for the people around you.

I had two nice bike rides this weekend. Friday, I shared a video from the ride, a reverse version of the regular lunchtime route. It was a good video, you should watch.

One part of the route takes you out to the river. There, you can see the Phragmites, an invasive plant that is trying to choke out more beneficial marsh plants.

Right there, it looks like they are winning. But I’m no coastal ecologist or botanist. At least they look nice.

Here’s one of the trees in the neighborhood, in Friday’s full glory.

Leaf blowers will be in full rapture by this time next week, I’m sure.

On Saturday I took a longer ride. This was a 51-mile ride to the other end of the county — hunting for historical markers for a future post — that ended at a state park. Of course there’s a video.

I saw some good barns on the ride down.

Picture book quality stuff, really, in a picturesque farming landscape. It’s quite lovely, really, as you can tell from the video.

Down at the state park, which sits where the pine barrens and hardwood forests meet, there’s a diverse ecology, at least 50 species of trees, more than 180 species of birds and …

The markers I wanted to find were in the state park — a place with a long and complex history. The first Europeans came into the area in the 1740s, but there’s plenty of evidence of Lenape habitation before that. In 1796, Lemuel Parvin dammed the Muddy Run stream to power a sawmill, thus creating a lake, named after him, and the future state park, that also shares his name. Turns out he’s buried in a cemetery I went right on Saturday, not too far away. In 1930, the state bought the acreage to make a park. The Civilian Conservation Corps developed much of that park, which, in 1943, was a summer camp for the children of interned Japanese Americans. The next year it was a prisoner of war camp for German soldiers captured in Africa, and in the 1950s it was refugee housing for Kalmyks.

The first marker was easy to find, and right where it should have been. After some time, longer than I’d anticipated, I found the second marker almost by chance. It was, really, my last guess, because the day was getting late.

I only had to ride about 20 miles back under fading daylight. I changed my route … OK, I took a wrong turn … but it worked out better. Better, clearer roads, broader shoulders. And just seven or eight miles from the house it finally got dark. I had to turn on my headlight. Took a roundabout, turned on the headlight and pedaled straight up a clean, broad-shouldered highway for five miles, through town just after it got properly dark.

It’s OK, though, because there’s only three miles or so more to go. Country-dark, but good roads. And look at the quality of this light.

The battery died on the last mile or so, which was disappointing and a bit of a surprise. It just went dark, and right before a little downhill where gravel gathers. I was able to get it back on for a few seconds, to navigate that stretch. And then finished the ride in quite and darkness. OK, by the oddly spaced streetlights and neighbors’ porch lights. It was great.

I bought new batteries for the bike light yesterday.

And I finally got around to finishing Eudora Welty’s memoir, which I’ve been sitting on since August. One Writer’s Beginnings (1984) is the only thing of hers I’ve ever read. I don’t read a lot of fiction, but she’s a really fine writer. This third section, the last part of series of lectures she delivered at Harvard before turning them into this book, is the lesser of the three, but only because the first two parts were so charming and strong.

Throughout, she talked about her bygone days, and a great deal of this section is about her parents, her beloved father, a captain of the insurance industry who died far too young, her mother who lived, as Eudora said, with grief as her guiding emotion. These were two people who came from Ohio and West Virginia, got married and moved to Mississippi as an adventure and had three children. Eudora grew up the oldest of three surviving children, but she was writing all of this in her seventies, when she was the last of her siblings. (One of her brothers served in the Pacific during World War 2. They were an insurance man and an architect by trade.) There’s a reverence and profound introspection involved with that much time and perspective, and all of her endearment. She talks about the characters she’s written, how they aren’t the people she knows, but how they are sometimes inspired by people she’s met. No less a scribe than Robert Penn Warren teased his way through this, through the beauty and difficulty of human relationships in Welty’s writing, in his famous love and separateness review. That was in 1944, and by then she was well on the path to literary success: having people disagree and/or find infinite layers of nuance to your themes. What, then, could I add to the larger, impressive body of work of a critically important author?

I’m glad I read this memoir. And though I don’t read a lot of her, if you like human themes, fiction or old Mississippi, you should start dogearing some pages today.