Sep 20

Arrivederci, Augst

If we’re doing that thing where we blame everything on the year, and we are doing that thing, let us do it quickly. Let’s divest ourselves of September. Let us brush aside October and ignore November. Bring on the grimness of December and weird, unfulfilled holidays.

Or at least let us move past August. It’ll all be … different … by December. Better different? Who among us can say? It will be different-different. So let’s consider that.

The cats are in perfect agreement.

Let’s assume they are. Whenever they sit this closely together, I’m convinced, something is up, and it may as well be this. They’re trying, in their own cat way, to whisk away the calendar too.

You’re welcome, humanity.

On Saturday, we held a little miniature Olympic distance triathlon. The Yankee was supposed to do a formal one that day, but, you know, 2020. So, not having that opportunity, we ran the #GoRenGo tri.

We went out to the lake early in the morning. Early enough that we were out there alone. (Don’t think I didn’t notice the hour.)

And she swam a quick and easy 1,500 yards.

Exiting the water, she had a T1 right there on the lake and hopped on her bike and set out on a 24-mile ride.

I tracked her at two points on the road, and then she got back to the house for T2, and then set out for a nice easy 10K.

I followed her around on my bike for part of her run. She had a great swim and ride, but didn’t like her run. I’m looking at the times though, and she’s still amazing, even when I’m the only support on the course.

Aug 20

I had no idea

Did anyone lose some nice risers and a little canopy and some other stage implements? Because they’re just sitting out here in Dunn Meadow.

The university has set up several of these temporary outdoor venues. In addition to the county’s health restrictions the university has put their own rules in place to cap group sizes. And, whenever possible, they’re trying to get student groups to use the little places like this. They’re not all built the same, or the same size, and I’m sure there’s a strategy for all of that.

No one, I’m convinced, is capable of thinking of everything when it comes to restarting things anew in these curious circumstances. Every answer prompts a new half-dozen questions, who could have all the answers? It is encouraging to see all of the things they have thought of, and to see the way the university is investing in doing this as safely as possible. It won’t be perfect, but it’s a big, big effort.

And, to me, after the institutional-level stuff, it comes down to basic human habits and structures and our personal responsibilities.

My hands, for example, have never been as clean as they’ve been these last few months. In and out of the house, time for a sing-along. Pass a hand sanitizer at the office, rub-it-in, rub-it-in. Have to run an errand around time, take a hit off the travel stash.

Who knows what else I’ve avoided while trying to be diligent about the current public health crisis.

I learned something interesting today. This style of mask is slimming if you wear it upside down.

Imagine my chagrin when I saw that in a mirror. That should teach me to tie my mask as I’m walking from the parking deck to the building.

Fortunately, there aren’t a lot of people in our building in this first week of classes, so no one noticed and I was able to correct the problem. Dodged one there.

Dodge people. That’s good advice when you are committing fashion faux pas.

Aug 20

Kindly wear a mask

A friend of ours made us some really clever artistic masks. She found this pattern, which you can download for a minimal charitable donation. And since she’s crafty, she’s been making her friends — even us! — masks. She says it takes about 10 minutes per mask. I figured that’s for a person who really knows their way around the sewing machine. And then I saw tutorial video, using that pattern, and it took 14 minutes. And that was with the extra “Hey, look at this, because this is a tutorial and I am trying to show you the finer points of making this thing.” So it takes her 10 minutes, and she’s a charming friend who wants the people she cares about to be safe. And stylish.

And because I want the people I care about to be safe, I have a lot of masks now. I have three or four of these custom masks. I’ll wear these on days when I don’t have to interact closely with too many people. I have two the university sent me, which I’ll keep in the office as backups. I a big stack of high quality masks, which I’ll wear for those instances where I do have to work closely with others.

You can’t go onto our campus without wearing a mask. You’re not supposed to go into any non-private building in this county without a mask.

Listening to anecdotes of people I know well, and watching the grim numbers climb and climb and climb, and knowing what I’ve given up this year, I’ve come to a simple formulation. If you can’t wrap your mind around these simple concepts, I don’t have a lot of time for you.

We’re almost six months into this now. This didn’t sneak up on you. This is not a surprise. Something transmitted via droplets, or air, involves your respiratory system. (The external elements of which include your mouth and nose, if you are confused.) Take the necessary precautions. Avoid close contact with people whenever you can. Stay away from crowds. Don’t do silly things like restaurants or big communal events. Wash your hands. Wear a mask.

Yes. Your friends are your friends. Sure, you know them. Of course they are nice people. They wouldn’t be your friends, otherwise. We aren’t talking about sharing needles. And it’d be silly to think they’d willingly do anything maliciously to you. They’re your friends, after all, but we aren’t talking about stealing your wallet.

When your charming, kind, sweet, professional, talented, educated, well-traveled, erudite friends hang out with you, sans precautions, you’re at risk. And so are they. Now this is where logic comes in and it gets fuzzy, but concentrate. If they’re hanging out with you in such a devil-may-care attitude it’s likely they are doing it with their other friends, too. And so on and so on. When one person down that chain gets sick, that’s where it begins, and it comes to you. And then you bring it to people you care about.

You must be proactive. The more proactive you can be, the better. Now, here’s the really, really tricky part. We don’t have to leave this to the fates. You can do those simple things — avoid close contact, crowds, restaurants and communal events and washing your hands and wearing a mask — for yourself and for others. Including those people you would say you care about.

Can’t do that? You’re reckless. You’re selfish.

These are facts; they aren’t up for discussion.

Aug 20

First day of classes

First day back, and all is well. Empty, but well. There’s not a lot going on in our building, by design. Safety measures and all that. May it ever be so, and may it continue to go well because of it. With the quiet day there isn’t much to discuss. May it ever be so, and may that continue to go well, too.

The cats had a grand week, as ever. Phoebe is working on her selfie skills:

Poseidon is working on his save-you-from-falling-off-the-cliff pose. He’s really selling it with the facial expressions, if you ask me.

We went for a bike ride. It was one of the usual local routes. And the part I would like to mention here, briefly, took place just before this photograph:

There was a blip in one of the recording apps. (What? You don’t document your bike rides on three different tools?) On one segment I hit 11,309 miles per hour. Now, you might think that mach 15 is fast on a bicycle, but if you’ll note that the red line is the path of travel and the blue one is the recorded mile in question.

Fitting, I suppose, that I was roaring by Airline Road at the time.

I’ve been down that road. It’s neat, but it has nothing to do with planes or airports.

Last night, on the front porch, I got a haircut.

I was well overdue. But who wants to go sit in a barber shop just now? So I bought some trimmers online and we watched a video and read the instruction booklet and she went to work. She didn’t sign up for it, but she was game to try it. She was also terribly susceptible for the “NO! NOT THAT MUCH!” joke.

For a first haircut, she did a great job. (I fidget a little, so any problems with the styling are mine.) And after two more haircuts those trimmers will have paid for themselves. The photos are free, and who knows how wacky hair styles will be by then.

Aug 20

Free S&H

Do you know that moment when you’re on a great sale on a website? You put a few things in your cart and then you realize you’re just a few dollars shy of reaching the almost mythical free shipping threshold. You sit there for a while, wondering what sort of algorithms the company used to arrive here.

Sure, they’re not going to ship at a big loss. So that’s the first level. But, then, you have to think about the prices of things on offer. How do they set the tiers such that you’re so often thiiiis close to the free shipping? It’s a sales and marketing ploy, of course, but a brilliant one. And it’s a commonly successful one, too. You knew exactly what we’re talking about here. You’ve been there. We’ve all been there. Just the other day I was there, within three bucks.

And so what do you do?

You try to estimate the amount of shipping. Is that more than you wish to pay? Does this add some definition to the items you’re considering buying? Is the shipping a deal breaker? Or, alternatively, is there something else that you can throw in? Something small that will just nudge you into that free shipping category.

Which is funny because, of course, the three, now four things you’re buying won’t arrive at the same time. That was the case today, when part of my shipment arrived. I’d ordered a few shirts and this tie. It cost five bucks, and “earned” me the free shipping.

Joke’s on them. I need to retire a similar-looking yellow tie, anyway. And a fine, brand new piece of neckwear for just $5? A good joke, indeed.

Joke’s on me. I haven’t worn a tie since March. Who knows when we’ll do that again.