Nov 20

No calculator was harmed in the making of this post

It’s a weird time. I have a normal work schedule on Wednesdays. My weeks during the semester are normally split. I’m done at a respectable hour on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Tuesdays and Thursdays are long, but these other days I feel like a normal person. Except I am now old enough to feel the effects of a split schedule in ways I didn’t when I was 23, and so it doesn’t feel especially normal.

I’m honestly not sure how Mondays work anymore, since I’ve largely been working from home on Mondays since March. But I’ve been going in four-days-a-week since July, and in August the students came back and in September we ramped up production and so it went like this. I would leave campus just after 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and then go work a 9-5 day on Wednesdays. And then I would leave the building on Thursdays closer to 9 p.m. and work another regular day on Fridays. Well, on Friday afternoon the weekend feelings kick in. So that is taken care of. But Wednesdays? And now that it’s dark by 5:30. That, of course, presupposes the midwestern cloud cover lets any natural direct light shine through.

Like today, for instance. High 44. It was partly cloudy. And then the sun set (I had no idea the sun came out. I was hiding under fluorescent light all day.) at 5:25. That’s about the time I got to the house. So no bike ride for me. What am I going to do with the evening?

“What did you do with the evening?”

Well, let me tell you, dear and gentle reader. We fact checked a story The Yankee was reading. It was about some lavish meal somewhere. How could all of these things — the story itemized many of the plates — only amount to a little over two grand?

It was, when you heard the many items, a fair question.

So I pulled up the menu for a restaurant 634 miles away and we analyzed the data.

While some specifics were left out of the story, to protect the carnivores, one presumes, we ultimately decided that the total bill was plausible and likely.

And I subsequently decided I needed something better to do.

And did I find it? No, I did not.

But I will.

TV shows, for those who like TV shows. These are the last episodes the news crew will produce in the studio this fall. I am urging them to do more stuff remotely between now and when we reconvene in person in February.

They even teased a winter series of stories in here, which was nice. Now they’re on the record! They have to follow through!

Saying publicly that you’ll do something is a great motivator.

They produced those shows last night, which is why it was just after 8 p.m. when I left our old historic building. It was gratifying to watch the seniors rally the underclassmen and congratulate them on the semester and say all of the things I would normally say. It’s fun to see them slip effortless into those roles.

I was curious how that would work this year because the interpersonal dynamics, by definition, are more restrained than normal. If anything, they’ve found ways to work around and beyond that and be better for it.

We build broadcast pros and leaders around here.

We had two productions running concurrently last night. The two above in Studio 7 and the late night show was being produced in Studio 5. It’ll be out later this week. And all of that means we’ll be shooting the last in-studio shows of the term tomorrow night. Watch this space for me bragging on them.

Nov 20

Another “We’ll say ‘We knew him when'”

This is, I told Drew, one of my favorite parts. He’s a sports guy. One of the co-directors of the sports division this term. And he’s going to graduate in a few weeks. But he came over to the news shows this evening to do a bit of fill-in work:

He was, of course, ready, prepared, hit all his marks and drilled the delivery of a concise sports segment in a larger newscast. Did it in one take, as cool and as confident and as comfortable in the contrivance of television as someone can be.

It’s one of my favorite parts because I knew I got to watch him present tonight, and I’ll get to see him work one last time on Thursday and then he’ll start making his way out into the world, where the real work and the real learning begin. But I’m not thinking about that. I’m stuck remembering when he showed up as a freshman. When he somehow became the A1, and then talked the upperclassmen into letting him do extra segments if they found extra studio time. So he came to productions camera-ready, just in case, for several weeks. And, finally, he got his chance.

He’d written a new timely segment every week, just on the prospect of getting to stand in front of the cameras. And now it was here and they put him in front of a monitor and ran some graphics over it and he worked through the thing. It was obviously his first time, but he learned a lot, and quickly. He took the advice to heart. And now, three-and-a-half years later, he has a year of those solo social media hits under his belt. He’s taken all the classes, had the internships. He’s done the reporting and live shots. He was a beat reporter for tennis one year and football one year. He’s been a sports director. He’s hosted the talk show for about a year-and-a-half or more, now.

I stood off from the camera and watched him present tonight and thought about all those starts and stops along the way and enjoyed watching him carry himself like the young professional he is. It is, easily, the best part of my job, watching them grow like that. It’s fascinating to see. The really talented people we get, and we get some real talent, you can just see it all blur together for them. First they were halting and then they become dynamic and ready to really hone their skills.

I wish I had more time with those students, focusing on some specialized finishing school stuff, but those that go into broadcasting will get a terrific crucible experience in that new first job. May they all land somewhere exciting and sooner than later.

I did this interview on Friday, I think, and I sound exhausted! I had no idea until I listened to it on playback. Then again, I’m about six weeks into waking up tired. Everyone is pretty much in the same boat right now; keep your stones in your stone satchel.

Sorry, Kyle. It was at the end of a long week near the end of this crazy semester and I had some small degree of sleep and then I got to talk about economics.

But it’s kind of important stuff, as describing forecasts and prospects go.

Despite my exhaustion, economists are fun interviews. If you talk with them consistently you can learn a great deal about economists.

Oh, and I feel much more awake today. It’s only Tuesday, after all. No one is allowed to be tired on Tuesday. By mid-Wednesday, all bets, however, are off.

Here’s the morning show from Monday! Which they shot on Friday! And it’s a semester-ender, so, as is tradition with this show, they got a bit reflective.

They have a good time with it.

Useless fact: they were recording that show while I was talking with the economist. What does it mean? Who can say?

Nov 20

A note 10 years in the making

On Saturday we went for our bike ride and it was 46 degrees. I had on a pair of full finger gloves, two pairs of socks, a wind jacket and a DIY gaiter I made out of a toboggan. In perfect pitch with the season, it was gross and rainy. But right on this stretch of road something neat happened.

So every mile for the rest of the year — including the last three or so on that ride — marks a new personal best.

Why, yes, I do have a spreadsheet charting these things. Doesn’t everyone? Previously, 2013 was the best year. We did a lot of racing that year and I was starting to pile up solo miles to make up for losing out on the second half of 2012. And, I think, somewhere in those solo miles I started to see my riding as something that was mine, a carefree interlude from the rote things that control so much of our lives. Because of the triathlons I was in the pool twice a week and running several days a week and riding as much as possible. Between that and excessive work hours and the ridiculous commute I came to think of it as My Own Time. Which is, I know, a radical way to think of one’s free time.

I remember the view from the ridge I was on when the realization came to me: this is you carving out something for yourself. It was a disproportionately powerful realization; this thing that you do for fun is something you actually do for fun. It’s a conscious realization of agency you’ve always had.

One day it’s going to take, too!

Clearly the endorphins were out of whack that day.

A person’s interaction with their bike can be one of the most passionate relationships they have. It can sometimes be a mercurial one. A few years ago I ran cold on the idea of bike riding. It was something to be checked off the list before I could do other things. Almost sounds like a chore, doesn’t it? It got to that point and, suddenly, the thing that used to be an interlude was an interruption. It wasn’t my thing. It was, of course, interrupting nothing. I saw it, recognized it, and knew it. Still haven’t remedied it, but clearly I’m tapping out a rhythm to my own drummer over here.

By a curious coincidence that same year, 2017, was when my form, such as it ever was, started to vanish. It was subtle, but obvious. Couldn’t go as hard for as long, or as fast as suddenly as I once did, and so on. These are all things that are, of course, very relative. The important thing is that it happened and I noticed and it’s never been recovered.

But hey, that’s age, and not enough talent, or time. And, like any relationship, you have to put in the time. It doesn’t hurt if you bring a little innate talent to the thing, or want to work on it, besides.

I go back and forth a lot; its a thing on the list, it’s a thing I do. It’s a thing I have to do; it’s a thing I want to do more. Still trying to figure it out. I always take the ride, but the consideration always seems to be there. This isn’t, perhaps, about my bike riding at all. A year or two ago (who can even tell?) I made a Things I Want To Do List. The idea being these weren’t the tasks one must muddle through to achieve, but the things one does because they are pleasant. I spent some time on the list. There were a few drafts, as I found the proper rank order for all the common contingencies and considerations, because you should do that for your list of enjoyments. At the top of the list was “Ride your bike: whenever the weather is good.”

Maybe the solution is a lot more of those long, meandering rides that take place just because they can.

So, almost any sunny day we get for the rest of the year, because I’ll have some availability and because I am now in every-mile-is-a-new-record mode, I hope to have a little time in the saddle.

It will take many pairs of socks.

I say sunny because, otherwise, you’re just going to get glorious views like this.

Isn’t that inspiring? Doesn’t that make you want to get out there and do … something?

Like install blackout curtains through mid-March or so?

This week’s forecast includes some actual sun. I’ll be sequestered in the office. I was on work from home duty today, but tomorrow it’s back to campus. And next week, I’ll be back at the home office, or at least at the house.

Today I edited an interview I’m publishing tomorrow, caught up on email, and generally prepared for this last week of in-person work.

Most crucially, I started charting out what the next several weeks of work from home will look like. And, happily, there will be things to do. There are always things to do.

OK, perhaps that wasn’t the most crucial thing. I also had a Zoom meeting about some upcoming stories that students are reporting on. I think I may enjoy those more than they do, but I hope my participation is at least in some way useful for them.

Also, I got two new tires for the car today. I’d developed a slow leak in one that was going bald anyway, and the other wasn’t far behind. So I drove over to the tire place and put on my mask and nodded at the “Must wear a mask” sign on the door and walked inside.

And I immediately noticed that a good mask does not filter out the peculiar smell of unused vulcanized rubber. A guy was on the phone in the back office. He saw me, finished the call, hung up and put his mask on. The Boomer sitting in their chairs waiting on his car to come down off the lift did not have a mask on.

I’ve really had it with this sort of thing.

So the guy working there asked me what I needed. We went and looked at the car. He drove it into their work bay. I said, You know, it’s a nice sunny late afternoon. I’m just going to stand out here if you need me.

“I don’t blame you,” he said.

What I didn’t say, and I don’t know if he inferred, was Because I don’t want to sit around that guy, or your unmasked coworkers.

But I took his response to mean that he knew what I was on about.

So I enjoyed the sun in a medium-light jacket and caught up on some current events and began wondering if I should scale that Sisyphean exercise back next week, when my car came down off the work lift. Inside, to pay, I saw that the unmasked Boomer was thankfully gone. Two of the unmasked employees were right there. And I mean, right there.

So I left just as quickly as I could. Used their hand sanitizer — I see it like water in the South, now. If it’s on offer, you take advantage of the opportunity — and got to the car and used mine, wiping down the wheel and the door features and so on, just to be sure.

I rolled down the windows, because it was, in fact, a lovely afternoon, for a few blocks to let any cooties escape. And I listened to the hum of four good tires on the road.

By the time I got back to the house it was growing dark once again. So I set about doing a few household things until dinnertime. It was the productive Monday I’ve been trying to have for the last several Mondays, really. And there’s some satisfaction in that.

Nov 20

Plenty to hear and see

Have you ever had a day that started with the best of intentions, but then the clock did something weird and you don’t get any of the planned morning things done? You’re not sure how, but you’re left saying, Well, today’s list just became Thursday’s.

No? Just me? OK then.

I recorded something yesterday and it’s out there today, so, please, enjoy:

It seemed a logical line of questions to me. Should we do this? What should we do? How should we do this?

And I’ll tell you a little secret, I got into one of these topics and I was just trying to keep the question on track and under control and thinking How can I do Christmas? Should we even be talking like this? and it’s a little bit heart rending. So, as you might imagine, the question wasn’t going so well.

But just as that happened an alarm on my phone went off. And that gave me the opportunity to re-frame and re-phrase the question. And Shandy Dearth, who is the public health professional here, is a total pro. Also, she’s got really solid advice and perspective and you should listen to what she has to say.

I got home tonight, shed the clothes that had been exposed to the elements of semi-public society, took the cleansing and decontaminating shower and came downstairs to a plate almost ready for dinner:

All I had to do was put the meat on the rice. That’s thoughtful, and full service romance.

Also, it was pretty tasty, too. And, I’m told, we’ll have a flaming onion tomorrow …

It was a studio night tonight, which is an excellent reminder for me to get caught up on studio stuff. Here’s a sports show from late last week:

And here’s a talk show, where they talked about the greatest of all time in all the big sports.

I think they should do a greatest of all times in lesser-known-in-America sports. Make them work at the show prep, and really stress having to sell the argument to an audience who already doesn’t think about Tom Brady or Michael Jordan or Lebron James or whomever.

You know what I need to know? I need to know the best flat to ever swim in water polo, and the greatest brakeman in bobsledding history.

Now that’d be a show worth sinking your teeth into.

Until we get that, please scroll back up and listen to that podcast. Please, and thank you. And wear a mask and social distance and stay home when you can.

Nov 20

A Monday post about Sunday

We went for a bike ride, because that’s what we do, and because it was an abnormally beautiful weekend day. Just the sort that is intent to try to trick you into thinking this is what the whole fall and most of the winter will be like. It won’t be, and that’s a shame. And I can’t get that out of my head, and that’s an equally big shame.

Did I mention it was a great day? Ridiculous. It was 80 degrees, far beyond what anyone here would expect, which is also a shame.

Anyway, we were going out to the lake, but changed our mind to take a slightly different route. Different roads, different traffic — only yelled at twice, by a dude that, feeling he didn’t get it right the first time, decided to let us get by so he could pass us and yell again — and different views.

It was described to me as a nice, easy ride.

I looked down at one point because my legs notified my brain that I was turning over ridiculous RPMs. We’re talking maximum watts, and I’m torquing the handlebars for all they were worth. And that’s how I found myself in a sprint, at 26 miles per hour, just to stay on the Yankee’s wheel.

We were also climbing a hill when that happened.

Down on the causeway:

And a bit of video somewhere between here and there …

Anyway, yesterday was a lovely day for a ride, and we enjoyed it. And we look forward to the next one. (And it better be 80 degrees again!)

I also got to play around with part of this wood carving project I started on Friday:

This is just a test piece. I’ll use a longer piece to create the scoop-bowl volume I want here, and I need to figure out some way to handle the bottom of the bowl. It’s quite rough in there, as you can see, and I’d like to clean that up without having to buy even more stuff. I think this is becoming a scoop for dry cat food, which was the suspicion I had from the beginning. And that needs to be 3/4s of a cup. But if I can get the volume right, smooth out the insides of the real piece and thin the sides and shape the bottom, I’ll have a nice piece.

Or just something else that never works quite the way I intended.