May 23

Not just another Monday

This evening I asked my lovely bride, who is now fighting off a head cold, if she would be offended if I left her on the sofa and went on a bike ride. It was my first ride in a week or more, somehow, and I hate when that happens, because I hate how those breaks make my legs feel.

But the light under these trees, on a gray and overcast day no less, was magical.

This is the same road, but coming back out from the dead end.

So that was one of the highlights of today. One of ’em, anyway.

One of the highlights of the weekend was Saturday morning. My lovely bride, who was not fighting a head cold then, was off in a local sprint triathlon she does every year. It’s close enough that there’s no travel involved, but she still has to get up early. And, thankfully, she lets me sleep in for this one.

But I had errands to run, so I set an alarm. I set an alarm for Saturday morning. (Oh, the indignity!)

First, it was to the recycling center. It’s a task that always seems bigger than it is. We sort as we go, so it’s just a matter of putting four big tubs in the car, wrangling in whatever cardboard you can get in there, and then driving two miles to the conveniently located recycling center. The hard part is remembering which of their giant bins is for steel, and which is for glass and aluminum. (I think they move some of them around.) So it’s easy enough then, which means I’ve now built momentum.

After that, I visited the Surplus Store. It was a special, overstocked Saturday sale, and you never know. So I did two laps, saw nothing I wanted or needed, and then hit the third chore of the day: a drive across town to replace two tires on the car.

The tire shop I use is on a road filled with mechanics and auto parts places. It’s an area I have no real need to go to on a regular basis, so I use a maps app. As luck would have it, they were able to fit my car into their schedule for the day. Moved the front tires to the rear, put two new tires on the front. The same thing I did three years ago and not all that many miles ago, actually, so now I have almost matched tires.

I got hungry as I waited, so I opened up the maps app to see if anything was in walking distance. There was a Steak ‘n Shake, another restaurant that uses apostrophes incorrectly, but they’ve got good milkshakes, so all is forgiven. I started walking that way. Along the way, I called an audible, because there was also a Mexican restaurant nearby, a bit closer, in fact. I went there. They had sweet tea, which is why you always ask. I had huevos con chorizo, and a tea. The waiter, a kind, older gentleman with reasonably good English kept calling me buddy. It amused him that I ordered mostly in Spanish, but I did not know the phrase “tortilla de harina.”

Finished my lunch and walked back to the tire shop, trying to recall the last spontaneous thing I did like that. Trying to remember the last time I ate alone.

It was before the pandemic began. One of my favorite things to do has always been to sit and eat and read. Only we don’t go out to eat anymore, except when traveling, really. Surprisingly, I don’t miss dining out, something I’d long seen as one of my bad habits. But there I was, being spontaneous, and eating out, and doing it alone. It was, I realized, a big day.

Which was just before I realized I need to liven things up.

Can do! Just you wait and see.

Anyway, I have new tires now. And The Yankee made it back from her triathlon, her first since her big, horrible crash last September. Two weeks prior she finished her PT, but she still projected as being a few months away from a full recovery.

She won her age group.

I spent a few minutes yesterday finally updating the art on the front page of the site. Same style, different decoration. There are a dozen new images for you to enjoy, though, all from our trip to Andorra in March. They look like this.

So, if you like mountain views, click that link, and enjoy.

Which brings us to the site’s most popular weekly feature. It’s time, once again, to check in on the kitties.

Here’s Phoebe, enjoying yesterday afternoon on her blanket. We have four blankets like this. This one she’s claimed as her own. And if it isn’t out, there’s a whole ordeal of silent staring and judging.

She also enjoyed a bit of window time this weekend, looking out over the shrubs, watching the birdies and the squirrels.

Poseidon found a new box, and so, of course, Poseidon had to get in the box.

He was not successful in this case, though he did push it all around the floor for a while.

I am not sure what is going on with this pose. It took me a while to figure out which paw was which. But he looks cozy, I guess?

The cats are doing just fine. And if they understood Mondays, I’m sure they’d wish you a happy one.

May 23

Thursday, May 11th

May 23

500 site words, 400 music words, and then the weekend

It occurs to me, and matters to no one else, that I need to spruce up some of the site’s images. Some of the headers and footers on the blog should be updated removed, and the images on the front need a big refresh. I think I might get into some or all of that next week. I have, of late, updated a few of the mini-banners you see breaking up sections of each post. Some of those have already been implemented. Others will make their debut later this summer.

You could say that the blog’s aesthetic itself is due a refresh — I’ve run this WordPress theme for seven years, it seems — but I don’t know of a better look for what I’m (barely) doing here. Those rotating headers and footers, a bit of PHP echo code, are the key. Go ahead, click refresh a few times. You’ll always have a different look. There are, as of this writing, 107 different headers and 107 footers that surround these brilliant words. But you’re right, 107 is too many. That should get pared back.

The problem, he sighed, is that I use a basic numerical system for the numbering, which makes the PHP randomizer work better. So if I decided to remove, say, the 36th header, 37 must become 36, 38 must become 37 and so on, all the way up to 107. Errr, 106. This isn’t hard, but it can be tedious and leads to errors, which leads to restoring backups, which always feels more perilous than it should, even though my host is incredible. And all of that comes after the editorial angst. Sure, that trip to Washington was terrific, but is that cloud shot important enough, really, to keep in play? And I have to ask myself that 214 times?

Take this one, for example.

That’s from my former job, it has no meaning to me, but it’s supremely ridiculous, and so it survived the last cleaning. What was the point here? That they’d mastered the art of putting eyelets in cardboard stock? Showing they had a second font? Did someone have it out for sans serif and inconsistent stroke? They could now do full color? Were people missing the older 1960s-ish sign an inch above it?

That one, I’m sure, I shot for the specific purpose of making as header art. But what of other photographs? Easy enough to edit, I only look at them and wonder about the decisions I made when I hurriedly cropped them to fit the template. If editing them is easy, taking them out of rotation is harder.

I’d rather edit something I’d written — kill my babies, as writers say — than take photos out of the mix.

Of course, I have an entire folder of retired banner images, why do you ask? Why do I have an entire folder of retired banner images? Because, well, you never know.

We could get into the philosophical here, too, reducing the volume increases the penetration, but I’ve already written 500 words about … well … nothing.

I have a reorganization idea though, maybe I’ll implement that this summer.

In today’s installment of the Re-Listening project, 1998/1999-me picked up my copy of “March,” the 1989 debut album of singer-songwriter Michael Penn. I love this record.

The song you might remember is “No Myth,” which went to 22 on the Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks chart, number five on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, peaked at four on the Modern Rock Tracks chart, and hit number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100.

There are a lot of musicians’ musicians on this record, and most of Prince’s backing band are listed in the credits, too. Kenny Aronoff, who played with John Mellencamp and John Fogerty, and graduated from right here at IU, plays some of the drums.

I’m not sure if it was this record, or his next one, where I thought it would be neat to sit down for a few days and try to write things with him. I don’t normally think that about musicians. I enjoy the work, I might see the shows if it works out, but I never think, “What would happen if I, a person who has never written a song in his life, sat down with this person and a few notepads?” Except, fpr some reason, when I listen to a Michael Penn record. No idea why. Could be the clever lyrics.

The other reason, I think, was that I didn’t have that much going on whenever that idea came to mind.

As debuts go, this record shows so much promise and potential. Penn wasn’t exactly a new to all of this. He was in Doll Congress, which earned a nice following in Los Angeles. Half of the songs on this record he wrote during his time in that alternative band, which might explain the incredible varied, and engaging things he’s doing throughout this record. This is the last track.

A few other Michael Penn CDs will appear in the Re-Listening project sooner or later. These days, he seems to be spending his time producing others, and composing and scoring for TV shows and movies. In October of 2020, with no other work on his plate, he released a non-soundtrack song for the first time in years. Presumably he’s back at it again these days.

I was hoping I would discover he’s doing small venue gigs and that he was going to be in the neighborhood this fall, but alas.

Have a great weekend! I’m sure I’ll be here, muttering about banner images.

Mar 23

People I know earn well-deserved awards

Here’s a little something I put on LinkedIn, which I basically use to occasionally brag on people I know. For whatever reason, I get more “engagement” on LinkedIn than any of the social media platforms. Which is great, since I just brag on people I know. Anyway, time to highlight on the award-winning IUSTV folks once again.

I counted and this year’s batch makes 73 IU student awards and honors that I’ve had the privilege to work with. We’re quickly running out of wall space for plaques mostly because we refuse to give any of the individual awards to the individuals because of the terrific talent I am fortunate to work with from time-to-time.

And because the days are (thankfully) getting longer I was able to catch a bit of the sunset after watching the award-winning sports division produce two shows tonight.

We’re in the Almost Spring now, a welcome arrival after — I guess I can say it now — a mild winter. Spring finally arrives in 22 days.

I believe I am still five CDs behind in writing about the Re-Listening project. But, today, we’re going to quickly get two discs closer to catching up. It’s a car experience, playing the discs in the order in which I acquired them, and then writing a bit about them here. Since I’m behind, it’s a scant bit. Which actually works out for this particular stretch of music.

Take this one, for example, one of the dozen or so Marvin Gaye greatest hits records. This one was released on the Motown label in 1976 on LP and then in 1987 on CD. I picked this up in 1997, because everyone needs a little Marvin Gaye in as many formats as possible. As true a statement then, as it is today.

It is as perfect as you would imagine. The first eight songs make the best part of the argument of why there are so many compilation releases:

Let’s Get It On
I Want You
How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)
I Heard It Through the Grapevine
Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)
What’s Going On
After the Dance
Can I Get a Witness

I’m barely equipped to go on at length about Marvin Gaye, and there’s not a lot of new things to be said about a musical genius at this point, anyway. But, as I listened to this disc I found myself wondering, a lot, about how even the greats can transcend time. Marvin Gaye died young, of course, and he died while I was young. Generationally, I came about his music almost secondhand. Today, it’s been almost four decades since he was killed. What do young people today know about Marvin Gaye? You look at the first eight songs there and think some of those are just downloaded into the brain naturally, surely as oxygen or evolution. Which brings us to the ninth track.

“Trouble Man” was in the MCU, you say. Surely it was.

A decade ago now. Time marches on, but the music of the masters really ought to be immortal.

This is the last track on the CD. An argument could be made that this is the greatest live recording ever. I would not dismiss the argument.

I don’t know, yet, what the consensus best live recording is, but that’s on the list. It’s a 1974 recording in Oakland and that crowd made the thing work in some special ways.

The other CD we’re featuring in the Re-Listening project today marks the beginning of jazz albums in my collection. (I’d reached the point where I realized I needed some jazz. What of it?) I have no recollection of how or why I picked up the Holly Cole Trio in particular, but listening through this thing in the last few days, I do wonder why. And, also, why are we ruining The Jungle Book, right off the bat?

Lyle Lovett wrote this song. Sounds like a soundtrack tune.

I’m glad I didn’t give up entirely on this one, though. This song has some sass, at least. Which, hey, it’s a Fats Waller classic.

I thought, at first, I was being trolled on the last track.

And this, I think, is why I don’t have any memories associated with this CD. I decided, early on, I wasn’t going to listen to this one a lot.

I did 16 slow miles this morning. Felt slow, anyway.

But, still, three new Strava segment PRs, including two on climbs. (I am not a climber.) I took 3:24 off my best time on one of the little climbs today. Good legs, even if it felt slow.

The 2023 Zwift route tracker: 88 routes down, 41 to go.

Mar 23

‘It may be a commodity to me, but something else to you’

No one wants to read other people’s dreams. But, here’s the thing, I seldom remember any dreams I have. They may as well not even take place. And when I do remember them, or are aware of them, they only rattle around in my brain for just a minute or two.

Sometimes you try to hang onto them, pull more strands together, tie in details and tidbits to make a more coherent whole. Then the mental quicksand kicks in. The more you pull, the salient points move farther apart. And what was context when your eyes were first trying to focus is just a yellowish blur later in the day.

Or is that just me?

I woke up this morning from a dream where my grandmother was correcting me on the finer points of commodities and commodification. She was using bolts of cloth as her widget. She was explaining the error in something I’d said.

She was a rural homemaker, my grandmother, a textile worker. She quoted a first century Syrian poet in her high school yearbook. That’s one of those things I only learned about her later in her life and, now, I wish I had asked her more about it.

She was attuned to world events, always read the paper, watched the news twice a day. My grandmother watched the A-block on one channel and the B-block on another. I talk to students about broad consumption and critical media analysis, and that’s basically what my grandmother did. She knew which station was best at this and that, and she found a system that worked for her, out there on the gravel road. She knew some stuff.

As for the dream, I don’t know how old or educated (I only have a minor in economics) I was, but I spent a few moments looking through some research this morning to see how accurate our “chat” was.

Turns out — having glanced at some of the sociological anthropological work of Peter Ekeh, Bruce Kapferer and Igor Kopytoff — that, in the dream, my grandmother was perhaps trying to make a point about the commoditization of goods.

The title of this post is basically what she told me in the dream. It’s a pretty incredible paraphrase of Kopytoff who, to my recollection, I haven’t read before.

Also, it appears that she was right, and dream-me was mistaken.

What a real delight some dreams can be.

What a delight!

Regretfully, I forgot to do this yesterday, but here’s the updated cycling chart through February. I know you felt like something was missing here, too. But, after thinking about it most of the evening, did you realize, when you were setting out your things for the next day, that what was missing was an obscenely oversized graphic?

This is what happens when you set up site rules for photographs, so you can deliver nice images in a consistent style, but didn’t think you might one day run a simple Excel chart as filler, too.

Anyway, that purple line is where I am on the year in terms of mileage. It’s humble, to be sure. Nevertheless it’s a high, steady pace for me. And I added to it a little this morning. I woke up early, within that amount of time that going back to sleep and getting anything out of it seemed futile.

Eleven miles doesn’t seem like anything, but I figured I could ride a half hour this morning, or try to ride this evening.

I decided to do both, but one of the cats decided I needed to provide pets, instead. Good thing I got up this morning, then.

Speaking of stats, I haven’t looked at the site data in a bit. Last month I had my 5 millionth visitor.

Five million! That seems like a lot for a humble personal site.

I don’t know why you all come here. I know it isn’t for the occasional dream or the too-frequent talk of my bike rides, but thank you for the visits. (It’s the cats. I know. They know it, too. More from them on Monday.)