Tuesday


14
May 24

First you make it, then bake it, then you eat it, and do it again

I decided to go for a run today. It was, I figured, too gray and chilled and wet to ride my bike for the first time in forever. So I may as well try my first run in forever.

Just at the bottom of the driveway I received a text from my lovely bride. She was trying to figure out dinner, and did I have any ideas. I thought and I thought, standing there by the road feeling quite silly about the whole thing, and then said, “What about a ziti? And then we can have several dinners planned out.”

We run a menu calendar for dinners at home, and that’s my job. Every so often, I take all of our regular meals, there are about 90 of them, put them in a randomized order and then load them to the calendar. I might be behind on it just now. That would mean we have to make up ideas, and that means I get that question a lot, and I don’t always have great answers. But ziti, I figured, gives us leftovers, and that means I won’t get that question tomorrow.

You’re playing checkers, I’m playing Parisses squares.

That answer was agreeable, so I set off on my run. Four-tenths of a mile later, I got another text. Could I check on the supply of ricotta at home, and also the sauce. So I turned around and ran back. No ricotta, no sauce. And then I set off on my run again.

I was sure to run extra fast, so that I could get in the run, such as it was, before any more requests came in.

It was a short run, I still beat her home.

The rose bushes, we have about nine of them, are all flourishing. Well, eight of them. One is potted, and I have given up on that quitter. But just look at these others.

And they smell soft and delightful, like a nice tea bathed in an old perfume. Whatever that means.

It’s funny, all of these just stayed outside, in the ground, all winter and we did nothing at all to them and now they’re in full bloom. The potted one I brought inside, put under a grow light and watered and misted all winter. It’s barely hanging on.

Maybe it’s the soil, or the pot, or me.

Let’s now return to the Re-Listening project. This has become an irregular feature, which explains why I am behind just now. The Re-Listening project, though, takes place in the car. I am playing all of my old CDs, in the order that I acquired them. I am writing about them here, sporadically, to add a little content. Also, we can play some music. And, sometimes, there are some memories. These aren’t reviews, because none of us care about that, but it might otherwise be fun.

And so we go back to 2004, so that we can revisit 2003’s “Some Devil” by Dave Matthews. I think I got this from a library sale, or someone burned it for me. It was a solo release, and the tone is a bit different than DMB’s signature style. I don’t remember this, but Wikipedia tells me fans were skeptical of the solo release, but it nevertheless debuted at number 2 on the Billboard 200 album charts. It took Outkast’s diamond-certified Speakerboxxx/The Love Below to keep it from the top spot.

“Gravedigger” hit 35 on the Billboard Adult Top 40 and on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart. It won a Grammy for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance. Not bad for an almost “Eleanor Rigby” story. The album went platinum. It is, to me, a mostly forgettable record? Which is to say I never really attached any meaning to it.

I like this one.

And here’s the title track, which does indeed sound different from what you’d expect of 1990s DMB.

The incomparable Tim Reynolds and Trey Anastasio, and a host of other talented people are on the album. And the whole thing is just the sort of thing I can put on and ignore. There’s nothing wrong with that. It seems like I’m always on the search for just that sort of thing. But I’m mystified as to why this never made a bigger impression on me — and why it still doesn’t. That probably says more about me than the ones and zeros encoded on the disc.

Also, as of this writing, it is the last Dave Matthews CD I ever picked up. I guess I just had enough of the catalog to serve my needs.

Dave Matthews Band, of course, is touring this summer. I saw them a few times before concerts got outrageously priced. It was them, I am convinced, that started that trend. It looks like you’d pay $200 a pop for balcony seats at one of their shows near us this summer. That’s become my biggest Dave memory, sadly.

Anyway, time for dinner. The first ziti of the week.

(Ha! She made two casserole dishes. We might not have to decide dinner until Saturday!)


7
May 24

We’ve got company!

It occurred to me today that there’s another thing I miss from Bloomington. That thing is the airport, in Indianapolis. (Yes, it’s a small list.) It was easy to get to the Indianapolis airport. It was small, clean, made sense and moved a lot of people.

This came to mind as I traveled to the Philadelphia airport, which is bigger, older, and feels like both. It isn’t harder to get to. Three highways, half an hour and then you’re trying to figure out the airport itself.

No airport makes sense without a lot of practice, I’m sure of it. And this, I think, is just the third time I’ve driven to the Philadelphia airport. And it was the first time I’ve tried the short term parking. But I got in, and on time. Luggage came off the carousel before the passenger came down the escalator. And so we found the car, and drove away. Now, my mother is here for a visit, her first one at the new house.

So she got the tour, of course. She approves.

(Incidentally, tomorrow marks one year of our having looked at this house as potential buyers.)

Let’s step out to the greenhouse and see how things are going. Suddenly, the asparagus are popping up. We have the impression that these were the longest of long shots. And maybe they are — but some of the other things that sprouted and disappeared may disagree — but we are now pleasantly surprised.

I’m assuming this will give us two or three little bites of asparagus later this summer. (That’d be plenty for me.)

There’s an asparagus festival nearby this weekend, and why anyone would waste their summer festival efforts on something like asparagus is beyond me. I’m sure the many recipes are great, but it’s still asparagus. And the festivities are probably charming, but, still.

The fig tree is coming along nicely.

Hey Siri, when do I pick figs?

The fig tree grows right next to the gazeebo, which is where we spent the afternoon chatting away, before I picked up small-town cheesesteaks for dinner.

Let’s check in on the kitties. Phoebe loves my mom in a way she doesn’t warm up to visitors. She gets to hold her right away.

She’ll be pleased to receive extra pets over the next few days.

And Poseidon has another person to charm.

He’ll also appreciate the extra cuddles.

So the cats, you see, are just as happy as can be.

Except we haven’t told them we’re not taking them along on tomorrow’s adventure.


30
Apr 24

Not an interregnum, but something of an interregnum

We begin this happy Tuesday with our most popular weekly feature, a check-in with the kitties.

Phoebe has discovered the aloe vera plant of late. I have brought it back inside because of our nightly low temperatures. It was turning yellow and developed a dark spot, the telltale signs of being below 50 degrees. Poseidon noticed it instantly, and, now, I have to shoo them both away from the thing.

Poseidon, when he’s not watching birds and trying to bite plants or get outside, has become quite the innovator.

If it fits, he sits. If it has a flap, that’s where his head is at.

Like I said, he’s an innovator.

And, as you can see, the kitties are doing just fine.

And most of the plants are doing well, too. Look at this lilac go!

I’m pretty sure I’ve all but lost a potted rose bush. And I’m either over- or under-watering two other plants. Or maybe they need new pots. Or newer soil.

Plants should come with better signals for these sorts of things.

It’s probably the water. But which condition?

So I’ll start the finger tests. And maybe go outside, from time to time, to admire the lilacs.

I held my last class of the semester last night. It was a screening of video essays. The assignment is one designed to expose students to a video editing platform, Premiere Pro, and make them synthesize at least one of the topics we’ve discussed this semester, using found footage and their own voiceover.

The class has been working toward this singular project for three or four weeks, and so some of what we saw last night was good, and a few were quite impressive, indeed.

At the end of the class I thanked them for spending their Monday evenings with me, invited them to keep in touch, reminded them of my first lecture of the semester (they politely declined a final speech) and sent them on their way.

And so the semester has ended. For that class, anyway. Not for me. Now I must return to the grading, which will take some time.

I put too many final assignments in these final days. Can’t let that happen again. I may still be grading through the weekend.

Expect some filler.

Like this. I saw this at Penn Station Friday night. And I’m a sucker for messages in staircases.

Tomorrow, we’ll have some more historic markers, some other fillers and we’ll find out if my eyes have gone blurry after a mere two days of deep grading.

But, hey, we’re here, at the end of the term, so happy Tuesday!


23
Apr 24

A most usual hodgepodge of wonderful things

It’s going to turn cool again. Cold, actually. We’re going to have nights where we dip down near to freeze warnings. This makes sense for the last week of April.

If spring is going to be short, summer better be long. And since we’re custom-ordering things, it’d be OK if summer was two percent milder than last year. Or without the two or three weeks of extremely July July we had last summer.

It was perfectly timed. Post-move last summer, while we were still trying to get settled, it was weeks before I could do a few chores without looking like a full workout was underway. In those first days it seemed like it took forever to cool anything. The fridge, me, anything. Turns out it was just the summer.

Which seems like a silly thing to complain about when it’s going to be 39 tonight and even colder in the evenings to come.

So in come the plants. Again.

For the third time.

I was out back looking for little bits of things that belong to the greenhouse — there’s always something to look for around here. Always something new to learn. Always some reason to wonder why things are the way they are. Always a puzzle to tease out.

So there I was, hands and knees, peering through some shadows, looking for small parts and found this.

That’s from a neighbor’s tree. I wonder how long it’s been sitting down there, caught between the greenhouse and the fence. All those intricate veins look like a suburban map, doesn’t it? It’s rather beautiful, but I wonder how and why a leaf withers away like that.

Nature on it’s own schedule.

I went for a 30-mile bike ride today. There was nothing remarkable about it, there was a tailwind, and then there was a headwind and then there was a pasture.

That’s right on the outskirts of a town, and it doesn’t make a lot of sense, really. It’s a nice town, but they don’t seem the sort to allow fun things like livestock. Nevertheless, there they are, eating and drinking and being raised.

Sometimes when you go through there the sheep aren’t in that lot, but the dogs that work them are. Today, no dogs, just sheep.

Let’s go back to California! There are many sights to behold, and we’ve been enjoy some of the critters we met at the Monterey Aquarium, like this on.

The mauve stinger (Pelagia noctiluca) is a beautiful nocturnal hunter. They aren’t the best of swimmers, but they seem to be spread easily by winds and currents, and so they are fairly ubiquitous. Odds are, if you’ve ever had a stinging encounter with a jelly, it just might be one of these guys, or a closely related cousin.

 

They go very deep until nightfall, which is when they move up to shallow waters to chase down plankton. The tentacles and bumps on the jelly will leave its prey with a powerful sting.

I’m still way behind in the Re-Listening Project, meaning I’m right on schedule. The Re-Listening project is the one where I’m listening to all of my old CDs in the car, in the order in which I acquired them. Then I write about them here to pad out some posts. These aren’t reviews, usually they are just memories, but mostly excuses to post some music.

In 2004 I bought 1999’s P.S. (A Toad Retrospective). It’s a greatest hits record from Toad the Wet Sprocket. At the time, 1999, Toad was broken up, so this was just a label cashing in and fulfilling a contract, I’m sure.

Here’s the memory. I have the hardest time keeping the Toad chronology straight. If you asked me without the benefit of liner notes or Wikipedia, I would swear that two or three of the same songs could be found on each subsequent record. I don’t know why I can’t keep this straight. It’s a problem unique to Toad the Wet Sprocket for me. Maybe it’s because of their radio and MTV airplay. Maybe it’s because I didn’t get any of their records for way too long. But, anyway, it’s a greatest hits record, so they’re all there.

So here’s one of the previously unreleased tracks.

And here’s the other new track.

Each of these songs have some internal-band-dynamics backstory to them, but they’re a quarter century old and don’t matter much to us. What matters is that they’re a band again.

And so here’s the other memory. In 2022, after 30 actual years, including a two-year Covid postponement, I finally got to see Toad the Wet Sprocket play live. (Twice!)

They still sound great, which was a good enough reason to see them twice that year. And they are on tour this summer, too. Maybe I should see them again.


16
Apr 24

Cats and bikes and jellies

No matter the day of the week — and it should belong on Monday, but there was already a lot of material here on Monday — the weekly check with the cats is the most popular regular feature on the site. So we, the cats and I, are always pleased to bring you what you want most.

Phoebe will spend part of any afternoon in a shopping bag if you let her. That is, of course, between pets and chasing the birds just outside her windows and looking for milk.

And also her naps. This is a late afternoon nap. And I’d like you to study that face. No one relaxes more intently than this cat.

Poseidon has lately discovered the watering can. The plants on the front porch were thirsty for a few extra seconds while this took place. First, I filled the can. Something about the process got Poe’s attention. Ever helpful, he jumped up to peer into the sink and, then, into the can.

I think he could hear the water moving around in there, and so he decided to investigate, first with a look and a sniff, and then, as you see here, with his paw.

He swished it around, and realized he had water on his paw. He, being named after the god of water, put his paw back in the water, swirled it around, pulled his paw back out and then licked the water off. He did this two or three more times, like he doesn’t have multiple water bowls conveniently located around the house.

Had a nice little bike ride this evening. The weather was pleasant and the company was better. We did about 15 miles together, and then my lovely bride took a left turn into the neighborhood and I did the first big triangle shape of the year.

Just before the golden hour.

Which quickly turned into the golden hour.

You know how trees will line a road? Sometimes these are called woods, but sometimes, it’s just one thin little row of trees between the road the field behind them? Sometimes, when you’re dealing with that thin little row, a gap will appear. And, sometimes, you can see that coming up. Those narrow little spots where the tree gives way to the crops or the pasture or the yard behind them are all about timing. Even at cycling speed, I have to reach in my pocket, open the camera app and try to frame this shot before I glide by.

Sometimes you get lucky with those.

I picked these things up in those last 10 miles. If you know anyone missing these items, send them my way.

And if you don’t know anyone missing those items, send someone else my way. I just want to get this stuff off the shoulder of the roads.

Back to last month’s trip to California, here’s one more view of the purple-striped jellyfish. They are highly localized to the central California coast. They can sting you, and it would hurt, so you’d be better off staying away, though human interactions with them are rare.

The bell on these can grow to about three feet. In the wild, those frilly arms can be twice as long as a human, or more.

 

That’s the last of the purple-striped jellies, but not the last jellyfish. We’ll see several more beautiful specimens in the next few days. You’ll love them, of course.