Aug 20

The preferred Alanis

It’s been a day. It’s been a day in a week. It’s been a day in a week in a month. It’s been a day in a week in a month in a year.

And it was a GREAT day to see this. Just play it.

It is quiet in the house. I am sitting by a window downstairs and, watching this a third time I noticed there are four or five other people in the video. I was too busy the first two times watching this mother doing her job, providing a stay-at-home anthem while holding her beautiful child.

It’s so, so perfect.

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

To get even with yesterday

This was yesterday. We had a bike ride and I worked at it a little bit and sweated and probably made some straining faces in-between big gasping breaths and managed to stick on her wheel for a while.

And then I passed her and she had to chase me for a change. She, of course, was able to do this effortlessly.

And when I got in I did the thing I’ve been meaning to do for a few days now, but I’ve gotten a little negligent and forgetful about for some reason. I cleaned and lubed my bicycle chain.

It’s a simple process, you take off the computer, flip the bike over, wipe all the gunk and grease off the chain and the put a little drop of this on the links and then spin it around the cassette on the big gear and the little one, enjoying the smell and the satisfaction that you’re ride will at least be quiet the next time you get outside.

We’re going to learn. Eventually. Today will not be that day.

This was my biggest contribution to the internet today. I think you’ll appreciate it, as well.

More on Twitter, and check me out on Instagram as well.

Jul 20

Just some Wednesday stuff

We went for a bike ride today, which was nice. It was bright and sunny and that was nice. It was warm. It was hot, but not ridiculously, oppressively hot, which was nice. We rode over to campus to go up and down one of the hills over and over. And I won the day’s hill set, which was nice.

Here I am at the bottom after my last hill repeat and waiting on The Yankee to finish her last two rounds.

The actual hill disappears and wraps up to the right. So it doesn’t look like the biggest hill in the world, because its not, nor does it need to be. We’re just doing two minutes of consistent climbing right now. Also, to be fair, I only won because she pulled off to set up a camera shot and somehow that let me get well ahead of the game.

Across from our hill repeats there is a smaller hill — a nice single roller, really. It’s on a road that splits the softball and baseball fields from the tennis courts and the football field parking lots. After a softball game there last year I saw three guys fly over that hill on their bikes and thought, I can do that. So now when I am over there, I do that.

And today I went over it at in my next-to-hardest gear with ease and at a respectable speed. Well, I thought. Because my inner-monologue often features sentences without subjects or verbs and only interjections. So I went back around again, through a parking lot time trial segment, hanging a right and then weaving through some road construction barrels and then working back into the hard end of the cassette right away, turning left and hitting that roller one more time, in my smallest gear. And then I stood up. And I went over the hill.

I went over the hill slightly slower than I had just the time before. I could see it on the Garmin, right there in front of me.

And there’s a lesson in there somewhere.

The next hill after that was the first one on our way back to the house and it was the hardest hill on the route. Maybe we should do repeats on that one. (Let’s not. No one tell her that I even mentioned that.) Then you weave through the rest of the campus and the little side roads that get you back to where you want to be. It’s an easy ride because the hills you dread are out of the way. Sure there are some repeats in your legs, and those always feel and seem so slow, because I’m slow, but the rest of up and downs after that have some real flow.

And there’s a lesson in there somewhere, too.

Hey, did you see this yesterday? That interview played right into my hands, timing-wise, didn’t it?

What’s not to love about this? And, sure, this is a 43-minute video, but it’s a tight recap and all the action is in the first 28 minutes.

Plus it features a finish between two of the great Classics riders of the modern age and what else do you have going on tonight, anyway?

Jul 20

Tigers, fireworks and back on campus, oh my!

We went to the nearby feline rescue this weekend. It was our first time out of the house for anything more than groceries or takeout or exercise since March. The place made at least a passing effort at taking everyone’s temperatures and masks were required. Smaller groups would be preferable, but they were limiting it to 10 people per tour.

It’s hard for people to stay out of each other’s way when they’re gazing in wonder.

Or just, you know, in general.

Anyway, our tour was supposed to last for 45 minutes, but it’s slow out there so our guide let us linger so everyone could get their national geographic photographs. We stayed on the property for just about 90 minutes. They have 150 or so cats they take care of — it’s a rescue and you heard some of the bizarre and some of the sad stories — and a few dozen of them were on display for the gawkers.

And it was a warm day, being July. So there was a lot of shade for the cats, which was nice to see and no doubt appreciated by the animals.

They’re a mixture of oblivious to people …

And oddly curious about you. In fact, they’ve probably seen more people than I have in the last few weeks. And they get their space, too. So it’s a happy little setup, as these things go.

And almost all of the tigers were interested in me.

This guy seemed to know it, and he was telling me RUN!

As in, “No, please, go. I feel the need to chase something down … ”

Here’s a thing you learn about tigers when you’re just a few feet away from them. All the sounds a house cat makes, a giant cat makes too, and they scale up. Just the sound of one of these massive things giving himself a bath gives one a lot to think about.

And the cats really liked me.

Almost all of them. Maybe it’s because I’m a Tiger. Maybe it was something I was wearing, or my animal magnetism, or that I’d slathered myself in chicken juice before we got there.

And, look, I don’t want to question the craftsmanship of a professional here, but when a tiger is casually walking directly toward you, you have a moment to think about the durability of a chainlink fence. There’s just enough time to hope that guy had a good day at the fence factory. No hassles at home, no aching joints, no in-law distractions or musings about his weekend on the lake. Just good, solid, earnest, pride in his work.

You don’t have enough time, though, to consider the plant that makes the nails, whether the second shift was on their game when they made the ones holding the fence against the wood. And, goodness knows when that wood was installed and it may be rotten already. You don’t have time to think about those things, or the team that assembled all of this here in 19Who Knows When.

You become keenly aware of the idea, percolating in your head and not yet verbalized, that all of this would merely slow down a properly motivated machine like this.

I liked how she was sneaking up on me from behind the maple tree. Completely fooled me.

There were two of these on our part of the tour today. Got a glimpse of one, and while I try to avoid the fence aesthetic, it couldn’t be helped here, and I hope you’ll overlook it. How beautiful is this creature?

Anyway, a warm day also allows for the indulgence of a cool bath. All of the tigers have giant plastic barrels. Those big heavy duty things that are in no way a simulation to tender human flesh because the barrels are much more sturdy. They are playthings. All of the barrels are destroyed.

The tigers don’t destroy their baths though. They’ve got this whole thing figured out.

“Wanna come in for a dip? It’s hot out.”

“But it’s so nice in here … ”

Thanks, tiger, but no thanks.

Fourth of July was even more subdued than normal. No big civic events. We almost saw the little parade one of the nearby neighborhoods runs. We rode through the route on our bikes twice. Just missed it both times. We were the beginning, and the end of the parade, then.

We had cheeseburgers and corn off the grill, and cheesecake out of the fridge. Everything was delightful.

The neighbors, who have been working on their ballistics and trajectories for several days now, put on quite the impressive display. Had to be the better part of a mortgage payment. Anyway, this isn’t how you properly record fireworks, of course, but this is how I always remember them, fuzzy and dreamy. ‬

There were just things exploding every which direction. And neighbors elsewhere were launching things from decks. Here’s to prevailing winds and sensible precautions and the good old American technique of eyeballing flammable projectiles. But the big show was still going on. And it went on and on.

This was the fourth of five finales. They had a good time, and many of the neighbors approved. It was festive when there were few festive things taking place out of sensible precaution. How he managed to keep the really big explosions out of the woods that were just feet away is a mystery.

And, to his credit, they stopped promptly at 10:30. It’s a decent gesture and makes sense. He had to get up early the next morning to clean the debris.

(He did not.)

Back to work today. It’s my first time working in the building since mid-March, 116 days for me. Everything else has been work-from-home, which we are both fortunate enough to be able to do. I’ll be back off and on campus sporadically for a while, in the hopes of having a semester. And then, if things go according to plan, we’ll have an oddly structured semester. A lot of things have to go right for that, however, and while that is the plan and the hope, it’s easy to be skeptical about it.

But! Yet! We are still a considerable ways removed. It is impossible to say from this vantage point what our reality will be in August, September and October. Why would you want that sort of certainty in your daily routine, anyway?

So today, we moved furniture. Large rooms will stay the same size, but their capacities are considerably reduced. Our commons, which would seat 50 something is down to 17. Our largest classroom has a fire code of 72, or thereabouts. It has a covid code of 21. Our standard sized rooms will seat eight plus an instructor. It’s going to be a strange school year, to say the very, very least.

So after this morning’s bike ride I got cleaned up, donned a mask went to campus and got sweaty again flipping tables and stacking chairs. When this comes up I like to smile and say “This is why I went to college. And grad school!”

Also, today, Harvard went entirely online. And the U.S. government said “If your school goes entirely online and you’re an international student, you must go home.” It’s going to be a strange, sad school year. We’re going to be a hybrid institution. I’ll be doing a lot of my work from home, and I am incredibly fortunate in this respect. That’s been a lesson for a lot of us this year, hasn’t it? You can be both in a fortunate situation and still not in an ideal situation.

But tigers!