Wednesday


26
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.


19
Aug 20

It goes much faster now

We’re counting down the days until classes begin again next week. That’s something to look forward to. No matter what you do, no matter how much you work ahead of time, whether in a normal semester or, as we’ve learned this year, a pandemic, there’s always a huge crush right at the starting line. There’s always more. Always the last minute thing, the unexpected, the sudden memo that subvert’s some previous week’s work.

So it was that at one point this morning I was in a Zoom, and on a webinar, and following a work-based Slack chat and having a text exchange all at once.

That, as I noted elsewhere, is Friday-level bandwidth.

On the bike, it was a rare day. It was almost fast for me — though admittedly average for others. It was one of those rare days where I could look down and proudly note I was pulling 20 mph up a hill and pushing through 38 on a slightly ramped down -1 percent decline … and still get dropped.

But on two segments I really worked on I set new PRs. On the first one I knocked off 19 seconds off my best time over that 1.2-mile stretch. That was a nine percent reduction. Who knows if I could do that again through there. (I know. I know how I felt at the end of it. I might find a second or two, but not much.)

And on the segment nearest the house at the end of a swift (for me) I took four seconds off my fastest time in a 1,000 meter sprint. If I can cut 16 more seconds off my time there I’d make the all-time top 10 on that Strava segment. It seems … improbable.

Kyle Anderson, is an economist at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business at IUPUI. I talked with him today to discuss the state’s economic condition as we make our way through August. He talks about the prospects for recovery, sectors hardest hit, evictions, personal advice and more.

He isn’t as optimistic as the last time we talked, but he does see some positives out there. I wonder if economists figure “At some point, no one is going to listen to the gloom. I need some silver linings in here.” One supposes an added benefit of having all the data at your disposal that an economist can call upon has to lead to something good, somewhere.

After we wrapped it up he said I asked good questions. So my minor in economics is paying for itself once again.

Some stuff from Twitter …

This was amazing, and I should have stopped watching the conventions right here. No way anyone comes out with anything much better than Rep. Gabby Giffords.

More on Twitter, check me out on Instagram and more On Topic with IU podcasts as well.


5
Aug 20

Happy website anniversary

This blog started, on Blogger, this week in 2003. I was bored and it was a light day after work in a slow week in the studio. I’d been reading a lot of blogs and decided to try it myself with no expectations. And after 17 years and one day, here we are.

Jump forward a year, this same week in 2004, I bought the URL to this website. I think my co-workers talked me into it. Better to host your own than to jump from free site to free site. Tomorrow kennysmith.org turns 16 years old.

This is a basic view of the statistical trend of monthly growth of the site’s visitors.

The whole site, which I scaled back starting in 2016 or 2017, has welcomed almost 3.7 million visitors over the years. Not bad for a personal site.

Thanks for being a part of this.


29
Jul 20

Mud, we’re going to talk very briefly about mud

I changed the website. It was due for a refresh, anyway, and I wanted to return to a simpler bit of code. For a long time the idea was to find the art in the simplicity. And then I found some other fancy things and did that for a few years. Like with so many fancy things, there’s a lot to like, and some elements to tolerate. Ultimately, it comes down to how much coding you want to do, and, again, there’s something special about doing it all with a little.

So go check it out. It looks like this:

Eventually I’ll change around the background, but all the buttons work and it is responsive to different browsers and different mobile orientations. Simple. Effective. We like that.

I’m working through the last of my latest haul of crinoids.

I’m looking forward to returning them to the wild.

Still need to work on the pictures of small things.

These next two are filled with a few millennia or so of sediment. You could drill that out. I’ve toyed with the idea. I prefer the open ones, but maybe a mud scientist, a pedologist or an edaphologist would like these more. Maybe they could learn something from it. Maybe it was a good year for mud when it seeped into the columns. Maybe it was a bad year for mud when it decided to stay.

There, I’ve anthropomorphized mud. It’s been a full day.

I’m not often lucky enough to find crinoids with these more involved characteristics in the center. It’s pretty cool.

Guess the mud knew to stay out of those.


22
Jul 20

Wednesday, right? Right? Right.

Just two Zoom calls today, which make something like 45 for the week. One was a big meeting where my task is to be a listener, and to make sure my microphone is muted. On the underside of that meeting is a Slack channel subtext, where my duty is to make the occasional bad joke.

I’m the right person for it.

My second call was after lunch, and for the life of me I thought it was set for next week. So calendar reminders saved me today. I’m still holding strong on days of the week, but I have to make direct efforts to keep the proper dates in mind. But the calendar reminded me that today was the day. This is an important tidbit for you to know!

I got to have a chat with an old friend about pedagogy and Zoom sessions, architecture and video. We are so meta! We might also back ourselves into some sort of project together. Who knows? That’d be fun.

He’s returning from sabbatical this term, so welcome back to him.

We went for a bike ride this evening. We went out easy and then I turned it up once.

This happens a lot. I say, I am going to ride in her pocket and not go out and do something silly. It was very humid and we agreed that our goal was to drink all the water on the ride. And then we got to a place where there was one of the sorts of short punchy hills I can get over pretty well and I created a gap. So we go on like that for a while, until she decides to drop me, which she does promptly.

I began ducking into curves and grinding through rollers and eventually I caught her wheel again. She let me pull for a while before coming around the left and settled into a high cadence. She dropped me for real. I was having a good ride, but she was enjoying a better one. Somehow, near the end, she caught me again. She’d taken a detour for fun and still found it in her catch back on as she doubled back. After a gentle two-mile ascent I got her wheel again.

She passed me, one last time, on the final hard 1,200 meters she was

I think she has a motor in her bicycle.

I’m riding in a hard gear and everything!

(That’s not a bad picture for shooting blind and trying to stay upright. But when you crop a tire it looks like a flat, which is a bad omen I’m always hoping to avoid.)