Jan 21

Inauguration Day, riding with Bo

There was something pointed and determined and grim about the inaugural. They are, by design, designed in certain ways. And the impressive thing about this particular speech was that it hit all the hallmarks in keeping with the formula, so as to not sound as out-of-left-field as the previous one, and yet, it took it’s own tone. A historical one, in a way. Which is obvious, you might say, because these speeches are written for our contemporaries, but also our posterity. And that is true.

Today’s speech, though, seemed like a tone from a different time. This was an early nation kind of speech. It’s themes were humility and the continuation of our style of government. It was not global, but looking inward and to our own society, focusing on work, health care, safe schools, the coronavirus. It was foundational, and attitudinal, warning against the bitter extremes “anger, resentment and hatred, extremism, lawlessness, violence.”

A speech such as this finds its themes formed by the world around them. So you must think of the capitol city as it is today, the country and the mood of it as it is today. That’s how the text sought to strike a balance between basic aspiration and some more densely brooding spirits of the dangers to democracy, pinned with the needs to preach unity and togetherness.

It was a speech out of time, and a speech absolutely for the time. What an unusual time.

It will be interesting, and important, to see how this inaugural speech is viewed through the long lens of time. But for now, today, it does feel as though a tiny bit of breath you’ve somehow held onto for some time can now, finally, at last, be exhaled.

This evening we had the chance to go on a bike ride with a hero and a celebrity.

Bo had, you can tell, already warmed up a bit. And that is why he took off and left everyone. Never mind the fact that he’s 58 and is bionic. Bo can absolutely fly on a bicycle. If this was about anyone who isn’t already a superhuman, I would suspect video game shenanigans.

Put it this way. On this ride there were 49 Strava segments and I PRed 31 of them. I had the ride of the year — indeed, the ride of the last several years. I never had a chance stay with the lead groups. Never. None. And Bo was somewhere out ahead of all of them. Except for The Yankee. She was in front of him at some point, of course. But he was also answering questions from people on the ride. The same old questions, with charm and good cheer.

(You should not try the bat breaking trick(s) at home.)

Years ago there was a video of two sports reporters who took a bat out back of their newspaper and tried to do everything they could think of to break a bat like Bo Jackson. It looked painful. They looked silly, which they embraced. And they failed. I can’t find the video anymore.

Anyway, this wasn’t a nostalgia trip, this is a fund raising exercise. Good cause? Great cause.

This is the 10th anniversary of Bo Bikes Bama, and the second year with the Zwift installment, apparently. Zwift have become big supporters of the fast man who’s well up the road.

Where can you donate? So glad you asked. Over the years these bike rides and the surrounding efforts have raised more than $2 million for the Alabama Governor’s Emergency Relief Fund. Bo Jackson’s efforts in the community have helped bankroll relief projects, the construction of 68 safe rooms and developed other disaster preparedness resources.

There’s no group ride this year, owing to the pandemic. But there is a ride from home fund raiser and another Zwift ride, in April. I plan on being easily dropped in that one, too.

Goodnight, Bo.

Jan 21

Achterbahn is German for rollercoaster

Meetings this morning. Bike ride this evening. Odd bookends for the day, really.

We tried Innsbruck, on Zwift today. I hadn’t been on that course before. Innsbruck, in Austria, hosted the UCI World Championships in 2018 and now its big climb, a 4.5 mile long category 2 hill, is hosting me. There is a certain course here that’s called Achterbahn. And I don’t know if I’ve ever ridden a German rollercoaster, but you have to admit: now that we’re here talking about it, you’re curious.

This climb averages out as a 5.4 percent incline. It gains 1,311 up to the top. It’s steady. You just put your head down and grind it out. It looks like this. And the larger route I rode today looks like this:

I am, predictably, slow, going up this hill. Delightfully slow. I touched 58 miles per hour on the descent though.

It’s going to be a useful January of base miles. Zwift was a gift, and helps keep me from being miffed about the winter. I don’t have to ride through snow drifts. Also, I can’t ride off any cliffs. When the month is done I may have more January miles in the saddle than I’ve ever recorded for the first month of a year. Wouldn’t that be something?

Some things going on back home. This is one of those Have Nots kind of stories:

That’s just 50 miles from the biggest city in the state, and it’s world class medical system. And from another Haves part of the world, just 129 miles to the north:

Several cities were up to host the Space Force, as you might imagine. And Huntsville makes all the sense in the world. You also can’t help but wondering how deeply Mo Brooks has been involved in this lately.

Speaking of Congress, one of the new members.

His replies are something else. It’s one of those times I wish there was a sorting function. I’d like to see what his constituents were saying his stream. You can imagine the rest, and they don’t matter to a junior member of congress anyway Which is why he won’t reply to this, because I’m genuinely curious.

Sometimes I wonder about the value of ignorance as a positive attribute. Anyone working on that foundation always comes with some combination of self-righteousness, historical illiteracy, contempt, and the utter confidence of perpetual adolescence.

One wonders how people ever trafficking in this stuff ever get elected. A former newspaper publisher friend of mine had the best idea about that. Essentially, he said if you beat down an electorate enough over a long period of time, they figure this is the best they can do. This is what they deserve. Ignorant representatives.

It is its own sort of rollercoaster, but with fewer thrills.

Jan 21

We failed, we can succeed

If you haven’t noticed it before, it was made a bit easier for you to see today: we’ve failed.

The failures are, at all levels, institutional. A lame duck president and his lemmings, too vain and disbelieving to face the inevitable, behaved in ways most seditious and terroristic. We have failed in the teaching of our civics. That so many continue down this path, listening to outlets that serve no purpose but to stir fear and anger, show we have failed in teaching media literacy. That so many have shown themselves so susceptible to this nonsense shows we have failed in teaching critical thinking.

A seditious mob descended on the United States Capitol while the elected representatives were doing the nation’s business. A woman died. The vice president and next several members of the presidential line of succession were in immediate danger. Someone erected a slapdash gallows in front of the building. Perhaps others will die in the hours and days to come. Dozens more were injured.

The failures are, at all levels, institutional. And, thus, the failures are, at every stage, also individual. Impressionable, angry people made these decisions, and they have been meet with condemnation and revulsion, with further consequences to no doubt follow.

In the days to come it will be natural to seek a single failure point. People will study video frame-by-frame and pour over photographs. Jobs will be lost. And there will be investigations, too. You simply can’t inconvenience Congress, foment a coup and commit terrorism on cable television and not trigger dozens of investigations. Some will yield startling results across a wide array of agencies and jurisdictions. Some will provide disappointing outcomes.

In these ways, and perhaps more, we’ll come to realize in the coming days, we have failed. It is a frightening thing to confront your failures. A challenging thing. A necessary thing.

How we succeed is no less challenging.

As I write this, the Congress has gone back to conducting the business of the people. In some ways glorious, in others no doubt quite frustrating indeed. That’s the way of the legislative branch. Sometime in the overnight, or tomorrow, they’ll plod their way through the ceremony and a new presidential administration will ultimately begin.

Today you heard from President Trump and President-elect Biden and you saw them in stark contrast. Tomorrow, and later this month, and, hopefully for the next many years over the course of many administrations of different parties and congressional configurations of different makeups, we will start to undo the damage we have inflicted on ourselves today, and in our recent past and, indeed, throughout our history.

History is an important word loaded with hints and allusions and inferences and truths. I like the pursuit of history. Telling the truth of a story is a noble thing. I like the humanness of it. It is not to be ignored. Ignoring things brings us here, seeing our problems manifest today.

If we simply stuck to the problems above — a narcissist-in-chief, failings of civics and literacy and critical thinking are ultimately as cultural as they are individual — the challenges to correct them are immense. But we like to think we are at our best when we are faced with immense challenges. It’s comforting, it fits us. And, friends, the immensity is before us.

I don’t pretend to have all of the answers. I know we won’t always be good at reaching for all of the remedies, even the obvious ones.

But, without trying to sound platitudinous in a too-tough week, I want to celebrate the words that become the ideas that move us. I hold onto the idea that we are an experiment. No less an architect than Thomas Jefferson and no less a keen observer than Alexis de Tocqueville used the word to describe us. An experiment is still alive in the moment, where the possibilities lay, where we can still impact the outcome.

The American Experiment. It really began with those few simple words that can stir you each time you really think of them, the ones found right near the beginning, in the preamble that you, perhaps, learned in school. The words that said simply, we are here “to form a more perfect Union.”

We are flawed, but we are forming. As I am sad and shocked and share in the hurt of the nation tonight, I think of those words, “to form a more perfect Union.” There’s so much power there. It was given to us. The power is still alive, in our hands, in our national will, where the possibilities remain, and where we must still determine the outcome. This is how we will succeed.

Dec 20

My jacket pocket will look so great

I used my evening wisely. I made some more pocket squares.

Made, he said. Again, I didn’t plant, grow, weave or dye the material. I just bought it and fixed the edges and now I have a rainbow of colors.

Also, I am proud to show you these pocket squares, which are professionally manufactured. They were lovely Christmas gifts. Check these out:

And that one has an entirely different pattern on the back. So it’s essentially a reversible square.

My mother-in-law is incredibly thoughtful like that.

So I’m taken care of on pocket decoration. I have a color for every season and seven more pieces of fabric coming from some far, far off land.

We never really think of that much anymore. Everything is from somewhere else, or it could be. And things are made and shipped in such bulk that even the exotic items have lost some cachet. But at one point, having something shipped from another continent may as well have been the moon. People would probably marvel at the market. Probably because they had no idea where that place even was. Of course people made more things of their own, back then, he said pretentiously. And there were a lot fewer pocket squares. Now, you just get an Amazon email. It’ll get there eventually. You know, when it does. Whenever.

And it was an oversight on my part. Had I realized it had to travel so far I wouldn’t have paid $2.88 plus $.25 shipping for it.

Maybe I should think about silk for the next go-round. Silk! Remember reading about the luxury of silk in the old days? Truly, we live in amazing times, he said while watching a football game in Texas that they beamed to space, perhaps more than once, to get into my living room, where I spent the evening ironing fabric to make pocket squares.

I spent the afternoon on my bicycle.

That’s a painful, and painfully slow ride around Central Park, in Manhattan, and the fictional, futuristic parts of the city. At one point you’re riding on transparent bridges over the city and there are flying taxi cabs and I prefer the realistic courses, myself. But it was fun and slow and demanding. After one more ride tomorrow I will have hit all of those goals I set for myself last month.

Today I realized I had already set a goal for next year. My quads are already protesting.

Dec 20

Lightly browned, but only just barely

I’m going to try something different. Sitting still isn’t getting it done. Maybe moving around will mean something.

So I rode my bicycle through London.

On Zwift, of course. No one is traveling to London right now. People are still trying to get out of there, last I checked. New York is clamping down on visiting Brits, and we’re not allowed anywhere right now either.

But an hour in The Big Smoke gets the heart rate up and loosens all the muscles. It’s a good thing.

I had three little sprints, as you can see in the spikes of the graphic details the watts. Maybe, for a half a second, I could have turned on part of a toaster.

I’m not a big watts guy, because I don’t produce a lot of watts, but maybe I could learn.

Anyway, felt better after an hour on the bike. I’ll have to try that again tomorrow.

Elsewhere, not a lot going on. I am working on a image for Christmas, and I’m looking forward to wrapping up a book this evening. I’ve almost taken a mid-day nap two days in a row. So, that’s the pace of things, which is a lovely, lovely pace of things.

So … look forward to a brief book mention tomorrow. Which reminds me I forget to mention one two back. On Sunday night I finished McCullough’s book on the Wright Brothers, and mentioned it here on Monday. But, before that, at some point last week, I finally finished Richard Hughes’ Reviving The Ancient Faith.

I say finally because I started reading this, according to the traditional receipt bookmark, in 2006. I put it down about a third of the way through. And I never give up on books. It’s also as thorough as can be — and Hughes discusses, effectively and believably, why it isn’t more thorough. It’s an issue of source material, and even still, he churns out a cool 385 pages. The style was the problem. It’s almost a monograph, and it makes for dense reading, but its a serious treatment of serious people and their most serious subject matter.

I wrote a little about one person on Twitter last week.

It’s a good book about the Church of Christ, and it traces its way through the last few hundred years of people trying to figure out the belief system. I got this book wanting to learn about people to compliment what I’ve always learned about the Bible. This book does that, at the broadest level. The top review on Amazon says all the necessary things:

After forty plus years attending the Church of Christ, I am just now hearing the names of Alexander Campbell and Barton Stone. This is a very hard book to read for those of us who were raised Church of Christ and were never told of our origins or early leaders. Your belief that you are a member of the Church founded in 33 AD will be shattered. Here the curtain is pulled back and the leaders, editors, college administrators, who have formed Church of Christ doctrine over the years are exposed. The amount of debate, fighting, and bickering among the leaders through our short history is very disturbing. If you are happy in the Church of Christ and are looking for material to strengthen your faith, this book is not you. If you want to see how the Churches of Christ have developed by reading history that has been hidden away, this book may change you life.

In that light, I suspect it would be a disconcerting read for some. But history isn’t always easily palatable, which is one of the things that can sometimes make it fun.

The human parts are what really make it work. I learned that when I finally got a history teacher in school who made it about those people and emotions, and not just names and dates. And, so, here, one of the most interesting things I read in this book wasn’t even in this book. That Philip Mulkey, Sr. character, the 18th century preacher excommunicated for adultery, perfidy and falsehood, wasn’t in the book. That one description of Nancy Mulkey, near the end of the book, where it finally had the opportunity to talk about women in the church, had the one brief passage, which, in turn, led me to a late-night search which intrigued me. A long family line of preachers. And then Philip Mulkey, Sr. had his difficulties, whatever they really were. A person’s weaknesses and bad choices aren’t automatically amusing, but there’s a personal story there. It’d be worth learning more about, I’d bet.

But Mulkey isn’t in the book I’m wrapping up tonight, which I’ll briefly mention here soon. And he likely won’t be in the one after that, either. I may never know more about him than what a few genealogy websites can tell me.

Makes you think, and wonder, and worry, doesn’t it?