Jan 21

I rewrote the last sentence three times

By the third try I’d cleaned up the tone, made it more concise and got to the heart of a truism.

It was sunny today. Sunny and cold. We’ll take it.

We celebrated with a walk. We have a nice three-mile circle we’ve developed where we lately figure out the solutions to life’s mysteries, make plans, figure out some research thing or run into a colleague.

Snow is in the forecast through the long weekend. Maybe we’ll see this big beautiful glowing orb by the middle of next week.

Also got in a quick 20-mile training ride this evening. I feel so very trained, having learned all about heart rate and cadence, which is odd since I wasn’t wearing a heart rate monitor and I don’t have a cadence sensor on my bike right now. Basically, I learned about cadence on a flat course. So I didn’t learn much of anything. But I got in a nice hour on the bike out of the deal. Take advantage of doing things you enjoy.

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

The sun, in all its muted glory

The photosphere is about 10,000 degrees, Fahrenheit, but it’s cooling at that level. In the chromosphere, scientists figure, it is about 7,800 degrees. The light and heat has to travel the 93 million miles here. It takes a little more than eight minutes. And, sure, we’re pointed the wrong direction, but we’re turning back the right way. But, still, despite all of that, the nuclear fusion can’t burn away the clouds for days, days, on end.

Finally, today, as promised, the sun:

Saw that for a few minutes. It was chilly, but bright. If you can only one weather condition in January, you take sunny, because it’s always going to be cold.

There was a meeting! And it was filled with things both new and old! Decisive and not! And nothing will be reframed in such a way that requires any of the substantive articles of the meeting to change! I took notes and everything! A few of them will make sense to me in a month or so.

So … like every 90-minute meeting you’ve ever enjoyed. And then also a lot of email, and some demo reels to review, and a few other light chores to address. So a normal day. Except the sun was out, and so everything was great.

Tomorrow morning starts with another meeting, so we’re back in the swing of things, is what I’m saying.

In the spring of 2019 Wright Thompson came to campus and, at the end of his visit, he talked about his collection of sports stories, The Cost of These Dreams, which had just been released the week before. Someone gave me a copy of his book and I finally got around to pulling it from the To Read bookcase. Yes, I have an entire bookcase of books waiting to be read. Doesn’t everyone?

I keep those books well away from the Have Read bookcases. We can’t have intermingling of texts. It would get too confusing. Why, just this weekend I had to go through all of the books to see if I already had a book I was considering online. (I did.) It was in the To Read bookcase, so I picked that one out for my next read, along with a few others. They’re now sitting on my nightstand, part of a multi-stage on deck system to ease the complaints of the To Read bookcase which is groaning under the weight of paper. It’s a beautiful sound.

I digress. It’s a shame I waited all this while to get to Thompson’s book. He is easily one of the best contemporary sports writers. Take, for example, this little tidbit in a longform story about the New Orleans Saints, which is really about Katrina, which is really about New Orleans, which is really about inequity.

This is part of an 11-graph sidebar arc you could use in a master class. I read it over and over the other night, just to dissect it, to imagine, as you often do, how the story part of it came to be. It would be inappropriate to share the whole sidebar, but here’s the return, where Thompson is describing Charity Hospital. It was a teaching hospital and was, you might recall, utterly neglected after Katrina.

He gets all the details, like any great feature writer. He gets the best quotes and writes about all of the moments in a contemporaneous way, so it’s difficult to determine if he was in the room, or heard about it later through the course of his reporting — which is terrific. The next time I see him I’m going to ask him this: You get people to tell you things, for publication, that you say they have never told to anyone. How?

Sometimes it’s simply because you ask. A lot of it is about the relationship, which is about time. How much time do you have to spend with someone to get them to talk to you like their oldest friend? How long until it no longer seems strange to them that you’ve asked? How much listening does it take to become a professional confidant? This is a particular kind of reporting. Thompson is great at it.

If you like stories and people and storytelling and A-plus writing, buy this book. It’s incredible at every turn. (Except the Urban Meyer story. Some characters are just beyond the redemption of soulful prose.)

Just don’t read it all at once. Read a story, put the book down and come back several weeks later. This isn’t a criticism. Indeed, the writing is easy and the subject matter draws you in. You want to keep reading. Problem is, Thompson, like all great writers, has recurring themes. Being a great writer, they are some of the big ones. So space it out. Think of it as a textual indulgence.

Jan 21

It’s only a day away

Dreary day. Dreary weekend. Winter is here. We’re low on snow, but that’s just fine. I’m pretty sure it has snowed more, so far, on family in Alabama than it has here. So they’ve had their fill of snow, and maybe we can just go without this year.

Of course, the year when you don’t go much of anywhere, it might be nice to sit and watch it fall and not have to worry too much about it.

I am looking forward to seeing the sun and blue skies, which may return as soon as … tomorrow? Tomorrow! If so it would be the first sunny day since … January 4th. That was the only day that had nice atmospheric conditions this year. That is, in fact, as nice as it has been since the day after Christmas.

If you were here you could have seen a blue sky and the sun for the better part of six hours, since Dec. 26, 2020. In the last 17 days you could have seen the blue sky, or the sun, for 1.4 percent of the time. Which explains a lot, I’m sure.

I think the cats can tell. Phoebe is sleeping a lot more like this lately:

This photo of her hints at some sun, and it was taken on … January the 4th (see above):

Poseidon has lately found a new interest. He is a keen observer of car chases.

That one shows a helicopter pulling away after a pursuit ended when the driver jumped out of his car and ran into Los Angeles’ storm drain system. We can all agree that if part of your night has found you in the storm system, you’ve likely made some unconventional decisions. This, I said as the helicopter moved away to its next assignment before they killed the web feed, is the problem with car chases. Often, you don’t get a resolution. Maybe the next one! Maybe tomorrow!

Take this one, for example. Poe was watching here a guy who worked his way into a Motel 6, where the standoff began. They didn’t stick with that one, either. “It was not immediately clear if the driver was located and arrested,” says the station’s website. Which, if you’re going to write it, stick with it. Maybe the next one! Maybe tomorrow! On the other hand, it’s better than watching a dramatic accident unfold in front of you.

And it’s an influence thing, too. He’s klutzy enough on his own. Let’s not give him ideas.

This evening we went for a walk and saw the pond out back was starting to freeze in layers:

Of course we tested it out:

And after our little walk, which was only about three miles because it was 24 degrees, I pedaled on the bike for an hour.

Got in a nice 20 miles before dinner. That’s the world course from the UCI Championship in 2015, which I’ve mentioned here before. I wonder where I might ride the next time. Maybe tomorrow!

Jan 21

A mediation on …

There was a peculiar color in the air — is a phrase that has never been crawled across the web by Google’s spiders. It’s also wrong, in the sense of how we use language, which is why it’s never been written, one supposes. But it is particularly accurate in how we use science.

Color is, you might recall, the range of wavelengths based on how matter behaves in light, each substance’s combination of atoms and electron configuration send signals to the inner bits of the eye. Those signals work their way back to the command center for processing. Rods and cones, brain interpretation. And the brain says “There was a peculiar color in the air.”

So, really, it should be, my eyes and brain were detecting odd things brought on my the angle of the sun and various atmospheric considerations.

What I’m saying is that this usually green shrub held an unusual yellowish hue. So, yeah. There was a peculiar color in the air.

And it just hung there, for much of the day, or at least as long as I stood at the window looking at things, nodding ponderously, re-considering, not for the first time, how light works.

Photons, bouncing off things. What a concept! Once you can wrap your mind around that, the sky — with it’s shorter, smaller wavelengths — is the limit.

I changed the photos on the front page of the site to more generally reflect the season. Three of the photos in the set, including the one below, are from this year.

So click on over to the front page to check out the new look. And check back often, those do get updated.

And have a great weekend! Check back on Monday, when we’ll look in on the cats, and see if we can’t make up something interesting that did or didn’t happen over the weekend.

In the meantime, visit Twitter for more, and check me out on Instagram. And, hey, did you know that Phoebe and Poseidon have an Instagram account? It’s full of timeline-beautifying cuteness. Check them out.