Aug 20

First day of classes

First day back, and all is well. Empty, but well. There’s not a lot going on in our building, by design. Safety measures and all that. May it ever be so, and may it continue to go well because of it. With the quiet day there isn’t much to discuss. May it ever be so, and may that continue to go well, too.

The cats had a grand week, as ever. Phoebe is working on her selfie skills:

Poseidon is working on his save-you-from-falling-off-the-cliff pose. He’s really selling it with the facial expressions, if you ask me.

We went for a bike ride. It was one of the usual local routes. And the part I would like to mention here, briefly, took place just before this photograph:

There was a blip in one of the recording apps. (What? You don’t document your bike rides on three different tools?) On one segment I hit 11,309 miles per hour. Now, you might think that mach 15 is fast on a bicycle, but if you’ll note that the red line is the path of travel and the blue one is the recorded mile in question.

Fitting, I suppose, that I was roaring by Airline Road at the time.

I’ve been down that road. It’s neat, but it has nothing to do with planes or airports.

Last night, on the front porch, I got a haircut.

I was well overdue. But who wants to go sit in a barber shop just now? So I bought some trimmers online and we watched a video and read the instruction booklet and she went to work. She didn’t sign up for it, but she was game to try it. She was also terribly susceptible for the “NO! NOT THAT MUCH!” joke.

For a first haircut, she did a great job. (I fidget a little, so any problems with the styling are mine.) And after two more haircuts those trimmers will have paid for themselves. The photos are free, and who knows how wacky hair styles will be by then.

Aug 20

Free S&H

Do you know that moment when you’re on a great sale on a website? You put a few things in your cart and then you realize you’re just a few dollars shy of reaching the almost mythical free shipping threshold. You sit there for a while, wondering what sort of algorithms the company used to arrive here.

Sure, they’re not going to ship at a big loss. So that’s the first level. But, then, you have to think about the prices of things on offer. How do they set the tiers such that you’re so often thiiiis close to the free shipping? It’s a sales and marketing ploy, of course, but a brilliant one. And it’s a commonly successful one, too. You knew exactly what we’re talking about here. You’ve been there. We’ve all been there. Just the other day I was there, within three bucks.

And so what do you do?

You try to estimate the amount of shipping. Is that more than you wish to pay? Does this add some definition to the items you’re considering buying? Is the shipping a deal breaker? Or, alternatively, is there something else that you can throw in? Something small that will just nudge you into that free shipping category.

Which is funny because, of course, the three, now four things you’re buying won’t arrive at the same time. That was the case today, when part of my shipment arrived. I’d ordered a few shirts and this tie. It cost five bucks, and “earned” me the free shipping.

Joke’s on them. I need to retire a similar-looking yellow tie, anyway. And a fine, brand new piece of neckwear for just $5? A good joke, indeed.

Joke’s on me. I haven’t worn a tie since March. Who knows when we’ll do that again.

Aug 20

Happy National Radio Day

I worked in radio, a few lifetimes ago. I have a great radio transmitter sign, it reads:





A station engineer gave it to me once upon a time. Too bad he didn’t need to offload a transmitter and broadcast license that day, I suppose. Anyway, sitting right under it, and looking rather out of place because of it, is my Silvertone 8090 AM radio, from 1948.

You wonder what news and entertainment the original owners enjoyed through that cabinet, and how it came to my hands.

I purchased it from a retired educator about three years ago. Restoring radios, he said, was his retirement hobby. Feeling a bit like I was on a reality show, I got him to tell me all about his process and show me his other radios. He gave me a tour of the ones he was tinkering on in his garage, and the finished radios that held pride of place in his home. I got him to drop his price a bit and we loaded it up in the car. It still powers up, and I turned it on when I got it home. I listened to part of a football game on the local AM station.

One day I’ll actually put a Bluetooth speaker in there and play big band music from within the cabinet. But I have to move all of the things in my home office four or five more times first. (Another shuffle is coming this weekend!)

The gentleman I bought it from came to campus a few weeks later and I gave him and his wife a mini-tour of The Media School. They were quite pleased by all that we are doing for students. (I believe she was an educator, too.) On their way out he said he was thinking of selling one of his really, really nice radios. One of the few sorts I’d really want. It was an early console radio with station presets. I could put my old station call letters on the buttons. How neat this would be! We’d talked about them for some time in his home, and I knew better than to ask. But on his campus visit he said he was maybe thinking about selling one, one day.

Which was the time to say, if you do, I hope you’ll consider giving me a chance to make an offer.

I keep checking my Facebook messages to see if he’s ever written me about selling it … no luck on National Radio Day.

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.

Aug 20

But don’t analyze the marker

Among the many systems of keeping your life organized, you have to create strata so it all makes sense. And I have many systems. Calendars chart meetings and long term reminders. Index cards chart a day full of chores and meetings. My inboxes are tasks demanded by others. Word documents create a running list of fluid, ever-changing instructions to myself, half-baked ideas and strips of things I’ve copied and pasted. Notebooks hold life’s real mysteries: things that were important in the moment and adjudged to be of lasting significance, or at least worth treating like a mysterious message when I run across it again at some future point when the past is more than foggy.

But for everyday, in-the-moment reminders, the trust sticky note can’t be beat. You can get an hour or two’s worth of tasks on one with ease. They stick to a desk or, sometimes, a wall, and when you’re doing the peel-off process gives just enough resistance to mark the achievement. (And they fold up nicely into paper footballs, but that’s a different sort of benefit.)

Devoid of context, they are simultaneously enlightening and and mystifying.

Every day, sticky note. Every day.