Dec 23

Happy December, somehow?

I’m not sure where today went. Or where November went. Or where the rest of the year went. But December is starting to seep into consciousness. If it wasn’t for the monthly computer cleaning I would be in total denial.

But I slept in. And then I did some work. That took a while. Details matter and sometimes it takes time to assemble the necessary and correct details. Much focus is required, and yet a cat can be distracting.

After lunch, I did a little work in the yard. One thing led to another and that turned into an hour. It started to rain. I came back inside. And then the afternoon just … glided into the evening somehow.

At the beginning of the new month I (try to remember to) make a chart of miles on the bike. Here is that chart.

The blue line represents an arbitrary goal I set at the beginning of the year, one that would see seven miles a day. The red and green lines are slightly more ambitious, and yet still very humble, projections of nine and ten miles a day, respectively. The purple line is reality. And, look, I’m ahead of the first two lines.

Mathematically, I’ve achieved the seven miles a day goal for the year. I’m in good shape on the nine mile a day goal. It seems incredibly unlikely that the 10 mile a day goal is going to be within reach. But that’s OK! I’m satisfied with everything else on the bike this year — except my speeds. I’m going longer, in the aggregate, and getting slower.

Maybe my wheels are tired.

Hopefully these last two days of rest will make them feel better, my wheels.

And by wheels, I mean my legs. We’re talking about my legs.

Anyway, happy December. And happy weekend. Have a great one!

Nov 23

Lights, and more lights

Oh, sure, today, when I have to be inside, it can be 20 degrees warmer and sunny. Isn’t that just the way of it? Of course it started out cold, ’tis the season, somehow. But by the time midday rolled around, by the time we got to campus, we were assured a beautiful day. And I got to spend the rest of it under fluorescent light bulbs.

Which was usual, but also mildly amusing today: we talked exclusively about lighting for film and television today. Hard light, soft light. Three-point light systems, key lights, fill lights, back lights. Four-point light techniques. High-key lights, low-key lights, silhouettes. The inverse square law (Intensity = 1/Distance-squared). Reflectors, infusers. I had compiled 10 pages of good notes to share.

And then, I did it again in a second class.

After which, I met up with a few colleagues and we went out for dinner. Italian. We talked, among other things, about music, and nostalgia. It was delightful.

I had the opportunity in that conversation to talk about the Re-Listening project, but I did not bring it up. There was an almost natural spot for it to fit in, and while I could have wedged it in, I let the moment pass. I’d much rather tell you about it, dear reader.

As you recall, the Re-Listening project is where I am playing all of my old CDs, in the order of their acquisition, in my car. These aren’t music reviews, but a fun jaunt down memory lane, a good excuse to put some music here and, of course, a good way to pad the site. Today we’re back somewhere in 2004, listening to the debut album from Los Lonely Boys. You’ll remember “Heaven,” which went to the top of the Billboard AC charts. So they had good airplay. They appeared on Austin City Limits and who all knows where else that year. A lot of people bought this record, it went double-platinum in 11 months. Willie Nelson raved about them. (This was recorded at his Pedernales studio.) And that part, and that single, are why I bought the CD.

That song won a Grammy.

And, friends, of all the records you might purchase on the basis of one song getting airplay, this is one of the better ones. I haven’t listened to this in a while, but when it came up for the Re-Listening project I was struck, once again, by the musicianship, and the joyful nature of it all. Also, the harmonies are pretty tight. But, first, you have to hammered by that blues guitar.

Also, this band is not a one-trick pony.

Most prevailing memory of Los Lonely Boys, we were at a small dinner party the year after this record was released, and a few of the songs made the playlist. That night was the night when our little clutch of grad school friends started considering The Yankee and I a couple.

Mostly, this whole album demands a drink with a lot of condensation on the glass.

This album settled comfortably in the nine spot on the Billboard 200, and finished on the 2004 year-end chart at number 44. In a display of it’s staying power, it was on the year-ender for 2005, at 85. More albums followed in the next decade — some with big commercial success — and a ton of touring. They just wrapped up a national tour, in fact, but they’ll be back on the road in January. Check them out of if they come near you.

Nov 23

The record setting ride

After some time working on them today, the fig tree is now covered in two parts. I used a lot of twine, a few utterances, and two buckets, just to add some personality.

After I stepped back to take that photo I added a bit more twine, created some tension tiedowns and pronounced, to the surrounding shrubs, that there was no way wind is getting under there now. Soon I’ll fill in the base with leaves to help keep the cold and frost away. After that, I’ll be satisfied that I’ve done everything I can do, and the tree will need to look after itself for a few months.

“Kudos to you, dude,” said the crossing guard as I went by.

Hey, you’re out here, too …, I replied.

“Yeah, but I have to be out here. You want to be.”

Why am I out here, anyway. It felt like 25 degrees. And, yes, that is ice in the field.

I have a page on my cycling spreadsheet, tracking my highest mileage, by month. Recently, I noticed that this month had the potential to make it onto that chart. On Nov. 20th, this month sat in 12th place overall on that list. Two good rides that week put it in the top 10 with a bullet. And so, these last few days, I’ve been riding with the goal of trying to make November 2023 my best month of all time.

It made since. The leader on the board was January 2023, but all of that was indoor riding. Wouldn’t you rather have your best number be on open roads?

The only problem is that these last few days it has been windy, or bitterly cold, or both. Tomorrow will be nicer, but I’ll be in class. And so today was my shot.

My shot. This is why I’m out here. First of all, it is, of course, a meaningless record or goal. No accolades or money. Nothing monumentous beyond the personal. So it’s just that, a personal best. It’s not a real accomplishment, not an achievement, not really. It’s an endurance effort. Put a few more miles in the legs, learn some cold lessons about layering in cold weather, trying to time it all out with limited daylight.

So there I was, measuring out rides these last few days, and it all came down to today. Should I ride enough? It wasn’t a question of could or would. I had the time and two jackets and long pants and gloves and so on. It’s not a race, and no one was trying to stop me, or slow me down, not that I can go much slower. So, did I want to try to find the time to ride tomorrow, in the morning, or tomorrow night after class. Or should I just do it today.

And by how much should I best the old mark?

This is what I did, I started out planning to ride a combination of our regular two routes, but started a bit later than I should have, meaning daylight was going to be a question. So I did one of those routes, added an extra road just to see where it went, and then modified the tail end of the course to add a few more miles. All told, that was 31 miles in the cold air, by little ice puddles and through a lot of open fields exposed to the wind. When I got closer to home I added all of the neighborhood roads to bolster the total. I figured all of this would give me about 30 miles for the day. I decided I’d let that be enough and there’s always tomorrow if I really, really need it.

I finished today’s ride at 31 miles. And that meant, when I got back to my spreadsheet, that I set a new best for miles in a month. By one mile.

Kudos to me, I guess.

My best December ever is in ninth place on the all-time list of months, by mileage. That was 2020. If I am to best that mark, I’ll be starting from behind: I’m taking tomorrow off. Maybe Friday, too.

We’ve been talking about going on a ride with a friend on Saturday. After that, we may be close to retreating to indoor rides, depending on what the prevailing weather patterns.

This is the 18th installment of We Learn Wednesdays, where I ride my bike across the county to find the local historical markers. Including today’s installment we’ll have seen, I believe, 36 of the 115 markers found in the Historical Marker Database. (This marker was not found on today’s ride, just so you now.

Today’s marker is about a church.

Their website is … unfinished. The name of the congregation is altogether too common to stand out in web searches. The erstwhile local paper only has about 20 years of archives digitized and uploaded — the wrong 20 years to pick up a lot of history — to any database I have access to.

It hasn’t been digitized on the National Register or the National Archives Catalog. Do they expect me to talk to actual people?

I love that the old walls were made a part of the new building. Now, all of it is old, and they’re still making good use of it.

Mt. Hope UMC offers a traditional worship service every Sunday, supports youth and children’s ministries, the Neighborhood Center and Cornerstone Women’s Center. The children’s ministry supplies cold weather wear to the children and they also cook meals for the community and maintain a food pantry.

In next week’s installment of We Learn Wednesday, we’ll see another church. If you’ve missed any markers so far, you can find them all right here.

Nov 23

Perhaps the most wind, non-storm related, I’ve experienced

We covered the fig tree in the backyard. This was a process. It took several days. First, you have to find out this is necessary. Then you have to make some attempts to find out how to cover it. Everyone has an opinion. None of them are authoritative. Some seem excessive — insulation! plastic! whale blubber! — and some some very casual. So who knows, really.

Anyway, get some burlap. Burlap does the trick. Burlap, you can’t find in stores. Oh you can find some useless burlap netting, which is meant to get in the way of your gardening, I guess, but it has no practical application. So finding burlap is the second step. We found some coverings. We put it on the fig tree. It was not big enough.

So we ordered a second burlap covering. That was step three. It arrived last Wednesday, and we put them on the fig tree on Thursday. One cover on the left half of the tree, the other cover on the right. It took the two of us and, there was a moment when a third set of hands might have been helpful. That was step four, I guess. One of the covers blew off last night, so today, step five.

And I got the fig tree, the part on the right, covered once again. All by my lonesome. And, oh, the details I could tell you about that. Only it was very windy today, so this was done in vain. The cover stayed on for … about two, three, hours. It was very windy.

This is how windy it was today. I went out for my bike ride and I went down this road. The map shows about six tenths of a mile, and if you go from right to left you’re on a slight, a very slight, downhill. You lose about 15 feet of elevation in that time. It’s nothing. But then there was the wind, blowing from the left to the right, gusting at 36 miles per hour.

I was in my hardest gear, pedaling as well as I could, and my Garmin said I was doing 8 mph. I was afraid I would just fall over from lack of progress. At the end of that image there’s a road that makes a big circle. Our neighbor, also a cyclist, says he’ll go ride that loop to hide from the wind. He says he’ll do 15 laps in there. It is almost 1.7 miles of a lovely wooded neighborhood, and it does keep a lot of the wind off of you. But that seems like a lot of repetition to me. Plus, three buses came in there during the short time I was there today, and I passed the same landscapers six times. They were beginning to get curious, and my feet were beginning to get cold.

The weather app said it felt like 25 degrees. And there were also flurries. Which is funny, because, before I consulted the app at the end of my ride, I thought I saw two or three suspicious things falling from the sky.

I’ve never ridden in flurries or snow before — because I used to have more sense, I guess, but we’ll get into that tomorrow — and I still haven’t, not really. I thought something was falling out of the trees. I thought I wanted to be inside, which is where I went, after I discovered that the second cover, on the right-hand-side of the fig tree, had blown off again.

Well tomorrow for that, then. This evening I had to make a run to the hardware store. I picked up some electrical tape for another project-in-vain, some more of that twine for same. And, also, a short length of garden hose. Like extension cords, you can never have enough garden hose. It’s been a while since I’ve purchased any hose. You have many options these days, and I have no idea which is the most appropriate for the particular planned drain duty. I chose the heavy duty version. It’ll probably last longer than any of the other ongoing outdoors projects.

And, now, to the grading! So much to grade! But a lot of it is fun stuff. So much fun stuff to grade!

Nov 23

That was a lovely weekend

All of our company has gone home. My lovely bride’s uncle headed back on Friday. Her parents on Saturday. We had company over for dinner Saturday night. The house is quite again. The cats have noticed.

And so now we are into the holiday season and, with it, in the midst of all of the blah blah blah. The stuff that takes too long to arrive, moves too fast or too slow, or both. All of it in a dizzying blur. All of it in a hold on as you can mentality. All of it with the end of the semester on the front end, as well, which brings it’s own frenetic pace, three weeks worth, which starts now.

The kitties, as you can tell, are not impressed. There is the afternoon sun, and there is no need to rush through that.

Saw more geese moving around this weekend. Or the same geese, I dunno. I’m not tagging these things. In the afternoon these were going toward the southwest.

But, in the evening, they were going northeast. Or some other geese, I dunno. I’m not tagging these things.

This was the only football game I’ve watched this year. If you’re going to watch, this is how.

Wild game, ridiculous finish, a ridiculousness of the most resolute fashion. At least the ridiculousness was kept to a minimum. All of which was better than 60 minutes of it. The view was the best part of it.

We had a different sort of view last night. A cold and rainy night, a short parade. A few fire trucks, a few Corvettes, for some reason, and three loosely grouped people we might call bands. We also saw the big guy, the ho-ho-hoer in chief. Apparently his sled is going into the shop. Or maybe the reindeer take off November. Maybe it’s a union thing. Perhaps they’re just carbo-loading.

Come to think of it, those sleighs aren’t very aerodynamic, are they? There’s a lot to answer about all of this. Fortunately, you have several weeks to explain it all to me.