Jul 24

Happy Fourth

I am starting to feel better today, thanks for asking. Many of the key symptoms have disappeared. I think I hard-coughed all of them right out of my body this morning. It was a huge fit. More the beginning of a cold than the end, or so it felt. But I patiently sat my way into an afternoon without any other great big symptoms.

And so this afternoon I willed my way into the pool to see what would happen.

What happened was I struggled through 500 yards or so and then spent another several hundred yards wondering when I would find my rhythm. Somewhere along the way in a long swim I just slip into a nice (for me) pace that just sees the laps melt away. I haven’t charted this, but it seems like it should come at a fairly consistent time, right? Only I was somewhere around 1,200 yards today and still wondering when that would happen.

It did not happen.

But I did swim what was, on balance, a solid 1,800. And I didn’t feel the need to roll over and sleep the rest of the afternoon away. It felt like progress.

After which I finished reading John Barry’s Rising Tide, which was an incredible book about the 1927 flood of the Mississippi River.

How can something so devastating be all but forgotten just a century later? At a place called Mounds Landing, the levee gave way and “a wall of water three-quarters of a mile across and more than 100 feet high” came through the crevasse. Weeks later, engineers used a 100-foot line to find the bottom, but they failed. The river had gouged a 100-foot-deep channel half a mile wide for a mile inland.

No one could every wrap their arms around an official set of figures for the entirety of the massive watershed, but Barry has some data on the lower Mississippi, where the flood put as much as 30 feet of water over lands where 931,159 people lived. The whole of the country was only 120 million people at the time. Barry continues, “Twenty-seven thousand square miles were inundated, roughly equal to Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont combined. (Months later) 1.5 million acres remained underwater. Not until mid-August, more than four months after the first break in a mainline Mississippi River levee, did all the water leave the land.”

The scale and scope is too big for a series of movies, and maybe that’s why it isn’t in the common zeitgeist. The rural nature of the landscape plays a part here, too. Could you imagine if this could have somehow happened on that scale on the east coast? There are certainly plenty of characters you could draw from. This book fixates on Hoover, of course, and on a few of the key locales. But, then, who would be the antagonists. Here’s one.

The good ol’ boy club of New Orleans would be another. Bankers, the New Orleans establishment and nothing but, and they wiped out two adjoining communities, having made desperate promises about it to save their city. New Orleans dynamited the levee that doomed St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes. A day later, other upstream collapses proved New Orleans didn’t need the effort. And, of course, New Orleans civic leaders went out of their to deny the compensation promised to their neighbors. New Orleans’ old money would definitely be the bad guys. Alas, it set the stage for Huey Long. The flood — and Calvin Coolidge’s cold shoulder — returned Herbert Hoover to the national stage. The aftermath played a big role in the great migration, and all of it together was hugely influential of generations of what would come for the region.

The current plan for the river takes some of the old hypotheses and puts them together but, Barry finds some flaws in the mathematics. This isn’t an engineering book, though it does deal with some important issues in easily digestible ways. And, then, in 1973 …

It’s all folly — and we know it.

This evening we went to see the fireworks. (We missed them last year.) They were held at the county fairgrounds and we picked out a spot across a wide field from where they launched. We sat on the side of the road and thought of the past and the future. We were far enough away that it wasn’t noisy, and close enough that it was still pretty.

At home again, we lit sparklers in the backyard. Had a great time of it, too. There were at least three different kinds, because there’s no such thing as a supply chain shortage these days.

I’m trying to talk her into taking sparklers with her everywhere she goes.

It’s not a terribly difficult sell, frankly.

Jul 24

What a big screen we have

Really, the only problem is that I’m tired. I’ve had a mild cause of symptoms of most everything that you’ll find listed with sinusitis. Oddly, each comes and goes. What troubled me last night was fine this morning. And something else comes along to be the day’s first mild ache or pain — always underlined with a cough, which is, usually, italicized by the gentlest sniffle I’ve ever encountered.

Always, when my sinus decide to bother me it’s days of not being able to breathe. This time, thankfully, that’s not been an issue, which is odd. And oddly welcome.

The biggest thing is just the fatigue. Nothing like a bit of seasonal doldrums in the middle of the summer.

The weather is nice. Nice and warm.

Meaning it was a good evening to try our new setup. Projector, screen, sports.

Just in time for the Tour, the Olympics and maybe some late night old movies, too.

Set up was easy. We’ll improve our storing technique in time.

Speaking of bike riding, here’s my little chart of miles through the first half of the year. Really flattened out the last two weeks, huh?

In the next few days I’ll have a lot of riding to do to make up for it, whatever that means.

Here’s a quick clip from our dive in Cozumel a couple of weeks ago. I’ve got five more clips to put here after this ray, which you can see up close. The trick is to be behind the group you’re diving with, watching which way the critter is going and take a good angle to arrive at the same place.


In our next video we’ll see a flounder! It’ll be great!

It is time to return to 2005 and the Re-Listening project. You’ll recall that I’ve been listening to all of my old CDs in the order of their acquisition. You get to read all about it, because I’m padding the site with some music and, usually, stir up a memory or two. Though there are no strong memories attached to these records, which were library pickups for me.

The first one was the BoDeans debut “Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams,” which T-Bone Burnett produced. It was simple and big, the start of something big for the roots rockers from Wisconsin. Most of us learned about them from the later “Closer to Free” or “Good Things,” but this is where it started. And if you put this on, in 1986, it would have been a stylistic revelation.

The third track has always been one of my favorites. The interplay between Kurt Neumann and Sam Llanas works so well. And it’d do so for a long time, until suddenly it didn’t.

One more quick one.

OK, one more and, remember, this is 1986.

And the good news is, there’s a sweaty bottle out there with your name on it. The BoDeans are touring the U.S. right now.

The next addition was also a library grab — probably I got it on the same day. It was Sister Hazel’s fifth album, “Lift,” from 2004. Consistent sound from the band, though I think I’d generally had my fill by then. I found a few tracks on here I liked, but mostly I was pleased it was a library find.

It’s like a small, smoky venue of nuevo Florida Keys, as heard in Gainseville, for the rest of us. There’s nothing at all wrong with that, if it is for you.

But for their terrific earlier success, they could be the best cover band in America.

And Sister Hazel is on tour right now, as well. And the next time I make you sit through my old music, we’ll be playing a few standards and classics.

Jul 24

Now my jaw hurts, or my ear, could be my face, also my lungs

It’s possible that, while I have felt largely fine — tired, stuffy, but fine — that I’ve been a bit farther beneath the weather than I realized. It’s possible that I’m falling apart as I write this. So, you know, standard issue cold. I’ll be fine tomorrow, or Thursday, or two Tuesdays from now. I’m only 10 days into feeling mostly OK and kinda unwell, after all. These things take time.

I don’t want to overstate it. It hasn’t been bad. The biggest thing is that I’ve done less the last few days than I should have. That’s pretty much it. Even still …

Sunday afternoon I got in a 1,650 yard swim, my longest since last September.

I even swam it at a reasonable pace, a mile in 40 minutes. I’ve just looked at two different charts on the world wide web, which is authoritative in every way, and they have each convinced me that this time is somewhere between novice and intermediate. I need to swim more.

Just as soon as my shoulders are rested.

That swim was probably fast because I had somewhere to be. Swim scared, swim with an appointment coming up fast, I say. It was a do-the-laps-run-through-the-shower sort of exercise. I had to get to the airport. I had to drive through this.

And then it was hurry up and wait. And wait. And wait. There’s a sign in the cell phone lot that says the maximum time allowed is 30 minutes, but I encourage the airport to take that up with the airline and mother nature. (They also have two vending machines full of drinks in the cell phone lot, which seems at odds with the parking limits.)

I stayed there for three hours. But the views, man!

My lovely bride wasn’t that far away. A few fences and rules about running around on the airport tarmac were all that kept us apart. And also the weather.

Ahe landed early, 5:45. She got off the plane at 9 p.m. And so I spent three-plus hours in the cell phone lot. This gave me plenty of time to go through the contents of my car — six pairs of sunglasses, four masks, two full-sized umbrellas, a giant fist full of napkins, four grocery store bags, a lint roller … and so on. Allowing me to bring a little more order that paired nicely with Saturday’s chore of vacuuming the trunk, which was a big effort, and probably a clue, in retrospect, of how the ol’ body is feeling. Anyway, Approaching 9:30 I finally got her in the car. And if the worst thing that happens when a loved one is flying almost a quarter of the way across the country and through bad weather is that you miss dinner, you take it.

Just think of how much I could have swam if I knew I had all of that extra time …

Today, we visited a local farm and picked up some vegetables. You get a custom box of fresh, locally grown produce every week. On the side, they’re selling corn for a dollar an ear.

If you ride around here enough a few ears of corn will just fall into your window. Save your dollars.

Our friend Stacey came over for a bike ride. It was a nice easy ride. We pedaled by the bike shop, where the local runners were getting ready to run. We went through town and back into the country side.

And then we found ourselves on a road with one small hill. Rather than grind it out, I wanted to get over the thing. Stacey interpreted this as an attack, it was not an attack, but so suddenly we were in an uphill sprint.

She is fast. It hurt. Breathing was a little bit harder after that. I spent the next several miles trying to recover from it. I think I am still trying to recover from it. See above.

We haven’t check in on the kitties in a few weeks. The cats know. And they are letting me know. You’ve all been missing out on the site’s most popular weekly feature, and for that I apologize.

Phoebe has moved to her summer afternoon napping tree. It’s a popular spot for the midday sun.

Recently, she re-discovered a basket she doesn’t get to enjoy all that often. It usually holds another basket, but now it’s a Phoebe spot.

Poseidon, meanwhile, is happily hanging out on the fridge. In between cabinet meetings, as you can see. He often spends dinner time — the cat’s me time, I’ve decided — in that cabinet behind him there. He’s ridiculous.

And there is, of course, always time for the tunnel. This may be his favorite spot, not counting someone’s lap, or being featured online.

So the cats, as you can see, are doing just fine. And they hope you’re off to a great start to your week, as well.

Jun 24

Ocean videos

This time last week we were in Mexico. It rained and stormed a lot, so we didn’t get to do all of the diving we’d planned. This time last year we were in the process of moving. It was hot and dry and smoky and stressful. This week we’re dealing with tree damage at home from Sunday’s storms.

I’ll let you decide which is better, but it certainly wasn’t this time last year.

So let’s talk about last week, instead.

One afternoon we just played in the waves. The water was almost rough, but we had a nice time getting beat up. There’s nothing to this video, but a little girl’s smile in an adult’s happiness.


I recorded quite a few of those. Most aren’t very well composed — waves — but, looking at them now, they were consistent. Every time the wave slipped away from her, she stood up and immediately turned for the next one. She’s not even aware of it. It’s an ingrained move, one stemming from years playing in the waves. That’s what I love.

She’s always looking ahead.

These were the best clips from our two-tanks of diving in Cozumel. As you can see, the visibility was pretty low, but we did see a few nice things.


I’ll cut these into individual pieces for anyone who plays favorites. Some people just like to watch the sea anemone wave endlessly. Also, if you didn’t watch it all the way through — shame on you — there’s a giant turtle at the end.

Jun 24

Diving Cozumel, part two

The weather was no better today. Ports were closed again, both on the mainland and over on Cozumel. Already we had decided against trying to go over there for more dives, even if it was an option. It was a bit of a hassle, and the visibility wasn’t that great. And this was about as good as it got from our balcony view.

So we’re going to be getting some money back from this trip. But we’re mask half-full people. While this was supposed to be a 24-dive trip, it became a vacation with four-dives tied into it.

And here are the photos from our second dive yesterday, the the second in the sea and fourth overall. My lovely bride wanted to a see a turtle that was at least this big.

(And she did. I have video. You’ll see it next week.)

I found a lobster out in the open in the daytime, a rare sight.

And, of course, the ever-present brown bowl sponge.

And another one.

And one more.

I let the current — more accurately, I wisely agreed to not fight the inevitable — float me over one outcrop, between two others and looked to my left to see these grunts hiding out from the water’s energy.

A few more reef fish.

I don’t believe I’ve ever noticed a conch quite like this.

And now I get photobombed at 50-plus feet.

I think she was trying to say, “You have enough photos of these things.”

Some sort of triggerfish. This one always stumps me.

But we all know what kind of ray this guy is. Rays are intriguing and weird and beautiful, all at once.

How many different kinds of fish can you name from this photo? I have four.

At our safety stop we took an anniversary photo. Fifteen years! Almost to the hour.

A few moments later, my dive buddy is at the surface.

And one of the saddest photos you can take on a dive. Here’s the bottom of the boat, and the end of our dive.

Tomorrow, we’ll head back home, and start planning our next trip — probably not to Mexico — which is already a long wait away.