Dec 23

Rhythm, and a lot

I gave a last lecture in a class night. The students were thrilled. I have two more final lectures to prepare for the term. After that it’s finals. Between now and then: the continual effort to get everything sorted and graded. And then finals.

Well, then two deep breaths, and starting work on next term.

And then finals.

Yesterday I was thinking about the natural rhythms of a college campus. In my mind they’ve always been divided into weeks. And for the first few weeks you’re trying to find the term’s beat. Then you grab it. Then midterms, and you grab onto the rhythm once more. Something unexpected might happen, so you try to find it again, and maybe you do. Then finals, and it’s over. And, suddenly, there’s the next term’s cadence to think about. I was thinking about how you never sit in the pocket long, even if nothing unexpected comes up the best you can do is maximize yourself in that rhythm for two months and change. This is where the discipline comes in. The determined can thrive in that pocket. If you can’t, you always feel behind.

I haven’t felt behind — I haven’t in a long time, I guess, so maybe I’m doing well with the meta-rhythm — but I have had to find the new beat.

I started today’s bike ride with no real plan, but I did one of the regular two routes, and added on an extra little bit, featuring that newly discovered road. You know the one. Two lanes, no houses, only the woods on either side. It eventually leads to a busy four-lane road which has a nice clean, broad shoulder. I got a honk and a semi-close pass on that road, right next to the “Report Aggressive Drivers Call 9-1-1” sign.

The universe does enjoy a good laugh.

My fastest tenth mile split was all the way back around at the end of the route, near our neighborhood, where I really poured on the coals and worked up a respectable 24.34 miles per hour. I set no Strava PRs on this ride, generated no power. But I did stay warm. It was 44 degrees when I set out, and 42 or so when I got back. I wear several layers and, today, I added some wrap around ear muffs. Game changer.

It’s hard to get to my phone under all of those layers, plus there are the gloves, and it was gray today, so it didn’t seem worth the struggle. Instead, I just … enjoyed myself?

I enjoyed myself immensely.

Instead of ride photos or ride videos, allow me to share a new shirt I recently made.

Rather proud of that.

In between grading things — and I have been grading a lot of things so far this week — I have also started a new solution for my cufflinks.

Perhaps I should back up. I have a lot of cufflinks. A few years ago I found the style that I favored, and I got a few reasonable deals on french cuff shirts and so I was set. Then the pandemic came along. One thing I did to while away some time was to start making my own cufflinks. Find some good materials, establish a rhythm, and you can make a few pretty quickly. They’re lightweight, comfortable, flexible and functional. I gave quite a few to our old neighbor who liked, too. But I still have a lot.

In the old house, I had a drawer in the bathroom vanity where they were stored. It was functional, but I ran out of soon ran out of space for them.

I have a lot of cufflinks.

I was going to make a special drawer, but then we got great new jobs, put the house on the market, moved and so on. The vanity in our bathroom here, however, does not lend itself to that same drawer idea. So my cufflinks, all of ’em, have been living in Ziploc bags inside of an old grocery bag. But that’s not conducive to making a daily selection.

This is my first experiment.

I have a lot of cufflinks. But look! Room for more!

Sep 23

Four monochrome days … and counting

For class last night I needed a photo for a quick Photoshop demonstration, so I grabbed a few shots of the honeysuckle in the backyard. The original here had a lot of negative space, which was part of the point of the demo I needed. But as I looked at it more closely, I came to appreciate the almost-symmetry. I like repetition in photographs, I like lines in photographs. And, in generally, symmetry is neat and appealing. But the almost symmetry here worked for me.

Surely that’s a sign of something. Positive growth, perhaps. I am positive I have grown in my appreciation of that chaotic photograph.

Also, raindrops on plant life makes for an easy and appealing subject.

I like rain, rain is good. We all need rain. It’s amazing how fundamentally important such a seemingly basic miracle as rain is to, well, all of us and all of this. But I’m over the gray skies.

Give me rain or give me sun. This in-between indecisiveness is not for me. I wonder how spiders feel about the rain.

This one was building a trap just off the front door in the early evening. I reached out from an awkward ankle, one foot on the ground, the other stretched behind me in a yoga-inspired counterbalance, to my right arm as close as I dare get, trying not to disturb the natural order of things. I think this spider just moves around the yard from place to place, looking for the all important location, location, location, because the web is never there when I go back.

I couldn’t help but notice that the very casual composition was able to capture the setae hairs of the spider’s body, and also the rain drops it has been carrying around. And now I wonder, do spiders like rain?

I suppose we know how they feel about waterspouts.

It seems they want shelter from the rain, thanks National Geographic. So there you have it, you have something in common with the arachnids. But not waterspouts. You find them much more useful than they do.

Anyway, today was a brutal day for productivity. I graded things late into the evening on Monday, and just could not find a sufficient spark today. Which is not to say nothing got done. Some did. More should have been accomplished. But that’s what Wednesdays are for.

I did get the next round of ironing completed. (Thursday-me and Monday-me will thank me for this.) make some of these. New pocketsquares!

I made four. The brown and yellow thing was my test piece. I’m going to send that, and one of the red ones, to our old neighbor as a joke. He is a professor of retail apparel, and if anyone can find the humor in repurposing silk, it’ll be him. The purplish-gray one, and an identical red one, are for me. Thursday-me and Monday-me, specifically.

Working with silk, I learned right away, is a little time consuming. But if they look good in your pocket, maybe they’re worth it.

Now I just need a way to store them. But that’s a different sort of project, for a different day.

Jun 23


I made a handful of cufflinks today. Sixty will go to a larger project that a friend inspired. But, as I went through my old cufflink making supplies, as one does, I discovered there were some colors and fabrics that didn’t exist in my personal cufflink catalog. So, having remembered the workflow, my fingers regaining their muscle memory, I made a few extras for myself.

Now I just need to pull a french cuff shirt out of the closet, to show them off.

So I made 72 cufflinks. The three-part History Channel George Washington docudrama. Just trying to clear things off the DVR. There are so many things on the DVR.

Let’s watch something else.

Last weekend we were at The Ryman with the Indigo Girls. This was the third single off their sixth studio album, 1997’s “Shaming of the Sun.” (I wrote some more about the record in February.) This is, perhaps, the least good song on a terrific album.

Amy Ray talks about how this is the beginning of a new kind of sound for the band. There’s more rock in there, some Patti Smith perhaps, and some literate punk elements, too.

Tom Morello did a remix of this song some years back. I had no idea this existed until now. It’s a remix. Every remix basically feels like this — Yes, I liked your song, though this is how it should have been done, in a longer, and still lesser, way — but at least you can hear Ulali on this version of the track. (Sadly the a capella group is not on this tour. Though they toured with the Indigo Girls for part of 1997.)

That song was a big part of the setlist on the original Lilith Fair tour, turns out. They released an EP alongside it. (That Morello remix was on the EP). In one of those curious examples of timing, the 1998 double live CD that went alongside that particular music festival is playing in my car right now.

I really ought to move beyond the late nineties, I know.

The Re-Listening project will probably bring us the Lilith Fair album on Monday or Tuesday — because this is suddenly a music blog? — but first we have to work through one other record. The Re-Listening project, of course, is just an excuse to write about, and play some of the music I’m listening to in the car. In the car, I am listening to all of my old CDs in the order in which I acquired them. Today, that CD is Dishwalla’s second studio album, released in 1998 “And You Think You Know What Life’s About.”

I know I picked this up a bit late, based on the 1999 album that came before it, in my CD books. Then as now, it’s a soft, crooning filler. Nothing too remarkable here. The Re-Listening project isn’t about musical reviews because, who cares? But, if you’re interested in that, the Critical Reception section of Wikipedia has an incredibly spot-on summation.

The Washington Post noted that “the band’s most bombastic choruses contain echoes of the slick power ballads that grunge banished.” Entertainment Weekly wrote that “when they pull out the cheesy Top 40 stops … like on the ballad ‘Until I Wake Up’, they come off like a modern-rock Journey—a guilty pleasure, but a pleasure nonetheless.” The Ottawa Citizen determined that “the band remains a non-innovator, relying on go-to guitar riffs and catchy rock melodies.”

Stereo Review concluded that “Dishwalla spends part of its second album whining about the success of its first one.” Rolling Stone thought that frontman J.R. Richards “has managed to shed his grumbly, disaffected vocals for a softer croon on tracks such as ‘The Bridge Song’.” The Boston Globe opined that “Dishwalla’s chameleon act seems in total defiance of establishing a trademark sound.” The Los Angeles Times wrote that “this angst-filled and metal-tinged sophomore try sinks quickly under the weight of overblown emotion and puerile lyrics.”

It started with such promise, too.

The second track gives the whole game away.

Already, you can see what a handful of harried, on-deadline music reviewers were finding out.

Their first record felt like a gateway into pop-friendly distortion bars and industrial sounds. Not as a slight, but I think this record just hit on all of the same things every other band hit on, about nine months later, and at about 80 percent saturation.

I saw them on their first national tour, they were opening for Gin Blossoms, and, at that moment, they were almost as popular. The lead singer, J.R. Richards, was doing his rock lothario bit when he split his pants on stage. He was embarrassed, as anyone would be. Not so much then, but after that first album, it was all downhill after that. This was one of those records I bought, listened to a few times, and found few reasons to ever play it again.

I think we’re in another none of those stretches of the CD collection, stuff I listened to only a little, looking for the next heavy rotation winners.

Jan 22

A day with everything in it

It was a do-most-everything day. A bit of writing here, a bit of editing there. Consulted on a Snapchat campaign. Some social media, some file uploading. Casted a student for a recruitment campaign. Discussed a physical mailer. Hired some students. Shot some photographs. Recorded some video. The only thing I didn’t do was any audio, but I’ll have a podcast Thursday, if I make it that far.

I also had two meetings this morning, and I got pulled out of both of them for nonsensical reasons. Maybe it made me look important to the people I had to leave. It felt rude, but when you’re called, you go, right?

Was I needed when I got there? Wherever that was? I was not. The first time it was because someone else couldn’t be found, and I was to be the stand-in. (When I got there, the other person had turned up.) The second time there was a question about microphone audio. (It was fine.)
So I got to go back to my meetings. Probably didn’t look all that important after that.

This was Saturday, a rare clear winter’s day. Cold, and worth it.

But that’s the miracle of it, really. Not every day is like that. Most aren’t. In fact, this was Sunday morning, after it snowed.

And this was this morning.

What’s the point of this? We’re nearing the end of January, and I don’t know. It’s been a mild winter so far, thankfully. Had a bit of real cold, but that’s to be expected. No real snow. I told a former student who is working in North Carolina that she got more snow this weekend than we’ve had all winter so far, and I was glad for it. (She’s a meteorologist, so all sorts of weather makes her happy.) We’ve just had the gray. And we’ll get a lot more of that. Maybe that’s the part that will be cruel this year. If it’s just comparatively mild, it’s easy to fool yourself into thinking it is almost spring. But it’ll be almost three more months before views like this are the norm.

It was stunning to see that this evening. It was stunning that I got out of the office and back to the house in time to see it. And this is the second real sign of the progression of the seasons: though you’ve known it, intellectually, for a month now, this is when you can now notice the days are getting a bit longer without carefully noting the clocks. The longer days, of course, being the best part about the place.

The first real sign of the coming change of seasons, of course, is seeing commercials for the Masters on TV. I don’t watch the tournament, but hearing Ray Charles, seeing those beautiful views, you know: Augusta is getting ready for their spotlight, and it’s OK to pine for the pines, and springtime.

In two more months. Until the end of March it is perpetual gray punctuated by false hopes — and I’ll only talk about this two dozen more times. At least Saturday looked nice!

The daily duds: Pictures of clothes I put here to, hopefully, help avoid embarrassing scheme repeats.

Love this shirt, until it comes time to pair it with something.

Got a nice compliment on that pocket square, though. It’s one I made, which made it all that much better. And prompted me to show off the day’s cufflinks. No one was counting on that.

I made those, too.

I am a man of fashion intrigue.

Jan 22

Which one of these birds decided it was time move?

I stepped outside the other evening to take the twice-daily sky picture (#IndianaSkyStudy on Instagram) and caught the shift change at some of the local ponds.

Just any old day now, one hopes, the Canada geese will head back north.

And they will, in two or three long months.

Speaking of long, today was my first 11-plus hour day of the semester. And a first-thing-tomorrow meeting, too! It started in one of our podcast studios, where I had to refresh a faculty member on basic production techniques. My morning continued with a longer session teaching production techniques to a student. Then there was a lot of editing, meetings, Email and Slack messages. Regular office stuff.

It ended in a television studio. IUSTV Sports started back up tonight.

And so we’re underway for another exciting term. It’ll feature almost 100 television programs and four or five different podcast programs and live reporting on all of IU’s varsity sports and quite a few more 10- and 12-hour days between now and the end of April.

The daily duds: Pictures of clothes I put here to, hopefully, help avoid embarrassing scheme repeats.

And today I opted for a simple, classic look.

That’s a pocket square I made last year. I’m fancy.