Apr 24

A day doing prep work

This is another busy week. I am today working on a presentation for Thursday. I am creating a contemporary case study for a classroom exercise. The whole thing came to me, almost fully formed, last weekend. One of those ideas that was so complete it had to be perfect. Only today did I realize that the entire exercise requires on-the-spot participation from a group of strangers.

Much depends on their willingness to play along. And there’s not really coming back from it if the idea doesn’t land, or if they aren’t interested in playing along.

It’d be better not to have that realization, but once you have it there’s no escaping it.

No matter what happens, the graphics will look passably good. No matter how many of these presentations you make, it is amazing the time sink a good set of graphics can become.

Since it is the first of the month I have to also do the routine computer cleaning. It takes just a few minutes to delete a bunch of stuff from the desktop. Some of it I’ll probably need later. New directories must be made for the website. Statistics for the site need to be updated. I haven’t done that in two months. March was a good month! But the site has been done this year compared to last. I suppose people have found better distractions. But this humble little site attracted 137,000+ visits in the first three months of the year. We’re at 5.75 million views all time. No idea why that number is so high, but I’m grateful.

Also, I updated my cycling spreadsheet. And the chart still looks pretty good, despite the long lulls of March.

The green line plots a steady 10 miles per day average. The red line shows where I was at this time in 2023. The blue line charts the mileage of this year.

All of those blue line miles have been indoors. I’m ready to take a bike ride outside. Maybe next week.

Maybe next week, he sighed.

It’s gray and cool and April and I’m over it, quite frankly. The flowers don’t seem to mind.

That’s a brilliant camellia shrub and it’s just full of great, big, beautiful blooms. Spring hasn’t come, but spring is here. It should stay for a long time, at least until mid-summer, don’t you think?

We could then push the summer late into fall and just wipe out the next winter. What with all the leaping days and the stumbling seconds and springing and falling, would anyone really miss it?

No one would miss it.

What everyone misses is the beach. So let’s go there now! Here’s one last video from the big rock in the middle of Spooner’s Cove.

Not to worry, though, I still have … quite a few peaceful videos from California. And there are still a few more slow motion videos, too. Three, I think. After this one, that is.

And the slow motion views will change with the next video, so we’ll have that going for us, too.

Anyway, back to this presentation I’m working on.

I now hate the graphics.

Mar 24

This gray, grey week …

It is going to be sunny tomorrow, I know this because I looked ahead at the forecast. And also because I saw some color to the sunset.

After four days in a row, now, of rain and/or gray skies, I’ll be pleased to see some blue in the air and shadows on the ground.

This is just four days in a row, mind you. But it makes me wonder, how ever did we live entire winters like this?

I did go outside a few times today. I am conducting a towel experiment. The experiment is trying to get the smell of ethanol out of towels. I put the smell of ethanol in towels after Poseidon broke something with ethanol in it. (It was one of those cute little floating thermometer doodads. We got it for Christmas one year, one of those $10 and under parties, so the broken gauge is, itself, not a great loss. The almost two hours I spent cleaning up the mess is a different story. As is the three times I’ve washed these towels, and, perhaps, my sense of smell. That I continually have to hide more and more and more things from that cat is the biggest loss. We’ll be living in the basement, and he’ll still be finding ways to destroy things upstairs, I’m sure of it.)

I have five big bath towels blowing in the breeze, and also six kitchen towels. And my fear of having them around an open flame has diminished somewhat. But they still stink.

So, anyway, I was outside, and I noticed this. I believe it is a camellia.

I don’t think I even saw this last summer or fall, until we had cut away a few years of overgrowth. It sits along one of the back corners of the house and it’s a bit out of the way.

The blooms might have already had their show and come and gone by the time we arrived last summer, too. (I confess to not knowing the calendar of every plant under the sun under the dim gray clouds.) But! It’s going to be beautiful in just a few more weeks, you can tell already.

I wonder what color it will be. I wonder what else we’ll discover when the flowerbeds start their show.

This is what it looks like outside. Also, this bird was circling me, until I pointed at him. He moved down the street on the next gust of air. All casual like.

“What? Me? It’s just the thermals, baby …”

Anyway, grading stuff. I hope to wrap up this round of grading by tomorrow, after which we’ll be precisely halfway through the term.


I just tallied, and removed, the total number of things that leaves to assign and grade over the course of the semester, and then deleted those two sentences and the final number. It’s not a small number.

You know what is a small number? I’ve been challenging myself on Zwift to ride with a robo-pacer that’s faster than me. Previously I held on to the better bot for 17.3 miles. Today, when I joined his already-in-progress ride, he dropped me after just 2.3 miles.

Still set two Strava PRs, though. One on a slow and steady climb, and another on a sprint that Strava tells me I’ve done 123 times before.

Strava said I hit 30 miles per hour on that sprint. That’s not a small number. Even in the moment it didn’t feel hard. I think the fastest sprint I’ve ever produced was about 36 miles per hour on a false flat and probably a tailwind, so that’s why I kept waiting for the other people’s avatars to keep trying to come around me, but no one could, which is nice. I won a 500-meter sprint that means absolutely nothing!

Thursdays are all downhill after that.

Mar 24

They’re always saving the clock tower

Another blah day. This was in the forecast and, thus, is not surprising. Maybe seeing it coming makes it a more impactful thing. The ceiling was low, and also wet. And so was the ground. It rained a lot today. And it was chilly. This has been a mild winter, noticeably so. The mild part has been noticeable, but so, too, has the cold part. And we are this week teetering on the edge of some cold-not cold precipice. It could go either way at any minute.

Sunday it was so pleasant we had to go outside, and good thing too, considering, what the week has offered us weather-wise. We started a fire, which was lovely, except I spent more time fetching things to put on it than enjoying it. That’s one of the things we’ll work on.

As soon as it dries out again. I believe we received about 1.5 inches of rain today. And so this March is just a slobbery lion, so far. So far. I don’t think this March know what it is yet.

It might be effecting my energy levels. It’s either that or sleep, and I’m accustomed to typical sleep experience. Maybe someone put solar panels on my shoulders when I wasn’t looking — solar wearables, the green fasion of tomorrow! — and the clouds have reduced my wattage.

Speaking of watts, I mentioned last week that I was taking rides on Zwift with pace partners. There are nine in the game, each riding at a different tempo, which is expressed in watts per kilogram. My regular output puts me between the fourth robot pacer, Yumi who rides at a casual 2.9 w/kg and the third one, Jacques, who pedals along at a slightly more respectable 3.2 w/kg.

This is Jacques, the green robot just ahead of my first-person view.

His legs always keep turning at the same pace, no matter what. I am fascinated by the spine and humanist touches they’ve put into the cartoon robot on the video game. I have never, until just now, noticed the pacers’ shoes.

The conventional wisdom is that if you want to get faster you ride with people (or robots) who are faster than you. (Then you’ve no choice, I guess. Get stronger or get demoralized.) So how long can I stay with Jacques, who is faster than me? Tuesday of last week I stayed in Jacques’ pack for five miles. Last Wednesday I was able to hang on for 6.5 miles. spent five miles in Jacques pack, and that was from a cold start. Today, after a few miles to warm up my legs, I spent 6.5 miles with Jacques. On Saturday, I was there for 11.9 miles.

So you can see the progression.

Tuesday, I was on Jacques’ wheel for 17.3 miles.

I was a bit impressed with that, myself. How long, I wonder, should you hang on before it isn’t considered hanging on, but, rather, just where you should be?

This sounds like a deeply philosophical question. And I suppose it could be, but I mean it purely in this practical sense. I spent 42 minutes and change in his group. Am I an interloper, or, sometimes, a part of it?

The point of being in the paced groups is that you get a reprieve with the digital drafting. (It’s a video game, and this is silly, because the physics aren’t quite right.) Strava, meanwhile, tells me that there was a half-hour of that ride with my third highest power output ever. So maybe taking two days off was good. Or maybe I’ve not been sapped of energy to the extent that I am complaining about.

Of course, if it takes one of my most powerful semi-sustained rides to stay there, perhaps I haven’t really earned my way into Jacques’ group just yet.

It is time, once more, for We Learn Wednesdays. This is the 28th installment, making this a regular feature, one where I find the county’s historical markers via bike. This is the 49th marker in that effort, which presently consists of photos I grabbed last fall.

And on this particular day, (a particularly beautiful December day!) I visited a 19th century church building that traces its origin back another century still.

They started as a mission of the Cohansey Baptist Church, who’s ancestors arrived nearby, from Ireland, in 1683. This mission started meeting in 1745 and became the first Baptist congregation in the county, and the eighth in the state when they organized in 1755. The original name was The Antipeado Baptist Society Meeting in Salem and Lower Alloway’s Creek.

This is their third building. The first was on a farm, about three miles down the road. They say that building would fit in their current sanctuary. They wanted to be closer to the center of things, so they moved two miles near the end of the 18th century. Soon, though, that church building still felt too far away. So, in 1845, they moved another mile, and onto the current property.

There was a clock in the original steeple, made by Jacob D. Custer, of Norristown, Pa. Custer made watches, one of the early Americans who did so, and created steam machinery, but he’s famous for his dozens and dozens of clocks. The one he installed here rang out for the first time on September 26, 1846. This was a town clock, many of the citizens were involved in raising the money, a local concern of clock makers took over the maintenance, and it rang out with news.

I always wonder how you were supposed to know what the ringing meant. There would have been a lot of cocked ears, and people wandering over to ask about the news of the day. This one, for instance, rang to celebrate the end of the Civil War. A few weeks later it filled the air to mark Abraham Lincoln’s funeral.

In 1902 storm damage got to the 56-year-old clock, and by the next year the city saw it shut down. The editor of the local newspaper, who was also the mayor — and in 1903, this wasn’t a problem — raised money for a new clock. He tossed in $200 himself, and so the church and city went to a clock maker in Connecticut, the Seth Thomas Company for a new timepiece for the steeple. Custom-built, the new one weighed almost a ton. That didn’t include the eight-foot pendulum and the bell, which itself was 1,535 pounds. The whole thing was put into operation for the first time in 1903. There were lights behind the five-foot dials that apparently helped boats on the river.

But then, in January of 1947, the clock tower caught fire. The fire department was just a block away, but the winds were cold and stiff, the flames were hot and the clock was lost. They say it struck ten as smoke escaped the steeple, and stopped keeping time at 10:22.

A week later, there was a new fundraising effort. And 15 months later, there was a new clock installed, this time by a Boston firm, and the bell had to be recast and remounted. At 11:00 a.m. on April 15, 1948, the bell rang out again, and this version of the clock has been in place ever since.

If it’s working these days, it was running a few hours behind when I visited, according to the time stamp of the photo.

I wonder if they give tours inside to see the clockworks.

Next time, we’ll visit a 19th century building, that the web seems to know very little about. Should be fun! If you’ve missed any markers so far, you can find them all right here.

Feb 24

Just some more miles

Grading. Forever grading. What I’m poring over is a basic hard news story assignment. There’s only about 40 of these, and most of them from various school board and town council meetings. There are a few people who went to the same meetings, and that’s fine. The students found different angles to report on. But what’s most interesting, to me anyway, is the news they found.

Sadly, a lot of these meetings aren’t getting covered in the small towns because of the spiral the news industry is presently in. Some of the stories my students are writing about are absolutely worth the reporting. Some of the stories are quite good. I know I’ve learned a lot about some of the regional goings on from these stories. I hope my students are getting something out of the feedback. It’s a treat to write all of that feedback, but it can be time intensive — sometimes, I think they, are longer than the stories —

Me? Write long? Never.

Today’s bike ride was interesting. Let’s set the stage. A week ago, this month became my most productive bike riding month, in terms of miles. I’d put in more miles in 22 days than I have in any single month in the last 15 years. (This probably helps explain some aches and pains.)

Somewhere in this area on today’s ride, I eclipsed my first thousand miles of the year.

Definitely helps explain some of the aches and pains. And also the parts that feel pretty good. That’s probably not a lot, 1,000 miles in two months, but I’ve never even had one month with 500 miles or more, until this month.

Which is where this gets silly. I have a spreadsheet with all of these little cycling tidbits on it, you see. Because of that, I knew I could get over 1,000 miles today. And that seemed a great winter goal. Soon I’ll be riding outside again, but to have 1,000 miles as a base, in the basement? It was appealing.

So, when I opened the spreadsheet to add today’s totals to the ride, I looked at the page where I keep the month numbers and realized, if I did just 1.5 more miles, I would have a 600 mile February. Again, not that much, but it’s a lot to me.

So there I was, after dinner, getting back on the bike, just to get that extra 1.5 miles. I did this in jeans, and slowly, because this is silly. But it’s a goal to hit, even if I only just became aware of it.

So I did three miles.

February 2024 is a month that’ll be hard to top. And, since we’re at the end of the month, here’s the big chart.

The green line is a simple projection of where I’d be riding 10 miles per day. The red line reflects my 2023 mileage. The blue line is what I’ve done so far this year.

It’s been a big offseason. And, sometime soon, I’ll be back to riding outside once again.

There are a lot of roads to explore!

OK, I’m out of photographs. I’m going to share one more photograph next week, because it comes with one of my favorite stories of our New Year’s trip. I still have a lot of video to share, but I’m running low on the still images.

Here’s one of me with some grunts and other reef fish in the background. I can minimize my bubbles too!

And this is the saddest site in diving, when you’re back to being just below the surface, and the dive is over.

So, Monday, one fun story, and then a lot more videos in the days to follow.

I suppose I should get back to the Re-Listening project. This is the one where I’m listening to all of my old CDs in the car, in the order in which I acquired them. I’ve been (intermittently) writing about them here to pad things out. These aren’t reviews, because who cares, but usually just memories and excuses to post some music. The problem is, where I am in my collection right now, there aren’t a lot of big, prominent memories attached to any of these.

I was in a burning discs phase, you see. A lot of fairly interesting things were getting slipped into my CD books, but none stayed in the stereo so long that I could tie a lot of experiences to them. This installment sees us in November of 2004. A colleague — who also left the newsroom and returned to a university campus, as a social media manager, where he seems to be doing well for himself — made a copy of U2’s “How to Dismantle An Atomic Bomb” for me. I can’t recall what I made for him in return. Hopefully it was decent. This is decent.

And so there’s the whole album, if you want to hear it. Nothing quite as iconic, perhaps, as their early stuff, but when I listen to it now, it sounds like U2, and that’s never a bad thing.

Except for the catorce in “Vertigo.” You can still roll your eyes at that.

Feb 24

Everything here is terrific

Friday’s snapshots I did not share … because I was busy sharing other things. (I began a look at a 78-year-old yearbook. Did you see that? You should check it out.)

My office window faces the western sky and I happened to glance up just in time to see this explosion of color above the treeline. Grab the phone, down the stairs, out the door and stand on the porch to take this photo.

And then right back inside, because I believe I was barefoot. The neighbors must think things.

The lilies are still going strong. The purple flowers, the ones with names I do not know, are well into their romantic wither and wait stage. But these guys are still offering a powerful fragrance.

It is a promise of spring to come, and it is coming soon. Surely it is now. I walked outside today and thought, This feels great! And it could be that I was standing in the sun, that I’d just gotten off my bike and my heart rate was still elevated or that 54 degrees in late February feels like a treat. It is more of a sign of things to come than a symbol of things lost. Later this week the sunset will set after 6 p.m. You can’t help but feel optimistic. I’m wearing blue and yellow to class tonight, because it is officially time for spring colors.

The cats can tell, too. I don’t know that they can. I assume they can. If they are attuned to the seasons we have enough windows for them to figure it out. They’ve seen a few birds return and there’s a squirrel or two outside tormenting them know, so maybe they know something is up, seasonally speaking. But I can’t say that for sure, of course. They haven’t told me.

I shouldn’t make them out to be readers of the Farmer’s Almanac or anything. Poseidon, after all, is still content to hibernate.

This is his cabinet. It was easier to move things around and put his little blanket in there and, when he’s being a pill at dinner time, just remind him that he has his own space.

And, then, at other times, this genius … well … you can tell for yourself.

Phoebe is not impressed by him. Not the first little bit.

I like the idea of Phoebe having a noir mood, though. That has potential.

She’s lately taken to hanging out in the cat tunnel. This is a recent development. It was always Poe’s territory, but, now, he has to share.

She’s so meek and timid, we like when she asserts herself in this way. Poe has a cabinet. He can share the tunnel.

Saturday, my lovely bride and I went for a bike ride together. Usually our schedules are just a bit off, so this is a real treat, sweating and huffing and puffing and going nowhere fast in the basement.

She started the ride on Zwift a little before I did, so she had three miles in and I had to chase her for a long time to catch up. But there are our avatars, riding alongside one another, having a grand old time in the cool down phase of her workout.

I didn’t ride yesterday — making three days I’ve skipped in February — and I got in 22 miles this afternoon. Time for that end-of-the-month push to make sure I hit the outlandish and arbitrary goals I have set for myself!

OK, we’re nearing the very end of the photos from last month’s dive trip. But I still have a lot of videos. I figure we might do these a couple of times a week, just to see how much longer I can stretch out such a wonderful trip.

And I’m being sneak with it here, too. Because I am recycling the eagle ray shot I had from my last video. But, hey, my video, my site, my rules. And the eagle rays, which are presently wrapping up their migratory season through that part of the world, are a special treat.

But wait until you see what appears right after that beautiful eagle ray, in this very video …

And now I must go to campus, where we will talk about the power of social media and large group social dynamics.

Yeah, the video is better. Watch the video!