Jun 24

The Smith Zoo and Nature Center

We had three-plus inches of rain last night. Everything stayed dried that needed to, I think. I still try to walk around and check most things after the big rains. This was, I think, our third overenthusiastic participation.

This afternoon I had yet another adventure in the 21st century’s second most annoying innovation: planned obsolescence. The details do not matter. You, too, know how these stories go. This is my third such instance in the last few weeks. It’s tiring and bothersome.

Here’s the fun part, the experience today took me to somewhere I hadn’t been. When I left I had nine percent of my phone battery and I needed to use that for the map. Also, I was running low on gas.

I worried about a scenario where my phone died, and then I had to improvise a fueling strategy. I bet you can’t even buy a paper map anymore. Lewis and Clark explored the continent with more resources than I had today. They’d be proud of how I overcome the adversity. It involved getting to the interstate, choosing the correct direction, avoid the interchanges to other highways, and then guess where my station of choice is located, which is one or two exits down from the house.

I made it to the station with 50-some miles in the tank. I got home with two percent of my phone’s battery.

The Smith Zoo and Nature Center got a member today, this cute little box turtle.

Last month this frog, a big chonky specimen, stopped by for a while.

Before the frog, we heard from a noisy fox for a few nights in a row.

In between the frog and the turtle, the reptile wing was completed by two visits from a 4- or 5-foot rat snake, twice. (Not pictured, for snake reasons.)

The frog I escorted to some woods. The turtle moseyed it’s way off all by itself. I took the snake away the first time, and then two or three days later it came back. I annoyed and startled it off. If it comes back again I’m going to herd it into a bin and drive it to the woods, some miles from the house. Maybe I’ll drive him around in a circle for a while first, to dissssssorient him.

Splashed around in the pool today, and then I did some swimming. It was another day of 1,000 yards. Three of those in the last week. So I’m going to up the distance next time. Because, I thought, when I’d finished, That was easy.

And later in the evening I thought, Maybe it wasn’t.

Of course, the only thing I’ve eaten today was a bowl of granola this morning.

Now I just have to remember how to use the underwater camera again. Not every button’s purpose has been memorized by my thumb and forefinger. I guess I should use it more.

May 24

Every item achieved — though there were only a few

I did that thing this afternoon where you leave the house in order to accomplish a series of goals. I believe this has a name, but it escapes me. Whatever it may be, I bundled up three items together, because they were more-or-less convenient to the route.

First, I drove a short distance to a place that repairs cameras, for I have one in need of repair. You fill out the form and get a standard reply: mail your camera to the address below. Serendipitously, their office was only a half hour away. Cut out the middleman, I say. So I found myself in a nondescript industrial center, you know the type. The map got me close, and a second try got me a bit closer, still. I asked some guys hanging out around their office about the address and they had no idea what I was talking about. This is an area for work, and not personal investment. And most of the work from the many companies leasing space, you imagine, is done off-site. This is a place for morning meetings, day old donuts and misapplied Tony Robbins quotes. And sales reports. You know the sort.

So I dropped off the camera, and then visited a nearby retail store, a giant place named after an object that is used to test accuracy. Granted, it was the middle of a work day, but that place looked and felt dead. Circuit City dead. Open, but unaware of it’s demise. The only thing that wasn’t there was a scent of musty despair. And some items on shelves. And employees. The last three times I’ve been in one of these stores it felt like that, but it could be a question of timing.

I found the thing I wanted, thanks website, but decide it wasn’t what I wanted, so I left.

And then I went to the grocery store. I needed to get some granola and, of course, once I’ve found one I like they seemed to have stopped carrying it. This is the height of first world problems, hilarious in its predictability. There was also a small list of other things we needed, Ketchup, aluminum foil, corn meal and the like. And this probably says as much about our house as possible, grated cheese was on the list twice.

When we consolidated our houses when we married, we had a lot of extra things. Each of us had a house full of stuff, of course, and in some respects we had more than one copy of things. Somehow, our two houses became stocked like three homes. When it came to consolidating refrigerators we had five or six different canisters of the grated cheese. (She brought most of it.) It took ages to use it all, and we still laugh about it. I’m sure that’s why it was on the shopping list at the top and bottom. I only purchased one container, because we don’t need surplus everything.

I got home in time for a bike ride. My lovely bride was off for a ride with a friend and I decided to ride over to the friend’s house with her. I just needed a recovery ride, anyway after several hours in the saddle yesterday.

The science is still up in the air, but the suggestion is that the benefit is minimal, though people do feel better after the effort, which is meant to be short and low-intensity. They are meant to be almost casual, flat. Zone 1 or Zone 2, with a reasonably high cadence. Easy. You’re not stressing yourself.

It should be so, I’ve read, that you wind up feeling almost guilty about how easy you went.

Let me tell you about trying to stay in Zone 1 or Zone 2 when you’re following someone in Zone Infinity over here.

She gets in her aero bars, puts her nose in the wind and will drop you, or me, in a hurry.

Anyway, they went off one way and I doubled back for home. It was a 15-mile recovery ride, one where I found myself sprinting through intersections because it felt good. I blame her for that, somehow.

And so here is one of the views I saw along the way.

Tomorrow, I’ll just go for a swim.

Jan 24

More presents!

This evening we wrapped up our last Christmas holiday of the season. The god in-laws (just go with it) host us every year. Two empty-nesters are at the center of a house of 15. There are presents. There is lasagna. There are many photographs. It’s a nice time.

Before that, though, it was errands! An oil change! Clothes shopping! Grocery shopping! Lunch! And so on!

I visited Target for the first time in … I don’t recall the last time I was at a Target, to be honest. More than six months. Close to a year? Maybe a year? Anyway, not much has changed at Target. Middle of the day on a Friday after the holidays is a good time to be there, even in one of those stores that feels a little old and tired.

One of the self checkout stations had just … had enough.

There’s a lot to consider here. Is it the neatly creased paper? The crumpled part of the paper? The frowny faces? The target in “broken”? That it says broken?

I think it is the crying frowny face. One is sad, but the other is in tears. There are two levels to the upset nature of things at Target, and that hits home while you’re buying socks at the next self checkout.

Near the house, the line crews are doing line work. It’s a cold day to be in a cherry picker.

At the last Christmas of the year all of the kids presents were a hit. My lovely bride nailed it again. One of the little boys bought me a present. He’s five, and thinking of others. It’s a toy dinosaur excavation kit. When he comes over next time, maybe he’ll help me uncover the bones inside the “fossil.”

Another one of the kids wrapped a present for me — a really awesome mug. You’re just touched when the young’uns think of you.

And the lasagna. First generation recipe. I just sit in the corner and discretely eat as much as I can. That brings this year’s three Christmases to a close with seconds.

Dec 23

Marginally productive, for a Wednesday

After a morning spent doing work stuff, I went downstairs to ride the bike. This would be ride three this week on Zwift. I did two short rides Monday, then last night’s projects got away from me. So I was going to ride long today. I am trying to ride all of the stages in the game, which is something I started last year. I’m almost there!

And so today I was riding Surrey Hills, in London, when I hit the wrong button. The game let’s you do a lot of things as you ride. You can send messages to other riders, you can change the “camera’s” perspective of your avatar. You can take screen grabs and more. The later is how I get the images I sometimes share here. (And I won’t do that as much this year, promise.)

Another thing you can do is hang a U-turn. When you do that you end the route. So there I was, halfway through it when I hit the wrong button. Human error. But there were too many other things I wanted to do today.

First, after a late light lunch, because I did get in 25 miles, I got cleaned up and set out to take on the world. Things to do! Items to scratch off the list!

I took out the garbage. Third time I’ve been to the inconvenience center in the last week, I think. Then, I visited one of the local hardware stores. This is a small place. A mom and pop place. An everyone talks to you place. A no-one-rushes-you-at-quitting-time place. In the back corner I found some cotton rope, which I need for an upcoming project. And then, just to mess with the guy, I asked about the zip ties.

He told me where they were. I looked them over and then said, Nah. You don’t seem to have the industrial strength version I’m looking for. Maybe, I said as I arched an eyebrow while staring at the rope next time.

And then I got my haircut. Clumsy woman, but at least I still have both of my ears. I thought she was going to take my eye, and it wasn’t even when she was attacking the waviest part of my hair. But she was nice. She’s over Christmas music. No need for the standards at Halloween in her book. She likes Prince. She told me about trying to understand “Raspberry Beret” as a kid. She started telling me the story about asking her mother about the lyrics. But I don’t know this woman, or her mother. Am I supposed to ask about this? Prince, I said, was a clever one, and I left it at that.She still goes to the mall for her Christmas shopping. (Is that a thing people do?) I was hoping for some last minute tips, but instead I heard about her brother who is an expert at guessing about what’s inside each present. It was all a blur. They don’t waste a lot of time on a guy’s haircut. No need, really.

Come to think of it, she didn’t even show me the back of my head via the customary handheld mirror.

Be right back.

OK, it is still there.

And almost every task of the day was achieved! Things put off until today were successfully addressed! If I could do that two more days in a row we’d have momentum.

Sounds stressful.

What else is still hanging around? This brief snippet of a video that I shot earlier this week, but haven’t shared yet.

This is the 20th installment of We Learn Wednesdays. I’ve been riding my bike across the county to find the local historical markers. Including today’s installment, we’ll have seen 39 of the markers in the Historical Marker Database. This one marks a 19th century building.

It is appropriate that there’s only wonderful, and generic, National Register plaque. I can find almost nothing about the house or its original owner, John G. Thackeay.

It was built as residence and store. It features three stories in a T-shape, and parapet chimneys. There are transom lights, broad pilasters and paneled shutters. The Greek revival style building went up in 1847.

It could be that this wasn’t John G. Thackeay’s place. There’s a John G. Thackray that lived in the area during that time. The dates, at least, make sense. But in the marker database, and some ancient county document that’s been uploaded to the web, they use the E spelling.

Thackray, though, was listed as a merchant in the 1860 census. His wife and four daughters were there. Two teachers, a hat maker and a servant were listed at his address. In the 1870 census, his last, Thackray is listed as a retired merchant. This house was a story, maybe that’s our guy.

He was laid to rest about a mile away, and almost all of his family is buried there as well. Today, his place is a store again. Hardwoods and carpeting.

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

Dec 23

Hey, that’s a Friday

I took the garbage to the convenience center Tuesday because, of course, there is no waste removal service in our neighborhood despite the two companies that send trucks up and down the road to visit their customers, our neighbors, every week. And so I do it the old fashioned way, by carrying things seven miles across town in my leather-interior car.

This is at least only a once-a-week exercise. It could go longer, but I’m not trying to ruin my chariot, or funkify its old car smell. Only this week I neglected to clean out the refrigerator on Tuesday. It would have been the sensible time to do so, just before loading up the car. But I did not. Which means it still needed to be done. And since we’re talking about it today, that means I did it this morning.

Removing some old things was fast. Looking for expiration dates might have been the biggest part of it. But by then I was invested, and so I might as well clean the refrigerator. Also it needed it.

There are many sections to our fridge. The freezer is on the bottom, and that has taken some getting used to after most of a lifetime with the freezer on top. Though we recently had a seven-year experience with a side by side, and that seemed to work out OK, even as it did feel a bit small. The point, I suppose, is that I am mentally agile enough to accept a radical change in my frozen foodstuff paradigm.

Inside the refrigerator section, there are three drawers. One for fruit and one for vegetables. Each is about half the width of the fridge. Beneath them both is a third drawer. We keep all of our cold hard cash in there. Previously it was just hard cash, but now it is cold. And also the bacon. The bacon is in that drawer, almost as valuable as the currency and one is definitely hiding the other.

Above the three drawers is the main section. Big items, your milk carton sized stuff, fit there nicely. Above that, there are two more shelves. One is rather small, but seems a custom fit to hold all of the last in crypto technology. And another is a medium size. It is full of my lovely bride’s breakfast and snacks and also some various cheese varieties. These cheeses are outcast from the door cheeses, which will hobnob with condiments, but not all of their dairy brethren. And, of course, the butter has sequestered itself. Snobby, churned product that it is.

And so I cleaned some shelves. And then I took the one bag from the refrigerator chore to the inconvenience center.

Somehow all of this took two hours.

And I just wanted to ride my bike. Last nice day for a while, and all. Probably the last nice opportunity for the year. Because soon there are the many holiday events and here comes the wind and rain and precipitous dip in temperatures and already I’m riding in two or three layers and full fingered gloves. All of which makes it a little more difficult to reach my phone and get the camera app open when I see random images I’d like to capture for no reason whatsoever, which is definitely one of the points of my bike rides.

Not too much longer after that I had a flat. I was only seven miles in, but that meant the end of the ride. It meant the end of the ride because, for some reason, the universe will not allow me to fix a flat and keep on going. There is always, always, always some reason that it’s over. I’ve learned to not fight it.

So I sent a message to my lovely bride that I had a flat and I would be replacing that tube and then limping back home. This, of course, leads to the hilarious four-message sequence where I get to assure her that I’m fine and I can change a tire and it does not require two of us, or her coming to get me, but definitely we should book an Uber Ultra, just in case.

Removed the rear wheel from the bike frame. I pulled the leaky tube from the tire and wheel. I inspected the tire. A little sliver of metal had worked its way through my Gatorskin tire, a heavy duty tire designed to prevent flats. And probably they do! How can I prove a false positive?

So I pulled that little bit of metal out of the radial and reached into my pocket for a spare tube and mounted it on the tire. It only take a few moments to do all of this. Before you know it, you’re getting an extra arm workout from trying to inflate the tire with the portable hand pump. That takes just about the same amount of time. But, soon, I’m back on the road. I thought: I could just keep going. But, no, the universe. And, also, I am now only down to one spare. So I turned around to head for home.

Not two miles away there’s a four-way stop. And a guy there decided he would like to almost hit me as I took my turn through the intersection. A woman was walking by and saw it and she was aghast.

“That idiot almost hit you!”

Somehow, the only thing that came to mind was, It happens every day.

In the seven miles between replacing the tire and the house, I had to stop and reinflate that tube five times. It seems the Presta valve was failing. And so going back home was the right move.

And I only got two more ridiculous close passes along the way.

Happens every day.

Safely back home, I started some laundry. And then, I started a fire.

The only problem being that now all of my clothes are clean or are being cleaned, except for what I am wearing, which smells like smoke.

The fire pit was worth it, though. We had a nice time. And then we had an even better time with s’mores. Haven’t made those in years. Which is probably how long we’ve had those marshmallows. They were sticking together in the bag, and to the bag. But put them over an open flame and they behaved just as they should.

And, now. I am grading things. This will be the beginning of the last big push of the semester. A little more grading this weekend. The final grades to be delivered early next week and then final scores tabulated for the semester. This is momentum.

But, first, the Barbie movie.

Later: That was fun.