Oct 23

Just a bike video

Beautiful day, pleasant ride, and some half decent footage. I can think of no better way to celebrate the weekend.

Happy weekend to you, too!

Oct 23

Things that are less expensive than other things

A man came to the front door around noon. We had invited him to come over for a visit. We wanted him to look at something that wasn’t working right. We’ve had another guy come over and check out this problem, but that first guy would be described as flighty if he was a teenager. He’s apparently got quite the reputation as such. Seems like everyone that knows him says he’s good, but … well … ya know.

What I know is that he’s run afoul of Smith’s First Rule of Economics: Don’t make it hard for me to spend my money with you.

Anyway, this guy shows up, just as I’m working on a particularly chewy PB&J. Isn’t that always the way? I get to talk with the guy because my lovely bride is on a work call. So we go see about the problem, which we are now testing methodically. Bit by bit, we’re testing the parts, eliminating areas where the problem might be. And we’d gotten to the critical segment of all of this, after several weeks of tinkering and trying and testing and being frustrated. We decided we’re down to either a mechanical problem or human error.

The guy today found and fixed the problem.

Now, I invite you, dear reader, to guess which one it was, mechanical problem or human error.

Sure, human error is a bit embarrassing, but it’s a lot less expensive than having to replace parts.

Anyway, the guy unscrewed two panels, played around with some buttons and then gave us an education. We’ll probably be calling him next spring for some more work. Smith’s First Rule of Economics (1994) has two sides to it, of course, and someone can make it easy for me to be a customer, if they want to.

My lovely bride had a long run today, and she was trying a new fuel, but she determined pretty quickly that it didn’t work. So she texted me, asking if I could bring her some of her other fuel. I had a hunch this might happen. I was going to go for a bike ride, but I waited around a while, just to see how she was faring. So it was easy for me to catch up to her when she sent me a message. When I found her on her run route I was able to do a cool thing, reaching into my pocket and putting two packs of Sport Beans without slowing down.

I felt so pro.

Then I set out for a nice early evening ride. It was one of those great rides, the sort where you don’t have a plan, a route or even an idea. You make spontaneous turns and see what you see. Given my late start I didn’t get too radical, this time, but the views were lovely.

I wound up doing a longer version of one of our regular routes, because, again, the sun was ducking low. But! I did it in reverse! Which I haven’t done before. This is about 20 miles into the route, scenic enough, but between the two most interesting parts of the ride.

The first interesting thing was this, which happened about 16 miles into the ride, at about 17 or 18 miles an hour. That sucker just snapped right in two. It was there, and then suddenly the saddle was shifting beneath me.

That’s not supposed to happen. I have 13,345 miles on that saddle, and I tend to ride on the rivet, so I guess structural fatigue was going to figure into it eventually.

I was able to fit the larger, and more important, part of the saddle back onto its railings so I could ride, somewhat gingerly, the last nine miles or so back to the house.

The second interesting thing was that, as I slowed down because, you know, I broke my seat, I lost my race with daylight. I have a great headlight for my bike, and it did me a lot of good sitting in the house. (I didn’t expect to be riding in the gloaming — which was great! I should do that a lot more! — and so I was getting by with my excellent night vision and encyclopedic knowledge of every bump and pothole on the last few miles of road.)

There are two stop signs in the last two miles of this route. Stopping on a broken bike saddle means it will fall off the rails. You have to re-seat it, delllllicately get back on the thing to keep it in place, and time all of this with a bit of cross traffic. Small delays, but they add up between civil and astronomical dusk.

The last mile, a perfectly empty road, was basically dark.

The important thing, I got back in time for spaghetti. And, it turns out, we have a stash of extra saddles in our bike room. Who has an inventory? We do. Why? I don’t know, but trying three new setups will be less expensive than having to go buy a brand new one.

Oct 23

Happy Friday 13th

Dates only stand out to me when I have something big scheduled for the day. I’m a day-of-the-week sort. I don’t think I always was. Once, in the dimly lit and fuzzy-around-the-edges Before Times, I might have been the sort that operated by dates. But if I know anything about a schedule now it’s because I have routinely reminded myself what day of the week it is, or looked at a screen which can tell me definitively.

I don’t believe this has hurt me in any way. Not a lot of missed meetings or anything like that. But I just don’t think much about the dates. And so it was late, today, before I even realized it was the 13th. Which is odd, because I had a pretty strong, I mean celestially strong, fix on Thursday being the 12th.

Who can say why these things are the way they are. You might argue that it’s an avoidance of something or other, but I think of it as an acceptance of what is. And what it is, at this moment, is the weekend. For this knowledge I thank the egg timer in my head that is forever counting the days of the week, and not simply “the dates.”

We enjoyed a late afternoon bike, just an hour jaunt around the usual jaunty loop. For me, the main roads went like this: fine, then fast, and then slow, then falling-behind-bad, then the don’t-wait-for-me pronouncement which usually comes with falling behind. And then there was the road where I thought I put on a Herculean surge, but it wasn’t, not really. After that I got dropped again and decided to add seven or eight more miles, for fun. So I turned my hour or so into a 26 mile ride.

I have a new idea for a video I want to shoot on the bike, but I don’t feel comfortable enough to do it just now. My wrist still hurts a tiny bit from falling on it last weekend and I didn’t really want to contort it for the experiment.

But that meant I had plenty of time for shadow selfies. My shadow had a pretty decent ride.

During the last little bit, right through here, the sun started losing it’s punch. Between the weakening sun, the moisture on my skin and the breeze, you could tell that all of the changes are coming. Fight it, ignore it, acknowledge it, doesn’t matter. A rain system this weekend will be pushed through by a cold front and that’ll be that.

Which means sleeves and pants (and gloves!) on the bike, so I can still enjoy afternoons finding trees that hang out over roads for photos like this.

But not tomorrow. Not in the rain. Maybe on a partly sunny, breezy Sunday afternoon. Or a similar Monday. Highs approaching 59 degrees both days. Huzzah.

I kid, of course. I’m going to be optimistic about this winter. First time in many years! I have resolved it so. I am going to be optimistic about the winter so I can enjoy the autumn. I am resolved.

This is my resolve.

Here’s the last video from the Queen + Adam Lambert show. I got a good eight days of videos out of this, and so we’ll close the week with the full encore. “Ay-Oh,” “We Will Rock You,” “Radio Ga Ga” and We Are The Champions. Whereas there was someone sitting near us who was surprised and excited that they worked “Bohemian Rhapsody” into the main set, no one in the building was surprised by the encore. Pleased, sure. But you could almost hear people clicking through the catalog in their head. Everyone knows what’s coming here. Everyone knew they had gotten a great show, and they were pleased they’d heard so many of their favorites. (I only missed out on one song, but that’s understandable.)

None of the songs in the encore are among my favorites, but they can’t all be on your short list, and it was still great to see Roger Taylor and Brian May blast and bang their way through the standards. It’s fan service at it’s finest, and there’s nothing in the world wrong with that.

Queen + Adam Lambert have 17 U.S. dates remaining on this leg of their tour. It’s a great show. If you are so inclined, get tickets. You’ll have a fun time. You don’t need the $1,000 tickets, either, to sing along and have all of the Queen memories.

Have a happy Saturday, the 14th!

Oct 23

Time for some weekend magic

I had one thing on my calendar today, write a letter. That turned into four things. Which isn’t that bad at all really. I managed to get two of them done, which is a shortcoming of some sort, somehow.

It all started with a trip to a pharmacy for flu shots and such. We arrived right on time. The woman that delivered the painful needle had done this before. Not that there is a mystery to the procedure, but amuses me that I can do this at a place where I can also buy Halloween props, passport photos and, right now, take part in “Big Hair Event,” getting $15 off when I spend $60 on select hair care products.

Apparently they also do allergy assessments, and the things you can buy off the shelf now is mind-boggling. Four different varieties of narcotics screening tests. Right there at eye level. Right where a pharmacist can see you reach for it.

“Harold, she took the cocaine test. Jot that down … ”

But you can go here to the side behind this we’re-kidding-ourselves-about privacy curtain and sit in two folding chairs and get your preventative shots. Pick your arm, take your bandage, now have a nice weekend.

I suspect in 10 or 15 years we’ll be doing some of the smaller organ transplants over in the beverage cooler section of the store. We may come to need to explore that model.

Anyway, the lady that stabbed me was fast and practiced and it stung. But she was quick. She was did-you-depress-the-plunger? quick. I’ve since spent the day rubbing my bicep and hoping I don’t get any mild side effects over the weekend.

(Update: No real side effects, except for the arm.)

This afternoon I had to write a letter of recommendation for a former student. I have a good success rate for recommendation letters, but this one was different. Big deal letter. Extra details requests. I’ve been humming the attention to detail mantra all week to students, and so I took my own advice. This is not a note to be dashed off, no. This took time. Multiple drafts. It took almost all afternoon, somehow, and I hope I put all of the sentences in the right order, but that was the biggest thing on today’s list.

A propane guy came out to test a propane tank for us this afternoon, so I had to show him that, and he was kind enough to give me an education. Super nice fellow, he explained everything, patiently sat through my series of simile questions, answering them all again. He ran his test. He said this takes three minutes, but the paperwork takes more than 20. And, sure enough, just under a half hour later he came back. No leaks. Empty tank. And we discussed all the many procedures and this was a productive hour or so, really.

And then I said to him, I said, “You’re in propane. Do you know anything about … grills?”

You see, ours has been on the fritz. I laid this out in just such a way that he couldn’t resist a quick check. We went to the backyard, I dramatically whipped the cover of the grill and he glanced down at the propane bottle we had. Big label from the company on it. Being in the industry, our guy of course knew that company. Different company, but he complemented them. And then he tested out some things on our grill.

Now, a five-burner propane grill isn’t the most sophisticated thing in the world. The problem was that this one worked, right up until the time we moved, and it hasn’t worked since. You can open the valve, but it isn’t making it to the burners. I guess the real problem is I haven’t tried to solve the problem. And, I learned today, you can also smell the propane escaping.

The hose that attaches to the propane bottle is crimped, I learn, so there’s no adjustment there. And it’s crimped on the other side, where it meets the grill. The problem is either the hose in between, or something downstream.

He fiddled with it a bit, taught me a term I’ve already half forgotten, if only because the conditions that bring about the problem were difficult for me to understand. He reached into his belt holster, pulled out the trusty Leatherman and made two small adjustments.

Then we test it. The grill fired right up. He figured it just got jostled too much in the move, but now we can cook with propane. I thanked him most sincerely. It was a small thing, took probably three minutes, but it was a big thing. I invited him back for steaks. We have a grill again. We don’t have to buy a grill again.

I feel well satisfied about the customer service, and i want to purchase propane and propane-related products from his company in the near future.

The other two things I didn’t get to today, well … they’ll be there this weekend.

How about a few more songs from Wednesday night’s Queen + Adam Lambert concert in Baltimore? I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but this was their tour opener in North America. And that is part of why the first videos I uploaded have been enjoying such big success in terms of page views. Queen fans are excited for this tour. And I think they’re going to have a good time.

This is “Killer Queen,” a cabaret-style power pop song that, in 1974, set the tone for everything that was to come for the band.

Let’s stop on that for a moment. This song was released 49 years ago, next week. It reached number two in the UK Singles Chart and number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming Queen’s first US hit. It still rocks. Lambert gives it a little pep. And, though he’s been singing with the band for a decade now, this is the sort of thing that should win people over if they haven’t already come to appreciate what he can do.

“Killer Queen” was platinum in the U.K. and certified as a double-platinum single in the U.S.

“A Kind of Magic” was the title track of Queen’s 1986 album, and this song was the third single from the project. This is the quasi soundtrack from the first Highlander film, and this song was the closing theme of the movie.

The single reached number three in the UK Singles Chart, creased the top ten across much of Europe, and peaked at 42 on the US Billboard Hot 100. Here’s the Rolling Stone review of the record:

… Dominated by barren slabs of synthscape and guitarist Brian May’s orchestral fretwork, A Kind of Magic sounds like hard rock with a hollow core: it’s heavy plastic.


The rest of Queen is coasting as well on a high-tech glide. Brian May tosses off virtuoso clichés while drummer Roger Taylor and bassist John Deacon plow through the electronic woofs and tweets. “We Are the Champions,” from 1977, still sounds as insistent as a jackboot compared to this album’s boastful closer, “Princes of the Universe,” which veers into unintentional self-parody. The world-is-my-oyster lyrics seem more lazy than arrogant, and the music is a mechanical thud rather than a metalized threat. This band might as well put some pomp back in its rock. Its members are never going to make it as dignified elder statesmen.

It isn’t their best record, to be sure, but it’s a concept album paired up to a film school student’s script. I mean, a really weird and good movie needed music, so here’s Queen.

The author of that review, Mark Coleman, was in the fifth year of his writing career at that point. Happily, he’s still out there as a working freelance writer. The band is still out there commanding sold out venues. It’s nice to see everyone thriving, almost 40 years on.

I can only wish they’d played my favorite song from that record — not that there was any expectation of that. Even still, it was a great show from some of rock ‘n’ roll’s dignified elder statesmen.

Sep 23

Feeling foresaken by the fusion ball

Another gray day, gray all day. I’m tired of it. Oh, sure, when it started last weekend it was novel. There was rain in it for everyone. The rain stopped on Monday. We’ve enjoyed a heaping helping of blah since, notching just one sunny day in the last eight. I thought I’d left all of that behind, not found it in September.

These are the choices we make. I took some time today to make sure that was not my prevailing mood while grading things. I am appreciative of the ability to take a little while to do that. Feedback should be positive not sour, dour and dank. My grim feelings about featureless skies shouldn’t be reflect in feedback.

In the late afternoon, or early evening, my lovely bride returned from a series of campus meetings and told me to go ride my bike. Maybe the mood was on my face, or in my shoulders. So I did head out for a brief spin. Nowhere to go, nowhere to be, didn’t even have a route planned beyond “Turn left.” And so it was that I found myself riding around on a mixture of new and newly familiar roads. All of which just means it took me an extra few minutes to get lost.

I turned back because the conditions meant it would be dark 90 minutes before necessary. Indeed, I rode through a drizzle for a half mile. It looked worse from a distance, darkening the route before me, but it was merely annoying when I got into it. Also, every crazy, harried, hurried person with a car was on the road this evening. Fridays and full moons and all of that. Sometimes, you can just feel it, a stored up ball of everyone else’s angst. Every muffler sounds a little more ragged, all of the passes are just a little too close, the intersections feel a tiny bit sketchier. So I dropped off the busier road and soft-pedaled my way back to the house through a neighboring series of neighborhoods.

And I ran into this runner along the way.

And that’s it for the week. Let the weekend commence. I hope there’s been something mildly entertaining for you here this week. We’re at 4,800-plus words, 24 photos, nine videos, some decent music and a nod to colonial-era history in the last five days. Can’t say I’m not trying.

Have a great weekend, enjoy wrapping up September and break in October in the non-pumpkin spice way of your choice.