Indiana


22
Jun 22

Pick up some books

And how was your summer solstice? The day was 14 hours, 55 minutes and 28 seconds here. And there’s always that guy who just can’t wait to point out that the days are doing nothing but getting shorter until December.

Around here? We hate that guy.

But we love the long days. If you stepped outside last night at 10:19 and looked west, moments before nautical twilight, it looked like this.

No camera tricks, no Photoshop treatments. That’s just the view after 10 p.m. in June.

If I ever say anything here is better than that, I am, in fact, making a secret, coded cry for help.

Since we talked about books last, I have recently finished you might be interested in. First was The Last of the Doughboys by Wall Street Journal reporter Richard Rubin.

In the earliest days of the 21st century Rubin started interviewing the surviving military veterans from World War I, all of them centenarians. He wraps his interviews around rich context about the Tin Pan Alley music of the era, and his own tours of France and a general historical overview.

Those stories are as uniques as the men and women’s experiences. Some of them colorful and sharp as they were in 1918. Some of the details had become foggy over the course of their long lives, as you might expect.

Some parts of the book are about some of the other parts of their lives. None of the people Rubin interviewed were a part of this experience, but that was up to chance and good fortune as much as anything.

I knew this particular story, but it is always surprising to think about it in the full context.

The crux of the book are those interviews, though, and memorializing those last veterans’ experiences. Rubin, in fact, had the chance to meet the last American survivor of the Great War. All of that is in the book. It’s a worthwhile read.

Now this one, Longitude by Dava Sobel. This book was a surprise hit, even for the author. She saw it go through 29 hardcover printings, translated into more than 20 languages and become a national and international bestseller. The 10th anniversary edition includes a pretty special foreword by Neil Armstrong.

Granted, the idea of a book about longitude seems like an important one. But it also seems like a daunting tome. How do you write an interesting book about invisible lines on a map? Sobel is about to show you. First, just enough of the technical to explain what she’s talking about, and why this is all so important.

And so now you know why this had been a problem for generations, and why the search for a solution was so important. As the book gets into that it quickly becomes obvious, even to land-lubbers, how most of the success of those pre-longitudinal sailors was about luck with skill. How anyone got to where they wanted to go before their supplies ran out is a mystery.

Then, we meet the people.

For whatever reason, when I opened the book I expected this to be a dense read, but, to Sobel’s great credit, it’s just about the most approachable text you can imagine. Give this a read, you’ll be pleased and surprised.


24
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.)
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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.


4
Jan 22

Of color and cats

We are in an idyllic moment of January, I suppose. The skies are clear. It won’t last long, but you don’t expect it at all, so you’re grateful for the moment. I often lament that I can handle the cold, because I’ll stay inside for most of it, just give me some blue skies. There aren’t a lot of those here, this time of year. The first half of December was surprisingly variable, but we’re in it now. And we’re in it until April. This is why I’m posting the #IndianaSkyStudy series on Instagram. Happily, as you’ll see in a moment, these last two days have thrown us for a loop. Yesterday and today I saw the sun for the first time here in almost three weeks. And, sure, part of the reason for that might be that we were gone for the better part of two weeks. You’d be correct in pointing that out.

I’d also be correct in noting the general overcastness of things here during that time. And that I did see the sun and the blue skies in the five states I was in during that time. Furthermore, I’d point out that I chose my words carefully above. And also, my site — my rules.

So it’s just a colorful post all around today, OK?

First, here is a colorful photograph that I took in Connecticut over the holidays. It’s here because who doesn’t like berries that you can’t eat in December?

It was sitting on my phone. I wanted to use it. I wanted to delete it. This is the deal I made with myself. Upload it late, and then get it out of here.

Speaking of late to uploading things, we have to do the weekly check in with the cats. They are the SEO experts in our house and they were telling me earlier today that I’m behind on the most successful feature here.

They are also the meow experts in our house, and when they talk, you’ve really no choice but to listen.

Anyway, Phoebe loves cozy blanket days. And what’s not to love about this?

She is, just so you know, completely covered by one blanket, while relaxing on top of another blanket, which is sitting on the sofa. These cats have it pretty good.

We’ve been back from our holiday travels for almost a week now and, soon, she’s going to get over her lack of cuddle angst.

Phoebe is also a fibber. She got plenty of cuddles while we were gone. She’s just turned into a “Pet me? Pet me. Pet me! PET ME!” monster. And to think, when we first got these two misfits she wanted nothing to do with me.

Do you ever wander what a pet is thinking? You should stop doing that. Poseidon would tell you that down that path lies madness.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned it, but on a weekend morning The Yankee and I actually sit down and have breakfast at the little bar in our kitchen. After she’s made eggs and put the custom cover back on top of the stove, Poseidon jumps on top of it and rolls around soaking up the ambient warmth. He tries to get under the cover a lot, too, which is a fun, and then frustrating, and then fun, and then again frustrating exercise. But he stays there until my little plate is done. And he waits patiently there while I wash all the dishes. And then he finally gets his moment. I pull out some leftover napkin and rub his face with it. He loves it. Can’t get enough of it. And lately, he’s posed for pictures with the napkin.

Sure, cat’s are programmed for routine, and they’re observant. And it’s probably because we’re sitting at the kitchen island bar that he knows which day he gets to play the dirty face game. But I like to think he’s glancing at a calendar every once in a while, trying to remember, “Is this the morning I get the napkin? Do I have to wait until tomorrow?”

See? Never wonder what your pets are thinking. Because suddenly they have schedules and agendas and then your mind wanders and it suddenly gets complex.

Since I complained about the gray skies, and mentioned we’ve enjoyed two clear days, I figured I should show you proof. (I do go on about the gray a fair amount, after all.) So here’s the rare and surprising early January we’re enjoying. This was from yesterday evening.

And this was the brilliant view when I walked into our building on campus this morning.

And though I’ve been back in the office just two days, and classes don’t start until next week, I still managed to be there after hours today. But I did catch a glimpse of a sunset you don’t typically get here in January. (Or February or March.)

Tomorrow might be clear too! And it’s supposed to snow on Thursday. So we’ve got all that going for us, I guess.


27
Aug 21

Downstream from here

It rained this afternoon. Less than 20 minutes of the wet stuff fell from the sky. Something between a trace and a measurable amount. Just long enough to make me stay at the office a few minutes more, you understand. I rode out this randomly appearing rain cloud with purpose, doing a computer networking test that I learned earlier in the day on an extra classroom.

By the time that chore was done the rain was gone. And the little creek that runs alongside the building looked like this.

There’s something about the limestone that’s all around the place that slows drainage. If the water can’t go into the soil it just rolls to wherever the terrain wants it to and, here, that means Spanker’s Branch and down into the underground system just after that last shot. In an appropriate number of hours or days I’ll be using this same water to clean up after dinner.

It’s comforting, really, knowing there is a cycle to this, and we have integrated a system into it.

Saying a thing like that, about the dishes, is just one short step from trying to assign a story to that particular bit of water. The happy bubbles, and all of that. At which point you’re simply anthrophomorizing dihydrogen monoxide.

“What’s this ‘you’ stuff, pal?”

You’re right. You’re right. Not one among you has ever wondered about the hopes and dreams of the water you use while doing the dishes. That is the most ambitious part of the water that comes into our house. How else to explain how it gets on the countertops, the cabinets, my shirt, under the dish drainer and everything else?

I got some under the drainer this evening. No idea how that happened.

We’re hitting the books again before the weekend begins. We’re looking at a few of the interesting bits from one of my grandfather’s magazines, the January 1954 edition of Popular Science. We started this particular magazine a few weeks ago now, and you can see the first ads if you click that previous link. Click the image below and you can enjoy the next nine photos and bring yourself great worth and merriment.

But if Popular Science doesn’t interest you, you can see the rest of the things I’ve digitized from my grandfather’s collection. There are textbooks, a school notebook and a few Reader’s Digests, so far. It’s a lot of fun.

Just like your weekend. Unless you’re getting rained on. Watch out for Ida.

I’m taking next week off here, but we’ll be back for more fun of this sort the following week. See you on Labor Day!


20
May 21

It must be the shoes — but probably not

I went for a run this evening. Just a short little mile and I am trying to decide if I’m mostly out of shape or if the shoes have already died. I’ve just calculated the mileage in them and … it’s definitely me.

I was hoping it was the shoes.

Anyway, at the top of this little run there’s a pine tree. I think it’s the closest one around.

By this point I have a complicated relationship with pines. You don’t see them much here, compared to their ubiquity at home. It’s a reminder. But just this month when I was visited family I was surrounded by them again and it was … underwhelming. And then there’s all the pine lumber in the garage that I have waiting on me.

Who knew a softwood could be so hard to figure?

Stuff I’ve put on some Twitter accounts I’m running at work. It’s just Twitter, but the content is interesting.

Before my run I sat on the deck. After my run I did that some more. And then after dinner I started working on a little project this evening. I’ll show you some of the finished work in the next days. It will be quite fashion forward. So many projects, so little time to complete them all.