Indiana


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.


21
Apr 21

Just … why?

Woke up to this site this morning.

It gets better.

And if I double-check the calendar …

Yep, April 21st. We’re all fools.

It melted off by afternoon and, hey, it’ll help make things greener. Which would be a nice thing to see at this date in the year.

At least the heartier wild flowers are making an appearance.

These were covered in snow just a few hours ago.

If you stay there long enough, and it is quiet enough, and you are still and listen enough, it’s obvious they are as bemused as we are.

Next week it’ll be … who knows what it’ll be.


15
Apr 21

Let’s go back in time

I had a fine meeting with a lovely gentleman yesterday. And that meeting has somehow carried over into this afternoon. But at least the company is nice. And there a few emails and my computer froze in a way that took some doing to remedy and, finally and importantly, I had to write a letter of recommendation for a star student. And if nothing else today was good I hope that letter was.

And then I went into the television studio and watch the sports folks put together two nice little shows and then sat back and watched the seniors run things and wondered, not for the first time, why we let them graduate just as they are really coming into their own.

There are always leaders, of course. And there are always people willing to take useful information from them and they all have agency and they work together, but if you get to see people grow in those important years, you really see some visions come together. It is, I think, the confluence of knowing what they want to do next and understanding how to do it. It’s the transition from commodity to normal good, the maturation from student to professional.

And that’s when we send them out into the world. Why can’t we keep them two or three more years? The things we could accomplish if they all enrolled in grad school.

Let’s look back to this same date, 106 years ago. Clear your calendar, you’ll be here for a few minutes.

I was going to pick a different year, but this story was a big part of why I went with 1915. This child had ambition, argumentation and no problem giving dad the slip.

I enjoy the earnestness of the story, and the eloquence of the child.

“I have been wading in the dusty road and have had a dood time,” he said. And his shoes looked it.

Dood time is probably a typesetting error rather than a phrase of the day, and I’m sorry I’ve ruined that for you. Anyway, H.R. Barrow only shows up a few times in the paper beyond the performance of his professional duties. He gets bought out in 1917. A month or two earlier he rolled his horse-drawn hearse after a service. Maybe that’s why he left the business. The new guys, local boys done good, advertised motorized ambulances. And in the fall of 1915, just when Mr. Barrow’s friends were tiring of hearing about Jack’s wandering adventures, the roof of their house caught on fire.

What’s with that kid?

No word on whatever became of Jack as he experienced the roaring twenties as a teen and so on. We’re thinking he had a dood time, though. We must always think this of young, adventurous, Jack. Young, adventurous — and have we ruled out pyromaniac? — Jack.

Also on the front page, the Dixie Highway plans:

You don’t often hear about this, by name, anymore. The road was going to stretch from the south side of Chicago to Miami. Then Michigan got added, within a week. The designers wanted to serve as many towns as possible, so there’s an eastern route and a western route. Some of these roads are still in service today. Some parallel the modern U.S. Highway 31, or run near the I-65 corridor or the old Federal Highway, U.S. Route 1. In Kentucky it’s still called the Dixie Highway. And the part of it that runs through this part of the world is something you endure to reach Indianapolis.

On the inside of the paper there is more on these new fangled things, highways:

You have to remember that Eisenhower’s famed (and brutal) coast-to-coast journey was still four years in the future. This is very cutting edge stuff, these highways.

It would be another century, December 2015, before the first interstate finally opened here, however. Take that as a statement for whatever it is worth.

This is front page news, and if you can’t see it, then you’re not ready for community journalism in any era.

Lauron and Rosa had five children, including Henry. At least three of them lived and died here. Henry passed in 1949.

Also on the front page:

A quick search doesn’t give game-by-game results from the early part of the 20th century, but the team went 2-7 that year, so it’s a safe bet they might not have one both of those games. Which is a shame, because the team might have been bad, but they looked great.

How do you lose games when you’ve got swag like that?

Now here’s a term you don’t hear anymore:

Blind tigers, or blind pigs, are carnival-style promotions. “Come in and see the blind tiger!” By which the person meant, “I’m giving away free hooch.” You assume there was a donation somewhere, or you paid handsomely for a bar stool or a bad sandwich or something.

Indiana went dry in 1918, two years ahead of the 18th Amendment kicking in. So maybe the local area was dry. Maybe it was just bootlegging for the sake of bootlegging.

Hurst, I learned from a later edition of the paper, was …

a son of Mack Hurst the man who blew up the house on the corner of Seventh and Morton streets with dynamite, killing himself and daughter. Young Hurst has made the same threat against his wife for disclosing his guilt of the blind tiger charge.

Bootlegging couldn’t have been that good to him. He couldn’t afford a lawyer! Nevertheless, he’s threatening to blow people up. Real pride of Indiana, that guy.

Meanwhile, part of an ad on page two. Countless men!

And 1.4 million tires. How is it that they have the units sold, but not the customers? Let’s do the basic math here. If everyone bought a complete set, that’s 369,970 customers. Of course it wasn’t four-apiece. Remember, the roads and the highways and byways still left something to be desired. There were a lot of flats is what I’m saying. It could be that we are talking 1.4 million customers. Which is still not … countless.

But “countless” sounds good, especially when it’s right next to a number.

Norine Dodds was, I believe, a teacher. I’m not sure what became of her.

And I want you to notice that they just bought a volleyball. The net, you imagine, they had to save up for, special. Or maybe they made their own. But, in another example of how their time was similar to ours, but not ours, the sport of volleyball had only been around for about 20 years. Basketball, just four years older, was thought by some businessmen and older YMCA members to be too vigorous. One mustn’t work up a sweat. So a man named William Morgan designed the game to be a combination of basketball, baseball, tennis, and handball. And here, when the young ladies at the local high school put their pennies together to obtain a ball, the game was still in its relative infancy. The rules weren’t uniformly formalized for another 14 years. Someone in the Philippines, while Nodds was writing this little blurb, was developing the spike.

Sorta makes you wonder how these kids went around with their new volleyball, and what they wound up doing with it.

Wanda Mottier was the daughter of David Mottier, who ran the botany program at IU for about 40 years. He’d also done his undergraduate work here and is regarded as one of the first people to advocate for preserving the woodland campus aesthetic.

If that’s true it was an excellent choice on his part. I submit as evidence these four photographs I took just outside of our building during a seven-minute break between tasks.

Mottier was on the faculty until the late 1930s.

Maybe somewhere in these woods there’s a tree he knew.

Maybe somewhere out there we could find leaves and shade we owe to him.

Also, this same paper notes that tomorrow, April 16th (albeit in 1915) was Arbor Day. The paper demanded that you plant a tree. We mark Arbor Day this year on April 30th.

Anyway, his daughter, Wanda, would later marry a doctor and they later retired from Indianapolis to Florida in the early 1960s. She passed away down there and is buried up here.

I found her Florida home on Google Maps. Nice, humble little post-war subdivision. Three beds, two baths, built in 1958, meaning they built it or moved in soon after. Plenty of room in the backyard to pass around a volleyball. There’s a giant oak tree out front today. The tree has a wonderful looking tire swing on it.

In my mind Wanda planted that tree and thought of her dad whenever she looked out the two picture windows of her home.