Jun 21

Re-working an older project

You might recall I made this, last October.

The idea was I wanted something to hold the little card that opens unlocks doors in our building on campus. Pulling out my wallet every time was getting old. First off, this is wood, so it was easier to clean — when we were still concerned about such things — rather than my quality leather. Second, pulling the wallet out all the time was just getting taxing. Once someone snuck a peak at my driver’s license, just a casual can’t-help-but-see-it sorta thing and I decided there are limits to small talk.

So I needed something else. Well, I have a small stack of business card holders, but I wanted something I could just slip in the front pocket of jeans, so it needed to be a bit smaller. I wound up working up that thing you see above, and I wedged in four or five business cards, just to keep everything snug in there. And it served me well.

The only real problem was that I used the softest wood this side of pine, so I decided not to long after I took that photo, that I should probably seal it. What I applied yellowed almost right away. It wasn’t my favorite look. The problem with that is there are two possible treatments I used on it, and I don’t remember which one caused the yellowing. So now what?

Well, it sits in my pocket 98 percent of the time and no one has been around anyway since almost everyone else is working from home, so it wasn’t a big deal. But this week I decided to sand off that poly and put something else on it. So I sanded it raw with an 80-grit and then worked back up to 600. And then I put on some wood conditioner and, later, a dark stain and poly blend.

Only it didn’t take very well. So I went back for a second coat and applied it different, and it worked much better, aside from the inevitable human error. Because making mistakes is the only way I’ll really re-learn things like stain application that I’m sure I was taught in the seventh grade.

So I sanded it down again. Only this time I didn’t do it completely. I’m trying the shabby look. Why, I should put this on Pinterest.

I would, except I can’t seem to get my camera and lights to cooperate nicely today. But it doesn’t it look like something you’d inexplicably see on a shelf at Hobby Lobby?

Oh, look, this one is a bit better.

And in a week or two I’ll get tired of this shabby look and then do the stain and poly blend properly. Or at least better, and then retroactively justify the errors in the application process. (Take that extra little drip on the artisanal curve, I like that sloppy error!) At which point I will then probably jam the card holder in a pocket before it’s completely dry and ruin a pair of jeans.

Anyway, that’s what I did this evening, aside from pet needy cats.

How was your Wednesday?

Mar 21

Here’s a backward way toward hope

A year ago, today, was the day our university began it’s multi-campus shut down. That’s nine campuses, more than 100,000 students and at least two or three professionals, besides, spread out across an entire big state. It was a Wednesday, the Wednesday before spring break and they said everyone was going home and spring break would be two weeks and the situation would be re-assessed along the way.

And, look, a lot of us aren’t ready for retrospectives. I know I’m not interested in it just now, but I just want to say this one piece. A year ago, tomorrow, was my last day on campus for a while. I went in that evening to watch the sports guys wrap it up. Their sports director did a little monologue and he held his last meeting and there were tears. Students were graduating and realizing that it was very likely going to be not at all how they imagined. Well, what has been since, right?

Last March, right away, the entire IU system went to work on handling the most immediate tasks and planning a safer future. I had the opportunity to be a very, very small part of some of listening in to a slice of a portion of some of those plans as they pertained to my corner of things. It was fascinating. It was informative. It was frustrating. And, taken as a whole, there’s no mistaking it: Indiana University put every single one of their experts and their hardest working people on the job of doing this right.

Still, not everyone is back on campus, but we’re headed the right direction. I’ve been back full time since February and three and four days a week in the fall. The campus generally has a slow summer feel to it, and that’s been by design. Meanwhile, statewide, cases and hospitalizations are down. Vaccine uptake is increasing. IU is scheduling an in-person graduation for students in May and a fall term that’s more familiar than unusual.

Did her experts and staff work tirelessly to make the best of this? You’ve no idea. Did some of the top minds in their infectious disease and public safety fields go above and beyond for a full year? They won’t sing songs about those people, but they should. Did the university step up in ways big and small? The university distributed 290,000 masks at no cost. They built two labs to process their own Covid tests, up to 50,000 a week. We did everything but socially distance the storied buildings.

There were hiccups, I’m sure. Universities don’t pivot on a dime, and maybe no one realized until this past year how much that happens in giant operations is attributed to inertial motion. But what IU did is singularly impressive. This isn’t a retrospective, but it’s worth acknowledging that one thing. The university took care of her own.

And, somehow, they let me do programs like this …

I’m pushing 70 of those now. And it’s getting a tiny bit cheerier. Oh! Sweet hope!

And this speech from the president came out today, too. So petty of the White House trying to steal my thunder. But that’s OK. We’ll let them in this instance.

I also saw the saddest, sweetest note today. One of our former students, who is now on air in west Texas, got her first vaccine shot today, a year, almost to the day that her father passed away from Covid. What must that have been like for her? (She already had super powers, though.)

But this is what I’m really excited about.

We are one year into this and we are finally talking about the underprivileged and the rural communities. This state is sending out mobile vaccine units. Companies that are in the smallest towns you’ve never heard of are talking about getting in this fight. It took a year, but on the other hand, it only took a year. (It took less time. It took those places watching the big cities burn and then seeing the embers coming into their neighborhoods, and they started thinking about where their sleeves were in relation to their wrists and elbows.) In under a year, and we’re getting to the far flung places.

When I was in the third grade I developed chicken pox at my grandparents’ house in north Alabama. My grandmother, having raised tiny human beings before, suspected that’s what it was, anyway. And she took me to the pharmacy, the only medical concern in easy reach. The pharmacist there, non-plussed as he was by being asked to diagnose people who walked into his store, confirmed it and gave us the lotion, told us to stay away from anyone else and sent us on our way. That was three-plus decades ago. Last year an aunt and uncle got a Covid diagnosis at that same pharmacy. The closest hospital, where my aunt spent several days, is a 45-minute drive away on a good day. And that’s easy, compared to some of these places. Their little part of the world is hardly detached from the rest of us, but it can sure feel like it if you needed to see someone for health care, to say nothing of a specialist.

That we are already talking about these rural places at all, that medical experts and businesses are trying to figure this out, is a good thing. That different sectors of the economy are searching for a way to add more distribution points so that the people thought about the least can be addressed just like anyone else is a good development. Hope is where you place it. And don’t you agree we could use as much of that as we could get?

There’s a reason Shandy Dearth talked in our podcast about getting a vaccine so grandparents can safely hug their grandchildren again. Hope is where you place it.

In the studio for sports shows tonight. Tried a little something different for the gif. Who knows how this will end up.

The shows will end up just fine. They’re under good direction and I enjoy getting to watch them all work. And you can enjoy these particular episodes online tomorrow. I’ll share them here, I’m sure.

Mar 21

Upper arm still sore

But everything else feels just fine after the first full day of the first shot of my two-dose Covid-19 vaccination. I only notice my arm hurts when I try to elevate it, as if to more closely examine the sudden emergence of this extra thumb on my right hand. But for normal, light office stuff, all is well and good. I’d read somewhere about whether you should get this particular shot in your dominant arm or your non-dominant arm. When I asked the shot-giver which arm she wanted she, in turn, asked me if I slept on my side, and suggested the other arm.

After going to bed last night and waking up this morning, I can say that was the correct way to determine my arm selection. I did not like lying on the arm that had the sharp piercing metal poked through it. Go figure.

Also, the shot itself hurt about 11 percent more than the flu shot last fall, but the post-shot arm ache was different.

And if all of that helps you decide which arm you want, you are now … armed … with the information. Now get lined up to get that shot!

It’s a crowded day in a busy week — busiest of the semester thus far — so this is thin, yes. But, hey, it’s Tuesday.

I did get stood up in one Zoom meeting. Hey, it gave me a break from anything else for a while. And it let me make this gif.

That’s from a video I shot at the airport in Amsterdam in 2018. You can see it here.

It’s a fascinating piece of art by Maarten Baas and, being an airport, spot-on accurate. More on the Schiphol Clock, here.

And, tonight …

Mar 21

My bicep is a little sore

That didn’t go over at all how I’d pictured. I’d somehow imagined something big, more emotional, more celebratory. I am all of those things, and something approaching the direction of relieved, too — but it’s internalized.

A young woman named Emily gave me my first Covid vaccine dose today. She said she’s been at this eight days. She’s not counting how many people she’s seen, how many times she’s handed over the famous cards, answered the same questions.‬

‪I made sure she heard my “Thank you,” made sure she knew it was sincere.‬ It seemed the only feeble thing I could do, then and there. Sometimes you just want to give high fives to total strangers. It’s hard not to be excited about this.

I am not showing my whole card, because putting that online is somehow when the microchip gets activated. And my superhero powers haven’t kicked in yet, but you know I’m trying.

We stayed at the store a while, to make sure there were no side effects, which was interesting because you could overhear the excitement of others. It was nice to see and feel the optimism of others once again. We passed the time in one of our group chats, where I made a decent Spider-Man joke, and, later, a Hulk joke that didn’t land as well as I wanted it too. The Yankee made a terrific Sue Storm joke, though, and so it was worth it. We had no perceptible side effects in the minutes and hours after the shot, and still feel fine. But my arm is a little tender right at the needle spot. Small price to pay, of course.

So, one down, and come on, end of March, at which time all of those feelings will be externalized, and there will be much relief expressed in many ways — while carefully making sure to continue observing the appropriate safety measures.

Honestly, if it’s a peace-of-mind thing at first, then it can be a peace-of-mind thing for a while.

We’re charting a snow pile at the local box store. This is from Saturday, our fourth week of observation. The weather has been delightfully mild this past week, and that’s reduced this mound to a pile of dirt and debris.

This is that same pile, on Valentine’s Day, after the first snow that mattered.

Just a few days after that photo was taken we got a substantial snow event, and so this was our pile on February 21st.

And, last week, on February 28th, when you could see some obvious decline.

May it all be gone, and soon.

And the weekend helped. Saturday I stood in the shade on one side of the house and had a bit of a chill, but I stood on the other side of the house, in the sun, cleaning windows, and it felt rather grand. Yesterday it was almost t-shirt weather. So, hoping to encourage the onset of, ya know, spring, I wore a t-shirt. This was a Christmas present. Pretty awesome, right?

And it is still, mostly, autobiographical.

The cats are doing well. Phoebe has just about scratched herself out. She had a big weekend full of getting into places she shouldn’t, and being allowed in places we don’t usually let the cats explore.

That’s pretty much every day for Poseidon, though. He’s constantly everywhere. It’s really cute, in retrospect, but not so much when you’re constantly having to jockey against him and fight for position.

But it’s cute.

Mar 21

Welcome to March

It doesn’t feel like spring yet, but it’s gonna. Today, though, I’d just like to feel a bit … less. Or more. I’d like to hurt less and feel like more.

As I mentioned Friday, I had a big weekend of riding. And I’m happy to report that I toughed it out. I fueled terribly, but I survived. I think. This was my view all weekend:

It wasn’t the miles, it was the user error. And also the climbing. I could explain the fueling, but suffice it to say my caloric intake got all out of whack. And I became well aware of that reality on the way to the last climb yesterday. I told you about the Friday ride. Here you can see me in third place on the road on Saturday.

I was not in third place, but it sounds nice, doesn’t it? It wasn’t a race, to me anyway, it was just an excuse to make thousands of tiny circles with my feet, and also to get a cool aerotuck screengrab.

After Saturday’s ride featured 4,124 feet of elevation gained, Sunday was the big day of climbing. You can see even my avatar changed clothes for the bigger 33 mile, 5,617 feet gained effort.

It … hurt. Don’t let the sprint I eeked out at the mountaintop finish fool you. I was so spent I thought I was hallucinating the aurora on the iPad.

And I could barely walk when I got off the bike. (Time for new bike shoes!) After I hobbled upstairs and had a shower I started eating vegetables directly off the cookie sheet. Fueling was a problem because I wasn’t diligent about it because, at the end of the day, I’m riding a bicycle inside the house. It’s easier to be fussy about that, I realized this weekend, if you’re riding way out of town. But if the kitchen is just steps away, different story. And I’ve never really had the opportunity to climb 12,690 feet in one weekend, so I have no frame of reference for this.

It’s a big frame, and this was a great reference.

And I finished the Zwift Haute Route Challenge.

What does that mean? Absolutely nothing, but a sense of mild accomplishment. And it’s more base miles for the year.

We were looking at a giant snow mound at the local big box store.

This was the mound of our affection two weeks ago, on Valentine’s Day, after the first snow.

And here’s the same mound of our laments, a week later, as seen on February 21, after the even larger snow.

And here’s that same mound, this Saturday, on February 28th.

After a bit of weekend rain, and looking at the weather ahead this week … this thing might be gone by next Saturday. That’d be a signal almost-as-happy as returning robins and other springtime birds.