Monday


19
Feb 24

We had snow this weekend

The forecast called for waking up to three to five inches of snow on Saturday. It was promised to be the good, dry, powdery stuff. We looked up the amount of snow required of a snow blower — because we have a snow blower now — and the consensus was two inches. That doesn’t seem like a lot to me. Drive over it. But maybe you don’t want to. So we could shovel two inches. Only our new driveway is a bit long for shoveling.

The old driveway was a little more than a car length, which you could do with two shovels in no time, and by yourself in about twice the amount of no time. But this driveway is more imposing. We’ve shoveled it once so far, and the evening we did that it was cold. You think you’ll get out there and keep moving and get your heart rate up and your body will warm up, but that did not happen. Also, that was a good six or seven inches of snow and it had been on the ground a day or two when we got back to it. It took a while. We did enough. And that was enough of a reason to invest in a snow blower.

Which of course meant that it sat in its box in the garage for weeks because we’ve had perhaps the mildest January and February possible at this latitude. Now comes the Friday night forecast, and thank goodness there’s nowhere we have to go tomorrow, but still.

So we open the great big Toro box. There’s a snow blower inside. Imagine, for my Southern brethren, a push mower, but, instead of that place on the side where the clippings come out, there’s an ejection portal on the top. You can spin the thing so it can blow strategically to the left or right or, if you are an agent of chaos, straight up into the air. It’s shiny and new. Corvette candy apple red.

I was going to go get a quart of oil, because while we had gas, we had no oil. Except a 12-ounce bottle was included in the box. Good! One less thing to do in the half hour before the hardware store closes. So, let’s assemble the thing. This is what I did before dinner Friday night. Assembly involves five sets of nuts, bolts and washers, and then you put in the oil and gas.

There was a little matter of the nuts, bolts and washers, however. They were not included in the giant Toro box. So I spent a long, long time peering through boxes and tool boxes, tool drawers and other random places I might have put nuts, bolts and washers I’ve accumulated over the years. And what I learned is this: you don’t get as many extra nuts as you do bolts and screws.

Not only do you have to find them, you have to, of course, find pieces that will fit with one another, and the blower itself. Exactly what you should be doing at 8 p.m. on a Friday night before this week’s storm of the century. Two screws, bolts and washers were needed for the handle. I made that work. Three were needed to attach the multidirectional snow chute. Two on either side, done, but less confidently, and a third, which some does … something. You’ll probably only notice it when you’re rotating the chute or when the whole machine has rattled into action. Thing of it is, this Toro has a hard-mounted, threaded bolt post. I only needed to find a nut for it. Except I didn’t have the hardware.

Now, I figured I could tear the house apart and find the right size. But that nut, wherever it is, is doing something important already. So I strapped three bungee cords to the thing and pronounced it road worthy. The most ratchety, brand new, road worthy snowblower in three counties, I’m sure.

I decided to wait until the morning to fill it with oil and gas. I’ve done all this in good spirits, and why would I want to ruin my Friday night with issues of dripping, pouring, volume or viscosity? Besides, let’s wait to see what we actually get overnight.

We got about two inches of snow. The beautiful, wonderful, dry, powdery version. The kind that looked beautiful on the lawn, and could not stick to the patio, driveway or roads. And now we can find replacement parts for the new snow blower in our own good time. (Ensuring we don’t have to use it for a nice long while.)

Until then, welcome to our temporarily monochrome world.

Also, I noticed Friday night when I did a preemptive inspection of the fig tree, that the first signs of spring are growing in one of backyard beds. They’re a hardy sort, at least.

As I said, the dry, powdery sort of snow.

And, as an extra bonus, it looks like it only came from the one direction.

The peach tree was doing just fine.

And the pear tree in the front yard had a good grasp of things, as well. This was a delicate snow, but it knew a thing or two about balance.

Or, if you want something more colorful, the flowers inside are still stinking the place up. These look like they should be dry, brittle and crusty.

Instead they’re soft and frail, like the sleeves of an old silk blouse.

The lilies, though, they’ve really come to life this weekend.

Back outside, our neighbor puts on the best sunsets.

Can I tell you how awesome that snow was? It was quite, pretty, dry and clean. By the time I went outside to take that sunset photo and walk around the back of the yard to put a few random sticks on the stick pile, the snow was all but gone.

By today, the only evidence of any weekend precipitation was in the perpetually shady spots.

The cats did just find with the winter weather. Here is Poseidon, in his warm kitty cave, in front of the space heater.

I don’t know why he always thinks he wants to go outside. He is too accustomed to all of the comforts of indoors.

Phoebe went another route to keep herself warm.

Both were effective. And now let’s bring on the inevitable sprint to spring.


12
Feb 24

You’re going to want to watch this video

Poseidon asked for a meeting this weekend. And, being staff to the cats, I was obliged to accept. The thrust of the meeting was this: He wants to sometimes go first in the site’s most popular weekly feature. Usually I operate on a “ladies first” policy, but he stamped around on me and made his point. So, this week, Poseidon will have the honor of the first check in.

You see, Poseidon is quite proud of his head-on-foot prowess.

And his hiding skills.

In that box is some poly sheeting which I need to put on the greenhouse. I ordered these sometime back, but I am waiting for the weather to warm up again — so maybe next week. Also, I might need still more parts for the job. Phoebe had the same reaction to that realization as I did.

But she’s ready to supervise from her supervising post.

My lovely bride picked up some flowers this weekend to brighten the house. They’re doing a lovely job.

Now they just have to survive the cats.

Let’s go back underwater. And we’ll do it with a video. This one is full of great fish. And there’s a wonderful up-close visit with a beautiful eagle ray. Don’t miss it.

And there are still a lot more photos and videos to come. Keep showing up, because I’ll keep posting them.

But, for now, I have to head to campus. Monday has once again gotten away from me.


5
Feb 24

For a brief moment, I was ahead, and now I’m behind

On Saturday, a finer day was never made, I tried the Cascadian Farms blueberry granola with a box of store brand raisins. Once again, the raisins were undefeated in augmenting the flavor profile of what I put in the blue breakfast bowl.

This morning, I tried mixing the first two varieties, Bob’s Red Mill Honey Oat and Bob’s Maple Sea Salt. I added raisins, of course. And, so far, the mix of these two have been my favorite. But I have also learned something uninteresting today.

Basically, photos of granola in a bowl all look the same. So my breakfast experiment will continue — this week I have to try other mixes and then soon I’ll perhaps go pick up some other brands and flavors to try.

You’re broken up by this decision, I know, but the kennysmith.org visual editor has sent out memos. Memos.

Another memo has just come down, in fact, reminding me to get on with the most popular weekly feature on the site. So let’s check in with the kitties.

It’s so cute when Phoebe covers up her eyes to go to sleep. She’s very serious about her relaxation.

Poseidon does it, too. Though, lately, he’s been interested in balancing on legs and feet.

We have a joke about the two of them, siblings. My lovely bride notes when they’re doing the same thing.

Come play with us. Come play with us.

Then I say, “You’re freaking me out!” Because it’s weird when they do the same things together. And she laughs. The cats are unimpressed, because they’re cats.

But, as you can see, they’re doing just fine.

We’d all be doing better if we were diving, I’m sure. Today’s feature from our recent trip to Cozumel is a video. There’s some great footage here, including a closeup of a turtle.

  

And, of course, we’ve many more photos and videos to enjoy in the days to come.

I’m now on a nice little streak of consecutive days in a row on the bike. This weekend I set a personal best in that regard. Today, unrelated to that entirely useless notation, I received the monthly email from Strava. I always love this part.

That’s about right.

On Saturday I had a big ride. A long climb from virtual sea level up beyond the virtual snow line. This, Zwift calls the Epic KOM. It’s 5.9 virtual miles up hill. None of it is particularly steep, but it does not relent. About five miles in, you get above the virtual hot air balloons.

And then you reach the top of the climb. After that, there’s a bonus climb, a .68 mile ascent averaging 13.6 degrees. If i am not mistaken, that’s still the steepest climb on Zwift. Strava tells me I’ve done it seven times now, and regret each visit. Saturday was my second time up that climb in a week, and perhaps my third best effort up the thing. (In January of 2021 I was minutes faster, according to my ride notes.) Also, the view at the top is pretty nice. If you can still see straight when you get there.

So that was 30 miles Saturday. I got in 28 miles late last night. And I did 22 miles this afternoon. Somehow, this is how the day got away from me. So, now, I must return to campus.

If you’ll excuse me …


29
Jan 24

Not exactly quotidian, but close

Saturday morning meant a continuation in the granola experiment. This is flavor two of this brand, and also my third granola ever. I believe this one is the basic offering from Bob’s Red Mill. Last week I tried their maple sea salt variety. On its own, it was a bit over-sweet. I tried it with some raisins and that was much better. But, Saturday, and today, I gave this one a shot.

It’s a bit cleaner, a bit simpler. And quite tasty. But it is missing something. And while I’m no taste expert and even less of a granola connoisseur, that might be as precise as I can get.

Today, I put a box of raisins — the generic store brand of raisins, which is always the preferred dried grape — in the bowl. And today, this tasted like a favorite cereal of my youth.

Crispy Wheats ‘n Raisins was introduced in the late seventies. It found its way in our cereal cabinet, the low one to the left of the oven, alongside the Froot Loops and Cookie Crisp and Rice Krispies and Apple Jacks. Only one of those I ate so much of I can’t consider eating today. It seemed like Apple Jacks got stuck on the grocery list every day. But despite all of those hyper cereals, Crispy Wheats ‘n Raisins was the best. Sales plummeted somewhere near the turn of the century and General Mills discontinued the brand. But it was good stuff, and definitely the best raisin-based cereal. This bowl this morning is the closest thing I’ve had to that taste. I’ll have to remember this combination.

Phoebe likes it too. She’s in danger of ruining her good girl reputation with her aggression for milk. She’ll sit and stare and if you get distracted by things like putting the milk cartoon back in the refrigerator, she’s over in a flash.

You’ll note that she’s not on the countertop, which is against the rules. She’s on the box which is on the countertop. We don’t have a rule against that.

And when she gets down, Poseidon is ready for his shift.

Buncha jailhouse lawyer cats around here.

Poe is much better about milk. It’s one of the few times when he isn’t an active bother. When I’m done, I’ll give Phoebe a tiny bit. Poseidon sits patiently and watches. This is the only time he will allow her to do a thing when he doesn’t insert himself. I’ll give him a tiny little sip of what’s left, just so he can have a taste. But not too much.

This big bad cat can’t handle his milk.

This weekend I finished Studs Terkel’s Hard Times. It’s an oral history of The Great Depression, with interviews all conducted in the late 1960s. Terkel worked for the WPA’s Federal Writers Project during the depression, particularly in radio. He spent a significant part of his career keeping the craft of oral history alive. A few decades after this book, he would win the Pulitzer Prize for another oral history series. That book is in my queue, as well. But, today, The Great Depression!

He traveled all over the country talking to people from all different walks of life, and different generations, about life in the 30s. And some of these stories are tough, but just as many of them are comically funny. I don’t think any one anecdote can explain the time to the rest of us, but it’s pretty obvious that one person’s experiences can inform us about them. And so, in this book, you get dozens and dozens and dozens of people’s experiences.

In this collection, at least, I think you can group people into one of three broad categories. You had people who lost everything, of course. And some of them learned to survive, and some learned how to thrive. Among them, you’d see people have a wide array of reactions to what the U.S. government did, or didn’t, do to solve the problems of the day. Among them, you find a certain group of people, particularly those that were young and previously of some means, that had a eye-opening experience when their parents lost it all.

In the second, smaller group, you’ve got people who weren’t directly impacted by the depression, or at least, a generation later, wouldn’t admit to anything of the sort. Throughout, people talk about how people who lost everything reacted, how they felt it was a personal failure, how that informed everything about them for a time, if not forever. But in this second group, you would have some people who weren’t touched by the Depression. People who thought others who were down on their luck deserved to be there. Or they just didn’t see it at all. No soup lines in my town, no apple sellers on my corner, this sort of thing. No direct exposure makes denial that much easier. And this second group would be people full of people in this general condition.

The third group of people would be the youth. The children of people who experienced The Depression. Teens and twenty-somethings in the 1960s. Unless Terkel was cherry picking, these young people were almost entirely ignorant of the Depression. At best, you’re left with the impression that people didn’t want their kids to know about their struggles. And sometimes bliss looks dumb.

Last night I started a new book, something I picked up for the Kindle. It starts with the death of Terry Tempest Williams’ mother. And it grows from there.

Mother tells the daughter that all of her journals are hers, but don’t read them until she’s gone. And soon after, she dies. Later, the daughter feels ready to look in those journals. They’re all neatly arranged, waiting. They’re all empty. And, from this, the author has put together 53 other essays on womanhood, memorializing her mother, musing on her faith and filling the empty places.

It’s lyrical in its own way, and it feels like a journal. I’ll probably be through it in a few sittings. I didn’t really know what I was getting into with this one. The title and the blurb were intriguing, good reviews on Amazon and sometimes that’s how you uncover something you wouldn’t otherwise happen upon. It’s a fast read, When Women Were Birds. I bet, by the end, the already accomplished writer will find her true voice.

And if you don’t want to read, we can always go diving. Let’s go!

Here are a few more shots from our recent trip to Cozumel. Here’s one of me. My dive buddy took this one.

I think it’ll eventually wind up as one of the rotating banners here on the blog.

And if you think that a photo of me means I’m running out of other fish of the sea, nope.

In this one we have three or four different species, including grunts and a stoplight parrotfish and an angelfish.

Also, the classic pufferfish flyover.

But, for my money, this is still the best fish in the sea.

Tomorrow, more underwater scenes, something on the bike and something about campus — where I must go to right now — ya know, the usual Tuesday stuff.


22
Jan 24

Short, but there’s a video and nine photos

We loaded up the car in Connecticut and drove back on Saturday. Luggage, two cats, two cat carriers, and all of their stuff, which we brought up in plastic bins. Poseidon knew what those were about. When the bins appeared, he knew he was ready to travel.

  

For the entirety of the drive back, they told us about the great time they had at my in-laws. Meow this, meow that.

While we were enjoying our visit in Connecticut, it was snowing here on the inner coastal plain — where the heavy land and the green sands meet. We had six inches or so. When we got off the highway, the surface streets looked like this.

And the neighborhood looked untouched. But it only looked that way, one of our neighbors cleans the road for us. Handy, helpful guy. He makes the roads passable, which is more than the county does.

Had to guess at where the driveway is. And then had to guess where the turn in the driveway is. At least the pear tree helped us find the right hook.

So we shoveled. It was cold. Never got warmer, despite the shoveling. Just stayed cold. We dug out around the new tire tracks, decided the rest will melt by Wednesday, and went inside.

The cats settled themselves in just fine. Phoebe got right back to her observation post.

Poseidon, of course, jumped on everything, immediately.

If the idea of all of that snow is discomforting, let’s go back to Cozumel!

No! Really! Let’s go back. It’s warm there. And you can take your time and enjoy the staghorn coral formations.

Also, they have the The stoplight parrotfish (Sparisoma viride).

And blue sponges!

And juvenile stoplight parrotfish!

And the yellowtail snapper! Which isn’t that rare! You can see it from Massachusetts to Brazil! But see it in Cozumel!

This is brief, because, having spent an afternoon prepping, I have to go to class now. Time to shape minds once more.