Nov 22

Thanksgiving Week

My lovely bride returned Saturday. The in-laws arrived safely yesterday. The front-end of holiday travel has been a success. We have a relaxed week ahead of us, which is the way Thanksgiving should be. Less hustle, more time for the small things, and the easy gratitude.

And, also, kitties.

Phoebe is thankful for this little pig mouse toy.

Poseidon is thankful for high perches.

And we are thankful for kitties.

Here’s the view from a high perch. This was the view from one part of the airport, when we picked up the folks. There’s an irregular feature of indoor winter shapes in this somewhere. It’s both symmetrical — you assume — and asymmetrical at the same time.

This evening we tried the inaugural use of our new miniature fire pit. I’m now teaching The Yankee how to start a fire.

She did NOT like it when she said “Every time I touch it I make it worse,” and I agreed. But! When I was eventually able to do it the right way, we had a fire.

I got in 30 miles on the bike yesterday. Just a few desert views.

For some reason, in the middle of this digital nowhere, there’s a dinosaur. He’s a statue. At least I think he’s a statue. He doesn’t seem to move.

What’s nice is the detail; even the road shows its imperfections. Also, my avatar reminds me to have some water. Look, he’s having a sip just now.

You’ve got to stay hydrated. A whole week’s worth of laid back festivities depends on it.

Tomorrow we’re going to a museum!

Nov 22

Weekend and Monday photos and videos

You’ve been waiting for a whole week to hear from the cats. Let’s hear from the cats. (We know what moves the needle on this site. It’s the cats.)

Phoebe found some sun the other day, and that it happened to throw some beams onto a part of jeans, all the better.

Yesterday I started researching heat lamps and heating pads for the cats. Perhaps not as fun, or useful for them, as naps in the sun, but maybe they could get the job done.

Poseidon, meanwhile, would like you to know that he found the potato that fell onto the floor.

Yesterday I returned the favor and looked under the dresser, finding four toy springs and three bouncy balls. Under the bed there was another one of the springs.

It snowed Saturday.

But don’t take my word for it. And don’t trust that photo alone. There’s also video. It was 31 degrees and I stood outside for at least 90 seconds capturing video for this. I suffered for my art; the least you can do is suffer through my art.

This was the best kind of snow, though. There was a half-inch to an inch. It looked pretty, nothing stuck to the roads, and, most importantly, almost all of it had disappeared by today.

I had a bike ride Sunday afternoon. I was not riding in the desert like my avatar. It was cold outside and there was still snow on the ground, so I was, of course, indoors. Hence:

This was a marginally important ride, which is to say it was in no way important at all. But, with this 32-mile ride I moved 2002 into third place in terms of miles per year. Move out of the way, 2013! And I’m coming for you, 2021! In another ride or three this year will be in second place.

It will take a concerted effort to put this year atop the charts. Sure, there’s a month and a half left to go, but there is, of course, a lot of travel figuring into these last six weeks.

Lest you think this post is entirely about the weekend, here’s a collage I made for LinkedIn today. (The social media site where I get some actual analytical success?) I wrote:

“You can’t do creative work without collaboration,” is a thing I say a fair amount to students. Recently, I had the opportunity to collaborate with some students on a series of four specific welcome messages for members of the incoming class of 2027.

Jenna Williams and indispensable Lily Schairbaum worked on this project. Haley Ryan, Taniya Jones, Tristan Reed and Nicholas Jager shared their enthusiasm about what they do at The Media School. These videos will work nicely, but only because of their generosity and good cheer, all of which comes across in the finished products.

I’m sure I’ve previously mentioned that video project in this space. These snippets are from the four videos I produced for incoming students because, this year, we wanted a little more customization to our welcome videos. Hopefully the high school students and their parents that are receiving those videos like them.

And that’s enough for the day.

OK, one more thing. Here’s a glimpse at the moment before the sunset, as seen from the top of the Poplar’s Garage.

Now that’s enough for the day. But there’ll be plenty more … of something … tomorrow!

Nov 22

Twelve hundred more rambly words

Do you have a case of the Mondays? Well, we’ve got a solution to that: the workweek is 20 percent over! You’ve built momentum! You’re going to spend Tuesday around the water cooler exchanging voting booth stories, anyway. And Wednesday doesn’t matter because you’ll be thinking, all day, about how you can wrap up your week on Thursday. And then Friday, well, that’s Friday, plus you need to devote a few minutes to how you’re planning to burn the rest of your vacation time before the end of the year because you didn’t use it all, again, because This work-life balance thing is a nice concept, but who has the time? Did you see how this week flew by?

So we’ve got that going for us.

And if that isn’t enough, we have our regular weekly feature, the most popular and talked about feature from this site, and this corner of the web, if not the western world’s entire Internet, the Monday check in with the kitties.

I have to carry my phone around at all times on the off chance that I catch one of them doing something quirky or, even better, some way to get the rare composition that features both of them. This is my tether to the modern world, and that’s the story I’m sticking with, but, sometimes, the photos are worth it.

Poseidon has had enough of this week already. And if you think you’ve had a Monday, he made this decision on Saturday night.

Phoebe spent part of the weekend helping me read.

Which gives us a an easy transition.

I used the extra hour Saturday night to finish Andrew Ritchie‘s 1988 biography, Major Taylor: The Extraordinary Career of a Champion Bicycle Racer. Major Taylor was a turn-of-the-century bike racer, and was regarded as the fastest man in the world. The thousands that came to see him race in the U.S., Europe and Australia understood speed with a different perspective than you do, perhaps, it was a time before people knew what an airplane was, or understood what cars would become. Taylor, his bike, and his rivals, were the high performance machines of their day. And also, of course, he was the victim of the racism of the time. Despite those challenges, Ritchie has him well regarded by fans, hailed as a hero abroad, and on par with, or easily superior to, everyone who got on a bike opposite him. The term world champion was perhaps a bit looser back then compared to what you might see from the official UCI World Championships today, but he established seven world records, and beat all the prime racers, all of ’em, the world had to offer. Mayor Taylor was a world champion, and that was his place in the world as a young man, and in a time when George Dixon (Canada) was the only other world champion of any sport (boxing). Taylor was an almost singular star.

It’s a great shame that he’s only nominally known by modern audiences. There are bike clubs across this country bearing his name, today, and his adopted hometown of Worcester, Massachusetts celebrates him and there’s a velodrome in his hometown of Indianapolis named in his honor, but he doesn’t seem to enjoy the household, iconic name status many early superlative athletes have. You’ll say, “He was a cyclist,” but consider: he was a star at the peak of the cycling boom in this country, when college basketball was an infant, the NBA was decades away, football looked more like rugby and baseball was just exiting its juvenile delinquent stage. Bike racing was a spectacle and he was the most famous athlete in the world. Thousands would come see him. People paid to watch him do practice laps. It was a phenomenon. He was a phenomenon.

He retired in his early 30s, had some failed business dealings trying to cash in on the early days of automobile innovation, and then a series of other failures. And we’ll let Ritchie share the next few paragraphs.

Ritchie interviewed Taylor’s daughter, an elderly woman by then. The family had fallen apart in a sad way, but this is an amazing bit of character study. It’s clear she’s spent a lot of time thinking of how to explain her late estranged father. Reading this, I am equally interested in what she had to say, but also in the art of Ritchie’s interview with her.

After he and his wife separated, she moved away with their daughter. He left Massachusetts, a proud, determined man. He’d lived there for 25 years, but had to sell his large house. So he was trying, hat-in-hand, to sell his autobiography. (Ritchie, while even-handed and, at times glowing, about Major Taylor, is fairly critical of his autobiography.) He took a room at a YMCA in Chicago, stayed there for a time, had a heart attack in 1932 and died just a few months later, close to penniless and essentially alone.

I noticed that Ritchie stopped updating his WordPress site in 2014. There is another famous Andrew Ritchie in the cycling world, and so I did a bit more searching to see what had become of him, until I found this memorial, of sorts. He’d had heart trouble for years, and some financial difficulties of his own. But this is the part I want to remember.

On the night of Thursday 12th August (2021) he went out into the Cornish countryside to observe the Perseid meteor shower: probably his last moments were spent gazing at the heavens.

Sometimes it is important for the innocuous assumption to stick.

Also, I started Rick Atkinson’s The British Are Coming. Atkinson has won three Pulitzers and a few shelves full of other prominent literary and historical awards over the course of his prolific career. His trilogy on World War II was an incredible experience. I expect the same for this series. Volume one came out in 2020, no idea when the next ones are out, but I’m through the 30-page prologue, and I’m hooked.

I love when Atkinson writes like this.

That’s four paragraphs on two pages and it paints a rich portrait of, in this case, what was unknown. I bet it took weeks to pull those facts together, shape them into this order and edit them to that level of concision and in his typical narrative style.

I have 530 more pages of this to enjoy here.

It was an amazing day, yesterday. Here we are, November, and 67 degrees. You could do a lot of things with an opportunity like that. I, of course, went for a bike ride.

This was a lovely 32-miler. Maybe I can get one or two more in this week, before the weather turns. Already I’ve been outdoors longer this year than last, so I have that going for me. The question is how many more open-road miles I can add because, soon, all of my miles will be trainer miles. That yields to the more pressing question will become how close I can get to setting a new personal best in annual mileage.

So come back for that! And other things! Like books! And music! And come back tomorrow tomorrow! I’ll write about a run and election day fun!

Oct 22

Very exciting

We went out for a date on Saturday night. This, and our ghost walk last night, are our first date nights since early August, when we went to the USA National Championships in Milwaukee where my lovely bride competed in two races. So those weren’t really dates, but adventures.

So these were our first dates since … June. Switzerland.

That’s not true. We did go to the lake one day last month.

We’re very exciting people.

So it was a date night to Indy on Saturday night. We had dinner at a little Irish pub we like.

Perfect weather. We were the only people sitting outdoors. Very odd.

We also went to the joint where the Pacers play, because this guy was giving a performance of a different sort.

I laughed so hard — at stupid stuff of the sort that isn’t even my style of humor — that I was in pain. Bert is simply telling (embellished) family stories and is just now hitting his stride.

It rained yesterday, so it was a good day to stay inside, except for when we went to the grocery store, in the rain. Today, it rained and looked even more grim.

My contribution to the cause today was this. I finally finished this video project we’ve been working on. Helped one of our students lay out his graduate capstone project and saw another event canceled due to … apathy, I guess it was.

A student knocked on my door today and told me this.

This evening I wrote a little essay about that, which likely won’t get picked up anywhere. I also stopped by the sporting goods store to get some new weights. The Yankee is now able to upgrade part of her PT, and she needed some 2.5-pound plates.

Someone shoplifted in the store while I was waiting to check out. The guy working the door thought it, I thought it. Nothing was done — injury liability and insurance I am sure — even as the woman all but telegraphed her guilt. She then wandered around outside for a while, going to the farthest part of the parking lot before coming to a blue Taurus parked right by the door. She drove away.

And so did I. At the house I replaced our license plates, and did the monthly cleaning of my computer desktop.

Yep. We are very exciting people.

Oct 22

There’s a(nother) video at the end

I made this late last night, early this morning. Losing sleep for mashup art is a questionable choice, but when you have an idea …

There’s another video, a better one, at the end of this post. This photo, taken earlier this evening, offers a visual cue about what you’ll see in just a few hundred casual words, and after a few weekend photos.

Keep scrolling down to see that video.

We had an incredible weekend of weather. I didn’t even know what to do with it. Just warm and bright enough to feel like it could and would go on forever. Not so warm that you’d believe it to be true. And somewhere in there, amid the sun and the shade and the breeze, you can be held in a powerful grip of indecision.

We took a nice little walk on Sunday. Saw this wooly bear caterpillar, which was very much in a hurry to get to wherever it is that caterpillars go.

On the nearby goat farm they’re putting in another asphalt path. I look forward to exploring that when they remove the construction tape. One must respect construction tape, but this looks all but done.

How many colors can one tree sport, anyway?

This is on another path, and with more colors.

I got photobombed …

It doesn’t pop in the photo as well as it did in the daylight, but this tree is both yellow and red. It was fantastic, and that’s another problem of autumn. It’s too temporary — despite what I said above.

We stood under the trees and felt the breeze and caught the leaves.

If you don’t know what to do with a fine autumn day, catch the leaves.

Another work week has begun. My contribution to the cause today was this. Three-quarters of a running project are completed, and the rest will wrap up later this week. And then I’ll talk about them, perhaps, unless something more interesting takes place that day.

(Cheer for something more interesting.)

We set up a new system to show off student media work on the big screen. Wednesday we’ll roll that out. I also met two scholars visiting from France.

I got to the house just in time to take a quick bike ride. Got back in before dark, could have gotten a bit more out of the ride if I’d put a little thought into the route, but, no matter, it was 20 miles.

Went slow on this road, just for these views. Hopefully the video is worth it.

And now it’s time to get ready for tomorrow. The faster we get to it the faster I can get through it. Also, the quicker I can get to bed the quicker I can … fill my weary head with useless ideas like that Bryce Harper video. Pretty good one though, wasn’t it?