Sep 23

Welcome to Week 38

Busy, full day here, so let’s get right to it, so I can get back to it. (Class prep, I tell you. I hope at least some of it is going well. It’s been going on since Saturday, so hopefully I’ve done well enough to fill an hour or so with good and useful information. But, hey, the class is this evening, so there at least won’t be much longer to have to worry about it.)

Back to the getting to it. Let us first perform the site’s most popular weekly feature, checking in on the kitties.

Phoebe has lately taken an interest in the dining room table. This comes as my lovely bride rotated the table 90-degrees last week. Presumably this new angle fits with her sense of feng shui.

I took the next photo on this very day. And the joke I delight in telling to The Yankee goes like this.

We have a house. And inside that house there are hardwood floors. On one of those floors is a high quality rug. On top of that rug is a still-new overstuffed sofa. On top of that sofa is a pillow. And top of that pillow is your cat.

Because, you see, the sofa isn’t comfortable enough.

Meanwhile, if you have a moment, could you stop by and plug this cat in?

He simply could not go any farther. You understand why, he was forced to travel up several stairs and across a few feet from his afternoon napping perch.

I like that photo because I managed to keep the two if-I-fits-I-sits boxes in the background. They should be coming back into their rotation any day now.

Saturday was beautiful and I took a break from class prep for a quick bike ride. The last time I did a random ride I turned right at a particular T-intersection. So, this time, I went to the same road and turned left. Soon after, I saw this sign, which was great and, presumably, accurate enough.

I love rides like this. On the last random ride, when I turned right at that T, it was purely a ride of discovery. All new roads, the first one, I specifically wanted to see where it went. And when it ended, I had to improvise. This time, I my route after that same intersection. This should make it easier, but it just makes it more difficult.

Here’s a post office I ran across. My hypothesis has long been that you can tell a lot about a town by their post office(s). And this one looks lovely, but it needs a coat of paint.

There are two — count ’em, one, two — parking spaces out front. And the office sits right there on Main Street, which is a collection of a handful of houses and a fire company.

I got turned around twice. And, of course, this matters because there’s now a route to follow. And all of the blue lines in life must be followed. Some of them should be, anyway. Elsewhere that evening, a college buddy of mine also uploaded a workout to Strava. He titled his “I’m convinced that the only reason why cyclists cover so much distance is because they always get lost. I tested this myself.”

I didn’t get lost. The first time, I just turned left when I should have stayed straight. The second time I took another turn too early, had to stop to consult my map, and then modified my route.

Does that sound like I was lost? Sure, I stopped to check the map. That’s not especially fun, but maybe I did it just to level out the great joy of a free ride with no purpose or schedule. Mostly, I was just trying to insure that I beat the sunset back.

On the parts of that route I’d been on before, the parts nearest the house, I set four new PRs on Strava. All of those PRs were on the segments near the end of the ride, which is encouraging.

Last night we went across the river to Wilmington. We saw Tig Notaro at The Grand Opera.

The Opera House has been home to some of the world’s most gifted artists for over 130 years. As historic as it is aesthetic, the 1,140 seat theater represents both the physical and symbolic heart of The Grand.

They have this beautiful ceiling, but nothing written about it on the site, so it can’t have a long lineage, surely.

Tig said no pictures, and I honored that request for once. But I did make this mock up of what it was like to finally see Tig on stage.

I discovered her on Netflix in the teens, in the long office overnights. I think this was the first work of hers I’d seen. She traveled the country and played people’s homes. Clearly, it was a docu-special designed for late night viewing.

And I was hooked straightaway. Her comedy is precious, her timing is perfect and, as time marches on, her story is impossible to ignore.

Anyway, last night, she opened with a version of this joke.

And she closed with a much longer, Tig-length version of this story, while sitting at a grand piano, and recreating the moment, just as she describes here, milking the premise for every giggle it is worth and then finding some more besides.

As she’s doing this, she reminds us all, that when she did this, Adele was in the room. The theater’s sound guy pipes in “Hello” and Tig noodles around on this beautiful piano and signs along. And she does not play the piano. And she can’t sing.

She can’t sing so badly that it’s difficult to imagine that anyone sings that poorly. Surely it is a put-on, but it was hilarious, and self-deprecating, and charming and awkward and yet never cringe. Just more perfect Tig Notaro. We were fortunate to get to see her show.

She’s recording a special in New York this fall. Maybe some of the material we saw last night will be in the program when it’s released. You’re gonna want that coconut water.

Sep 23

Put some Monday between your toes

What a Monday, eh? In the history of Mondays, this one certainly lands on the list. It is notably surrounded by other such impressive days as Monday. And who can forget, that extra special Monday. Sad Monday makes the list, but you should never forget those happy Mondays. And somewhere, way high up on the list, there’s the special Three Day Weekend Mondays. There’s just no escaping this. Monday is definitely one of the seven days of every week. And even that’s on a list somewhere.

Now, where this week falls on the list of weeks, well that’s still TBD, which is SOP. And highly subjective, too. Weeks being what they are, different for all of us. Or at least many of us. But Mondays! Mondays are a uniquely held condition among everyone with a 21st century working calendar, even if your “Monday” is, say, on Wednesday, you still have them. And this was one of them. Why, we could quibble over the placement of this, but everyone will agree: in the history of Mondays, this was definitely not a Friday.

I spent the day making lecture notes.

So let’s talk about the cats. It is, after, the site’s most popular feature, and far more interesting to most of you than my exploration of ancient Egyptian scrolls, or 1st century Roman architecture or how many copies of the Declaration and the Constitution we still have (26 and 11).

Phoebe does not care about my lectures. But she is delighted to play with this mouse, most any day of the week.

And here, she seems to be on her ledge, looking down at the floor, thinking Later, he will hold that shape in front of me and make me pose for a picture, whatever that is.

I don’t think Phoebe really understands cameras or phones. Not that she isn’t as capable as the next cat, I just don’t think it has occurred to her that she should, which is to say, they don’t matter to her, which might make her smarter than everyone.

Poseidon, on the other hand, he understands this concept perfectly.

He’ll even give you moody suntanning photographs. Some cats are just natural born stars, I guess.

He won’t stay off the counter, though, even though he understands the tall people in the house don’t like it when he’s there. But his defiance gives us an opportunity to admire his footwoork.

So the cats are doing just fine, as you can see.

My lovely bride did a nearby-ish triathlon on Saturday, and so I went for a bike ride on some new roads. Here’s a brand new road. The first part of it was fine. The part after this was likewise in great shape. This stretch, just under a mile I’d say, was brand new. My hypotheses are either someone knew I was coming, or an important county official lives on this stretch of road.

No one knew I was coming.

It was a venture out to get photos for the Wednesday historical marker feature. I track all of those down by bike, and I try to do them in batches, which means a lot of planning, a lot of map-checking mid-ride, but a lot of lovely new views to check out.

Today I saw some old churches. I walked around an 18th century cemetery. There was a message board in that old grave, behind one of the old churches, that basically said “The members who founded this church in 1741 also founded the local militia during the Revolution.” It was a fascinating place.

I also visited two historically important houses, a famous cannon and more. You’ll see them in the next few Wednesdays.

I also, for the first time ever, lost a bolt that holds the cleat in my right cycling shoe. This peculiar chunk of plastic is held to the bottom of the shoe by three bolts, and when the one disappeared, probably in that cemetery, that meant that stopping became a bit tricky.

This is the foot that I unclip for stop signs and red lights and the like. Just before you come to a complete stop, you take the one foot out of the pedal. You leave the other one in because it looks cool, and it helps for getting going again in an efficient matter. To remove the cleat from the pedal, you crisply turn your ankle so that your toes point inward. You hear a loud, satisfying pop and then you can put your foot on the ground in the precise moment you come to a halt.

The problem on this ride was that I lost the inside bolt. The cleat only had two fixed points of contact, and when I’d go to point my toes inward, the cleat, my shoe and my foot just kept moving.

Fortunately, I only had to take my shoe out of the pedal twice more after that bolt disappeared.

The best news is that I figured this would mean I’d finally have an excuse to go spend money at my new local bike shop. But, I figured, let me check the personal inventory first. I’ve had to replace cleats before, from wear and tear, and when you buy new cleats you get a fresh set of bolts and the square washers that go with them. That, I reasoned, didn’t seem like a thing I would throw away.

So I went to the new bike room, and discovered the problem. In the old house, I’d know exactly where these would be. But so many routines, systems and paradigms change when you move. Much as I’m still (and forever will be) trying to figure out all of the light switches, and which stairs make what noise, I have no idea where these bits of hardware might be right now. I didn’t set up the new bike room, my lovely bride did. And they were not in the first place I looked.

They were in the fourth place I looked.

Anyway, popped a new bolt on the shoe, took less time to do than to write the above, I’m ready for the next ride.

I have reached the point in my bike-riding life where there’s a reasonably fair chance I’ll have the part I need already on hand, when I need it. It’s a special feeling.

Sunday we had brunch with some of The Yankee’s family friends. My mother-in-law is a retired nurse, and she is the chief organizer of her nursing school’s class reunions, an annual event that she takes great joy and pride in, and that was this weekend. The end of the festivities was brunch, and it was not too far away from us, so omelettes for everyone.

We were a surprise, and all of these lifelong friends were delighted to see us, but mostly my wife. I watched a septuagenarian hopping, literally jumping for joy, that she got to see her friend’s daughter unexpectedly. It was delightful.

It rained on us on the way there, and then rained terribly hard while we visited. Wind whipped it sideways, giving people mind to talk about storms they remember. And then the rain stopped, and the sun returned, acting for all the world like it had never left.

When the nurses all said their goodbyes, we went to the beach, just two blocks away. The water was a bit chilly, but you still go right down to the line, tempting fate.

I couldn’t decide which of these two I liked best, but this was the one I got a shoe wet on, so I’m saying I suffered for my art and am posting the photo.

Just the one shoe, somehow, and no sand in either one.

I did get photobombed. I always get photobombed. She’s just the cutest when she does that.

It is the beach, I think. Some people just go to 11 when they make it to a beach. She fairly glows.

I’m a little more about the woods that way, but the beach is always fun, he said with a wet sock.

We can be at a beach in 60 minutes from where I’m writing this. The biggest thing that would slow me down is digging up the sand chairs and finding the good sunblock. And there’s woods and plenty of other lovely outdoor scenery along the way as well. But just an hour from this.

Which is what I won’t be able to do just now, because it is back to that class prep.

In closing: an important thing of note about Mondays is that there’s a Tuesday following close behind.

Sep 23

Happy Labor Day

When we came to look at this house one of the things we wondered about was which cat would notice this little ledge first. Poseidon was the obvious answer, he’s usually the more adventurous of the two. And we were right. When we got the boxes and retrieved the cats, one of the first things Poe did when he got settled was find his way onto that ledge. And for the first little bit, it was almost his territory exclusively. But lately, there’s been a changing of the guard.

Phoebe is taking over.

Last year we bought two cat caves, fuzzy sleeping bags that retain heat, basically. We got them because the cats like blankets, especially the fuzzy ones, and in cooler weather it’s a determined thing. They’ve seldom used them so far, but this week we put one on the ledge because, we figured, they might like something softer than hardwood. Yesterday, we came in to this.

With mugshots being in the news lately, Poe wanted to try his hand at one. I don’t think he realizes what they are, or why he’s so close to deserving one.

Breaking the rules, though, is hard, tiring work, so he took a nap on my arm, and on my desk the other night.

As I work on this post, he’s doing the same thing again, and in a similar position. So if anything looks crooked, or if there are more typos than usual, let’s blame him.

We had a short ride this weekend. (The on-schedule and regular lament: I need to ride more.) We set out early Saturday morning to beat the heat, and we did a nice job of that, but even still, running under some field sprayers wasn’t a bad thing.

That’s the Reinke Minigator, I believe, a quality central pivot system that’s been keeping plants watered for six decades. Does a great job, too, especially on that little corner of the road.

I’m not saying I pedaled into the spray, but I didn’t move out of the way.

Here’s a little video of the ride.

Right after that last shot I felt my rear wheel going down again. I’ve gottne pretty good at this, being in another stretch of bad inner tube luck. This makes three in the last three weeks. The last three miles of this ride I rode a bit, and pumped up the tire a bit, rode a bit, pumped up the tire. I think I had to make six stops covering that distance.

All of which means, when I change the inner tube, I’m replacing the tire, too. I ride Gatorskins, which are durable enough, but they can show wear, too, and this one is and maybe its time.

Anyway, it was a nice ride. It wasn’t especially fast on my part, because I can’t seem to get my legs to really come around. (The on-schedule and redundant lament: I need to ride more.) But it was comfortable and I felt like I could have enjoyed a much longer ride Saturday, but for that silly tube.

Later, we discussed a scenic metric century we might undertake in a couple of weeks.

Tomatoes? Still going strong, but we’ve passed the peak of the daily harvest. Another not-so-subtle shift I’m trying to ignore.

And failing at it.

We enjoyed some time in the pool yesterday, which was chilly. Another not-so-subtle shift I’m trying to ignore.

But it was warmer today. Cognitive dissonance restored!

I told myself I wasn’t going to work today, Labor Day and all that, but I did. An email here, publishing this and organizing that there. Dreaming up some new classroom ideas. I have two more days to whip it all in to shape.

The cat just jumped down, wiping out two class notebooks along the way. I guess that means don’t work any more tonight.

Not on such a beautiful evening, too. I stood outside and admired the sky for a bit before dinner. It is easy to forget how hazy it was earlier this summer after a bunch of normal days like this.

Easy to forget, at the peak of all of that, when we worried that all of that smoke would be with us all summer. Which sounds pretty pathetic next to all of those fires in Canada and … everything else if you read closely enough.

But out here, in the backyard, all of that feels a long way away, which is the whole point.

Which sounds … whatever that sounds like.

So I watched this plane fly off toward Miami. And I wondered: all of those people up there, what has there day been like?

Aug 23

‘Just like children sleepin’, we could dream this night away’

I swam 2,000 yards this evening. It was that or go stumble through a run, and my knees said: swim, why don’t ya? So I dove in, donned the ol’ goggles and started the freestyle stroke, with the occasional kick when I could remember to, counting laps along the way. Somewhere around 360 or 400 yards, my arms stopped complaining and just carried on with the effort. That’s my longest swim since 2015, where one fine September day I put 2,900 yards in the books. It is my 10th swim of the summer, and I did it all uninterrupted. I’m pleased with what seems like an impressive progression, and wondering what I’m doing poorly if I’m not a.) super winded or b.) exhausted or c.) both, after the fact, and if I have enough time to get to two miles this season.

Three, four, more swims, right? Surely that’s outrageous and feasible, all at the same time.

I do not know what is happening.

This has been a nice exercise. Something about the rhythm, even for an inconsistent water splasher as I am, becomes meditative enough. If you’re concentrating on keeping the lap count right or, occasionally, focusing on your technique, all of the other things can go out of your mind.

This lets the other things come back into your mind, because when you splash the water away at the wall, more water moves back through.

I don’t know what that means, either. Not really. I didn’t spend my time in the pool writing this. Clearly, that’s the oversight here.

Anyway, laps, time spent not writing this in my mind, because time was spent thinking about class preparation, instead. Not every day is a day full of deliverables, and this was one of those days. But! Two thousand yards!

Phoebe was not impressed. But, then, she’s a classic sidestroker, swimming on the carpet as she does throughout the day.

On Friday, she was very cuddly.

Some days, kitty needs dictate events. And part of Friday morning was one of those days.

Poseidon continues to maintain a watchful eye over his kingdom. He’s lately improved his approach to climbing up the narrow scratching post. What was once a chaotic effort to get up there for “Now what?” has become a confident, measured attack for “Where else should I be?”

I expect he’ll be leaping directly on top of it before long. When, that is, he’s not on the top of the refrigerator.

“No peektures, please.”

So the cats are doing just fine. So are their talons, as you can see a bit there.

We had an interesting bike ride on Saturday. We started too late. My fault. It was already quite warm. But we started with a tailwind. (Which is counterintuitive.) And so we had some impressive splits in the first half of the ride.

It was all I could do to hang on, so there’s no video, no shadow selfies or other cool camera tricks this time. Even still, we had the wonderful opportunity to see a few cool barns. This one was between here and there.

And this one we rode past just after our turnaround about halfway into the ride. (But more about our halfway destination at a later time.)

Soon after, we got back to a place that was more familiar, which meant my lovely bride could drop me. I was dead, but knew my way back, at least. I went a longer way, just for the spite of extra mileage. And, right at the end of that, I blew another inner tube.

They come in bunches for me, and that’s not frustrating at all, getting to break out a tire lever on your rear wheel twice in two weeks.

I suggested a lovely and romantic night out. There’s a winery nearby and they serve upscale pizzas on the weekend and it’s supposed to be lovely. Reservations were made, and 3.6 miles down the road we went. We timed it such that we caught last bit of the sunset creating a bokeh effect of the cars making the drive down the last dirt road. By the time we parked and got onto the property the sun was gone. A three-piece band was playing, mellow strains floating over the rows of grapes on the still August air being our introduction. This was the view.

We were sat right away. And the group played “Harvest Moon” as if on cue.

The only Neil Young song you need, really.

Some time passed and the hostess came by to see where our waiter was. You could tell there was some back-of-the-house drama going on. Someone else came to take our order. She did not know the special pizza of the day. A third person, then, stopped by to tell us about that creation, which was when our actual waiter turned up.

This was the special pizza of the day. They called it a Cubano, something or other. And though I have little need for dill pickles in general and no need for them on my pizza, you had me at Cubano.

Being the special, I reasoned, must mean that it was good. And it was good. Somehow those pickles worked.

They also had a lot of pizzas they put honey on. The Yankee’s had honey, and it was delicious, and maybe honey is one of those things, like bacon, that’s good on everything.

What if you put honey on bacon?

After an hour our pizza showed up, which is great, because I was about to launch into my whole “… and this is why I don’t pick restaurants” bit, which is absolutely why I don’t pick restaurants. We didn’t have a waiter. The place that is serving only pizza was struggling to get pizzas out. But it was tasty. The music was fine. The singer had a terrific Jeff Tweedy vibe, but judged his audience not-yet-ready for the Uncle Tupelo or Wilco catalogs. He mumbled when he talked. Couldn’t make out a single word. Sang wonderfully.

Our waiter, our real one, brought our pizza and … that’s about it. It brought up questions about who gets the tip, which is really just a question about why we use a tipping system, anyway.

After pizza we got a little ice cream, a nice end to a lovely day.

Yesterday afternoon we sat outside, as has been our recent custom, and read. I breezed through the second section of Eudora Welty’s memoir, One Writer’s Beginnings (1984). As I don’t read a lot of fiction, I’ve never read her work, but she’s a marvelous writer, and she delivers it with the most deft touch, when she’s talking about her bygone days. This second section — all of this book adapted from a series of lectures she delivered late in life — is about traveling as a young girl with her parents to see the extended family. Traveling from Jackson, Mississippi to West Virginia and Ohio was a week, one-way, in the car. At times they were ferried over creeks and rivers. Sometimes the ferry was powered by a man pulling on a rope. It was the 19-teens, and the same world, but harder.

The whole section dives into her grandparents, and deeper parts of the family roots as she understood them. And the people here are developed with the depth and care you would expect of a keen observer and a more-than-able writer. The very last part, after they’ve gotten home from the long summer journey …

“The events in our lives happen in a sequence of time, but in their significance to ourselves they find their own order, a timetable not necessarily — perhaps not possibly — chronological. The time as we know it subjectively is often the chronology that stories and novels follow: it is the continuous thread of revelation.”

I bet even that paragraph means different things to people at different points in their lives. Looking back and marinating in it all, re-playing and re-rationalizing things, putting a narrative to it all. It would be different to a woman of 74, as she was when she delivered that lecture at Harvard, than it would have been to the students in the audience. And the professors and middle-aged people in the room that nodded along sagely, they’d have another understanding, too.

It’ll probably mean something different to me, next Sunday, when I finish the book.

Aug 23

I suddenly feel semi-oriented

In late May, I bought a new backpack. It arrived in a timely fashion, and I stowed it away in my office. Of course, as planned, not too long after that I didn’t need to use a backpack. But I needed a new backpack. The shoulder straps were growing threadbare. The little handle at the top, the one you use to pick the bag up if it is on the floor, was all busted up. A zipper on one small compartment was broken beyond repair. Most distressingly, the bottom of the main compartment has two growing holes.

Friction. Rubbing my belt. Riding my bike to work. Dragging it on the ground. Whatever it was, my laptop and the other items carried in there would soon be at risk. It was time.

But it was a good bag. Carried all of my things. Spacious. Plenty of pockets. Lasted years and years. I don’t remember exactly when I bought it, but I remember where and the circumstances. Call it 2013 or 2014. Anyway, it worked well for a long time for a bag I tend to carry most every day. So I got my money’s worth from the cheapest bag I could find at a small office store, the bag that I thought, at the time, was too expensive.

So I bought the same bag again.

Why reinvent the method of moving my things? Why lay out a new way of lugging things? Why set up a new system? Why establish a new packing paradigm?

Last night, I emptied the old bag, and put all of my things into their same spot in the new bag. My computer and two small notebooks in the main computer. A camera stick, some tabletop tripods and a microphone in the secondary pocket. A bottle of Advil and two handkerchiefs in a side pocket. Two ponchos and two garbage bags — for emergency poncho or any other number of uses — inside the other side pocket. A small assortment of Post-it notes, multicolored, a few pens and sharpies, a thin container of bandages. Two umbrellas, four masks and a thumb drive or two. All of it where it belonged, in the same spots, in the new bag.

I discovered three additional smaller pockets inside a medium pocket on the old bag while doing this.

This morning, I hefted the new bag on my shoulder for the first time. The straps are stiff and new. And, somehow, it feels heavier, even without a few extra pieces in it I didn’t need today. Probably, I’m out of practice: I have carried a great many heavy things recently, but I haven’t put a backpack on my shoulders since mid-June.

Today, though, we went to Rowan. First day of new faculty orientation. Three days of this. Some of it is very helpful. Some is aimed at new faculty and, hopefully, those people are getting a lot out of those elements. Everyone is excited and happy, it seems. Attitude is important. Passion is important. Students and the work are important. But so is your well-being. This was, largely, the theme the president, Dr. Ali Houshmand offered in his welcome address at the brunch this morning.

And so everyone there was happy. Enthusiastic. Deans from different parts of the campus complimented the programs in drastically different part of the campus. Most everyone that spoke made a special effort to point out how long they’ve been at Rowan, and how it’s still a wonderful experience. That’s great. Very encouraging. I hope that’s the case for everyone, and not something they were asked to say. Even a Q&A session, the sort which could easily turn into a grouse fest was particularly upbeat. Very encouraging.

At the end of the day there was a little outdoor mixer. We talked with our dean. I chatted with an associate dean, a fellow who came over to administration from political science. He said that, I glanced at my lovely bride and she smiled, because she knew that was a good 15, 20 minutes of conversation taken care of. And so it was! He talked about his previous research, the structure of American-style politics. I asked him if he missed that sort of work since he’d gone over to administration. Then I asked him about the new paper on Article 3 of the 14th amendment. He said he hasn’t read the paper yet, but he knew of it, and he had some thoughts. Everyone has thoughts about that paper.

My little name tag, meanwhile, of course says “journalism,” but there I was, talking poli sci. Then I remembered what was on my name tag, so I asked him some broader and philosophical questions. It was a fun conversation.

The mixer was winding down, so we went over to say goodbye to our dean. We ran into Houshmand, the president. And the three of us talked for about 20 minutes. He easily shows off his keen, innovative ways of thinking about higher education, and his passion for the place and the task at hand. It was a delightful chat. It felt, almost, like getting permission to do something you weren’t expecting.

It was the longest conversation I’ve had with a university president in all my years, on any campus. I hope we have the opportunity to have several more.

But enough about me, let’s get to why you’re really here, the site’s most popular weekly feature, checking in on the cats. Phoebe, it seems, has rediscovered this little buffet table. She presently seems intent on making the surface, the floor below it and the airspace around it, strictly hers.

Poseidon was a very good boy much of the weekend. Which is not a thing we can say a lot. He was also quite cuddly this weekend. These two things often coincide. But he just looked, last night, like he was planning his next mischief.

And the good traits, of course, were not to last. He’s been a jerk all evening to his sister.

Probably that’s why she’s staking out that table top.

I had a big bike ride on Saturday. My lovely bride had a longer ride scheduled, and those are (usually) my favorite ones. We have, on our last two rides, added some new roads, which is wonderful, because there are so many new roads for us to explore. Saturday’s adventure involved a road we’ve been on a few times, some others we’ve been on just once, and the back half of the usual, easy hour route.

It was a big ride in the momentous sense. We were only out for about two hours, but on the back end of the ride, indeed, right in that area of the last shot in the above video, I broke my record for the most miles pedaled in a single year.

It’s a humble record, comparatively so, but it’s a new high for me. And the best part is I did that in August — even if I am behind on my spreadsheet’s projections — there’s a lot of time to build the new PR.

Yes, I have a spreadsheet for this. It’s one of the only spreadsheets I like, because it is simple, but also because the numbers only go up.

We also spent Sunday afternoon outdoors.

I swam a mile. Well, I actually swam 1,700, but I discovered that Strava gives you a little message “Congratulations, this activity is your longest swim on Strava!” when you set a new mark.

I also discovered I like seeing that message. Generally, internet badges don’t mean much to me because they don’t mean anything, but seeing that little box is a nice bit of encouragement. I’ve had longer swims, but they were long before I began using Strava. And since I am not training for anything in particular right now, and my swim is my own, and because I like that note, I might just increase every swim in small increments, just so I can get that message a lot.

This might be why I’m not terribly efficient in a gym, pool or anywhere else where new standards can be set.

As for the swim itself, it was rather spontaneous on my part. Seemed like a good idea. My shoulders disagreed for 100 yards or so, but after I ignored them for a while, they gave in and performed slightly more efficiently for a while, and the laps clicked away easily. It was a nice feeling.

I also sat in the shade and read the first third of Eudora Welty’s One Writer’s Beginnings (1984). Welty is from Jackson, Mississippi, is revered as an incredible talent, a giant of her generation, and, for reasons that I don’t recall, I’ve never read the first bit of work, probably just because I don’t read much fiction, and the loss has been entirely mine. Here she’s examining the differences between her and her brothers. They were the in their laughter, but their anger is where their differences came up.

This book emerged from three lectures she delivered at Harvard, and were eventually turned into this memoir. The three sections are titled “Listening,” “Learning to See,” and “Finding a Voice.” All of it is self-possessed, none of it all consuming. She’s painting a triptych, I think, showing her surroundings in this delicate, sweetly innocent way, filling in her surroundings to show what makes the great author.

It’s all eminently relatable.

It has to stay in the house. Can’t go in the new backpack; I might be tempted to reach for it in between meetings.