Monday


10
Jun 24

Dance, then baseball, now old

On Saturday we went to high school. I can’t remember the last time I was in a school. Probably a dozen years or more. We visited one because my god niece in-law (just go with it) was in a dance recital.

I wasn’t really paying attention to the exterior of the building as we pulled up, but I did notice this near the door. When was the last time you saw a pay phone?

If you look closely enough, you can see there’s no receiver. So maybe it isn’t a phone anymore. Maybe the school just dragged it out there and it is waiting for a garbage pick up.

The school, from what we saw, seemed nice. Very big. Old school. Hallways full of plaques marking their distinguished alumni. Some of the plaques were a little basic, but others were quite remarkable. A lot of professors and authors and civic leaders. There was a music promoter, and a touring manager for U2. There was someone who won the Nobel Prize in economics. The inventor of Lipitor went to school there. The state’s first black attorney, a man born a former slave soon after the Civil War, was a student there. His plaque said he got paid for his work by bushels of food. I’d like to have time to read more of them.

But there was dancing to watch.

Our dancer took part in two numbers, a ballet and en pointe. She looked great, danced with nice confidence and had a lot of fun. Had we all not had favorites, everyone in the auditorium would have chosen the two little girls that opened the recital as the stars. They were two young beginners, wearing shimmering three-tone tutus, mimicking what their coach was doing from the floor. They were adorable and stole the show. But all of the numbers and dancers were delightful in their own way, and they kept things moving.

I’ve been to two dance recitals. The first was a two-day recital, if you can believe that. Every group was organized by age, and they all danced to the same song. We heard that same bad song dozens of time. I was working on the video production, which meant I had to be there. It was a lot of standing, no food, and that same horrible song several dozen times. I am quite certain it scarred me. This weekend’s show was much shorter, had a unique song and style of dance for every group, and it was over in a little under two hours. It was a much better show.

After dinner we all adjourned to the ballerina’s home. That evolved into a big baseball game in the front yard. All of the adults sat in lawn chairs and watched the kids play. And me. We had plate music and everything.

This became a two-hour game. Usually because the kindergartner had to dance to his song, “Texas Hold ‘Em.” And we had no pitch count. A pitch count would have moved things along, but most of the kids were too young for that.

The day’s star dancer hit two huge home runs off of me. That’s what happens when you grove your pitches. There were also a lot of little league home runs. After everyone else went inside for snacks, the 9-year-old boy and I stayed out to play catch. (It was a little bit special.)

I was in a dress shirt and not-the-right-shoes for all of this, and so I was sore the rest of the night and tired most of Sunday.

Yesterday, I was admiring the new growth on the pine trees, (Pinus strobus, I think).

We have three in the backyard. They are growing tall and close to the house. They help block the late afternoon sun. They can’t stay forever, but we enjoy them now.

And the sky was just so casually brilliant …

It was worth noting.

It’s time, once again, for the site’s most popular weekly feature. We must check in on the kitties.

Phoebe was nice enough to pose, ever so briefly, on the landing this afternoon.

I’m a real sucker for when she puts her face on her paw.

Poseidon has recently discovered the lamp I have behind my computer.

He came to quickly realize that the light bulb gives off a fair amount of warmth, and so he’s never leaving.

Now, the only way I can keep Poe from that spot is to not turn on the lamp.

He knows cozy when he sees it.

So the kitties, as you can tell, are doing just fine. They’re ready for another fun week. As am I. And i hope you are, too!


3
Jun 24

What a fine start to June

We had a party for the god nephews and niece in-law (just go with it) yesterday evening. The boys are at the age of physicality and not understanding the ability to hurt one another. How they don’t devolve in any waking moment to the most charismatic wrestling move now on television is a mystery. But they wail on each other, as kids do, in just about every other way. It’s fun for them both, of course, until it is not. They are both insanely careful around their sister, which is cute. I am still bigger than them, so I can use the news anchor voice or go stand over one when he is being a little too much. Sometimes it’s the little brother that has to be called to heel.

In other words, they’re boys.

So we recreated famous football catches and toured the basement. They were very interested in our basement, which is not nearly as cool as their grandfather’s basement, and I told them so, but they could not be dissuaded. We had pizza and macaroni and cheese for dinner. We played basketball as a last-ditch stalling effort before they finally left.

The youngest, by the way, has a girlfriend and they have kissed at school and he says they both liked it, and he is in the NBA. He is also graduating kindergarten in a few days.

Oddly enough, I wasn’t completely sapped of energy when they left last night. Must have been that real-strawberry popsicle.

The cats hid upstairs during all of this. They are not used to little people, is the best we can figure. Lately they are both quite friendly when an adult comes by for whatever reason. But these half-sized types are no good for them. They don’t really have a reason for this fear, they just know it on a run-upstairs-and-hide level, and they aren’t wrong.

When they weren’t dodging loud, smelly, pokey, little people, they’ve had a great week. Phoebe is anticipating the sun’s movement.

And she keeps a close watch on the front yard.

Poseidon, meanwhile, has the backyard under close and near constant supervision.

When he’s not taking some Poe-time under a blanket somewhere.

Goofball.

So the cats are doing just great, thanks for asking, and so are we!

I only got in 70 miles on the bike this weekend, mostly because Saturday, which I had imagined as a longer ride, was the day my body said “Hey, feet, aren’t you tired?” And my feet said, “Sure am. And what about you, back? A little stiff aren’t you?” And my back said, “Now that you mention it, yeah. And I just bet those hands are numb, too.” And my hands said “Pkkwbo fiwo iwbefnwne.” So I called it at 32 miles.

Most disappointing. It was slow, and I was well behind my lovely bride, and nothing felt especially good. And that’s why I shouldn’t ride a hard, fast, short ride the day before my longer ride, according to the hypothesis I came up with Saturday evening.

And since I was going slow, I decided to shot this hay storage. There are cow pastures on either side of the road, and that’s the leftover hay from the winter, and that should tell you how mild things were.

A version of that photo will probably wind up as one of the banners on the blog eventually.

Yesterday, I did a little recovery ride, designed to not tax myself too much. And my legs felt great on the out part of my out-and-back route. On the and-back portion I realized, Oh, there was a barely perceptible, but nonetheless helpful tailwind working in my fair a moment ago. That, of course, meant I had an insurmountable headwind on the way back in.

Anyway, today, I’m taking off, and I’ll get back to it tomorrow. In the meantime, since we’re here, let’s check on the month’s progress. May was a light month, in terms of mileage, but it’s still a productive (for me) year so far.

The green line is a projection, where I’d be if I rode an average of 10 miles per day. The ride line is where I was this time last year. The blue line charts my 2024 progress. So it’s been a productive, so far, and should be another record-breaking year.

No one is happier than my spreadsheets.

Yes, I have multiple pages of cycling spreadsheets. Never start doing this. Down this path lies madness, and mystery, and sometimes satisfaction, but usually a squinty-eyed, “How are these the data points I’m fixated on?” sort of feeling of “Huh?”

Our next door neighbor is a 1-year-old. And his parents, of course. But mostly the kid. His parents put a swing out under a tree, it is one of those four rope numbers, and it leads down to a plastic swing that looks like the manufacturer just messed up on the high seat molds and decided they could make something work out of it anyway. The boy is starting to come around to the idea of the swing, a little bit. It takes time, but it is a good swing and his parents are determined and, eventually, this will be a wonderful experience and future swings under that tree will be in the blur of memories he carries forward his whole life.

It’s an amazing tree. Huge, wide crown. Thick lush grass underneath. There’s going to be so much fun and imagination that comes to life as he continues to grow.

And he doesn’t even know yet that helicopters live in it.

Things continue to look beautiful in our backyard beds.

No jets or choppers are emerging from our greenery, though.

We are going to have some grapes again this year, though. If we can keep the pests away. (We’ll fail at that miserably.)

But it is fun to try!

I had a student ask me in the spring if I was excited that Jon Stewart was returning to The Daily Show. I’d mentioned some research we did on the program way, way back when and soon after that announcement came down and he remembered that. And afterward he asked me once or twice what I thought about the new episode.

Since it was a new media class, it seemed viable, even if these students have never even seen the product, let alone the Jon Stewart version. Somewhere along the way there was a good injection point and I said, what people forget is that, at its core, this show is a satirical critique of the media, rather than a commentary on society as a whole. And as I watched tonight’s episode I thought, This is the episode that proves my point.

His guest was Ken Buck, most recently the resigning Congressman from Colorado. And he … was not ready for this.

At the end of the interview, my lovely bride said, “He’s not happy right now, is he?” The question allowed me to return to my central thesis about the show. No, he’s not. He was expecting still another softball interview, but the difference is that Stewart came prepared, and was ready with real-time rejoinders, and names and facts. He doesn’t let things slide, which is what political operators are fundamentally trained for now.

Yes, Stewart has a staff. Yes they do four half-hour shows a week, and yes, he is only, himself, doing the one show a week and, sadly, for this limited run, but what he brings to this highly specific interview is different than every other interview you’ll see on TV, which is largely about cheaply, effectively (with conflict, if possible) filling time and getting to the next commercial break. There’s no substance in that formula. No opportunity for push back, even if you were so inclined. And many aren’t inclined. That’s one of the big problems of contemporary media, an issue Stewart has been pointing out for decades now, and perhaps never more clearly than in the A-block of this episode.

Buck wasn’t always pleased with how that went, even though it wasn’t, at all, adversarial. It could have been even less to his liking. Watch the interview, you see that Stewart bailed him out, or let a moment pass, three or four times. (Frustratingly, Stewart let one go that I wish he’d stuck with.)

It was a brilliant piece of television.


27
May 24

This is mostly about books, and I’m good with that

It’s been since roughly early March, but I feel like I’m catching up on things around here. Which means this is the week I will catch up on things. Which mean something important and pressing will come along to distract me. Something will make me realize this is a false feeling, and that I am, in fact, behind on all of the chores and hobbies and other things I’m just behind on. I will find that note on my phone that has the list of things I want to do, and things I should do, and things I need to do, and then I’m instantly behind the eight ball once more. This is the way of things. But, for the next day or two, this is a good feeling.

So, please, no one write anything on the web. If I’m caught up, I don’t need you adding anything to the To Do stack.

Aaaaaaand … there it is, I just realized something I’m behind on. Oh well, I’ll get to it Thursday, maybe.

Besides, these guys demand all of my attention anyway. Demand it.

We’ve created monsters.

I wonder how long we will leave this box on the kitchen island since Phoebe has made it her own.

After an afternoon of box-sitting, she was ready to quietly sit next to us and take a little nap.

What, in the world, is cuter than that?

Not to be outdone, Poseidon would like to show you his sleeping technique.

How is that comfortable? And it’s easy to say “He’s a cat,” as if that explains anything. But that guy is as spoiled as can be. Not, his cat cave is sitting on the ottoman, because the cat cave alone wasn’t good enough.

So the cats are doing just fine, thanks for asking. And, once again, it is self evident why their weekly check-in is the most popular regular feature on the site.

This weekend, I discovered we have berries.

Who knew? Not me.

This, I assure you, is the moon.

The timestamp says I took that at 11:09 p.m. on Friday night.

Also, I had a 35-mile bike ride, but we’re just going to treat that it’s not even a big deal, in an effort to normalize longer bike rides. I’ll just say this, 35 is sort of the mental barrier. Once I get through that, I’m ready to go out on actual longer rides, and that’s the plan. I’ll continue increasing the mileage because the goal, as ever, is to take nice, long, enjoyable, bike rides. Tomorrow’s ride will be longer than Saturday’s, and so on, for a while.

This weekend we also returned to our best summer weekend system: reading in the shade on Sunday afternoon. Yesterday I read the great Willie Morris’ Yazoo. Morris was from Yazoo, Mississippi, but while he was working as the editor of Harper’s Magazine he made several trips back to his hometown to follow along with how his unique small town was handling integration.

(Most small towns think they are unique. Some of them are. Yazoo may be. How they handled integration, at least in those early stages, was different from most.)

Morris, being a liberal Southern Democrat, and more so while he was living in the north, was hopeful about those early days, as you might imagine one would be about a place he loved. He became haunted by what happened in the longer term. None of that is an author’s fault, when you expand on a longform article to turn it into a book, the book becomes a bit of amber, and the stuff frozen inside of it can be right, or wrong. What we get, from our modern vantage point, is a glimpse of a particular moment in time, 1970, and just more of Morris, the tremendous reporter and writer.

As I’m sitting there, a little insect flew onto the left margin of the page, sat there for an eyeblink, and then hopped-zipped into the pages. It was eager to be in the book. Perhaps it was eager to be a part of the book. One with the book. Or maybe it wanted to fly to Mississippi, and then thought better of it, because it quickly zipped away.

It’s a musty old book, in that delightful, yellow-paged pulp way. Probably the insect’s impulse had something to do with the paper’s aging process. And, almost as quickly, it thought better of it, and flew away. It was one of those things in life that seemed important, important enough that you wanted to share it, even as you knew, in real time, you had no way to do it, or the feeling, justice. And so here I am.

Anyway, I started it yesterday, I finished it yesterday. I’m pleased to have done so, as part of my quest to read pretty much everything possible that Willie Morris wrote. It isn’t all grand, but if you read Terrains of the Heart, you’ll understand the impulse.

I forgot to mention this entirely, but since we’re on the subject of books, last week I finished Marching Home. The subhead is “Union Veterans and Their Unending Civil War.” Subtitles are a terrible modern publishing necessity, but they hit the nail on the head in terms of the thesis.

It turns out, we’ve never been especially good at supporting veterans. I knew that. It goes back to the Revolutionary War and has been a shame and sometimes downright shameful part of the American condition. These guys had it no different.

One part was physical, and one part was the rest of the north wanted to get on with it. Another part was, psychological therapy just wasn’t a thing yet. That’s seeing a 19th century problem through a 21st century lens. It is a thing we caution people about when reading about historical periods, but it’s easy to do, and easy to return to.

Another one would be: 19th century alcohol might have been less than helpful. The descriptions of some of the people in this book beggars belief. But the whole thing really does seem a shame. And while this is, of course, a book about the Union army, reading it makes the humanist wonder how these same real, gritty, daily problems impacted the soldiers who fought for the Confederacy, too. As lousy as some of the northern infrastructure was for dealing with these problems en masse, it would have necessarily been hard for those guys, too.

After I finished that book, which was well-written and seemingly exhaustively researched — almost 40 percent of it were footnotes and other after matter — I asked the random number generator to pick another book from my Kindle queue, and I started in on Rising Tide. Again, the subtitle, “The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How it Changed America” tells the tale. (Why not just use that as the title?)

Where I am, as of this writing, is still about 50 years prior to the flood, but it has been a fine read, and very digestible. These two pages are the bulk of what has been offered in terms of hydrology.

Even something like the movement of water is written in a lean-in style, to author John Barry‘s immense credit. And if these two pages intrigue you, even a little bit, this is a book for you.

I’m five chapters, I think, in. We’ve met three main players. Two of them were surveyor-engineers. One of them was fast, and the other fastidiously, obsessively thorough. The former died in the Civil War. The later did not, and, thus far, has proven to be something of a megalomaniac who becomes the head of the Army Corps of Engineers. And he’s just about to run, head-first, into the third main character, a captain of industry who Barry has thus far portrayed as an irresistible object.

Speaking of which, I think I’ll go back and continue on. When I last looked in, they were just getting to the problem of the legendary sandbars.


20
May 24

‘From the Dairy Queen to the head of the parade’

On Friday we went across the river. And that’s how you know it was a special day, because there was a bridge involved. So, once again, we must applaud the civil engineers. Their work allows for a lot of life’s parties to happen. And it was no different on that fine day, as we went over the Commodore Barry Bridge …

My god-sister-in-law (just go with it) told us about a concert. A lunchtime concert. Rock ‘n’ roll at lunch. Also, it was a free show from XPN. So we saw Guster do a 35-minute set as they promote their new album. In fact, it was released on Friday. In fact, I got a push notification about it while we are at the show.

It was a fun, if altogether too-short, set.

 

They were playing on a lot of rental equipment because they were in New York and their truck broke down. For not knowing all of the gear, everything came off pretty well. That’s 30-or-so years of touring will do for you, I guess.

In that time I have now seen Guster in … five states, but never in the middle of the afternoon.

Lunchtime concerts, I could get used to that.

In the late afternoon, or the very earliest part of the evening, my lovely bride called me to the backyard to meet a new friend.

He was a big boy. We weren’t sure where he came from — the nearest water is a considerable hop away — or where he should go. So I showed him the woods. Hopefully I sent him into the right direction.

Speaking of critters, let’s check on the kitties. Poseidon, for his part, is upset we didn’t introduce him to the frog. Poe is always looking for new friends.

Ours are indoor cats, and what they know of other animals they see through windows. I wonder what they’d do if they were confronted by an oversized amphibian.

I wonder if Phoebe would even be impressed.

Probably. She likes hoping around, too.

We had a nice ride this weekend, and it featured a freshly paved road, a road that was just reopened on Friday evening. You somehow go a little faster on new asphalt.

It was pretty good for me throughout. My fastest split was at mile 16. And, then, at 19.70, my legs decided they’d done enough. That’s when I decided I need to ride a lot more, too. But, hey, it’s summertime, I figured, and so I’ll have more time — and that’s when she blew by me for the last time on the ride, in one powerful, speedy little flourish, over a roller, turning to the left, down and up two small hills, not to be seen again.

Yep. I need to ride more. And, also, to go to more rock ‘n’ roll shows.


13
May 24

And how was your aurora?

Not sure what all the fuss was about. This was our view Friday night, and Saturday night. Seems like we never get the good views. Meteorites, eclipses, auroras, there are always clouds in the way. But the chimney looks cool.

I’m not jealous of the incredible photos I’ve seen online. I’m glad everyone got to see the celestial light show. Now, they can tell me all about it, and that’s nice.

Sunday was a first for us. My lovely bride and I were able to see both of our mothers on Mother’s Day for the first time since we’ve been together. They live about 900 miles apart, so there are always logistics and schedules and logistics. But this year, my mom, of course, was visiting with us for the last few days. We took her to the airport on Sunday afternoon, after a nice deli brunch. From there, we drove up to see my in-laws and had a lovely dinner with them. So it was just lovely all the way around.

And for all of you other mothers out there, happy belated Mother’s Day, please enjoy this virtual flower.

The rose bushes look great just now, here on the inner coastal plain — where the heavy land and the green sands meet.

Standing in my in-laws yard last night, there was still no luck. But the stars look nice.

We drove back to our place today, because the cats will want our attention. Which is a nice way to work into the site’s most popular weekly feature, our check-in with the kitties.

I opened a new box of food for them recently and, as ever, the most important thing was the box itself. Phoebe approves of her new hiding place.

And, right now, Poseidon is wondering why I am busy pecking away at the keyboard. That’s probably a cue.

There’s a fun-filled week ahead here. I hope that’s the case for you, as well. Come back tomorrow and we’ll talk flowering things and music and probably one or two other things that come up between now and then.