Aug 23

32 gallons can take it right out of you

It is garbage day here on the inner coastal plain. As I’ve mentioned, the garbage people don’t pick up our garbage. They don’t service the area, despite almost all of our customers using the service. Despite them picking up the discards from the previous owners. Despite my having timed this such as to see the garbage truck rumble down the street as I was gathering things together. It’s a weird thing, this small inconvenience. It makes you feel a little vulnerable, somehow.

And it’s a small inconvenience, to be sure. The problem is solved by simply catapulting our refuse into a neighbor’s yard putting a small garbage can or two into the car, sliding a tub of recyclables in there somewhere, and driving them the 7.3 miles to the drop off place.

So I did that. One over-filled, smelly garbage can into the trunk. Plastics, steel, glass and aluminum into the back seat. Turn left, drive awhile, turn right, go around a curve, turn right and then left again, and you’re there. If you do this in the middle of the day, as I did, you might be the only one there, as I almost was.

A woman pulled in just after me and, even though this place should probably suit four or five people setting about the busy work of getting rid of things, I managed to get in her way. She smiled, I smiled. I got out of her way, and then drove away, back through town, and I took this photo.

Two-and-a-half weeks ago, I published a photo of the front door of a local historic bank as part of the We Learn Wednesdays feature. Here’s a better look.

Back at the house, the plastic recycling tub returned to its spot, the garbage can dealt with, I returned to the computer to do computer-type things. I plugged away at this site and that, dealing with tech support from two separate parts of the country on two separate issues. All but the last little bit of what the university requires for their administrative work has now been completed, and the last thing, something of a redundancy if I recall correctly, is now out of my hands. All of which means there will soon be real work to do.

But at quitting time, I quit, and went for a swim. Today I counted out 1,760 yards, which is a fair amount for me. My longest swim since October 29, 2015. I only wrote one throwaway sentence about it here that day; maybe it felt common to do long swims at the time. Most anything can feel ordinary after a time. And then ordinary can, of course, change with the simple demands of the day.

My swims aren’t very pretty, or fast, or efficient. I’ve been in the pull next to incredible swimmers — varsity swimmers, All Americans, Olympians — and it’s simply a gorgeous demonstration of the human form. What you see on TV does not do justice to what you see when you’re in the next lane. And you’ll forget to “swim” altogether as you watch the poet slicing through the water next to you. Or, at least, I do. I don’t swim like that. The only thing we’d have in common is being in the water. But over your lap time, you get to think about things, and today I considered what legendary coach David Marsh — he was himself five times an All-American, coached 12 teams to national championships and has coached more than four dozen Olympians — once told me. “You have to respect someone willing to spend hours and hours, swimming hundreds of laps, to shave a thousandth of a second off of their best time.”

Every now and then, during my swim, a part of one lap felt better than the last. Maybe I was almost finding the right technique, just in time to reach the wall and throw the whole thing off. I’m not good at it, is what I’m saying, and also inconsistent. But it was a long swim, and it felt mostly comfortable. The metric I’m using: I only stopped twice.

After that, my lovely bride and I talked about sports and classes. For the second time in a week or so someone has mentioned to her a study idea I suggested a few weeks back. We might be on to something there. These are the conversations that are the most fun. Sometimes they go somewhere.

By dinner time, which was soon after that conversation, I could already feel that swim in my shoulders. I wonder, what would Marsh say about that?

“Blame it on the garbage cans,” probably.

Aug 23

Nature’s candy in my hand or can or a pie

Great weekend around here, thanks. How was yours? I did garbage duties on Saturday. I let the cats lounge on me. I floated around listening to nothing. I found the weed eater, which I used this morning. Weeds needed to be ate, and the job was accomplished in the back yard and on one side.

Now I need to get some better line, something less fragile than dried, crystalized cotton candy, so that unwanted grasses and weeds can be removed from tricky spots with a casual waving of the magic device.

I found the manual to the weed eater, too. This was useful, because I could find the page telling me precisely which size line I need to acquire. We had a weed eater guy at our old house. He solved all of these problems easily, and efficiently. Also, that gentleman knew the intricacies of a weed eater. A craftsman know’s his tools. My weed eater’s manual also had a stamp showing the build date. It was manufactured in 2012. I know, for a fact, it has been used … not very often.

Also today, I checked on the peaches, deadheaded some flowers and showed a few pokeweed plants who was boss around these parts. I rescued a frog, discovered two electric outlets that apparently don’t draw power and watered the plants. And I vacuumed.

This evening we brought the first batch of peaches in. I think I ate four in the yard and three in the kitchen today? It was a warm day, the extra hydration couldn’t hurt.

We looked up things to do with peaches beyond cobblers and ice creams. We’re going to be making a lot of peach salsa. We’ll put it on everything.

Yesterday I did a triathlon. It was a backyard triathlon. No clocks, no medals. Which is to say I timed it, it was slow, and there were no finisher medals for me, because it wasn’t an official triathlon. But I did a swim-bike-run. It was my first tri since … the 10th. The 10th of October. The 10th of October of 2015. That was a half Ironman, and a lot happened after that, so I sat out the beginning of the 2016 season to save money. After which I started a new job, and that took up a lot of time.

Sure, the really devoted find the time. Make the time. I recall reading the inspirational story of one man who was an Ironman, a medical doctor, and a father of nine. He found the time. But me, and my old split 50-60 hour schedule and no pool time had no time. Which is to say I could have made the time, but there would have been no other time. And I didn’t want triathlon training to be my only hobby.

These are the things I told myself since 2016. Now, I have a little more time. And, one hopes, more motivation. And so it was that I had, just last month, my first swim(s) in years. And also running, which comes and goes for me due to apathy. (I see people riding their bikes and think I wish I could go for a bike ride. I have never watched anyone run by and thought, Man, I wish I could be jogging right now.) And so today, a backyard sprint triathlon. (Sprint in this case denotes distance, not speed.)

Counting laps in a pool is hard. The mind wanders. You lose track. Was that 15? Or 16? So, today, I used sticks.

I swam 800 yards, moving a stick from one pile to another. Then I did an easy out-and-back 20 km bike ride. It was a decent ride. I had six stop signs, and I was conscious of having to shuffle through a run after. So I took it easy-ish, but it was fun and I was pleased.

I was not at all pleased with the run. I was not surprised by that, either.

In July of 2015, when I was eight years younger and in a different kind of shape, I did a sprint tri 15 that was minutes faster than what I did today. The week before that, I did another spring tri. (Two weekends in a row. See? I was in a different kind of shape.) In that one, I was 12 minutes faster than today. I was proud of my bike ride in that one. I had the third fastest bike leg on the course. They were roads I rode every day and, it turns out, there’s a little advantage to that.

It was a brand new event put on by our old LBS. I miss those guys, and I wish we’d had the opportunity to do that one more than once. I wish for a lot of things.

Anyway, my fastest sprint tri was 22 minutes faster than today. I can find 22 minutes somewhere, right? Right?

Phoebe says the answer to my question may be just through this door.

Through that door is the garage. And my car is in there. And it does go faster than my bike and feet. So she’s not wrong.

She still loves sitting in boxes. Good thing we’ve kept a few kitty-sized bits of cardboard around for them.

Poseidon really doesn’t want me to write anymore about Phoebe. He’s jealous of her and whatever she’s doing, at most all times.

I love when I catch him yawning. Usually it makes him look angry or ferocious. Once or twice a big yawn has looked ludicrous. In this one, I think, he looks playful.

Aug 23

Happy birthday to the website

Twenty years ago today, yikes, I wrote my first blog post. I wrote four brief things that day. They were nothing to write home about, but I certainly did put them on the web. No one saw them, of course. Since then, I have published 6,538 more posts.

Nineteen years ago, this weekend, I launched My goal at the time was to make something aesthetically unique that had minimalist coding. Two hidden frames, with text on the left and a small photo collage on the right. Of course, no one was visiting. The site had 647 visits that month. (For those of you still around, I thank you.)

Last month, was pretty good. The site saw a 10,925 percent increase over August 2004 first month. In between, for whatever reasons, we’ve logged. 5.3 million visits. (And thanks.)

And so we launch year 20 on this URL, and year 21 of writing the blog. The party hasn’t begun yet. I’m waiting for the cupcake to get here.

Even so, this place has come a long, long way since then. So I have. I wonder what kind of fun and interesting things we’ll see in the months to come.

Today in outdoor fun, I picked up sticks. What should I do with all of these sticks, I wondered, and then I remembered we have a fire pit and we’ll need kindling. Stick problem solved.

I was going to cut away dead branches from a few trees, but that’s never as fun to contemplate when you’re standing under a tree as when you’re inside wondering what you should do.

The apple trees are coming along nicely. And I spent some time studying the chokecherry trees, and started reading about what you can do with chokecherries. Do you like tart jams, jellies or wines? Chokecherry might be for you.

I found some maple saplings that I’ll try transplanting this winter. And I pulled up, and then chopped up, a few more pokeweed plants. I also checked on the tomato vines, a new seasonally favorite habit. In a few more days more will go from the vine to the kitchen.

Next, we’ll have to figure out the herb garden. That’s what the weekend is for. There are a few bramble vines in there. And I’m looking forward to picking those berries sometime soon.

And we’ll need to keep a closer eye on the peaches. We’re going to have a lot of peaches. They’ve really lit their tree up this week.

Across the way, a darker tree looms. Check out this maple, which pins the yard to the road.

There are a lot of fun things to explore outside, so I’m taking it a bit at a time. Plus, ya know, outdoors being outdoors, it’s always changing.

I didn’t have that stack of kindling this morning, for example.

I’d planned a 30 mile bike ride today. It was precipitating when I left the house. Saying it was misting wouldn’t be accurate. Saying it was sprinkling would overstate it. Minkling. It was minkling. Minkling sounds fun. I rode through the little downtown, checking out some of the sites and taking photos for later.

Then I turned toward the southeast, to follow the next part of the route. I looked up and saw dark clouds. I felt a new precipitation begin, something much more sprinkling-like. I glanced at the time.

Which was when I thought of the one reason to continue on — because I planned this route — and weighed that against all of the reasons I should call it early. Instead of pressing on I took the next right. And then two amazing things happened.

I started riding without looking at a map. Then, three miles later, I found myself at an intersection I knew. That sensation of knowing a place, the feeling of some knowledge clicking in, you know the one, right? It probably isn’t much, that “Ohhhh yeah!” moment, but it surely seems like a big thing when it occurs. It’s just an intersection with a red light and a Sunoco, but it was a big deal. Those realizations of clarity, understanding a tiny bit of context in a new place always feel like a big deal.

As I rode back, the weather in front of me was better than the stuff behind. Still gray, as you can see behind this hay shed, but brighter.

The cattle in the pasture next to it seemed content, for cows. Why wouldn’t they be? They can see their winter food right there. That would be reassuring to them, if they understood calendars, and the tilt of the earth, and seasons.

Anyway, I set three PRs on Strava segments on this ride. And I am now in second place on the segment that someone drew up on our road.

That’s one of the many things I wasn’t doing 20 years ago when I started this place, sitting at an old MDF desk, using dialup: riding my own road for highly personalized bragging rights.

Small steps. At least until that cupcake arrives.

May 23

Not just another Monday

This evening I asked my lovely bride, who is now fighting off a head cold, if she would be offended if I left her on the sofa and went on a bike ride. It was my first ride in a week or more, somehow, and I hate when that happens, because I hate how those breaks make my legs feel.

But the light under these trees, on a gray and overcast day no less, was magical.

This is the same road, but coming back out from the dead end.

So that was one of the highlights of today. One of ’em, anyway.

One of the highlights of the weekend was Saturday morning. My lovely bride, who was not fighting a head cold then, was off in a local sprint triathlon she does every year. It’s close enough that there’s no travel involved, but she still has to get up early. And, thankfully, she lets me sleep in for this one.

But I had errands to run, so I set an alarm. I set an alarm for Saturday morning. (Oh, the indignity!)

First, it was to the recycling center. It’s a task that always seems bigger than it is. We sort as we go, so it’s just a matter of putting four big tubs in the car, wrangling in whatever cardboard you can get in there, and then driving two miles to the conveniently located recycling center. The hard part is remembering which of their giant bins is for steel, and which is for glass and aluminum. (I think they move some of them around.) So it’s easy enough then, which means I’ve now built momentum.

After that, I visited the Surplus Store. It was a special, overstocked Saturday sale, and you never know. So I did two laps, saw nothing I wanted or needed, and then hit the third chore of the day: a drive across town to replace two tires on the car.

The tire shop I use is on a road filled with mechanics and auto parts places. It’s an area I have no real need to go to on a regular basis, so I use a maps app. As luck would have it, they were able to fit my car into their schedule for the day. Moved the front tires to the rear, put two new tires on the front. The same thing I did three years ago and not all that many miles ago, actually, so now I have almost matched tires.

I got hungry as I waited, so I opened up the maps app to see if anything was in walking distance. There was a Steak ‘n Shake, another restaurant that uses apostrophes incorrectly, but they’ve got good milkshakes, so all is forgiven. I started walking that way. Along the way, I called an audible, because there was also a Mexican restaurant nearby, a bit closer, in fact. I went there. They had sweet tea, which is why you always ask. I had huevos con chorizo, and a tea. The waiter, a kind, older gentleman with reasonably good English kept calling me buddy. It amused him that I ordered mostly in Spanish, but I did not know the phrase “tortilla de harina.”

Finished my lunch and walked back to the tire shop, trying to recall the last spontaneous thing I did like that. Trying to remember the last time I ate alone.

It was before the pandemic began. One of my favorite things to do has always been to sit and eat and read. Only we don’t go out to eat anymore, except when traveling, really. Surprisingly, I don’t miss dining out, something I’d long seen as one of my bad habits. But there I was, being spontaneous, and eating out, and doing it alone. It was, I realized, a big day.

Which was just before I realized I need to liven things up.

Can do! Just you wait and see.

Anyway, I have new tires now. And The Yankee made it back from her triathlon, her first since her big, horrible crash last September. Two weeks prior she finished her PT, but she still projected as being a few months away from a full recovery.

She won her age group.

I spent a few minutes yesterday finally updating the art on the front page of the site. Same style, different decoration. There are a dozen new images for you to enjoy, though, all from our trip to Andorra in March. They look like this.

So, if you like mountain views, click that link, and enjoy.

Which brings us to the site’s most popular weekly feature. It’s time, once again, to check in on the kitties.

Here’s Phoebe, enjoying yesterday afternoon on her blanket. We have four blankets like this. This one she’s claimed as her own. And if it isn’t out, there’s a whole ordeal of silent staring and judging.

She also enjoyed a bit of window time this weekend, looking out over the shrubs, watching the birdies and the squirrels.

Poseidon found a new box, and so, of course, Poseidon had to get in the box.

He was not successful in this case, though he did push it all around the floor for a while.

I am not sure what is going on with this pose. It took me a while to figure out which paw was which. But he looks cozy, I guess?

The cats are doing just fine. And if they understood Mondays, I’m sure they’d wish you a happy one.

May 23

Thursday, May 11th