Jul 24

What a big screen we have

Really, the only problem is that I’m tired. I’ve had a mild cause of symptoms of most everything that you’ll find listed with sinusitis. Oddly, each comes and goes. What troubled me last night was fine this morning. And something else comes along to be the day’s first mild ache or pain — always underlined with a cough, which is, usually, italicized by the gentlest sniffle I’ve ever encountered.

Always, when my sinus decide to bother me it’s days of not being able to breathe. This time, thankfully, that’s not been an issue, which is odd. And oddly welcome.

The biggest thing is just the fatigue. Nothing like a bit of seasonal doldrums in the middle of the summer.

The weather is nice. Nice and warm.

Meaning it was a good evening to try our new setup. Projector, screen, sports.

Just in time for the Tour, the Olympics and maybe some late night old movies, too.

Set up was easy. We’ll improve our storing technique in time.

Speaking of bike riding, here’s my little chart of miles through the first half of the year. Really flattened out the last two weeks, huh?

In the next few days I’ll have a lot of riding to do to make up for it, whatever that means.

Here’s a quick clip from our dive in Cozumel a couple of weeks ago. I’ve got five more clips to put here after this ray, which you can see up close. The trick is to be behind the group you’re diving with, watching which way the critter is going and take a good angle to arrive at the same place.


In our next video we’ll see a flounder! It’ll be great!

It is time to return to 2005 and the Re-Listening project. You’ll recall that I’ve been listening to all of my old CDs in the order of their acquisition. You get to read all about it, because I’m padding the site with some music and, usually, stir up a memory or two. Though there are no strong memories attached to these records, which were library pickups for me.

The first one was the BoDeans debut “Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams,” which T-Bone Burnett produced. It was simple and big, the start of something big for the roots rockers from Wisconsin. Most of us learned about them from the later “Closer to Free” or “Good Things,” but this is where it started. And if you put this on, in 1986, it would have been a stylistic revelation.

The third track has always been one of my favorites. The interplay between Kurt Neumann and Sam Llanas works so well. And it’d do so for a long time, until suddenly it didn’t.

One more quick one.

OK, one more and, remember, this is 1986.

And the good news is, there’s a sweaty bottle out there with your name on it. The BoDeans are touring the U.S. right now.

The next addition was also a library grab — probably I got it on the same day. It was Sister Hazel’s fifth album, “Lift,” from 2004. Consistent sound from the band, though I think I’d generally had my fill by then. I found a few tracks on here I liked, but mostly I was pleased it was a library find.

It’s like a small, smoky venue of nuevo Florida Keys, as heard in Gainseville, for the rest of us. There’s nothing at all wrong with that, if it is for you.

But for their terrific earlier success, they could be the best cover band in America.

And Sister Hazel is on tour right now, as well. And the next time I make you sit through my old music, we’ll be playing a few standards and classics.

Jun 24

Ocean videos

This time last week we were in Mexico. It rained and stormed a lot, so we didn’t get to do all of the diving we’d planned. This time last year we were in the process of moving. It was hot and dry and smoky and stressful. This week we’re dealing with tree damage at home from Sunday’s storms.

I’ll let you decide which is better, but it certainly wasn’t this time last year.

So let’s talk about last week, instead.

One afternoon we just played in the waves. The water was almost rough, but we had a nice time getting beat up. There’s nothing to this video, but a little girl’s smile in an adult’s happiness.


I recorded quite a few of those. Most aren’t very well composed — waves — but, looking at them now, they were consistent. Every time the wave slipped away from her, she stood up and immediately turned for the next one. She’s not even aware of it. It’s an ingrained move, one stemming from years playing in the waves. That’s what I love.

She’s always looking ahead.

These were the best clips from our two-tanks of diving in Cozumel. As you can see, the visibility was pretty low, but we did see a few nice things.


I’ll cut these into individual pieces for anyone who plays favorites. Some people just like to watch the sea anemone wave endlessly. Also, if you didn’t watch it all the way through — shame on you — there’s a giant turtle at the end.

Jun 24

A mechanic, two hours of exercise, and music that still holds up

Took my lovely bride’s car to the shop yesterday and got it back the same afternoon. Regular maintenance sort of stuff. But things are better, she said.

The guy has a shop in the middle of a neighborhood. It’s a two-bay shop, with a slab that’s not big enough for the cars he has on the property. His office is all the way in the back, it’s a … careworn sort of place. That isn’t ordinarily the right word for this sort of thing, but it fits. No one is especially happy when they have to see their mechanic. You take a little angst and stress and — depending on your pocketbook or what’s going on — maybe a little anxiety to your mechanic. People bring in the things that make something careworn.

The couple of times we’ve been there, I’ve seen a few fishing poles in the front room. They’re just sitting there, on a pile of stuff that looks like it hasn’t been moved in a long time. Two rooms back, there’s the guy. A bit on the tall side, thick all the way around. Always wears a bandana. He strikes you as a time-is-money guy. He’s economical with his words, because if he’s talking with you he isn’t making money elsewhere.

I’m not even sure what the guy did to her car given the small amount of money he charged. I asked him to look into something about my car, too. And maybe he will. If he does, maybe he’ll charge me a low, low price, too.

It’ll cost more.

Monday was a beautiful, mild, sunny day. Today was perpetually overcast, but Monday was just lovely. The sort of day where you could unassumingly spend too much time indoors. The sort of day where you wouldn’t even notice it. I spent too much of it inside.

I did go for a little 30-mile bike ride, my first in eight days. I felt like I needed a few days after my last one, and then other things come along and fill your days and before you know it, you wonder if you’ll remember how to balance the thing. It’s embarrassing.

They closed a road while I wasn’t riding. The first sign I saw said the bridge was out. It’s an overpass over the freeway, and I figured it couldn’t be really out, because that would have inconvenienced the motorists below and surely I would have learned about this. So I ignored the signs and the barrels, rode right around them and up to the bridge. And only when I was on the thing did I worry, but the bridge is an engineering marvel and, halfway over, I rationalized that if it could hold itself up then whatever was going on wouldn’t be challenged too much by one guy and a bike.

Only nothing was going on with the bridge. The issue was a little further down the road. This was the issue.

Once I got around that I had, of course, another little stretch of road that was closed from the other direction for the same reason. Almost a mile guaranteed with no traffic. It was lovely! I should just go back and ride that over and over and over again, for as long as it lasts.

Meanwhile, last night was the night the local volunteer fire department … practices driving their trucks around? They actually closed down one road, and a volunteer who takes his traffic directing duties very seriously waved me onto this road.

I’ve never been on this road before! A new road! This particular area is laid out in a wide country grid, so I knew exactly where it would go. It was almost like being lost, but not nearly as fun. Being lost when your legs feel good is just about the most fun thing you can do on a bike. The other day The Yankee was telling me about a ride she had without me where she got turned around for a while and I said, “Really!?” a little excited, and a little jealous. So when I’m not haunting that closed road I need to find more new roads. (I have one in mind just now.)

I saw some beautiful cattle enjoying their evening graze.

Soon after, a fire truck passed me. And I met that rig two more times. I’m not at all certain what they were practicing. (And I know for certain it was VFD practice because they’d deployed signs in some of the areas that were impacted.) Maybe they have new drivers.

Early this afternoon I went for a swim. I put my camera on the bottom of the pool to document the experience.

The experience was laps. I swam, slowly, 1,250 yards. All part of the build up. The build up to swimming more, later. As usual, it took a while for my arms to feel like doing laps. The first 50 yards or so felt great. The next 600 and change felt sluggish. Somewhere between 700 and 735 yards, though, I felt like a champion swimmer. Long build ups, short peaks. Typical.

Actually it felt like a nice swim from about 700 yards through to the end, though I was ready to be done at the end.

Ever since I was a little boy, I said in my best Robert Redford voice, I’ve always gotten hungry around the water. Playing in it, splashing around in a lake, wading in a pool or swimming medium distances, they would all create the same deep hunger. It’s a familiar feeling that a lot of little boys and girls get. Only it never left me. I came to think of it as a physical and a mental need. I can just look at the water and get hungry, was a joke I told my friends. And so I had a second lunch today.

Which was great because, in the later afternoon, and into the early evening, I went out for a casual little 25-mile bike ride. I saw this tractor, which, if you look carefully, is dripping something on the road.

And I set three PRs this evening, all on (little) hills. I am not at all sure how that came to be, but I’ll take it.

Let us return, once more, to the Re-Listening project. As you may know, I’ve been listening to all of my old CDs in the order of their acquisition. I’m also writing a bit about them here, just to pad the site, share some good music and maybe stir up a memory or two.

And today we reach back to 2005, to listen to a CD that was released in 1995, Son Volt’s debut, “Trace.” Uncle Tupelo’s Jay Farrar left the band and that lead to the creation of Son Volt and Wilco (Uncle Tupelo sans Farrar). Wilco’s debut was released first, by a few months, but Son Volt’s debut, in September of 1995, was a bigger hit. Either way, listeners one. (Both bands were, and are, terrific. Two alt-rock, alt-country bands are better than one.)

“Trace” was a reasonable commercial hit, peaking at number 166 on the Billboard 200 chart and soaring to number 7 on the Billboard Heatseekers Albums chart. Perhaps even more importantly, it was a critical success.

“Windfall” was the first single, and the first track. This was the first Son Volt sound most of us heard.

Something about Farrar’s voice that conveys a desperate, lonely, honky tonk feel that you didn’t get a lot of at that time. It was the nineties! And this, for me, was a library pickup to help fill an important gap in the collection.

Here’s the thing, though. These guys could absolutely rock.

The first time I saw them live was at Midtown Music Festival, in Atlanta, in 1998. It was a three-day, seven-stage show. There were more than 100 bands there, absurdly good acts, and you could see the whole weekend’s worth of music — if you were willing to sweat and stand for the whole thing — for just $30 bucks. Son Volt played early Friday. Just after that we saw the Indigo Girls and in between songs Amy Ray said they’d been over to see Son Volt, too. “God bless those guys,” she said.

I saw them once more, the next year. On Valentine’s Day, in fact. I took a girl to a first date to see them. I’d met her in a record store — and somehow it seemed that we knew each other, or the same people, or people thought we knew one another — and music was important to her. Soon after, we worked together. I got tickets to the show and she decided to call it a date, which was unexpected, at least by me. We had a nice time, and I am came to find out later that I passed many tests that night. We dated for four months after that.

She’s manages a big construction company and is married to a realtor. They live close to the beaches where she grew up, close to her family. It looks pretty perfect for her. I wonder what sort of music she’s listening to these days.

If Son Volt is somehow on the list, she’ll have to travel to see them this summer. They are playing a few festivals. Still rocking.

Jun 24

Separation of powers

I had a nice little swim this afternoon. It was little, just 1,000 yards. I am not a wise swimmer, but I am trying to be wise here. It’s early yet, I’m still building up distance or endurance or patience. I swam 1,000 the last time I was in the pool, and so my instinct today was to swim more. I thought I’d do 1,250 yards, but then I thought, no, the sensible thing to do would be to ease into things. And so I did that.

Dove in, the water was warm. Stepped on the strap of a kid’s goggles, and startled myself. A sea creature had gotten me! Laughed at myself. Started swimming. And swam and swam. This takes me a long time, because I am a slow swimmer.

But I found a random chart, with no attribution, on a random site that says my average 100 yard swim times are on par with people 15 and 20 years younger than me. So this chart is, obviously, incredibly accurate.

Of course, the times are for normal people, not fish, nor other species of superhumans or athletes. For all we know, they could be times of people who have never swam from one end of a pool to the other. It could be some ChatGPT chart that was really about cotton candy consumption times that got mislabeled, for all I know, but it suggests I’m swimming faster than young people, and I’ll take it.

We are installing a new closet system — and, Lord do I hate anything that uses the word “system” as a piece of unnecessary marketing. This is an installation for our guest bedroom. For the previous owners, this was a teenager’s room. The closet had the cheap, ubiquitous wire rack shelves. There were sliding glass doors. They’re coming out, too.

It was my lovely bride’s job to decide to upgrade the closet. It was also her job to pick the closet system. It was my job to remove the doors.

The secret to these projects is simple for us. She can build a thing. I can build a thing. We can’t build it together. So I left her alone, right there, to assemble the system. It became my job, after that, to make it actually fit.

The system has three clothes rods. Two at the traditional height and one that is lower. One side of each rod is anchored into the walls, and the other side of each rod will be attached to this MDF shelving unit. Each of these has two rods, one telescoping inside the other. And they’re all too large to work in tandem, and two short to work alone.

So it was my job to solve this problem. To the garage! And the hacksaw! The job was to slice through six medium grade hollow tubes of aluminum.

And then I sanded the burrs away.

She’ll install them tomorrow. I’ll let her put them into place. She likes to build things. It’s the sense of control and progress, I think. On these projects, I just say, I’ll be in my office if you need me. After some muttering, she’ll have made a nice little upgrade.

A now custom-built closet system.

Let us return to the Re-Listening project, where I am writing about all of my old CDs, which I am listening to in my car, in the order of their acquisition. This is just a nice pad, a good excuse to listen to some music, and a trip down memory lane.

And we are still a few decades in the past. (Which is funny because I have new music burning a metaphorical hole in my pocket that I’d really like to get to while I still, loosely, remember their order.

Anyway, the next disc up was something a friend and co-worker burned for me. It was 2004, and I was at and it was late in the year, so I was no longer new there. My buddy made this mix of remixes. It was primarily Beatles, which we had debated at length, mixed with the Beastie Boys, who I never really appreciated. It’s possible he might have been trolling me, come to think of it. But at the end of the disc, he included this track, which still holds up incredibly, incredibly well.

The rest of the remixes weren’t really my thing, but as I was listening to this on a recent night I was struck by the production values. The quality of the mixes was phenomenal, even for the early oughts.

That guy, and his wife, are still dear friends. Tonight, on Facebook, I saw photos of their son graduating high school. I held that boy in my arms when he was a newborn, and now he has a high school diploma.

And now I have to find a way to send those songs back to him. A project for next week.

But, since that mix disc doesn’t really count, we move on. I bought this next disc on January 6, 2005. It had a bonus CD. It didn’t change everything, they’d already changed everything. But, for $8.48 it proved a point I’d already realized about the importance of The Jayhawks.

“Rainy Day Music” was their seventh studio album. It debuted at number 51 on the Billboard 200 in April of 2003. They moved 19,000 copies that week. It was critically well received. Here’s a Wiki summary

Rainy Day Music received generally positive reviews from critics. Dirty Linen described the album as “a low-key effort that features delicate harmonies, recalling California relatives such as Poco and the post-Gram Parsons Burrito Brothers”. Uncut called the album “all acoustic guitars, rich jangling melodies and heavenly harmonies” and wrote that Gary Louris “has come up with some of his most memorable compositions.” Will Hermes of Entertainment Weekly described it as “folk-rock laced with banjos, accordions, and pedal steel” and “the roots move one suspects fans have wanted for years, its classic rock flavor echoing the Byrds, CSNY, and Poco”. Mojo wrote that “their new-found economy makes for some pretty lovely highpoints” and that “Louris is unquestionably a virtuoso, playing his parts with a decorous restraint, and contributing cooing, affectingly human vocals.”

… but no one raved about it enough, for it is a nearly perfect record, even two decades later.

This was the first track, where Gary Louris and Tim O’Reagan put these beautiful, delicate little harmonies together that so typify the sound.

The (almost) title track, which comes along as the fourth track, where, even if you were new to this, you knew you had some stripped down jangly pop genius and singalongs on your hands.

This is the song that The Yankee and I sing together. She, who often mishears lyrics and sings her own, sometimes even more compelling renditions, has a nice spin on this one. For her, it becomes a song about pancakes.

I think it was a deliberate mis-hearing in this case, but we’ve done it this way for 18 or 19 years now, and I don’t want to ask.

The Jayhawks, incidentally, were the first band we went to see together. Mark Olson was back with the band for a time, and so we drove over to Atlanta to watch them in March 2005. This CD was probably the first deep batch of their songs she’d heard.

It was a solid show.

There are 13 songs on the CD, and 10 of them are stand-outs, but this has to be my favorite. Between the bus driver smiling with every passing mile, and the song’s bridge. It’s hard, I think, to feel the same visceral way about a song, after hearing it hundreds and hundreds of times over the years, but not so difficult with this song.

The bonus CD included six additional tracks. Two demos, two alternate versions of songs found here, and a classic live track and between them, I’ve gotten my $8.48 worth and then some.

One of the alternates was an acoustic version of “Tampa to Tulsa.” Yeah.

Rainy day, sunny day, every day in between. This is the record for it.

Put another way, I bought this on Amazon in 2005, which is how I could recall the date and the price. And, of course, there’s a button there, just in case I would like to purchase it again. And I thought, Yeah, OK, until I realized the CD is right next to my elbow right now.

The Jayhawks are on tour — their in Spain right now — and will soon return to the U.S., to visit the Midwest and west coast. Maybe they’ll add some fall dates a little closer to me. I’d definitely go.

And, with that, we are now only five records behind in the Re-Listening project. So we’re right on time.

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.


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.