Jan 23


I’ve never had a clever idea for a personalized license plate. And, wouldn’t you know it, the best idea only occurred to me when I found it, already in use.

(You might note that, in the reflection, I am wearing gloves. Today was the day that broke me. But my fingers stayed warm.)

There are only two problems with that plate. First, it’s on the children’s hospital tag. Hard to discern what we’re saying here. Second, I suppose the state wouldn’t sell you an ellipse. A few dots on the end would have made the thing.

“Sigh … ”

I guess you could always put that on a mug or a thermos or something. Still get much of your point across, but not in traffic. But then, there are vinyl clings for that. One for the front bumper, and one for the back.

I’d actually like two light kits for the car. One that says “Sigh” and another that says “Hey thanks.” Light those up, front and back, at the appropriate times, and you could convey a lot of messages. I’d be better with that than the horn. There are certain places where the horn is a complex form of communication, but where I’m from the car horn was a solo angry note. Or, if you ever watched poorly scripted dramas, it could also indicate “My brakes are out! Get out of the way!”

Come to think of that, you don’t see that as a TV trope that much anymore. Maybe automobile manufacturers have figured something out about brake technology since the 1970s. Or maybe all of that is on Amazon Prime, or Apple TV. We don’t have those, so the tropes could be in full force over there.

I had a nice long meeting about documentaries today. This is probably the third of these meetings I’ve had, and this meeting was the conclusion of the second or third email chain about them. We’re going to be watching a lot of documentaries at work over the next couple of months, which is exciting.

I also had a short stint in the television studio this afternoon. Someone needed to shoot a quick promotional video, so the studio became a set. I enjoyed watching people moving around chairs and using state-of-the-art cameras as props.

Also, I have begun a surely losing battle with YouTube. This would be difficult to describe, even if you cared, which you don’t. Everyone has their own struggles with YouTube, or they don’t. And, sure, I’d Google the problem if I knew how to describe it, alas.

Our dystopian, but not because of this, future: when you can’t figure out the right search terms to find the answer for how to solve a YouTube issue.

This is a strong contender for my First World Problem of the Year.


We return to the Re-Listening project, where I am playing all of my CDs in their order of acquisition. It passes the time, gives me something to sing to in the car, and something to fill a bit of space with here. These aren’t reviews, but a bit of memory, and a bit of whimsy, as music should be.

We are, I think, getting close to the music getting quite good again, but I digress.

The year was 1996. My on-again and off-again girlfriend suggested a movie. If memory serves we had to erase some lame movie experience from our collective memory. I wish I could remember what that one was (and I’ve tried) but I remember this specifically: when the credits rolled, we stood up to leave and she said, “This movie needed more explosions.”

So the next one was Twister. I think we blew off something that seemed important, but was anything but. That was the sort of thing that appealed to her sensibilities — low key rebel that she was. And so it was that we found ourselves in one of those old theaters that instantly feels a little dirty and dusty and spent the afternoon with Helen Hunt, Bill Paxton, Cary Elwes and all the rest.

Sometime soon after I picked up the soundtrack.

Incidentally, the first two tracks on that soundtrack also appeared on records that we’ve recently visited here. The third song is an inscrutable Tori Amos track. (I wasn’t ready for Amos yet. But a different girlfriend, a few years later, helped remedy that, and even took me to a live show.)

I don’t know why this is, but I love every Alison Krauss song I’ve ever heard, and I own none of her music, except for two or three soundtrack appearances.

Hard to believe this is Mark Knopfler’s first solo single.

In addition to those, and the Van Halen and Rusted Roof indirectly referenced above, there’s a who’s who of forgettable tracks from big pop names here. There’s Soul Asylum, k.d. lang, Lisa Loeb, the Red Hot Chili Peppers for some reason, and the Goo Goo Dolls.

At the end is this song and … I think this might be my favorite Stevie Nicks song?

I’m too young for Fleetwood — and it’s an ever-shrinking list of things I’m too young for these days — and I never really got the Stevie Nicks appeal. But I like this. Probably it’s the Lindsey Buckingham medley.

The next album was the second effort from Bush. We recently ran through the 1994 debut in this space. They had a huge success there, but most of the record doesn’t appeal to me anymore. Their next release, this release, from 1996, even less so. But i remember being disappointed by it then, too. It’s a stinker. But what do I know? It topped the Billboard 200, though I’ve always found everything aside from the first single to be easily forgettable. I don’t care about this record at all. It’s an endless run through empty metaphors from the emo thesaurus, with hasty licks that are, I guess, fills.

Where their first record seemed like a polished parody of the grunge style, this one swung too far in the opposite direction. Wikipedia would like to convince me that this is generally held up as “the last ‘grunge’ sounding album of the 1990s.” Let’s think on that without thinking on in too hard. Did anyone release a record with overdriven guitars and out-of-tune vocals after November, 1996 …

First of all, this is a silly exercise. It’s a loosely labeled genre. No one in it liked the term, none of them. Soundgarden’s last album came out a few months before and they broke up in 1997. Alice in Chains was in that weird hiatus with Layne Staley — and Boggy Depot doesn’t seem to apply. Kurt Cobain was dead. Pearl Jam was still working, of course, but trying to be anything but grunge by then. So maybe Chuck Klosterman was right. Maybe Bush is the Warrant of grunge. Funny that it would be the British band to be there, simply because of timing.

Everything that came after was mislabeled as post-grunge or broadly, and hilariously, mislabeled as “alternative.” Much of it was the return of “corporate-formulated music to regain the footing it lost when swept out by the success of ‘Nevermind.'” Grunge used to be defined as a rebellious counter to all of that. More cynically, it was viewed as cheaper and quicker to produce, and there was a time and place for it. The time was the late-stage Gen X crowd and the 1990s. The place, I suppose, was their ethos. But we all went to work, too, and time marched on. And then the Spice Girls marched in.

Thankfully, the Spice Girls are not the next record on the Re-Listening project, nor will they ever be, but that’s for next week.

I had another quick bike ride before dinner. Just 21 miles, because the next segment was going to be 14 more and I didn’t know how I’d feel about that, plus there was dinner to consider and it was getting on 7:30 and, I couldn’t even use the “time got away from me” excuse, because, look! The moon!

The little things in Zwift delight me so much. The stars twinkle. This stage had a few drones flying overhead for some reason. (You can select an overhead camera view, and maybe that’s why they are they. That’s what I’m telling myself.) And the moon moves back behind that mountain. It is setting, and this happens to fast, because you are riding through simulated days and nights, but it also makes sense given the terrain and the path of your road and how that changes your perspective.

But, I think, when you see the moon in Zwift it is always a full moon. This seems like poor, or overly romanticized, programming. An always full moon would be a problem. It is, or isn’t, full from our planetary view because of the relative positions of the earth, moon and sun. So if the moon always looked full then the earth is out of the way, or, to be more accurate, the moon isn’t in our orbit. Big tidal consequences. Let’s assume it drifts away with some appreciable-to-human-eyes speed. The angle of the earth may shift widely. Our days would get longer, and some time after that things would get really bad here. Seasons would probably change a fair amount. Who knows what would happen at the then-wobbly poles. And I guess it depends on when, in our solar transit, that the moon decided to let go as to where it would wind up, but that could create a whole series of issues in the solar system, too. Zwift might want to fix that, just in case.

In case of what? The moon is watching a bike riding video game and getting ideas?


2023 Zwift route tracker: 38 routes down, 82 to go.

Happy weekend!

Jan 23

Standard issue sort of Thursday

Remember, way back when, on the day before yesterday, we touched on the mid-50s weather and blue skies. That was an outlier. Since then, it has looked like this, with variations of wind, rain, flurries and cold.

There was sun in the forecast today, but it was not to be. Give it this, though, late in the day there were at least low clouds, creating some sense of distinctiveness to the sky. Usually it is just … gray.

Ninety-three days until spring arrives.

The day wad full of email. Want to hear about that? I had several running conversations via email. Some of them quite enlightening. Others required multiple drafts, just to get the tone right. The highlight of the day, probably the week, was that The Yankee came by and sat in my office for lunch and typed up notes for her next meeting. An extra hour with the best company on campus. Sure, her office is one floor above mine — directly above it, in fact — but she spent the time with me instead.

I rode 22 miles this evening. At first there were technical difficulties with the Bluetooth. We have two smart trainers. Sometimes, when we’re using them both, they aren’t so smart.

She was doing a precise and measured watts exercise, see, and I wanted to go fast. And between the computer, the iPad and the two Bluetooth connections to the trainers, she went fast and, for the first half of my workout, I went slow. At least I got to see a (virtual) sunset.

When The Yankee finished her workout I continued for another 12 miles before dinner. Still slow. So maybe it was just me, after all. Seems odd, really. I realized last night that I was due a ride really wanted to ride my bike. I hadn’t turned a pedal since Monday. Explains why my legs felt so light and airy yesterday and today — ready to conquer anything! And then, tonight, *comical deflating sound.*

But a slow hour on the trainer is still an hour on the bike.

Jan 23

I’m out of steam

Extra-long day today. Second long day in a row. And a lot taking place at once, besides. I feel not one bit bad for having nothing here. It is 9 p.m. and I’m already thinking about going to sleep. So I’m playing the nightly word games and …

Have you played Redactle? This is difficult. I think I should quit while I’m ahead.

If you have some more time to kill right now, however, there’s always more on Mastodon.

Jan 23

Is this January? Today did not feel like January …

Wow, what a day. This wasn’t January, but it was. The high reached 54 and there was hardly a cloud in the sky. The highlight of the day, then, was the day. I even went outside for four minutes to walk around two buildings and take this photo. Things like this need documentation.

The Library of Congress and the Internet Archive will surely be along shortly to document the moment. And they should. Sunny and 54 degrees! In January!

I finished this book this evening. (I skimmed about the second half of it.)

Remarkable Journeys of the Second World War isn’t that good. The author interviews people who took part in the war. They’re all British subjects, and their lives and roles varied. Here’s a POW, there’s a nurse, a merchant seaman, member of the Home Guard, and so on. Their stories are theirs, and some of them are riveting, as you might expect. But the author, she gets in the way of those stories with her own narrative. It gets redundant.

There comes a point when you pass through respect to enamored that feels disingenuous.

I bought it for $1.99, so it’s fine. That I skimmed a book is the thing here. Couldn’t tell you the last time I did that.

The last chapter were short stories written by her grandfather, who was a POW from the Royal Air Force, they were all worth reading. The author discovered, and published, his memoir. That I’d read much more closely.

Next up on the Re-Listening Project, where we’re just making recollections through the old CDs played, in order, in the car, is the first Van Halen greatest hits. “Best Of – Volume I” has most of the songs you’d expect for a greatest hits, was rumored to be the reason that Sammy Hagar left the band, brought David Lee Roth, briefly, back into the fold and, ultimately set the stage for Gary Cherone’s brief time fronting the band. And, honestly, somewhere in all of that was when I got worn out by Van Halen.

I remember this well. It was the fall of 1996. School was busy in more ways than one. This was spinning a lot on the drive in to campus from Gentilly. Sunny days, warm skies, a hilariously mediocre football team but, otherwise, everything was ascendant. Michael Jordan and the Bulls were on the way to building the second three-peat. I was helping quiz my roommate, who would, the next month, rise to brilliant national prominence. I believe I was doing music shifts at the radio station, and I managed to be a lot of other places, too. Ahh, the energy and vitality of youth. And, also, David Lee Roth.

I am older now than he was then, so there’s that. (And he was born in Bloomington, apparently? I don’t think I’ve ever heard that.)

Anyway, the first Van Halen cassette I bought was “OU812” so I missed the Roth years. To me, the band was Van Haggar. Further, I am of the not-at-all-consequential-and-yet-controversial opinion that Alex van Halen is a terrific drummer, but Michael Anthony was the secret ingredient to the whole thing. A greatest hits disc got me most of the songs I’d need from the early days, which was perfect. I’m in no way a Van Halen completist.

It seems weird to write a great deal in this space about a now decades old greatest hits compilation. Instead, let’s briefly touch on one of the news from this …. now decades old release. This one, the last ever recorded with the original lineup, is quite good.

No video was ever made, creative differences apparently, but this was a radio hit. They topped the US Rock Chart for six weeks, the third time Van Halen did that with Roth; it was the band’s 14th number one, overall.

This greatest hits came, for me, with an inescapable realization, way back then, and I can’t not think of it today. For an act featuring one of the greatest commercial guitar players of all time, the late, great Eddie Van Halen put a lot of synth in his music.

The one that came to mind this morning, listening to this song: charismatic as he is, and before you could wave it away as his being a rock star, what was Roth like as a teenager?

Next up is Counting Crows’ second studio album, which was released two weeks prior to the Van Halen greatest hits. But this is the order I bought them in, and I shuffled through them at about an equal pace this time through. I have most of the Counting Crows catalog, but I just grew out of it, as all of us should. Time and place and all. (But I’m committed to this gimmick and the records get a lot better. Soon, I think.)

For some reason I always think of driving in Opelika when this song comes on. There must have been some restaurant or store or something that was involved. Maybe it’s a memory from juco classes the next summer. There’s an overpass, and too many decibels, and that’s the memory.

This one always seemed relatable, somehow. Who can say why? That’s what you get when you listen to emo pop rock in the free time of your teens or early 20s.

I always wondered how much of what Adam Duritz wrote and performed was real or in the character. It seems a dangerous thing to put yourself forward to profit from whatever happens next in your personal life. But I like to think this one is more real than not. There’s some wry humor here. Also, I think it is, in pretty much every way, the most lasting track on the record for me.

Also, it is, I think, just about the earliest possible namecheck for Ben Folds. I own no Ben Folds, but I did see him the next year.

Next time we check in on the Re-Listening project, we’ll have a soundtrack. It’ll be a … breezy one.

Jan 23

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

It was a shame that Robby Novak had to grow up. (He’s 18 or so now.) They ended that amazing series so he could concentrate on being a kid, and that makes perfect sense in every respect of course. Still, you might have found yourself hoping that they’d pass the torch. You could have written a storyline about that — a storyline of positivity, of course.

I remember when I was first introduced to this interview, some 12 or so years ago, perhaps. It came to me as part of a conversation about the larger message, the work incomplete, and the issue at hand. All of that was, and is, true. And the interview is remarkable. The first thing you notice is the composition of the shot. But it won’t be the last thing you notice.

This was an important interview, absolutely worth your time. Go ahead and bookmark it if you can’t watch it all right now, but do watch it. And then, maybe, like me, be grateful that we have places available to dip our toes into such important source material.

The world needs more three-day weekends. I say that with all of the respect today deserves. There are a great many important people and ideas to celebrate. We could only benefit by having more opportunities to acknowledge and learn, and our communities would be better for the service. Having a few more four-day work weeks would be a nice byproduct, sure, but that’s not the point I’m after here. I figure one a month, March through October, would be a fine civic contribution.

And, on some of those days, we’d even have nice weather. Law of averages and all that. Saturday we had some sun early. It was gray and cold all day Sunday. It rained most of today. The next seven days we’ll be between 28 and 53 degrees. We might get some sun two or three of those days. We might get some snow or rain on three of those days.

Ninety more days until spring.

We played a few hands on dominos yesterday afternoon. The cat, who only swatted at the tiles one time, managed to eek out a win.

Which makes this as good a place as any to put this week’s installment of the most popular feature on the blog. It’s time to check in with the kitties.

A few days ago I was able to catch Phoebe in shadow and light. It’s a moody image, both dark and mysterious and bright and shiny. Also, stay away from her tennis ball.

Poseidon has placed an order online for a deliver, and he’s spending a fair amount of time waiting on the delivery guy to bring it to him.

I guess he didn’t spring for the overnight delivery. Smart cat.

He got a bit trapped the other night. This cat, that always wants to go outside — they’re strictly indoor pets — has to have his under-the-cover time to keep warm, you see. And if a fuzzy blanket has been deployed Phoebe will find her way to sit on it. So Saturday night …

He looks thrilled by that development, doesn’t he? Look at those eyes. He’s positively delighted to find his blanket time being intruded upon. He allowed me to take three quick photos before he left in disgust.

This is the section where I’m sharing things that, judged too good to close, have been sitting in open tabs for far too long. Today’s first tab features a poem. I ran across it near the end of 2021. That’s a long time to have a tab open, in my estimation. (But I’ve got older tabs, though, as you’ll eventually see.) Lovely poem though.

Keep Your Faith in Beautiful Things

Keep your faith in beautiful things;
in the sun when it is hidden,
in the Spring when it is gone.
And then you will find that Duty and Service and Sacrifice—
all the old ogres and bugbears of —
have joy imprisoned in their deepest dungeons!
And it is for you to set them free —
the immortal joys that no one —
No living soul, or fate, or circumstance—
Can rob you of, once you have released them.

It was written by Roy Rolfe Gilson, Spanish-American War veteran, newspaperman, author and, finally, an Episcopal rector. Born in Iowa, in 1875, Rev. Gilson died in 1933, and is buried in Maryland, where he had served in a parish. He wrote for papers in Michigan. He’s quoted in his obituary. “The best known of my works is ‘In the Morning Glow‘, and is not a child’s book, but an attempt to preserve in words something of that exquisite loveliness of the American home as it has been in its simplicity, and never more beautiful than when seen through the eyes of a little child, to whom the father is a hero and the mother a heroine, and even the toy soldiers have an identity and name.

“It is never the bizarre or unusual that makes me wish to work, but the poetry and comedy in everyday life, in the common lot … If my stories are idyllic, it is not because I wish to write pretty things, but because I have a friendly eye for those secret quests on which we pass each other disguised in foolishness, but wearing beneath a lovely raiment of dreams.”

You can read the entire book, which he published in 1908, at that link.

(So I guess I’ll have that tab open for a while … )

(I just read the first chapter — sweet and innocent and charmingly sentimental, but you knew what was coming. I’ll be reading the rest.)

If memory serves, I googled this because of something I read in a Quora answer about some job interview techniques. I’d never heard of this, neumonic, or seen the concept spelled out, and so it seemed like something to learn about.

The STAR method is a structured manner of responding to a behavioral-based interview question by discussing the specific situation, task, action, and result of the situation you are describing.

More: What is the STAR method?

The STAR method is an interview technique that gives you a straightforward format you can use to tell a story by laying out the Situation, Task, Action, and Result.

Situation: Set the scene and give the necessary details of your example.
Task: Describe what your responsibility was in that situation.
Action: Explain exactly what steps you took to address it.
Result: Share what outcomes your actions achieved.

By using these four components to shape your anecdote, it’s much easier to share a focused answer, providing the interviewer with “a digestible but compelling narrative of what a candidate did,” says Muse Career Coach Al Dea, founder of CareerSchooled. “They can follow along, but also determine based on the answer how well that candidate might fit with the job.”

I suspect this structure is useful in some circumstances. But in others, well, there are a lot of odd interview … let’s call them techniques … out there.

And now I can close these two tabs, meaning on one of my phone’s browsers I now only have … 40 tabs open. Progress!

I had a 30 mile ride on Saturday, including some outrageous (for me) power numbers. To be honest, I am not yet clear on how to interpret these things. Occasionally my watts look more impressive than others, and I’ll google them, just to see how they all measure up. On those days, I have almost-weekend-warrior sort of numbers.

For instance, Saturday I hit 1,048 watts on a sprint. What’s that mean? It means I was standing up and going hard while simultaneously trying to keep my bike in the trainer. That’s pretty close to my recorded maximum. Apparently world-class sprint track cyclists can touch 2,200 watts. So … I’m not that guy.

But then I was going up a hill and looked at the watts in the HUD graphic and …

That’s on a climb and, for me, impressive. I am in no way a climber, but I have lately been getting over small punchy hills in an almost-timely fashion. I’ve just had brief moments of good legs the last few days, basically. There’s something to be said for riding a lot. And that something is “Your legs will feel tired all of the time, but when you get them moving … ”

2023 Zwift route tracker: After today’s 25-mile ride I have completed 34 of the routes on Zwift, and there are 86 to go.