Eyes of a Painter

Every picture tells a story, as Ronnie Wood and Rod Stewart told us 50 years ago.

I was advised, when I started this blog, that pictures were essential. Words would not be enough. Since it’s about riding a bike, that meant phone pictures for the most part. With a “real” camera, composition includes choosing the right lens, getting the light right, and using aperture and shutter speed to control depth of field and motion. A phone limits those choices and a camera and lenses are too heavy to carry.

What my eye sees and what my phone shows you don’t always match. The weakness is on both sides – me and the phone. Another blogger I follow is a writer (novelist, poet, former English teacher) and a painter. On the ride that spawned the picture below, I though about Martha – writer and painter – and whether the picture in the phone would really show you what I saw.

Ken Burns tries to capture that in his films. It has been named “The Ken Burns Effect”. My eye saw that truck a lot more clearly than you probably see it in the picture. To get closer to the truck with a digital zoom loses the sharpness and the buildings on the horizon. The colors seem less vibrant here than out there. Digital enhancement (at least with the built-in phone software) makes it look fake. While Martha has the eyes of a painter, this is my kind of music, not hers. She’s a punk. I mean that in the nicest way.

Since Martha is a punk, The Stranglers may be more to her liking. I was never a Stranglers fan, but heard them on the way to meeting some folks for a ride. They were being interviewed by Lulu Garcia-Navarro, and played this:

It is from the album “Dark Matters”, their first in nearly 10 years, and contains the last recorded work of their keyboardist, Dave Greenfield, who died of COVID-19 during its recording. Nothing punk about that song (or a lot of their other work), but as we approach 70 (or pass it) my friends and I talk about aging more. Some friends no longer ride with us, having gotten old. Some have slowed down. Some wonder how long we will feel this good. I can ride 100 miles now, but for how much longer? I will enjoy it while it’s here. There are no guarantees.

Last Wednesday Night Ride

It is October. It is supposed to be getting cold and dark after work. 77 degrees and sunny. A quick 17 miles and I’ll be home in time to cook dinner. Soon there will not be enough daylight to ride after work. The fall color ride is just around the corner, and that will mark the end of recreational riding until the New Year Ride (unless it just stays too nice to resist).

Words we love to hate…

In general, we hate new words that take the place of perfectly good words we already have. I welcome your examples.

First, let’s just say that English is a difficult language, and none of this is to denigrate English language learners. This is for adults, especially college-educated ones, who don’t understand their native language and aren’t curious enough to look something up if they don’t understand it; and those who make up words when we already have perfectly good ones with the same meaning.

* “To gift” (“I gifted him a horse.” You gave him a horse. It was a gift, which is implied in the word “give”. If it wasn’t a gift you’d say, “I sold him a horse” or “I lent him a horse.” The word “gift” replaces the perfectly good word “give”.)
* Misusing “reign” for “rein” (example “giving free rein…”, which has to do with letting your horse run, not holding it back with the reins – reign has no meaning here); Also “they’re”, “their”, and “there”; “its” and “it’s”. If you’re not sure which it is, look it up.
* “Borrow” for “lend” or “loan”, as in, “I borrowed him my book.”
* Apostrophes where they don’t belong – a favorite is the sign in front of a house: “The Smith’s” – do they mean multiple people named Smith live there? (The Smiths) Do they mean it belongs to the village blacksmith? (The smith’s) Do they mean it belongs to the Smith family and they are asserting ownership? (The Smiths’) Also apostrophes for plurals in general.
* “Step foot in” for “Set foot in” or “Step in”.
* “Hair-brained” for “hare-brained”.
* “Literally” for “figuratively”. (“I literally died that day.” No, you didn’t. You are still alive to tell me that you figuratively died that day. Literally, you are still alive.)
* “Ask” as a noun. (“That was a big ask.” It was a request. We already have that word.)
* “I could care less” for “I couldn’t care less”. (If you could care less, that means you do care.)
* “Irregardless” for “regardless”. (“Regardless” means “without regard”. “Irregardless” is a double negative, which would mean “with regard”.)
* “Functionality”
* “Positionality”
Adding “ality” to a word seems to give it new intellectual cachet. I guess we could refer to its “intellectuality”.
* “Operationalize”.
* Business jargon and cliches in general (“at the end of the day”, “circle back”, “lean in”, and all of those other phrases that you use to try to impress upon senior management that you’ve read the latest book by the currently-fashionable entrepreneur. I know, all of those are now old. )

P.S. If you play this game with me, I have more of the same – things I started writing long ago when bored one day and kept as drafts. They’ll be better with participation from you.

Sign o’ the Times

I went to a family wedding over the weekend. It was the first time I had seen my siblings in nearly two years (longer in one case). It was mostly outdoors. There was a basket of masks at the beginning of the food line in case you forgot yours. Weddings used to have personalized items like napkins and matchbooks. In this case it was bottles of hand sanitizer with a drawing of the couple and the date.

Looking west from the wedding site – fire to come after dark. To the left, behind the woodpile, is a corn crib, in case you’re not from corn country.
Looking east from the wedding site

As we drove down the narrow town road to the site, my wife remarked at what a great road this would be for a bike ride. I guess I’m rubbing off on her. After dinner a few of us sat around the fire. The silent disco for dancing in the barn made the fire a peaceful spot. My nephew (from fire country in northern California) was nervous when he saw sparks rise from the fire. As you can see, there is a large open area surrounded by rocks and it is pretty green beyond that – but 30 years years in fire country will do that to you.

After century rides on consecutive weekends and the “Cycle September Challenge” through work (the website for which tells me I rode 780 miles last month), I may not get on my bike until Monday, when I drop the car for its 180,000 mile service and ride home…unless it is too nice out and I ride the other direction, out of town.

The Ride (waiting 2 years for this)

I’m supposed to be in another town teaching for two days. When we canceled this course a year ago, we thought it would be safe after a year. No dice. In-person and hands-on training is not in the cards again. Too many metaphors for that paragraph, though all about gambling.

I request vacation time a year in advance. When the days come up and I have no plans, there is no sense in giving them back. Two days without plans, followed by a day on the bike. I could get to like this. When the word “septuagenarian” not only enters your vocabulary but starts to impinge on your reality, it’s time to think about how to spend a life without going to work every day. As the folksinger Charlie King reminded us “Our life is more than our work and our work is more than our job.”

I was going to do this ride two years ago but it was canceled due to thunderstorms. Last year was canceled due to the pandemic. The ride is a benefit for the Carbone Cancer Center. By the way, you can still donate at https://runsignup.com/half-fast

I’m starting this post before the ride and I have to add one COVID-19 related piece. My employer has now mandated the vaccine. We have until October 1 to get the first shot or be “placed on unpaid leave and terminated by October 11.” There are both medical and religious waivers. The medical waiver is very specific and must be signed by your health care provider. The link to the religious waiver is restricted – as an employee I can’t see it. Maybe my boss can. [Update: I can now see the religious waiver and it just asks me to attest to a religious, moral, or ethical anti-vax stance. – nothing like the Arkansas hospital below.] Most of us were vaccinated in December and January 2020-21. There are a few holdouts. A hospital system in Arkansas is allowing religious exemptions on the assumption that people are objecting to the use of a 40+ year old fetal cell line in the research and development. The CEO of the hospital chain, Matt Troup, had this to say:

“‘(W)e provided a religious attestation form for those individuals requesting a religious exemption,’ The form lists 30 medications and asks employees to ‘truthfully acknowledge and affirm that my sincerely held religious belief is consistent and true and I do not use or will [not] use any of the medications listed as examples or any other medication … that has used fetal cell lines in their development and/or testing.‘” (From Becker’s Hospital Review, Kelly Gooch, 9/16/2021)

The list includes Tylenol, Pepto Bismol, aspirin, Tums, Lipitor, Senokot, Motrin, ibuprofen, Maalox, Ex-Lax, Benadryl, Sudafed, albuterol, Preparation H, MMR vaccine, Claritin, Zoloft, Prilosec OTC, and azithromycin.” (from Ars Tecnica, Beth Mole, 9/16/2021)

So if you are objecting to the vaccine on religious grounds due to your anti-choice stance, stop taking anything in the list above; and be sure to check the full list for the other 11 medications you shouldn’t be taking. And if you are truly religious you will (of course, this goes without saying) check to see that there are no other substances you use which benefit from research involving that fetal cell line, as it sounds like that list of 30 is incomplete.

If you object to vaccines on principle, be sure to NOT get a tetanus shot if you step on a rusty nail. If bitten by a rabid animal, avoid the rabies vaccine on both grounds. A Darwin Award could be in your future!

Big Ring Ride

Wednesday night’s warm up for the century was a fairly easy ride. Part way through I realized I had not yet used the small chainring, so decided to make it a big ring ride and stay on that ring the whole way, just for the hell of it. Saturday was going to be a short ride just to stay loose. Minutes after I changed back into regular clothes, I got a call for an emergency errand so I changed again and did a second ride of the same length. So 30 miles;”just to stay loose”.

The Ride

Sunday dawned chilly so required tights and a jacket for the first couple of hours, then shorts and a short-sleeved jersey for the rest. The wind was supposed to pick up around noon, by which time it would be a tailwind. Right.

We headed into the sunrise, so it was bright until the sun got higher. There was a mass start, complete with a countdown by the MC over a PA and the option to download a tracking app so folks could know where you were at all times. I considered tearing the sensor out of my ride number. All a bit much for me. There were mile markers every mile for the first ten and again at the end – they were from the 25K route, so mile 101 was announced as “Mile 16”. Cruel. All distances were generous (since 25K is 15.5 miles.) The forecast was for early sun, then clouds. The temperature hit 80 (27 C), the clouds didn’t come until well after we finished, and the wind was a factor by 9:30 – by “factor”, I mean “not a tailwind”. The canopies at the rest stops were blowing over, trash receptacles blowing away, the signs (despite being weighted) were falling down, flags were snapping (and shredding) in the “breeze”; and that’s not to mention the effect on the riders. As usual, a great day for a ride; just a bit harder than last week (and despite being only two miles longer, it took a half hour longer).

Religious diversity in Rockdale – two Lutheran churches within shouting distance

Thanks to all the donors for the ride! Shouts out to Mark (California Alps Cycling), Tim, Candice, Celeste, Patti, Vikki, John (A Midnight Rider), KR, all anonymous donors, and anyone I forgot, missed, or couldn’t identify. Thanks to blogging friends I have met only online. Thanks to 50th reunion classmates who are partying while I am riding (stay safe and have an extra beer for me).

The last miles contained tributes to people with cancer. RIP Jerry, Carol, Geoph, Kate, Lloyd, Mary and the rest of you. This ride is to stop that list from growing.
High clouds appeared around 3 PM.

Woolly Bears

Around here, the woolly bear caterpillar is said to predict the winter weather. This caterpillar is generally brown in the middle and black on the ends. More black is said to mean a harsher winter. I saw four on the ride – two with narrow black bands and two that were all brown with no black on the ends. That is supposed to mean a mild winter. I had to look this up, because I thought it was the other way around. One source said a small study confirmed the folklore. Another said the relative sizes of the color bands actually shows what last winter was like. A third source claims no correlation. We’ll see.

Super Spreader Saturday/Roxbury Ride

The first home football game of the season. 80,000 maskless and screaming fans packed together. It’s foggy, so little airflow. What you exhale, I inhale. Once the air gets hot enough, it will rise out of the stadium. Since the air is already saturated with moisture, the droplets will be left behind. The good news is that 90% of the university community has been vaccinated. The bad news is that the university community makes up less than ½ of the audience.

These were my thoughts as I headed out of town, sort of fulfilling a long-term fantasy. As I ride to work, I fantasize continuing on out of town instead of stopping. Today I did that. I was on the road at 9:30 AM, nearly 4 hours later than if I were riding to work on a Saturday morning. I had the day off for the holiday weekend – one of the perks of working every Saturday for 20+ years is that I get a three day weekend when holidays roll around. Of course, so does everyone else, except that they have to work one holiday weekend/year and I don’t. The sidewalks were packed. Traffic through campus was bumper-to-bumper. It was good to get out.

I rode to the once-iconic Roxbury Tavern. Tom had taken over an old roadhouse and decided he wanted a new clientele – people who would sit and eat and talk, with drinking incidental to that. He got rid of the TVs, the video games, the pool table, and the piano. He instituted nightly specials – not the usual bar food, but a Cuban night and (on Wednesdays when we stopped in after rides) an Italian night among them. Spaghetti with Italian sausage and garlic bread was on the menu. Victor was more prone to the mushroom burger and homemade fries, which came with Tom’s own garlic or jalapeño ketchup. Homemade pickles were on the table as an appetizer. The beers were from a small brewery just down the road. Tom was a curmudgeon, and I mean that in the best way. On the other hand, on Paul’s birthday, he serenaded him with “Happy Birthday” on trumpet, guitar, kazoo, and nose flute. I probably told that story here before, but it seemed worth repeating.

Tom retired and there were hints of small changes with the new ownership. Perusing the menu, it looks like a typical roadhouse with the bar food usual suspects. I haven’t been inside. They do have a couple of goats living in the backyard, so it isn’t totally a typical roadhouse.

I stopped to say hello to the goats and have a snack. The bar wasn’t open yet. The goats had less to say than the sheep a few miles down the road. The cattle tend to just watch, sometimes with what seems like idle curiosity, and sometimes looking like they wonder about those humans sometimes. While I anthropomorphize, do they bovimorphize? The town roads were quiet. The fog slowly lifted and the grey was just a little higher off the ground. I had in mind 70 or more miles, but at about 50 the clouds started leaking. Rather than wash off the fresh wax-based chain lube from this morning, I cut the ride short, ending at 61 miles. I froze some cherries earlier this year, so Sunday I baked a Labor Day cherry pie in lieu of riding.

Breaking news! I just learned that the early discount for Cycle America‘s coast-to-coast tour in 2022 has been extended to September 18! Now’s your chance if you want to see the continent the way it was meant to be seen – by bike!

A great Vuelta a España comes to an end. Primož Roglič gave up the red jersey for the middle stages when he didn’t need the pressure. When the chips were down, he answered every challenge. He won the final time trial for his 4th stage win, to go with his Olympic Gold Medal in the same event. It was his third consecutive victory in the Spanish tour. For those who need people from the US in order to feel a connection, Sepp Kuss of Colorado rode brilliantly in support of Roglič, frequently setting the pace in the mountains to narrow the field to the elite climbers, and finishing 8th overall. Lawson Craddock of Texas rode well in support of his teammate Magnus Cort Nielsen, who won three stages. Joe Dombrowski of Virginia finished 39th overall. Thanks to NBC for great coverage, beautiful shots of the scenery, and daily updates on YouTube for those of us who don’t pay their subscription fee.

The Euskaltel -Euskadi team from the Basque region of Spain was invited to the tour. The bikes they ride come from Orbea, a worker-owned co-operative in Mallabia, Spain. In my youth, we dreamed of a co-operative commonwealth; a world in which the production and distribution of goods were owned by the people – not by the government in the name of the people, but by co-operatives owned by the people they served. We worked to build such a system, with co-ops providing food, books, bikes, housing, taxi service, engineering, banking, health care, and car repair; but we fell short of the yogurt production facility we wanted to start. Not all of those co-ops survived, and the association was loose. We discovered that the co-operative commonwealth exists in Mondragón. Mondragón is a network of 96 co-ops employing 81,000 people and divided into four sectors: finance, industry, retail, and knowledge. Orbea is one of those co-ops, owned by the workers who build the bikes.