Category Archives: Nothing in Particular

Black dog day II: Electric Boogaloo

I’ve heard depression described as anger turned inward. I know that when I feel it coming on it’s preceded by a lot of frustration. It’s not frustration that triggers it. It’s not that simple. It’s just that everything becomes frustrating. Then, as frustrations stack up on on top of other frustrations, it gets to be too much. You wonder why you even get out of bed. It’s just going to be the same damned thing as yesterday and the day before. Nothing is ever going to change no matter what I do.

Today is one of those days.

I blame movie montages.

I got a credit card bill the other day for the first time since I didn’t know where my next paycheck was coming from. Objectively it’s fine. This was expected. It’s been known and accepted that the household income was going to take a hit the first few months I did this thing. I’m a smart guy. I can write. I can explain things. I don’t have to make a ton of money to be happy. I like solving interesting problems, especially if they involve people trying to make sense of something. So it’s OK. People seem to understand what I say when I explain things. My talent? I can put myself in the place of someone who has no idea what you’re trying to tell them. And I can make you laugh so you don’t even notice you learned something when you remember the punchline. Gotta love a good brain fart joke.

The frustrating thing is that this is going to take time. “What are you doing now?” I’m not sure how to answer that. I’m pretty sure I don’t ever want to have a pat answer. I used to have this piece-of-crap-pickup-truck. People would ask me what model year it was. “Which part do you want to know about?” It was the only answer I could give. I’d like to be able to answer the what-are-you-doing question the same way. “Well, my ambition is an air considioning compressor from a 1972 Camaro.” Makes sense to me.

In movies they compress all this crap to a montage. In one scene I decide to make a change in my life. Montage! Then everything is cool. Roll credits.

It’s all going to work out. I know that. I’m not sure I believe that, but when I’m in that place where I am today I don’t believe much of anything. It’s a black dog day. There’s a reason I’m a cat person.

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Ales & Astros: The last day

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We’re home. There’s really little else to say.

It’s been a great trip. It’s going to take a bit of time to process. It was a week ago today that the conference in Williamsburg, VA wrapped up and we spent a rainy afternoon and evening driving the Colonial Parkway from Jamestown to Yorktown. Didn’t know about the serial killer at the time. Probably for the best. My first overnight train trip was still a day away. It’s amazing how much we packed into just four days in Florida.

Some things that are going to stick with me:

  • Mountains.  I miss them. The drive across West Virginia and western Virginia made that pretty clear. Even today we got off I-75 for a bit to cut down on the amount of traffic we had to sit through to get past the rock slide in Tennessee. We used an old state highway that winds up the mountain paralleling a railroad track and crisis-crossing a stream on a series of one-lane bridges that look like they date back to the WPA or CCC. It all seemed so right somehow.
  • Williamsburg. I’ll admit it, I was seduced by the place. I’d love to go back and spend more time there. One place I’d definitely want to spend time? The Virginia Beer Company. And Alewerks. And definitely the DoG Street Pub.
  • I’ve never been a big fan of vinegar-based barbecue sauces, but there is a Virginia version that I actually want to try out for myself. I had it on a pulled chicken sandwich for lunch last Saturday and I haven’t been able to quit thinking about how good it would be on pulled pork. The weather is supposed to be nice tomorrow….
  • Words cannot describe how miserable I was about 2AM on Tuesday as I tried to sleep in that tiny roomette on the Auto Train. More than once I muttered to myself that I was in hell.  So understand when I say I’d take another train trip in a heartbeat that I’m saying this with my eyes wide open. In a roomette? Not on your life. I’d rather just try to sleep in a coach seat. I think if we’d been in one of the larger sleeping compartments you would have had a hard time getting us off that train. Nothing that was unpleasant about our experience was anything Amtrak could control. I’m a fan.
  • The staff of Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee, FL. It wasn’t supposed to be the case, but we saw the last two Astros Spring Training games that will ever be played in Kissimmee.  There was supposed to be a game yesterday that we couldn’t go to that was supposed to be the last one, but it got rained out. It was already a bittersweet ending to a 32-year run there, and I so wish they could have ended it with tha bang they deserved.  I love minor league ballparks because they’re usually so friendly. That’s what it was like at Osceloa. The only way you would have known the Astros were getting ready to leave is because there was a PA announcement asking folks to share pictures of their experiences at the park. Every single employee was a complete pro. You’d have thought nothing out of the ordinary was going on. It’s a great place to watch a game. I truly hope they find another tenant to go in there. They know how to do it right.
  • I’m ready for the season to get started. I’m excited about the Astros. I’m bracing myself for the wailing and gnashing of teeth from Reds fans this year. We lost 111 games in 2013.  107 the year before that. Reds fans have trouble being positive when they’re winning. This isn’t going to be pretty.  I hope the weather is good Opening Day. It may be the highlight of the year.

But mainly we’re home now. Porter, Dunkel, and Mia have each given us our scolding for leaving them and let both of us know we’re tentatively forgiven. Carla has a long day at work tomorrow. I can’t avoid leaving the house for a couple of reasons, but I don’t plan to be gone long.

I’m home.  I want to enjoy that for a while.

Seventy-eight days

The weirdest thing has happened to me. I didn’t plan it. There was nothing intentional about it at first. The first couple of weeks it was going on I didn’t think much about it. Then I started noticing and I wondered how long it would last. Then there came a day I had to make up my mind. Do I keep doing this? Do I let it end? That was probably the big day day. I decided to keep going. And I think it’s starting to change me.

IMG_0589I’m talking about my Apple Watch and it’s damned Move goal. I’ve got a streak of 78 straight days of hitting it going. I’m starting to become obsessed. I’d say I’m not sure that’s healthy, but I’m pretty sure it actually is. It’s kind of the point.

For those of you who don’t have an Apple Watch I’ll fill in some of the blanks. The watch has an internal accelerometer so it can measure movement and a sensor on the back face that can measuere pulse. It also picks up data from my iPhone to help with location and distance accuracy. That’s not all that important to me right now, but for a lot of folks that’s a killer feature. Unlike a FitBit or other fitness bands, the watch doesn’t track things by steps. It tracks steps, but that’s not the main data type. I don’t know the procedure and I’m sure there are people who consider it bullshit, but the thing actually tracks calories, both resting and active. How does it do this?  Don’t know. Don’t care. I don’t know if it’s calculations are valid. I’m guessing they’re probably not too far out of whack. I do believe they’re reliable. That’s to say I’m confident that however it’s calculating the numbers, it’s doing it the the same way each day. That’s good enough for me.  Even if the actual number is wrong somehow, I know that if I have a higher one today than yesterday, it means I probably did more. Again.  It’s good enough for me.

That diagram is a screenshot from my watch at 12:43 this afternoon.  The outer (red) ring is the “Move Goal.”  Every Monday morning the watch chooses a daily target number for the week.  You have the option of raising it or lowering it. I’m not going to say what my number is because, well, I don’t want to tell you.  Sufficed to say I haven’t lowered it in several weeks and it’s high enough that I can’t just lounge around the condo and expect to hit it. It’s higher than it was on December 31, 2015 when this streak started. I did some work out on the patio this morning and actually hit my daily goal before noon. That’s the first time that’s ever happened and sitting here right now I could cheerfully go to sleep at 7:30 PM so I don’t plan top make a habit of it. The middle (green) ring is the “Exercise” ring.  It wants you do do 30 minutes of exercise.  I’ve yet to see that ring filled in.  That’s a record there.  It’s not what I’m concentrating on right now, so that one remains meaningless to me until that day I actually get one completely filled in.  The inside (blue) ring is the “Stand” ring. It’s a bit of a misnomer because what it ought to be called is the “not motionless” ring.  Technically you’re supposed to stand up and move around for at least a minute 12 times a day, but almost everyone has found that you can fool it by moving your arms around while sitting. If you haven’t moved enough to satisfy the thing since the top of the last hour, you’ll get a prompt at 50 minutes past the hour so you have a chance to get that hour in. If you’re driving down the road at 10 ’til the hour and you see someone gesturing wildly with their arm, you’ve found an Apple Watch owner. Trust me.

It kind of started with the Stand goal at first. I was shocked at how fast an hour could go by. When I get locked in on the screen in front of me, I get locked in. I’ve had the watch for almost a year now. It actually came out on my birthday, though mine didn’t make it to me for a couple of days. I almost immediately started paying attention of the Stand goal and igorning everything else.   I’ve only had perfect weeks 7 times. If I miss it’s usually by one at the most and it’s because I found myself at a computer for a good part of the day.

I’ve hit the Move goal every day this year. I found out pretty early one that it will be happy to keep raising your goal every week until you just can’t hit it. I’m not at the highest total it’s tried to get me to, but it’s higher than it was when the streak started by a significant amount. My rule is that I’ll raise it when in a typical week at home I make it without worry. The streak is only meaningful if I’m having to work at it. At this point I still aim for the level I’m at.

Here’s where it gets weird. I was finding myself coming up short toward the end of the day, so I was coming up with all these quick and dirty exercises to get me across the line.  That’s fine as far as that goes, but a quick look at the activity graph and I could see that I was procrastinating. So I figured out what my hourly target ought to be. That may not sound like a big deal to you, but I can’t think of anything so foreign to me as “Oh, I must make sure a I move around this much each hour.” My spirit animal is the Giant Sloth for God’s sake. I’ve been known to collect dust on my glasses. While I’m wearing them.

That project I worked on out on the patio that put me over ridiculously early today? I started it because I wanted to “get ahead” on my budget so I could spend some time writing. The project wound up growing and then I was over, but that was an accident.  I’m just astonished that I’ve actually managed to convince myself that I ought to think about things this way.

Who am I.  What have I done with myself?

I will cop to feeling better. I will cop to my knees not hurting so much (though these knee braces I’ve been wearing have helped on that score, too). I have no idea whether I’ve lost any weight because I’m not paying any attention to that.  it’s not the point. I suspect it’ll happen. I suspect I’ll start paying attention to it sooner or later.  But not yet.

I have no idea how long the streak will last. It just kind of happened accidentally. The first two weeks of the year were nuts, then getting my replacement for my old job kept me going into the office. Let’s be clear.  I’m not running marathons here. All I have to do is something resembling what someone in shape would do on days they aren’t in a coma and I’ll hit the goal. It was only when I was done at the job that I had to make up my mind to keep on the streak going. I plan to keep it going for as long as I can. Between my already lousy fitness and a year with A-Fib, I pretty much sat on my ass for the last couple of years. I’m breaking that cycle.

The streak will end.  It wasn’t today, though. And I have no plans for it to be tomorrow either.

An ode to my bar

Carla and I have some travel coming up and chances are I won’t have a chance to get out the laptop and post something thoughtful every day. As if what I post most of the time is all that thoughtful. Anyway, I’ve only used the WordPress mobile app intermittently and I want to get more comfortable with it. 

 

Me in my natural environment

 
Since I’ll be posting from where I am at the time the inspiration strikes, I decided to go that route today. So let me wax poetic about my favorite bar, Hebron Brew Haus. 

In many ways it’s just a bar. Pizza. Wings. Various deep-fried appetizerss. All very good. But they also have 22 taps. Only four are macro breweries and one other is usually an Angry Orchard cider. The rotating taps are all over the map, anything from Leinenkugel to Zombie Dust. The thing is there is no pretentiousness allowed. You can come in and get a serious craft beer. You can get a Bud Light. No one’s judging either way. 

The thing that makes Hebron for us is Tuesday nights. It’s buy-one-get-one on craft beer from the rotation taps. Appetizers are half-price before 7 PM. The staff is great. The regulars are great. I really feel like I’m missing something if we have to miss a Tuesday. There were folks missing tonight and I hope they’re ok. We’ll be gone next week. We let TJ the bar manager know so she wouldn’t worry. It’s not a mistake we want to make again. 

It’s just a bar. But it’s my bar. And I’m thankful I have it. 

My latest conversation with a gas pump

Do you have a loyalty card?     No

Credit or debit?          Credit

Enter Billing Zip Code:     41005

Would you like a car wash?     No

Would you like a receipt?     No

Would you like to buy a gallon of milk?     No

Would you like a coupon for ice cream?     No

Are you registered to vote in your state?     Yes

Do you still possess a childlike sense of wonder?     No

Are you a patient person?     Yes

We both know that’s not true, don’t we?     Yes

Am I annoying you?     Yes

You’re going to keep answering questions, aren’t you?     No

You’re lying again, aren’t you?     Yes

Don’t you feel better now admitting that?

Please Enter Response:

Please Enter Response:

Please Enter Response:

Credit Card Charged: $142.50.

Thank you and come again.

Please Swipe Loyalty Card or Credit Card.

Rescue me

Today Carla and I met with the folks from our local animal shelter to talk about plans to assist them in training volunteers. We have two very good reasons why this is important to us. Dunkel and Miss Mia Milkstout are littermates rescued from the attic of a doctor’s office. Neither of them would be in our lives without the wholly remarkable group of people who make the Boone County KY Animal Shelter the special place it is. It is a privilege to be able to give back to a place that has given us so much. 

Dunkel

Miss Mia Milkstout

 

Curling One to Life

I got in touch with my inner Canadian yesterday. Carla and I went to the Cincinnati Gardens Skating Center to join fifteen or so other folks who’d backed Braxton Brewing’s Kickstarter campaign a year ago. One of our rewards was a “Learn to Curl” session with the Cincinnati Curling Club. Since the ice can only be maintained in the cooler months and Braxton’s first year has been a whirlwind, it took a little while to get it all to come together.

It was absolutely worth the wait.

My knees are pretty much crap nowadays from carrying around too much weight for too long. That lunging move you see when people launch the stone? Yeah, that’s not going to happen for me. It turns out they’ve come up with a cheater stick that old fat guys like me can use, and I spun a few stones down the ice. I’m going to say what everyone who ever plays the game for the first time says: it looks a lot easier than it really is. And it’s even more fun than it looks.

After about an hour on the cold ice my knees were screaming at me, so I shot some video on my phone. I decided to finally give one of those iMovies templates a try so I this edited on my iPad this morning1. Here’s what I came up with. Two explanations of things in the video: Braxton’s motto is “Lift One to Life” so that’s where the title “Curl One to Life” comes from. People who contributed to the Kickstarter campaign are “Braxton Builders.”

With no further ado:


1I think back to ’91 or ’92 when I got a call from a guy at Adobe who was bragging that they had hardware and software that could digitize video at something like 12 frames a second at (I think) 320×240. It might have been 160×120. And it’d only take about an hour a minute to capture. I can’t remember how much it cost because I was laughing so hard. And now I’m shooting on a phone and editing on a tablet. Kind of nuts.

Two codas

Sunday is going to be spent driving home again.  The weather is going to be nice and we’re going to take some back roads. It adds a little time, but the extra 20 minutes or so are worth a change of scenery. Things are going extremely well with my father-in-law, but I don’t like to talk too much about it so the man has some privacy. There are a few more trips to make, then we can get back to a more regular schedule. This will be a brief post because, frankly, I’m very tired. Two things happened, though, that are worth mentioning since they have bearing on the last two posts.

In Friday’s post I talked about driving and made an off-handed comment about how many Interstates can trace their history back to animal trails. One of the rituals we’ve developed on our many visits here over the last few months is making the 14 mile trip east over to Paxton, IL to go eat barbecue at The Humble Hog.  It’s really quite good. I’d call it Chicago-style on the pork side and leaning more Kansas City-style on the brisket. The sausage reminds me of what I used to be able to get back in Texas. The sides are really, really good, which is all-too-rare at most barbecue joints. It’s a must-visit for us. Their menu is the one I used as the picture in this post (and a meal there that day inspired the post itself).

This story is not about the restaurant, but something we’ve seen every time we drive back and forth. A month or so ago Carla’s brother Neal, her dad, Carla and I went over to Paxton.  A couple of miles outside of town there’s a big red barn that has the words “Ten Mile Grove” on it. Neal mentioned that he’d always wondered what the grove was ten miles from. Nothing really matched the geography as it stands now. I filed it away and decided it was going to be one of those things that just bothered me. It never occurred to me to Google it. It’s easy to forget stuff like that works out here.

Anyway, the last time we were here (or maybe the trip before) I noticed that there was a historical marker on the side of the road opposite the barn. I figured it would provide a clue.  Turns out it did more than that.  Neal was with us today on another trip to the Humble Hog and we stopped to get this picture:

Click to embiggen

Click to embiggen and read

Turns out Route 9 follows a prehistoric trail. Go figure. At least it’s been paved since then. And Ten Mile Grove is named for being ten miles from someplace that isn’t there anymore.

The other coda for the week is provided by our old friend, short-fingered vulgarian Donald Trump. You remember Donald, right? The man who got the vapors when the Pope pointed out that views he’s espoused might not be rightly called “Christian?” He seems to have gotten over his whole “no man should judge another’s faith” thing.

His supporters won’t care, though. They’ve already constructed walls around their humanity.