Monthly Archives: May 2006

Obsession

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I wake this morning obsessed with the striking similarities between The Everly Brothers’ “Hello, Mary Lou” and Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Lookin’ Out My Back Door.” Hmmmm . . . .

Roadside surprise

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Driving through Saratoga County yesterday, I promise you that I saw a camel. Standing in a field. A camel. One hump. Companions wondered why anyone would have a camel. “To store water?”

Exhaustion sets in

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Huge exhaustion. Diva-style exhaustion. Oh, well, I guess not, as that’s actually a cover for some kind of amphetamine addiction, but you know what I mean. I spent last week dreading the coming weekend, and I’ll spend the first couple of days of this week getting over it. Two long-distance bus trips, an orchestra competition, the chaperoning of 11 (count ’em: 11) middle-schoolers at an amusement park, a birthday party, a ballet fundraiser, a late mother’s day/early birthday, and last but not least, the Giro. So just imagine.

Friday we had the Great East Festival, which combines an orchestra/band/chorus competition of sorts with a day at Six Flags New England (known to us old timers as Riverside Park in Agawam, Mass.) Unfortunately, what was promised as overcast turned out to be truly wet, and we spent the first 2.5 hours getting soaked in the rain, but what were ya gonna do? I solved the problem of how possibly to supervise 11 middle-schoolers by immediately giving in to the pleas of the pack of eighth-grade girls to be allowed to go off on their own. How much trouble could 14-year-old girls get into on their own? Luckily, they didn’t, and kept to their promise to meet at the rendezvous exactly at the appointed time. That left me with my daughter and five very nice, funny boys who weren’t quite as game for the big rides as my daughter was, so it worked out just fine. No one hurled, though they came pretty close, and if you’ve never seen a freckled red-head truly turn green, I can just tell you it’s quite a sight.

We got home and got our shoes dry, sorta, and then got up at the crack of dawn for a day in NYC. Girl Scout bus trip, but we just went off on our own and wandered the City for the day, no plan, nowhere to be. It was quite nice, and the sun even came out for a while. But the return trip was lengthy, to say the least — it took us an hour to get from Bryant Park to the Lincoln Tunnel, so we got home very late. Then we had to get up on Sunday for a ballet fundraiser. By the time we were done in the afternoon, I literally fell asleep on the floor.

What didn’t happen? Well, there was no biking in the past week, because of rain and cold. Not good, considering I’ve got a 50-miler coming up way too soon. It’s currently 46 degrees, which just doesn’t inspire you to get in the saddle. Supposed to warm up for the weekend, which will be a welcome change. Weird, weird spring.

No plans for the coming weekend. There’s a massive closet project I should get ready to do, and might even be able to get through this weekend if I just screw it down. And there will have to be some miles on the bike, too.

Speaking of bikes, we’ve been watching the Giro D’Italia on Cycling.tv. The streaming has been hit and miss — of course nobody makes it easy for a Mac user, anyway, and it seems like their servers just get overloaded around about 9 at night. Sometimes it’s smooth, sometimes it’s jittery, sometimes we lose the picture altogether. But it was worth it to watch Ivan Basso somehow tear a minute and a half out of all his competition in the last four kilometers of a not terrifically difficult climb, putting himself solidly into a lead that he has now expanded into what is almost a foregone conclusion. But you’re never done until you’ve crossed the last finish line, and the Giro has tossed some top riders out the back this year, including the incredible sprinter Petacchi, who fractured a kneecap (owww!).

I’m definitely open to paying for streaming cycling, but when I was flipping around tonight, ESPN2 was showing competition paintball. I have to believe that the Giro would draw more viewers than paintball. Who would watch paintball? It’s like watching . . . . Well, you get the point.

Neighborly love

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We have a neighbor who is out and about pretty much all day, walking his dog. It’s the most well-walked dog around. I’ve heard the guy’s wife, and I think I have a good idea about why he needs to walk the dog so much. And he’s a nice enough guy, we wave and say hi and if I’m out in the driveway when he comes by we talk.

So tonight I’m upstairs by the window and I hear someone muttering, but a loud kind of mutter, and I look out the window and there’s this guy with his dog, muttering like a crazy person: “Asshole! He’s such an asshole! He is such an asshole!” over and over and over.

Well, whatever. He moves on. And then my paranoid self gets to wondering — after all, he’s outside my house. Am I the asshole? I can’t imagine why I would be. But someone is. I don’t think it’s me. But is it me?

I hope I’m not the asshole!

What am I reading?

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More like, what am I not? Too many books going at once.

  • First and foremost, Kevin Brockmeier’s elegant, brilliant, gentle A Brief History of the Dead. Sometimes there’s a book that imagines a world so obvious that you can’t believe no one ever thought it up before. Mysterious, beautiful, ultimately a little sad. A wonderful vision of the world beyond and how it might really be connected to this one. Technically, I’ve finished this, but I’ll be picking it right back up again as soon as I’ve finished these others.
  • Wedding of the Waters by Peter Bernstein, subtitled “The Erie Canal and the Making of a Great Nation.” A fresh and well-researched look at the incredible (and nearly forgotten) importance of the Erie Canal, without which New York City wouldn’t be New York City, and the United States wouldn’t be nearly the same. In fact, Bernstein argues we might not even be united states if not for this incredibly important medium of communication and commerce. A very good read, and it makes me think more than ever that what the world needs is a good biography of Elkanah Watson. Perhaps I’m just the man to provide that.
  • Windblown World : The Journals of Jack Kerouac 1947-1954 — “Sometimes my effort at writing becomes so fluid and smooth that too much is torn out of me at once, and it hurts. This is too much mastery! Accompanied with that feeling is the fear of not being perfect, when before, good is good enough, fair is fair enough. Also there’s the reluctance to soil white clean paper with imperfections. This is the curse of vanity, I know.” Yeah!
  • Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea. This is one of those “history of a single subject” books that are all the rage these days, and by and large they’re best for all the side topics they can take you into while examining the subject. In this case, the fascinating part of zero is its long rejection by the west for some highly religious reasons, and what it meant for those who first embraced it. As we’re now trying to roll back the age of reason (this is, after all, the delightenment), it’s important to recognize the darkness that we toil in when we try to make the natural world fit into our imaginary dogmas.
  • Speaking With the Angel, a collection of stories put together by Nick Hornby. This was a fundraiser for the education of autistic children, but it’s no throw-away collection. It includes stories by Helen Fielding, Roddy Doyle, Melissa Bank, and a wonderful piece by Dave Eggers, and while I borrowed mine from the library, I fully intend to purchase a copy first chance I get. And the foreword by Nick Hornby about the challenges of schooling his autistic son is humble but heartbreaking.
  • Self-Made Man is a generally interesting story of a woman who went to great lengths to pass as a man for a year and a half, going so far as to join a bowling league, go out on dates, etc. Some of it is insightful, some of it deals in broad generalizations, but it’s never uninteresting. (He says, not having finished it, because I’m reading too many books at once and wifey absconded with that one.)

A mathematical proof

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Class, today we’re going to determine how much glass is in a bud vase. First, we will take this very nice bud vase, decorated with painted ladybugs. Now use differential equations to solve for the amount of glass. Please calculate the volume of glass, and then resolve to the area assuming uniform thickness of glass but random spatial distribution on a plane..

Good. Now, to check your answers, I’m going to knock the bud vase to the floor.

Anyone who said the amount of glass on the floor would be “infinite,” please give yourselves 100 pts. Everyone else will have to stay after class and help me clean up.