Monthly Archives: August 2008

Curse you, “Dancing With the Stars”

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Seriously. I have managed to avoid all these stupid, horrible pointless pseudo-celebrity reality competitions on TV. It’s not an intellectual superiority thing, it’s just that I need to spend my brain cells on “Beach Patrol” or “The Principal’s Office.” But now comes the news that the coming season will feature not only Olympic beach volleyball sensation Misty May-Treanor (Misty: please wear the Chinese dragon hat. Please.), but also comic legend Cloris Leachman. How am I supposed to not watch that?

Not exactly stuck in the ’70s

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But something kinda like it. Musically, anyway. My turntable this summer has been dominated by two ancient pieces of vinyl that suddenly caught fire with me. The first was Joe Cocker’s wildly over-the-top (if murkily recorded) “Mad Dogs and Englishmen,” in which Joe decided to see just how many people he could fit on one stage, attempting the same song. Big singing, big sound, and the kind of thing that just isn’t done anymore. I’ve been so smitten with this album that I ordered the DVD, hoping the sound quality is a notch above the old vinyl but not expecting much. I’ve also been floored by Rod Stewart’s “Every Picture Tells a Story.” I’ve loved his original greatest hits album for years, but this album has some gems that didn’t make the singles charts, including a lovely intro to “Maggie May” that was lopped off for the sake of the 45s, and a beautiful melody called “Mandolin Wind” that enchants me.

Musically, the rest of the summer has been discovering unknown Stones gems on the Underground Garage, listening to the Kaiser Chiefs sing “Ruby” over and over and over, and an unfulfilled intention to put on the Barbarians and listen to Moulty shout out his signature tune for the first time in years. Perhaps today . . . .

Linky Goodness

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I don’t mean to get all linky on ya, but this week I ran across some sites that just demanded to be shared.

First, what the well-decorated apartment looked like in 1924. In the pre-vacuum cleaner days, they apparently put out as many things to collect dust as possible. Since it looks pretty much like my great great aunt’s parlor, I can smell it from here.

I found this on Frogsmoke.com, the definitive site for gallophiles, but the direct link is from Googlesightseeing — as the Google Street Views van goes by, a rollerblader loses his balance, to be captured for eternity on a Paris map.

From Strange Maps, confirmation that the America I live in is not the America the rest of America lives in: regional breakdowns between “soda” and “pop.”

Finally, from Found, the best to-do list ever. Sorry, Adam, you’re history.

The Washcloth Index

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I think one of the economic indicators most ignored by the so-called “experts” is the washcloth-by-the-side-of-the-road count. Last year, as things seemed to be cooking along and Wall Street was spraying money from its trunk like a circus elephant, there were dozens of lost, discarded washcloths along the roadside. There were days when I might see 3 or 4 new ones. Why washcloths? Don’t know. Inexplicable. But there they were, more numerous than t-shirts, panties or even single shoes. But this summer, deep in recession, people are holding onto their washcloths — none by the roadside to be seen. Along with the downturn in road kill, I think it all means something. I’ll let you know when I figure it out.

Cool weather in August? I’ll take it. The days have been just beautiful, the nights cool and crisp — it’s like September in July. Or something like that. Had a great camping trip over the weekend, got several girls safely in and out of the kayak, built sand castles, and just had a nice couple of days lying on the beach. Today it was time to make up for the lack of riding by taking on Taborton Road, my favorite new climb. Like a dinosaur, flat at both ends but a big climb up the middle. Perfect day for it.

Perilous poultry

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Two on-bike encounters with feathered friends this week. In the first, I flushed a hawk on the opposite side of a (very narrow) road — he came up out of the grass, then kept pace with me while eyeing my helmet and deciding how quickly it would break in his claws. It was unnerving to say the least. He stuck with me at a good 35kph pace for a while before deciding that I wasn’t going to be tasty enough to be worth cracking open the shell. In the second, I was attacked by a group of exotic ducks that were hanging out at the end of someone’s driveway, smokin’ butts and looking for trouble. I didn’t see them until the last second, when there was a sudden squawk, lots of feathery motion and a real hard left.

In general, road kill counts have been low this year, another side effect of $4 gas, no doubt. All those critters getting through the summer means that much more carbon dioxide they’re breathing out, and more global warming, so I’ve adopted an official policy of no longer swerving to avoid squirrels. Just doing my part to save the planet.

Not quite a fever

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I usually have Olympic fever, though I admit that the Summer Games are way less interesting to me than the snowbound sports. This year I was all like “eh,” until they actually started, and suddenly I’m deeply into it. I don’t really care if Michael Phelps hits 8 medals (and he’d damn well better be peeing into a cup as well as the pool), and since cycling doesn’t show much bare skin it doesn’t get much coverage, but I feel like NBC has toned down some of the endless stories (because I don’t care whose father just had cancer, whose brother had a near-fatal lawnmower accident, whose high-school sweetheart just returned from MAKE THE STORIES STOP!!!) and focused a bit on the actual sports. The camera work in the Water Cube (which is no cube at all) is uniformly excellent, the gymnastics coverage has been equally good, and even Al Trautwig isn’t spoiling it for me. The beach volleyball has been exciting to watch, and everyone who says it’s just because of the bikinis is really belittling the efforts of some amazing athletes.

Unfortunately, the men’s road cycling race came very early (Sammy Sanchez took it), and so did the women’s (and unfortunately Kristin Armstrong, who was getting some nice recognition in an ad campaign from sponsor Cervelo, had a small crash in the extremely wet conditions), so there’s just the time trials to look forward to tomorrow, and that’s it for the road events.

Stayed up stupidly late last night to watch the men’s gymnastics team struggle for bronze with a display that wavered between awe-inspiring and inept. These mistake-based sports, with subjective scoring based on your screw-ups, take a crazy toughness to shake off the missteps.

Lightning, no. Hail, yes.

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They say that lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice. Apparently the same saying doesn’t apply to hail. I was having a lovely ride on a slightly warm day with beautiful blue skies and lots of big puffy clouds. I got just about to the point near Burden Lake where last I was assailed by very large, very painful hail, and started to feel some drops. Looked up to find the only angry cloud within view (granted, this ain’t exactly big sky country), directly over my head and ready to pounce. Tried to figure out whether pressing on or doubling back was going to be to my advantage; first did one, then as the sky started to open up some more, chose the other, based on how far away blue sky looked to be. Then it really opened up on me.

This hail was much smaller than last time, so it hurt considerably less. But man that cold dowsing does the legs no good — turns them into painful wood, in fact, so that even if I hadn’t had fish swimming in my shoes, I’d have started the slog home. Made my legs ache all night, and I’m not sure they’re entirely recovered this morning. When endurance athletes complain about the little things like an ache here or there, it’s because every little thing takes an edge off your performance. Suddenly being 8 pounds heavier, 15 degrees colder, and slightly bruised by the ice falling from the sky can really take the edge off.

As for the lightning, I decided to apply the theory that if I kept on moving, there was much less chance I’d take a strike. It was all I had to work with. Please don’t tell me I’m wrong.

Mmmm, painty.

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You may have thought the end of the Tour de France meant that I’d be able to get back to some semblance of regular posting — but non. Last week was a marathon of scraping, sanding, painting and shellacking, bookended by two boomerangs to the Big Apple so that elder daughter could get her head filled with leadership and Broadway, spend a week in an Ivy League dorm, and enjoy the wonders of being a 15-year-old with no parents around. (Those wonders had better have changed since I enjoyed them, that’s all I’m saying.)

Even with all those days to work on it, the task exceeded the time, so for now she’s still living without things like curtains or doors, and now I’m running out of momentum and wondering why she really needs a door, anyway. I would have hoped that after 17 years in the same house (oh. my. god) I’d be done blaming the previous owners for the conditions of things and would have moved on to blaming myself . . . but honestly, what the hell did they do to these doors? Under the ’70s era latex paint, which lifted up like a bad sunburn, the crazed varnish covers marks that could only have been made by a toddler with a disc sander, and that I’m now left wondering how to get out, ’cause regular sanding is hardly touching them. Oy. But the last bit of painting of the trim got done today, so the dropcloths can come up, the furniture put in some approximation of how it’s going to be, and we can move on to refilling the room with all the junk that is now distributed throughout the rest of the upstairs. Not that I mind having two violins and a bass guitar in my bedroom, but they don’t leave much room for my bicycle or skis.