Thoughts on a Rock Shuffle

Driving up to see a friend on Sunday night, my iPhone served me a nice mix of tunes off my favorite playlist, “Rock Goodness.” My thoughts on the tunes:

  • AC/DC, “Money Talks” – A great song marred by a crappy guitar solo.
  • The White Stripes, “Seven Nation Army” – A so-so song improved by an insanely great solo. Or series of solos.
  • Art Brut, “I Will Survive” – Great lyrics with a superb solo.
  • R.E.M., “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth” – Incomprehensible but awesome.
  • Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Fortunate Son” – A pretty freaking apt summary of 2015 America.
  • Springsteen, “Glory Days” – I’m glad this isn’t a summary of my life.
  • Guns N’ Roses, “Sweet Child o’ Mine” – As great in 2015 when it seems to apply (partly?) to my actual daughters as it was in 1987 when it seemed to apply (partly?) to imaginary girlfriends. (Is that creepy?)
  • Kanye, “Power” – Maybe the best rock song of the ’00s.
  • Jay-Z and Danger Mouse, “99 Problems” (off The Gray Album) – The Beatles’ zipper guitars never sounded better.
  • The Who, “Seeker” – The best name-dropping of any rock song.
  • The Hold Steady, “Massive Nights” – A color-by-numbers party song that is so much more.
  • Phosphorescent, “Ride On/Right On” – I’d love this song even if it weren’t about sex and bicycling.
  • Wild Flag, “Racehorse” – You are rock ‘n’ roll fun.

Spring Thursday

Today was just one of those days that went right. Perfect weather. Lots, but not too much, to do at work – including doing off a few to-dos that had been to for too long. A hard workout at noon. Some Carleton silliness: free root-beer floats at the library.

Root Beer Float Line
Root Beer Float Line

A task at the end of the day that turned out to be easier than I thought. Wonderful floral smells in the humid spring air. A great bike ride home, seeing a half-dozen friends and acquaintances and met a new fatbike. A gorgeous sunset. A pleasant few minutes with the girls when they got home, jazzed up, from tae kwon do. Now, a good new book to read and a delicious beer…


Like you do, Vivi spent a good half hour the other night writing fortunes for fortune cookies. Her cursive script is excellent, and her sense of cookie fortune absurdity is top notch.

Be an advertiser that constantly says, “50% Fewer calories.”

Salt and/or pepper will invade your life.

Grow up to be like Aunt Jemima.

Make a dent is a dead bird’s beak.

Chip your tooth on a barb wire.

Develop a sack-racing obsession.

Pinocchio will take you to Kokaki land.

Work in a factory that makes butter.

An evil magicians will steal your hairbrush.

Smash a tulip.



Old Cat’s New Tricks

This is what I see whenever I sit down to eat something from a bowl.


Grandma Cat can tell the difference between the clinking sounds made in bowls or on plates. If she detects food being consumed from a bowl, she comes begging, hoping that it’s cereal, so she can have the leftover milk, or ice cream, so she can slurp the melt.

Tonight, despite a solid 15 minutes of begging, she got nothing, since I was eating some chicken chili. When I let her sniff them empty bowl, she gave me a look of equal parts disappointment and hurt, then padded away to the sis.

Imbolc and Cailleach

A tardy note on the Gaelic holiday of Imbolc, traditionally held on February 1 and associated with the onset of spring – or a prolonged winter.

From Wikipedia:

Imbolc was believed to be when the Cailleach—the divine hag of Gaelic tradition—gathers her firewood for the rest of the winter. Legend has it that if she wishes to make the winter last a good while longer, she will make sure the weather on Imbolc is bright and sunny, so she can gather plenty of firewood. Therefore, people would be relieved if Imbolc is a day of foul weather, as it means the Cailleach is asleep and winter is almost over. At Imbolc on the Isle of Man, where she is known as Caillagh ny Groamagh, the Cailleach is said to take the form of a gigantic bird carrying sticks in her beak.

Cailleach would be a great name.

Will Time Travel 4 Clothes

I’ve been thinking a little bit about time travel since I read William Gibson’s superb new science fiction novel The Peripheral, which offers a very cool take on the idea of moving back and forth through time.

If I could travel through time, though, I wouldn’t bother with bullshit like hunting dinosaurs or assassinating Hitler or making a killing on the stock market. No sir: I would go back in time to buy items of clothing that I loved and now have lost, like the full-zip fleece sweaters that I bought from Eddie Bauer in 2003, or the Smartwool socks that long outlasted their insane $5-a-pair price, or these great Duofold longjohns that I got on clearance years ago but that will soon go to the rag bin.
yes, those are my underwear.

Yes, I’ve now published a picture of my underwear on the Internet.

November Bloggery

I’ve been horribly remiss in keeping up with this blog all summer long, making only 19 posts since May, even though I and we have had a very busy, eventful summer and fall!

Riffing on the National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo and Academic Writing Month or AcWriMo, I’m going kick off my own Blog Writing Month or BloWriMo to catch up on by backlogged blogging by writing one post each day in November. Topics should include

  • the end of the 2013-2014 academic year
  • Julia’s 10th birthday
  • the Lutsen 99er mountain bike race
  • our vacation trip to the U.P.
  • a business trip to the San Francisco Bay Area
  • Genevieve’s 8th birthday
  • good summer beers
  • selling my Mukluk
  • buying a new Mukluk
  • the Inspiration 100 gravel race
  • the start of the 2014-2015 academic year
  • getting fussy with my hearing aids
  • the girls starting 5th and 3rd grades
  • Shannon’s new full-time job
  • my ninth anniversary at Carleton
  • the Heck of the North gravel race
  • Julia’s field trip to the Minnesota Zoo
  • getting revved up for winter racing

Firewood 4 Sale

Even though our vacation came at the start of summer, we saw lots of firewood for sale in the UP. Every other rural house or small-town gas station seemed to be selling camp wood for sale, always on the honor system. $4 a bundle was the normal rate, but I did see some priced to move at $3. This appears to an unexploited marketplace inefficiency. Someone should buy all the cheap wood, then sell it to desperate tourists at campgrounds for $6.

Bruce Crossing Cenex

Here and there, I also saw bigger quantities for sale – by the cord, by the pile, or even by the truckload, albeit through a raffle.
South Range

Kwik Trip Cover Bands

I took a break during Wednesday’s ride to stuff my face at a Kwik Trip convenience store near downtown Red Wing, Minnesota. I kinda like mid-ride breaks at gas stations, which are functional, cheap, and usually peaceful. I sat at the short counter near the door, listening to a toothless but cheerful associate offer samples of pizza to incoming customers, eating a decent quantity of just-purchased calories, and watching the activity at the gas pumps. Pretty much nobody there looked happy or even okay: annoyance, hurriedness, tiredness prevailed in the faces of other customers.

Gradually, I realized that the music playing over the speakers was somehow off. Listening harder, I realized that all of the songs were familiar, but that each one was being sung by someone who wasn’t the regular artist. The Beyonce tune was performed by a woman with slightly less range and dynamism. The Hall & Oates song was delivered by someone who didn’t quite believe that private eyes were indeed watching you watching you. The Dave Matthews soundalike wasn’t quite as whiny as the real guy. And quasi-Toto just plain didn’t convince me that it would in fact take a lot to drag me away from you. All in all, it was a slightly creepy, slightly annoying, slightly entertaining interlude before I climbed back on the bike.

A Rough Start to Year 42

The twelve days since my birthday have rough.

Gray Times

I caught strep on that happy day, and needed pretty much a full week to recover – even after taking two sick days (my first in almost a decade). I fell way behind on some urgent work while out of the office, and needed a solid week to catch up. Thanks in part to that illness, my first real bike ride in quite a while – a night ride with the guys earlier this week – was an unpleasant ordeal. And then yesterday, the grandma cat started throwing up and crapping all over. Turns out, she was horrendously constipated, and the vet needed quite a bit of money to get her cleaned out. (I hope I never hear the words "fecal balls" again.) The cost was worth it, but the black humor of a literally shitty end to the week isn’t lost on me.

Sunday will be two weeks since my birthday. I’m hitting the reset button on year #42 then.

Somehow Older

My year of being forty is almost over. Maybe because forty is such a milestone, I’ve been more and more aware of the ways that my age – or at least the appearance of my age – is working to my unearned advantage. People call me "sir" more often, even on the phone. In crowds, especially at work, students – who are, yes, half my age – seem to get out of my way a little more readily, especially if I say "excuse me." More than a few times, I’ve (inadvertently) quieted down a teenager at Target or a coffeeshop simply by looking at them. No scowl or anything – just a look.

The other day I went to the Verizon store to see about upgrading my iPhone. I’d received an email saying that I was eligible to switch for free to one of those candy-colored 5c models with more memory than my current phone, so I thought, "Why not?"

A salesman came right up to me when I walked into the store, addressing me as "sir." He seemed inordinately young: if not 18 or 19, then a baby-faced twentysomething. I told him about the emailed offer, and he got right down to business by explaining some of the finer points of the upgrade scheme; checking on the store’s inventory of 5c devices; trying to upsell me on insurance, a new data plan, and a case; and finally looking up my account – at which point he learned that only Shannon’s phone was eligible for the upgrade, not mine.

I was a little bit surprised by this, but I didn’t care too much; my current phone is just fine. Sales Boy, though, was incredibly embarrassed by his error. He blushed, his hands started shaking, he dropped his pen, he stuttered as he apologized for not looking up my lines right away, and he started twisting one of his (many) rings around and around his finger. I’m not sure if he thought I was going to yell at him or what, but I just shrugged it off. No biggie.

As I left the store, I saw my reflection in the window and realized why he might have been so deeply embarrassed (apart of course from making such a dumb error). In my work clothes, I looked old and serious. It was strange to think that this mattered, but it I think did.