• Interesting Wake-Up

    Anne usually gets up a bit earlier than I do. This morning she got up around 7:00, and I was just beginning to stir about half an hour later when we heard a crash outside. In my sleepy state I just thought some snow had fallen off the roof (by the way, of course there’s been no snow), but Anne runs in, looks out the window and says “someone just took out our fence with their car!”

    I jumped up, got dressed, and joined Anne out back in the corner of our yard, where the car was stuck on a part of our fence that’s still standing. One of the fence posts is snapped off, and some sections had fallen over. Anne was talking with the driver, a woman from the neighborhood; she had stopped on the way to work (to drop off cloth for people to make face masks), but she had neglected to engage her parking brake, and her car had rolled backwards down the alley and through our fence. She was pretty distraught, and also late for work…

    We took some pictures and got some information, then (after breakfast, with some help from John & Donna) we got the fence back up and reasonably together, enough at least for a few days until a contractor can take a look at it.

    And that was our morning!


  • They Can’t All Be Good

    So we saw The Hangover the other night — it stank. I was able to sit still from the beginning to the end, but that’s about all I can say good about it.

    We are now watching Devs, on Hulu I think. Much better, though the acting isn’t the best. (Actually, the acting and actors are fine, it’s the script that could use work.) This is the one to watch.


  • Every Night Is Movie Night

    Like probably everyone else in America, we’ve been doing a bit more TV lately. Luckily we got both Amazon Prime and Hulu for Christmas (and we still have Netflix). Some things we’ve watched this week:

    • Fleabag (season two)
    • Knives Out
    • Blazing Saddles
    • The Men Who Stare At Goats

    We’d seen Blazing Saddles and The Men Who Stare At Goats before, and we’d also seen season one of Fleabag, but Knives Out was new to us. Emmi recommended it, so I think we’ll probably be watching her other recommendation — The Hangover — pretty soon.

    Any other recommendations out there?


  • Just Under The Wire

    We took a trip down to Philadelphia last Saturday, just before the great lockdown. We went down to visit Ben and Candace, and as a concession to the epidemic we decided to just go for a bike ride and then eat lunch at their place. This was too bad, because they know so many really cool little hole-in-the-wall neighborhoods and eateries, but it was still a beautiful day and we wanted to see the cherry blossoms; lunch was bound to be awesome either way and we could take a raincheck on their new restaurant discoveries…

    Anyway, we arrived around 11:00 and, since Candace had to take a work-related call, we did a little visiting at their new place first. (New to me at least, since I hadn’t seen it yet — it’s a beautiful, light-filled apartment with an enormous kitchen.) We got rolling around noon: through the neighborhood, out onto the bike path along MLK Drive, then across the Falls Bridge and into Manayunk via the Schuylkill River Trail. We did some riding on the paved path at Wissahickon and visited the Flat Rock Dam, then made our way back along Kelly Drive. Plenty of people out and about here: bikers, hikers, runners, it was actually almost too crowded for comfortable cycling. (I’m guessing that, like us, everyone else decided to avoid other people by doing an outdoor activity.) Once back in the neighborhood we stopped for take-out at a place called Taco Taco — huge burritos and some chips with salsa, so we got our restaurant fix after all, then we hit the road.

    Awesome visit, and here are some photos:


  • The New Normal

    We’re now deep into the first week of our national “social distancing” experiment. Anne took to it pretty well, and I think that, except for the obsessive hand-washing, I was born for this. We’ve been finding things to do while staying in, and getting out for some avoid-other-people walks and bike rides. I’m not sure how long this will last or what the end game might be, but we at least are doing OK, so far.


  • Pale Rider with Crown

    I just re-read World War Z for the umpteenth time, and now I’m re-reading Fighting the Plague in Seventeenth-Century Italy, a small book (a monograph?) from a historical demographics elective I took in college. Not sure why these are my reading choices right now, must be something in the air… Both books are interesting, WWZ for its pass-the-popcorn tale of an apocalyptic pandemic (especially the early denial, and then panic, phases), and the plague book for its look at public health measures and policy, once the unthinkable becomes the new normal — by the 1650’s, plague had been endemic in northern Italy for two centuries. The comparisons, from each book, with our own situation are very insightful.

    In other news, I was down visiting my parents for a few days, to help out while my mom got a procedure done. I went down Thursday night and came home Sunday, and I brought just about everything I could think of: some books, the laptop, a scanning printer, and the bike.

    The procedure was a success, though it took longer and involved more waiting than I would have liked; it didn’t help that I disliked the book I brought (Rama II by Arthur C. Clark “with” someone else; I should have spotted this as a red flag). It was so annoying I couldn’t even hate-read it… I spent other time down there hanging with my parents, helping my mom with some IT issues, and scanning old photographs. (I was going to post some here, but I’m not really happy with the scan quality. I may have to re-do them.)

    I tried riding Allaire Sunday morning, it’s not far from my parents’ house, but realized (once I got there) that I’d left my cycling shoes back at their place — D’OH! Oh well, I got in a decent towpath ride yesterday, down to Riegelsville for lunch, for a round-trip total of 40 miles.


  • Tired of the Flats

    So I got the Iguana’s rear flat fixed pretty quickly, it seemed like probably just a puncture or pinch from the towpath. I also took the time to do some deferred maintenance; now the bike is looking good and performing well.

    I then took off the Cannondale’s front wheel, removed the tire, and found what I suspected but couldn’t originally spot: there was a tear in the sidewall. Luckily I had a spare tire waiting, so I put that on with the new tube, and — BANG! That tube popped as well. I was done for the day…

    I looked at it a few days later and the most likely cause seemed to be “operator error” when installing the tube, no other problems or defects were visible so I replaced the tube and gingerly pumped the tire, with many stops for bead inspections etc… everything was fine. I let it sit for a few days, but heard no sudden gunshots in the basement, so I took the bike for a short ride Monday. All is good.


  • Season Opener

    I went out yesterday for a road ride, for the first time this season. I’ve been riding (MTB and commuter bike) all winter, and I even managed to get in three towpath rides last week, so my fitness is not totally gone — I’m not starting from zero there.

    The road bike itself was a different story. I rode down to the Moravian Quarter, then up Main to Market, with a vague plan of checking out Riverside Drive in Freemansburg. (This road leads to one of my favorite climbs, but had been closed by a landslide several years ago. It remained closed for quite a while, and I was wondering if they ever got around to fixing it.) I cruised through town, then as I continued out Market Street past Stefko I heard a sound like the brakes were rubbing. I stopped off the brakes but the sound was still there — then the tire blew out, with a bang like a gun went off.

    I pulled over and checked it out: the tube had exploded like it came through a hole in the tire, but the tire had no cuts or slashes I could find. I replaced the tube, in the meantime discovering that my new pump is more of a low-pressure MTB pump and can’t get the tire up to roadie pressure… I decided that, all things considered, I couldn’t really trust my wheel, so I limped back home (I’d only gone about two miles), then switched to the Santa Cruz for another towpath ride.

    I now have two bikes with flats — the Iguana has a slow leak — so I have some basement time scheduled today, exorcising early season equipment bugs.

    Other Things

    We saw Pennsylvania Sinfonia’s “Vienna Afternoon” on Sunday, with Anne’s mom in Allentown. It was beautiful as always, and a pleasure to watch and hear real professionals play. They also had a young woman — she looked young to us, anyway — singing, and she was awesome.

    We went out afterwards, and I managed to eat too much. I should have accepted the leftovers box, but I toughed it out, and then had trouble sleeping I was so full. We’d done BBQ at Grumpy’s on Friday night (with John and Renee), and more BBQ on Saturday in Lambertville (at More Than Q, with Joe and Laura), so by Monday the scale and I didn’t have much to say to each other.

    Also last week: we saw ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro at SteelStacks. What an amazing show!


  • Some Fun New Things

    I’m not entirely a creature of habit, but I do get in a rut sometimes. Last week was not one of those times as I did some things outside my habitual comfort zone…

    One Thing

    Last Thursday I went to the local WordPress group’s monthly meeting. I’d been seeing the meetings posted on the WordPress news feed for years now without any real interest, but the topic for this meeting (security) caught my eye, and since the meeting place is within walking distance — and they’d have free pizza — I decided to check it out.

    There was some networking/social time before and after the presentation. I knew no one there, but they seemed like a pretty good bunch, split pretty evenly between young and old, male and female, and was a mix of hardcore techies and “I use WP in my web-design business” types. The presentation was likewise a mix of very technical information, and not-so-technical good practices that I found easy to implement here. It was a really pleasant and informative evening.

    And Another

    Saturday night we had a party, and later in the evening the discussion turned to old railroad rights-of-way. We all pulled out our phones and consulted our maps to look at the railroad in question — it was the line that crosses the Monocacy Trail just south of Burnside Plantation, something once called the Lehigh & New England. The evening ended not long afterward, but I guess we were still curious the next morning because Anne and I decided to do a little hike to check it out, and we got a text from Scott who wanted to do the same.

    We met Scott at the trailhead near Union Boulevard, walked down the trail, and headed west when we reached the tracks. It was like being in another world: we walked through homeless encampments and past industrial sites both current and ancient, all in a little corner of town less than a mile from home. The tracks were in good shape for the most part, with rails still in place, but past Eighth Avenue it started to get overgrown with sticker bushes. We eventually cut through a truck yard to get back on regular roads, walked across an overpass, and suddenly we were back in the normal part of town, on a residential street only a few blocks from home.