• Category Archives day by day
  • This is the category closest to just being a plain diary. Places I go, things I do, people I see, what’s happening in my life.

  • Back From North Carolina

    We just got back, this afternoon, from a trip to visit Emmi & Kyle, see their new house and help them paint the interior. Drove down last Thursday, then did four days of camping in their new place — they haven’t moved in yet; the only furniture was a card table (with four folding chairs) and an inflatable mattress — but we got four rooms prepped and painted, and we even managed a little bit of sightseeing, dining out, etc.

    We  also did a bit of exploring: their new neighborhood is next to a preserve along the Eno River, so one night we walked a trail to the river, which led to a large and popular swimming hole. After we were done yesterday we went back for a well-deserved dip. Our work was indoors with the air-conditioning on, but it was still hot: the weather down there was upper 90’s and sunny. Sweltering…


  • Two Books And Some Living History

    We just got back from a mid-week vacation to Colonial Williamsburg. Verdict: meh. The buildings and the grounds were nice enough, but for all the fuss I’ve seen it get over the years, I would have thought the place was much bigger, and much more active. We were there mid-week of course, and maybe also off-season, and that may have been all that was really going on, but it did seem somehow smaller than its reputation. (It didn’t help that the surrounding area was a sort of corporate/suburban strip-mall hell, with not particularly walkable streets — biking wasn’t much better, despite the faux “bicycle friendly” sharrows in the gutters — and a dearth of decent, non-chain restaurants.)

    There was also a fairly strong whiff of self-congratulatory propaganda throughout the historic district, of the “we have inherited the virtues of our all-wise WASP ancestors” sort, which had to also contend with more modern understandings of Colonial history — slavery and the African American experience, Native Americans and genocide, and so on. This led to a Disneyfied narrative, with much use of the passive voice, and a defensive tone to gloss over the tough parts: “The colonists did this-and-that, and were welcomed by the Indians. But then war came… Did you know, a slave could buy his freedom? Also, slavery was OK in Africa…”

    This may have just been the result of our off-peak visit, so that we were interacting with newer or less skillful guides. But then, we also visited the nearby Jamestown Settlement, which was basically an indoor-outdoor museum, with permanent exhibits, and the place was actually worse — it fairly dripped with that self-congratulatory/defensive tone.

    Reading #1: Annihilation

    I had Annihilation (by Jeff VanderMeer) on hold at the library, and it arrived in time for our trip. This book was much better than the recent movie, and so creepy and suspenseful it gave me — well, not nightmares exactly, but some very strange dreams… The story is a little more complicated, and a little more well-built than the movie (this parallels my experience with Altered Carbon), and there is more suspense (and less action/horror) than in the movie, but the plots pretty much follow the same outline: a group of women, on an expedition to a mysterious abandoned region in the southern US, are slowly overwhelmed by the weird phenomena they encounter. Great book, first in award-winning trilogy, and I am going to get the second book from the library today.

    Reading #2: The Big Sleep

    This was the first of Raymond Chandler’s “Phillip Marlowe” detective novels; I have it in an anthology that I bought around 1992. I’ve read it many times over the years, the last time being probably more than a decade ago: it has not aged well in that last decade. The novel is still a pretty good read, and because of the quality of the writing it’s a cut above your typical detective story, but the basic plot, the basic behavior of the characters, is outlandish by modern standards: blackmail and killings are involved as secondary crimes, but the primary criminalities are pornography and homosexuality. It’s almost quaint, and the underlying “of course it’s evil, he’s a fag!” tough-guy moralizing grates, and comes across — especially knowing something about the author, who was a bit of a mama’s boy — as a sort of Walter Mitty overcompensation. Looking back now, the most criminal activity (other than the shoot-em-ups) is all the drunk driving done by the protagonist. As Anne said — and this could apply as well to Williamsburg, reconstructed around the same time that The Big Sleep was written: different times, different mores.

  • Wasted Day

    It’s been pretty rainy, and cold again, for the past few days. The sun is out now, but it’s still a bit chilly; I just came back in from a short yard work stint, which has been the only thing I did so far today — no Canal Museum, no ride…

    Yesterday I went over to CAT and did some work on b-i-l Ray’s bike, a 5-speed Raleigh (circa 1974) which is now almost roadworthy, and the past few days I’ve been grinding through a cleanup of my giant mail pile, tossing or filing things as necessary, paying bills as I find them. Both of these were exhausting work, my brain was fried, and I did something I thought would be restful: I watched the new NetFlix series Altered Carbon.

    Big mistake. I loved the book(s), and found the dumbed-down TV version somewhat unsatisfying, but I couldn’t stop watching. I ended up binge-watching five episodes last night, and two more this morning. Plenty of violence, and sex (or at least nudity), and the basic outline of the story is still there even if the backstory has been uh, altered. I was up past midnight watching, so maybe that’s why I was so tired today.

  • And A Couple More

    Friday’s ride at South Mountain in Emmaus was awesome, though it started late in the day with some missed connections. (We were all together at the trailhead by 4:30 and riding soon after, so it all worked out.) Greg, Ken M, and Mike K and his brother Mark. The day was pretty warm for a change, and I was puffing and sweating but I thought I rode well enough, especially on unfamiliar and sometimes difficult terrain.

    Saturday I rode in to the Museum again for the annual volunteer cleanup day at the park. Unfortunately, I got my signals crossed (maybe a theme for the weekend), and arrived at the end… Facilities guy Scott set me up with some work for me before he left though, so I got in my share: about about four hours of sanding benches. I only got four done, and part of a fifth, but it was hot, dirty work; when I left for the ride home my butt was dragging…

    We went to Ted & Mary Lou’s house last night — after my too-short nap — to celebrate their daughter Lily’s marriage. A fun evening with a lot of really nice people, but it was also an early night: we were home and in bed by 10:30. The evening, which started out just on the good side of “too warm,” had already turned chilly on our walk home. Now it’s cold and blustery out, and we’re expecting rain.

  • Double Nickels

    Happy Birthday to me! Yesterday was my birthday, and I’m now 55 years young. Dinner and cake at Mom & Dad’s on Sunday, drinks with friends last night, a good birthday weekend all around.

  • Springtime! Happy Easter!

    Posted on by Don

    I’m sitting at the Bethlehem Library right now — I was planning to maybe ride today but last night’s wet spring snow put the kibosh on that. I felt a bit cooped up and wanted to get out of the house for a bit, so I thought I’d check the new coffee shop (the Church Street Market) across the way but it’s closed on Mondays. I’ll be meeting Anne and maybe Deb at Wise Bean in a bit, but I had a hankering to do the laptop-and-café thing… Oh well, the library works.

    We had a fairly hectic weekend: Friday night was the Adult Easter Egg Hunt at Anne’s niece’s house, Saturday was a Seder at Toby & Erika’s, and yesterday we did an Easter brunch. I got in a ride on Saturday morning, and I’m glad I did since conditions were really good, and it looks like they won’t be good again for a little while. Spring’s coming, it’s just taking its time.

    Fun with Computer Maintenance: I got fed up with Adblock and installed uBlock Origin instead. Better, faster, less intrusive.

    PostGIS Fun: I merged all the bus routes into one GeoJSON file, then loaded them into the database. I then took that table and broke it into two others: one containing the bus stops, with their names, reference numbers,  OSM attributes, and geometries, and a bridging table (sans geometry) containing fields for the bus stop reference, route and stop order for all routes. Some new ideas: “select distinct on” and “window functions.” Works like a charm!

    Off to the Wise Bean…

  • Digging-Out Diary

    I kind of fell into the same trap as before — leaning too heavily on categorization for my posts — and am now stuck, playing catch-up with things I wanted to talk about that really didn’t warrant their own posts. So…

    Cali Weekend: I finally managed to go skiing this year. Julie G had an extra ski pass and a Friday off, so we went up for a morning on the slopes at Blue Mountain. She’s a bit of  a neophyte (or maybe more like “haven’t skied since college”), and was more comfortable on the easier slopes, and I was too, to tell you the truth. We did two each on the Burma Road and Paradise trails, then I did two on the intermediate Lazy Mile, and we called it a day. It was surprisingly fun, especially since I had been worried beforehand, about getting hurt or whatever.

    The next day I did a towpath ride, going the whole length to the waterfall in Easton, and on Sunday Anne and I rode the towpath to Easton for brunch at Two Rivers.

    That was two weekends ago. The weather has been pretty crappy since then, but we did manage to get out, in one heavy spring snow, to attempt some cross-country skiing: too warm, and the snow was too wet. Oh well, at least we tried…

    Reading: I read Ann Leckie’s new novel Provenance , set in the same story universe as her Imperial Raadch trilogy (but not within the Raadch itself). Fast paced and fun — especially for a book about the authenticity of venerated historical objects — I’d recommend this to anyone who liked her trilogy.

    I also finished Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up The Bodies, her second novel about Thomas Cromwell, advisor to Henry VII. This one picks up where the first left off (at the execution of Thomas More), and continues through to the execution of Henry’s second wife, Ann Boleyn. It was just as absorbing, but seemed to move a bit slower than the first.

    Next up was The Discovery of Middle Earth: Mapping the Lost World of the Celts, by Graham Robb. It had an interesting premise: the Celts were more sophisticated than we realize, and had a pretty advanced navigation system, based on astronomy and a system of survey points, which they used to build roads and locate their cities. That was the theory; in practice the book was a rambling mess, full of very enjoyable digressions and oddly useless maps and diagrams, that attempted to tell the story of the Celts. (The book reminded me, more and more as I plowed through it, of Robert Graves’s The White Goddess, and not in a good way.) There were parts I really liked, but I struggled to finish it.

    And finally, I’m in the middle of The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet, a novel by Reif Larsen. This is the story of Tecumseh Sparrow Spivet, a 12-year-old prodigy (mapmaker, scientific illustrator) living on a ranch in Montana, who wins an award and a job offer from The Smithsonian Institution — who don’t realize he’s a child — and takes off for Washington DC via freight train. That’s as far as I got, but so far the story is compelling and multi-layered and, despite appearances, not a Young Adult novel.


  • Watching The Snow Fall

    Posted on by Don

    The last storm (on Wednesday) came with a lot of hype, and I was disappointed to wake up with no snow on the ground, just rainy surfaces rather than the advertised snowpocalypse, but then snow started falling midmorning and it came down all day. It was a heavy, wet snow, but there was nowhere as much as they were calling for: we got maybe 4″ on the ground rather than the expected 12″ — the storm tracked east of us, apparently, and we missed the brunt of it, though areas west and north of us got some accumulation. Go figure.

    I got out Tuesday for a nice, pre-snowpocalypse ride on the towpath, which was in great shape — conditions had been improving, and I expected this would be the last chance this week for a decent ride. I rode down to the waterfall in Easton and back, really pleasant. After that I got my act together then went over to Southside — a little early, so I could get a few photos, for some OpenSteetMap mapping at the new parking garage — to meet Anne for dinner at La Lupita before going to see Colson Whitehead talk at Zoellner Arts Center.

    That was really good: he started with “I was born a poor black child” à la Steve Martin, did several readings from The Underground Railroad, talked about his career, his writing process, and writing as a part of his life in general. The Underground Railroad was the subject of a number of workshops at Lehigh; the event was well-attended by students as well as the usual bookish crowd, and the Q&A afterward was pretty decent.

    Wednesday was spent waiting for snow, watching snow from inside while I did computer stuff and Anne did her spinning, and then watching the storm peter out… I got in another bike ride yesterday after some trivial shoveling, just going over to the CAT office to help Scott move some shelves, the first step in his office reconfiguration project. It was a bit chilly, but the air felt fresh and very spring-like.

    Today I woke up and looked outside — snow flurries.

  • Montreal Photos

    Posted on by Don

    As promised, here are my photos from Montreal:

  • Playing Serious Catch-Up

    Morning weigh-in: 189.0#, 14.0% BF

    Today I followed “weigh-in protocol” (do it pre-shower), and it looks like my body fat is back in the normal range. So, there’s that…

    Reading: I got two books on maps from the library, but they are surprisingly boring.

    My computer project du jour is to bring my photo database, and my  Flickr account, up to date. I’ve been downloading from Dropbox into Shotwell (my photo program), doing a bit of curating and then uploading the keepers into Flickr — I am now getting close to the end of 2014,  with thousands of photos to go. Sigh.