Over the past week, during clear pre-dawn skies, I got a bit obsessed with the trio of Venus, Jupiter, and Mars rising in the east, and have been trying to find a way to take a picture. Not easy, since I’m working with my phone – which has a pretty nice camera, actually, but isn’t geared for long, timed exposures.
This morning, I managed the best shot of the week – not super-impressive, by any means, but I’m happy with it for now:
Venus is the brightest, up there at the top, and Jupiter’s the second-brightest. You have to look just a bit above Jupiter, and ever-so slightly to the right – say, one minute past midnight on a clock face – to see Mars, but it’s there.
So: Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Earth (which totally counts because you can see the trees and clouds) – four planets. Why the asterisk in the post title? You’ll have to trust me and Google Sky on this one, but lost in the light saturation needed to capture the planets was a pretty old, rising crescent moon, just above the treetops left of center. And as it happens, Mercury is right alongside that moon:
(Image from EarthSky.org – which has a really nice guide to this month’s morning sky.)
Which means that from a certain point of view, I woke early up this morning was rewarded with the chance to take a picture of more than half our solar system. Which is pretty cool.
This is a slightly overdue flashback.
In the fall of 1990, I was a sophomore at Bowling Green State University, and my friend Dave – whom I’m pretty sure I’ve known longer than anyone who’s not related to me – was a sophomore at Miami University. Prior to the start of the school year, James Taylor announced a concert date at Miami U. shortly after fall classes started, and Dave got tickets for me and my friend Jennifer.
Something came up, though, and Jen couldn’t make the trip, so she loaned me her car (Bob – for Bucket Of Bolts), and I invited my high school friend Amy, who had just started her freshman year at BG.
It was about a three-hour drive from Bowling Green to Oxford, a great concert, and an all-around fun trip. I have a few snapshot memories of specific songs – “Never Die Young”, “You’ve Got A Friend”, and the show-closing “Steamroller” – and remember having a really good time seeing Dave and catching up with Amy on the drive. Looking back, I realize what a bridging sort of night it was, where faces and voices of high school past and college present and future swirled and collided and ricocheted.
After the concert, Dave & his friends offered us each a place to crash if we wanted, but Amy and I both needed to get back for early classes the next morning, so we hit the road north again.
It was pretty cold, which I remember because Don Henley’s “The Boys of Summer” came on the radio, and both of us were all “VOLUME UP, WINDOWS DOWN!” To this day, when I’m alone in the car, that rule still stands, a quarter-century later. It’s been bent here & there, of course – but even in the dead of winter, I will blast the heat and crack the window just enough to get some outside air swirling through.
When I was in elementary school, my friend Mike and I pitched a small orange tent in my backyard and camped out one night. I’m sure we stayed up late talking about Star Wars or playing cards by flashlight or something.
I woke up in the gray light before sunrise, surprised by how many birds were singing. It was a little chilly, with mist hanging over the cornfield behind the house.
We’d brought my dad’s old Boy Scout cooking set and some stuff for breakfast – although we were only a couple dozen steps from the house, at most – and I poured myself a bowl of Apple Jacks.
I went for a run before sunup today. The smell and feel of the air, the chattering of birds, and the color of the sky brought that long ago morning almost back to reality.
1) Household Tech Tip: If your vacuum cleaner motor continues to provide suction power, but the roller brush stops moving, before removing the entire bottom plate looking for something jammed in there; then borrowing your mother-in-law’s vacuum; then driving yours all the way to the repair shop – you should perform this simple step: Look for a button marked “BRUSHROLL ON/OFF.” If you own the same vacuum cleaner we do, you’ll find it cleverly hidden right on top of the vacuum, next to the main power switch. In the event you have already reached the local repair shop, you and the helpful repair person may share an enjoyable laugh at your own expense, which is still miles ahead of a vacuum cleaner repair bill. (In my defense: I’ve never used this particular button. Why the heck would I?)
2) That voice in your head you hear when you’ve returned from a trip to the store that says “You know, you really should take an extra two seconds and set down the gallon of milk to unlock the front door rather than try to juggle everything and risk dropping that milk and making a ridiculous mess of the door and sidewalk.” Yeah, you should listen to that voice.
3) Holy shit, The Legend of Korra is even better than I expected – and I expected a LOT, given the enthusiasm for this show. Binge-watched the first season on Amazon over the past few days. It’s gorgeous and well-written and amazing.
Twenty-five years ago this month, I started my freshman year of college at Bowling Green State University.
Tonight, I drove a few miles out on some of the narrow, field-lined roads here in Lake Township. The sun hadn’t completely set, and there was an unusual (for early August) bit of coolness to the air, even though the corn is tall yet. Perfect night to put the windows down and crank the CD I burned a few years ago and labeled BG 89-91. It’s a mix of songs that take me back the most powerfully to my favorite years at BGSU. The songs are not all from those years, but they’re definitely among those that I listened to the most, and which still dig up the deepest memories and impressions of the friends and the places and the times.
My drive wasn’t long enough to get through the whole CD, but I had a few in particular that I wanted to hear, and as always, they mixed heartbreakingly well with the smell of the fields and the lingering pink-orange clouds.
Here they are, in the order they appear on the CD:
New Order – Blue Monday
Real Life – Send Me An Angel
Depeche Mode – Strangelove
Pixies – Dig for Fire
Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart
Depeche Mode – A Question of Lust
Yaz – Only You
Don Henley – The Boys of Summer
The Cure – A Few Hours After This
Spent about five hours gaming on Saturday, in celebration of International TableTop Day.
Started off with a three-person game of Love Letter –
– which we followed with Tsuro.
After that, another friend showed up, and the four of us took on Forbidden Island –
Alas, victory eluded us.
On to Pandemic – another first for me.
Another cooperative game – really enjoyed this. (And we were so freaking close to winning this one!)
Another gamer arrived, and we played a five-person game of Tsuro, and then something none of us had tried before: We Didn’t Playtest This at All.
I think we played three complete games in about 12 minutes. So bizarre and odd and chaotic and fun.
Back on March 20, our department at work got together for a good chunk of the day to talk about storytelling. We had lunch, saw one of the short film programs at the Cleveland International Film Festival, and then hung out for awhile with the director of one of the movies we’d seen.
Here’s what we watched:
I enjoyed the program. All the movies were entertaining, and it was a nice mix of subjects and tones and length. Thoughts on a few:
Real Change – a nine-minute documentary about four homeless men who sell the Real Change newspaper Seattle – led off the program, and its director, Adam Michael Becker, shared his time with us after the screening. As a former journalist, I was incredibly impressed with the stories and personalities he put on screen in such a short amount of time without the movie feeling rushed.
I’m a fan of rock photography, so it figured that I enjoyed Who Shot Rock & Roll, although compared to the rest of the pieces, it felt a little long at 37 minutes. Some parts dragged or seemed repetitive while others were too short.
The Pledge for Mr. Bunny: This is such a bizarre and offbeat little movie, and I loved it, even if I can’t quite explain why. I can see where it wouldn’t be for everybody, but if you want to give it a try, it’s available in its entirety on YouTube:
My earliest memories trace an elliptical orbit around two places: Lima and Upper Sandusky, Ohio.
If you ask me where the first place is that I remember living, my mind goes to this house on North Main Street in Lima:
That picture’s from sometime in 1972-73. (Here’s what the house looked like in summer 2012.)
But I also have many memories of the farm and house in Upper Sandusky where my mom grew up, since we lived there while my dad was serving in Korea in 1971 and ’72. While I can remember several things about being there, I can’t say that I recall having a sense of home in those memories, the way I do about the house in Lima.
That’s me and my maternal grandfather, Reuben Schoenberger. Here’s another one:
The pieces I remember from the farm and the farmhouse are mostly sensory snapshots: The smell of dirt and wood and oil in the barn, and the pile of gravel behind it where I played; sitting on the metal cover to something in the yard (a well, maybe, or a cistern?); the place under the front porch where I crawled with the family dog, Alfie; the pattern on the kitchen floor; the yard and the long driveway tucked into the cornfields.
That’s me and my grandma Joan and Alfie. I can remember that tricycle seeming huge – it had a double-decker step on the back! and needing those block-and-band accessories to reach the pedals. (Those things had a long life: after I outgrew needing them on the tricycle, they went into the box of toy blocks that lasted through me and my brothers.)
Now let’s go back to Lima.
I seem to think this area was just off the kitchen, at the back of the house. I still remember exactly how that rug felt under my hands and knees, and beneath the wheels of my toys. The wooden toy box in the background? My grandpa made it, and I still have it. And I remember taking everything out of it and making a complete mess of the room so that I could sit in it.
This was my parents’ second car (according to the back of the picture). Again, I can remember the texture of the seats. At some point, the Bug developed a hole in the backseat floor, and I wasn’t allowed to ride there. I loved two things in particular about the car: riding with the top down, and pushing the button that made the windshield washers squirt. This latter activity was most fun when carried out unsupervised with my best friend, Alberto – he’s in the middle of the photo below:
Alberto and his family lived next door, and it seems like every interaction I remember between our families involved laughing. Also, I could eat his mom’s homemade tortillas by the dozen. Man, they were good.
Finally, a trio of seasonal pictures, starting with me and mom in winter:
Summer. (I don’t know who that guy is, but I loved that swinging pole thing, and I love the ’70s feel of this picture.)
And fall. Me and my trike and our dog, Punkin.
Punkin got lost for a couple days once. I think I remember dad saying he found her out in a field by some railroad tracks.
Larger versions of these pictures – and a couple others – are in this Flickr photoset.
Growing up, I heard the term “tornado slide” used to describe this piece of playground equipment, and I’ve always loved it. This one’s in Harrison Smith Park in Upper Sandusky, Ohio, and I’m pretty sure it’s The Best One In The World.
I mean, look at it. All metal. Three full revolutions. Angle of descent: Approximately badass degrees. Turns tight enough to cause right-leg friction burns on the center pole. An ascent that includes a landing, for Pete’s sake, presumably so you can acclimate to the altitude and get even more scared. Look at the bottom of the slide: I’m pretty sure that kid was kissing the ground out of his thankfulness for having survived – Oh, God, no, wait! Look closely! I think there’s another kid down there. THE SLIDE WAS BAITING US INTO COLLISIONS AND TRYING TO KILL US ALL.
Yeah, I loved this thing. I’m pretty sure it was installed in 1976, in tune with the nationwide bicentennial celebration, and that around the time of this photo, it was brand new. Check out that line of thrill-seekers. I’m one step up from the halfway landing, five years old. That’s my mom – also an adventurous type – right behind me.
Playgrounds have changed a lot in the three-plus decades since this slide was installed, including the park in Upper Sandusky. But the World’s Best Tornado Slide lasts. My daughter’s tackled it. Maybe my nephews, too. Last I checked, it’s still there – visible on Google Maps, even. Waiting.
My running goal for 2013 was to reach 365 total miles. In a year with no scheduled race training, the challenge was to make myself get out enough to average a mile a day, even without the incentive of a “Race Day” circled on the calendar. (I did wind up running a race a few weeks ago, but it wasn’t the kind that required weeks of highly-structured training for what I wanted to get out of it.)
Here’s how the last few weeks of December shook out:
The weekend after the Ohio Outside Trail Series race, I did two four-mile road loops. The following weekend, we had bizarre warm & wet weather: Steady rain and the necessity of Christmas shopping kept me from running on Saturday, but I got lucky with a late Sunday morning where the sky was mixed, but things stayed dry and about 60 degrees during my run, which I stretched to six miles. That left me with seven miles to go before the end of the month.
I did four miles on the road Thursday, Dec. 26, and on Saturday the 28th, we had sun and a high in the mid-40s, and my youngest brother finally had the chance to come join me at Quail Hollow for a trail run.
We hit the three-mile mark – and my goal for the year – around 11:35 a.m. (My official Forerunner total, which includes all the extra fractions of a mile from the year, is actually almost 366 miles. Just a bit of cushion.)
A few more notes/stats on the year:
- I ran all but January in my new shoes, after retiring my first real pair.
- I ran 96 days, which means I averaged just about 3.8 miles per run.
- I was most active in August (42 miles on 11 days), in large part to make up for a weak July, when I ran just 17 miles over 5 days.
- My longest run was 8.25 miles, back on April 21. Five other days (March 31, April 7, Aug. 10, Oct. 20 and Nov. 3), I passed the seven-mile mark. One of those was a 7.5-miler that was almost entirely trail.
- I didn’t manage to get in any double-digit mileage runs, since I didn’t have any long races to prep for. Whatever my running goal is in 2014, I’d like to crack the ten-mile barrier at least a few times, if not regularly.
- I’m glad I finally decided to give trail running a serious shot. While I still put in most of my miles on the road, I really enjoyed my time in the woods and the meadows and the swamplands. Maybe I’ll set a trail mileage goal for 2014, since I’m hoping to return to the Ohio Outside series in the fall.
Given the rollercoaster we’ve ridden in our house this year, I’m happy that I managed to hit my target, even if it was less ambitious in some respects than what I was shooting for the past few years.
Still: I ran new paths and new roads; I ran a lot of streets that I’ve driven on – or past – for much of my life and saw how different they are on foot; I fell way behind my goal and scraped to make up the miles (this was a big personal hurdle); and I made more than a few spur-of-the-moment turns, not all of which turned out to be wise, but every one of which I’m glad I took.