How Hot Is It?

Punked Out Michigan Fox Squirrel

Punked Out Michigan Fox Squirrel

How hot is it? It is too darn hot. You may think it is hot where you live, but you’d be wrong. Today it was 97 °F here in Saint Louis, which is hot, but not the hottest high Fahrenheit temperature in the country. That honor belongs in the southern tip of Texas, with had 99 °F. That’s just how hot the mercury feels, but if you want to know how hot you’d feel, you need to consult the heat index. Today’s high heat index in Saint Louis was 110 °F. Nowhere else in the country came within five degrees of that number today. The heat index or what is sometimes referred to the misery index is based upon a formula that looks at both heat and humidity and we have plenty of both. If you add to the misery index the heat and humidity crazed humanity that now represents the denizens of Saint Louis, you get the Missouri index (pronounced like misery), which we are also in the lead for too. Global warming was always supposed to be a bad thing, but climate change offered some wiggle room. I mean, some climates would get worst and some should get better. There should be winners and losers. I was hoping that Saint Louis would win the lottery and maybe get San Diego’s climate. That would be nice, don’t you think?

It’s too darn hot
It’s too darn hot

I’d like to sup with my baby tonight
Refill the cup with my baby tonight
I’d like to sup with my baby tonight
Fill the cup with my baby tonight

But I ain’t up to my baby tonight
‘Cause it’s too darn hot
It’s too darn hot
It’s too darn hot

Uneven Pavement

Uneven Pavement

Uneven Pavement

Fresh asphalt, as black as pavement can be, almost still sticky in the summer’s heat, stinking of newly out gassed long chained hydrocarbons, with a riding surface as smooth as glass, bicycling on it felt like butter. On Saturday, we reaped our first rewards for enduring yet another long season of road repair. Our regular bike commute to Forest Park had become a trek through a warzone. Our path to the park was littered with potholes that threatened to grow to the size of foxholes. Parallel trenches lined both sides of the roadway, for eventual placement of new installations, curbs.

Wydown, arguably once the most bike friendly street in Saint Louis had had its bike lane torn up for new water-lines and had been left roughly patched, making this once glorious bicycling boulevard a pain in the ass to ride. Even our passage through the Clayton neighborhood to reach Wydown was more an exercise in off-roading than city street riding, what with long-term road neglect colliding head-on with belatedly addressing road repair. So imagine our surprise when after we had clawed our way through to Wydown, we were greeted with pristine fresh asphalt.

This stretch of new pavement didn’t last long, less than half a mile, but it served as a tangible promise of more to come. The last time I rode Wydown to the park, this now buttery section of roadway had been the worst. The bike lane had been all but obliterated and the interior curb had also been trenched out. This left not enough road width for cars to safely pass me, so they impatiently trailed behind me by mere feet, revving their engines and squealing their brakes. I may have embellished a bit there, but it still felt pretty hairy. But that is now all in the past, just a bad memory, at least for this small section of heaven. The rest of Wydown is still about as I left it, which is to say not great, but at least safely passable.

Our second pleasant surprise of the ride occurred when we reached the park. Part of the bike path had also been replaced with fresh asphalt. Running from the top of Skinker to the History Museum, about a third of the way around the park, was now pretty much all also like butter. The pavement was so creamy that it felt that we were coasting downhill, both ways.

It remains to be seen how much more of the bike path will be rebuilt. I suspect that it will not be much more. About half of the remainder of the outer loop is relatively new construction, so I don’t expect any work to be done there and it appears that the last third of the loop, a third that is also old pathway, has already seen some spot repair work. I suspect that at least for the bike path, what you see now is all that we’ll get, but I could be wrong. The contractor’s construction equipment is still strewn about the park, so there may yet be another phase of work to come.

The work on Wydown and in the neighboring hoods of Clayton is sure to continue. More buttery asphalt is sure to come. It is just a matter of time. I look forward to more steady progress yet to come.

Ice Bucket Challenge

Biking in the Park Together Again

Biking in the Park Together Again

Anne and I rode in the park this morning. For me it has been three weeks since I was last in Forest Park. For Anne it has been closer to two months. We have two weeks left to train for this year’s MS-150 bicycle ride, which will not be near enough time to adequately prepare ourselves. At this point, we’ll just have to gut it out and do the best that we can. The weather of late has not been all that helpful either. Today like most of this week, it is blazing hot. The mercury is now reading 99 °F, with a heat index of 110 °F. To make matters worse the power is flickering on and off.

Not to criticize my fellow Saint Louis residents, because God knows we’ve all been on the receiving end of plenty of that over the last couple of weeks, but I feel compelled to raise the subject of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. This Internet meme is everywhere, but most particularly on Facebook. For those few hermits who don’t know of what I speak, here is the skinny. ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease is a degenerative nerve disease. From my layman’s point of view it is not too dissimilar to multiple sclerosis, for which we ride to raise money to fight MS.

Fundamentally the ice bucket challenge is also a charity fund-raising activity. It functions on the principle of a pyramid scheme. All of these ice bucket challenges are recorded. An individual stands ready to either douse themselves or be doused with a bucket of ice water, but before this act can occur said individual must issue ‘the challenge’ to three other people, either donate $100 to the ALS Society or show recorded proof that you too underwent this ordeal.

Athletic stunts such as walkathons and in my case bikeathons have been staples of charity fundraising for years. The ice bucket challenge is a novel approach. The first few times that I watched one of these videos, I found them entertaining, but they have gone on and on to the point that now only the failed attempts interest me and there are plenty of those too. I guess that I question the whole faux macho aspect of this stunt. When it is so darn hot here in town, is it really all that discomforting to dump a bucket of ice water for over your head?

I swim in Lake Superior, where earlier this year the water temperature was only 40 °F. That’s only eight degrees warmer than ice water and we’re talking the largest lake in North America versus a puny bucket of water. When you go under the water in Superior, you are way more than doused with cold water than with a bucket. Two men nearly succumbed to hypothermia there a month later.

Chris, one of our Rochester friends, was recounting last week his season as a cook on a lake boat. The crew always blew off lifeboat drills, until they came to Superior. On that lake even seasoned veterans feared the water. Most of the lifeboats on his boat were open hulled and still used davits, except for one that used the newer system that quickly and automatically launched this one self-rightable lifeboat. Come lifeboat drill time, Chris found that the entire crew had crowded into this one lifeboat, exceeding its capacity and this was all before the Edmond Fitzgerald went down, which had two open hulled, davit strung ones.

While we rode in the park this morning, there was some other charity walkathon occurring. They had ice buckets, but did they share? No, this competing charity selfishly used their ice water to keep their drinks cold. As the mercury climbed and we rode past their Styrofoam ice chests, I wondered if they would mind?

Three Friends From Ferguson

Anne at the Old Town in Ann Arbor - Kind of a Non Sequitur

Anne at the Old Town in Ann Arbor – Kind of a Non Sequitur

This old town of ours has been getting a lot of bad press of late. Everybody and their brother have felt obliged to offer their two cents about the happenings in Ferguson in particular and Saint Louis in general. Many of these pundits bring nothing more to the discussion than their own personal prejudices. Some of my acquaintances have even felt compelled to join in on the happening there. Some of these have honestly tried to help, while others only came to gawk at the unfolding spectacle. Until now I have refrained from voicing any opinions and in this post I will still not discuss any of the events there during the last two weeks. Instead, I will first touch upon my own limited experiences in Ferguson, but most of all I would like to share what I know of the experiences of three friends from Ferguson.

I live about eight miles from Ferguson, but I work much closer to it, only a couple of miles away. I occasionally go to Ferguson for lunch-hour business with its convenient DMV office. There is a rails-to-trails bike path that runs from UMSL to downtown Ferguson. I have enjoyed using it many times on bicycle commutes to work. It is fast, flat and fun. The Ferguson Brewery has become a favorite watering hole at the office. That’s about the extent of my personal Ferguson experience. It is a small part of a much larger city and as such does not usually command much attention. For my three work related friends from Ferguson though, it is where they all grew up.

I first met John twenty-four years ago. He is a quiet, kind, intelligent and hard-working man. He never puts on airs. His personal kindness to me repeatedly saved my career. His individual effort has created a world-class tool for which this country should be extremely grateful. John is white. He retired last month. John lives in Ferguson and can walk to every house that he ever lived in.

Barbara, I have known for at least fourteen years. Until she retired a few years ago, she was my best friend at work and I miss her there. She first lived in the city, in north Saint Louis. Her parents joined the waves of white flight during the sixties and moved to Ferguson, where she and her eventual husband both grew up. Later, they moved for their daughter to better schools, but both sets of their parents continued to live in Ferguson until their parent’s old age eventually forced other living arrangements.

Frank is still working with me. We’ve worked together for the last four years. In fact his cube is kitty-corner to mine. He also is an intensely hardworking individual. He wasn’t at work this last Monday, because as I learned later he had been called up. Frank is a colonel in the Missouri guard. When the governor formally activated the guard, Frank was freed to return on Tuesday. We’re pretty busy these days at work. He grew up in Ferguson and is the oldest of twelve. His parents and many of his relatives still live there, but Frank has moved over the river to Illinois. We sometimes kid him about his lack of fame compared with some of his more famous relatives. This is usually done after he has regaled us with his latest tales of accolades for his various family members. He heard about Ferguson, while he was on vacation in Birmingham, AL last week. He was there, because one of his cousins was receiving an Emmy for her coverage of the fiftieth anniversary of the church bombing in Birmingham.

Shower Thoughts

‘Shower thoughts’ is a term that applies to any sort of one-off thought you might have while carrying out a routine task like showering, driving, or daydreaming. It is also a comment stream on Reddit. Nick Offerman plays Ron Swanson on the TV show, Parks and Recreation. On this show he has a knack for kooky aphorisms, often delivered deadpan, with his characteristic gruff and manly manner. On this TV show he once responded to being served a dinner salad, with the comment, “Excuse me, you seemed to have served me what my food eats.” In the above Mashable video, Offerman reads some of Reddit’s shower thoughts in all his Ron Swanson glory. Offerman’s glowering presence give these shower thoughts a pseudo-profound semblance of thought that might seem more insightful than they really are. Below are some more shower thoughts that I liked and wanted to share with you:

  • In the word “scent”, is it the S or the C that is silent?
  • Morticians should tie dead people’s shoelaces together incase there is ever a zombie apocalypse.
  • Global warming is the revenge of dinosaur ghosts because we disturbed their oily slumber.
  • ‘Dictionary’ is the most useless word in the dictionary
  • If the show Full House wanted to be literal, the kids would have been a set of triplets and a set of twins.
  • Are ships named after men still referred to as ‘she’?
  • Shouldn’t we sing Happy Birthday to infants when they’re born, since it’s their actual birthday? 
  • Only one silent letter separates the statements “I am in grade school” and “I am in grad school”. 
  • When I butt dial someone it is also a booty call. 
  • I’d actually be much more hesitant to ask my dad for $20 if he was made of money.

Cityscape by Jay Musler

Cityscape by Jay Musler

Cityscape by Jay Musler

When Jay Musler made this vessel in 1981, which was inspired by an aerial view of a city at sunset, it was a sensation because it was both good art, but also because of how it was made. Today, glassblowers are capable of blowing a bowl of this size, but in the early 1980s, studio artist did not have the ability to achieve this scale. Musler took an industrial flask made of Pyrex, the borosilicate glass made by Corning and cut off the top. He then cut the rim into a “skyline,” sandblasted the surface and applied a paint onto the glass with an airbrush technique commonly used for automotive painting. It is lit from above by a single spotlight pointed down into the center of the bowl. It is on display in the Contemporary gallery at the Corning Museum of Glass in New York.