Get Your Kitsch on Route 66


We rode the middle route of Trailnet’s Route 66 bicycle ride today. This ride was a lot easier than the Great Pizza ride of two weeks ago. There were almost no hills and the wind was hardly noticeable. We drove to Edwardsville, IL, which was holding its annual Route 66 festival. From there we looped north, riding on parts of historic Route 66 and also some Madison County bike trails.

The Pink Elephant Antique Mall was certainly the highlight of this ride for us. This antique mall adjoins I-55 in Livingston, IL. I-55 has usurped the Mother Road’s preeminence is this part of Illinois. We’ve driven by the Pink Elephant countless times on runs to Chicago and beyond, but we’ve never bothered to stop at it, while we were whizzing down the interstate in our automobile. The slower mode of locomotion that bicycling affords lends itself to the kinds of attractions that were the regular fare, when Route 66 was in its prime.

The Pink Elephant may have been the highlight of this ride, but it certainly wasn’t its only attraction. The farmers are slowly, but steadily getting the corn crop in the ground this year. With all of the rain that we’ve received, it has been difficult for them to find enough dry time, to plow and plant. While most of the corn is only ankle high, a few fields are more than knee-high. I give those fields the best chance to be as high as a pink elephant’s eye, by the Fourth of July. But considering the wizardry that is occurring at Monsanto these days, I wouldn’t count out any of the planted fields that we saw today, in their race for the height of an elephant’s eye. While almost everything is quite green, there were some fields of weeds that were grey and desiccated. I figured that they had been sprayed with Round-Up and were now ready for tilling and planting.

We saw a lot of storm damage from last weekend’s storms. One farm had all of its trees ripped to shreds and a large multi-story corrugated storage bin lay crumpled and twisted on its side. The farmer was busy burning the downed limbs in a huge bonfire in the back, while his children ran about playing in the driveway. That must have been one scary night for them. When we got back to Edwardsville, we came in on a bicycle trail. It was completely cleared, but you could see all of the scuffing and scrapes that the workmen and their heavy equipment did to the trail’s asphalt pavement. Most of this work was needed on sections of trail that ran along the raised bed of the old railroad line. On either side of this earthen trestle countless trees lay fallen, either snapped like twigs or hacked into submission by chain saws. Last weekend we encountered some storm damage on the bicycle trails on Edwardsville’s southeast side. Today’s storm signs were on the northwest side and they were way worse.

To end on a happier note, we did see a couple of other oddities and they were almost adjoining each other. One was like a Noah’s Ark farm. It had miniature ponies, llamas, emus, donkeys, goats, sheep, ducks, geese and who knows what else. Just down the road a bit was a house, whose yard was filled with handmade lawn art, punctuated with political and religious signs. One sign said, “Make Chicago a State”. Downstate Illinoisans don’t appreciate the fact that greater Chicago’s much greater population rules politics in the state. The lawn art also had a Noah’s Ark feel. Most of the sculptures were of animals that might have been on the Ark. That is except for one pair, a pair of dinosaurs. One of this pair lay stricken on the ground, while the other hovered over it. I guess that is one explanation of how and when the dinosaurs went extinct.

Odds and Ends

Forest Park Tullips

Forest Park Tullips

I went for a bicycle ride after work tonight. After a day of rain, it was nice to get outside again. We’ve gotten so much rain these past few months that we’ve gone from record drought conditions to near record flood conditions. Not only is the Mississippi flooding, but so is our basement. I’ve gotten so fed up with it that I’ve hired a man to put a sub-pump in. This will occur in a week or two, so we’ll just have to put up with the water puddles until then. I didn’t have much else to say tonight, do I combed by notes, an informal archive of blog fodder ideas and came up with the following items that I have heard:

“The help desk doesn’t know anything.” I overheard this comment at work. An IT person was making a service call and an engineer, the other half of this conversation had just previously said, “But the help desk had told me …”

“Being organized is just for people too lazy to look for things.” One of Anne’s colleagues has a button, a bumper sticker or simply made a Facebook comment to this effect. Anne liked it so much that she shared it with me and now I’m sharing it with you. It also tends to justify our housekeeping style.

The history of the United States can be told in eleven words: Columbus, Washington, Lincoln, Volstead, Two flights up and ask for Gus. – New York Evening Sun 

I heard the preceding quote on Ken Burn’s Prohibition documentary. I thought that it nicely encapsulated US history to that point. While, I’m sitting here slaving over a hot blog-stove, Anne and Joanie are living it up at the barroom. They are at the Schafly Bottleworks in Maplewood, having a beer or two, knitting, and listening Science on Tap, a monthly science oriented lecture series. Tonight’s lecture is on meteorites. Schafly also commemorates the repeal of Prohibition, every April 6th. I’m that there is more knitting than beer going on between Anne and Joanie, but I’m pretty sure that there is beer there too.

Bear With Me

Curry Village Lodge Bear

Curry Village Lodge Bear

Is it “Bear with me” or “Bare with me”? These homophones are always difficult for me to parse. They sound the same, but mean different things and are spelled differently too. I’ve always had to be careful when using there, their or they’re. One of Anne’s favorite games is to point out to me select lawn art, as in “Look [dear | deer].” Anne pointed out that the bare phase means to get naked with me, which only raises more questions for me. 😉

Another example of ambiguity in English is the following sentence:

Tom while John had had had had had had had had had had had a better effect on the teacher.

Without punctuation this so-called sentence is both lexically incorrect and frankly unintelligible. The example refers to two students, Tom and John, who are required by an English test to describe a man who, in the past, had suffered from a cold. John writes “The man had a cold” which the teacher marks as being incorrect; while Tom writes the correct “The man had had a cold.” Since Tom’s answer was right, it had had a better effect on the teacher. The sentence can be understood more clearly by adding punctuation and emphasis:

Tom, while John had had “had“, had had “had had”; “had had” had had a better effect on the teacher.

I would hate to have to diagram this sentence. There is a simple sentence that is easy to say, but hard to write. It is, “There are three ____ in English”, where the blank symbolizes the homophone [to | too | two], which phonetically is easily said, but it is much harder to write out.

Pencils Down

Pencils

Pencils

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon (D) proposed a new grading scheme for state public and charter schools. The new wrinkle in his scheme involves using letter grades (i.e. A, B, C, …). I think that this new grading scheme will be better, because it is more visceral than the 14 point scheme it would replace. I mentioned this at the dinner table to Anne. This got her going and she told me what she really thought about it and No Child Left Behind, the root of Nixon’s grading scheme. She cited how No Child not only tests students and by proxy their teachers and schools, but it also demands continual progress, always raising the bar.

I was reminded of Walmart and its goal to always lowering prices. Walmart continually increases the pressure on its suppliers, by demanding more, but doesn’t offer anything in return for its lower prices. No Child demands higher test scores, but doesn’t offer any reward for success either.

Whether it is Walmart or No Child, you can only squeeze for so long, before there is no more. Somehow at this point the conversation devolved into an analogy involving Lance Armstrong and doping. I think that the point being made was that we would eventually have to resort to drugs to maintain No Child’s projected learning curve. In stream of consciousness fashion I thought of an xkcd comic strip that I had read just the other day.

The following is my derived transcript of an apropos strip, “Steroids“, from my favorite web comic, xkcd: Disembodied alien asks, “Explain to me this ‘steroid scandal'” The human female [Drive by Anne: You can tell the gender in xkcd? Me: She usually has hair, he not so much.] answers, “Well, uh … We humans are sacks of chemicals which stay alive by finding other chemicals and putting them inside us. We hold contests to see which humans are the fastest and strongest. But some humans eat chemicals that make them too fast and strong. And they win contests!” “That sounds bad”, the alien commiserates. She agrees, “It’s awful!”

At this point I went off on my own little tangent. I thought yeah, let’s drug the little kids and I don’t just mean with Ritalin. We could enlist the pharmaceutical industry in this endeavor. We could make it another Manhattan Project. It would make a great sop to this already heavily subsidized business. I bet that we could synthesis messenger RNA pills for the entire curriculum.

We could layoff all the faculty, keeping only the school nurse to administer these meds and maybe an assistant principal or two to deal with any side effects. Out of work educators could find employment at Walmart and greet their former students, when they come in to buy their back-to-school supply of drugs.