Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Frosted Whiskers

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We knew it was dramatically cold outside before we even got out of bed.

BANG!”

It appeared that either someone had dropped an anvil on the roof over our heads or the extreme cold was distorting the components of our roof and/or the snowpack frozen upon it. It’s the second time this week our structure has complained in the form of a loud boom overhead in reacting to the depths to which the cold has bitten.

The horses haven’t complained. They are impressively stoic about the deep freeze but they can’t hide the icing that collects on their whiskers and eyelashes.

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Light was modeling some gorgeous frozen eye lashes Wednesday morning.

At double-digits below zero (F), they don’t try to lick their feed pans clean, an exercise that otherwise happens regularly. At these temperatures, their own saliva freezes as it contacts the rubber pan when they’ve gobbled most of the pellets.

On any other day, that pan would be licked spotless.

As I was snapping photos of Light’s icy highlights, she decided to show me her tongue can still be used for other purposes. Was she sending me a message?

At least she didn’t make the “raspberry” sound toward my general direction.

“I love you, too, Light.”

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Written by johnwhays

January 21, 2022 at 7:00 am

Indoor Pursuits

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One day after a big melt, everything froze solid again and the wind chill is biting. Putting on the equivalent of a spacesuit to walk the dog makes sense because when we step outside the cold feels like we are in outer space.

The horses didn’t seem to pay the Arctic cold much attention, except maybe to more fervently devour hay for fuel to generate desired body warmth. We didn’t waste much time after the morning “cheers” (Ian’s and my more descriptive variant of “chores”) of seeing they got properly fed, knocking away ice that formed on their waterer, and doing the requisite housekeeping under and around the barn overhang.

We headed straight back to the house to thaw out.

The rest of the day was given to indoor pursuits, beginning with scouring the local newspaper over a warm breakfast. Cyndie and I then each independently processed the day’s Wordle challenge. After that, I lost myself in a jigsaw puzzle while Cyndie was occupied at the other end of the old family table toiling on a craft project.

We also took turns scouring our closets and dressers for clothes we can live without in a burst of decluttering. Getting rid of shirts that I haven’t worn in years is an exercise I really enjoy. I need to be in the right mood for it to go smoothly and when I am, it becomes easier as I go to dig ever deeper and jettison excess versions of button-downs or short and long sleeve tees with minimal hesitation.

At this point, there are many shirts I was only wearing to the day-job that now deserve to be retired, since I’m no longer employed outside the home.

My uniform for working at home tends to be rather limited and one combination of base and outer layer pullover shirts can last me for days before needing to be tossed to the laundry.

It all gets covered with the spacesuit when we go outside anyway, so if I can avoid working up a sweat, nothing gets too dirty except the treasured outer covering of my lined Carhartt overalls. Those now have so many accumulated layers of having been soiled that they almost stand up on their own. Makes it increasingly easier to climb into them over time.

Anything to make the project of dressing for outer space a little less onerous between the hours of indoor pursuits where we are warm and cozy.

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Corner Mark

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It was a warm day yesterday, with plenty of sunshine. Today, the other shoe drops. A fresh dose of Arctic air is dipping into our region for a few days. Taking advantage of yesterday’s pleasant weather, we took a leisurely stroll around the property with Delilah. This, after the dog and I awoke from an afternoon nap, blanketed by the glorious rays blazing through the glass of the back doors to the deck.

As our walk approached the northeast corner of our property, my balanced stone cairn denoting the landmark stood out vividly in the bright sunlight.

It is far from a permanent stack. We walk the perimeter trails daily and I am fastidious about picking up the rocks if they have tumbled, so there is a general impression of it being a constant marker.

The stack is close enough to the road that snow rolling off the plow blade of the township truck can topple the top few rocks. The base is a combination of multiple big rocks, so that tends to buffer from any dramatic impact of the ground heaving as it freezes and thaws.

In fact, it seems like the harder the freeze, the less the rocks appear to shift. Maybe they all share a similar enough makeup that there is little difference in temperature coefficient.

Otherwise, it is likely that vibrations from a heavy truck rumbling past could knock some rocks down. Occasionally, a big wind will tip them when it hits at just the right angle.

Ultimately, most of the balanced rocks around our property succumb to the push-off when a bird perched on the pinnacle decides to take flight.

Something about one of those laws of physics.

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Written by johnwhays

January 19, 2022 at 7:00 am

Minor Trim

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The mares received a visit from the farrier yesterday and got their feets fixed. They are all standing on good footing now. Like the previous time the new farrier, Heather, was here to work on our girls, Light got a little too upset to tolerate the attention.

As a result, they made a point of starting with Light first. She wasn’t much better this time, either. Next visit, Tom is going to remember to bring a little something to calm her nerves before they start.

The other three horses stood reasonably well and allowed Heather to finish what she started on each.

Here is Tom holding Swings while Heather capably plies her trade. While the horses mostly stood in place well, none of them were all that relaxed about having their legs picked up.

I think I’d rather toss 250 bales of hay for my workout than repeatedly hold up a resistant Thoroughbred mare’s leg while trying to file it.

We had closed all the gates and put halters on the horses at the start of the day in anticipation of the scheduled hoof trimming appointment. As soon as each one is done, they get freed from the halter and sent on their way.

The two chestnuts walked down to the still closed gate to the hayfield and held vigil until I showed up to open it.

I was waiting until Mix and Swings were done so as not to create any distractions while work was still in progress.

Of course, when I finally showed up and opened the gate, neither horse walked through. They turned and followed me to the next gate and the one after that. I guess they just wanted to make sure I got everything back the way they like it, so that later when they really want to get out in the fields, they will be able.

Kids. [shaking my head]

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Written by johnwhays

January 18, 2022 at 7:00 am

Why Wordle

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I have been contemplating the rapidly expanding popularity of the online word game, Wordle, and wondering what it is about it that appeals so. Since you can only play one word per day, that seems like it would be a detriment to the ever-expanding popularity. At the same time, it just might be one of the plusses.

The urge to play another round cannot be easily satisfied, so the attraction is maintained?

It seems to me, although individual interpretation will certainly vary widely, the game is rather simple without being too easy. The obvious target audience would be people who are fond of words and playing with words and solving puzzles.

The clues provided and the limitation of 5-letter words offer just enough support to keep the solution within reach of the six guesses available.

The randomness of letter options chosen for each turn creates an exciting mystery that determines the odds for solving on subsequent turns.

What a wonderful surprise it must be for the founder, John Wardle, to see how popular his creation has become.

Something about this game has triggered memories of an old favorite word game our family played in the car when trying to kill time during our frequent 3-hour drives to the lake place when the kids were young. Each player can select a word to be guessed and the first word Julian selected became the name of our made-up game ever after: “labelye” (La [soft A] • bull • yee).

What made the game difficult was that it was played completely in our minds. We had to visualize the letters in our heads to scramble and descramble them. Julian chose the word eyeball and had to scramble them into a pronounceable word clue for us to work with.

We could ask him to spell it, so we had the right letters to decode, but sounding out the scrambled word was one way to keep all the letters in our minds while trying to rearrange them into a solution. It was a trick to do without writing anything down and that probably made it too hard to catch on as a game that we kept playing as time went by, but it worked pretty slick for a while to occupy our attention and distract each of us from the doldrums of being trapped in a vehicle for longer than desired.

None of us were able to solve Julian’s scramble, so he won the round by stumping us and that helped nudge his word to become the name of the game from then on.

I suppose it wouldn’t be too complicated for a skilled game developer to build an app for that old car game so word puzzlers will have something new to play with after Wordle has faded out of the viral game-of-the-moment moment.

“Hey, Alexa! Give me a Labelye word to descramble while I wait for tomorrow’s next Wordle game.”

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Written by johnwhays

January 17, 2022 at 7:00 am

Lingering Shock

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Honestly, I still don’t believe what just happened in the few days I endeavored to find a new road e-bike to replace my old reliable, familiar, and truly simple touring bike of twenty years. Rapidly changing from thinking my preferred choice wouldn’t be available for a year to being told the only one (the perfect one) available in the country was less than an hour’s drive away has rattled my sensibilities.

Cyndie has picked up on my excitement and happily agreed to let me bring it inside the house to devour the manual and familiarize myself with the complexities of all the features that are entirely new to me.

In addition to having never had battery-powered motor assistance in a bike, I have no experience with brake lever shifting, disc brakes, or a carbon frame. Plus, I’m feeling a surprisingly powerful compulsion to simply gaze at the spectacle of so much technical engineering packaged in such a functional work of cycling artistry.

In a phenomenal comment on yesterday’s post, John Hopkins perfectly captured the purity of my experience, before I even realized it’s what was happening:

Funny how intimately personal bikes are (to bikers), and when you hit on one, it’s a huge jolt of energy and pleasure that goes on pleasing every time one saddles up, or in many cases, each time one merely ‘looks’ at the fine machine!

It being the depth of winter, I am suffering the lack of opportunity to get out immediately to ride. Yesterday, I didn’t even have time to tinker with moving pedals from my old bike to the new one because there was snow to be plowed and hay bales to be stacked.

Hay delivery was confirmed for the morning so I was pressed to get the driveway cleared of Friday’s snowfall quickly so the trailer of hay could be trucked in without complication. Delilah had us up earlier than usual so we got a head start on feeding horses and eating our own breakfast. That put me back outside and plowing with plenty of time to make extra passes around the hay shed to create as wide a path as possible for the incoming delivery.

Hoping to give Delilah a walk around the property before I got tied up throwing bales, we made it to the far side of the pastures when I spotted the truck come over the hill. Cutting our usual route short, I directed Delilah under the bottom wire of the electric fence and I hopped over at the gate to trudge through the snowy field to meet our supplier, Chris.

In a blink, they were tossing bales down and I found myself struggling to keep pace while carrying on an engaging exploratory conversation typical of two people who just met.

Three quarters through the load, my exclamations clued Chris in that I could use a break. He gladly called for a pause and grabbed himself a drink to sit and maintain our pleasant chat. It occurred to me I hadn’t stopped moving since breakfast.

By the time we finished, I was soaked in sweat and exhausted. Later, Cyndie and I cleaned up around the paddocks and packed the two hay boxes with the loose scraps of broken bales that came apart during handling.

At the end of the day, the only energy I had for the new bike was to look at it longingly.

Going forward, I think I will also find myself looking longingly at the pavement of our roads, anxiously waiting for the day they become dry enough I feel comfortable for a maiden voyage on my new pride and joy.

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Written by johnwhays

January 16, 2022 at 11:30 am

Nurturing Possibility

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Anything’s possible, so we may as well allow ourselves to be open to it. I do believe that it is possible to cultivate our own luck, but when good fortune and grace flow over me, I find it hard to process the unexpected blessing. I’m the most pessimistic optimist I’ve ever known.

One of the bike shops I visited on Thursday mentioned I could try calling the Trek home office directly to see if they would do a nationwide search for the specific Domane+ I wanted. To prove a point to Cyndie about how dismal things were looking in my bike hunt, I told her about that longshot advice.

She encouraged me to try it. As we were preparing to turn in for the night Thursday, I decided I would confirm there were none available anywhere by calling Trek in the morning, and then I would focus on finding one of the alternative choices in stock somewhere in the Twin Cities.

A little before 11:00 a.m., I pressed the numbers on my phone to reach Trek. It only took two or three easy steps of the decision tree to bring up a human voice eager to assist me. He quickly searched the 2022 bikes and found zero in my size. I could hear him keying away as he described changing the search to 2021 models.

“I found only one in the nation that size. Looks like it is at Freewheel Bikes in Minneapolis.” he happily reported.

What!?

I was just at the Freewheel in Woodbury the day before and they couldn’t find any Domane+’s. With giddy thanks, I logged off that call and entered the number he provided to the Minneapolis shop.

“Let me look it up.” the voice on the other end said. As he clicked keys he cautioned that the shop computer systems don’t necessarily update instantaneously so discrepancies are possible.

“Ope, there it is. Yep, we have that bike. It arrived at the beginning of this month and was assembled on the 10th.”

That is likely the reason the other shop didn’t find it yet. It had just been built and had yet to be accounted for in the system.

Go ahead. Tell me the odds of the timing of my search and the very recent local availability of this single bike in the entire country.

“And there is no claim on this bike yet?” I don’t know if he could sense the state of shock I was entering.

“Nope. There is no name attached to this bike.”

“Put mine on it please and I will be in to pick it up today,” I said, not even thinking about the falling snow and blustery wind creating hazardous winter driving conditions all day long.

Choosing to go get the bike immediately was the easiest decision I’ve made in a long time.

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Bike Ruminations

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You all know how much I like making decisions. I have a touring bike that has served me just fine for the last couple of decades, my trusty Trek 520. One reason I’ve had it this long is that replacing it would require deciding what else to get. Another reason is that I don’t like to spend money if I don’t need to.

My trusty Trek 520 circa 2008.

My 520 still works just fine, seeing as how I’ve upgraded the drivetrain components and replaced wheels through the years. However, my body isn’t working as well as it did when I first purchased that ride oh so long ago and today’s cycles now offer motorized assistance to offset shortcomings in leg strength and stamina.

I am seriously tempted. So tempted, I’ve been doing some shopping this week. It’s been both inspiring and disheartening.

First, let’s get this out of the way. Prices! Oh. My. Gosh. I think they should offer loan programs like auto dealerships do.

That said, I have saved up for this luxury, so I could feasibly buy at almost any price right now if it wasn’t for my being so spending-averse. I refuse to spend five digits for a two-wheeler, even if it includes electronic pedal assist.

Given all that, I was able to narrow my choices to a really snazzy Trek Domane+ that I feel would suit me just fine. The thing is, that model, in my frame size, is non-existent until longer than I want to wait. Factory lead time right now is about 8 and a half months, and given the state of supply chain issues of late, I don’t have any confidence that the length of time won’t almost double.

I wonder how many Shimano components are stuck on ocean liners waiting in lines at ports right now.

There is an alternative to waiting for my preferred choice. I could consider a model that is more readily available. The Allant+ looks less like my road bike and more like my mountain bike. My initial reaction is that I wouldn’t be as comfortable on it riding for hours on end, but then the addition of a motor helping turn the crank makes it hard to judge how I will actually feel by the end of a long day.

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I would add bar ends to provide alternate hand positions. The Allant includes a headlight and taillight. The Allant model I would choose is $250 cheaper than my Domane selection and has more oomph from its battery/motor combination. The power assists are from different manufacturers: Bosch vs. Fazua. However, the Allant’s increased power components contribute to the bike being twenty pounds heavier than the Domane. In addition, I do have a psychological hangup about wanting to ride 700c wheels on the road. I’m guessing I wouldn’t notice the difference of the only slightly smaller wheels on the Allant.

Did you follow all that?

TL;DR is that it is not a straightforward choice of pros and cons between what I want and what is actually available near term.

Decisions, decisions.

I am thoroughly seated on the fence and ruminating, enjoying not spending a penny on a new bike until a decision is finally made.

Of course, I could still choose to ride my 520 for another year and accept the delayed gratification if I order my preferred Domane+…

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Emotion

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it’s all been said already
but how often do we listen
as if for the first time
the thing about written verse, though
it lacks that interlude
where the writer (singer)
might lean their head back
and shout a scat of voice
emulating a musical instrument
accenting an emotion
buried deep in our souls
before returning to continue
aforementioned themes
evoked
oh-ooh yeeeeaah

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Written by johnwhays

January 13, 2022 at 7:00 am

Frank Discussion

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Delilah: Wrrello, wrreveryone. Today, Pequenita-the-teaser-cat and I have grabbed the blog controls from He-who-succumbs-to-our-every-wish to share our observations of his mysterious change in behavior in the last 20 or so light and dark cycles.

Pequenita: Rrrreow come you get to go first, you tiresome bark-annoyance creature? I’m the one who sleeps in the crook of his knees and knows exactly when he gets up in the night and, well… does you know what.

D: Because I am taller than you, you wee little meowing machine.

P: Momma said you are supposed to treat me like I’m your sister, so be nice.

D: You started the name-calling, just like you usually start the chaos that gets me yelled at every time I respond to your goading from just out of their sight. You know I can’t resist my canine instincts to act like I’m going to eat you alive.

P: Oh, so it’s all about you. Everything is always about you. Meow me a river. We are supposed to be talking about the craziness around here since blog-man stopped driving off in his gas machine for hours on end every day allowing me to get decent sleep while the sun is up. Now I have to keep hopping up on the recliner to knead his belly multiple times an hour to see if he’s still alive.

D: Oh, yeah. Reading that electronic version of the good old newspaper that I never get a chance to chew on. Luckily, I don’t waste time chewing papers now that I can find a discarded deer leg or mystery scat surprises on the trails every day. For some reason, they are so much more enticing when they are frozen. Probably the crunching sound that makes it so appealing. That, and my uncontrollable instinct, I suppose.

P: It’s not like you don’t get fed twice each day without fail.

D: No different from you, salmon-breath.

P: At least I don’t eat my puke. Not that I’d have a chance, with you, in a frenzy, streaking in to happily enact “Cleanup in aisle 3!” before anyone gets a chance to blink.

D: What can I say? My nose knows… So, back to what’shisname, I gotta say this trend of acting like he’s taking me for a walk and then snapping my leash to the nearest hook while he marches back and forth to the shop and the barn or hay shed has me a little confused. They pack me up and drive me to holiday gatherings. They squeeze me beside luggage and drive to some snowy Arctic forest where I get to frolic like a puppy and then turn around and bring me right back home like nothing happened. Then he goes nowhere. Just hangs around all day like he owns the place.

P: Not even close. I totally own the place.

D: I think he might be confused. I bark and bark and bark to try to bring him to his senses but he acts like a squirrel is just no big thing.

P: I believe it is because he is tired again.

D: What do you mean?

P: I heard him tell someone he is re-tired. [prrrrrrr]

D: BARK! BARK-BARK!

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Written by johnwhays

January 12, 2022 at 7:00 am