Hello in there

Herself and Herself the Elder enjoy analog FaceTime at the Dark Tower.

Locked doors. Empty streets. Everyone’s bunkered up and wearing masks, like poilus in a Ypres trench awaiting a gas attack.

Social distancing isn’t new to me. I’ve worked from home for nearly 30 years, and I have come to relish my solitude. My colleagues these days are mostly in Missoula and Boulder. Some days I find it hard to believe that I ever got anything done in a crowded newsroom, which may have pioneered the open-plan office everyone else soon came to loathe.

But even I get twitchy now and then, especially since I was homebound early on with a broken ankle. The COVID-19 may be out there, but the cabin fever is most definitely in here. There are bicycles to be reviewed, an ankle to be rehabilitated. And anyway, jolly old Doc O’Grady feels it’s prudent to take society’s temperature now and then.

So I limp around the ’hood for a spell, shout back and forth with the neighbors. One has retired and has a new dog. Another is working overtime and has an old dog, gamely hanging on, like the rest of us. Next door they’re turning a pile of gravel into a base for a backyard shed. The other next door is exhausted from babysitting grandchildren.

Sometimes we ride the bikes. Herself the Elder needs regular resupply, soda, wine, and Kleenex, along with a bit of analog FaceTime through her bedroom window. A little girl squeals, “I have a bike!” So do I, sweetie. I bet you don’t have to give yours back after a few weeks. At least, I hope not.

The Italians sing. New Yorkers clap. Here in the ’Burque ’burbs we venture out briefly, if only to say, “Hello in there … hello … and have you heard the latest socially distant episode of Radio Free Dogpatch?”

P L A Y    R A D I O    F R E E    D O G P A T C H

• Technical notes: Cheap, cheap, sings the Radio Free Dogpatch birdie. I used the Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB mic, recording directly to the MacBook Pro using Rogue Amoeba’s nifty little app Piezo. Editing was as usual, in GarageBand. Once again the background music is by Your Humble Narrator, assembled in the iOS version of GarageBand with some John Prine licks in mind.

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21 Responses to “Hello in there”

  1. Pat O'Brien Says:

    Was that you playing guitar in the intro? If so, bravo mi amigo!

    Here’s the song, which believe it or not, I had not heard until yesterday. Scott Simon did a really good opinion piece on NPR yesterday about John Prine and that song. I immediately bought it on iTunes and send a gift copy to Andy.


    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Oh, heavens, no. The devil will be complaining about the chill before I learn how to play like that. I rigged it using the “Smart Guitar” function in GarageBand on the iPad. Man, there’s a ton of cute stuff in there. I’ll probably learn how to use some of it about the time I learn how to play the lead from “Stairway to Heaven” on a for-real guitar.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      That’s one of JP’s best, I think. But he had so many great ones. Tickle your funnybone one minute and tug on your heartstrings the next, sometimes in the same damn song.

      The one that’s been stuck in my head for days now is “Summer’s End.”

      • Pat O’Brien Says:

        Wow. That is a world class ear worm. Alan And I played “Angel From Montgomery” yesterday. The chords are easy, but I need a shit ton of work on singing it. My attempt yesterday was more like of a ton of shit.

        The podcast sounded great. The gear works and the results get better every time. The content and humor was world class from the start.

        • Patrick O'Grady Says:

          It really is amazing how simple so many of his songs seem. I mean, even a tyro like me can play quite a few of them, albeit without style, flair, or grace (on a good day I sound about like a monkey banging on a harp with a pipe wrench).

          The lyrics are what make the magic. It’s hard to top John Prine and Randy Newman when it comes to setting words to music.

  2. khal spencer Says:

    Don’t crush that dwarf. Hand me the pliers.

    • khal spencer Says:

      Well done, by the way. Nice podcast. Thank you.

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        Thanks, matey. I don’t know whether they have any value, but I like doing them. It’s a different style of writing for starters, and then you have to reckon with all this hardware and software.

        And sound! Good Gawd Awmighty. With Herself working from home now it’s not always easy to find a few quiet moments for podcast construction. I may have to move the studio into the back seat of the Subie, in the garage. Dial it down to an iPad thing. Go all like punk rock and shit.

        Every senile old fool should have a hobby, amirite? At least you don’t have to tape them up on the refrigerator where everybody can see ’em when they go looking for a cold one.

        • Shawn in the Gorge Says:

          A thank you from me as well for your podcasts. It’s nice sometimes to hear a voice to go along with the hieroglyphics.

          Have a Fine Day today !

  3. khal spencer Says:

    Living the dream up here. I love Vince Guaraldi. Why am I the only Dago who is not musically talented?

  4. khal spencer Says:

    Getting back to a discussion about a week ago, Stan Thomas posted a link to this article about getting cooties while following another rider/runner. The article has a link to the actual manuscript, which I think is going off to peer review so take with the usual grain of salt. That said, Bert Blocken has done bicycling aerodynamics before.


    • khal spencer Says:

      Here is the actual paper.

      Click to access COVID19_Aero_Paper.pdf

    • khal spencer Says:

      Boy, did that paper kick up a shitfest. The authors rushed to get it out due to COVID but all they did was kick a hornet’s nest. For example.

    • Pat O'Brien Says:

      With all the uncertainty about how contagious large droplets vs small droplets are, and the effect of heat and humidity on them, along with wind velocity and direction, this study assumes too many constants. But, it is informative. Easy to criticize or belittle something that doesn’t support your position about riding or exercising outside. When models start to agree on a broad scale, an example would be the modeling on climate change, their conclusions can no longer be ignored. Spring time in Southeast Arizona comes with wind and single digit humidities which probably take the risk for a single rider to near zero.

      • khal spencer Says:

        As the authors state in response to the venerated six foot distance, “…to the best of our knowledge, no previous studies have focused on the potential spread of droplets from a person to another when both are moving fast, such as in walking fast or running exercises outdoors.”

        So that was it. They did a model where one keeps a fair number of things constant because otherwise the model gets unwieldy and furthermore, takes a lot of time and computational resources. That’s true of climate models, too, which is why the best models are done on massive supercomputers at places such as LANL.Even those models simplify. One of my riding buddies who worked with me at the U of Hawaii was a meteorologist (studied hurricanes) and said that up till a few years ago, the climate models could not make a cloud so scientists had to input their best guesses on how clouds might form.

        What I would have done is say “we have concluded on the basis of our measurements and assumptions in this paper that the six foot distance is inadequate for moving athletes and the safe person to person distance, all other things being equal, increases with speed since particles don’t have the opportunity to drop out of the airstream before the second person reaches them. There are obviously other variables in play as well”.

        I must have read about a dozen different articles this morning where people were either slapping their own dicks on the table (other scientists) or discrediting this paper (Bicycling Magazine). This wasn’t mean to be the last word. Indeed, it seems to be the first word and something I worried about when I read Bicycling’s advice a few weeks ago. We are flying a little blind.

      • khal spencer Says:

        Sometimes you can’t win, Pat. These authors were pilloried for going to the public prematurely with a preliminary study. A bunch of Italian scientists were sent to jail and later exonerated because they did not jump to conclusions on a major quake. But as any seismologist will attest, seismology is an imperfect predictor of The Big One.


        Sorry, everyone. This sciencey shit is in my swim lane so I got hopping mad this morning. I’ll shut up now…oomph…glloot…mmmm

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        As I will never be smart, and have the science chops of a howler monkey, I will simply continue to do what I have been doing, which is keep a respectable distance from anyone who doesn’t live in my house.

        Happily, that’s pretty easy for an underemployed rumormonger out here in the ’burbs. Biggest risk for me is going grocery shopping, which I will have to do again sometime this week. We could do with some fresh fruits and vegetables, some nuts, maybe a little meat. Plus I’m curious to see what’s going on there since the guv clamped down a little harder.

      • khal spencer Says:

        I’m just a journeyman scientist, O’G. I know that. No high horse here. Aside from being just marginally smart, I had too many other interests (cycling, hiking, bicycling advocacy, staring at the landscape or seascape, chasing girls, bullshitting on a friend’s blog, etc) to labor in the lab and office enough to pump out yards of publications and get tons of grants. Frankly, that’s why the LANL job appealed to me: here is the mission, go do a good job. Seem to have done that.

        If I were really good, by my age, I’d have a Distinguished Professorship of Silly Walks at the Gumby School of Weird and Irrelevant Shit at the West Texas University at Redneck.

        But as far as I can tell from its masthead, Bicycling Magazine shouldn’t be calling something “not science”. Just bugged the shit out of me.

        The first order message is ride alone. You didn’t need to do a computational fluid dynamics study to know that. A week on a paceline when someone launches a snot rocket without cycling to the back would tell you that. But scientists, you know, have to put numbers on everything. God bless the good ones.

        In that sense, preliminary numbers and first order approximations are the rule to get started. As Bert said, no one measured this before. That’s how Jim Hansen and the climate guys got started before we had today’s supercomputers that could calculate All Sorts of Weird Shit. They simplified and told us the ground truth, which was serious enough. It remains to fine tune the elaborations.

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