My Stetson and Tilley hats

Years ago I had a panama hat that was great for hot sunny days. I think I still have it, but after a few years the straw cracked in the crown and I had to retire it from regular use.

For years I made do with felt hats, which are also great, but not ideal for hot, sunny days. So last summer I went to the local Rumours Hat Shoppe to look for a replacement panama hat, and found this hat—a panama hat as re-imagined by Stetson:

Me at Bryce Canyon

It’s a great hat, but it turns out not to be the right hat for hiking in the desert. (It’s more for sitting on the veranda and looking out over my plantation.)

In particular, the Stetson panama hat doesn’t have a cord to keep it on in the wind.

So, after a blustery day at Zion Canyon made me concerned about losing my hat, I visited an outfitters shop in Springdale and purchased a Tilley hat:

Imperfect camouflage

I’m simply delighted with this hat, which does have a cord, arranged so that it can go both behind the head and under the chin, but which can be easily tucked away inside the hat when it’s not windy.

Hopefully I am now all hatted up for years to come.

Learned something new

About three weeks ago, just a few days before heading out on our vacation, I noticed a black spot in the vision of my right eye, modestly to the right of the center of my vision.

I hustled to the optometrist, who dilated my eyes, looked inside, and said, “Yep, I can see a thing that matches what you describe.”

Two things I already knew:

  • Your eye ball is filled with a fluid called vitreous humour,
  • that fluid shrinks as you age.

But in my brain that fluid is rather more liquidy than it apparently is in reality. In my actual eyeball, that fluid is so gelatinous that it is attached to the retina with strands of connective tissue. My vitreous had shrunk enough that one of those strands pulled free, and the strand (connected to my vitreous and no longer connected to my retina) is what I’m seeing. Or rather, the shadow of that strand is what I’m seeing.

They call it a floater, but this one is unlike other floaters I’ve had. The other ones floated—that is, they moved around. This one is fixed in place. The others were also translucent, whereas this one was black. Looking out was rather like using a screen with a few dead pixels.

The prognosis is good. The black spot should become less noticeable, through both my immune system scavenging up the no-longer needed connective tissue and my brain learning that there’s no information in the black spot and filling in with detail from my other eye. (The spot is already turning browner and translucent.) There’s a slightly increased risk of retinal tears and detachment, not from the floater itself but from the shrunken vitreous.

I asked if there was anything I could do to encourage the vitreous to regain it’s original size, but apparently there isn’t anything known to hep with that. The doctor said that it was often recommended that people refrain from heavy lifting, and I actually did quit lifting during the couple of days before the trip and the duration of the trip itself, but I’m certainly not going to give up lifting.

Because of my tendency to worry about such things, it was kind of daunting to have this happen right before our long drive, but in actual event was a non-issue. I’ll update if anything more comes of it.

Monkey bars

I used to play on the monkey bars all the time when I was a kid. My mom encouraged it. She knew it built upper-body strength, and that the ability to traverse monkey bars was an important capability for any human. (She could traverse monkey bars herself, when I was a boy.)

I quit doing the monkey bars, probably when I was college age, and quickly lost the capability. Then for three decades would have been afraid to even try, because I’d definitely have hurt myself. A few years ago I wanted to regain that capability, so I started looking for monkey bars to practice on, and found that they’ve gotten quite scarce. Many playgrounds don’t have them at all.

Winfield Village has a playground in every quad, but the only playground with any sort of monkey bars is the big one close to the office, and it has a rather strange curving monkey bar that over the course of 5 rungs makes a 90° turn—a particularly challenging version. (Like most these days, this one has weird triangular bars hanging from a single support, rather than a series of rungs supported on both sides.)

Bars for brachiating at Winfield Village playground

The reason for both the near disappearance and the switch to triangular bars seems to be that monkey bars are “dangerous.” Many playground safety experts recommend that monkey bars be excluded from playgrounds altogether, and I think the weird shape is designed to make them harder to climb on top of, in the hopes that kids would then not do so.

I spent a chunk of yesterday afternoon at an “alignment play day” with folks from CU Movement (and  kids), getting some hanging and balancing and barefoot walking on various textures. One thing I did was traverse the monkey bars at Clark Park in Champaign—an old-style set of monkey bars, rather like the ones I remember as a kid.

One of the kids in our group—small enough that it was a challenge to reach the next bar, and at a height that the experts would no doubt claim was “too high” for a kid of that size—did the monkey bars, and then immediately wanted to climb on top of them. He asked for help getting on top, which his mom declined to provide—except that she pointed out that one of the supporting poles could probably provide the necessary foot purchase for him to get on top on his own. And he did manage to find two ways to get up there. Having gotten up there, he decided against traversing the top of the monkey bars, and simply swung back down under them.

A new school of thought is emerging (finally!) that “dangerous” playground equipment offers valuable opportunities for kids to do exactly what this boy did: evaluate a hazard and decide how much risk was appropriate. The only way to learn to make that sort of evaluation is to actually practice it. Making playgrounds so safe that children cannot hurt themselves reduces their opportunity to develop a good sense for what is safe and what is dangerous, and what is and is not within their capability.

It has also made it a lot harder for me to find a set of monkey bars to practice on.

I crossed the monkey bars three times in the afternoon, but I forgot to attempt my next big trick: Cross from one end to the other, turn around (without putting my feet down) and cross back again.

I’ll do that next time.

Wallet shrinking

I am soon going to have to buy a new wallet. Before I do, I thought I should see if I can’t slim down what I carry, with an eye toward fitting things into one of those modern, minimalist wallets. (I have long been jealous of the folks who can get by with one.)

With that in mind, I thought I’d do a bit of an inventory of my wallet. This post is basically me thinking out loud about what I might be able to slim down.

My current wallet has a large currency pocket. I carry my cash there. I also stick receipts in here when I charge something on a credit card. Many minimalist wallets have a money clip instead, which means basically that cash stays outside the wallet. In theory I suppose that lets the wallet itself be smaller, but the clip mechanism is going to take up as much room as the money anyway, so I don’t see how you end up ahead of the game this way.

There’s an ID pocket with transparent cover. I keep my drivers license here, and in front of it I have my University of Illinois ID card. (It gets top billing because it doubles as a bus pass, so I am constantly flashing it to bus drivers. The clear transparent pocket cover is very handy for that.)

There are three overlapping pockets for cards the size of a credit card, and it is here that I feel a need for some slimming down.

The card pockets contain:

  1. Discover card My main credit card. I use it for most ordinary household transactions.
  2. MasterCard A backup card. I use it for places that don’t take Discover (which were common 25 years ago when I got the card, but are pretty rare now, except overseas). I also use it when (as has happened twice in the past ten years or so) my Discover card has to be canceled due to fraudulent use. Occasionally it has a cash-back deal that’s good enough that I end up prioritizing it over the Discover card for a month or three.
  3. Visa card My personal card. I use this for non-household expenses, such as lunches out, books, magazines, and toys. I also use it when I want to buy Jackie a gift.
  4. Busey Bank ATM card Actually a debit card, but I’ve never made a debit transaction. (Debit transactions are supposedly turned off, by setting the per-transaction limit to zero dollars, but that doesn’t seem like the sort of thing that can be relied upon to stay where you set it.)
  5. Schucks card Loyalty card for our local grocery store. Using the card gets me a discount on fuel at the grocery store gas station.
  6. AAA card For roadside assistance.
  7. AARP card For discounts, etc.
  8. Tolono Library card Lets me check books out at the Tolono Library (my address is in the Tolono Public Library taxing district). Also works at the Champaign and Urbana libraries.
  9. Illinois FOID card Lets me buy firearms and ammunition in Illinois.
  10. Health Alliance card Lets me use my health insurance at health care providers.

I have just demoted from that set my American Airlines frequent flier card, which I don’t think I need to carry around, because I don’t think I’ve booked a flight in the past ten years when I wasn’t sitting at my computer.

In a separate pocket, also just bumped out of my my wallet were:

  • Social Security card (which I’ve been carrying for most of the past forty years, and which is showing some signs of wear).
  • Carle Clinic card (which has my clinic number—used to be important, but nowadays they go by name and date of birth).
  • Voter registration card (which in Illinois you don’t need for voting, but which lists all the precincts and districts that I’m in).

But what about all those other cards? Maybe 10 cards is not too many, but it seems like a lot.

So I think I’ll bump the following:

  • The MasterCard that I use as a backup. (More specifically, I’ll swap it in for with the Discover card when it has a cash-back bonus that makes that worthwhile.)
  • The FOID card. I haven’t presented to anyone in the past 10 years or so.
  • The AARP card (but I think I’ll keep it in my wallet for another couple of months, because I think I claimed an AARP discount on a hotel room that I’ve booked for an upcoming trip, and might need to show it for that).
  • The AAA card. I’d hate to be without it when I need roadside assistance, but thinking about that prompted me to just now install the AAA app, which has a function for displaying a card image on the phone screen. I can also keep the card in the glove box, so it would be accessible 99% of the times I’m likely to need it anyway.

That gets me down to 8 (2 ID cards plus 6 other cards), which is down in the range of many minimalist wallets (including one I have my eye on).

Okay. This has, I think, been a useful exercise. I’ll post an update if I learn at some point that I’ve made a terrible error.