Kenny Smith | blog

Monday, August 31, 2009

Who needs tickets? I have a season's worth of Alabama tickets with your name on them. I have a game or two of tickets for Auburn games that will also need a good home. If you are interested you may send me a note by typing my name, the at symbol and gmail in your favorite Email account.

All bids considered. Only the cheap ones will be laughed at.

After a day on the Samford campus ... I drove to the Alabama campus. Because that's what I do. The first three days of the week I feel as if I'm getting a continued education on the forests of central Alabama.

I did that in high school. I have the books and the tools to prove it. Ran across them just the other day, in fact.

Anyway. I have two classes on Monday. But one of them was canceled today, which means more time to read for the other class. So I finished up "The Persuasive Functions of Social Movements" with the free time. This is for a seminar on social movements, which is interesting enough. However, I'm an empiricist in a room filled with rhetoricians. Thirteen of them, in fact. See? Empiricist.

It is an entertaining class, and I'm learning things from the experience, it just isn't my primary talent. As I have told the professor, an incredibly nice guy, my rhetoric stopped at the classics.

I tend to look at these things in a less abstract way. For example, one quote of the text says "For a social movement to be successful, its demands and methods must somehow become legitimate." The author, no doubt an imminently talented rhetorician, has discarded the notion that a social movement could be successful by reaching its goals and then going home, or on to the next movement. But perhaps I'm oversimplifying things.

He also uses the carrot and the stick argument with negative connotation. Yes, he's writing to students currently engaged in an all encompassing hoop-jumping process, students who are primarily concerned with fulfilling the requirements laid out by an institutional body standing between them and that delicious carrot of graduation.

Later he brought forth the philosopher's favorite device, reanimation of dead people, to allow Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine to critique the Vietnam War. How it must have stopped Johnson and Nixon supporters cold to read this withering critique. Until, that is, they realized the author opted to make Jefferson and Paine appeared chagrined for their roles in the revolution.

This is forgivable because he soon turned to music, and stayed there for a while. It is entirely possible that he's a musical rhetorician. (If so I may grow to like him, I've lately been considering metaphor in old country songs.) He recalled his Plato, who discussed music at great length, but also warned about the potential dangers of music. As we all now know Plato was an old curmudgeon who would have been against airplay for Elvis, too. The ideas behind the power of music - or is it the singing of the crowd? - are interesting, but not well discussed in this chapter. Maybe that's in the next installment. Or the secret verse.

After the class itself, and it runs late into the evening, I had a talk with the professor. We're building strategies for things that I can research in his class. This is very helpful. Currently the idea is the pedagogy of teaching diversity in journalism. I'm still working on the details.

Picked up a new television tonight. Got one on a really nice deal from friends that are graduates of the Alabama program. They got an extremely nice deal on a new TiVo set up, which meant they had to buy a new flatscreen television, which meant they had one to spare.

They were also able to mount their new TV to the wall, meaning less fingerprints from their 2-year-old.

It is big and heavy. That was a two-person job bringing it up the stairs. And the night was warm and sticky. You try carrying a heavy, delicate thing with a glass screen balanced against a damp and ever-moistening forearm.

I'll install it tomorrow; I need time to recover tonight.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Serious cat is serious about this.

I felt nine percent better this morning than I did last night. It doesn't seem like much, but that's the crucial nine percent responsible from upgrading me from frustrated and miserable to stuffy and tolerable.

It rained a lot today, meaning my day of productivity was severely curtailed. Meaning I'll do it tomorrow.

I spent the afternoon on school research instead. Even still I didn't get enough of that done. Meaning I'll do it this week.

Meaning I should get a good night's sleep this evening. Hence the cat.

Tomorrow, both campuses, lots of fun. Come back to hear all about it.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Painfully little got accomplished today. Most people call this Saturday.

I did a bit of school work, watched a bit of television and did a lot less of most everything else than I should.

Also, I haven't been feeling well the last three days. Not to worry. It isn't the swine flu. I have only the pig sinuses, but otherwise I'm fine. By this evening, however, I've grown frustrated with the sandpaper in my throat and the raspy voice I've been trying to overcome.

On the upside, this little bout of minor illness has let me discover a medical breakthrough. The Yankee picked up some sinus drugs for me and I'm proud to say that Tylenol has done something I've been demanding of Aspirin for years. They're marketing a cool burst caplet which, in a perfect world of advertising, would lower your core body temperature 1.4 degrees. Or maybe instantly soothe the throat and stuffy nose.

It does not do those things, but the caplets have a bit of mint taste to them. Now the two seconds between placing them on your tongue and grabbing your water isn't a testament to your power to withhold a gag reflex. It is almost pleasant.

And that's why Aspirin doesn't coat their pills. If they reminded us of candy we'd pop them for everything.

Tragedy at football openers: two men died during season opening games last night. Both were cases of randomly inexplicable timing. Keith Howard, the 48-year-old coach at Lincoln High in northeast Alabama complained of chest pains, suffered a heart attack and was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

In southeast Alabama, James Edward Parrish, a 65-year-old referee and local business leader, signaled a penalty in the first quarter, collapsed and died of a heart attack. Read the story (or this one) and the comments there and you get a solid feel for what a community lost.

In each case there's at least one story with a headline using "overshadows," which is about the least effective word choice possible. The impact on families and communities is already a shadow cast across a football score. (And I'm the guy that writes football is so great because in that 100-by-50-yard all of human emotion is on display. Except profound, lasting agony. There's not enough space on a football field for that particular shadow.)

Instead of launching into a rant I'll close with a few links. California, in dire need to raise a few quick bucks, is holding a statewide garage sale:
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is hoping that the "Great California Garage Sale" will turn government clutter like surplus prison uniforms and office furniture into cash to bulk up the state's depleted finances.

On offer as the state clears out clutter are nearly 600 state-owned vehicles and thousands of pieces of office furniture, computers, electronics, jewelry, pianos, even a surf board, a food saver and an Xbox 360 gaming system.

[...] In addition to clearing out office products, the state is also selling unclaimed property from state parks and items confiscated by law enforcement.
What the governor has not considered is the hassle of putting those garage sale signs across the west. Or the haggling with the governors of Nevada and Oregon over the price of things like fig trees and vanity mirrors. Garage sale veterans are cringing at the thought of all of Arizona ringing their doorbell at 6:25 in the morning, when the sign clearly said 8:30.

All of this to make a lousy $58.

Let's face it: we all love bacon. Bacon is delicious, the smell from the kitchen can set the tone for the day and keep you craving it for hours. The only things wrong with bacon are the nutrition labels and the short supply in any given refrigerator. And, also, that you can't find bacon that will stay good for a decade.

OK, scratch that last one. They have now thought of everything.

More tomorrow, if the sinus pills are willing.

Friday, August 28, 2009

After lunch the fire alarm began the most horrible, calf-in-pain groan you've ever heard. At first I thought it was one of the computers in the newsroom -- we presently have an iMac who's fan sounds like a jet preparing to taxi across the tarmac. When I walked into the hall I was met by my friend who runs the campus radio station next door.

He is the floor coordinator and it is his job in such an emergency to shoo everyone downstairs and out of the building. When I asked him the second time he was serious; we should leave.

So we all walked downstairs, into the building's foyer and finally onto the nice covered porch. It was raining at the time and no one seemed to want to stand in the puddles. Finally a lady came along and made us stand under the trees. No one was allowed in the building until they determined the source of the alarm.

Someone blamed freshmen. Others thought it might be the installation of a new alarm system. A few other conspiracy theories were offered and then we were told we could re-enter the building.

This marks the third fire alarm I've heard in the past week. Two at Alabama and now one at Samford. This time they allowed us to go back inside while the alarm was still honking. Each floor of the building, it seems, is an archeological layer of epochs in alarm technology. The top floor, where my office is, seems to be the oldest. It is counterintuitive to back into a building still wailing, yes, but then it makes just as much sense to do as your told by people who really have no greater idea than you about what just happened.

Apparently someone learned of the source of the alarm, assessed the situation and decided we could safely return from the danger of the raindrops. Not to worry, Samford parents: your children are well cared for.

I spent the afternoon with a student or two, making a trip to the library and doing some quality writing. Of course this happens late on a Friday. It would be too much to ask for good ideas and an even pace on a Monday morning.

At home I read with great interest the story by the Birmingham Business Journal "Economist sees lower food inflation."

It isn't the economist, but the headline writer. We're really talking about the potential of a return to norms, as opposed to the steep increases of the past two years. Saying lower inflation is really like suggesting that the ground is rushing toward you a bit more slowly, or noting the less-rapid swing of the golf club that's on a line to a sensitive region of the body. Yes, you're going to be on America's Funniest Home Videos after it hits you. And, sure, it's going to hurt, but at least it is moving two or three percent slower.

On the way to dinner I met two new neighbors. Auburn grads, both of them. It is good to boost the numbers just before football season.

Pie Day, for two. Just The Yankee and I tonight, which also marked the beginning of the high school football season. (Update: The local team was on the road, pasting a cross-town opponent by 30.) Forty-three percent of the town was at the game. That's why we sat down immediately, why Ward was able to take long breaks and hang out at the booth and why it was so still and quiet.

Now, I think, we're going to settle in and catch up on a little television. Life is good.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

No classes today, but meetings instead. Lots of meetings. And when there weren't meetings there were phone calls about meetings. One of those days.

Paul Graham said it best:
I find one meeting can sometimes affect a whole day. A meeting commonly blows at least half a day, by breaking up a morning or afternoon. But in addition there's sometimes a cascading effect. If I know the afternoon is going to be broken up, I'm slightly less likely to start something ambitious in the morning. I know this may sound oversensitive, but if you're a maker, think of your own case. Don't your spirits rise at the thought of having an entire day free to work, with no appointments at all? Well, that means your spirits are correspondingly depressed when you don't. And ambitious projects are by definition close to the limits of your capacity. A small decrease in morale is enough to kill them off.

Each type of schedule works fine by itself. Problems arise when they meet.
So I started the day with the idea of finishing this, writing that, and researching the other. I had a meeting with the chair of the theater department, who's a very nice guy, though I am disappointed we didn't do a little improv.

Another meeting was effectively canceled, but there were three phone calls and a mini-meeting in that process. We are very meticulous about the paperwork involved with canceling meetings.

Online I discovered a nice tutorial on Google Docs for journalists. I wonder if we can incorporate that into our little system here at the Crimson ... Speaking of online journalism tricks, I discovered that Newscred was pulling in topical tweets, including one of my one. That's a neat toy, if not 100 percent accurate.

One of our recent Samford grads made The Birmingham News today. She took a job with a local non-profit as a public relations specialist/soccer coach. They were actually looking for that in a new hire, and while there's maybe 15 such people in the world I taught one.

Northeast of here our friends at the The Daily Home have launched a new site. Just in time for football season, too, which was surely the goal. Funny how schedules are built around such artificial constructs. Society, in general, is a lot different when you can build everything around an entertainment rather than a planting or harvest. Our great-grandparents would laugh at us while pointing out that these seasons around which we settle our projects were originally built around these more important schedules.

That was pretty random, and I apologize. Let's see if I can bring it back together.

The schedule I'll be on for the rest of the year (too easy ... ) will be research intensive. Today I pulled three great articles including the piece that inspired my dissertation idea, a similar piece of research and an article that critiques them. Don't mind me if I start writing in a much thicker tone this fall, that would just be because I'm trying to crank out some early work toward the dissertation.

But not today because of ... more meetings!

I had a sit down with the editor tonight, and then I spoke briefly with some of the staff writers, followed by another meeting with the editor. They're getting ready for another year of newspapering and I'm ready to see what they can do.

So the work day was about 11 hours, most of it productive, but it felt as if it could have been moreso. That's what tomorrow and next week will be for, however.

When I finally got home after this long day of fun -- and, really, it all is fun, even the meetings for the most part -- I sat for a while and stared at nothing, and then dinner, and then a little television, and finally more on the computer screen. I'm tired in a way that suggests I've been doing something, but I know better. Tomorrow, then.

Oh, and finally:

Happy Birthday Rick!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Slowdowns, merging delays, gridlock, red lights. Traffic, it seems, has become my arch enemy. If that's the case I can now comfortably say I'll never be a comic book superhero. Who'd pay to watch you fight traffic in 32 pages of illustration?

No doubt, if someone could fix those things that person would be a superhero. And we'd all hold him up for high office, but he'd wisely decline. Making the roads flow is a full time job, and after the first fender bender on his watch our new hero would see his re-election hopes go up in a sea of brake lights.

Again, if traffic is your problem then you have won at life.

Spent the morning working on an upcoming journalism workshop. Samford hosts an annual event for high school students and I'm presently recruiting attendees and wondering how I'll make three presentations during one afternoon session. We'll figure out the glitch later, right now we're simply trying to make sure everyone gets invited for our big September event. The bulk of the day, then, was spent on the phone and swimming in Email.

Last year I sorta/kinda gave two presentations at once. We had a guy scheduled to talk about ad sales, but he was a no show. I left a discussion on organizational tips to fill in for that guy. I haven't sold anything in years and I've never sold media, but I had worked up a good spiel in the 25 second sprint from one room to another across the building. And just as I was about to launch into the important parts ... the no show appeared. He'd been stuck in traffic. I introduced him, ducked out and returned to my other session and was sure to later point out my flexibility.

Also I've been trading Emails with the Alabama Scholastic Press Association. It seems I may be in two of their upcoming workshops in various exotic locales as well.

I love workshops. You get a mixture, in varying proportions of students that are interested to learn new things, students that are just happy to be out of school and students who are too cool for everything, anyway. And of this cocktail of very normal high school students you have the chance to try and turn on a light bulb for a while. Sometimes it works better than others, but it is always fun if you're enthusiastic about what's going on.

I get to do this for a living. How cool is that?

Had one class at Alabama this evening, delayed because someone pulled a fire alarm in the building. That's twice in the last week that I've heard fire alarms on that campus. This is pretty impressive when you consider how small an area of campus I visit and how little time I spend there.

So the class was delayed -- the muttering consensus seemed to blame a freshman -- and then the dean, who's leading the class, introduced more professors. This is another in the list of introductory classes in the program. I'm an anomaly since I didn't begin this semester and, with 30 hours on the books I'm not exactly new. Hopefully the new students get something out of this class. For me, though, I have the great fortune to know the people in my areas of interest, and the folks who research in other areas can be interesting, but their work doesn't impact me.

The traffic is what impacts me, but we've discussed that already. Also, Emails that begin with "Swine Flu Update." These are things that do not need to fall into my Inbox. The tone has been carefully removed from the message, so you can be confident that it was written by committee, which means the flu can't be that bad. Any virus that can sit idly by while you form up a three-member panel, discuss the talking points, have it written, copy edited and approved by three different departments isn't that serious.

Imagine, in contrast, this conversation taking place in the 1918 outbreak. The communiques weren't so carefully written that October.

So the differences, then, between 1918 and now are Email and penicillin. Between the two of them we might come out of this fairly well.

Dinner tonight with some of The Yankee's old friends. These are people she met after she first moved to Atlanta after college. The Yankee worked with a guy in a television station there and fell into his circle of Florida State friends. This couple, now, lives on the road, traveling the country in an RV, visiting here and there and everywhere.

Ramona Creel's family is from Birmingham. Her sister and I, it turned out, once lived not far from one another. Ramona spent a semester at Samford, where I work, before heading to Florida State. We learned all of this before dinner. We talked of journalism, traveling, old friends, graphic design, First Amendment rights, Australia, reunions and other things. After the food we worked our way to a favorite topic, "It's a small Facebook after all."

It seems everyone has the experience where people from different parts of your lives are actually friends on Facebook. Neither era nor geography can hold them apart. I just discovered another one today and I'm always tempted to write and ask "How do you know this person? Because, really, you shouldn't."

And now, after dinner, Ramona and I are friends on Facebook. So far our mutual friends make sense.

Today's been great, but busy and hectic and somehow everything felt a bit louder than normal. These are usually the symptoms for an evening of vegging out. I do so little of that lately that I may be able to do it guilt free tonight. I'll let you know.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Monday felt long. No, it was long. Today felt busy. And it was busy.

Two classes today, rounding out the painfully tedious introduction portion of the semester. After a week's worth of the famous name/education/interests conversations in a small program most of those people could introduce one another.

On Tuesdays I'll have an introduction course, which is odd considering it is intended for third semester (meaning second year) students. I am that student, I've been introduced to the faculty, the practice of conference presentations, writing cover letters and so on. It seems a bit redundant, but it is a required course so you take it all with a smile.

It gave me a chance to go to campus early, though, and catch up with colleagues and compare research notes. When we spell it all out in a frantic burst of energy, we've learned, it makes it sound as if we're extremely productive. So we wound up plotting out the semester's research agenda, because we sound busy.

I also managed, today, to get a paper accepted to a conference in Canada. That's great, but there's no way I can afford the trip. Flying to Ottawa is pricey.

And then I walked, which is to say dodged cars like Frogger, to my second class of the day. Upon reflection of saving my own life, I realized that making Auburn a more pedestrian friendly campus, in comparison to trying to walk or drive at Alabama, was a great choice. At Alabama it wouldn't surprise me if a freshman got winged or worse before the week is out.

My second class of the day was research methods. The instructor wrote the book. And the instructor is great, bright, charming and funny. It seems promises to be a great class. (Most people who've heard who's teaching the class have said "Oh, you're so lucky..." So I'm in good shape.)

Between that class and one of my Monday offerings I expect to make a lot of headway this semester. This is very exciting.

What is not exciting is driving in Tuscaloosa. It took 25 minutes to travel one mile this evening. That's no exaggeration, I mapped it. The town is a traffic nightmare of engineering, poorly timed red lights and far too much traffic than the infrastructure can support.

An excessively overcrowded campus has something to do with that. Alabama so desperately wants to reach 28,000 students. They stand in excess of 27,000 right now. To hear grizzled veterans tell it the place felt cramped at 22,000 and 23,000. One more reason for me to finish quickly.

Here's a meeting in some board room that finished to quickly: There's a billboard that shows the famous picture of US Airways Flight 320 where the passengers are standing on the wings of the plane in the Hudson River. The caption reads Cool Under Pressure. Preparation H. The link proves I wasn't seeing things, as you can see a photo of a similar ad in Massachusetts.

Someone must have had a pressing tee time, or an uncomfortable sensation when they hurriedly approved that ad. I could write that scene, but the one that's playing in your head write now will suffice.

Stopped back by Samford late and now I'm at home working on a newspaper research project. That's my day, and all of my days: two campuses, surrounded by smart, talented people and doing interesting work. What's not to love?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Walked headlong into this Monday, I did. The day started at 7 a.m. and I finally returned home at 11 p.m. And then it was time for the exciting chores of laundry and speculative closet rearrangement!

In between there was my day at Samford, where I organized, collated, hole punched and generally did other things that will try to make the desk look tidy. This never lasts long, but you should be able to study the wood grain at least once a month, I figure.

Visited the Samford library, returning two books and picking up one I'll need this semester at Alabama. Bought new binders, tried to make myself useful. Had lunch and so on.

This afternoon there was the trip down to Tuscaloosa for a series of classes. I have two Monday sessions, one covering information technology. This is the class where we'll consult Ray Kurzweil's The Age of Spiritual Machines, which I have on loan from Samford. There are four people in this class, meaning we'll all have to read closely.

As the professor discussed the class format I realized that I may be able to piece together a significant chunk of my dissertation's methodology. I'm excited about this. In my more ambitious moments I'm aspiring to have a big handful of the literature review completed this semester as well. If I can pull both of those off -- who wants to help!? -- I'll be well on my way into the dissertation.

A boy's gotta dream.

My class this evening was a seminar on social movements in the United States. This is a critical, cultural, rhetorical class, so I'm a bit out of my depth. But it is postmodern, so everyone is back into a comfortable depth whether they know it yet or not.

The Yankee shared the commute to meet with some of her committee members. We had dinner with Our Friend Andrew. He just defended his comps and, like The Yankee is now All But Dissertation. Meaning I'm behind by two terms. I must catch up quickly.

After that I stopped by the Alabama library, my second of the day, to pick up another book, Howard Zinn's Voices of A People's History to go along with tonight's class. For the term I currently have five texts listed as required for three classes. There's a lot of reading to do.

That's pretty much the day. There should be more, one would think, for a 16 hour day, but it all zoomed by in a pleasing way. I saw a few friends and caught up with two students who haunted the Samford paper last year. I finished the day tired, but optimistic about the semester. There's a lot I want to get done this fall. Can I get it all in? Time will tell, but for now the smart play is to ride along with the optimism of the new school year and see how far it'll go.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

This, the last day of my summer, does not seem enough. It has been an eventful one, and I'm only ready for another because of the hectic pace and the whirlwind that surrounded the season. I'd like to sit under a few more trees in the July heat, wondering why I'm sitting under a tree when I could be in air conditioning.

Guess I'll do that this fall.

The weather has teased early risers this weekend, praises of summer and declarations of sweatshirts were carried over the ether in the morning time. When the groggy sun turned on its full wattage those thoughts were banished until November. We've been in the 80s and brightly lit. The forecast calls for more 90s this week.

I cut grass, did some cleaning and other outdoor activities today, just enough to get a little effort into the afternoon. I learned the proper angle at which to loft things from the ground to clear the porch railing above me.

We visited the grocery store to stock up on the week. I learned that my fabled powers of grocery division -- with the aim of making an even bill -- have failed me the last few weeks. I missed by $15 today. When I do it right, though, I can often get it within $.30. But the kitchen is stocked and that's the important thing.

We ran across educated vegetables on one aisle. They came up in conversation last night. More pretentious than Yale turnips, but with a reputation that rival's Oxford yams, Harvard beets in a jar are somehow not flying off the shelf.

Here's to the good old days, when one didn't question the origin of wood. This bag, though, is misnamed. In no way should wood be charcoal, unless it is 100% artificial.

One more pic? Oh, since you asked. Here's the kitty in her tunnel. We unrolled it tonight. She loves that thing. I stuck my head inside and I can see where it'd be fun for six or seven minutes, but she'll do laps.

Ran into one of my elementary school teachers today. We see each other occasionally in passing. She's recently gotten remarried and, she said, they'd both previously had long marriage so now they are looking forward to 120. They both seemed to be in great shape, so what's to stop them?

I told her I'd gotten married only just before she did. She said I should bring The Yankee up for cooking lessons. The Yankee is a good cook, but I bet my old teacher has plenty of great old fashioned recipes.

I wished them well and the man, whom I'd only just met today, bade me a good life. It seemed an odd thing to say to a total stranger. At first it seemed he was offering a sentiment just before driving his big black car off into the sunset, but really he's only moving from my stage to the next in a grand play. It could have been the perfect thing to say.

I have caught up on all of my reading, which is perfect since I'll now be returning from blogs and RSS feeds to the heavy tomes of scholars. I'll also be paring down my RSS reader, and this makes me sad.

But. The clothes are ironed, the shoes are laid out and part of a plan is in place for tomorrow. The students will be in classes and I'll be in the office and the world returns to normal.

In a few weeks the fall term will be irrevocably underway for everyone. The gears that steer us through the year won't stop the holidays, and by then we'll be contemplating the prospect of another summer. Next summer I may pack a bit less into the schedule.

But probably not.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Slept in this morning and did little after that for a long while. Cleaned and sorted (but more cleaning than sorting) this afternoon. All of my day was indoors, it seems. In retrospect that was a tactical error and must be corrected quickly.

We're still well in summer mode, but there's a whisp of the coming fall. For instance. These two leaves were on the steps earlier this week. There's a nice set of trees nearby and a delicate breeze blew them into my path. As luck would have it they landed face up and in my line of sight.

Wherever I was going had to wait. It seemed important enough to carry these leaves inside so that they could be later scanned and, eventually, shared on the site. And here we are.

Tonight we were at a welcome back party hosted by one of the department's faculty members. I pulled his address off the Evite, promptly forgot it by the time I made it to the car and then drove a few miles trying to remember it. Finally I settled in a parking spot and dug up his address through the browser in my phone. We plugged it into the GPS and drove on, thinking What interesting times these are.

Our GPS, in the Australian feminine mode, mispronounces Lakeshore. She prefers something roughly equivalent to "Lack-a-shore." Apparently they do not have lakes, or similarly named roads, in Oz.

At one point in the trip the GPS told me to turn right. By which she clearly meant "stay straight." I knew this because, immediately after turning right she offered to recalculate the trip.

So clearly these interesting technological times still have a few bugs to be considered. I don't think we need to worry about the rise of artificial intelligence enslaving us just yet. They're going to be terribly confused when they get their marching orders. "Right ... face! No straight!"

Unless they're just lulling us into a false sense of security ...

What followed was a series of bad comic drivel of poor GPS directions, poor attention to poor GPS directions and the inability to discern if the numbers on mail boxes are going up or down, and the impact on this development on my journey.

After a half hour we finally made it to my colleague's home. (We don't live that far apart.) Everyone from our department was there, including the new people, some honorary members and the nice people who share nearby offices.

It was a lovely night with lovely people, filled with finger foods and laughter and book gazing. (The man has great books!) At the end of the evening we wound up discussing the Kindle. The overwhelming consensus: We're all for it, now who's buying one for me? The obvious negative was the tactile feel of a book. No one really disputed this, but you got the sense that someone considered it. Finally I said But your books! I like studying your bookshelves!

It was there that the night ended. I don't think he called the neighborhood watch on me.

As we left the subdivision we realized how easy a trip this should have been. A straight shot, really. What the GPS was thinking remains a mystery, but clearly she's not ready to overpower us.

Or that's what she wants us to believe.

Friday, August 21, 2009

One more big inventory meeting today at Samford. I believe we have the whereabouts and thereabouts of most equipment now accounted for. Everyone will feel a bit better now that there is an understanding of what's on paper and what can be visually verified. This has been a task that, if taken altogether, would eat up a week. Really we're talking about no more equipment than could be stored in a reasonably sized room, but such has been the way of the project.

So my morning was spent reading serial numbers. There are worse ways to spend one's more, to be sure. The Yankee came up for two-buck lunch. We ate with my department head and two of our other faculty members. The cafeteria was unusually crowded. All of the new students are still on tours. The grizzled veterans of campus are leading them around with big numbered signs. It was not uncommon at all today to see someone with a piece of wood with posters emblazoned with big number with no respect to font consistency.

I wanted to stop some of them and ask what they had against the number 37. I quietly chanted, "Hey hey, ho ho, number 42 has got to go ..." I tried that joke twice, but no one thought it funny.

Spent the afternoon trying to tidy up a few small projects in advance of classes beginning next week. I feel behind, but strangely well-prepared for catching up. We'll see how long that confused and misguided idea lasts.

The Yankee and I had a quiet Pie Day. Somehow, by the time our pie arrived we were full and just had Ward, the super psychic waiter of multiple martial art disciplines, put it in a to go box. "Are you guys OK?"

Yes, I just had a ridiculous amount of lunch. And it cost two bucks.

I've missed Fridays at Samford most of all. Next week we start a new year. How exciting it could be.

I wrote Wednesday about the Man vs. Wild episode shot in Alabama. The live-tweeting I monitored was generously funny. The show itself reads poorly. Your host on that program is a seriously accomplished individual, but his show has been hokey from the first season. Try this review of the Alabama episode. Read through the comments too. They are telling.

Or, if you are a visual learner, watch as Bear Grylls braves a creek in the depths of an Alabama March to retrieve a perfectly useful tarp carefully left on the far bank. The hypothermia can only be appreciated in that new television format all the tech-heads are raving about: Blue Digit. Otherwise, you're just going to have to take Grylls' word for it that 90 seconds or so in the sub-arctic temperatures of Alabama put his life at risk.

There has been much talk of the reckless abandon with which Grylls dealt a modest leaf fire, but apparently that sequence was so embarrassing in retrospect that Discovery has not uploaded it to their YouTube channel. You can find on your own how the man demonstrates attacking a domesticated "wild boar." Sure, in a you-against-the-world, eat-or-starve situation that pig would lose every time. Shamefully, this animal was clearly from a farm, was leashed and smaller than a lot of mid-sized dog breeds you'll see at your local park this weekend.

Ready for the weekend? The weather here promises to be beautiful. May you have picturesque skies for all of your adventures as well.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Thursday, in the original Roman calendar, was a day of civic meetings. Had to have been the case. There's no other real use for Thursday, but you have to keep the Roman middle management at the office to prevent them from sneaking away for a long weekend at the beach on those newly installed highways.

If they weren't in the office a fiddle would play. Rome might burn.

The semester began at Alabama yesterday. I attended one harmless class. The semester at Samford starts next Monday. Today I returned to campus for a series of meetings. The first was to create, discuss and find the faults in new policies in the new venture I'm running. We have a Digital Video Center, someone gave me a fancy title and left me in charge of all the equipment with power switches.

So today we discussed hours, return policies and that sort of thing. After that I had another meeting, which was interrupted by an impromptu meeting, which made the second meeting, really, a moot point. Thus the second meeting continued, but only to establish a meeting next week. And so I've now had, today, a meeting about a meeting.

All of this took more than two hours.

This afternoon I had a meeting at Alabama, where I've been asked to help sort out the coursework for a class in their master's program. By the end of that meeting I'd been tasked with leading the discussion in about a third of the meetings in that class. I love the things I get to do, and it is, to me, a great thrill and honor to be able to do them. Even still, as I've said before, I'm never sure how I became the photo/video guy in everyone's mind.

Oh, I can do it, but video isn't my strongest medium. I love doing it, because I get to work with students in a way that let's them demonstrate the way they see the world around them. It amuses me that people now look at me and think "Kenny can do the video." Or is it "There's no one else, Kenny will do"?

After the meeting I wandered around the Alabama campus. This being my third semester in the program the time finally seemed right to go ahead and get an ID card. While searching for the proper building I was reminded of one of those truisms of life. You always want to know precisely where you are going in August, for these aren't times for wandering. (To their credit, Alabama seems to have all of these important student services like financial aid, billing and so on in one building; shame that building isn't in the center of everything.)

I realized, just before having the standard headshot, that I was wearing the same shirt I wore on the day I received my Samford card. One year and two days ago I wore this shirt. On that day I began my job at Samford, where the folks are kind enough to let me work on my doctorate. All of this let's me talk about journalism theory and practice with students and do interesting, oddball research and call all of it work. What a blessed life I lead.

So, with yet one more ID card in my pocket I strolled into the Gorgas Library to ask a question about some research I want to conduct. A very nice lady there directed me to another library a block or so away. I lingered in this first library for a while, sifting through the electronic catalog for a book or two. One reference took me to the basement. There was one other guy down there, dozing over a copy of an electronic wiring manual. The books I wanted weren't there, but I found an old cage in the corner of the basement, locked up and filled with old 78s and 45s and binders and boxes and rows of stacks of old books. Time and the people in Gorgas have forgotten most of this stuff. There's a treasure in there just waiting to be recovered.

The part of me that enjoys history so much is determined that, one day, I'll find a basement or an attic or a dusty closet full of choice material that leads me on a curious journey of obscure, important historical Americana. I have it all pictured in my head, everything except the exclamation I'll make when I finally realize what I've discovered. "Eureka!" is so cliche.

I visited the special collections library, which houses the texts I soon hope to be researching. I had this idea at the conference in Boston two weeks ago. When and how I stumbled upon it, I'm not sure. But I suddenly found myself fleshing out the thoughts to a researcher from Penn State who happens to be an (or the) expert in the field. Apparently no one has done what I was suggesting and she thought it a good idea. I mentioned it to The Yankee as we summered in New England, and so now I am committed to the idea. We are too playful competitive to let a good idea escape. And I'm behind in the competition.

So I have jotted down this idea, refined the parts that seemed too ambitious, marinated on it for a few days to hopefully uncover some aspect I'm overlooking and, in the next week or so, will start a content analysis of 40-years of copy. More on that at a later date.

After the special collections library I walked across campus, racing the ominous rain clouds. I got in my car and pointed it in the right direction just as the first sprinkles began. After that it was an easy ride back home. Not too long after I got settled in for another night of reading the rain began. It was perfect.

To close up the day, I'll give the floor to my friend Jeremy Henderson:
The shoe giant's recently released tribute to his 1989 digital counterpart makes Bo Jackson, God's gift to God, the first person ever awesome enough to have their 20-year-old video game character awesome enough to have his own line of shoes.
Everything old is 8-bit again.

Tomorrow: One more meeting, the return of two-buck lunches, a full day on campus and Pie Day. It's a grand day already. Hope yours is shaping up just as well!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

More unpacking, getting settled and one class at Alabama today. This is essentially one of the program's introduction classes. They only offer it in the fall, though, so for me and the other one or two people that started the program last spring we feel like grizzled veterans in a room full of fresh-faced, starry eyed newbies.

It was purely getting-to-know-one-another today, and the class generally keeps that theme throughout the semester, bringing in various professors who discuss their research interests so that you might know with whom you could eventually collaborate. There's another class, very similar in design, that I must also take this semester. If it it seems redundant that's because it is. But they must be taken, so they are mingled in with other classes that will require more attention to detail.

As I drove onto the campus at Alabama today, on this, the first day of classes, Hangingaround was coming through the satelitte radio. Oddly enough this was also the theme song of my last term of undergrad at Auburn, as well. It made sense, then, since the song was in heavy rotation at that time. It is a bit random today, unless you believe in the power of mystic music directors sending us messages through the ether.

I do not.

Long discredited Man vs. Wild has an episode tonight originating in Alabama. The comments online have been wonderful, and I can't wait to see it later:
Near Fort Payne, Alabama, Little River Canyon is the national preserve. Wednesday night episode would be a thriller. According to Discovery Channel, at the top of the 700-foot canyon, a helicopter dropped Bear Grylls, after that to reach a white wter river, Grylls climbed down a huge tree. Grylls came in front of a wild boar and the cameraman followed him. Later on Grylls was irritated by a forest fire and also got trapped in a cave without light.
One must always be way of irritating forest fires.

Tomorrow there will be no irritation, but plenty of meetings in which things will be discussed and stuff will get accomplished. Success will be had if many heads will nod in unison.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Here's a useful piece of advice. Don't move and leave town in the same week. If you go away and convince yourself that, somehow, magic elves will come in and unbox everything for you while you are gone you'll be mistaken.

And you'll still come home and have to try and find everything in your systematic boxing. Oh, sure, it made since when you did it weeks ago, but now, if you want to find that particular book you have to remember you put it in the box with the cables because the book was authored by someone with a similar sounding first syllable in their name.

You forget about finding the remote control at this point. That thing is gone, destined to be found six months from now in a clothes basket somewhere.

You can learn a lot about a person by how they pack. Mostly I like to think of the essentials box. This is the place where you can put your hands on it, and its contents, immediately upon relocation. These are the things central and important to your next task or to your general lifestyle. Sure, everyone should have a change of clothes, some soap and a towel in their essentials box, but what else do you need in there? Think about it carefully: what we put in the essentials box says a lot about us.

So the day was spent organizing and unboxing and generally trying to catch up with everything. This will go on for the rest of the week. Simultaneously I'll try to prepare for my classes at Alabama and get ready for the start of another great semester at Samford.

I bought a new desk chair for the home office today. The old one was 16 years old, fairly basic and had been falling apart for the last few years. Having shopped around a bit I learned that even simple chairs aren't cheap, even online. At the big blue box store, however, I found a nice enough chair with synthetic leather and armrests which cost about half of what I was worried I'd end up spending overall.

Of course they put their chairs on the top of a big display shelf at the big box store. They're bolted down and you can't sit in them. Unless you climb up the side of the thing and then look down upon your kingdom, now five feet beneath your feet. You sample chairs quickly in this instance, just wondering how long it will be before someone in a blue vest comes along to shake their head at you.

The savings for the chair, I later learned came from not employing a copywriter for assembly instructions. That's fine. There are wheels, feet, the hydraulic apparatus and then the back and bottom of the chair. They get bolted together through the handrail, the bolts covered with a molded plastic tab.

I built it in about 20 minutes, which is a personal best for building most anything, really. As I noted on Twitter, I once considered a part time job as a bicycle assembler at Toys R Us. Reading the ad, however, I saw that they were looking to build one bike every 15 minutes, and there's just no one I could pull that off.

This evening, after sorting out the laundry situation and organizing my closet, I took the party to an entirely new level by alphabetizing our DVD collection. Just the movies, not the television shows. That would be silly. The Yankee scoffed at me, so I'll have to keep an eye on her. I'll check periodically to make sure she hasn't been mixing up the discs. It would do to have Caddyshack between Matrix and Say Anything.

We made a late run to the local Publix, where it began to rain as we walked across the parking lot. Without an umbrella loading groceries into the car can be a disappointing thing -- I've put off grocery runs in the past because of little more than a sprinkle -- but we were invested in this trip by now.

When we got to the interior door we noticed a box full of Publix umbrellas there waiting to be used by shoppers just like us. It's the little touches in life that win your heart as a customer.

Tomorrow, ready or not, the fall term begins. We'll have a new staff at The Samford Crimson and unveil some great new things this year. I have a full course load in my doctoral program and ambitious research goals. We'll be full speed by Thursday. It's going to be a busy, exciting semester. (I promise, I'll try to not talk about school too much ... )

Monday, August 17, 2009

Before we went to the airport The Yankee's father took us out for Italian at a place called Tutti's, which falls somewhere between the GASP! and OMG categories of food.

The Yankee, you see, is an Italian food snob. Her father, you see, was surrounded by old country Italians growing up. In fact, the legend goes that all of the quality Italian you can find in this country today was somehow steered through the family we visited this weekend. All of which to say that Tutti's ain't Olive Garden.

After a hugely filling lunch we made it to the airport just in time for long lines at the counter. This is a commuter airport turned suburban nouveau riche transportation hub. Delta, who has all the traffic, has one counter open for processing passengers. There was a lady with some tragic looking carnival prize hoisted on her shoulder. There was a wire slipped from the white, furry creature slipped over her shoulder, under her shirt, down her back and into her pocket, where she held a remote control that made the animal move its head back and forth. She enjoyed the attention from the kids and pretended not to notice the reaction from the adults. But, at least, she made the line more interesting.

And then came a rustling rumor of a problem at the airport. I'll let my Twitter feed take over from here:
Breaking news: Reportedly a small private plane has had a difficult landing, closing the runway at White Plains (HPN).

The announcement declared a 20 minute runway delay, however, Delta continues their boarding announcements.

The problems on the runway have thrown the TSA at the metal detector into a model of inefficiency shaming all other gov't outfits.

Police: Small crash at White Plains airport. The plane wreckage has been removed. (No word on pilot, passengers.) Planes are landing.

Police have taken over the announcements and stuff is MOVING now. This trumps TSA by long miles.

Officer: "By show of hands, who's going to Detroit?" Hands raised. Guy behind me: "Haha, you're going to Detroit."

This Westchester County officer is awesome. He's taken over (and improved) the foot traffic.

One corner of the crowded HPN airport.

The officer, having brought gawking travelers in a gridlocked airport to a semblance of order, has left. Shame, I wanted to thank him.

Moral: Local police are effective. Airport personnel and TSA, and I can't emphasize this enough, just stand around.

It took 50 minutes to get through security. That has to be a commuter airport record. To be fair, they did have a crash on the runway.

There's an older guy wandering around (it's not Bob Dylan) with his belt around his neck. The airport is no fun, but don't do it!

Let's review: There was a small lane crash at HPN and general delays thereafter. Now, almost two hours late, there's delays in Atlanta. Odd.
We got off the ground just under two hours late. All things considered that's not bad. We landed about an hour late, so our pilot was clearly motivated. Still there's been no news of the crash at White Plains. I'll take that as good news.

We had dinner at Meehan's, our favorite Irish place in Atlanta where we learned that they've changed the menu and some of the recipes. This, while sad, was overcome with being back in the southland, football on the television and sweet tea in my hand.

After that there was the drive back home, just in time to unload the car and, now, fall into a pillow.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

There was a bridal shower today. And women, remarkable as they are, have a very tedious and explicit code they must live by when it comes to showers. It almost seems intuitive to the point where one must think of it as dating back to some prehistoric ritual of need in caves.

As I learned yesterday it is a breach of etiquette to plan or suggest a date for your own shower. Someone is doing that -- not anyone I know, heavens no, how gauche! -- and it is being frowned upon by the International Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and Bridal Showers, LTD.

The shower today was a surprise built around the idea of a birthday party. The bride-to-be was totally snowed. Or suspicious. Or knew all about it, depending on who you asked. As the maid of honor said, there are only so many weeks between now and the wedding in which to pull off a party featuring many out-of-state attendees. As the father of the bride said "We didn't raise any stupid daughters." As the bride-to-be said, "I thought it might be, but everyone kept talking about the birthday party!"

The shower was great, I'm told. The restaurant was very stuffy, but there was ice cream cake and many carloads of gifts. I was not there, but that meant I missed out on Italian for lunch. Instead I sat with the father of the groom and the father of the bride talking of manly things like central heating and air and snow plows.

This fall we'll go to the wedding. It'll be the second Pennsylvania marriage I've attended, the first being the bride's sister's ceremony a few years ago. After that there are no long range plans for long distance weddings.

(If you're single, reading this and I know you might I suggest lovely Birmingham for your eventual nuptials?)

After moving all the presents from the restaurant back to the house we lingered to visit awhile longer before loading up the car to leave New Jersey and return to Connecticut. All that traffic we found on the way down the shore rode north with us again.

Remarkably we made good time. Even better than the trip down the morning before. The Yankee and her mother, who know of these things, were both surprised. I just sat in the back and watched the countryside go by.

Tomorrow we catch a plane for home. We'll get in just in time to turn in for the night. But: a day's worth of traveling means a day's worth of adventures!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

"Gorging ourselves on hazy (Woodstock) recollections ... borne ... from what hippie folklore says happened."

I'll say nothing more about Woodstock, having brought it up twice this week, other than to agree with that sentiment, take the thought that I would probably have to agree if I were in the writer's shoes and note that newsradio this morning gave the forecast for Woodstock. A 40-year-old forecast.

We get it, it rained. And after that the '60s ended. Several interesting things have happened since then, musically and otherwise.

Today was a trip down "the parkway" to New Jersey. Apparently everyone in New York was going the same direction. Three hours of very thick, but actually moving traffic later and we got there.

Spent the afternoon at the beach, excuse me, down the shore, sitting in the shade and laughing at stories. During the evening I visited with The Yankee's godsister's daughter, my godniece-in law. These titles do get out of hand.

Just relaxing by the pool, why do you ask?

She's worth it. She knows everyone's name, three girls and where her toes and ears and eyes and all of that. The dog doesn't have an identity yet, just Doggy, but she'll come around. She's a smart, inquisitive one. Everything is "What's this?"

After dinner we took part in another New Jersey institution, spending the night on the boardwalk. Blaring sounds, accents, bizarre outfits, silly games, rides, giggling girls, posing boys and plenty of candy and neon to assault the senses.

The family traditions are to play Frog Bog, the game where you transport a frog onto a floating lily by way of deftly smashing a mallet into the launching pad. I can't think that the frogs like this.

Four of the six of us landed a frog safely on a lily. That earned a big stuffed prize, so we picked out a dog for the cutey up there. She'll get it tomorrow.

We rode the merry-go-round and finished up with a delicious frozen dessert from Kohr's, which has been a must-have I've been hearing about for a month or so now. The place goes back 90 years. Try the orange frozen custard and the orangeaide.

Tomorrow, there's a surprise bridal shower. Shhh, don't tell. Afterward we'll get stuck in even more traffic for the ride back to Connecticut. Busy weekend, for a vacation.

Friday, August 14, 2009

We took a dinner cruise to celebrate my in-laws' 60th birthdays and a family friend's 50th birthday. The weather was perfect. The timing was perfect, you see our view of the sunset. The food was delicious.

Great, great day, with more pics in the August photo gallery.

Tomorrow: New Jersey.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

I spent the morning, and a little bit of last night, writing out panel proposals. It is as good a way as any to try and get back into the swing of things. If they are accepted these would be discussions I'd participate in next spring at another conference. They're all about journalism and online tools, of course, so I'm sure they'll come up again. Having typed about them all morning we'll just leave them alone for now under the "Don't Jinx It!" treaty of 1985.

I have to keep some suspense in this somehow ...

We went shopping for a bridal shower gift today. Ordinarily, I, as a guy, wouldn't find this fun or worth retelling. Remember when "Mr. Jones" was a song about defying the world and realizing your dreams? Now it's a soundtrack for Bed Bath and Beyond. The next two songs were tunes we played a lot in college. It seems I've hit the appropriate age group to find myself in a store selling mid-grade housing accessories.

Beyond that the shopping experience allowed me to run into someone that I'd met before. (My in-laws, it seems, know everyone. It is a small state, but still.) She's a very nice lady, who's son asked me for advice about colleges and towns in the southeast. He wanted to go to a big sports management school and, it turns out, he wound up at Tennessee and he loves it there.

In Connecticut, by the way, the Beyond can be found on aisle four.

And now, a sudden game of What's wrong with this picture? If I make it anywhere near the century mark the cards will need to be viewable from space for me to read. I can't imagine I'm alone in that. It would be interesting to see, in another 70 or 80 years, what style of cards will be available for an elderly audience. While today's tween opt for the simple and elegant? Will it be loud and large, reminding her of her tween days? Will cards even exist?

If the audio cards are still around I'll be happy. I looked for ABBA today for a timely laugh, but apparently they've not seen fit to get into that market. I did find Atomic Dog in a card. On the one hand, that card played Atomic Dog. On the other hand, Atomic Dog is in a Hallmark card.

My view at dinner

The birds at this local seafood place eat better than people you know. Some of them are more finicky, too. One waited patiently until a family left, swooped in before the bus boy got there and swallowed down two packages of butter, plastic, wrapper and all.

After dinner we watched the Woodstock documentary. As I wrote yesterday, my father-in-law said he had tickets, but chose not to go because of the crowds. You watch the movie for 45 seconds and you realize what a great idea that was.

You can also distinguish, a bit, from the hippies and the people there trying to catch a show. We paint that generation with a broad brush, but some people just liked the music. Some of them were far out there, sure, and some of those never came back. I'd love to see a where-are-they-now segment with some of the people in that movie, just to see what paths their lives took.

Woodstock, as you may have heard, saved the world. It was also a muddy, disgusting mess with no real planning, food or infrastructure. The documentarians ventured into town to interview the locals. Some of them liked the idea and saw the need to airlift food into the concert. Some of them thought that if marijuana had given those kids a peaceful chance maybe we should all try it. Others wanted them to cut their hair, get a job and go home, but not in that order.

In reading the trivia on IMDB, you learn that Abbie Hoffman crashed The Who's performance. They kicked him off stage. My respect for the band just grew immensely. Also, you'll learn that Santana got their appearance, and tremendous success, because of a coin flip.

At least the music was good. My mother-in-law sang along while we watched The Who. Later we had a Tom Paxton/Crosby, Stills, Nash medley. That was the best part of a fine New England day.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Yankee photographs Yale while summering in New England

We met Paige, our friend and wedding photographer, for lunch today. Paige, who is awesome, let me borrow one of her lenses while we shoot Yale's campus.

You can see some of the pictures from the day -- Yale's is a lovely campus, even on overcast day, or maybe because of it -- in the August photo gallery. As of this writing there are 37 photographs, but no captions, ready for your approval. I'll write a few blurbs soon, promise.

We had dinner at Pepe's, a pizza joint with 85 years of history and THE BEST smell when you walk in the door. It is a bi-partisan establishment. We sat on a wall sporting photos of Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. Reagan was obviously at the original Pepe's and waving to the crowd on his way in. Clinton's photograph had a cutline noting that it was primary season and he ate pizza campaigned with the best of them.

Pepe's blog reminds me that these are tomato pies. There's no large coating of sauce, just the dough, tomatoes, cheese and your toppings, making every bite a subtly different flavor combination.

My father-in-law says it is the local water that makes the pies here so good, which I can't look forward to a neighborhood franchise anytime soon. Pepe's credits the coal-fired oven. So the carbon footprint might leave something to be desired, but the pizza is worth it. I've had pizza all over the country, this place is right up there. Yes, I will unabashedly shill for a good pizza. I'm only embarrassed by how much I ate. (A lot.)

Two years ago I had my first experience with the fabled New Haven pizza. We waited for almost two hours for barely average, slightly burned pizza from Sally's. I'm told there's a regional debate over the two restaurants, but really there's no contest.

We watched a PBS documentary on Woodstock, so that we may get our fill of the high water mark of a generation. Good music aside I don't want to bash the concert, but the memories and folklore that have evolved and improved upon themselves over the last four decades have gotten out of hand.

I asked my father-in-law if he went to Woodstock. He said he and his friends had tickets, but they didn't go because of the crowds. He said he carried the ticket around in his wallet for years and, finally, threw it away a few years ago. Now's he kicking himself for not selling a collector's item.

They aren't going for a lot on e-bay, but there's a lot of action for everything else Woodstock related on this local PBS fund raiser. One of the guys asking for donation sis wearing a brown sports coat over a tie-dye shirt. Tie-dye in hi-def is a special, bright, thing.

On the site:There's a new picture across the top of this page today, a little something from the World War I memorial at Yale.
"It is difficult to conceive of an ideal more lofty, more worthy of the very finest of human aspiration. The memory of their ideal and what they did to reach it constitutes a fiery challenge to the devotion of Yale men in peace or war, so long as she may endure. We will have done at least something to keep faith with those who sleep if this memorial carries a spark of that spirit to those who are yet to be sons of Yale."
That was F. Trubee Davison, speaking at 1927 memorial dedication. Yale lost 225 men in that war.

Also, there's a new picture on the front page. Trees are already starting their turn here. In mid-August. Such an odd sight.

Stop back by tomorrow to hear all about how I'm doing a little work while on vacation. Also I'll run errands and try to think of something entertaining to share with you here.

Hey, it could happen.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Somewhere around 2003 or early in 2004 -- I remember I still worked in radio at the time -- I read that American prisoners in Iraq (or Afghanistan, the details escape me) were being exposed to bluegrass music. It was the nasal tone and the Appalachian instruments that unsettled the prisoners.

I think we could do that with ABBA. It is happening to me right now. The Yankee loves them. I've been historically ambivalent about the band, but just to take the other side of the argument I've developed a playful dislike since just before the Mama Mia movie was released. Today it all caught up with me.

I was forced, forced to watch it today. Oh. So. Bad. It doesn't even get the 12-word review as is the custom around here. At least the ladies looked like they were having fun. Beyond that, we can only hope the producers got a refund for their vocal coach for some of the other players.

Now The Yankee won't stop singing the tunes. Drastic measures may be needed. I am not afraid to break out the songs that she despises. The circumstances may drive me to such a response.

Spent part of the day writing out thank you cards. How many different ways can you say thanks in one sitting? Quiet a few, actually. At last count I was up to eight.

For dinner we ventured to the home of The Yankee's former diving coach from Fairfield University. He's a very nice guy who kindly volunteered his leftovers from a coaches' party. We sat on the deck, staring into the sun and shadows, talking about diving, the neighborhood, the economy and their old memories (and my failed attempts at one-and-a-halfs earlier this summer) while munching on hamburgers and hot dogs and listening to a lone cicada enjoying his afternoon.

Yesterday's heat had moved out and today has been still and pleasant.

The three of us ventured out to a nearby park where the city was hosting a free night of comedians. There were three guys making all the local jokes about the good in this town, the crime and the prices in the next town and the reclaimed sewage dump we were sitting above.

I don't know if that part was true, but there was one moment when the wind shifted and you would have believed anything they told you. I won't repeat all of their lines, but one of my favorites of the night was from Rob Falcone who observed, "You see what they sell on The Weather Channel? Tapes of classic weather. How lonely do you have to be?"

It was Tuesday night, outdoors and free. Not all of the jokes had been perfected, but that's what Tuesday nights are for in the comedian's world.

Later we discovered that this was the peak night for the Perseids. We went outside and spread a blanket to stare into the eastern skies. Over the course of an hour I saw two tiny flecks streak across the sky, instantly turning into faint and fuzzy memories. The Yankee saw six. She always wins.

We watched clouds roll to our north and stars glimmering mutely way off in the distance. We watched the moon silhouette a nearby stand of trees and then rise above the canopy to brighten the night. We sat down telling jokes, and then stories and finally fell into a long, still silence under the stars. I count all of this as a win, myself.

We came inside when the night, surprisingly, offered a little chill. It was quiet, peaceful and perfect.

Monday, August 10, 2009

My view of the day

Since we're jokingly "summering in New England" -- there's talk that The Yankee will even make a Facebook photo album with that name -- I figured we should leave off with the most important view of the day.

We set out with a very nice guy named Joe the Tuna. He's a friend of my father-in-law and I'm not sure why he's the Tuna. Unless it is because of his fishing prowess. There are many Joes in my father-in-law's life, and they all have very descriptive nicknames to separate them. I can never keep it straight, though, how all those names came to be.

Joe the Tuna, though, has been kind enough to invite us out on his boat the last two times we've been up to Connecticut and we're always happy to see the water. Sailing off the Gold Coast, I saw a lot of this, but not many fish. In a very democratic move on the fish's part we managed to catch one bluefish each. Mine, of course, was the biggest.

Joe the Tuna has a terrific boat, but he's a fisherman. I watch the sailboats and think "One day, when I grow up."

After our day on the water -- a warm, windless afternoon that made the natives restless -- we watched the NTSB press conference of the Hudson River helicopter/plane crash. The video was a 35 second cycle of B-roll and the spokeswoman was a bundle of ums and uhs that it made one long for the days before the advent of wall-to-wall coverage.

To distract ourselves we made a list of potential research topics to pursue this fall. We were brainstorming on the boat, even. We've become what we've always laughed at.

My mother-in-law made a delicious barbecue chicken for dinner. We ate on the porch, waiting for the day to finally give up and cool off. Every time I'm here the weather is either unseasonably warm or perversely cold. December I get it. Snow, rain, sleet, ice all make sense in December. Today the heat index was 103. In Connecticut. Most people get by on the occasional window air conditioning unit.

(Random meteorological aside: in contrast, we got married at 103 degrees in Savannah, a sensible part of the world where central air is considered not a blessing, but a necessity. The heat index was around 115 during the ceremony. Earlier that day, according to the NOAA chart, the heat index was between 119 and 124. We talked about that today while our brains boiled in New England.)

A breezy, blustery storm rolled in during the evening. There's supposed to be some moving and slightly cooler air coming in behind it. Time will tell. Right now, it just feels like summer. Nothing wrong with that.

Tomorrow we're meeting a friend for dinner and watching comedians. If that's not a Tuesday where you are you should come visit this part of the world.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Twitter finally fixed their problems stemming from last week's DNS attack. The mobile services have come back online. Maybe they somehow realized I was spending an afternoon with the Sunday New York Times.

It costs $5 in the metro now. You have to be willing to pay for the coupons, because the reading didn't seem as impressive as it once did. (The cat, however, likes the sports section.) I haven't read the dead tree version of this paper in years, but now I'm freshly fingerprinted and wondering why. I'm getting more information out of the RSS reader on my phone on a daily basis than the celebrated Sunday edition of the paper of record. This only reinforces my idea -- liked I needed the help, here -- on smart phone research for my dissertation. We'll get into that on a later day, though.

It rained a charmingly appropriate amount here today. I had the opportunity to listening to the drops drip onto the trees. We ate filets on the covered porch as an overzealous sprinkle (or a hesitant shower, they are so hard to distinguish) fell around us. It was during this dinner that we came up with the week's running joke. We're "summering in New England."

I hardly look the part, but it sounds good.

My father-in-law flipped between baseball, preseason NFL and a Bruce Springsteen concert. Nothing says high def like watching a guy from New Jersey sweat in extreme closeup. The referees in the football game wore throwback uniforms as did the teams. The players I get, the league will sell replicas. Is anyone clamoring for those garish red stripes the zebras had on display?

Surfing around his cable channels we discovered the answer to teeny bopper dreams: The Barbie Channel. Sadly she's taking the summer off. I wonder if she's vacationing in New England as well.

Tomorrow we're doing a bit of sailing, a bit of fishing, having dinner with a friend and watching comedians. How will we fare? Come back to find out.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The guns of the USS Constitution

She is the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world. Some 13 percent of the ship, all below the waterline, is original, including Paul Revere's copper nails. The tour itself is conducted by members of the U.S. Navy who are assigned to the vessel. One of them notes that the HMS Victory is older, but she is also in drydock, so the Constitution wins. Viva technicalities!

You might recall the Constitution by its nickname, Old Ironsides. Conceived in 1794 and christened in 1797 and put to sea the following year, sailors would serve on her during a quasi-war with France, face down the Barbary pirates, built her reputation as an undefeated warship in the War of 1812. The Constitution was a naval training ship during the Civil War and finally retired from active duty in 1881.

That's getting your dollar's worth.

Here's a tidbit from the official site that you don't learn on the tour, but you should: all 25 Medal of Honor recipients from WWI were presented with their medals made from bronze salvaged from the Constitution. She's been at port in Boston since 1834, but in 1997, the Constitution sailed under her own power for the first time in more than a century. No pressure on that crew, huh? She sailed again in 2000, 2006 and 2008 and is now undergoing a restoration toward the vessel's 1812 appearance.

In the 18th century construction took three years and $302,700. That would be just under $4 million today according to inflation calculator. The ongoing restoration is slated as a 3-year, $7 million project.

You can read a bit about her sister ships, too.

The tour is very much about the power of the guns and the lifestyle of the sailors on board. The ship right now smells of varnish, but you can imagine that wasn't the case when she was in fighting trim. There are a few more pictures from the tour, which is free and worth your time, in the August photo gallery. I'll catch up on the captions soon, I promise.

On the conference's last day we slept in, checked out of our hotel, ventured over to the Sheraton and I delivered my little presentation. It focused on the media participation hypothesis, that I've mentioned once or twice this summer, and how it relates to new media and the 2008 political campaign season. The paper is good -- we surveyed students on their use of social networking sites and voting habits to see if there were any correlations -- and the research is promising. My presentation felt very rushed. Better luck next time.

Could have been worse. The guy that followed me had the computer shut down in mid-sentence. He continued on, barely missing a beat.

We got nice feedback on the research, though, and fielded some good questions. I had a nice chat with one of the audience members after the presentation about some follow up research and then found my way into the room where The Yankee was presenting. She had the honor of being in the last panel of the conference. This means everyone is either checking their watch, lingering if you're good or being a tourist if the weather is nice. You can never tell what you'll have in that last session.

She did a good job, she always does, but she didn't like it. She's a bit too hard on herself. This was her body image research on female athletes. She surveyed female student-athletes on body image and their portrayal in the media. Very interesting stuff in that presentation, and I've heard her give it three or four times now.

We left the conference, caught a cab to the nearby train station and waited for our ride to Connecticut. I changed from a suit to jeans in an overpoweringly smelly restroom. There was a guy on the train platform looking for money, anguished over his damaged bike, overly emotional and simply having a bad day. He did not get on our train, and after his histrionics, everyone was glad.

The ride itself was nice. We were on a quiet car, which managed to live up to its reputation. One assumes there were party cars fore and aft, but we sat with our books, thankful that the seats were larger than an airplane's.

I finished my book Tobin's Ernie Pyle's War. The ending felt abrupt. Machine guns will do that, but it felt as if there could have been more for the celebrated hero than simply his death and one random anecdote from the Vietnam era. Otherwise, it was an interesting look at a man thought of as a hero in a way that we haven't seen since World War II. Sure there was Uncle Walter and all the broadcast greats that came from that same period, but Pyle was special to his reading audience in a more potent way.

I started James Chace's 1912, which focuses entirely on the election between Taft, Roosevelt, Wilson and Eugene Debs. It may take a bit to get into, but looks promising.

We arrived in Connecticut just late enough for a last pizza dinner with the in-laws and family friends at Colony Grill, which apparently isn't online, but should be. Despite my thinking that the entire-pizza-eating-days were behind me, I finished one on my own.

Later I began to think: I'm of the age, now, where some people start to having regrets about eating so much pizza so late in the evening. If it happens to me, it would be pizza from this place. But it'd be worth it.

I can say that because, despite the hour and the volume, I feel fine.

Tomorrow, a lazy day.

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Bunker Hill monument

We did not walk from Boston to Washington, but we did walk a long way. This obelisk commemorates The Battle of Bunker Hill, the June 17, 1775 fight during the siege of Boston. Most of the battle took place on Breed's Hill, but both English troops and the revolutionaries wanted Bunker for it's command of the city. British troops were preparing to occupy the hill, but the Americans got there first. Under the command of Colonel William Prescott (that's his statue in front of the monument) they built lines across most of the Charlestown Peninsula.

Prescott's 1,200 men were at the center of the fighting. He is often credited with the famous (and possibly apocryphal) "whites of their eyes" line, but Prescott is frequently credited for his defense of the hill. He would go on to fight in New York, serve as a judge and in the militia during Shay's Rebellion. Daniel Shays, ironically, was also at Bunker Hill.

After a few costly attempts the British finally took the position. They suffered heavily for it, and the battle proved farmer-soldiers would stand up against the British professionals. After Concord, Lexington and now Bunker Hill, it was obvious to everyone there was no turning back from the war.

The Yankee and I sat for a while in the shade at the Connecticut Gate, off the side of the hill. It was there, the stone said, that Captain Knowlton placed his troops to defend the left flank. Two New Hampshire regiments reinforced the spot, filling a hole that the British did not press. It was one of those critical times in a small place that could have shifted the balance of things. Now there's trees and steps and handrails.

For whatever reason, this hill has always been larger in my imagination. To be fair, no one was shooting as we walked to its crown.

Across town at AEJMC I had the pleasure of meeting a lot of nice people. Yesterday I mentioned an ongoing program at Utah and I had the opportunity to meet some of their faculty today. I also visited with an old CNN hand turned journalism professor and heard about what he's doing with digital production at his school.

Also, I met Dr. Kenny Smith. He's a journalism professor at Wyoming. In the index of the conference program we are listed as the same person. He has a presentation and I have a presentation, but they combined the two for their listings. We joked of the impact we could each have on the other's reputation. I suggested we write a paper together, just to continue the confusion.

He told me about Wyoming, where they have a dry winter, lots of sun and an altitude of 7,000 feet above sea level. "When the schools from Denver come up to play sports," he said "they are worn down by the environment. We're 2,000 feet higher than they are."

Apparently the sun is also different at 7,000 feet. The city of Laramie doesn't have snow plows, Dr. Smith said, because the city council has noted the sun does the job just fine. Sounds like a lovely place. I'll have to add it to the list to visit one day.

I attended a few nice sessions today, my favorite being in the history division. For the second time I saw Dr. Kimberely Mangun present, but this time on "The Japanese 'problem' during World War II and the Central Utah Relocation Center." This was a content analysis of the paper in Salt Lake City between the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the advent of that internment camp. Giving the attitudes of the day Mangun's findings weren't surprising. Those attitudes have certainly aged poorly however.

A UNC student delivered a presentation on Inez Callaway Robb, an influential columnist of the mid-20th century. A student from Minnesota covered libel law reform and Dr. Arielle Emmett discussed the photography of Clem Albers, who briefly worked for the War Relocation Authority. You can see some of his work here. Albers apparently only shot for the WRA for a few months and then returned to his more conventional photography. He died, Emmett said, without family, no lasting letters and virtually a forgotten photojournalist. Far more well known photographers, Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange and Toyo Miyatake were also at the Manzanar camp.

Emmett said she started this project while working in the national archives looking for Chinese subjects. Having little luck, she ran across this photograph and began her study of Albers. This is my favorite part of historical research. I have dreams of one day stumbling across a forgotten treasure trove of obscure, but important information, putting the pieces together, figuring it out and sharing the discovery.

Dream big, you know?

For dinner we made our traditional visit to Legal Sea Foods. During our last visit we dined at the location on the water. This time we learned that the mall adjoining the hotel had a Legal inside, so we went there and it was equally delicious. Try the pasta or the tuna, you won't be disappointed.

On the subject of trying things. I visited Au Bon Pain today and had the Mayan chicken harvest rice bowl. There's only one franchise in Alabama, and that's a shame. It is in Auburn, so at least they have taste. Too bad it is two hours away from home, because that lunch was pretty good.

Surprisingly we made it back to our room before 9 p.m. tonight. Tomorrow is the last day of the conference, and we'll be traveling, so tonight is an odd mixture of winding down and getting our things together.

Tomorrow: the U.S.S. Constitution, my conference presentation and train tales.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Old State House

This is Boston's oldest public building. Built in 1713 it was the seat of colonial government for the commonwealth. You might remember the Stamp Acts and the Writ of Assistance from high school history. They were debated here.

On July 18, 1776, the Declaration of Independence fell for the first time onto the ears of the residents of Boston. Nothing was ever the same. This place was the State House until 1798 and, later, City Hall. It has been a museum since 1818.

One of my favorite things about Boston is the city's ability to put old with new in a comfortable harmony. It is dwarfed by the structures around it, but none of them have the stature or grandeur of this old brick edifice.

Meanwhile, at AEJMC, I caught a presentation on citizen journalism -- I've grown tired of that expression, but certainly not the larger concept -- of an NPR online effort during the 2008 election cycle. (Their results were similar to our experiences at when it came to recruiting and utilizing volunteer correspondents.) The station did a survey of their audience. Eighty-eight percent said the KPBS blog (with non-staff writers) added value to the coverage. Predictably, the station didn't mine the blog for stories.

Emerson's Mark Leccese seeks to address the question "Are bloggers reporters?" We're still on this? He distinguishes between reporters and journalists. I'd quote him, but since I'm apparently not reporting here, I'll let it go. His attempt at answering the question was the usual parsing of the definition and boiled down to "Are you a professional?" As a commenter asked on Facebook, "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?"

Leccese analyzed links on six political blogs (top blogs of Republican and Democrat leanings) for six days. Impressively, he coded 2,100-plus links. He found 15% of the links were to primary source materials, 15% were internal links, 23% to other blogs and 46.5% to mainstream media. For blogs, the conversational tone, the etiquette of linking to sources, inspirations and colleagues lends itself to such data. In that respect these numbers don't surprise me, but Leccese was dismayed with the number of links to primary sources and .edu sites. On the former, I agree. On the latter, I can't recall the last time I linked to an .edu page that wasn't strictly a brochure for a university or underlying program. If he thinks about it, I'm sure the big research that Leccese would like to see linked on .edu sites is actually found on EBSCO, ERIC and other online databases.

Tom Bakker of Amsterdam - discussing political blogs - has a slide titled "12 Minutes of Broken English." He's a funny guy, but he also points out that journalists in Amsterdam have the same sort of reaction to blogs and bloggers as their American counterparts. He also found an unexplainable absence of comments on the political blogs he studied. Someone should look into the software over there, or at least the (lack of) motivation of the readership.

I spent some time in a poster session, where they group a lot of research together and you stop by and visit it at your leisure. You read, you make faces, nod and occasionally ask questions. The Yankee and one of our professors had a presentation in an afternoon session. They studied body image and media coverage of the men's and women's Olympic beach volleyball team. Surprisingly, they found little difference in coverage in terms of announcers and camera shots.

I would have attended a tour of the Howard Gotlieb Archives at Boston University. "A treasure trove of materials in journalism history and literary journalism," but you could only see it by pre-registering, and I wasn't aware of the opportunity until today.

As the afternoon continued I found myself in a rare condition: few of the afternoon offerings interested me. It doesn't take much to captivate me, so I can only assume I have a fever or have been hypnotized without my approval.

On the advice of my boss, who's also at the conference, The Yankee and I attended the UNC, Maryland, Syracuse, Penn State, Indiana reception. Between us we can drop names for all of those schools except Maryland. More importantly, the food at this reception is legendary.

Tonight, however, everyone left a bit disappointed. I stocked up on finger foods, because they are an easy and accessible dinner while on the road, but people who've been attending this reception for ages were stunned by the offerings. There was a cash bar and the bottled water was going for $5.

But I'd noticed a (free) water stand just outside of the main reception, so I retreated to a chair for my beverage. After I settled in with my snack I met an older gentleman, who was already the fourth person I heard talking about the way this particular reception had changed from previous years.

"The beer was free at the Oklahoma party last night" he said. "That's the power of oil."

We visited the Annenberg School's reception. Food there was rumored to be better, but they were running out fast. One woman I overheard summed it up, "You can tell state schools are suffering (in this economy) by the quality of food being offered."

And now, finally, I'm back in my room at our hotel. We're a mile away from the conference hotel, and we walked in this morning. The rate difference was worth it.

Now I'm glancing at the clock, wondering what happened to Twitter (DNS attacks from Russia, really?) and getting ready to iron again.

Big day tomorrow. We'll discuss Bunker Hill and a full schedule of conference activities.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The pulpit at King's Chapel

This is the oldest American pulpit still in use at it's original site, according to King's Chapel, a beautiful and ancient old church in downtown Boston. King's Chapel was organized in 1686 and the first church was dedicated in 1689.

This pulpit is a youngster, having been built in 1717. The church counts more than 30,000 sermons held from this location, where the service is read at a desk in front of those stairs and the sermon is then delivered from the higher plateau. The structure above the pulpit is a sounding board, installed in 1836. It helps project the preacher's sermon to his congregation. The rails by the stairs are hand-carved. One of them rotates against the rest, symbolic of man's imperfect.

The church, though is a thing of rustic beauty. The pews are of the box style. Originally the design's purpose was to help keep a family warm. Families bought a box and the parents sat facing the preacher, the children facing their parents -- the better to discipline them. Now the pews are open to the public.

Just outside the church is the oldest cemetery in Boston. Established in 1630, the graveyard holds the remains of Mary Chilton, the first woman off the Mayflower, William Dawes, who road with Paul Revere and Elizabeth Pain, she served as the inspiration for The Scarlet Letter. The most recent stone is dated 2003.

There's an appropriately stately pipe organ in the back of the church. The congregation's sixth, it was installed in 1964. Despite it's youth, the organ boasts an impressive history. There are supposedly a few minor components from the original organ in the modern instrument.

At the AEJMC conference I attended a panel moderated by my department head. The topic was on convergence journalism, a process which we are continuing at Samford. The panelist from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Randy Jesick, maintained the necessary mantra of the basics of good journalism. (You can always count on someone to discuss this with passion, God bless 'em.) "Basics are the launch pad for everything (the students) might do in journalism." I started tweeting a few quotes from the panel and proofread that one four times, just to be sure.

Dr. Andrew Mendelson of Temple discussed the need for strong, blended skill sets. Temple's students are kicked off campus to report, resulting in their Multimedia Urban Reporting Lab. (I heard another presentation on this program later in the day, it sounds fascinating.) Mendelson says Temple axed the term multimedia because they didn't want it to become an exclusive education track. "Everybody's multimedia," he said. "If you aren't you are doing it wrong."

I wanted to applaud.

Also on the panel was one of the faculty members from Samford, Dr. Dennis Jones turned to curriculum, which was really what most of the people in the audience wanted to discuss. Practical experience "really is the key" Jones reiterated, and what's more, students have to see that. I've recently been working on a project that discusses this a bit.

The panelists, after the fact, voiced their surprise. They were slated early and opposite some big programs, but they still addressed a standing room only audience.

I caught a panel on community journalism geared toward helping rural journalists better serve their communities. That would qualify as my other other other interest. On this panel there are two Pulitzer Prize winners (and three general overachievers).

This is important, as was noted in the discussion, because the rural newspaper business reaches 20 million households with at least 15,000 news employees in rural outlets.

Al Cross of the University of Kentucky and the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues speculated that adjusting to a 24/7 schedule will be tougher for rural weeklies than when TV took their advertising in the 1950s.

There's something to be said about that, but what impacts dailies will touch weeklies in a different way. Ultimately the biggest problem will be the mainstreaming market penetration of rural broadband connections and a savvy audience seeking out local information provided by Google or other services. The revenue stream will be hurt, but the 24/7 schedule of Kiwanis, the ladies quilting society and American Legion baseball aren't exactly 24/7. What has already been hurt, in the rural context, are agricultural and commuter/industrial reports. What these publications do better than anyone else, however, is provide a sense of community centeredness and personable outreach to their readers.

Ordinarily the online response to that would be to point to the bloggers. That's fine, but the counter there is, as The Parson Advocate editor Chris Stadelman says, "Rural news is threatened not by apathy or money, but few people willing to do the job."

(For examples of community centeredness and personable outreach, simple check out The Advocate's slogan in the masthead, and the "officers" listed on that page.

Dr. John Greenman, of UGA, talked on the coverage of persistent poverty in Georgia. He had a very interesting survey results on poverty perception. Essentially they surveyed editors of rural papers in counties with three or more generations of poverty. The overall return was that the folks in those communities did not think of themselves as impoverished. There's a lot to take from that, a sense of self-reliant nobility, a nod to what one can become accustomed to and a glimpse of how those communities consider themselves and the world around them.

Dr. Steven Knowlton of Dublin City University discussed his globe-trotting exploits -- is there a program he hasn't touched? -- and ultimately concluded with an early candidate for quote of the conference. "Journalism will be 'saved' by the quirky stuff written by quirky, local people." Anyone that puts the sarcasm quotes around saved deserves a hand.

I ran into my program adviser in the hallways in between sessions. I mentioned that I wanted to sit down with him soon and discuss my dissertation idea. He wanted to hear it there, so dodging people we discussed it. He likes it and suddenly I'm on my way.

I sat in on the best practices in teaching diversity program. That's where I received my second dose on the Temple program, but just as impressively I learned firsthand about Voices of Utah. I've followed it a bit, but it was a treat to hear from Dr. Kimberly Mangun about the project, which is geared toward providing students an opportunity to cover a diverse beat and with multimedia storytelling. There is just a world of potential in this idea, and they've put together a solid news vehicle.

Around noon The Yankee and I left the conference to walk the Freedom Trail, a two-and-a-half mile walk through the history of Boston and it's Revolutionary War hot spots. (Pictures from the rest of the week came from this hike, so I won't spoil them all here. We had lunch in Little Italy at a place called Il Panino Express. The menu said "Homemade by Mom" a lot. Nothing wrong with that. We had gigantic subs for a late lunch, but the pasta and pizza looked delicious.

The opening reception was this evening. Everyone gathered for free food, a bizarre combination of clam chowder and ... hot dogs?

I saw everyone I knew at the conference and met a few more people, just for good measure. We made it back to our hotel after 11 p.m. Tomorrow's will be an early morning, and it is already late tonight. Tomorrow we'll discuss The Old State House and more conference details.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

We are in Boston. We shall celebrate with a picture demonstrating the historic nature of this fine city, discussing the importance of the location in a bit of detail and then touch on the day. Thus, we can learn a bit more about Boston's history and not necessarily dwell overly long on the conference.

If, however, you are interested in conference happenings -- focusing largely on journalism, no doubt -- you'll find those in the posts as well. This format will continue through the end of the conference, which is Saturday.

Cranary Burial Ground

Cranary holds the remains of three signers of the Declaration of Independence -- John Hancock, Samuel Adams and Robert Treat Paine -- six governors and the first mayor of Boston. Benjamin Franklin's parents were laid to rest here (Franklin, himself, is in Philadelphia) as was Justice Samuel Sewall (prominent in the Salem Witch Trials) and the fiery orator James Otis, Jr., a key figure in the independence movement. Boston's favorite heroic son, Paul Revere, can also be found here. See that crowd in the background?

At the time of it's creation Cranary was a part of the now famous Boston Common. It became a cemetery in 1660 to help relieve overcrowding at the nearby King's Chapel Burying Ground. (More on King's Chapel tomorrow.)

Says the city of Boston, "The Granary Burying Grounds contains approximately 2,345 gravestones and tombs, although it is estimated that 5,000 people are buried at this site."

Here's one of those things they didn't think about in the 17th Century, also from the Boston site, "The gravestones' original haphazard configuration was rearranged into straighter rows over to the years to accommodate both nineteenth-century aesthetics and the modern lawnmower."

You just don't think about things like that in the early goings.

Two things about MARTA I noticed this morning on the way to the airport: you can always find excellent examples of 70s fashion on that line and the train made us late for the airport.

So we booked a second flight. Instead of being late we were now hours early, so we settled in for a delicious Popeye's lunch. The fastest of fast food fried chicken will hit the right spot if you're hungry enough.

There was a very nice young woman sitting opposite of us waiting on the same plane. She had two cute little children with her. One was walking around by herself like a big girl and the the little boy was still small enough to constantly be sitting in the lady's lap. She had the two kids and all of their things and, just by watching, you could tell she was new at this. It stood out, how unaccustomed she was to the task of traveling with two small children. When they called for boarding we helped her with her bags because she just couldn't get it all together. Turned out that the observation was right. Her brother, she said, left her with his kids.

The Yankee and I sat near the front of the plane, feeling as if we'd gotten away with something since we sneaked on with our things and this lady's belongings. She finally managed to get on the plane and was seated near the back. I waded down the aisle, dropped off her things, wished her luck and swam back upstream.

You have little choice but to feel bad for her. Unfortunately there was no way a plane full of eager people were going to let me walk back and help her again once the plane landed in Boston.

And when we did arrive we waited for about 45 minutes for the shuttle to the hotel. We spotted a handful of professors from various schools near and far leaving the airport. We also ran into a guy wearing an actual Starkvegas t-shirt and learned that that is somehowfunny once you cross the Mason-Dixon line.

The evening was spent ironing. Very exciting way to spend your first night in town, I know. I folded up my garment bag and spent a fair amount of time smoothing things out again, so to speak. We're at one hotel, the conference is at another nearby hotel. We have the cheaper rate, but we also have the cab ride.

Tonight there's a welcome reception hosted by the nice people from the University of Oklahoma. We're going to meet some of their faculty, run into a few friends and see photos of the new facility that has everyone at Oklahoma bragging. Also, we heard a rumor that they have food there.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Spent the morning at the old place, mowing the lawn, cleaning a bit and moving a few small items out. We got two carloads in all. There are one or two more to get, but we waved it off at noon. There were other things to get done today as well.

One day we'll look back on all of this going on simultaneously and laugh, wonder why we did it and marvel that we did it at all.

The early afternoon, in the insistent August sun, I pulled all of my Glomeratas upstairs. When we moved on Saturday we just slide them into the garage. They are in five huge boxes and I figured moving them up a few at a time would be the least painful way to do it. The added bonus would be a good calf workout from the repetition.

And then I began to think of how the older books, some from the 1920s and the turn of the century, would hold up in the heat and whatever conditions of humidity might leak into the garage. The worrying over it meant bringing them up today, so I put the hand trucks -- no doubt as exhausted as me -- back into service. I brought all five boxes up, wondering how heavy they were, marveling at how they progressively managed to seem heavier with each trip, in fact with each stair.

That was a tremendous workout. So much so that I may just leave them in the boxes and repeat the effort every day. Talk about your core strengthening.

We had to pack for a trip this afternoon. We're leaving tonight for a morning flight in Atlanta for a conference in Boston. Packing, for me, meant a shoe shopping trip. It is time for new dress shoes, which are the hardest thing to find in my size. Either they don't make a lot of options for the size 13 set or all of my similarly situated feet brethren always manage to shop before I do.

I stopped at DSW, because The Yankee had a coupon. Found one pair of loafers that both fit and was of an almost reasonable price. But, the more I considered it, the more convinced I became that I could better the deal nearby. So I went to the impressively meager selection at Sears, found a pair I liked that were cheaper and smaller. Remembering a lesson from Antonio Scarpacci. His shoes, you see, were too tight. The punchline.

So I went into the Galleria itself because there's a shoe store right next to Sears. And there I found a pair of dress shoes that fit. They aren't overly stylish, rather plain beyond the very square toe design, but they'll hopefully get the job done.

Then there was packing and gassing up the car for the long, brief ride to Atlanta.

We grabbed a bite to eat from Willy's, which is strictly an Atlanta and north Georgia enterprise. Shame, too, because they're light years beyond what you get from Moe's. If we had Willy's at home I'd be there every third day.

As it is I'm at our friend Dave's house. He's letting us spend the night because, somehow, driving in the evening and then visiting the airport makes more sense than driving in the morning. Something about the hour in which your alarm clock goes off. This will make sense tomorrow, but is a bit confusing at this late hour.

Tomorrow: the airplane and Boston.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The most commonly uttered phrase today: "Unnnhh!" Often it is followed by "Owww ... "

We all joked yesterday that we weren't 19 anymore, that we could have -- once upon a time -- moved someone and then played a game of golf or football. Today that joke is a little less funny.

We're busy organizing things and trying to get everything set up. There's a lot going on, most of it has to do with cleaning and, still, cardboard. There's nothing amusing there on which to expound.

Every room, though, is now at least 63 percent settled. Except for the books. Oh, but the books will be fun. It's going to look nice when we're finished!

Anyway, back to it.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

We moved today. Our friends Brian, Andrew and Team Atticus are our heroes on a day when the thermometer showed a 90 and, after 5:30 this evening, the humidity never dipped below 84 percent. Also it rained.

There's some cleaning to be done and a few small things to picked up, but The Yankee and I have a nice place close to campus that is currently filled with cardboard.

But we're moved. No one got hurt.

The most important memory of the day is the easy and ready generosity of our friends.

And the need to take Advil before going to bed.