Feb 18

I learn more, know less, forget just as much: Memories

I was in the sixth grade when we heard the helicopter land. My school was on what was then a quiet little country road intersection, with a new interstate about a three-wood off the front lawn. It was a K-12 school then, and it was a school and a community hub in many ways. The only other development there then was on the diagonal lot, where a church was waiting for the exurb to grow, and the extra parishioners to come with it.

I think we were at lunch, and we heard the big thump thump thumping sound. It was a helicopter and it was low. We were due a new principal that day. The place had enjoyed the same woman running the joint for years, she’d become a favorite. (I believe she’s retired and living down at the beach now. Good for her.) This was a WPA school built to look like a prison, or a brutalish battleship, and we got a new chief, one full of fight. Or something. (She’s now a deputy superintendent at the state level.) So we thought this new person must be making a grand arrival. Thump, thump, thump, thump. A little much, we thought. Thump, thump, thump.

Now, we lived out in the suburbs of a suburb. It was quiet and peaceful. Twenty minutes this way, you were in a proper metropolitan city. Just beyond our front yard was the county line and then a whole lot of country. The setup was pretty grand, but on those old county roads you’d see more accidents than sheriffs or police, and we all knew where the helicopter landing plots were for medical emergencies. But that day we’d learned that the church across from the school was one of those pre-determined spots, too.

That helicopter, you see, wasn’t for the new principal, but for the flying ambulance. Across the open field from the lunch room and downstairs beneath the gym, a boy was on the floor just about bleeding out. He’d been changing from his gym clothes when a classmate apparently spun him around and stabbed him with a great big kitchen knife. I can still see the image of it from the television news later that night. A big, ghastly thing of a butcher knife. Meant for pot roasts, not for a 16-year-old boy’s chest. The doctors, we later heard, suggested that the guy was actually. A flinch this way, a hair that way, an entirely different story. The argument had to do with a basketball goal, but there was some longstanding thing going on as well.

Which, heck of a first day for the new woman, right?

The 15-year-old attacker was charged with murder. I’m not sure what happened with him.

And then in my junior or senior year a guy came off the street and onto campus to settle some score with a classmate. I didn’t see it, but the story went that that particular student was also very lucky, as he managed to somehow fight off an armed attacker. The details were always a little murky on that one. But another story was perfectly clear. In a second floor classroom one day that same year some kid was fiddling with a gun in his pocket and it went off. Somehow the bullet came through his pants, didn’t hit him and lodged in the floor. I distinctly remember this because that year I had a class in the room directly below it that semester. This guy apparently sprinted from the classroom, out the nearest door and threw the gun in the bushes. The gun, we heard, was never found.

These are stupid stories. The last two may be full of hearsay, to be honest. The first was very true; I remember it well. I knew the guy’s sister. There were other stories, and we lost classmates to horrible accidents. I was in a math class and heard someone come over the public address system in obvious tears to tell us that a boy in my grade had died from a gunshot wound. We knew he’d been clinging, I’m sure they told us the prognosis wasn’t the best. But we were still stunned. I’d played soccer with him for a year or two. Nice guy, talented kid. And then class carried on and a few days later I went to the funeral home and I’m sure said something foolish to his parents. It seemed like every year there was at least one fatal car accident to hear about, and you’d hear those helicopters every so often.

Ours was, by and large, a good school, a signature piece in the district, but we thought we’d seen and heard a lot. I have a hard time putting myself in those classrooms today, thinking what must it be like to have some story like that coming out of Parkland, Florida flooding the news. I have an impossible time imagining that in my old school, as I remember it. And I looked today at the young men and women I work with daily, just a year or two or four removed from their own high schools, and I am hard pressed to imagine how they would react to what we’ve seen and heard in the last two days. How could anyone know?

And so now we come to it: How does that shape those people? What is to become of them?

Feb 18

As it turns out, I know precisely what I was doing in 2005

My friend Zach Osterman, who is a sportswriter for the Indianapolis Star, a Georgia boy and a lover of Publix, came back on to to my little podcast today. We talked about sports, the Indianapolis Colts, specifically, and the coach that wasn’t the piece itself is a little older than I’d prefer, but its a good piece, and Zach is a thoughtful journalist and I like how he approaches the stories and especially how he wants to talk about the craft. I have always enjoyed that myself. So that’s fun.

And this episode is already one of the most popular ones of the show, so you should download it, or just use the player below, to see what all the cool kids are listening to:

I got home at a decent time tonight, because it is Wednesday and I can do that on Wednesdays. So I went to Menard’s, because you can buy anything there. I got a little paint and some lumber and now I have a weekend project. I’ll show it to you when I’m finished, provided it resembles my grand vision.

So as not to build any suspense, it is a small weekend type project. It’ll be put to use around the house, and it probably won’t be nearly as cool as some of the other projects. It’ll be utilitarian. But it might also look nice. Or the plan could go awry in any one of four or five different ways.

All of those outcomes will be fine, if I all of my fingers stay attached to my body.

We went out for Valentine’s dinner. We usually don’t do this, because we prefer to avoid all of the various amateur nights throughout the year. Usually we are celebrating our first officially unofficial official date this week.

[There was a group of six of us in graduate school, The Chess Club, and we’d all been running around together for several months by then. I just checked in on them all and they’re all doing great, by the way … And I still have my chess piece.]

[So on Feb. 13 there was a dinner party. I remember the date. We had something called excited chicken, which was tasty, and there was an ultra-competitive Trivial Pursuit game. The specific game and meal I recall from old blog posts. (And, reading things I was writing, you could really tell I was in graduate school at the time.) I also recall Los Lonely Boys was playing on our hostess’ stereo that night. But what was most important was the group figured us out before we had. Someone, or maybe several or all of them, decided The Yankee and I might actually be a couple, rather than two people. And we came to realize, hey, you know, they might be right. We’d arrived at that party together, rather than separately. And that’s how we come to find ourselves at the Japanese steakhouse tonight, give or take 13 years.]

So we figured, why not? Well, because it is amateur night. But that could be part of the fun, we figured. And it was!

Also, it turns out the Japanese steakhouse in town has just relocated. They’ve gone from one of those little buildings that orbits a strip mall to the actual strip itself. And, also, most of the waitstaff was brand new tonight, except for our server, and she was happy to bag on the new people who were sitting people randomly and without communicating new store developments and spilling soups and forgetting salads and what not.

Valentine’s Day week is probably not the best night to start a new staff in your restaurant, to be fair to those people. But there we all were. Us and the strangers you sit with at a Japanese steakhouse, exchanging good natured small talk and sharing knowing glances about the guy who spilled the soup, but did not clean it up, and then the latecomers to the table who managed to sit in an awkward fashion around the chef, making him really change it up as he launched zucchini at us.

And now back home to watch more Olympics.

Fun as that is, for my money, the Trivial Pursuit was better.

Feb 18

გთხოვთ, წავიკითხე მთელი რამ

One of the things I get to do is teach students how to use new equipment. And one of the areas that has become partly mine are the audio production booths. Can’t imagine why.

Anyway, WIUX, the campus radio station, which is very large, probably has a new group every other week that I get to show how to do this or that, and then we book them to do this or that in one of our production studios. I also get to tell them they can do these same things in their own studios, but that doesn’t offer a solution they like, somehow.

I get it, the production facilities on campus are nice. But if we knew what podcasts were back in my college radio days, I would have never let the booths in the station. Which, come to think of it, I spent an awful lot of time in those production booths anyway. And most of the gear here is much, much nicer than what I learned on. Part of that is the endless march of technology, and also the esteem of things. Indiana has put so much into the student experience and their production opportunities in The Media School that most places just can’t measure up. And I get to work there and learn all of the gadgets and play with them and teach them to others. So I get it. We have some super nice setups.

I was in one of those booths today with five students and I ended up having to pass out a few business cards. So I reached into my pocket and pulled out my business card holder:

One of the guys said “Whoever made that for you is a true friend.”

Well, I made it myself, so here’s to hoping!

It was a weekend project. I made three of them one evening. Different cuts, different stain patterns, and I rotate through them. Everyone thinks they are great, but they are a bit on the thick side and they could probably use a better finish. But they keep my cards from being bent.

I might try some more out of different materials, because there will, hopefully, be another evening that needs a project.

Today’s podcast was about a column about men’s basketball in Colorado. The program at Colorado State is a mess and a writer there has an interesting idea of how to get things cleaned up. At first, the story sounds exactly just like that. But the more you get into it, the more interesting it becomes, and the more interest this episode generated.

The analytics tell me that this little podcast is now truly global. Australia, Canada and Georgia (the country in Eurasia, not the 13th state) all registered downloads this week. I don’t know what the people in Georgia like the most about the program so far, but if they’ve found their way here, I’d just like to say this: I’ve listened to your anthem, Tavisupleba, and it is quite stirring.

If you haven’t had enough talking yet, here’s a show my sports crew produced for last weekend. It’s still steamy and the takes are still hot, as they say, so check it out:

What? That’s not how they say that? Maybe it should be. Have you thought of that?

Feb 18

There’s a cat pic, funny tweets and a podcast in this one


And the Olympics are on, of course, which, in our house, means two weeks of Olympics. Also it means a two-week quixotic attempt to understand NBC’s programming strategy. That’s the true Olympic sport around these parts.

Also, this, from last night:

Actual tears.

And then we got criticized:

I really enjoyed this episode of the podcast. I saw this story a few days back and thought I’d like to find an expert and talk about this with them. You know, localize what is, honestly, an incredible news story:

In what’s being hailed as a “major breakthrough” in Maya archaeology, researchers have identified the ruins of more than 60,000 houses, palaces, elevated highways, and other human-made features that have been hidden for centuries under the jungles of northern Guatemala.

Using a revolutionary technology known as LiDAR (short for “Light Detection And Ranging”), scholars digitally removed the tree canopy from aerial images of the now-unpopulated landscape, revealing the ruins of a sprawling pre-Columbian civilization that was far more complex and interconnected than most Maya specialists had supposed.

The story goes on at great length, and one of the many cool tidbits is that this research is going to force archeologists to revise their old population estimates from about five million people to 10 or 15 million. That’s no blip.

So of course I wanted to talk about this. I looked around and it turns out there are at least two experts on Mayan culture on campus. One is on sabbatical, but the other is here and she was incredibly gracious with her time. Anne Pyburn is the provost professor of anthropology, which is a university honor acknowledging her national reputation for scholarship, research and teaching. And wouldn’t you know it, she has spent more than a little time in these same jungles, working on this same sort of thing, with a Mayan specialty.

She talks about it all in the very measured way that experts often do, but she has some great ideas about what it all means. If I could just spend a few days a week following up on some significant story with a campus expert and examine why it all matters it would be an excellent use of my time.

More on Instagram and check me out on Twitter as well.

Feb 18

King of the dairy section!

The only thing better than a Friday meeting is a Friday meeting to discuss the details of a Saturday you’ll soon work.

That’s a thing you’d say, but this particular upcoming Saturday that I’ll work is a program for incoming students. And the program looks pretty good, too. I’ll be in the television studio for an hour or so. There are worse ways to spend a Saturday.

Now the following Saturday, that might be a different thing.

Today I talked with Robert Quigley, a professor of journalism at the University of Texas. He brought us what is, I believe, the first profile we’ve ever discussed on the show.

Then I interviewed someone else, for something else, which was great. And I coughed through most of it. There’s nothing like working with a microphone when you’re sick. And I’ve been half-sick for a week. But I’ve held it together until today and my guest was kind enough to give me a piece of hard candy to help me through, because my cough drops were all in my office. The odd thing is that I am today actually starting to get better.

After that I spent the rest of the day in the other television studio — we have two, Studio 5 and Studio 7, and they are both incredible. In Studio 5 this afternoon we had some students taping the first episode of a new late night show. I sat in the back, in the dark and caught up emails and schedules and talked marketing and watched them shoot a few segments. It is a pretty clever show, even if they did have to explain one joke to me, and the host has the most ridiculous sports jacket you’ve ever seen. The show should be out next week.

And on our way home we went to the grocery store. We did the thing where one of you climbs on the front of the cart and the second person pushes. I did a lot of the pushing, because The Yankee was taking things off shelves and that let me get to the handle part of the cart. So I pushed her around the store a lot, which made everyone around us smile. I like to think we started a grocery store trend, and started people’s weekend off right. That’s what happens when you put me in charge of picking Saturday night’s dinner.