Aug 14

Just a few quick things on history, and today

As I worked, I had this playing in the background. A movie you’ve seen a few dozen times is good for noise. And it was kind of fitting. I’ll talk about some World War II examples in class tomorrow.


I wonder what Patton would be like if they made that movie today.

And as I wondered that, I found this evening’s most interesting story, Longtime Opelika resident Bennie Adkins to receive Medal of Honor:

Retired Command Sgt. Major Bennie G. Adkins was recently named the latest recipient of the Medal of Honor, the highest military honor in the United States. He will be awarded by President Barack Obama Sept. 15 in Washington D.C.

“Mr. Adkins is a true American hero who served his country in Vietnam,” Congressman Mike Rogers said in a written statement. “His acts of heroism during his tour of duty earned him our nation’s highest honor, which he has long deserved. I congratulate Mr. Adkins on this honor and thank him for his bravery, sacrifice and service to our nation.”

He was in the Special Forces in Vietnam. After he retired he received three degrees from Troy, taught at Southern Union and Auburn University, ran an accounting firm for two decades and, with his wife, raised five children.

The three-day battle for which he is justly being honored is a rich read of heroism, pain and the best attitude we could ask for from service members.

During 38 hours of close-combat fighting he was frequently in and under enemy fire and manning a mortar position. That was when he wasn’t continually exposing himself to the enemy to treat and save wounded men and retrieve the bodies of the fallen. When the mortar was spent, he changed weapons. When he had exhausted his ammunition, he sought out more, again under fire. Ultimately, when he’d fired every weapon they had at Camp A Shau, he led the survivors out with just an M-16. They’d fought for a day-and-a-half. He would led men through another two days of evasion before they were picked up by the good guys.

From the battle narrative:

“Approximately 200 of the camp defenders were killed in action, with 100 wounded. The enemy suffered an estimated 500 to 800 casualties. It is estimated that Adkins killed between 135 and 175 of the enemy, while suffering 18 different wounds.”

You wonder why it took so long.

Things to read … And these won’t take too long.

Turner Broadcasting to offer voluntary buyouts, layoffs also expected

Here’s a rapidly evoloving topic. Why public relations and media relations don’t mean the same thing anymore

Harassment Charges for Student Who… Told Joke [Gasp!]

Student Activists Keep Pressure On Campus Sexual Assault

And that, I think, will do for one night.

Aug 14

First day of class

First day of classes. Get into my office, ready to print up my syllabus and various other materials, ready to walk into class ready to wow students and start the term off right. So, naturally, I got into my office a little later than I’d wanted.

No matter. I’d left plenty of margin for error.

So, naturally, my new computer isn’t speaking with the printer. No matter, I have other computers. None of them are tied into the printer yet.

No matter. Down to the department office, where there are other computers and a bigger, better printer. It took some doing, but I found a machine that I could use. And apparently I was asking the printer to produce the most sophisticated configuration of ink and white space committed to pixels in the 21st century.

It ate into class time, not the best way to start things.

But we had class, and everyone stayed awake and we are off on a wonderful adventure of writing and editing.

Later I swam 1,750 yards. I haven’t been in the pool in ages, but it turns out that I still remember how to swim poorly.

I also saw this on the back of a local repair man’s truck:

show up

I took this to mean that he’d surveyed the competition. He’d listened to his customers. He realized that there were plenty of people out there who were having trouble getting work done at home and having even more trouble getting someone out to work on the problem. He surmised that this magnet would mean something to people: I will be there.

And he’s correct. More than a few times over the years I’ve tried to have people come out to work on this or that, but was left with disappointment. This magnet sign might earn someone a try. Now, if on the other door, there was another that said “And we bring our own tools!” Then you’d be on to something.

Things to read … because reading always puts you on to something.

UAB launches an online cure for the common doctor visit:

It uses a diagnosis and treatment software system to collect a patient’s symptoms by asking a series of questions that would in other cases be asked by a clinician in a face-to-face meeting. The patient’s responses are then reviewed by a UAB clinician who provides a diagnosis and personalized treatment plan.

“eMedicine is an urgent care service that enables patients to use their desktop or mobile devices to interact with our providers,” said Dr. Stuart Cohen, medical director of primary care in UAB’s School of Medicine. “This will add to patient convenience for those who are suffering from upper respiratory infections, flu, allergies and other things very common in an urgent-care setting. It’s really a novel way to extend the physician-patient relationship.”

College Football Hall of Fame opens in Atlanta

Report: Alabama’s economy sixth slowest in the U.S.:

Business Insider noted that the state’s wages increased by 0.78 percent from 2012 to 2013, and its unemployment increased by 0.3 percent in the last year, which was the lowest rank out of the 50 states.

Alabama’s GDP growth rate was 0.8 percent in 2013, according to U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis.

This is, I believe, one of the better pieces you’ll find at Grantland: When Narratives Collide: Michael Sam Meets Johnny Football:

In our media-saturated InfoWorld, it has become easy for us to make representational action figures out of human beings who have the misfortune of capturing our massed attention.


It’s part of the deal now, and I understand that. It’s a clause in a subparagraph in the implicit contract struck between athletes and their fans that athletic celebrity is now indistinguishable from a celebrity, full stop. The camera is always on, the microphone always hot. You will stand for something even if all you want to do is sit down and catch your breath. But if you accept all this as part of the legitimate transaction of fame and celebrity, it’s your part of the bargain to understand that it’s fundamentally dehumanizing to use real people as characters in your private passion plays.

Also, they’re just football players.

Aug 14

Catching up

The weekly post that concentrates on the pictures I haven’t yet used anywhere else. It passes the time. Let’s pass the time.

I don’t know why my barber insists on having everyone sign in at the front desk. When he finishes with one head of hair he just looks around the room and says “Who was next?” But I guess it gives us all alibis.


For a time he was having his clients sign in and had a young man typing in names too. It seemed … excessive.

This is the last weekend before the football craziness kicks off, so:


I’d like to try and catch a snapshot of all the cyclists I see. I think it would make for a good collection one day. Usually they are moving too fast. On this particular occasion my car was moving too fast. But I like the shot. If I’d been coming from the opposite direction I would have been going up a hill. Had I been doing that on my bike, straining, out of breath, trying to kick the last little incline, this is probably what I would have seen of that cyclist anyway:


Aug 14

Do you have the Internet?

We don’t have an Internet connection. Scientists can beam a laser-based long-distance data transmission to the moon for an Internet connection. That impressive feat does nothing to get the wonderful, lovely, talented people at Charter to talk about what seems to be happening to their entire network.

Thus demonstrating the fragility of the Internet of Things. And thus making people wonder “What do I do in this World Without the Internet of Things!?”

This is a trying time for many. But at least we still have power, conversation and books. We have phones, analog diversions and cable.

Went out for lunch at the little cafe that is attached to the back of the little vegetable shop that orbits the little nursery here in town. The peaches were perfectly scented — just enough to overpower the vague presence of dirt and sawdust and not so much as to overwhelm.


Remember how, the other day, I said “(W)e have a series of triple-digit heat index days ahead. Summer finally showed up, he said for probably the second or third time this summer.”



Car thermometers are notoriously inaccurate, so that is mostly just for the fun of the picture. But it is hot.

Aug 14

The barber, the check writer and the pie maker

I made the mistake of getting a haircut today. Going to my barber on a Friday afternoon is like going to most people’s DMV, or my local post office.

He’s a nice fellow, good, easy small talker. There are nice family photos to study as he cuts your hair. He does a fine enough job of it and he’s the cheapest guy in town — those his prices are going up, and we’ll have to talk about that.

Everyone in town has figured this out, I guess, and everyone goes there. And so you wait and wait, but it is a break from other things, one supposes, and the television is on an endless loop of some sporting thing or another. He’s the kind of guy that’s on a first name basis with people and sometimes he remembers me, but my strategy is to cut short and ride on that haircut for as long as possible. So I could be easy to forget in the blur of faces he sees every month.

We talked about the VA and pensions and the Bulge and Iraq today. Once, when his shop was slower and he remembered who I was, he picked my brain about various shenanigans going on in the journalism industry. Another time he almost carved a junk out of my ear and sent me on my way home bleeding and, I think, with the haircut incomplete. Scared him. It bled so well it scared me too.

Today he nicked my neck a little just below the hairline and applied some demon-infused, artisanally crafted pain juice on it, smeared a white powder on top of that and then smacked my neck. He was a combat medic. He knows what he’s doing, I told myself.

After that I visited various book stores about town, with this weird white caking powder on my neck. No one said anything about it.

We went out for dinner. It is Friday. Friday is Pie Day:


“Clinkies!” as we used to say while trying to not stab each other with forks.

The server gave us fist bumps for ordering pie. Surely he was thinking “I didn’t even have to upsell these people!” And then he let us choose the color of pen used to sign the receipt. I went with the hunter green.

Things to read … and, sadly, none of these are written in a hunter green font.

Security for journalists, part one: The basics:

Just as you can take steps to reduce the physical or legal risks of journalism, it’s possible to protect yourself in the digital realm. This two-part post will cover the basics of digital security for journalists. It’s impossible to learn everything you need to know from a couple of articles, but my hope is to give you enough of the basics that you understand what to study next.

Even if you’re not working on a sensitive story yourself, you need to understand digital security because an attacker can harm other people by going through you. This post contains generic security advice that everyone in journalism should heed, with specific advice about simple things you can do right now to improve your security.

Govt-blacklisted journalists and the growing info grip:

David Sirota reports on “How Government Blacklists Journalists From Accessing the Truth” stating that “The public is being systematically divorced from public policy, which is exactly what too many elected officials want.”


“In recent years, there have been signs that the federal government is reducing the flow of public information,” Sirota writes, agreeing with a growing consensus from many Washington D.C. journalists.

Sadly, there’s no surprise there.

This thoughtful essay from a student-journalist, I will not be returning to Ferguson:

There are now hundreds of journalists from all over the world coming to Ferguson to film what has become a spectacle. I get the sense that many feel this is their career-maker. In the early days of all this, I was warmly greeted and approached by Ferguson residents. They were glad that journalists were there. The past two days, they do not even look at me and blatantly ignore me. I recognize that I am now just another journalist to them, and their frustration with us is clear. In the beginning there was a recognizable need for media presence, but this is the other extreme. They need time to work through this as a community, without the cameras.

Gov. Bentley announces creation of Alabama Drone Task Force

I read aloud a bit of Willie Morris tonight. I’ve been searching for examples of excellent writing to share with students, so I had to raid one of the bookshelves in our library. This won’t be the one of Morris’ that I share, but it is worth a read. This is when he was writing from Oxford, Mississippi and remembering his time and a love on Long Island, New York. The complete essay isn’t online, so a brief excerpt:

She would say, “You’re not too old and I’m not too young.” But she was the marrying age, and she wanted a baby. The love we had was never destroyed; it was merely the dwindling of circumstance. How does one give up Annie? Only through loneliness and fear, fear of old loves lost and of love renewed – only those things, that’s all. The last departure came on a windswept October noon of the kind we had known. We stood on the porch of my house and embraced. “Oh — you!” she said. She lingered for the briefest moment. Then she was gone, a Tennessee girl with snow in her hair again. She married a local boy and now has two little daughters, I hear on good authority from Long Island. The years are passing, and don’t think I haven’t thought about it.

The man could write. But he was perhaps never better than when he’s writing about home (which is why whichever Willie Morris piece I hand out in class will have at least two references to jonquils). Happens to a lot of us, I suspect.

Do you ever get the feeling Patrick Stewart is just cooler at everything?

I do.