Oct 14

Early Halloween

I’ve never thought of Halloween as something that really deserves wishing someone happy wishes about it. I’m sure I’ve said it before, much like you say “I’m doing fine,” without thinking about it or perhaps even meaning it. But, there I was, Tuesday night, wishing a happy Halloween to the young lady who cut my hair.

She’d told me about her trick or treating plans — she takes her little sister and friends out every year and she’s going as Mickey Mouse and the kids are going as Powerpuff Girls — and then I paid her and said “Happy Halloween” and realized I kind of meant it above the standard small talk fare.

“May all of your candy be delicious, and peanut free if you have allergens.”

The critical problem with Halloween is that it is gone the next morning. You may have the candy and the wrappers and the tummy ache, but we’ve instantly discarded the notions of Halloween.

So, before the day gets X-rayed, melted and discarded, here’s something I saw today:


Happy early Halloween. May all of your bags be heavy, and without holes in the bottom.

Oct 14

What are they doing to the salt?

Crimson folks doing Crimson things:


Those are three members of the editorial staff at their budget meeting tonight. Some others are outside of the shot, but they’re there and they’re a good group. They’ve been getting a lot of compliments, and they deserve them.

They are fun, too. It is easy to get sidetracked with them, but the diversions are worth it. Tonight we discussed the movie Face / Off — and you should see the photos from that conversation. Three or four of us know the movie and we tried to explain it to the others. This is not an easy movie to describe to people. “And then John Travolta, played by Nic Cage, who is now a bad guy … ”

So you start throwing in other actors, who weren’t even in that film, to really make it fun.

“And then Sean Connery says … ”

I saw this tonight while standing at the counter and waiting for my burger. First thought?


Seasoned with what?

The more you think about it, the You know what my salt needs? Some flavoring. But what would go well with salt just now?

And what does Nic Cage think about that? The good Nic Cage, I mean, who is really John Travolta. What if one of those guys wants unseasoned salt? What do you do when the other one says he wants salted salt? Why is my burger taking so long?

Things to read … because that never takes too long.

Great question! As journalism and documentary film converge in digital, what lessons can they share? You might see more mini-docs to address the issue of time, more partnerships from unexpected places and, at last, what I think could be the coolest job in the industry: a historist. The historian journalist, or journalist historian, is a wholly unappreciated idea.

In reality, you’ll probably see a lot more interaction. Virtual Reality will be a part of this, among other things.

Mobile payment has already hit a a security/trust issue, Apple Pay rival CurrentC just got hacked:

On Wednesday, those taking part in the CurrentC pilot program received a warning from the consortium of anti-credit-card retailers called MCX, or Merchant Consumer Exchange: The program was hacked in the last 36 hours, and criminals managed to grab the email addresses of anyone who signed up for the program.

MCX confirmed the hack, adding what’s become a go-to line for any company that loses your data: “We take the security of our users’ information extremely seriously.”

Protecting it is another thing, however.

State agency to investors: Prepare for Ebola-related scams

‘Unusual’ Russian flights concern NATO:

An “unusual” uptick in the size and scale of Russian aircraft flying throughout European airspace in recent days has raised alarm bells for NATO officials that come amid other provocations already rattling the West.

Multiple groups of Russian military bomber and tanker aircraft, flying under the guise of military maneuvers, were detected and monitored over sections of the Baltic Sea, North Sea and Black Sea on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Those flights represented an “unusual level of air activity over European airspace,” according to a press release from NATO.

Adding to the concern — none of the Russian aircraft filed customary flight plans or maintained radio contact with civilian aviation authorities or used any of their onboard transponders.

These surely are interesting times.

It is about time this story is being told on film. MY Italian Secret: The Forgotten Heroes:

Would you risk your life to save a stranger? And never talk about it? MY ITALIAN SECRET tells the story of Tour de France cycling champion Gino Bartali and other Italians who saved lives during WWII.

Or if you prefer the 30 for 30 method: What if I told you a man saved 800 lives in between three Giro d’Italia wins and two Tour de France titles?

This is not that film, but it does summarize the story a tiny bit:

Bartali apparently rarely even brought it up, which brings us to this quote from the man himself: “Good is something you do, not something you talk about. Some medals are pinned to your soul, not to your jacket.”

Pretty profound for a guy that just moved his feet around in small circles.

Oct 14

Faster in fall

“Right then, fall showed up.”

The days are shorter. The nights are cooler. The leaves are cluttering the ground. The last tiny bits of summer are hanging on for another round or two, but they’ll be on the ropes soon enough. All the signs are there. But give autumn this, it is a season of wondrous light.


If only it lasted longer.

Things to read … because everything goes so fast.

And as we get philosophical, we near the end of this round of Ebola coverage, Ebola And Mandatory Quarantines: A Delicate Balance Between Personal Liberty And Public Safety:

The U.S. Government responded to the debate by implementing a program that will screen arrivals for initials signs of a fever at each of the five airports that they will be routed to, but many people have called for something more. Most recently, that “something more” has consisted of mandatory quarantines of people arriving from that area who are deemed “high risk,” a policy that has been adopted in New York and New Jersey, Illinois, Minnesota, and Florida to date. Yesterday, New Jersey and New York modified their policy to allow for in-home detention but are insisting on keeping the program mandatory, which C.D.C. and other officials insisting that a less draconian voluntary program would be sufficient and would not have the unintended consequences of dissuading health care workers from volunteering to go help fight Ebola where it needs to be defeated.

Overriding the policy debate, though, is a debate about the legality and morality of mandatory quarantines that goes back long before we even knew Ebola existed.

Even if you can’t get care, at least you have coverage! Some doctors wary of taking insurance exchange patients:

Now that many people finally have health insurance through the Affordable Care Act exchanges, some are running into a new problem: They can’t find a doctor who will take them as patients.

Because these exchange plans often have lower reimbursement rates, some doctors are limiting how many new patients they take with these policies, physician groups and other experts say.

“The exchanges have become very much like Medicaid,” says Andrew Kleinman, a plastic surgeon and president of the Medical Society of the State of New York. “Physicians who are in solo practices have to be careful to not take too many patients reimbursed at lower rates or they’re not going to be in business very long.”

Media stories:

Virtual Reality Storytelling Is Trending in Hollywood

The Feds Want to Redefine TV, and That Has Cable Giants Nervous

Why publishers are flocking to explainer videos

Half of YouTube’s views now come from phones and tablets

Did you see the terrible news in Seattle? Here’s a nice gesture that followed, Rival offers division title to Pilchuck:

The Oak Harbor Wildcats, who were scheduled to host Marysville Pilchuck High on Friday night for the Wesco 3A North division title in Washington, have offered to instead accept second place following Friday’s fatal shooting at Pilchuck, a Seattle-area school.

Oak Harbor coach Jay Turner and Marysville superintendent Becky Berg confirmed the offer, according to The Herald of Everett, Washington, and The Seattle Times.

The gesture came just hours after a student recently crowned freshman class homecoming prince walked into the Marysville Pilchuck cafeteria and opened fire, killing one person and shooting several others in the head before turning the gun on himself, officials and witnesses said.

High quality.

Oct 14

The boats may be sentient by the end of this post

These are Chaparral Boats. They must be coming out of Florida or beyond. There’s no dealer in Alabama between here and there. I think, after some surfing, they are something from the Sunesta class.

If it is a Sunesta, there’s a seat facing aft, with only two handrails to keep you on the vessel. There’s a ladder that slips into the hull. And there’s room for 14, the site says. The specs boast 320 horsepower, but don’t tell us a speed. You spend time in the next portion of your drive wondering what those cost. The low end of that model will only set you back about $75,000. If you spring for all of the high end accessories you’re looking at least $105,000. That’s before you get into the trailer, rigging, registration, shipping fees and so on.

Truck drivers routinely haul a great deal of valuable merchandise, but that guy might have a payload of something close to $250,000 on board and it is shiny and obvious.

Things to read … because it is obvious (to me) that I’ve got nothing else for the day.

Happy news! Referenced this in class today. The resolution was much more boring than the owners had originally feared, Service dog reunited with Cullman County owner after 5 days without food or water.

I mentioned that in class to point out that they have a Pulitzer Prize winner writing that stuff.

This does not say which schools, but you can be assured the comments get quickly political, Apple to give $100 million to schools, five in Alabama, CEO Tim Cook says:

Apple is awarding $100 million to schools in poor communities including five Alabama schools, Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook said Monday in Montgomery.

On the same day Cook was being inducted to the Alabama Academy of Honor alongside his co-inductees Nick Saban, Judy Bonner, John Croyle, James Hudson Jr., Margaret Porter, Jeff Sessions and Edgar Welden.

A fine honor for a real gentleman and his lovely wife. Auburn legend, Samford coach Pat Sullivan to have field house renamed in his honor:

Samford University will rename its football field house the Sullivan-Cooney Family Field House to honor current Samford head coach Pat Sullivan and his wife, Jean, the school announced Friday.

The field house was originally named for Birmingham business executive and 1974 Samford graduate Gary Cooney and his family. Cooney, a long-time friend of Sullivan, gave the lead gift that made the building possible.

“I have always felt through athletics it is the relationships that will last for a lifetime,” Sullivan said. “My friendship with Gary Cooney began when we were teammates at John Carroll High School. Gary’s generosity and the generosity of others enabled us to build this beautiful football facility.

And some good news down at the Gulf Coast, Museum dedicated to forestry and agriculture to open at the fairgrounds:

A new Agriculture and Forestry Museum will open at the Greater Gulf State Fairgrounds Saturday, displaying exhibits on a number of plants and animals key to the state’s farm economy.


Lucas said the museum will be open to the public when there are major events at the fairgrounds.

And here’s some dumb news, but even the resolution to the overreaction has a happy ending, LAX flight delayed after WiFi hotspot name prompts concerns.

We just might have to start a “Good News Monday” feature.

When Jay Rosen is aggravated, it is always a good read, Facebook’s phony claim that “you’re in charge”:

It’s not us exercising judgment, it’s you. We’re not the editors, you are. If this is what Facebook is saying — and I think it’s a fair summary of Marra’s comments to the New York Times — the statement is a lie.

I say a lie, not just an untruth, because anyone who works day-to-day on the code for News Feed knows how much judgment goes into it. It simply isn’t true that an algorithmic filter can be designed to remove the designers from the equation. It’s an assertion that melts on contact. No one smart enough to work at Facebook could believe it. And I’m not sure why it’s sitting there unchallenged in a New York Times story. For that doesn’t even rise to the level of “he said, she said.” It’s just: he said, poof!

Now, if Greg Marra and his team want to make the point that in perfecting their algorithm they’re not trying to pick the day’s most important stories and feature them in the News Feed, the way an old fashioned front page or home page editor would, and so in that sense they are not really “editors” and don’t think in journalistic terms, fine, okay, that’s a defensible point. But don’t try to suggest that the power has thereby shifted to the users, and the designers are just channeling your choices. (If I’m the editor of my News Feed, where are my controls?)

Programmers refer to the phenomenon as GIGO. You could change the noun, it doesn’t have to be Garbage, but you’re still getting the high dose of Facebook’s choice. Because you don’t have control.

But, then, we knew that. We’ve long since known that. We’re ceding control, aren’t we? Only now we’re starting to realize what that means when the control isn’t to our liking. But that’s beside the point, Professor Rosen is discussing the journalism involved rather than just Facebook.

Also, “Friend, Like, Comment, Unfollow, Hide” aren’t controls. They’re feeders. They’re sensitivity meters to the algorithm, feeders. But that’s all they are. Someone else has the control point: Facebook, specifically the programmers.

The algorithm dictates what you see, which changes what it is to be a tech company, which is now a publisher. And what becomes of a publisher? Perhaps they turn into a speech engine?

Which is as good a point as any to bring this piece in, How Smart, Connected Products Are Transforming Competition:

Information technology is revolutionizing products. Once composed solely of mechanical and electrical parts, products have become complex systems that combine hardware, sensors, data storage, microprocessors, software, and connectivity in myriad ways. These “smart, connected products”—made possible by vast improvements in processing power and device miniaturization and by the network benefits of ubiquitous wireless connectivity—have unleashed a new era of competition.

Smart, connected products offer exponentially expanding opportunities for new functionality, far greater reliability, much higher product utilization, and capabilities that cut across and transcend traditional product boundaries. The changing nature of products is also disrupting value chains, forcing companies to rethink and retool nearly everything they do internally.

These new types of products alter industry structure and the nature of competition, exposing companies to new competitive opportunities and threats. They are reshaping industry boundaries and creating entirely new industries. In many companies, smart, connected products will force the fundamental question, “What business am I in?”

Multiple businesses, of course.

(Oh, you thought this was random?)

As my friend, Professor Chris Arnold, suggested with that link, you’ll see systems of systems built on interdependent and emergent behaviors. And, I think, re-dedicated and repurposed systems and behaviors as well.

You see this all the time. That’s not just a ski boat up there. That’s a 14-person party platform. And now you can custom-select the dash.

So it won’t be much longer, then, before that boat can select your provisions based on your previous activities, or the new dash in its replacement craft. When your pleasure boat has you figured out … well, that’s going to be a pretty good Monday. Especially if the boat can also call in sick for you. Why would you go to work if you had a vessel like that?

Oct 14

Catching up

The update featuring holdover photographs that refuse to be held over any longer. Let’s get on to the things that are worth more than all of the words above them.

Went for a run this afternoon. She’s fast!

I don’t often have the opportunity, or good fortune, to capture a good butterfly shot. I got a few yesterday, and I’m sharing all of the best ones here:

From one flying thing to another, here are two shots of Nova, the golden eagle:

The thumbnail imprint of the moon hanging over the last tendrils of sunset, in Auburn:

A slightly closer view of that thumbnail of the moon. I moved the planet for this:

F. Page Seibert Hall, on the Samford campus: