25
Mar 15

Night blooms

It has been a day. So here are some lovely tree blooms.

construction

construction

It will rain tomorrow, and the blooms will probably disappear then and soon after. Enjoy them while you can, while it is still their day.


24
Mar 15

This isn’t Ham-let, and I bacon your pardon

I swam 2,700 yards today. That may be more than I’ve ever swam before. It didn’t even seem hard. It felt like everything slowed down, my breathing was better. My arms were better, maybe my technique was a tiny bit better. Also, I think I better understand the purpose of a pull buoy. Funny how that works, using something to find out it works. In the last two hundred yards I got weary, but I’d swam almost a mile-and-a-half by then.

So then I went for a three-mile run.

I do not know what is happening.

The company running the dining on campus is undertaking some renovation. This was a significant part of their successful bid to take on the food service, which has met with some criticism and hardware in food. There has been under-cleaned silverware:

A lack of silverware:

Some packaging issues:

Plenty of oil:

Undercooked chicken (I’ve also enjoyed this):

And underplucked chicken:

So they’re fighting an uphill battle. But the renovations — which took a lot of criticism for delays in the fall — now feature a walled off area. The purpose is to create a dirty room for the renovation that won’t contaminate the undercooked food and dirty dishes. Now, though, the students are railing against The Wall.

Behind that wall:

construction

There was a great walls of Jericho reference online already this week and this room was only erected two weeks ago.

I’ve spent some time with the food service people and I can sympathize with their lot. They are, of course, central to campus life. And when there is a difficulty, or a series of them, the impact is widely felt and difficult to overcome. But maybe the new renovations, slated to be done by June, maybe that’ll help. Of course clean dishes and better-prepared food would too.

The weird thing is that a lot of the faces on the front side of the cafeteria are familiar, holdovers to the previous company. So the problem is somewhere else.

They’ll get it there. There are too many good people involved.

But, if you’ve ever wondered what undercooked green beans taste like, they aren’t good.

It was a big workout. I’m thinking a lot about food. It seems I’m back pretty quickly to that place where my body is begging for more calories. It is a two-way street, this sort of exercise.

Dinner was better. I stared at this sign and made puns.

signage

“I never sausage a thing!”

“This cowboy is bacon me crazy!”

What’s for second dinner?


23
Mar 15

Things to read

You wouldn’t believe me if I told you about today. I scarcely can process it all myself. But, hey, I was still in the office doing things at 9:30 that I should have had done by 4 p.m., but for the metaphorical fires that were kindled today. Let’s just go read some cool stuff from around the Internet, instead.

Below you’ll find journalism links, stories of an interesting nature and a few wonderful uplifting tales. But, up first, stories of a political nature.

Here’s a sad truth. One of these costs money, the other one makes money. Study: Political Ads Dwarfed News Stories About Actual Political Issues in 2014:

A new study by Philly Political Media Watch finds that during evening newscasts leading up to the 2014 midterm elections the airtime given to political ads dwarfed stories about political issues by a ratio of 45:1.

[...]

The Philadelphia market dominates three states: Pennsylvania, Delaware and Southern New Jersey, and the study found that even in non-competitive races in that area, candidates continued to spend heavily throughout the course of the last few weeks of the campaign. The big winner of this trend? The companies that own the television stations.

[...]

While reaping the financial benefit from a flood of advertising dollars, however, the stations did not substantially increase the political content of their news programs.

There are dollar signs and interesting financial figures included in that story.

The story just gets worse. Hillary Clinton’s E-Mail Was Vulnerable to ‘Spoofing’:

illary Clinton didn’t take a basic precaution with her personal e-mail system to prevent hackers from impersonating or “spoofing” her identity in messages to close associates, according to former U.S. officials familiar with her e-mail system and other cyber-security experts.

This vulnerability put anyone who was in communication with her clintonemail.com account while she was secretary of state at risk of being hacked.

Well there is a shortage … Demoted Alabama trooper drove patrol car while drinking, fled Arab cops during domestic incident:

An Alabama state trooper who was demoted following a domestic incident last October was sent to rehab instead of jail, despite the fact that he drove his patrol car while under the influence of alcohol, pointed his state-issued gun at his estranged wife and fled from Arab police officers when they responded to the scene.

No charges were filed against Gary Shannon Gates, who lives in Huntsville. He also kept his job.

This was expected, and no less reprehensible. VA whistleblowers say they’ve been punished:

Two whistleblowers say that not only are they under attack for alerting the public about long wait times being covered up at the central Alabama VA, but that those wait times are getting longer.

Hundreds of leaked documents sent to the Advertiser during a seven-month period revealed patient abuse, inadequate care and unethical practices by the director and other staff at the Montgomery and Tuskegee hospitals.

US Rep. Martha Roby denounces alleged retaliation against VA whistleblowers:

Roby said Tremaine and Meuse were the only two who would give her a straight answer about what was happening at Montgomery’s VA facility.

“They told me the truth about the cover-ups that were happening at the VA, and for that they should be rewarded, not punished or marginalized,” she said. “My office has been working with these and many other whistleblowers since the VA scandal story broke. We were very careful to keep their identities confidential, but today they felt they had no choice but to come forward.”

There’s an awful lot of rot in the system, it seems.

Meanwhile, we go north for one of the most amazing quotes you’ve seen in a while. NH lawmakers harshly kill 4th-graders’ bill in front of them:

In the spirit of learning by doing, students drafted a bill to learn the process of how a bill becomes law. They proposed House Bill 373, an act establishing the Red Tail Hawk as the New Hampshire State Raptor. Even though it passed through the Environment and Agriculture committee with a majority vote, some representatives were far from receptive.

Rep. Warren Groen, a Republican from Rochester said, “It grasps them with its talons then uses its razor sharp beak to basically tear it apart limb by limb, and I guess the shame about making this a state bird is it would serve as a much better mascot for Planned Parenthood.”

The students were seated in the Gallery, for this.

Ordinarily, I have a sanity rule for these sorts of things. It goes like this, if you don’t understand the First Amendment, I find your argument invalid. The First Amendment should never protect hatred. And remember, it is only hate when someone else does it. That’s how those -isms usually work. I do like the reaction she’s receiving for that piece.

Before the journalism links, here is a story — Thousands vanished from official’s campaign report — and no one noticed from the AJC that is about politics and about campaign funds. I shared this in class today and the story was one thing, but when they learned it was broken by a college junior that got a real reaction. Great story for that young lady.

Some journalism and media links, arranged in just such an order:

The most creative uses for Meerkat, SXSW’s hottest app
New NYT styleguide reflects an evolving paper
Podcasts Reach Fans’ Ears via Mobile
USA Today Cuts 90 in Buyout Offers to Staffers Age 55 and Older
Los Angeles Times headline denounced as clickbait
Mother Jones: Staffer arrested photographing prison
Newsroom architecture: Yesterday, today, tomorrow
Hearst president: ‘We’re a content company with a platform mentality’
Ouch! Gannett newspaper in Louisiana misspells Louisiana
Reporters use Yik Yak to get instant audience take on Ted Cruz’s big campaign speech

Here’s what may be later viewed as a good, then bad, idea. cebook wants to be the new World Wide Web, and news orgs are apparently on board. This part should strike us all as odd:

The real issue is this: Facebook has far better data about individual users than any publisher has, and it wants to keep its users on Facebook. At one level, that data edge should enable it to charge higher rates to advertisers. But on another, Facebook’s audience is — by nature of its including a nontrivial share of all humanity — the definition of an undifferentiated, programmatic ad base, and premium publishers like (say) The New York Times should be able to outstrip it on a CPM basis.

Facebook controls a huge share of the traffic publishers get — 40 percent or more in many cases. Combine that with the appification of people’s online life — the retreat from the open web toward a few social-media icons on your phone’s home screen — and you start to get at the motivations here. Facebook has fallen into the role of audience gatekeeper for many publishers, and it’s offering (!) to optimize that relationship.

Isn’t it curious who is good at that, and who is not. What would you have said, 20 or so years ago, if someone asked who would have 21st century gatekeeping, data, understanding — audience analysis, an ad base, stratifications, real penetration — the local media front that has been in your world all of your life or an amorphous company out west?

The current result, if you’ll look at today as a result, is one young group who saw a marketing opening and many other older, less nimble groups who still isn’t sure about it. It is the not small degree of difference between what we are willing to say about ourselves and what we want others to ask us.

All of @jeffjarvis‘ discussion on media community, connectivity, links, trust, all networks, all of it, is coming home (again) in this one story. And, ultimately, we’ll likely see that the news orgs won’t get the data — the real capital — they need. And they won’t get the money they’ll imagine. We’ve been down this walled garden path a few times now.

So, then, I give you this story: Twitter puts trillions of tweets up for sale to data miners:

Selling data is as yet a small part of Twitter’s overall income – $70m out of a total of $1.3bn last year, with the lion’s share of cash coming from advertising, but the social network has big plans to increase that. Its acquisition of Chris Moody’s analytics company Gnip for $130m last April is a sign of that intent.

Google and Facebook have built their businesses around sharing data, but their control of our private and public information has become a source of huge controversy.

Moody acknowledges it is an area fraught with ethical and reputational risk: “One of the questions we get asked is: how do we ensure that we are not being creepy?” Context, he believes, is the key.

“Twitter gives this fascinating ability to understand people in context like we’ve never been able to do before. It’s not ‘I know that Chris Moody is a 48-year-old male’ – which is how we’ve thought about marketing in the past – but ‘I understand that Chris Moody is dealing with the death of a parent because he’s talking about it on this public platform’,” he said, adding that a Twitter user has in effect said: “I’ve stepped up to the microphone and I’ve said I want the world to know that this thing is happening in my life.”

If you aren’t paying for it, you are the product.

So I’d like to see a premium social media market emerge. Give me the opportunity and a platform for which I can pay for insular privacy within my self-selected network and then let the data just sit there, doing nothing. Because your consumers, your users, your clients, are already paying you. No ads, no announcements, no firehose. Just a nice, lazy little low-flow water can in the yard of your life. What would that be worth to you?

There’s a marketplace for it.

Lovely story, here: Shelby County School District’s special-needs prom: ‘This is their time to shine’:

“I’ve never seen someone like me in a prom picture before, and I was worried I wouldn’t get in,” he said.

Thanks to the efforts of the Shelby County Board of Education’s adaptive physical education department and many other school faculty and staff personnel — as well as plenty of donations from community members — Baugh along with about 80 other special-needs students have their moment to dance the day away.

“A lot of these kids don’t get the birthday invites and party stuff,” said Lisa McLean of Shelby, who has one son with autism and another with Asperger’s syndrome. “They don’t get invited to all the dances, but this, they go all out for these kids. It gives them a chance to get out from under their parents and it gives them a chance to be themselves.”

I like this one, because it lets me say the kids are alright. Johnson City 6-year-old walks again after waking up paralyzed:

Doctors immediately started treatment and Beka slowly started to improve.

While her friends were preparing for their next ballet, this 6-year-old was learning to walk again.

After 11 days in the hospital Beka got to go home.

A couple of days later, Beka was supposed to play a part in the Nutcracker.

Still unable to walk, her friends didn’t want her to miss it, and carried her across the stage.

Kids these days, huh?


22
Mar 15

Catching up

And now the 168th installment of the weekly post of extra photographs that haven’t already appeared on the site.

New rule: If you are using three or more fonts, it better have something to do with Vanilla Ice.

You pull up next to a bus, inspiration strikes and you drive all of your designer friends absolutely nuts with your irreverence.

That’s not bad for a Wednesday afternoon.

The Yankee and the Black Cat do yoga. Allie is very interested in this lately.

Walking in the sunset.

Mowed the lawn Wednesday. Had this in the lawn on Thursday. So I picked it, and gave it to my best girl. Take that, dandelion.

A frog in the aquarium at Mellow Mushroom. For ages we thought they might be fake. They almost never move. When we saw them this week they were all over the place.

One of the frogs’ tank mates.

The driveway (I wish we had) …

Seven-foot tall furry mascots help us get over our kid fears.

They also take good mock-selfies, which is now my raison d’Aubie. I asked him to throw his hands up and he figured it out, took my phone away from me and started take pictures everywhere around us. I have 16 shots on my phone now of the people sitting nearby, with Aubie sort of photobombing the foreground. Genius.

Raison d’Aubie.


21
Mar 15

Hours of ping

Today Auburn played a doubleheader against Vanderbilt. There’s rain in the forecast today, so let’s play two! … Against one of the best teams in the country and the defending national champions. No biggie!

We watched almost eight hours of baseball today. Good thing we got in a bike ride this morning, however so brief. In between games we got a snack and then went back to sit in the cooling night air, get rained on and watch a marathon, 10-inning game. Auburn was down, but not out. In the bottom of the ninth all of this happened.

And then, with the score tied, Vandy went ahead by a run in the 10th. In the bottom of the frame it all came down to a bloop single in right field.

Apparently the TV announcers said the umpire blew the call. Our DVR recorded three hours of the game, which got us through the first eight innings, but not the next 63 minutes of game time.

It was a long day. Auburn lost the series, but it looks like they proved to themselves that they can hang with a great team. In the press box, meanwhile, the poor guy ran out of songs to play from his iPod, I think.

Good times, nice people and plenty of fun.