Oct 14

Talladega 500

We received tickets to the big race at Talladega Superspeedway. It was a great day. Everything worked out perfectly, the weather was grand. We were on time. We did not get sunburns and were entertained by a little bit of everything.

We drove up, fighting no traffic, walked a far shorter distance than we’d anticipated, waited in the shade for a few moments at the Will Call window and then walked a few hundred yards to the gate and to the proper section. We were sitting about 100 feet off the finish line. It was a perfect afternoon to be outside and we had a grand view of everything.

There were pre-race interviews, a parade of antique military vehicles, driver introductions and there was something called sky-typing:


Then eight retired military service members jumped out of a plane with flags attached to their rigs:


We saw a flyover synched with the military band playing the national anthem:


And, of course, the race fans:





Here’s the pace car for the day’s race:


Brian Vickers had the pole, he would finish 20th:


Dale Earnhardt Jr lead the most laps throughout the race, but his day ended with a disappointing 31st, which eliminates him from the championship race.


For a time it seemed that we would see a little history. Danica Patrick had a strong run toward the end of the race, but caution flags and the last pit stop worked against her:


Brad Keselowski won the Geico 500, advancing in his championship chase:


But, really, you’re hear for the fans. Here are a lot more of them:
























Oct 14

A fine Saturday

Lovely day, beautiful weather. Perfect sun. It would be great to sleep in. We woke up early to go to the Syrup Sopping. They estimate somewhere around 20,000 people roll into the tiny little village — really, it seems to small to call it even a village — for arts and crafts and friends and music and syrup and biscuits.

We stroll around for a while, looking at the things we don’t need to purchase. Usually we see the puppies and I wonder how we’re going to walk away without adopting one. We did not see them today, though. They have, we decided, all found good homes.

We heard the musical performers from a distance, but did not see them play. We saw a few people we knew. We watched students working on a video package. I had a biscuit dipped in freshly made cane syrup.

We bought a few bottles of the good stuff and some local honey. We picked up two bags of kettle corn. The syrup and honey will last the year. The popcorn might survive the week, but don’t bet on it.

We also saw cyclists this morning. As ever, I wished I was on my bike:



Instead we went home and watched football, which was fun. We played with Allie, which was better:


I visited Walmart for supplies. Picked up a few snacks and some Ibuprofen and greeting cards. I stood in line and marveled at how people struggle with the self checkout system and, simultaneously, the hands on technique provided by the disinterested staffer tasked with monitoring their progress. There should be a certification test for the self checkout. And there should be some customer service training for the non-cashier.

But the odd delays of the slow older gentleman who did not understand UPC codes and struggled mightily with how to pay the articulate machine, compounded by the diminished capacity of offline self checkout stations and the helplessness of it all since the express lane was stocked full of people who didn’t understand the concept of the number 20 got me outside and just the right moment:


And then more football, followed by more football. It was a fine Saturday.

Oct 14

The ball joint and groove

I don’t read a lot of FAQ pages, but maybe I should start. The random question can be the best. You’ll see why below.

I left campus at 7:30 tonight. I had a meeting until about 7 p.m. with students. Students gathered until 7 p.m. on a Friday night. They did this after working late into the evening last night o put their paper to bed. And then they sat around in the earliest part of their weekend and talked with me about their work. Their dedication to their craft is so very admirable.

And then, at home tonight, I learned that our postal crew understands humor. Specifically, irony, a bend across the link of the envelope, right on the stamp that says “Do Not Bend.”


Fortunately, they also understand unwanted mail. I must get this same envelope every other month. I open it, remove the return envelope, skim the contents and practice my best wrist-rotating exercises 16 times. Sometimes I get another rip and tear in there. Sometimes the tension of the paper is too much and I think back to that year we managed to get a huge stack of unnecessary phone books. YouTube was just becoming a fixture. I found videos teaching me how to rip phone books. I managed to perfect the technique, at least one svelte editions of the phone books. Now, I’m destroying junk mail. It has much greater tensile strength.

If they’re going to bend it — it is more malleable than a phone book — the mail carrier may as well just keep the thing themselves, right?

Things to read … because when you see good things, you shouldn’t keep it to yourself.

Syracuse basketball’s Orange Madness: Details on selfies, student dunks, legends:

Why selfies and not autographs?

“We just felt like it would be more of a keepsake for our fans to take pictures and pass them around on social media,” Donabella said.

It has never occurred to me to get the autograph of a college athlete. I’ve covered a lot of them, and I’ve watched and cheered for many, many more, but autographs, no. I once sat on a sofa and talked dry cleaning with the fastest man in NCAA track and field. But it never occurred to me to take a photograph with him. (“Back in my day … “)

I have a few autographs of a few others — my first one, I think, is a now faded slip of paper with Kenny Stabler’s name scrawled on it. Later I managed to get a few photographs with famous people. I prefer the photos. Though the Stabler story is pretty good.

The explanation is easy, Twitter Is Finally Explaining Its Suggested Tweets Strategy:

When Twitter first started testing these suggested tweets a few months ago, it didn’t explain the change very well to users, most of whom were confused and even angry when they started seeing content in their stream from people they didn’t follow. Twitter often experiments with new features without adding much of an explanation early on.

Thursday’s blog post is Twitter’s attempt to quell those concerns and offer some insight into the company’s strategy.

They are doing it to frustrate me. If I wanted those extra tweets they’d be in my feed. So you’re offering me discovery by way of people I follow. They have a way to share information with me already, using the retweet button. When you add the favorite button to all of that, well you’re just making buttons redundant, you’re messing up the temporal flow of things and just being tedious, all based on an algorithm.

I have a lot of thoughts on this subject. It all boils down to humanism.

If this story is even close to true … 19-year-old dies naked on cell floor of gangrene; lawsuits target deaths in Madison County jail”>

Your daily Ebola update:

Advisory on Ebola coverage

Amid Assurances on Ebola, Obama Is Said to Seethe

You don’t see the word “seethe” in headlines very often.

Finally, we’re going to the race at Talladega this weekend. We’re trying to figure out how much time to allow for traffic. I’m reading Yelp reviews and random things people have written on various sites (“Leave home: August | Leave the race: After the national anthem.”)

I found myself reading the Superspeedway’s FAQ:

18. Can I get married at Talladega Superspeedway?

Couples wishing to exchange vows on speedway property may do so within the confines of their spot in one of the parks. Weddings are not allowed on speedway property that is used for competition during race weekends.

We got married in lovely and historic downtown Savannah, Georgia. I am now kicking myself I didn’t think of the race track.

I’m sure someone wants to marry during a yellow. Someone else wants to marry and cause a yellow. I wonder if the minister says something like “If anyone has any reason why these two should not be wed or why Jeff Gordon shouldn’t be put into the wall in turn four, speak now or forever hold your peace.”

And, of course, the F in FAQ stands for “Frequently.” If it means anything, it wasn’t the last one on the list, either.

Oct 14

There is a video at the end of this post

I’m writing this at the end of a long day, in the middle of a short week, which feels like a long week. But I have a reasonable lecture prepared for tomorrow. The news crew has finished their paper for tomorrow’s edition. I’ve worked on running projects and I ran from working projects.

Wait. That’s not right. I worked on ongoing projects. Later, I went for a run. It was not a fun run. I’ve had one or two of those (I do not know what is happening) but this one wasn’t one of them.

I enjoyed the end of a lovely sunset, however:


And because I was looking that direction I saw this sign … I wonder how many people honked.


Someone approved that sign:

Things to read … because they were approved too.

This was 160 years ago, Samford Recalls “The Midnight Fire”:

On the night of Oct. 15, 1854, the young college’s only building – which housed students, classrooms, laboratories, equipment, books – was destroyed by fire. All the young college’s property was lost, and one student died as a result of injuries sustained in the fire. Located at the time in Marion, Alabama, the college was not quite 13 years old and could have been devastated by the fire.

But, it was a story of heroism during the fire that has carried forward in the university’s history and folklore. Harry, the college janitor and a slave belonging to President Henry Talbird, was among the first to awaken after the fire was discovered. According to accounts of the tragic night, when told to escape while he could, Harry replied, “Not till I wake up the boys.”

He went door to door through the building on his “errand of mercy,” according to reports of the time. When he reached the last room on the upper floor, he was faced with flames where he could not reach the stairs. He jumped from the hall window and was fatally injured.

Put these two together:

HBO to launch standalone streaming service in 2015

CBS follows on HBO’s heels with launch of web-only streaming service

You notice there’s first a premium cable station and a broadcast going the same way. The dominos are at the very least moving. I can’t decide if this puts ABC’s ESPN properties in the sweet spot or puts them behind the eight ball. I’m leaning toward the side that suggests that gives ESPN all the power in the remaining deals.

I suppose I should find this interesting, but mostly I’m not sure why an advertiser and creative think I should give feedback to an ad: If You’d Like To Interact With The Future Of Audio Ads, Please Say “Proceed”.

White House pool reporters test own news distribution system:

White House journalists are creating an alternative system for distributing their media “pool” reports in response to the Obama administration’s involvement in approving and disapproving certain content in official reports.


Reporters have complained that the Obama White House exploits its role as distributor to demand changes in pool reports and that the press office has delayed or refused to distribute some reports until they are amended to officials’ satisfaction.

But now, some journalists are sharing their White House reporting using Google Groups — the digital service that allows registered users to receive and send information within a closed circle. In an early test of the supplemental system, journalists shared pool information about President Obama’s trip to Chicago this month. The system has been used for “advisories,” such as where the pool is assembling, when another pool report will be issued or whether a correction is in the works.

Because training demonstrates it is more of an evolution than a revolution? The smartphone revolution and why training matters

From the Department of Who Knew? Publishers want out of Apple’s Newsstand jail:

Apple was supposed to save publishers, but these days, it seems like publishers need to be saved from Apple.

Three years ago, Apple introduced Newsstand, a feature that gave iOS users a dedicated home for their digital magazines and newspapers. The app, designed to look like an actual physical newsstand, was good news, too, for publishers, which finally had a way to better stand out from other non-magazine apps.

But three years later, publishers say that Newsstand is holding them back and, in some cases, actively hurting them.

Three years ago, keen observers saw that coming.

This defies excerpting, but it is well said if you haven’t compiled this general sentiment in the last 10 years ago, The bad news about the bad news

And, finally, today’s This Kid Is Cooler Than We Are story, Montevallo first-grader raising money to help Children’s of Alabama cancer patients:

After one of her peers at Montevallo Elementary died of cancer over the summer, first-grader Kayla SanRoman remembers the sight of the many yellow ribbons hanging in the school’s hallways.

At just 6 years old, Kayla knew she wanted to help somehow.

On a piece of white paper, she created a flyer that included a picture she drew of a stick figure with a frown and the words, “Donate muneye for cancer. We hope you can donate to childes hoseital.”


Kayla has raised $105 as of Wednesday in an effort to get as much as she can by the end of the month to help children with cancer at Children’s of Alabama in Birmingham.

“I’m trying to get a lot of money so I can donate there so they can probably maybe help them,” Kayla said.

The kids are better than alright, no?

Finally, I shot this today. Just put my photo in the windowsill and waited for something to happen. Nothing happened:

Oct 14

The things that stick us

I’ve been wearing these for a while:


I’ve been wearing them for me, but hadn’t thought about what I would say if someone asked why I am wearing a pin. Why would anyone ask? Who would care?

I got pins for my mom and my cousin.

My lovely wife gets the idea, even if I’ve only just figured out why I got them.

My grandmother loved hummingbirds. And I am still not ready to think about this in the past tense.

My grandmother’s chair sits right beside the large picture window in her house. And outside, on the long porch, there are several hummingbird feeders. She could sit and watch them hover and fight all day long.

Her oldest friend laughed and told me how my grandmother was, every year, in a competition to get the first hummingbird visit. She delighted in calling and bragging about her hummingbird feeders because they brought the first birds and the biggest and the most colorful. And it was all, no doubt, owing to some secret ingredient (four times the recommended sugar, perhaps) that she put in the syrup.

So there was a hummingbird this and a hummingbird that at the funeral. I was looking for something to hang on to and got a pin for my mom and cousin and, ultimately, me. So I rotate through these four lapel pins. One day a student asked why I was wearing one and I struggled with that. The classroom isn’t the place for all that, after all. On Friday a coworker asked about it, and then that led to a conversation about her grandmother, which was nice.

Later that day, though, I figured all of this out.

It has been a few months — I can’t bear to count the days — but I miss her dearly and completely and in all things. These are the standard laments about time and things to be said and learned and easing the hurt of others close to her. Meanwhile the world moves and I feel stuck. It was days before this and weeks before that and now I’m at a couple of months of random emotional moments.

My mother-in-law said perhaps the most purposeful and explanatory thing on all of this, that the grandparent-grandchild bond is a strong and unique one. Every memory is a bird’s wing, every memory is a prompt and every prompt is a catch in the throat and a watery eye. There is always fluttering to do.

My personal framework is pretty basic: If I did this, would my mother approve? Would my grandmother? Maybe that’s silly, but it always served me well when I abided by it, the opinions of people that matter are important and formative and lasting.

Because of that, whether I was at her home, or living two or four or six hours away, my grandmother was always in my day, always helping or laughing or talking or fussing, always present.

Those little pins are a way of keeping her there.