Jul 14

A return to 1898

Last year I published this photograph:

Van Ness

It was the second in a series of posts about photos I found in my 1898 Glomerata, which is Auburn’s yearbook, of which I have a humble collection. The first post was here. (I have three more from that book that I scanned to share here, but I’d forgotten about them until just now.)

I say all of this to mention an email I received today. A nice lady from Wisconsin is doing genealogical research on some of her in-laws and one of the guys in this picture is her man, Franklin Waters Van Ness, and did I know which one he might be.

He’s the guy who is sitting. He was the captain of the API track team. At an inter-mural field day against six other schools he won the half mile, running it in two minutes and five seconds. But, I said, that was all the yearbook had on him. This was both a surprise and not surprising. They never really seem perfectly complete, but, also, the school was so small back then, and so many names pop up more than once, that you imagine he’d been in there somewhere, but I can’t find him.

So I asked what she knew about F.W. Van Ness. My previous post had some information that I’d read from research that she’d posted on findagrave.com. She wrote back right away:

He and his brother moved to Chicago where they were engineers. Franklin was also an efficiency expert. Franklin met Jennie Sullivan there. She was a teacher. They married in Chicago and the three children were born there. The family then moved to Milwaukee where Jennie was instrumental in developing playgrounds at the schools. They then moved to East Orange, New Jersey. Franklin is on the 1920 census twice. I think he was also in Cincinnati, as well as East Orange, but he traveled for his work.

Being a southerner, he loved the south, and bought that cotton mill (in North Carolina), which went bust during the Depression. They had lived very wealthy lives until that point.


(H)e ended up in Richmond, Virginia, and I don’t know why or what he did until his death.


He was certainly a smart guy and very motivated until the Depression took the steam out of him.

One of his daughters became a success in the hospitality industry, writing a book and giving college lectures on hotel work. Another daughter married an admiral and an ambassador. Franklin’s wife, Jenny, a suffragist and prohibitionist, was one of the first two female legislators in New Jersey. This is an interesting family.

Where Franklin Waters Van Ness is buried is a mystery, so I started Googling the man once more. Where I once again came up empty.

But I did find out something about Franklin’s brother, Graham Van Ness, that she didn’t know. She knew he’d served in the 2nd Missouri during the Spanish American War, but her trail went cold. Here’s the actual muster roster with his name on it. His unit only made it as far as Georgia, where another guy in the 2nd Missouri was famous for being Jesse James’ son. The story goes that people would often visit his unit to take pictures of him. This gives us a small world moment. I’m apparently related to Jesse James, so my relative would have known my new email friend’s relative. Except not. Apparently, the essay notes, this was a trick played by one of the jokers in that unit. But small world!

I found all that because I found a mention of Franklin as F.W. Van Ness in the story covering the suicide or murder of Graham. They were brothers and, the Burlington Daily News explains, Graham had witnessed the murder of Jack Lingle. This was a huge story in Chicago and Graham was apparently on the run from hitmen. Lingle was a well-to-do reporter … and a friend of Al Capone.

van ness

She said another of Franklin’s brothers was murdered in Texas. And another part of the family features a man who made his money in oil and natural gas before branching out into shipping, real estate and S&Ls and buying the Dallas Cowboys. Some family tree.

All of that, and more, I learned today because of a 115 year-old-photo I published last year.

Jul 14

My neck hurts

It felt weird on Saturday morning after all of that non-sleep I didn’t enjoy in a hotel bed. And it just got a bit worse through the weekend. I spent a few minutes yesterday morning unsure if I could roll out of bed.

All is well, though. It improved later in the day. This morning everything was stiff, but again loosened up into the early evening. So I suppose it is a muscular thing. We’ll see how long this lasts. Until then, hot showers and heating pads, I guess.

We’ll just pass the time with the last three new Weird Al videos. This one was released Saturday, if you missed it:

So we’ve dipped into the social commentary portion of the album, one supposes. This one has stop motion and name dropping. Also, I hear a bit of Southern Culture on the Skids in here:

Finally, this one was released yesterday parodying Crosby, Stills and Nash:

Enjoy the videos. I’m going to sit here and try not to move too quickly.

Jul 14

Melts in the package, disappears

I think every kitchen has them, the cabinets no one ever really opens. When I was a child they were those spaces above the refrigerator. One of my grandmothers has cabinets that are entirely in violation of the feng shui of her kitchen, if she’d ever heard the word when she had the cabinets installed, far off to the right of everything and practically on the porch. My other grandmother, I imagine, has some low cabinets she seldom uses. You likely have some too. Your glasses and plates are over there. Your junk drawer is here, the occasional small appliances are stored just so and of course all of that stuff under the sink. But then there’s the hodgepodge cabinet, the one that you forget about when you lament for more space.

Ours is a left-handed cabinet, in particular the high shelves. Everything else in the kitchen moves to the right, and the spices are in the one next to it so, really, we already have everything we need in life.

But occasionally you need that giant bowl. And that means that occasionally I have to wash it and, later, put it away.

Doing that this evening I found a smaller bowl inside the larger bowls and inside the bowl was a handful of candy.

You’ve been hiding your stash, I said, thinking it was Halloween candy.

“We’ve been hiding that from ourselves and you should probably throw that out,” The Yankee laughed, telling me where we got it, which instantly dated the stuff.

So I ditched most of the stuff, but kept the one that featured the protective candy shell. A perfect dessert! Tear open the bag and receive:


That’s not really a lot of fun, but everyone has a different scale. I’d say it is more Bemused Size.

Things to read … because reading always brings fun or bemusement.

Mighty George Gring is now Cam Newton’s Mom’s favorite football player:

Looking back, it’s prophetic that Clayton and Katherine Gring of Houston nicknamed their oldest son “Mighty George” when he was born.

Maybe it’s his quick sense of humor, or the sparkle in his blue eyes, or his positive attitude. In any case, there’s something about him that naturally draws people to him. “He’s a little bit magnetic that way,” Clayton Gring said of his 6-year-old son.

These lists never include the word “that” or most adjectives. Nevertheless, 10 words to cut from your writing

A relaunch for The New Yorker, with high stakes:

The new site is the largest overhaul of newyorker.com in years, Thompson said. The last redesign, Thompson said, occurred before he switched from the print side to the web, and was little more than a “fairly minor reskinning.”

The current relaunch has been in the works for about a year, Thompson said, and it’s been in intensive development since the magazine brought on Michael Donohoe as Director of Product Engineering in January. Donohoe, who was hired from Atlantic Media’s Quartz, has been working full-time on the new site for the past seven months, Thompson said.

Every post, in Thompson’s opinion, should apply the magazine’s superlative sensibilities at Internet publishing speeds. “We want it to feel like the best-written story you’re going to read,” he said.

Still, the speed of the Internet necessitates some sacrifice. Overall, posts on NewYorker.com are subjected to a less rigorous editing process than magazine articles are.

They’ve got the talent, and they’ve convinced a lot of people on their payroll to shift their thinking, which is a victory of its own. I hope this works out.

Lawmakers passed it. Aviation experts criticized it. The TSA says they didn’t want it: TSA fee on plane tickets more than doubles.

There is some great data here, now we just have to sort it all out and make sense of it. Dollars per student is something of a simplistic metric, I’d think. See which Alabama school systems spend the most — and the least — educating your children:

Public records provided by the Alabama State Department of Education show significant disparities in per-pupil spending between public school systems statewide.

Due to variations in state, federal and local tax funding, the state’s highest spending school district spent $13,084 per student in fiscal 2013 while its lowest spending district spent $7,201 based on average daily attendance.

That’s a difference of 45 percent.

There are some issues of local monies and political will, but, all the same, that’s a huge variance worth addressing.

Tech links:

20 WordPress Plugins You Can Install Today for Easier Sharing, Better Posting, and a More Powerful Blog

Here’s how Facebook pitched brands on buying ‘likes’ in 2011

Facebook adds a ‘buy’ button

And, now, off to the Monday dinner party!

Jul 14

Catching up

The weekly post that fills space with things that haven’t taken up space anywhere else. And since we haven’t had this post in a few weeks, there is a lot of space to take up.

We’ll start with a video from yesterday. The crew at WRBL, the Columbus CBS affiliate, had a truck and camera at the race and streamed the finish line. It rained, and so that changed the gear they used. They put their all-weather camera on their satellite truck in the air and shot the thing. So the video is a bit fuzzy. But there we are, finishing our races:

So the video was compressed and the scenery was damp, but I suppose we have alibis for Saturday morning, should the need arise.

I stopped at the Cracker Barrel in Cullman on the way from here to there recently, which means picking up one of these, which are always delicious:

Had dinner here with family last weekend in Florence. I’d say it is nice neon, but it is new and indoors, which disqualifies the entire thing from the nice neon contest:

See the typo?

I love Whataburger, this one was from Oak Mountain:

Sally Ann brought me a mug back from her trip to Serbia. Isn’t that cute? The city is actually King’s Landing, if you watch Game of Thrones. And it has a neat little spoon, too.

Chinese from M.K.’s tonight:

And our fortunes:

I just realized all of these pictures were about food. Must be a clue. I’m going to go have a snack now. And some tea in my new Dubrovnik mug.

Jul 14

Chattahoochee Challenge

This morning we took part in the Chattahoochee Challenge sprint triathlon, a comparatively easy 500-meter swim, 13-mile ride and 5K run.

The swim is in the Chattahoochee River which, today, offered us the most mild current possible. (Our last two races have been in very quiet water. May the trend continue.) Last year this race was in the middle of the wettest summer a lot of people could remember and we raced down the swim course.

Somehow my time was a few seconds slower, though my swim seemed better. Must have been that current.

The ride is through roads and bike paths and Columbus’ scenic river walk. The race and the city block off an entire lane for most of the road portion, which is very nice. It is mostly flat, which is nice. I didn’t have a flat as I did last year, which was even better. My bike time was naturally much better without the flat, but it should have been better.

The run is through the historic and flat downtown Columbus district. It was during that 5K where I wondered about the wisdom of two triathlons in a row. Last weekend’s was longer, and both demonstrated my poor conditioning. I did meet a nice 50-year-old woman who was celebrating her birthday with her second triathlon. She was having a great run just as I was coming to that conclusion. (Happy birthday, Laura!) And, somehow, my run was two minutes faster than last year, too.

It rained before the race. It stopped raining long enough to get in the water. Someone thought aloud “Wouldn’t it be neat if we had a slide start?” and no one disagreed with them.

Someone should have disagreed.

We stood in line to get in the water for about 90 minutes. The first racers had finished their races while we were standing there bored, cooling down, burning off our morning fuel and feeling feet get achy on cement.

If you have the opportunity to do a slide start to a race: don’t.

This is a good race, but if they have this feature next year I’ll skip it.

It started raining again just as I finished my bike. I caught up with The Yankee during the run. Here we are at the finish line:


And then it rained some more. Everything we took to the race is wet, which is OK, but it made us proud to have left some dry things in our hotel room, and made that shower even better.

Here’s my bike computer after the race. This is my average speed which isn’t bad considering you have to walk your bike both before and after the ride for safety purposes and I was trying to save something in my legs for the run.


I should have pedaled harder. There was nothing in my legs by the end anyway.

As I said: The art, science, skill, talent and philosophy of triathlons is balancing the training and maximizing your minimums. I have no balance and many minimums.

But we had fun. Now we’re going to have ice cream, and rest.