Jul 14

One does not simply tempt the sun

I don’t know what you were doing two years and two days ago, but I was having killer headaches and singing the praises of ice cream therapy.

Also, we dodged a solar bullet. How a solar storm two years ago nearly caused a catastrophe on Earth:

On July 23, 2012, the sun unleashed two massive clouds of plasma that barely missed a catastrophic encounter with the Earth’s atmosphere. These plasma clouds, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), comprised a solar storm thought to be the most powerful in at least 150 years.

“If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces,” physicist Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado tells NASA.
Fortunately, the blast site of the CMEs was not directed at Earth. Had this event occurred a week earlier when the point of eruption was Earth-facing, a potentially disastrous outcome would have unfolded.

“I have come away from our recent studies more convinced than ever that Earth and its inhabitants were incredibly fortunate that the 2012 eruption happened when it did,” Baker tells NASA. “If the eruption had occurred only one week earlier, Earth would have been in the line of fire.”

Who knew?

Rode my bike for the first time since the race last weekend. I needed a little break, I took too long of a break. So today I just pedaled through the neighborhood and then up and down the time trial course and over the back of the big hill, mostly mad at myself for being off my bike for so long.

It is always that way. I’m never disappointed in a ride, but I always regret not going.

It wiped me out, though, which was predictable and sad at the same time. I could have gone for a few laps in the pool, but I had no energy. My diet has been off, I think, because there is always something, or two things, that can be done incorrectly at any given time.

He said, while eating sliders for dinner with friends.

We went to visit Kim and Murphy. We took cupcakes, they made delicious tiny burgers. We watched QVC and no one really seemed to know why. But I can tell you all about the luxury deluxe makeup organizer. It comes in your choice of one of three colors and can hold 30 of your favorite lipsticks at a time!

I should have applied for a job at QVC years ago, surely.

Do you like blooper? Everyone likes bloopers. These were a bit difficult for me to wrap my mind around, because the show is so often grim, but here are what are apparently rare Game of Thrones bloopers:

Dear Internet: Let’s make a pact. If you embed every YouTube video that you find interesting, and I embed every YouTube video that I think you’ll find interesting, we’ll never have to go to the actual YouTube page and read those comments.

Hope you are planning a wonderful, comment-free weekend.

Jul 14

Samford is shoeing an entire nation

I work with special people in an amazing place. Here is what some of them have been doing recently. Watching this was the best three minutes of my day:

That’s an amazing project, built by incredible people.

The rest of my day felt a bit bleh. My neck still hurts and I had a general odd, off feeling. In the late afternoon The Yankee, Kim and Murphy and I all went for a run. Started feeling better right away.

So I suppose my few days rest are over. Thank goodness.

Things to read … because that’s just about all I have for you today, but there are a lot of things to read.

Rabbit returned to Opelika couple after seven years:

Marilyn McCarley had planted a colorful flower bed around the rabbits shortly before Mack went missing.

“Whoever got it came in and got the rabbit. … They didn’t stomp the flowers,” she said. “…They’re cement, you know. So they’re really heavy. We never thought in a million years we would see that rabbit again.”

While Mack was missing, Clyde McCarley drove around town, checking area lawns to see if Mack had found his way there.

“I can tell you every house that has a rabbit,” he said. For years, the McCarleys decorated just one rabbit for Christmas and Easter.

This would be great fun to ride, I’m sure. Europe Wants To Turn The Iron Curtain Into A Bike Path:

The Iron Curtain, once the ominous line dividing Cold War-era rivals, is being transformed into a 4,225-mile cycling trail for recreational travelers.

European Union officials interested in boosting bike tourism have set aside $2.4 million to connect and brand existing trails that extend from the Barents Sea, north of the border between Finland and Russia, to the edge of the Black Sea, at the border between Bulgaria and Turkey. Sections of trail already pass by popular historic sites like the remnants of the Berlin Wall.

Here’s a brochure on the whole thing.

Scholars hope a two-year exploration will help find the site of an epic Alabama battle:

On a muggy Memorial Day, in a remote clearing near the Alabama River, three of the state’s most eminent anthropologists and one of the state’s best-known historians huddle around a hand-drawn map they hope can take them a few steps nearer to finding one of the most significant historic sites in North America.

On Oct. 18, 1540, an armed force led by Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto clashed with Indian warriors led by the famed chieftain Tascalusa. The ferocious encounter decimated Tascalusa’s people and left the fortified Indian village in ruins. But it also proved to be a fatal blow to De Soto’s expedition. Severely weakened, De Soto led his battle-scarred troops deeper into the unmapped continent. He would not survive, and the remnants of his army were ultimately forced to find their way back to the relative safety of Mexico.

And now for a few quick links of interest:

Maxwell Air Force Base could be used to house thousands of immigrant children

Teens make up less of summer workforce than ever

Prosecutors Are Reading Emails From Inmates to Lawyers

Twitter Is Changing How the Media Covers the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Time.com’s bounce rate down 15 percentage points since adopting continuous scroll

How 4 Photo Editors Are Using Instagram

Finally, some music. This is the first track from Guster’s forthcoming album:

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!