Apr 15

Flipping for gymnastics

Tonight was the NCAA Regional gymnastics meet. There were six teams, with the top two advancing to the NCAA Finals in Texas later this month.

I was going to shoot a whole bunch of video, but the network is less than good and the cell system finds itself lacking whenever there are more than eight phones vying for attention. So I went 20th century and watched the event.

Alabama was the highest ranked team coming into the meet, and they should be. Auburn, ranked eighth in the nation, was the second seed. And those two big teams slugged it out throughout the night. It was never in any real doubt, and, even as Auburn struggled early, they kept pressing Alabama. At the end of the night the two top 10 teams each punched their tickets to Texas.

The Tigers set a school record for an NCAA Regional score – and didn’t even hit all of their routines. Hopefully that is promising as they go forward. Auburn earned their way to the national finals, just their fourth appearance all time and their first since 2003.

Here is one video, quick shots of Bri Guy and Abby Milliet on bars for Auburn.

I shot this on my phone, from across the arena, and edited it in the iPhone iMovie app. I also just discovered that app now has a zoom feature. So that’s shot from across the building and then zoomed in. Not bad, huh?

Nov 14

Students were doing what with email?

There is this giant filing cabinet drawer sitting in one corner of my office. I rescued it some time back from a nearby room. That office space was once the home of Entre Nous, the Samford yearbook. When they moved elsewhere it seemed to become a storage space, mostly forgotten. Finally someone came along and made plans to use it for another department and we were kindly asked to move all of our old stuff out of that room.

So I moved all of our old journalism department things and all of our old newspaper things out of there. It was a multi-day process and helped proved where my time goes.

Anyway, one of the things I discovered in there was this giant drawer of newspaper clippings. Instead of moving it to another storage space I just put it in my space because the clips would be fun and because this joker was heavy.

And now I am going through some of the clips. This was in a folder titled “Computers.” I’ll just leave this here for you to note the dates yourself.

From November of 1979:


From September of 1987:


From December of 1987:


Also from December 1987:


And you could apparently check your email in March of 1988:


I love two tidbits in that last story:

“Students often find creative ways to send messages to friends. Charles Dunlap, a pharmacy major from Tullahoma, Tenn., sometimes sends graphics and computer art through the system.


Although most students feel positive about the use of E-mail, some have expressed complaints that communicating electronically causes some people to avoid one-on-one communication.

So some things are the same, no matter your connection speeds, eh?

The people writing those stories, or pictured in the photographs, are ministers, educators and work in the software industry. Our alumni turn up in all manner of interesting places.

Things to read … because reading takes you to interesting places.

There is this football game this weekend, perhaps you’ve heard of it? Here are three stories looking back on last year’s game. Each has their own merit. One of them is mine. I present them to you in order of importance:

Jon Solomon’s Remembering “Kick Six”

My piece, The Iron Bowl

Thomas Lake’s Looking back at historic Iron Bowl a year later

Solomon’s piece is the one I’d excerpt, but it defies excerpting. If you read one sports piece today, that should be it. It is simply one of the best non-sports-masquerading-as-sports stories you’re likely to read this year. Superb copy. High marks, Jon Solomon, high marks.

Here are a few quick journalism and PR links:

Will be sharing this in class next week, 7 ways to ensure your press release won’t get covered

I wish I had more places to share this, Visual journalism: Virtual reality graphics technology

A one-page photo essay from 2013, still worth seeing, if only for shots 23 and 36, On the Border

One to make you mad, Social worker charged with smoking crack while driving on I-65 with child in car

And three really nice stories to end on. The first one has an aww, an oops and a neighbors-helping-neighbors theme. The second one is a superbly touching kindness of strangers tale and the last one is part of the great Gabby Giffords comeback.

Sheriff’s dive team recovers engagement ring dropped in Noccalula Falls

Former newspaper vendor Charles Graham receives the birthday surprise of a lifetime

Gabby Giffords completes 11-mile bike ride

That sounds like a great ride to me.

Have a nice one today and come back for more tomorrow.

Aug 14

Speaking of …

On my bike ride today, an Alabama fan honked at me three times, because Roll Tide, I guess. But, since it was an Alabama fan, I was really honked at 15 times, wasn’t I?

The SEC Network launched today, with much giddiness and silliness, and football season is around the corner. There will always be Bama jokes, it seems.

Also, on one portion of my ride — which involves a downhill, a turn lane and then an explosion onto a beautiful, freshly paved road — a car pull right out in front of me. The driver panicked. He stopped, filling the entire lane. So he’s perpendicular to traffic, me, because he is no longer making his left turn.

Bikes are agile, but they don’t exactly stop on a dime. The emergency stop, as it were, is to burn up your brakes, slip off the saddle and put your body behind the seat tube. This shifts the mass, and slows things down, but doesn’t mean you’re stopped. Also, I find, it is hard to unclip when you’re behind the seat, so there’s not really a graceful way to put your foot down and burn up your shoes.

Instead of turning, as I’m trying to stop, he’s waving me through, to pass across the front of his car, into the oncoming lane.

This would have been so much better if he’d just looked to his left before he tried to turn to his left.

Later, on the TT segment, I tried to best yesterday’s time. I fairly well buried myself, dropped two other cyclists and improved my time from 9:34 to 9:03. That moved me from seventh to fourth for the year. The leader sits on top with a time of 8:35. I’m not sure if I can find 28 more seconds to shave off that time. Something to shoot for, I guess.

Speaking of cycling, here’s one last incredible Robin Williams story. Famed designer Dario Pegoretti, fighting lymphoma, met Robin Williams at a convention:

“He talked to me about my situation, and gave me a lot of strength,” Dario Pegoretti said from Italy on Wednesday.

At dinner, the virtuoso comic actor and the virtuoso frame-builder talked about bikes, but they also talked about things besides bikes. Williams spoke a little Italian, and his Italian was pretty good. He recalled his visits to Rome, about once meeting Fellini. To everyone’s delight, by the end of the night, he also did an extended Pegoretti impression for the table.

“I was just rolling on the floor,” said one of the dinner guests, Nelson Frazier, a rep for Gita. “It’s the only time I’ve seen Dario pretty much speechless.”

“It was really a beautiful night,” Pegoretti said. “I have so many beautiful memories.”

And speaking of the SEC Network:

Consider the SEC Network as indirect pay-per-view for college football games involving your favorite team.


According to Sports Business Journal, the network will cost cable companies $1.40 per subscriber in states inside the SEC footprint. If you live outside that footprint, the cost is only 25 cents per subscriber.

If the SBJ report is correct, then the SEC Network could be the third most expensive channel for local viewers. Figures from the Wall Street Journal show ESPN ($6.04) and TNT ($1.48) are the only ones that would charge more.

Right now? No one cares. Football.

Apr 14

Three dead in Alabama storms

Two were killed in Limestone County, in north Alabama.

One died in Tuscaloosa, in west Alabama. The location wasn’t in the direct path of a tornado, nevertheless a college student died saving his girlfriend. He held up a retaining wall, a wall, so she could get out of the way.

Greater love hath no man than this.

That story … I look at my students and picture this and it is deeply, emotionally hard to conceive. And because of it we are now finding out about how a seemingly incredible young man lived through his last, selfless act. It is most assuredly a moving, tragic, and chivalrous tale. You can’t imagine what his family must be feeling. For his mother to stand in front of his friends the next day and say things like that. What a lady. Maybe that’s where John Servati got his character from. Maybe it will remain an inspiration to us.

Meanwhile the local media, after marathon coverage last night, is getting ready for another round this evening. (Update: The weather wimped out here, but the Gulf Coast got walloped with rain. The flooding they received, feet of it in places — helped lessen the energy in the atmosphere that was expected to feed into more potentially dangerous weather here.) And one of our other best assets, the hardworking line crews at Alabama Power, are out in their trucks and they will work until the work is done. They’d restored power to 80,000 customers before noon today. They never get enough credit, so here’s a dollop more.

The pictures rolled in. The house fires, the wide flooding in some locations, the home that had a roof blown off by lightning.

And, these days, there is drone footage. I need a drone.

I grew up just a few minutes from there. Also, I need a drone.

Other stories give us a sense of the wide range of the tornado outbreak. And perspective:

John L. Johnson said the couple lives with their daughter. During the storm, the family huddled in the downstairs hallway with John L. covering his daughter and wife.

While their house, which recently received new siding and a roof following last year’s hail storm, is considered destroyed by the American Red Cross, Ruth Johnson said she can’t help but feel lucky.

“You can’t get angry at mother nature,” said Johnson. “My family is alive. I feel blessed.”

Apr 14

Copeland Cookie Day

Today was Copeland Cookie Day in my class. This is Dr. Copeland:


He was my first professor in the doctoral program at Alabama. He served on my comps committee and was always full of great jokes and good advice. Not too long after he was on my committee, and just after his retirement, he died. Dr. Copeland was a giant sweet-hearted man. There’s a group on Facebook that is still growing long after his death, which probably says a lot in the modern context.

He always did a lot for his grad students. He’d take them out one night for drinks. He gave them tickets to the pancake breakfast his Kiwanis chapter ran. He’d take one class and bring cookies and put away the syllabus. He’d just talk about whatever seemed important: conferences, papers, dealing with colleagues. You could have viewed it as a night the guy didn’t want to teach. In time, I think, we came to realize that a lot of the most important things we learned came from there.

So that’s why I have a Copeland Cookie Day every semester. I bring in snacks, put aside the plans and just talk about industry, courses, war stories, whatever. Today was Copeland Cookie Day. These are all that remain:


The students always agree, after I tell about the man, that Dr. Copeland must have been a good man. They are right. His students knew it too. That Emmy was won by one of his former students. Instead of displaying that in his home or office, or giving it to his parents, he brought it to Dr. Copeland. There are at least a half dozen Copeland Cookie Days going on around the region this semester. I just thought you should know.