Auburn


17
Nov 22

We only go back a century in this post

We have rapidly moved straight on into holiday mode. It was a sneaky and sudden shift this year. I was wondering how these Dickensian commercials made it into the breaks of football games, and then looked at the calendar. That was surprising. Well, time means nothing anymore, and the weather has, until just last week, been unseasonable.

But I receive a monthly email from the thermostat people. This is our one publicly acknowledged concession to having a smart home, connecting a remotely programmable thermostat to our domicile. It is useful when traveling. But the downside is the emails. The upside to the email is that, once a month, we receive a basic summary of our heat and A/C use. For instance, the heat was up a little bit in October, compared to last year, but the air conditioning was drastically lower.

Also, and this may just be copy holder for all I know, I haven’t consulted the National Weather Service here, the email says our average temperatures in October 2022 were 6° cooler than October 2021. The average high three degrees lower, the average low 44 in 2022, compared to 54 in 2021. So much for the late warmth confusing my knowledge of the seasons.

Enjoy, then, this brand new conspiracy theory that I’m hatching with every keystroke before your eyes: Something about vaccines and wearing masks are altering my perceptions of days.

There aren’t a lot of mask wearers around anymore, are there? Despite, well, you know.

Holiday mode is upon us. We are having guests next week and trying to put a thing or two into an itinerary, such as can be had. I am setting the over-under on trips to the grocery store, from next Sunday to the following Saturday at four.

This means I’m also counting the hours until a few days off work. And, judging by my inbox, everyone else is, too. It’s a delightful thing, the unacknowledged and entirely unified feeling of we’re all just waiting … until … And there’s some solidarity involved in that too. Everyone is looking at different dates. My Thanksgiving begins tomorrow. Some people will push through a few days next week. I’ll be thinking of you while I’m doing my level best to not think of work.

My contribution to the cause today was this. I canceled some things. I reminded some people of something two weeks out. I scheduled a few programs for two and three weeks away. I found myself in a series of tedious emails that will be resolved next week, when I won’t be here. (And saying they were tedious is not a criticism. The tedium was mostly my doing.)

This evening I donned long pants and a long shirt and gloves and ear muffs and a headlamp and ran two miles in the brisk cold and snow flurries. It wasn’t a personal best, but I wasted little time getting that down. Then I sat in the garage and sanded wood for almost three hours. A few more hours of sanding and the longest running project in the history of woodworking will be ready for a dry fit. Saturday, then. I had dinner at 10 p.m., and am planning on reading myself to sleep.

But only after this.

Some unsung hero(es) at the university library has collected and preserved and digitized some ancient newsprint. It makes for a fun few minutes and, now and again, we’re going to dive into some old random stuff from the alma mater. Why should these bits of history exist in only one corner of the internet? If I can’t be there, I may as well bring imagine something now generations past. This is The Plainsman, 100 years ago today.

Remember last year! Centre is Centre College of Danville, Kentucky. It was already 100 years old by this point, and that previous year, 1921, the Colonels whipped up on a young Auburn team, 21-0. No one had forgotten. They all remembered.

Frank McLean Stewart, college student.

Stewart, having gained hard-earned insight from that choice, shared his wisdom with others before graduating with the class of 1923 with a degree in agricultural science.

He became a field rep for the American Cotton Association, then worked for Belle Meade Butter Company before becoming a dairy farmer. He spent a decade as the executive secretary of the Alabama State Milk Control Board and left there to work for the War Food Administration late and just after World War II. In the 1950s he became the state’s commissioner of agriculture.

I wonder how many times he told that story when he was a younger man.

I’m always struck by how ads in smaller parts of the country, for the longest time, didn’t even bother with addresses. Just get to our town. Ask around, someone will tell you how to find The Cricketeria. (I see references online to the Cricket Tea Room through at least the 1930s, but that’s where the trail stops. Similarly, I found William Abbott, born during the Civil War, died, next door in Opelika, just before World War II. He came from a family of photographers.)

I don’t know that I’ve ever run across anything about this ice cream parlor. But everyone knows Toomer’s. Back then, of course, it was an actual drug store. Today, many owners later, it’s a busy gift shop. Same name, same corner.

This was another drug store. At one time, in a walk of two or three blocks you could hit five drug stores. Sign of the times, one supposes.

What do you suppose they’re implying with these quote marks?

Remember, this is 1922. The technology was ascendant. It would have been farther along, but the government stepped in during the Great War and took over the airwaves as a matter of national security. You could study radio, the engineering and broadcasting elements of it, that is, and it was understood to be a military endeavor at the time. Radio at Auburn has a big history. I’ve written about it a bit here, you’ll see a bit more on the subject … right now.

This is the next issue of the paper next one in the collection is from about two weeks later, Nov. 29, 1922. Since we’re here we may as well breeze through it. (Oh, and, yes, Auburn avenged the loss to Center. It was a 6-0 game, the Tigers mauled ’em. Every bit of overwriting possible was used to describe the game. We’ll skip most of that here.)

It’s about time radio did it’s part! Remember, this is 1922, so all of this is an incredible step into the modern age.

On page 4 — it’s a four-page newspaper — there’s a long column that turns this into a process story. They’d just gone through some upgrades and expansions. Now 5XA and WMAV boasted four radio telegraph sets. More technology was coming, but by the time you read this in the paper they were already at 500 watts. Not so much these days, but that was a huge range considering there was less interference in the atmosphere. The paper in Birmingham — the publisher was on the university’s Board — had donated a radio phone, so they had the strongest setup in the South. They would soon be able to get weather reports directly from Washington. All of this led to WAPI, which was a station I had the great honor to broadcast on for a year or so.

The more things change …

It’s easy to take water out of the faucet for granted, if you have it. It’s easy to laugh at a time when you couldn’t take it for granted. It must have been some kind of experience to have lived in that time in between. I assume this is part of that time.

The guy that wrote the above, Reid Boylston Barnes, Itchy to his college friends, was born in 1903, went to law school, and eventually entered the U.S. Army as a captain during World War II, serving in the military judicial system.

He mustered out a lieutenant colonel and continued on his path of becoming something of a legal giant. He died in 1984. He saw some changes in his life. Including …

I was not aware that this was a thing … nice to see some humor in an old newspaper ad, though.

Speaking of literary societies … I wonder how popular they are these days.

This really takes you back.

Maybe I should keep that one. It could be recycled every term, for any generation of college student!


7
Nov 22

Twelve hundred more rambly words

Do you have a case of the Mondays? Well, we’ve got a solution to that: the workweek is 20 percent over! You’ve built momentum! You’re going to spend Tuesday around the water cooler exchanging voting booth stories, anyway. And Wednesday doesn’t matter because you’ll be thinking, all day, about how you can wrap up your week on Thursday. And then Friday, well, that’s Friday, plus you need to devote a few minutes to how you’re planning to burn the rest of your vacation time before the end of the year because you didn’t use it all, again, because This work-life balance thing is a nice concept, but who has the time? Did you see how this week flew by?

So we’ve got that going for us.

And if that isn’t enough, we have our regular weekly feature, the most popular and talked about feature from this site, and this corner of the web, if not the western world’s entire Internet, the Monday check in with the kitties.

I have to carry my phone around at all times on the off chance that I catch one of them doing something quirky or, even better, some way to get the rare composition that features both of them. This is my tether to the modern world, and that’s the story I’m sticking with, but, sometimes, the photos are worth it.

Poseidon has had enough of this week already. And if you think you’ve had a Monday, he made this decision on Saturday night.

Phoebe spent part of the weekend helping me read.

Which gives us a an easy transition.

I used the extra hour Saturday night to finish Andrew Ritchie‘s 1988 biography, Major Taylor: The Extraordinary Career of a Champion Bicycle Racer. Major Taylor was a turn-of-the-century bike racer, and was regarded as the fastest man in the world. The thousands that came to see him race in the U.S., Europe and Australia understood speed with a different perspective than you do, perhaps, it was a time before people knew what an airplane was, or understood what cars would become. Taylor, his bike, and his rivals, were the high performance machines of their day. And also, of course, he was the victim of the racism of the time. Despite those challenges, Ritchie has him well regarded by fans, hailed as a hero abroad, and on par with, or easily superior to, everyone who got on a bike opposite him. The term world champion was perhaps a bit looser back then compared to what you might see from the official UCI World Championships today, but he established seven world records, and beat all the prime racers, all of ’em, the world had to offer. Mayor Taylor was a world champion, and that was his place in the world as a young man, and in a time when George Dixon (Canada) was the only other world champion of any sport (boxing). Taylor was an almost singular star.

It’s a great shame that he’s only nominally known by modern audiences. There are bike clubs across this country bearing his name, today, and his adopted hometown of Worcester, Massachusetts celebrates him and there’s a velodrome in his hometown of Indianapolis named in his honor, but he doesn’t seem to enjoy the household, iconic name status many early superlative athletes have. You’ll say, “He was a cyclist,” but consider: he was a star at the peak of the cycling boom in this country, when college basketball was an infant, the NBA was decades away, football looked more like rugby and baseball was just exiting its juvenile delinquent stage. Bike racing was a spectacle and he was the most famous athlete in the world. Thousands would come see him. People paid to watch him do practice laps. It was a phenomenon. He was a phenomenon.

He retired in his early 30s, had some failed business dealings trying to cash in on the early days of automobile innovation, and then a series of other failures. And we’ll let Ritchie share the next few paragraphs.

Ritchie interviewed Taylor’s daughter, an elderly woman by then. The family had fallen apart in a sad way, but this is an amazing bit of character study. It’s clear she’s spent a lot of time thinking of how to explain her late estranged father. Reading this, I am equally interested in what she had to say, but also in the art of Ritchie’s interview with her.

After he and his wife separated, she moved away with their daughter. He left Massachusetts, a proud, determined man. He’d lived there for 25 years, but had to sell his large house. So he was trying, hat-in-hand, to sell his autobiography. (Ritchie, while even-handed and, at times glowing, about Major Taylor, is fairly critical of his autobiography.) He took a room at a YMCA in Chicago, stayed there for a time, had a heart attack in 1932 and died just a few months later, close to penniless and essentially alone.

I noticed that Ritchie stopped updating his WordPress site in 2014. There is another famous Andrew Ritchie in the cycling world, and so I did a bit more searching to see what had become of him, until I found this memorial, of sorts. He’d had heart trouble for years, and some financial difficulties of his own. But this is the part I want to remember.

On the night of Thursday 12th August (2021) he went out into the Cornish countryside to observe the Perseid meteor shower: probably his last moments were spent gazing at the heavens.

Sometimes it is important for the innocuous assumption to stick.

Also, I started Rick Atkinson’s The British Are Coming. Atkinson has won three Pulitzers and a few shelves full of other prominent literary and historical awards over the course of his prolific career. His trilogy on World War II was an incredible experience. I expect the same for this series. Volume one came out in 2020, no idea when the next ones are out, but I’m through the 30-page prologue, and I’m hooked.

I love when Atkinson writes like this.

That’s four paragraphs on two pages and it paints a rich portrait of, in this case, what was unknown. I bet it took weeks to pull those facts together, shape them into this order and edit them to that level of concision and in his typical narrative style.

I have 530 more pages of this to enjoy here.

It was an amazing day, yesterday. Here we are, November, and 67 degrees. You could do a lot of things with an opportunity like that. I, of course, went for a bike ride.

This was a lovely 32-miler. Maybe I can get one or two more in this week, before the weather turns. Already I’ve been outdoors longer this year than last, so I have that going for me. The question is how many more open-road miles I can add because, soon, all of my miles will be trainer miles. That yields to the more pressing question will become how close I can get to setting a new personal best in annual mileage.

So come back for that! And other things! Like books! And music! And come back tomorrow tomorrow! I’ll write about a run and election day fun!


28
Jul 22

2×𝑚×𝑣2 + 𝑚×𝑔×ℎ = What, exactly?

I had four meetings today. The first was scheduled for me in advance. The second was scheduled for me while I was in the first meeting. Everyone knew about it, it seems, except for me. (Everyone knows more about me than me.) The third and fourth were spontaneous meetings of opportunity.

I was in no condition for any of these meetings, I think. So if my charm or humor or good answers or input were off by six percent, I apologize. I apologize and I blame the big tour I gave yesterday, an event from which I am still recovering.

Not sure how I became the tour guy, but I’m the tour guy.

I saw this bunny this morning. He is perfectly evolved to blend in with the cement. That’s an amazing summer coat, if you ask me.

The bunnies have the most curious sense of personal space. You’re fine in their eyes until you get about 18 inches away, and only then do they do the rabbit thing. Makes you wonder about how that comes to be learned. I bet each one has an experience, learning when to hop away. It’s a valuable lesson. One learned, I hope, in a not-too-painful way.2×𝑚×𝑣2

I looked through some old books today. There’s often a table of books someone is willing to donate. You can pick your way through them and, if for nothing else, it is a nice momentary diversion to read the spines. I picked up one for my lovely bride, and grabbed one or two for me, as well. Not this one. There are only so many writing handbooks I can process.

But this one fits in your pocket!

Does it? Which pocket?

Or maybe your hand!

Well, sure. Most books these days do come with the ability to be manually manipulated.

And we sprung for the spiral binding!

That’s not the selling point you think it is.

Sure it is! You can distinguish it in your bookcase!

I can’t read the non-existent spine, to see if it is the book I need to pull.

But it has this wire spiral! Easy to find!

What if someone already has that in a book.

Who would have another book like that?

I have nine of them in my office bookcase alone.

Oh? Wow. Well, this one is a writing style guide!

Seven of the nine I have in my bookcase have to do with writing or style.

And you still write like this?

Look, fictional book seller —

Fictional book giver-awayer.

Fine, whatever. You’re not really making a strong case here.

I was able to make a 2010 joke this evening, which meant I needed a 2010 photo.

Turns out the specific photo was from 2011, but it fit the point perfectly. My confusion of the date of the particular photo gave me an excuse to spend a few minutes clicking through old photos of happy times, so that was a nice part of the evening.

Also tonight, we discovered the joys of grilled wings, with nothing more than a simple salt and pepper seasoning. We bought a lot of wings, recently, and we’ll probably be returning to this style. I mention it because they were good, and you should know, and we can all want some more wings together.


17
May 22

Let’s go back in time

Ten years ago I took this photograph, and published it on my Tumblr site. (Remember those?) This is the agapanthus, the African lily. From the Greek agape (love) + anthos (flower).

The plant is believed to have a hemolytic poison and can cause ulceration of the mouth. It does have other medicinal properties, however. There are about 10 species in the genus.

(Haven’t put anything on that Tumblr since November 2014. I wonder why? Probably just rightly remembered I should put everything here.)

Nine years ago I was at a baseball game, and the good guys won. We found our friend watching from a nearby parking deck.

(Happy times!)

Eight years ago we ran a triathlon in the morning, and watched a baseball game in the afternoon. (Good guys lost.) And I got Aubie to take a selfie on my camera.

(Happy times!)

Seven years ago we ran a 10K. I did it in brand new shoes.

This was a fundraiser in London, and on part of the route we ran around Wembley Stadium. The guy that won the race was an Egyptian Olympian. He lapped us. It was amazing to watch him run. He could not stick around to get his medal, they said, because he ran off to run another race. Long distance runners, man.

But look at this awesome bling!

(The next day we were in Paris. It was a whirlwind.)

Six years ago, plus one day …

I’ve never been able to eat watermelon without thinking about that. And I can’t eat watermelon without being a bit sad. Had some this morning, in fact.

Five years ago, boy, I was right about this one.

Four years ago, we were in Tuscany, specifically, Siena, and just one of the beautiful things we visited that day was the Duomo di Siena. In the 12th century the earliest version of this building starting hosting services, but there’d been a church on this spot for centuries by then. The oldest bell in the church was cast in 1149! These beautiful facades started appearing in the 1200s.

That was a grand trip. We’d do that one again, I’m sure.

Three years ago, the 17th was a Saturday, and we went on an easy bike ride.

Two years ago I apparently sat around and thought of little more than Covid. Remember the pandemic?

And last year at this time I was recovering from my first long drive in a year. We’d just come back from visiting my vaccinated family members. It had been my first drive out of the county in more than a year. It took a day or two to recover.

I did have a reason to re-use this gif, however.

The guy on the left is a sports director at a television station in Illinois now. The guy on the right is a 2L at a Washington D.C. law school. (We’re all going to work for one of them one day, I’m sure.)

So a bit of everything on this day in the last decade.


5
May 22

A light day

Ever get fundraising letters and emails from your alma mater(s)? This 1922 copy circulated in newspapers around Alabama, a sad story that came from one of my alma maters, and it is more impactful than all of those donation letters.

This was part of an important campaign for my alma mater. Auburn was in a deep economic hole compared to the other schools in the state, which had been uniquely successful in creating a deep economic hole for all of its schools anyway. So all that spring of 1922 they prepared for this campaign that they hoped would raise $1 million dollars which would equal … quite a few more million these days.

It was a substantial ask, am ambitious plan and, if you’d be willing to listen to the whole of the tale I can draw a pretty clear line between that campaign and the institutional politics that still appear there, 100 years on.

Ralph Boyd appears in the papers one time before this syndicated piece, in a small brief about his death in Montgomery that February. His last surviving sibling passed away in 2017.

And here he is the year before, somewhere in this group photograph from the 1921 Glomerata, the university’s yearbook.

In the 1922 yearbook there’s a mention of the Greater Auburn campaign. They called it the greatest thing Auburn had ever undertaken. But there doesn’t seem to be a mention of young Ralph Boyd in that edition.

So there’s not much here today, but I did run across that, which is really an excuse to share the greatest century-old graphic you’ve ever seen.

That’s recyclable, is all I’m saying. It’s also amusing that they were using the Auburn name in the university’s campaign efforts, a formal usage if you will, decades before they changed the institution’s name.

Something a little fun … Penn & Teller!

And something amazing … The Punch Brothers!

More tomorrow, I assure you.