Jan 15

Things I’ve received

I got a pair of broken glasses in November and an eye appointment two weeks ago to replace them. Ignored at that doctor’s office, I made a new appointment, today, with another eye doctor.

I got my appointment rescheduled earlier this week. Seems the doctor didn’t want to come back to the office after lunch. So this morning, then, I waited 75 minutes to meet the doctor. I got this picture of the chart while I waited. I zoomed in on my camera phone, and then zoomed in on the picture so I could read them. When the doctor did come in he managed to not introduce himself.


I got into a long debate with this new doctor because he somehow ascertained that his machine told him a radically off result for my vision. That meant a lecture by the doctor because, I think, he somehow assumed that this error was something I was advocating. We followed that up with the pleasure of someone sticking their fingers in my eyes.

And I got a trial pair of contacts and the persistent sensation that something is in my eye. Perhaps because something was in my eye. Even now, with them out, and maybe I did that right, it feels like there’s something in my eye. Also, so far, I find that putting them in is easier than taking them out.

I’m still not sure what all of the letters are on the last line.

I got the perverse pleasure of watching my 16-gallon gas tank fill up beyond 16 gallons. Coasted in again. And I received the joy of filling up for less than $40, which was great after the expense of the eye test.

I got a very average haircut from a stylist perfectly uninterested in small talk. The extent of it was pointing out the cowlicks.

And, tonight, we got to have dinner with Mae Margaret, an old Auburn friend.

Dec 14

Where I amend my reindeer antler policy

Enjoy the Glomerata post I put up earlier today? Have you been checking out the Battle of the Bulge map posts? I’ve got about two more weeks of those, tracing my great-grandfather’s time in Europe.

I woke up this morning and did one of my favorite things, which is sit with breakfast, or tea or both, and read. I got a lot of reading in this morning and then we did some paperwork errands this afternoon.

I drove The Yankee to Target and she picked up two shirts. We walked down the street to a store called Ulta, which is not missing an R from the sign. I’m not sure I knew this store existed until this afternoon, but then I’m so rarely on the cosmetics market these days.

We picked up grain and sourdough bread at the grocery store. I remembered we needed some eggs, so I hustled to the back corner and got the six-pack container. The first one I opened had a busted egg, which reminded me of my best poultry story. I told it to my lovely wife and the cashier at the front of the store. One of them found it funnier than the other, but they both smiled politely.

We saw this car. Now, ordinarily, I’m not a fan of the reindeer antlers, but I’m willing to change this stance. The rule now is this: if you put those things in your windows, you must commit to the giant red nose on the hood of your car.

Red Nosed Mercedes

We had a dinner guest tonight, one of our sweet friends who brought a soup and stayed for brownies and a movie and uses the word “assuaged” correctly. It was a lovely evening.

Things to read

I remember waking up on this December morning in a full sweat. It was unseasonably warm. That afternoon we watched the F-4 tornado ravage Tuscaloosa, just 35 miles away, on television. That night, up the road in Birmingham, I drove home under the largest snowflakes I’ve ever seen in the South. It was a tragic and weird day. Celebration Of A Life Saved

Many of your remember this remarkable photo by Michael E. Palmer that was in the Tuscaloosa News, the day after the December 16, 2000 EF-4 tornado that killed 11 people. Michael Harris carries an unconscious Whitney Crowder, 6, through debris in Bear Creek Trailer Park after the tornado passed through. Whitney’s father and 15-month-old brother were killed in the tornado.

That post is two years old, when young Whitney was graduating from high school. It was a nice bookend to that tale.

So these two guys are political activists. They represent different parties and they are brothers. They were on C-SPAN to promote this documentary about the weird dynamic all of that creates. They got into a political name-calling debate and then the show started taking phone calls. Then … well, just watch and see:

This is worth a read. Former AP Reporter: I Didn’t Leave Journalism, It Left Me

A journalist for more than 40 years, Mark Lavie was based in Jerusalem for most of them and then in Cairo for two – during the “Egyptian Revolution.”

Lavie is no longer a journalist.

But he didn’t leave the profession, “it left me,” Lavie says.

Now Lavie is speaking out in as many fora as possible. He seeks to alert the public about the dramatic difference between what journalism used to be – and still pretends to be – and what it actually is.

Meanwhile, in Sweden, Advertisers Will Pay Up To 40% More For TV Sponsorship Deals Linked To Social Media, Says TV4

“It means that we need to work with story-telling on digital platforms, and that we need to engage and potentially also reward our users,” she said. “This is obviously very interesting for us, both from our perspective, and also from a commercial perspective, in terms of what we can offer our advertisers on these platforms.”

Lundell said that TV4’s experiments with extending linear TV formats into the social media sphere had shown that “you need to pay more than for ordinary sponsorship – and advertisers are prepared to do that. So, yes, we’re making money.”

The first thing I thought when she said “work with story-telling on digital platforms” was wondering why plots of scripted shows aren’t continued on other platforms. You already see supplemental webisodes of some of your more engaged shows, why not story arcs on Instagram?

First there was ESPN, the movie channels, last month it was CBS and now … Up To Speed: NBC to jump into live-streaming

This is solid. 5 tips for streaming live video from a smartphone

Livestreaming video from a mobile phone is a way for journalists to get footage which may not be possible to film with more traditional broadcast equipment.

“There are sometimes these stories where you don’t want a big camera crew, you want to try and keep a relatively low profile, in riots, in public disorder, or in places where you need to be sensitive,” Sky News correspondent Nick Martin told

“You can use that technology which is smaller and more compact to still get what you want to, but not [have] all the big crew considerations that we have.”

Media organisations such as ABC News have also started looking at mobile livestreaming as a developing part of their video programming.

For journalists who want to incorporate video streaming into their work …

As I told a colleague this evening, within the next year or two we’ll likely say if you’re not doing video with almost everything, you’re going to find yourself behind.

That’s why I spent the better part of my Saturday night building up video templates for future projects.

Dec 14

Why I’m still wearing broken glasses

Before Thanksgiving I broke my glasses. There was a wire bookshelf thing in the newsroom, it fell and a bundle of newspapers landed on my nose. Somehow the arm of the wire frame snapped off right at the lens.

Life, being so busy, meant that I could finally this week get an appointment to go get new glasses or contacts — which I was due for anyway. So I booked that appointment on Monday. That appointment was today.

I drove over, parked, walked in, announced I was there for my 1:15 and was directed to sit down. I sat down.

For the next 65 minutes I watched people come in, sit down, get called back and take their appointment. For 65 minutes I did this. And then I left. That was better than trying to express how off putting the entire situation felt. There are, after all, other eye doctors in town.

Smith’s Rule of Business: Don’t make it hard for me to spend my money with you.

And so I now have an appointment on New Year’s Eve, at a different eye doctor.

Things to read … because I can see up close just fine, thank you.

How newspapers lost the Millennials:

The inability of newspapers to resonate with digital natives has left them with a daunting demographic challenge. Two-thirds of the audience at the typical newspaper is composed of people over the age of 55, according to Greg Harmon of Borrell Associates. “The newspaper audience ages another year every year,” he adds. “Everyone’s hair ought to be on fire.”

As the newspaper audience grays, the readers that newspapers – and most of their advertisers – would like to have are, instead, busily racking up page views at places like BuzzFeed, Circa, Mic, Upworthy, Vice, Vocative and Vox.

(I)t is easy to see that publishers and editors have a higher regard for their products than the next-gen consumers they need to attract. Now, the only question remaining is whether newspaper folk have the gumption – and time – to turn things around.

‘Experiential Journalism:’ How Virtual Reality Could Depict News in 3D:

The news industry is currently grappling with a challenging problem: How can it make news interesting to the younger generation?

Virtual reality offers one solution: Strap them in vision-encompassing helmets and let them experience the news like a video game.

This is about three kinds of silly. Google axes News in Spain in response to royalty law

We’ll let our old friend and colleague Jeff Jarvis take it from here. Spain’s link tax forces Google News to shut there:

Thus a link tax intended to protect Spain’s publishers will only end up harming them — depriving them of untold audience — and could even end up killing the weakest among them. Spain will also bring damage to the web itself and to the country’s reputation, establishing itself as a hostile environment for investment in technology.

Be careful what you wish for, you old, threatened institutions of media and government, huddling together against the cold wind of the new.

A lesser thing is that it helps diminish the spread of information, but that’s most likely a tertiary concern here.

3 Steps to Leveraging Storytelling in Your Presentations:

We no longer want to be lulled to sleep by complicated graphs and bullet points. We expect to be excited, challenged and to reflect on our own experiences. And you can do that many times with the use of stories.

Here’s how you can harness your own personal stories and use them to touch your audience the next time you present.

That’s a fine essay from SlideShare. Click on over.

For a different kind of thing, Storytelling on the Radio Builds Community, On-Air and Off:

What separates radio documentary from any documentary? And what separates public radio journalism from any journalism?

Radio gets inside us. Lacking earlids, we are defenseless, vulnerable to ambush. Sounds and voices surprise us from within. As radio documentary makers, we have this tactical advantage over our colleagues in print, film, television, photography. Our tool is aural story, the most primitive and powerful. Invisibility is our friend. Prejudice is suspended while the listener is blind, only listening.

This is a great read. Just after her retirement from ABC, Ann Compton offers a great look back from her ringside seat for some of our most important recent history. I Spent 40 Years Covering the White House:

I retired from ABC News on September 10, 41 years to the day after I arrived as a network correspondent in 1973. Back then, the Cold War was hot, the Middle East was in flames and Watergate was coming to a boil. When Richard M. Nixon finally resigned to avoid impeachment the following year, the president of ABC News in New York deployed me, his youngest recruit, to the White House beat. No network had ever assigned a woman there, and coverage would demand near constant travel. Being the first woman assigned was not the challenge. It was age. I was 27 years old, inexperienced and untested.

These go together, in order:

Police officer buys eggs for woman caught shoplifting to feed her family in Tarrant:
A woman caught shoplifting eggs in Tarrant Saturday didn’t leave with handcuffs and a court date. Thanks to a Tarrant police officer, she left with food for her family.

Grandmother caught stealing eggs to feed hungry children ‘overwhelmed’ by kindness of police:

By Saturday, the family had gone two days without food. Johnson went to Dollar General on Pinson Valley Parkway with $1.25 and thought that would be enough to buy a carton of eggs. When she realized she was 50 cents plus tax short, she stuffed five eggs in her pocket out of desperation.

Tarrant police officer delivers groceries to woman caught stealing eggs at Dollar General:

Helen Johnson stared in amazement at the piles of food accumulating in her small Tarrant apartment on Wednesday.

“The last time I saw my house this full, I was 12-years-old and staying with my grandmother,” said the 47-year-old mother and grandmother. “I’ve been crying all day.”

Score one for the good guys.

Dec 14

You’ll be jealous of my errands, and these ads

Finals day today. My students feverishly were emailing in the last of the work I’ve challenged them with and made them endure this term. Well, some raced. One student turned in the final work on Friday.

The rest, well, they knew they had until 3 p.m., the end of our scheduled final block.

“Three p.m.,” I said, “does not mean 3:01. One minute after means that’s one less I have to grade.”

They’re going to live in a deadline-driven world.

The last paper came in at about 2:28, so the message was received. Also, I must now grade them all.

Want to see an amazing story?

“Why do it?”

“It makes me feel normal and whole.”

Watch this video. But you have to watch the entire thing. And it is absolutely worth watching the whole thing.

I ran errands today. Here are the three least exciting parts of that: I visited an eye doctor’s office to make an appointment for later in the week. A nice young lady answered all of my questions with a laugh an assuring assurance. They booked me for Thursday.

Are you riveted?

I washed my car. And then I took the floor mats out and dropped them through this shaker machine that gets 98 percent of the grass and leaves and crumbs off of them. And then I vacuumed the rest of the trash off of the mats and the floor boards. I noticed that my car wasn’t completely clean, but it was closer to clean than it has been in a while. I’d been enjoying an industrial grade of autumn dust lately.

I got gas. I dropped my card at the pump twice.

The other thing I did was slightly more interesting than that, somehow, and it will be the subject of Wednesday’s post.

To wrap up today, and in honor of finals — and because these are two of the last four clips I have at the moment, here are two old ads from mid-1980s Crimson issues. Two things you don’t think about so much any more, I’d bet:

film ad

John’s is closed now, but it has a special place in history. It was opened in 1959, the first color film processing lab in the state. John was 24. There used to be at least four locations. Two were in strip malls. One building is now vacant. The other now has either a hotel or a car dealership on the old lot. Based on some canceled trademarks registered to the owner, I’m assuming the stores closed about two years after this ad ran. He died just over six years ago.

Bet you haven’t said “I need to run to Kinko’s!” in a good long while:


There are apparently still over 2,000 FedEx stores, which is the brand now, of course. It is the seventh largest printing chain in the country and Kinko’s is nothing but a memory. And it was so close to becoming a proprietary eponym, too.

Aug 14

The barber, the check writer and the pie maker

I made the mistake of getting a haircut today. Going to my barber on a Friday afternoon is like going to most people’s DMV, or my local post office.

He’s a nice fellow, good, easy small talker. There are nice family photos to study as he cuts your hair. He does a fine enough job of it and he’s the cheapest guy in town — those his prices are going up, and we’ll have to talk about that.

Everyone in town has figured this out, I guess, and everyone goes there. And so you wait and wait, but it is a break from other things, one supposes, and the television is on an endless loop of some sporting thing or another. He’s the kind of guy that’s on a first name basis with people and sometimes he remembers me, but my strategy is to cut short and ride on that haircut for as long as possible. So I could be easy to forget in the blur of faces he sees every month.

We talked about the VA and pensions and the Bulge and Iraq today. Once, when his shop was slower and he remembered who I was, he picked my brain about various shenanigans going on in the journalism industry. Another time he almost carved a junk out of my ear and sent me on my way home bleeding and, I think, with the haircut incomplete. Scared him. It bled so well it scared me too.

Today he nicked my neck a little just below the hairline and applied some demon-infused, artisanally crafted pain juice on it, smeared a white powder on top of that and then smacked my neck. He was a combat medic. He knows what he’s doing, I told myself.

After that I visited various book stores about town, with this weird white caking powder on my neck. No one said anything about it.

We went out for dinner. It is Friday. Friday is Pie Day:


“Clinkies!” as we used to say while trying to not stab each other with forks.

The server gave us fist bumps for ordering pie. Surely he was thinking “I didn’t even have to upsell these people!” And then he let us choose the color of pen used to sign the receipt. I went with the hunter green.

Things to read … and, sadly, none of these are written in a hunter green font.

Security for journalists, part one: The basics:

Just as you can take steps to reduce the physical or legal risks of journalism, it’s possible to protect yourself in the digital realm. This two-part post will cover the basics of digital security for journalists. It’s impossible to learn everything you need to know from a couple of articles, but my hope is to give you enough of the basics that you understand what to study next.

Even if you’re not working on a sensitive story yourself, you need to understand digital security because an attacker can harm other people by going through you. This post contains generic security advice that everyone in journalism should heed, with specific advice about simple things you can do right now to improve your security.

Govt-blacklisted journalists and the growing info grip:

David Sirota reports on “How Government Blacklists Journalists From Accessing the Truth” stating that “The public is being systematically divorced from public policy, which is exactly what too many elected officials want.”


“In recent years, there have been signs that the federal government is reducing the flow of public information,” Sirota writes, agreeing with a growing consensus from many Washington D.C. journalists.

Sadly, there’s no surprise there.

This thoughtful essay from a student-journalist, I will not be returning to Ferguson:

There are now hundreds of journalists from all over the world coming to Ferguson to film what has become a spectacle. I get the sense that many feel this is their career-maker. In the early days of all this, I was warmly greeted and approached by Ferguson residents. They were glad that journalists were there. The past two days, they do not even look at me and blatantly ignore me. I recognize that I am now just another journalist to them, and their frustration with us is clear. In the beginning there was a recognizable need for media presence, but this is the other extreme. They need time to work through this as a community, without the cameras.

Gov. Bentley announces creation of Alabama Drone Task Force

I read aloud a bit of Willie Morris tonight. I’ve been searching for examples of excellent writing to share with students, so I had to raid one of the bookshelves in our library. This won’t be the one of Morris’ that I share, but it is worth a read. This is when he was writing from Oxford, Mississippi and remembering his time and a love on Long Island, New York. The complete essay isn’t online, so a brief excerpt:

She would say, “You’re not too old and I’m not too young.” But she was the marrying age, and she wanted a baby. The love we had was never destroyed; it was merely the dwindling of circumstance. How does one give up Annie? Only through loneliness and fear, fear of old loves lost and of love renewed – only those things, that’s all. The last departure came on a windswept October noon of the kind we had known. We stood on the porch of my house and embraced. “Oh — you!” she said. She lingered for the briefest moment. Then she was gone, a Tennessee girl with snow in her hair again. She married a local boy and now has two little daughters, I hear on good authority from Long Island. The years are passing, and don’t think I haven’t thought about it.

The man could write. But he was perhaps never better than when he’s writing about home (which is why whichever Willie Morris piece I hand out in class will have at least two references to jonquils). Happens to a lot of us, I suspect.

Do you ever get the feeling Patrick Stewart is just cooler at everything?

I do.