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.

Jul 14

My neck, shoulders and back hate Mondays

The return of the neck and shoulder issues. Apparently they don’t like Mondays. This was the worst day of it since last Monday, after all. Odd considering the high quality massage I received — it hurt and felt so good — just yesterday.

Barely made it out of bed today, and then just staggered painfully to the floor. Things finally loosened up a little bit in the afternoon. I made it to the post office and got the lawn mowed. Most of the rest of the day I spent looking for some position that didn’t feel painful. It was an exercise in near futility.

After dinner with friends we stepped outside and almost everything returned to normal. I was so happy to only have a sore neck!

So I’ll leave you with this. Europcar rider Kevin Reza picked up the helmet and camera of a Tour de France fan. I haven’t mentioned the tour here at all this year, but this is an usual look at one tiny sliver of the three-week race.

Europcar finished fifth in the team race. Reza finished 73rd overall in his second Tour de France. He has 11 podiums and three wins.

Apparently, the owner of the camera contacted him online and the team sent the helmet pack. Now, I’m sure, this will become the thing to do. As if the selfies weren’t bad enough.

May 14

“Why did they do that?”

The air conditioning guy was scheduled to come today, precisely between the hours of 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. He did not come early, when he could have worked in pleasant outdoor conditions. No, he arrived just before 3 p.m., in the rain, the poor guy. And so I did not get to ride today because I waited on him and it rained after he left. }


I did get to hear a repairman say “What the?”

I think this nice gentleman’s company has been to the house a few times before for various repairs. It is one of those companies that is a series of initials, which is hard to keep straight over time, but they are affiliated with the home warranty people and we use our home warranty quite a bit. This time because the air doesn’t cool anything.

We have a nice house, everyone that visits is kind enough to compliment the layout. It is in a nice neighborhood. And it was built upon a haunted burial ground. Also, the previous owner hired people that had some curious ideas about home maintenance.

When he looked at the air handler unit, nothing made sense. Our guy today, after going through the full series of “I don’t even know why it was done that way,” and all of the many variants, said he hadn’t seen anyone do this in 15 years on the job. Someone made a previous repair and used a different manufacturer’s parts, basically whatever was at hand. It was like, he said “Someone took the engine out of a Toyota and put it in a Cadillac.”

So we got freon, and the anticipation of a larger bill, and this mystery of why people have done things in this house that professionals have never seen before. (This wasn’t the first time.)

But the air works, at least in the short term, again. That puts you in a pretty zen place, in the short term.

Of course the rain cooled everything off, meaning we didn’t need the air tonight, so we’re right back to where we started on the “Come on, house!” meter.


Things to read … because she can’t stare at that app forever.

The Internet and the compassion of people never ceases to amaze. Brown family supporters raise more than $50,000 for medical, travel expenses

And then along comes someone doing a series of other things, without consequence, that just infuriates. Fire Official Who Hit Children in New Jersey Crosswalk Has 19 Car Accidents on Record

This is the best sports story you’ll read today:

They played the oddest game in high school football history last month down in Grapevine, Texas.

It was Grapevine Faith vs. Gainesville State School and everything about it was upside down. For instance, when Gainesville came out to take the field, the Faith fans made a 40-yard spirit line for them to run through.

Did you hear that? The other team’s fans?

They even made a banner for players to crash through at the end. It said, “Go Tornadoes!” Which is also weird, because Faith is the Lions. “I WOULDN’T EXPECT ANOTHER PARENT TO TELL SOMEBODY TO HIT THEIR KIDS. BUT THEY WANTED US TO!”

And a 15-year-old introduces his stethoscope iPhone invention to the world:

Apr 14

Playing surfaces need spring cleaning too

Here’s something you don’t see every day. They are rolling up the field at Seibert Stadium on the Samford campus.


They have FieldTurf and, the story goes, it was installed in 2005. This is the first time it has been replaced since then. The company says they should last for 10 years, so that’s pretty close. The football team practices there. For two years we’ve had two football teams practicing there as Tulane stayed on campus hiding from hurricanes. Also there is a great deal of intramural activity on that field. So it has certainly gotten its share of wear and tear.

It took them about two days to roll it all up.

So my day was spent at the tire center at Sam’s Club. I needed to finally replace the last, oldest of my car’s four tires. And I picked the day that there was a new guy working. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Someone unfamiliar with tires charged me for the wrong tire. (I thought that was expensive.) So we had to go to customer service. Got a cash refund. I had to buy another tire, with the cash refund. We swiped pretty much every card in my wallet. This all went on far longer than it should have and I may now be an unwitting money launderer for Sam’s Club.

But on the way back to campus I received this email: “Congratulations on being honored by one of Samford’s graduating seniors! This year’s senior giving campaign was focused on the faculty and staff who have invested into the lives of students.”

So what was a “Meh” afternoon became a gratifying experience all the way around.

Things to read … because reading is always gratifying.

US and Saudi Arabia: Friends Drift Apart

Scary-Smart is increasingly the wrong term. Inside the Science That Delivers Your Scary-Smart Facebook and Twitter Feeds

As digital ad sales grow, news outlets get a smaller share

The Ghosts of Rana Plaza

Why stocks may be sniffing out inflation

Let’s see if we can predict the future. Government: “Insurance is more expensive because of insurance companies!” Insurance companies: “Insurance is more expensive because of government!” Government, and insurance companies to one another: “We got ‘em now!” Aetna: Late Obamacare changes account for half of 2015 premium increases

Oh man. University of Hawaii (Hilo): Our students are easily intimidated, need to be protected from people handing out literature

Drones being used again for University of Missouri classes

Google Glass Explorers Share Experiences at Colleges Across America

‘I Think Google’s Pretty Dangerous and Thuggish. I’ve Always Said That.’

Milo’s Tea expands into 20 more states

We’ll get more bad weather next week, so: Helmets, car seats, other lessons from April 27 on surviving a tornado

Dec 13

Back in Connecticut

We traveled all day yesterday. Up and out of my grandmother’s house, skipping breakfast to her mortification, before 8 a.m. Our route took us across regions both populated and sparse and rural. And also down gravel roads. Not even the good stuff, where the creek rocks have been crushed to dust and spit out to the side by previous generations of tires, but loose gravel roads.

Which might be unfair. It was on a detour. A bridge was out, you see, and the local crew that were in the middle of repairing the structure had helpfully hoisted road closed signs and a detour sign, but no actual detour. So we made our own, on roads that looked very much like what we’d traveled in nearly abandoned portions of Ireland this summer.

And from the gravel roads we made it back to the empty county roads and from there through sleepy southern towns and finally into Atlanta and to the place where we parked our car … just in time to miss the airport shuttle.

No matter, there will be another along in 15 minutes, we are right on schedule and so we are really playing with house money for an hour. So we park, unload the things that are going on the next leg of our holiday travels, leaving behind the first stages of clothes and things. The shuttle comes along, we climb on, meet a new young Auburn fan — he’d just chosen sides before Christmas, apparently, and was very pleased to tell us about the shirt he got for Christmas.

These are golden times, my man, and you’ve chosen wisely.

We got into the airport. I instantly lost track of my wife while fiddling about with a zipper or something on my luggage. That took 17 seconds. At 22 seconds, with my thoughtful, staring face firmly applied, a helpful airline employee asked if I was looking for something.

Turns out she was in the check-in line. (Who knew?) I’d found her myself. We checked. We made it through security, where we probably got ourselves on a watch list by hopping lines. We’d committed to one line before realizing the people there were still trying to reach their spring break destinations. So we changed to something that looked like your typically efficient government operation, rather than a Soviet toilet paper queue.

So down to the terminal train and then we found our gate, grabbed some food, finally and got on the plane. Our flight was uneventful, save for the three year old kid doing a wicked Billie Jean cover off and on.

And I had so hoped that flight would have a talent show.

We arrived in Connecticut, where it is cold, as you would expect. Good thing I brought two jackets! On the one hand, we drove and flew almost a full day. On the other hand, we covered more than 1,000 miles. It was an easy night after that, dinner with the in-laws, hauling luggage upstairs and so on.

This morning, we ventured out into the post-Christmas wilderness, and this:


They had a white Christmas, and there is still a little bit of the stuff lying around. It doesn’t impede anything, but it is cold enough to sit in one spot for four or five days without feeling like it is in anyone’s way.

So today we shopped. A visit to the empty mall here, a quick stop to the reasonably underwhelmed Apple store there. We got in and out of a high end district and hit a big name cosmetics store. We visited a haute couture kind of place for one thing or another — I was dizzy with it all by then — and the lady who worked there spoke with us like we were long-lost nieces and nephews.

She’d heard of Auburn. And it had registered enough that, isn’t there some sort of big game? And some sort of rivalry? It was interesting. People either live it or know of it. Or they are completely oblivious to it. But she had just the most passing knowledge — which, hey, good for her, I guess, a fashion store girl in New England knowing anything about the South and its diversions — and I had to explain how this silly little thing was so much a part of our local culture.

It kind of makes you dizzy.

We hit another place or two and then got our collective acts together. We went, with the in-laws and some family friends, to New York City, tonight, here:


At the Lincoln Center there is a performance of MacBeth, staring Ethan Hawke as the cursed mad king. They play the whole thing for the poetry rather than the emotion. Hawke is a much better mad king than a reluctant and treacherous one. It was a fun show, seeing Shakespeare is always good.

They rushed through a lot of really great stuff — this is Macbeth, so of course it is great — as if they just really wanted to get to the last battle, which felt thin for different reasons. Perhaps if they’d lose the rapid fire delivery, and let the audience think about the spaces in between the lines, the show would feel stronger.

We finally had dinner sometime around midnight, at some cafe on the way back home. My body has no concept of regularly spaced meals any more. We’ll get that fixed tomorrow.