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.

Oct 13

No pigs were harmed in this post; Ritz crackers damaged

Doctor’s appointment first thing. You arrive precisely at 8 a.m., you are seen right away. Didn’t even have the opportunity to get settled in the waiting room. Or in the examination room. Everything was … unsettled, then.

No. The doctor is a fine fellow, the very personification of sincerity. Firm hand, assuring tone, appropriate levels of sincere concern. We were in and out in no time. All things are proceeding accordingly, nothing to be concerned or alarmed about. All blue skies from here, as they say.

So the lesson is be the first appointment of the day, or you’re waiting for 90 minutes.

A grocery store run for provisions. This, too, is the time of day to be there. I found the crackers. Do you know how many varieties of Ritz crackers there are available to you today? I’ll document this on the next visit, as I was in a bit of a rush today, but there are more non-Ritz flavored Ritz crackers than there are Ritz crackers now. I just want a few sleeves of Ritz-flavored Ritz crackers.

That’s a problem of the 21st century, if ever there was one.

So while that was bemusing, the bread choices were underwhelming. We are a two-brand household. If it is on sale we get the Arnold bread, but it was not on the shelves and the buy-one-get-one signs were not on display. So I turned to the Nature’s Own, which has that comforting title and those marvelous symbols of Midwestern enterprise: wheat and a sugar jar. One loaf of that, one box of crackers, one box of Ibuprofen and (success!) I found English Teatime. Which means I should back up.

In the last half of the summer I cut way back on my tea intake. It turns out I can drink a lot of tea. So we’ve made exactly one large pitcher in the house since July. However, we’re enjoying more and more hot teas. We have an entire shelf in a cabinet stuff with packets we’ve purchased or picked up or been given over time. So there is a lot of sampling going on. Lately I’ve settled on three favorites (because I drink a lot of tea). The problem being I ran out of the preferred variety. I’d visited the giant box store with no luck, but now, at Publix, where shopping is a pleasure, I found the English Teatime again. So I bought a box today.

I’m trying to arrange the part of the day I would drink these in: English Breakfast, Mint and English Teatime. The mint is obviously an after-dinner treat. The Teatime varieties that I’ve had have, thus far, seemed strong than the Breakfast stuff. Though there are people who disagree. All of those reviews came from 1,367 reviews of the Bigelow brand on Amazon. Of those, 15 mentioned Teatime. If there’s one thing we’ve come to love, it is sharing our sometimes-insightful opinions with others. Here are a few more reviews. The downside, of course, being you don’t know what is going on with these folks, and how do you address the reviews that diametrically oppose one another? Of course the lay review is sometimes better than a professional effort, which can seem officious for tea.

Even better are the reviews on Steepster. There are some people in that community who are very casual with their reflections, and others who are trying a bit too hard. (Simply put, did you like it? Was it strong or weak? What was the flavor like? Let’s move on.) Some of them, however, offer incredible bits of biography into the things they write. Seule771, who has commented there 587 times, and presumably mostly about tea, writes:

This tea belongs to my mother-in-law yet, I help myself to a cup of this tea every now and again, as she takes notice of the tea bags missing. I take one tea bag and put it in my cup adding the boiled water to it. Tea colors right away to a pinkish dew, not dark red but more like mahogany; rose-wood red and smells very robust as fine black teas tend to. When sipping of the tea it is malty with creamy texture. This is a fine cup of tea and I don’t need to add a thing to it.

In all, this tea has a lovely color and aroma of a freshly brewed cup of tea; robust in texture and body with an invigorating aroma to waken or refresh one’s mid-day drawling of sobering thoughts. This is an ideal cup of tea for all occasions.

Makes you wonder what the mother-in-law thinks of the tea, and tea theft in general.

Steepster invites you to “dive into the universe of tea.” But they still don’t offer a simple chart that has “Ease into a restive night” on one end, “Tea for brunches sanguine or sublime” in the middle and “Pulls your taste buds through your eyelids with a domineering efficacy that will remind you of countries lax on human rights policies” on the other end.

This is a tea chart we could all use.

But I digress. Purchasing crackers, bread, Ibuprofen and tea I wondered what the cashier thinks when you checkout by the handful. No one ever gives a consideration to the idea that he or she is judging you when you have a great big cart full of groceries. “Restocking the shelves at home. Big weekend ahead, no doubt,” is about all that the unimaginative cashier could have for that. But when you bring up four items, you get judged, pal. “This guy is having cracker sandwiches. Guess he never heard of Atkins.” And from there that imagination really kicks in.

The great mystery of the day was also found at Publix, where the staff is under strict order to be conversant with everyone that it could be said made plausible eye contact. I guess they have meetings after hours and watch the camera footage. “Jenkins, you ignored two ladies on the canned veggies aisle. One more of those and you’re gone!”

An assistant manager, I saw him just enough to catch that part of his tag, did the standard hello and how are you today. He was walking one way and I was walking the other. By the time I’d given the expected reply he was already ticking off inventory on the cake aisle. Hard to see the point.

Class today featured profile features and editing and the great question “How do I find out about a person’s warts?” One student searched and searched and finally pronounced that Josh Groban, in fact, has no warts. He is, it was revealed, perfect in every way. So there you have it: Jesus and Josh Groban.

She did find a Groban wart — which sounds like an unfortunate looking thing that can be removed in an easy outpatient procedure — but then later conveniently discarded it. The previous narrative was better.

Also, in the class I discovered a book on the Three Little Pigs. This edition was a bit more detailed than I remembered.

It seemed the momma pig pushed them out. The first two got by on begging and convincing naive farmers to gimme gimme. Alas, the most jubilantly drawn wolf possible blew down their homes of straw and sticks. The pigs disappeared just in time, never to be seen again. (One had a racquetball tournament, the other a drinking problem.) The third pig won some bricks in a radio station contest — or stuck up a brick mason, I forget — and built Fortress Porcine. It could not be defeated without air superiority, of which the wolf had none.


So the wolf went the other direction, guile. There are turnips nearby, let’s go get them together. This pig, smart enough to take out a loan from Freddie Mac to obtain bricks and mortar, went early and enjoyed the turnips. So tomorrow, the wolf said, let’s try this apple orchard. The wolf, wise to the pig’s game yesterday, also arrived early, but not earlier enough. An hour earlier still, because this pig has insomnia, the pig was up a tree. Never mind how that pig got there. He escaped by the ancient art of distraction and Canidae ADHD.

So the wolf later said, hey, I know this fair, only we have to go there at 3 a.m. The pig, desperate to watch another installment of Adam Levine on a late night Proactive infomercial, reluctantly agreed. But, again he went early. And, again, the wolf almost caught him, but the pig, remembering his ancient Greek — remember, this is the big that baked his own bricks and watches television and scales trees — hid in a butter churn and rolled home right past the antagonist. Porcum ex machina, if you will.

These are the geekiest jokes I’ve made in some time, no?

Recruiting calls into the evening. You leave a lot of messages, you slow down to say your phone number so it can be written down. You always are a little concerned that you might have transposed a few digits.

Occasionally they call you back. Every so often you catch a student at home and they are very excited about the prospect of talking to you. You get to tell this young person all of the cool things that are going on in your department. You mention the neat places students intern and the awesome jobs they get one day.

You forget entirely that, for some reason, there was a Three Little Pigs book in the classroom today.

Then a bite to eat and reading and writing this and doing other things that I couldn’t make into a silly play on words. It is a fine life.

Things to read

This story has the best quote about a silly adventure imaginable. People wobbled but the record didn’t go down:

“Everything that could go wrong went wrong between rehearsal and execution,” she said at halftime. “We had some folks to come late, we had microphone problems, we had sound and speaker problems, we had some timing problems. But it does not mean we’re going to give up.”

Not to worry, Gene Hallman, president of the Alabama Sports Foundation, tells us: “The Mayor will make sure the PA works properly next year.”

This is a great relief to everyone, except people holding the current Wobble record, one assumes. I’m uncertain what that number is, or if Guinness recognizes it. None of the stories I’ve read so far have addressed that angle.

Here’s one of those obvious stories that only clicks when it is actually written, and it has given rise to a terrific expression. The Information-Gathering Paradox:

The Internet industry, having nudged consumers to share heaps of information about themselves, has built a trove of personal data for government agencies to mine — erecting, perhaps unintentionally, what Alessandro Acquisti, a Carnegie Mellon University behavioral economist, calls “the de facto infrastructure of surveillance.”

This is interesting. There was an unfortunate bomb threat at Central York (Penn.) High School recently, but … Central York High School journalists tweeted live updates about the bomb threat:

Students turn to social media when something happens, and Fuhrman and Kristen Shipley, editor-in-chief of On the Prowl, the school’s entertainment magazine, began tweeting the news through @CYHSProwler.

They reported as the students moved from the football stadium to the baseball field and finally to the soccer field. They reminded everyone to remain calm. They informed students about when they could return to the school building to retrieve their belongings.

The student journalists also tweeted pictures from the scene and interacted with those on Twitter. They responded to questions, saying they would seek answers if they didn’t know.

Sounds like they handled it like pros.

Meanwhile, Old Meets New: Newspapers Take to Instagram:

Newspapers haven’t flocked to Instagram the way they have to Facebook and Twitter. Which makes sense. Instagram, unlike the other platforms, can’t drive people back to the site because the photo-sharing platform doesn’t embed live links. Also, they can forget about monetizing.

Still, some papers that do real journalism (and are looking to attract real readers) are on the photo sharing site, if only to have another venue to showcase their occasionally stellar photography – or, at the very least, remind the digital kids that they still exist.

What about that other shoe? Some health insurance gets pricier as Obamacare rolls out:

Now Harris, a self-employed lawyer, must shop for replacement insurance. The cheapest plan she has found will cost her $238 a month. She and her husband don’t qualify for federal premium subsidies because they earn too much money, about $80,000 a year combined.

“It doesn’t seem right to make the middle class pay so much more in order to give health insurance to everybody else,” said Harris, who is three months pregnant. “This increase is simply not affordable.”


Pam Kehaly, president of Anthem Blue Cross in California, said she received a recent letter from a young woman complaining about a 50% rate hike related to the healthcare law.

“She said, ‘I was all for Obamacare until I found out I was paying for it,’” Kehaly said.

The Los Angeles Times goes on to note that some of those who will actually benefit will do so because “the federal government picks up much of the tab” to demonstrate they couldn’t connect a straight line with a ruler and a dotted path.

Quick hits:

Census Bureau: Means-Tested Gov’t Benefit Recipients Outnumber Full-Time Year-Round Workers

America’s New Lost Generation, in One Map

Army Fleet Service at Fort Rucker to lay off 300 workers by year’s end

Hundreds attend vigil for shot Mobile bicyclist Joe O’Brien

Toddler battling leukemia crowned homecoming queen

Owing to the wise decisions of the good people at News 4 San Antonio I could not embed the video from that last story. That’s a beautiful little girl though. Here’s her homepage. That’s two leukemia stories I’ve seen in six days. Here’s the National Marrow Donor Program site, which explains the donation process and lists all of the drives going on around you.

More on Tumblr and plenty more on Twitter.