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.

Jul 14

Doubly handy

This handy list is making the rounds today, boasting of 57 different views of the Kick Six. I settled in to watch them all, but realized it was over two hours long. And it didn’t include this one, which is my favorite, not just because I made it:

Mixing the band’s reaction — a brilliant, brilliant, video unto itself — with the actual play was a bit inspired, if I do so say myself. I think about how the stadium felt, how everyone reacted and remain so impressed by how the band pulled it together and did their job when everyone about them was losing their heads. It was an impressive performance.

Sadly, you couldn’t hear them in the stadium just then. It was so very, very loud.

We’re going to watch that game again soon, come watch it with us.

A friend of ours wrote this about that game, and it is worth a read if you like football or romance:

I would later ask why. Why that night? What changed? I had been ready for a while but had been patient. She told me plain and simply that as she watched the Kick Six, as she hugged and celebrated with her friend that had attended the game with her, that something was missing. She told me she wished that I had been there with her to celebrate that unforgettable moment. That same feeling I was feeling less than 50 yards away.

Everything was incredible, everything was unbelievable, but something was missing. That something was one another. Now, we had finally found one another and we were never going to let go.

That’s not coincidence.

Sounds like that one has a happy ending, doesn’t it?

Put in a few minutes on the bike this evening, my last ride before the weekend. I spun my feet in tiny circles just long enough to start sweating. And I did that just as the sun started to hide behind the trees. An already mild day, with the breeze of an easy ride blowing into me, felt positively coolish. That’s a strange sensation for July in Alabama.

Never question mild weather. I was going to say here, but that philosophy probably applies everywhere. You start to doubt what is going on, or fundamentally disagree with the disproportionate amounts of whatever you are having relative to the seasons and the barometer will hear about it. Next thing you know there are arctic winds in the summer or heat blisters in February.

Just enjoy the mild weather, and compliment the green things for how green they are. Maybe it’ll all stick around for a bit longer that way.

I learned this evening that I can’t eat Jelly Belly on my bike. The company sponsors a bike team and some of their products are supposed to be halfway decent for exercise energy levels and provide a little bit of fuel in a nice, self-contained package.

I received some as a stocking stuff from my mother-in-law this year and I’ve been waiting to give them a try. I stuffed them in my jersey pocket and set out for the ride, got halfway through it, reached back, wrestled with opening the thing for an entire downhill stretch and finally was able to coax out them out one at a time over about four miles.

Sitting down, I’d eat jelly beans that way, and with a nod to some completely arbitrary color scheme. On the bike, just give me the food. But they were all jammed up in the packaging. Obviously that’s not good when the point should be a quick snack for nourishment. So, delicious, but not practical for me.

Things to read … because reading is always practical.

Air Force research: How to use social media to control people like drones:

Using Graph theory, Dixon and his fellow researchers created a model to find the mathematics behind how much influence a social media “leader” needs in order to exert power and shift behavior. Dixon’s research, like many of the DARPA studies, did not perform real-world research to confirm findings—it was all simulation. And that’s a tripping point for taking this work further, one that Cornell Social Media Lab researchers hurdled with Facebook, creating an outcry in the process.

“The problem is, how do you perform a closed loop experiment? That’s something DARPA has struggled with,” said Dixon.

To that end, the SMISC program has pushed for experimental environments that use “closed” social networks. On the DARPA project page, the SMISC project team wrote, “SMISC researchers will create a closed and controlled environment where large amounts of data are collected, with experiments performed in support of development and testing. One example of such an environment might be a closed social media network of 2,000 to 5,000 people who have agreed to conduct social media-based activities in this network and agree to participate in required data collection and experiments. This network might be formed within a single organization, or span several. Another example might be a role-player game where use of social media is central to that game and where players have again agreed to participate in data collection and experiments.”

So, the more “thought leaders” you have, the better.

I suppose that sentence works in a great many contexts.

Similarly, CDC: Two of every five U.S. households have only wireless phones:

About two-in-five (41%) of U.S. households had only wireless phones in the second half of 2013, according to a report released today by the National Center for Health Statistics. The center, the statistical arm of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, estimated that 39.1% of adults and 47.1% of children lived in wireless-only households.

The share of wireless-only households was 2.8 percentage points higher than the same period in 2012. That’s slower than in previous years. In 2010, the wireless-only share grew by 5.2 percentage points; 4.3 percentage points in 2011; and 4.2 percentage points in 2012.

Something to keep in mind when phone surveys are mentioned.

This isn’t a new story, but it is certainly an impressive one. Soldier Keeps Fighting After Being Shot In The Throat By Tracer Round:

As their dawn raid on a Taliban position commenced, Mononey and another machine gunner were positioned on a rooftoop overwatch position to provide support. Suddenly 30 Taliban fighters engaged the patrol from all directions in horseshoe ambush.

Moments into the fight Lance Corporal Moloney was struck in the throat by a tracer round which passed clean through. “It winded me like I’ve never been winded. I was thinking “I’ve been shot in the neck, it’s game over. I figured I had minutes left.”

The bullet passed just behind his windpipe, missing arteries by millimeters.

“When after a couple of minutes I was not dead and I could still talk I started to get a better feeling,” he said. “We had to crack on. They were pushing quite hard so it was either maybe die or definitely die because they would have over-run us.”

And, after being evacuated, he was back in the fight in under a month. So it came to pass that we all earned a great deal of respect for the gritty bravery of the Blues and Royals, a cavalry regiment of the British Army.

And today is, tragically, an important day to trot out the short version of the Breaking News Consumer’s Handbook, which is distilled down in to nine excellent points. I’d add “Wait, just a moment” which is a corollary to the Reporter’s rule of “Verify” and is most closely related to rules 1, 3, 7 and 9 in that excellent list.

Would that such a thing wasn’t necessary, but good that we have a way of sharing the information it contains.

Finally, Weird Al gets handy:

I have a feeling this one is going to stick around awhile.

Jun 14

Auburn great killed in accident

I’m having a difficult time with this, truthfully. It was stunning and tragic to read about this morning. Two young men killed in a late-night traffic accident. There’s a fair amount of disbelief from a lot of people today for a variety of reasons. I tried to write what I thought might be a common community reason for The War Eagle Reader. I’ve reproduced it here.

A car crash early this morning in Lagrange, Georgia killed two, including UGA baseball player Ian Davis and Auburn great Philip Lutzenkirchen.

If you think really hard about it, you might remember the first time you tried to pronounce the name “Lutzenkirchen.” It might have been when your friend emailed you the link to that YouTube clip from his high school play:

“This guy is coming to Auburn,” your friend wrote. Then you spent the entirety of your next weekend cookout teaching each other how to phonetically pronounce his name.

But it didn’t take much longer than that. The boy from Georgia became an Auburn man and, just as quickly, became a fan favorite. Maybe it was the clean cut look, or the physical stature. Perhaps it was the calm way in which he always seemed to comport himself.

Maybe it was the style of play:

It could have been how he embraced Auburn that made you embrace him back. From beginning, to the middle, to the end. It could have been the charm or how he accepted what became his legend. And think about that for just a second: Here was a guy at — what, 19? — who became a legend. Look how he handled himself.

Maybe it was that you could see him around town, at Momma G’s, having Japanese or wherever you’d run into him, and how a guy who was such a BMOC was always seemingly so approachable.

Other things you knew mattered, too, even more important things: the prom story, how he gave of himself to others, the respect he earned from his professors or for how he stood for what he believed. Perhaps it was the graceful way he said goodbye or the sense of humor he had about his sibling Iron Bowl rivalry or his burgeoning professional work or his promising coaching career.

Maybe that is what it was. The promise that Philip Lutzenkirchen always showed and the way he seemed to carry it with ease, returning all of your smiles and War Eagles and even embracing that dance.

Maybe it was that he was so personable as to make it seem he was always all of ours, and the way it seemed to bemuse him, like he was always us, too.

Auburn lost a great one today, an irreplaceable one. Our thoughts and prayers are extended to his friends and family, who feel the loss most personally. As sad as we are, it is difficult to imagine your profound grief. We thank you for sharing him with us. We grieve with you over the loss of a great Auburn man.


Jun 14

Famed raptor dies at Auburn

Tiger, War Eagle VI, has died, the university has announced.

Tiger never yielded, which is what you want out of an eagle that you ask to fly down a field. So long associated with Auburn, she was thought to be among the oldest golden eagles in captivity.

Tiger started that uniquely Auburn tradition, superlative to almost every other pre-game routine everywhere, at the beginning of the 2000 season.

A friend of mine was a member of the service fraternity who took care of her back then, when she lived in the aviary just off the concourse. You could see them training her at a particular time most any afternoon.

When my family came to visit my freshman year I took my grandmother by to meet Tiger. She had her picture made with her. “That’s just something you don’t get to do every day.”


My grandmother did it again the next year too. Then she said “I bet nobody ever gets to do that!”

The first eagle to fly free in Jordan-Hare Stadium soared through the 2006 installment of the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry. For her last Iron Bowl, the 2005 “Honk if you sacked Brodie” game, Tiger landed near us on the field. They’d named the field itself after Pat Dye. It was Carl Stephen’s last game as the voice of the stadium. Tiger sacked Brodie twice.


During Tiger’s years of mascot service Auburn amassed a record of 75-27 with the SEC championship in 2004.

A grateful nation also asked her to fly in the 2002 Olympics.

After Nova and Spirit took over the pre-game flights, Tiger kept touring and teaching as part of her role at the Southeast Raptor Center.


She helped educate audiences throughout the region. Her likeness remains a fund raiser. Believed to be one of the oldest golden eagles in captivity, Auburn announced today that she has died at 34.

War Eagle! Fly down the field! Ever to conquer, never to yield!

(A brief version of this post appeared at The War Eagle Reader.)

May 14

A day of links

Hey, it happens from time to time.

Tired of crab legs? I am. Here’s some good football:

Want some more? Kaiden on two:

Every team in the country could do that and I’d watch every clip.

Here’s another feel-good piece: Clements volunteer firefighters seek refuge beneath trucks when tornado shelter fills to overflowing:

But there wasn’t room for everyone. The volunteer firefighters, led by Mary’s husband, Fire Chief Jesse Rager, let local residents use the safe room while they hunkered down beneath the fire engines parked in bays inside the cinder-block station on U.S. Highway 72 in western Limestone County.

Chief Rager, on his way from work in Huntsville, was attempting to reach the station but didn’t arrive before the violent EF3 tornado struck not long before 5 p.m. It touched down at Bay Hill Marina and cut a path up the highway, killing two people, downing at least 100 utility poles and cutting power to 16,000 residents, overturning and smashing dozens of mobile homes and ripping roofs from others.

Jesse Rager said as many as a dozen people sought refuge beneath fire trucks.

“We had 10 or 12 people, some crew members, some members of the public, who took shelter under trucks,” he said. As they huddled beneath the engines, firefighters, including Davy and Dawn Hill whose house next door to the department was damaged, could hear the station roof being lifted and set back down. Two metal bay doors were bowed and a fluorescent light fixture was torn from the ceiling.

When the storm had passed, firefighters could see light in places where they believed the roof was separated from the building.

Here’s a great interactive map: Mapping Poverty in America.

‘We’re headed down the road to decimating our armed forces:’ Sen. Richard Shelby blasts budget cuts:

Odierno said the cutbacks would cause a “significant” level of risk and force the services to assume any conflict would be short-lived and backed by allied support.

“If any of those assumptions are wrong, then our risk goes much higher than it is today,” Odierno said. “And so I think we’re on a dangerous path if we have to go to full sequestration, in our ability to what I consider to do is protect our national security interests.”

“We’re headed down the road to decimating our armed forces, aren’t we?” Shelby asked.

“I think it’s going to be difficult,” Odierno replied.

That story touches on multiple campaigns and missile defense. Let’s talk about carriers and the navy, though.

Witnesses: Orlando police car hit bicyclist, then drove off:

He told officers that he was pedaling north on Narcoossee Road in a bicycle lane about 7:35 a.m. when a police car turned right at Dowden Road and hit him. The car’s turn signal was not on, he told investigators.

Two other drivers said they saw the police car hit the bicyclist, then take off. One of the drivers said the cruiser left the scene at “a fast rate of speed,” the report states. The other said the police car’s turn signal was not on.

(Days later update: They have two witnesses and all manner of ways to ascertain the whereabouts and possible routes of police officers, yet there seems to be no indication that Orlando authorities have figured this out, which is mystifying.)

A train derailed in Virginia. There is compelling drone footage. I need a drone.