Friday


10
Sep 21

Ding! You are now free to enjoy the weekend

The old Southwest Airlines slogan was in my head when I woke up this morning. The alarm on my phone went off, some pleasantly disarming 1940s radio jingle I clipped many years ago, and for some reason my brain said “Ding! You’re now free to move about the country.” I don’t know why it was there. No travel planned. Though the idea of going somewhere is appealing. No air travel on the radar for a good long while. But ding!

It was the place on words that always worked well in that slogan. Sure, you have the pilot’s announcement bell, so Pavlovian. But that concept “You are now free to move about the country.”

Of course it wasn’t free. But you were free, conceptually speaking. Though the whole thing violated some law of thermodynamics, I’m sure, because on Southwest, at least, you were flying dirt cheap. When that slogan was in use I could go from Birmingham to Louisville, to see my folks, for $29. I was there in an hour. It would have cost me more in gas for the car and the drive would take much more time, even after you figured in the airport waits. If I stayed longer than a weekend the parking deck cost more than the flight.

“You are now free to move about the country.”

But that wasn’t the real case. Not really. We know this to be true because Southwest did not go broke their first year in business.

None of this explains why the old saying was in my head this morning, except that random thoughts such as these are the truest freedom we enjoy. And there never seems to be enough free floating thoughts around. We should daydream more. Or, in my guess, I guess, hit the snooze button more frequently.

I pedaled my bike to work this morning. The Yankee has my car because she had a weirder schedule for the day and needed to make a trip to Indy and my commute is only 4.5 miles, or so, one way. So it seemed obvious that I would glide through two neighborhoods and over the creek trail and through a few more neighborhoods and onto campus. I wore my too-heavy backpack, and tried to keep the heart rate down, thinking a nice and leisurely ride would be pleasant, and wouldn’t work up much of a sweat.

On the way, along the creek trail, I met some new neighbors.

I had a meeting this morning, which was happily on Zoom. I say happily because, while the assembled group is charming enough, I’m just not keen on the idea of being in a room with 50-some other people when it can be so easily avoided.

And this afternoon I had a meeting with two students from Black Voices about studios and how they could use them this semester. That was after another small meeting about studios and what is going to be used, and how, this semester. It all has a certain flow to it, if you’re surrounded by the concepts, but perhaps arcane, otherwise. Suffice it to say, Media School students have a lot of studios and a lot of options and at least two more are due to come online in the next few days and weeks.

The people that put them together — I know them, but I’m not one of them — do terrific work to set it all up, sometimes building them out of the very air. And the students use them well. By the end of this semester you could be working in a studio with five cameras, two different rooms with four cameras each, or another brand new space that’ll have two or three cameras and a motion-capture studio with unlimited potential. Oh, and up the hill, in our other building, a giant studio, about three times larger. We have two distinctly different kind of showpiece studios. That’s how spoiled we are. Students will use them all, and use them well, and we show them off to prospective students and donors and it will continue to grow and grow into we know not what.

Two years ago the two studios being built today weren’t even ideas.

Anyway, another show from the Wednesday night sports productions. They were talking college football.

That’s a straight up murder’s row of young sports media talent, by the way. As overrun as we are with studios, we have even more incredibly gifted students.

At the end of the day, the end of the shortened week, I pedaled my bike home. It was mild this morning, but much warmer this evening. So I’d brought along a pair of shorts and a t-shirt and spent much of my downtime trying to imagine a route that was all downhill.

There is no route that is all downhill.

So I went the normal way, which has three short hills and some easy rollers. I also had my heavy backpack, and it all felt like I haven’t ridden in years. In reality: three weeks, tomorrow. As I struggled up the longest, easiest hill I wondered how I would fare on tomorrow’s ride, which will not feature an extra 20-some pounds of luggage. It was most dispiriting.

(Edit: It also turned out to be a false reading. My Saturday afternoon bike ride was short, punchy and fun. Even in the headwind, my legs were much better. Blaming the too-heavy backpack is clearly the right choice.)

As ever, I need to find more time to ride. And more time to do all of the other things I enjoy.

There never seems enough of the free stuff, does there?


27
Aug 21

Downstream from here

It rained this afternoon. Less than 20 minutes of the wet stuff fell from the sky. Something between a trace and a measurable amount. Just long enough to make me stay at the office a few minutes more, you understand. I rode out this randomly appearing rain cloud with purpose, doing a computer networking test that I learned earlier in the day on an extra classroom.

By the time that chore was done the rain was gone. And the little creek that runs alongside the building looked like this.

There’s something about the limestone that’s all around the place that slows drainage. If the water can’t go into the soil it just rolls to wherever the terrain wants it to and, here, that means Spanker’s Branch and down into the underground system just after that last shot. In an appropriate number of hours or days I’ll be using this same water to clean up after dinner.

It’s comforting, really, knowing there is a cycle to this, and we have integrated a system into it.

Saying a thing like that, about the dishes, is just one short step from trying to assign a story to that particular bit of water. The happy bubbles, and all of that. At which point you’re simply anthrophomorizing dihydrogen monoxide.

“What’s this ‘you’ stuff, pal?”

You’re right. You’re right. Not one among you has ever wondered about the hopes and dreams of the water you use while doing the dishes. That is the most ambitious part of the water that comes into our house. How else to explain how it gets on the countertops, the cabinets, my shirt, under the dish drainer and everything else?

I got some under the drainer this evening. No idea how that happened.

We’re hitting the books again before the weekend begins. We’re looking at a few of the interesting bits from one of my grandfather’s magazines, the January 1954 edition of Popular Science. We started this particular magazine a few weeks ago now, and you can see the first ads if you click that previous link. Click the image below and you can enjoy the next nine photos and bring yourself great worth and merriment.

But if Popular Science doesn’t interest you, you can see the rest of the things I’ve digitized from my grandfather’s collection. There are textbooks, a school notebook and a few Reader’s Digests, so far. It’s a lot of fun.

Just like your weekend. Unless you’re getting rained on. Watch out for Ida.

I’m taking next week off here, but we’ll be back for more fun of this sort the following week. See you on Labor Day!


20
Aug 21

Reading our way into the weekend

We had freshmen in the building today. First year students, the direct admits, came in and heard from the dean. He determined very quickly that we are all old. They don’t know who David Letterman is. He’s been off CBS for six years, which is a long time, but he still has his longform interview show on Netflix.

It reminded me of the time I used a photo of Dan Rather to set up a key point in a classroom lecture and none of the students knew who he was. I’d anticipated that. It was just a picture of Rather at a lectern. So I had a second image of the longtime news anchor. He was there at the desk, a graphic box over his shoulder, the CBS bug in the corner. No one knew who he was. He’d been off the air for a little over two years at that point.

Time moves quickly, but it also helps if people are familiar with the character in the first place. Somehow, it’s harder to imagine people being unfamiliar with Letterman.

Anyway, the dean offered a top ten list, but said it wasn’t funny. It wasn’t, but it was useful, and hopefully some of it will stick for them.

This evening there was a grad student welcome program. The day in between is already a blur of meetings and seeing familiar faces for the first time in a long time.

It’s always fun when people come back, until you lose track of how many miniature reunions you’ve had. In a few days I’ll ask a student, not for the first time, about their summer. The week is over, the semester is here, but first …

Let’s do a little reading. This is from one of my grandfather’s magazines, the January 1954 edition of Popular Science. We’re looking at a few of the ads from the thing. We started this particular magazine last week and you can see the first five ads if you click that previous link. Click the image below and you can see the next six advertisements of worth and merriment.

If Popular Science doesn’t interest you, you can see the rest of the things I’ve digitized from my grandfather’s collection. There are textbooks, a school notebook and a few Reader’s Digests, so far. It’s a lot of fun.

At this rate we’ll be reading this Popular Science for several weeks, so there’s a lot of fun yet to come.

Just like your weekend, I hope. Big plans? Little plans? No plans?

We’ve got the same plans. Good, now-traditional, staying safely removed from people, bike riding, book reading plans.


13
Aug 21

Listen to some music, read some books

Just a week ago yesterday I mentioned Nanci Griffith here. She figured into one of my first blog posts. Back then I said “God Bless Nanci Griffith.” I’ve been listening to her for a long time, about a quarter of a century. This evening it was announced that she’d passed away.

God bless Nanci Griffith; he blessed us with her.

The Flyer, looking back, has a certain mid-century weariness that is overcome by the un-replaceable mid-century optimism she put into so much of her work. It was a wonderful entrance to her folkabilly style.

“These Days in an Open Book” sticks with you.

And there are parts of “Grafton Street” that can haunt you. Indeed, I can hear every important note perfectly well in my mind, even now.

She produced 19 records over the course of her career, which spanned most of my life until her health turned a few years ago. It’s an impressive body of work from a gifted storyteller. The nature of the entertainment industry, of course, is such that an artist’s work never leaves us, thankfully. What a gift it is to have all of this to return to.

I’m not ready to listen to them again just now — one day soon, I hope — but you should definitely try them out.

The planned event for the day was the return to the books section. We made it back there in just a shade under two years. That’s a perfectly average turnaround time, if you ask me. Perfectly average if you are Voyager 1 and you are in between Jupiter and Saturn.

This section of the site is a casual study of some of my grandfather’s books. I didn’t have the good fortune to meet him, but I know him from family stories and some of his things that I’ve inherited. Like a giant box of periodicals I rescued. So, today, we’re beginning a look at an issue of “Popular Science,” January 1954. Click the image to see the first five ads I’ve selected.

At this rate, it’ll take a while, and that’s the point. If Popular Science isn’t your speed, you can see the rest of the things I’ve digitized from my grandfather’s collection. There are textbooks, a school notebook and a few Reader’s Digests, so far. It’s a lot of fun.

And fun is what you’re supposed to have over a weekend. I hope that’s what you have in store for you. Come back and tell me about it on Monday, won’t you?


6
Aug 21

They grow on trees

The joke around here is that the maple is nature’s first quitter. They turn and fall and they miss out on weeks of glorious summer. That’s coming and, along with it, the awe of autumn. But that’s later. Today? This is just hurtful, oak tree.

Speaking of trees … We have an apple tree in our backyard. Big enough to duck under; not tall enough to climb. We only just discovered this year that it was an apple tree. Five years here and this is the first time it’s bore fruit. Some sort of green apples, but not bitter like a Granny Smith. I set out, then, to identify the apple variety. There are 27 green apples out there, and isn’t that a delightful thing to learn?

We started plotting what we’d do with a whole tree of apples. So many pies! I was mentally picking out the knife and the cutting board, excited about the prospect, you understand. I figured, without knowing the exact apple, we’d just have to estimate when they were ripe, but that’s OK. Nature is a great teacher and there’s a window for this sort of thing.

I have this nice thin knife and a small glass cutting board and it makes a pleasing sound when you work through a fruit or vegetable. Just add cinnamon and enjoy. I have plans. Had plans.

I just noticed the apples are gone. All of ’em.

Squirrels.

(That’s a recreation.)

They didn’t leave a single apple. Here yesterday, see ya’ next year.

Hungry four-legged smugglers.

Let’s wrap the week up with a few things I put on one of the work accounts. Interesting studies performed by interesting people. A lot of grad students, in this case, which makes it even more fun. Watch them all, so you can stay abreast of the latest in social science research.

And within the next week or so we’ll have even more new research to highlight. But that’s for next week. For now, the weekend!