Friday


26
Nov 22

Tweet ya later, bird site

I’ve made the move away from Twitter. Odd saying that, having spent 14 years with the microsite. It had great value to share information. Then that value diminished somewhat, but it was, nevertheless, still a great way to receive information. The incongruity had been weighing on me for a while, but the new owner and the great deal of baggage he’s brought along became the last straw. No sleep was lost on this choice. I downloaded my archive and moved on. Some new thing will present itself, I figured, and it did.

Mastodon has been around for a long while, but I only joined it on Halloween. I spent a week or so just watching it, another week wondering at its comparative weaknesses and reading longterm users brag on and on (and on and on) about its strengths. Some things in each of those categories are about human engineering, rather than the platform, but they are all part of the experience.

Follow me on Mastodon. Or click the button at the top of each blog page, or the homepage.

(I’m at Post, too, but haven’t done anything with it yet.)

Not everyone I follow on the bird site will make such a move, and that’s fine. Think of it as a group of people with a difference of opinion about where to eat dinner. At some point, perhaps a critical mass gathers, or key people voice their opinion, and that helps you make your own decision. It is gratifying that some of the people I want to follow are now showing up on Mastodon. As more people come over I’m sure it’ll feel more familiar and comfortable. Though I think some of the things that make it proudly different are unnecessarily limiting at this point. (That is an initial impression and very much subject to change.)

But that’s the interpersonal perception. From a corporate or institutional perspective, the biggest words for making this transition will be search and transfer. If you are an entity that has misguidedly put too many of your marketing eggs in any one social media basket, you might be in trouble in this moment of truth.

I don’t want to evangelize it today, but one nice thing about Mastodon is that you can follow hashtags. This absolutely inundates you with the subject matter of choice. The negative is that it absolutely inundates you with the subject matter of choice. There’s a great deal of selection bias to guard against there.

Take the popular Mosstodon hashtag, for example. Following that hashtag puts every use of it, all of them, in your feed. My feed quickly filled up with moss and lichen.

This isn’t bad, but it is dominating my feed So I need more friends to show up, and more hashtags to follow. That, of course, creates more volume, which means more time invested, and one needs to be mindful of that. It’s a great big work in progress.

I’m putting a few successful things on the site so far. Here’s my first Mosstodon post.

Also, I do enjoy a good batch of lichen from time to time.

Another of the real strengths is that you can take any person or hashtag and add them to an RSS reader. That makes so much sense it is amazing no other platform hasn’t tried harder to leverage it.

You still use an RSS reader, right? They’re going to make a comeback! (Try Feedly.)

Dropped the in-laws off at the airport this morning. They have returned safely to New England. The house is the right amount of quiet once again. Amazing how a variable or two changes the dynamic of the domicile. It was lovely to see them. We enjoyed a nice Thanksgiving break with them, and we are grateful for the opportunity. I am grateful for the leftovers.

We took a walk this evening, and I marveled at the light, late evening views.

And I marveled at how this week has flown by.


18
Nov 22

This is light

I am now in full Thanksgiving mode. With days to burn, and company to host, I’m taking next week off. There is a turkey in the freezer, as I might have mentioned; there is cleaning to be done tonight.

Got half of the vacuuming done. Started preparing the guest bathroom. Put sheets on the guest bed. Straightened up in the kitchen. Stuff like that. It was the highlight of an unadventurous day: the big breath in before the holiday rush.

I need more than a day, more than one big breath, to prepare for the holiday rush. I’ve seen our schedule of festivities — And they will be grand! They always are! — and I am tired from the contemplation alone.

Anyway, quiet day at the office. Quiet, productive evening at the house. I also road 30 miles.

This ride was notable because it put 2022 into second place in my annual mileage chart. Now the modern me trails only the 2020 version. (We had more time to ride during the early days of the pandemic.) The question left before us is, whether there’s enough time left in the remainder of the year, and around the holidays, to break the 2020 record.

It would take a concentrated effort, but I’ll try.

Anyway, my week of being a bachelor ends tomorrow. The Yankee returns from a short conference trip. On Sunday we’ll go to the airport to pick up her parents. And the season will be upon us.

You should see this turkey.


11
Nov 22

Whurrwhurrwhurr

After work I rushed right back to the house — because where else am I going to go? — and hustled right inside. I wanted to put my bike on the trainer. Well, wanted to isn’t exactly the right word. I wanted to ride my bike, but it was cold and almost dark, so the trainer it is. Or, rather, it was, since this already happened.

I rode in the desert, with snowcapped mountains ahead of me. Whurrwhurrwhurr is the sound the back wheel my bike makes on the roller.

At the conclusion of my ride people that don’t exist threw confetti, which … also … doesn’t exist. That doesn’t mean this isn’t still a nice little feeling, though, after 23 quick little miles.

And now I’m that much closer — 23 miles closer, to be precise — to making this my third biggest year ever. I should do that this weekend, make 2022 my third best year. The second spot is an easy possibility after that. Not sure if I can set a personal best.

But if I don’t, there’s only myself to blame, and none of this matters anyway. So far, though, the 2020s are giving me a workout, and that’s what matters.

It is time, once again, to catch up on the Re-Listening Project. I’m going through all of my old CDs, in order, and enjoying the nostalgia and the music and trying to write a little something about it. It pads out the site and burdens you with music I like — or at least music that I liked once upon a time. These aren’t reviews, they’re whimsy, as so much of music should be.

I still like a lot of “Happy Nowhere,” it turns out. This was Dog’s Eye View’s debut. This was Peter Stuart’s band. He got a break by opening for Tori Amos and Cracker. He warmed up crowds for Counting Crows and then signed a record deal. With that in hand he formed this band. One single got a lot of airplay, which is how I found them. He apparently wrote the hit in 15 minutes, while nursing a hangover.

So, as hangovers go, that worked out fairly well, I guess?

I don’t remember all of these details from the narrative part of the video. In fact, the biggest memory of that video I have is how he’s smiling singing this song that, on the face of it, should be pretty sad.

Also, the instrumentation. It’s infectious.

This came out in 1996 and there was a music store in town that let you listen to things before you bought them. This was a great idea for customers, but I’m sure it had drawbacks for managers and employees. I don’t know if that’s why I have this record, or I picked it up just on the strength of that single, but here I am, an embarrassing amount of decades later and I still sing along with almost every track on the thing.

This guitar, Stuart’s voice, it all just works.

I sang this one, with attitude, well into my 30s.

I consider this a perfect mid-90s rock ‘n’ roll song.

This always felt like a beach ballad, and I’ve never listened to it on a beach, so there you go. I always wonder if this is a character song or biographical. I wonder who he’s singing to. Sometimes I wonder who other people sing this to.

I never sang this ballad with a particular person in mind. Weird.

The good tunes continue. Car, headphones, shower, whenever.

I never understood how this record, and the subsequent work, didn’t get more label support. That was a real problem on the second album. It’s just a business choice — most of which are obvious in retrospect, I guess, but back then? Again, mid-90s … a bit of honesty, a bit of heartfelt rawness … this fits the mold without complaint.

I loved this record. Always enjoyed DEV, and Peter Stuart. He released three more records — two of them will show up here eventually — before disappearing. Recently I learned he’s a clinical psychologist in Texas. I read an interview with him and he came off as so content and focused. It was one of the better Where Are They Now? stories.

Anyway, more from him later. We must also consider here, today, the remastered version of Eric Clapton’s Rainbow Concert. I’m not a proactive Clapton fan, let’s say. I appreciate the work, but it’s just not something I’ve sought out.

I have no recollection of why I have this. I have no real recollection of spending a lot of time with it, either. (Like you can recall all of the reasons why you did, or didn’t listen to the second song of an album you purchased 26 years ago … )

But I listened to it this week and … it needs to be re-remastered. Which, hey, makes since. The original came out in 1973, Pete Townshend got Clapton on stage and helped re-start his career. And, given Clapton’s heroin-addled reclusiveness, his star power and the different music ecosystem of the time, this was probably a tantalizing thing for his pre-existing fans. (The original vinyl held six tracks. I have 14 here.) In that light, there’s a lot to appreciate. Also, this disc was released in 1995, and I heard all of this for the first time in 1996 or 1997, let’s say. We’re farther, today, from the remastering than the remastering was from the original. (Sentences like that come far too rapidly to me these days, and that’s middle age to me.)

As much as anything, that the stage also held Townshend, Steve Winwood, Ronnie Wood and Jim Capaldi was probably part of my initial appeal — and that pays off. This record highlights Winwood as much as anything. Here he is now.

The blue-eyed soul and blues between them works pretty well. It sounds and feels a bit raw. It’s all hasty and seems largely unrehearsed. That’s part of the charm. AllMusic wrote a retrospective review, which seems appropriate. The author concludes, “Today, the album is an adequate live document, though one can find better performances of the songs on other records.”

As for other records, the next time the Re-Listening Project comes around we’ll gloss over a soundtrack and, probably, something a little more contemporary to the point of purchase.


4
Nov 22

An apple a day keeps the doctor away, as do vaccines

I watched students produce a show this morning, and also watched a show promo that should win some awards, or — what with college students specializing in dark humor and all — a visit from the local police department, I’m not sure which.

Put it this way, they decided they wanted to add a dramatic jib shot to this promo. The jib is the camera on the big long boom that makes those cool faux-flying shots happen in a studio, or at fixed events like lap races. They wanted to utilize the jib for a dramatic shot and I thought, “I’ll go lend a hand and do that.”

But before I could say that, someone else volunteered. Which was great! Student work is student work. And then when they actually recorded this ultimately ad libbed promo, I was glad the other person decided to work with the jib because there would have been no way I could have envisioned the jib shot he produced. It was, in point of fact, dramatic.

Anyway, I hope that promo sees the light of day. I’ll share it, if it does.

The rest of the day was full of emails. Catching up on other meetings of the week, cinching a neat little bow on small projects, booking people for future projects and the like. Somehow that filled most of a day.

And I tried a new apple, because it is apple season and apples are delicious and Apple Twitter is making me do it and an apple a day keeps the doctor away. So let’s try the Rave.

People compare this to the Honeycrisp. It is, in fact, a cultivar out of Washington that joins that variety with the MonArk apple out of Arkansas. Some of the Washington State people have their hand in the MN55 cultivar, as well.

My normal apple eating system doesn’t work on this apple. I bite off all of the skin, and then work through the flesh down to the core. But a Rave seems to need the tartness of the skin to complement the bubblegum sweetness inside. That sweetness wasn’t working in isolation. So next Rave, big bites.

I have tried three new apples this week, and now I must decide which of those I prefer for repeat purchases. Fortunately, I bought two of each of those three, so I have a few more days to be sure, but I’m pretty sure.

And that’s what Apple Twitter is all about, I gather.

It isn’t scientifically truthful at all, by the way, the old expression. There’s no proof that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but there is some evidence that daily apple eaters have to take fewer daily prescription medicines. The original Welsh rhyme was “Eat an apple on going to bed and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.” It is traced back to 1866.

They didn’t have nurse practitioners in Wales in the mid-19th century. We didn’t invent those until the 1960s here in the United States. It was a stop gap to address a shortage of physicians. (Makes you wonder, no?) Dr. Loretta Ford observed that … well, let the National Women’s Hall of Fame explain:

because of a shortage of primary care physicians in the community, health care for children and families was severely lacking. In 1965, she partnered with Henry K. Silver, a pediatrician at the University of Colorado Medical Center, to create and implement the first pediatric nurse practitioner model and training program. The program combined clinical care and research to teach nurses to factor in the social, psychological, environmental and economic situations of patients when developing care plans.

When the program became a national success in 1972, Dr. Ford was recruited to serve as the Founding Dean of the University of Rochester School of Nursing. At the university, Dr. Ford developed and implemented the unification model of nursing. Through the model, clinical practice, education and research were combined to provide nurses with a more holistic education.

So there you have it. For most of us, this has been a part of the health care system for our entire lives. (Wikipedia tells us that Ford retired to Florida decades ago. Hopefully, at 101, she is hopefully able to find excellent medical care when she needs it.) Residents of 26 states can see NPs which have full practice authority. In 24 other states the nurse practitioner is required to work under the supervision of a physician.

Which is how I come to find myself in the little clinic attached to the grocery store — and no formulation of that sentence will ever not be weird — visiting with a bubbly nurse practitioner who called me a goober this evening. Apples and doctors, but not NPs dear reader, oh not hardly.

The two shots she delivered, however, those will help keep me from seeing a doctor. One hopes, anyway. New Covid booster and a flu shot in the same arm are now on board, and expertly done, one after the other.

But now my arm is sore, and my throat is just the tiniest bit scratchy. The tiniest bit: I would have a sip of water or a peppermint and not have thought anything more of it if my bicep wasn’t reminding me where we went this evening. But no real side effects. Let’s keep it that way.

Must be the apples.


28
Oct 22

Fifteen hundred words on folklore

Variations of these photographs will be jigsaw puzzles this year.

If you know to torture someone with a puzzle this is a good place to start.

This oughta be good for one gross winter day, right?

It will rain here this weekend, and so the rest of the trees will sigh and sneeze their seasonal leaves onto the ground. Already they looked dry and dusty. Autumn has come, and though the forecast promises nice weather after some weekend rain, autumn has also left notice it will soon be gone.

You have to acknowledge that some class flyers are better than others.

And I don’t know Robert Dobler, but it seems like he has a seasonally popular area of research going on here. But, “Objective truth is not our goal,” seems more like a summer offering.

This class also seems interesting.

But this is the one I would want want to audit. Specifically, I like how this text promises the class will examine modern Irish folklore. Most folklore you hear, at least in the western world, seems older. Or your imagination makes it older, anyway. This is framed in a contemporaneous and politically practical way.

One presumes that all folklore started that way, but then time and life happens. Eventually context is subtly altered, or removed altogether, through retelling or adaptation. Maybe some of that was deliberate, perhaps some of it just takes place because some other novel goals could be met by this story. And that’s to say nothing about geographic origin, or oral migration and what that could do to a story’s influence or impact.

I was thinking of that because we were in the building the folklore program calls home, the Classroom and Office Building, or the COB, as the cool residents pressed for time and wholly accepting of acronyms call it. We were in the COB because tonight was the Undergraduate Folklore & Ethnomusicology Student Association’s annual Ghost Walk. Every year we’ve been here I’ve missed out on this, because it always seems to be on a night when I’m in the studio. This year, the FESA folks chose Friday and so decided to take advantage of the opportunity, and a lovely, mild evening on campus.

At the second stop, the stories picked up. They walked us to the front of Owen Hall, named in honor of Richard Owen, the Indiana State Geologist and a professor. Today, Owen Hall houses the College of Arts and Sciences administrative offices, but a natural science building and museum. Apparently, some of the cadavers used there lost limbs in the dumbwaiter system. Also, we learned about a spiteful nursing school prank. Some students decided to scare an unliked classmate by hanging a limb from a light fixture. They expected a scream when she went into the room, but all was quiet. Finally they decided to go check on the kid and found her sitting numbly in a corner, her hair shock white, and she was chewing on the severed limb. Go IU!

At the IMU, you could learn about a ghost guard dog. This story needs a little more detail, but this is a big building and there are lots of stories to compensate. Maintenance staff hear footsteps on the fourth floor and run across cold spots. They catch the echoing sounds of laughter and are sometimes encountered by a bodiless voice whispering their names. In some versions of the story the names are shouted.

In the Tudor Room, which is a nice dining room in the IMU, people report hearing a child giggling and a bouncing ball. The ghost kid apparently likes the tapestries. Once, they were removed for a cleaning and the longer the tapestries were gone, the supernatural events got more … spirited. He also messes with the silverware, which, if true, must aggravate the staff to no end.

In the nearby Federal Room — a formal parlor and dining room done in a colonial style, which features handmade wallpaper displaying tourist impressions of early nineteenth-century America, a wallpaper you can also see in the White House — you can host 72 people for an event. But there will be three other guests. Spooky guests. I’ll quote from a recent book about hauntings.

A pioneer of the art movement at Indiana University and a member of the Art Committees of General and State Federations of Clubs, Mary Burney passed away in 1933, before her portrait was even finished. The story is that Mary was extremely dissatisfied with the way here portrait was being painted by Wayman Adams. She was aware that her portrait was going to join the portraits of others who had performed great achievements at the IMU. She raised quite a stir within the university when she began looking around for a replacement painter. She since passed away before the painting was finished, it’s believed that she continues to haunt the Federal Room, where it’s displayed.

Perhaps the painting was her unfinished business, since it was the one thing we knew she was unhappy about right before her death. Staff who have felt a never-ending presence in this room have declared that doors unlock as they are performing their nightly lock-up, as if someone is following right behind them, unlocking the doors they have just secured. In fact, this ordeal has become some common that staff have been instructed to perform a double-check before leaving for the night.

Poor Mary had suffered devastating losses in her life. Her husband passed away before her, and she had lost her son in a fire sometime later. Over the mantel in the Federal Room hangs her portrait, flanked by two urns — one holding her husband’s ashes and the other holding her son’s. Oddly, in June 2001, one of the two urns went missing. The urn was lost for years, and, just as mysteriously as it disappeared, it reappeared one day on the mantel where it used to be. Visitors have smelled perfume when entering the room, often described as the smell of roses or other flowers that were extremely aged. Others often note the faint smell of smoke, as if a candle has just been blown out, although there are no candles within the room. Could this be Mary’s perfume or the smoke from the fire that killed her son the guests are smelling?

Other versions of the story have just the ashes disappearing. In some tellings, valuables go missing. There was a 2002 story in the campus paper where one of the first campus ghost tours actually visited the room. The guide talks about the two missing urns, another variation.

That story has a great quote, too. “It’s easy to feel comfortable when a big group is in this room, but it’s when you’re alone that you can feel her presence and smell the whiff of her perfume.”

We visited the Dunn Cemetery, where one of the folklore professors takes over for a bit.

“We are all pointed in this direction. Everyone you know is pointed in this direction. Everyone you will meet is pointed in this direction.”

Student next to me: “What direction are we talking about?”

The professor, meanwhile, told us about the first person to be buried in the Dunn Cemetery, a 19th century teenager, who apparently met her untimely fate after an accident with a wagon wheel. (Dunn Cemetery is on campus. This property was sold to the university by the Dunn family in 1855 after a fire on the original campus. The common tale, at least, is that one condition of the sale was that the cemetery would remain undisturbed. In fact, it’s still an active cemetery. Two people have been interred here since we arrived here in 2016.)

The folklore professor tried to plant the seeds of future folklore. This, he said, is what folklorists do as an experiment. His story could use some work, but he notes that if the story catches on, the retellings get better.

This makes me wonder about what ingredients a story needs to get retold. There’s something thematic to study there, too, I’m sure.

We stopped at the Showalter Fountain and heard a few tales about the nearby Lily Library. The last stop was at the arboretum, where shadowy figures are said to whisper to visitors “Get out of my home!”

That could be anything, but there are a lot of shadows in the arboretum. It was here, at the carillon, where we learned of the McNutt Hatchet man. It’s a tale of a student who fell victim to a man during a Christmas break. Honestly sounds like the most conceivably realistic story we’ve heard. There’s a version of this tale where it’s a man with a hatchet, and in the iteration we heard this evening the hatchet man is a serial killer. In every version I’ve heard, the hatchet man was never caught.

That’s the part that seems most reasonable. There are more than a few unsolved murders around. And that’s not folklore.