Aug 19

Dateline Springs Valley

Classes start on Monday, but I’m out of the office for the rest of the week. So it was fortuitous that a former student stopped by just before quitting time this afternoon. And I was so pleased he thought to do so. He’s a newspaper man, now, and he wanted to give me his first edition.

The paperwork hasn’t even cleared and he’s already got seven bylines and a handful of photographs in his first paper.

Auston started in television, became an anchor and a talk show guest and worked his way up to being the sports director for the campus station. He was simultaneously driving up to Indianapolis and interning at one of the stations while working on his senior year classes. Somewhere along the way he decided he’d like to try his hand at print. Maybe it was one he was podcasting, or writing for one of the local sports websites. (Students can do so much these days, and the smart ones, like Auston, do all they can.

Anyway, now he’s a freshly graduated student and will become the new sports editor of one of the nearby weekly newspapers and cover two schools in a way that they deserve to be covered, a way that only dedicated weeklies can cover them. It’s going to be a great job for him, a fair launching pad to a promising young career. I couldn’t be more excited for him.

Not too long ago I learned that another former student, Sydney, who has run about five newspapers and won more awards than she can hang on an office wall, is moving up in her career into the world of book publishing.

It is wonderful when former students keep in touch and let you know how things are progressing for them. Some time back I created a map to chart everyone’s moves. Students, when they leave campus, can become mysteries or colleagues, but when you are lucky they come to think of you as a friend. I prefer that idea. Classes begin Monday, and they’ll end whenever the calendar tells us to wrap it up, but the friendships can be lasting.

Aug 19

What day is it again?

I’ve got … not a lot today. That’s a bad showing for a Tuesday, but it happens sometimes. Not every day is Tuesday! Though today is more like a Thursday. And tomorrow is going to be a day the Gregorian calendar doesn’t recognize in the summer time.

Plus, students are now back in town, with classes to begin next week, and that changes every dynamic, interaction and plan you can conceive. And that also effects every intersection, construction zone and every mode of locomotion the modern person can employ is also altered in ways big and subtle.

My source of fun today was going to be a haircut. And we love haircuts around here! There’s nothing better than going to the place and having to give your phone number, genome sequence and high school locker combination to get a little taken off the top. There’s nothing better than sitting in the most uncomfortable plastic chairs waiting for your turn in the big chair, wondering if you’ll get the person who’s feeling talkative or the person who’s already dreading doing the dishes tonight.

And if you don’t want to talk with me, that’s fine. It’s late in my day too. I’m happy to chat, but don’t feel you have to perform for me. We can just do what we’re both here for. Cut my hair straight. Except for this point-cut (I’m learning terms lately) around the wavy cowlick.

I don’t know if it would be in my top 10 trips, but if I did invent a time machine one of my excursions would be to go back to my early childhood to visit my mother when she put me on the wrong side of my head, thereby cursing this one part of my hair to a lifetime of weirdness. She meant well, of course, and probably just took the best advice available. So maybe I can get her to tell me where that idea came from. Then I could travel back a bit further, meet that person, and we could have a few words.

There must be some in-the-crib-and-playpen explanation for it. The scalp is fine. My follicles are perfect. But let it grow a bit and it becomes something just this side of a vexation. So these days I try to get in the barber’s chair before my hair gets so long that the feature becomes pronounced. And we talk about point cuts.

When, really, what I want to talk about is how my hair has so much more silver in it immediately after a haircut than just preceding the trimming of the ol’ mop. What are you doing to me?

That was going to be my fun, but then at the end of the work day I got a bit sweaty moving things from here to there. No man or woman who ever decided they wanted to work in other people’s hair on a daily basis thought “I hope, on some regular August day, someone who’s been in an overly warm building comes to me with sweat-matted hair.”

So I put that off until tomorrow and sat on the futon in my lovely bride’s home office and talked with her for a while. It was a better use of my early evening than anything else I could have thought up, I have no doubt. Then there was dinner off the grill, which is a very necessary thing, and then some cleaning, which is wholly unnecessary and never finished, and then laundry which was wholly necessary and, also, never finished.

I’m going to jump back into the 1930s before the night is finished. I’m still reading Frederick Lewis Allen’s Since Yesterday which has been on balance an entertaining read. I get why it is considered an informal history. I appreciate the distinction. And I don’t mind it at all. There are breezy points, but there is real data. There is real insight, but he finished the book before the last 1939 calendar was pulled down from every wall, which doesn’t allow for the true perspective of history. (But he had a gift for prescience, nevertheless.) There are a few more anecdotal setups than I’d prefer, but they do a nice job of setting his scenes.

I bought this for $1.99, as I do most things I download, and it was worth it. The Kindle app says I’m more than 70 percent through the book now, which means, despite a few more late night reading sessions, it is almost time to start wondering what I’ll read next. Maybe I should run a poll on social media. The wisdom of the aggregate to the rescue!

That’s a phrase no one has ever written on the Internet before. Sometimes you have the idea to Google phrases, just to see, and those series of letters and words have never been put together in that order. It can still happen.

Anyway, a few photos from the last few days, before I go way back in time or: I have them on my phone and I should do something with these …

This is a bowling alley we passed in Queens, and I love the signage. I’m not sure which I appreciate the most. It could be the general look, sure, but the notion of a 24-hour bowling alley is intriguing. (And affordable, it turns out.) Perhaps it is the slight kerning issues of the letters, but I only noticed that here and now. It could be this weird angle they expect us to swallow as we look at the pins:

What is the proper perspective a viewer must have in relation to the pins to see them lined up like that?

Also, they’ve got a blog. And it seems like the first post they wrote was Why a Bowling Center Is the Perfect Date for Valentine‚Äôs Day:

2. Gives Opportunities for Getting to Know One Another

For those in newer relationships, bowling offers the perfect opportunity for really getting to know one another. It puts you in an environment you may not be used to and causes you to interact in a competitive yet friendly way. This may help you uncover a new side of your partner or even show off a different side of your own personality.

Can she pick up that split? Does he shake off a gutter ball? Or will he yell ridiculous things to demonstrate his triumphant victory over wax, reactive resin and maple?

So I’m hooked. I learned how to throw a hook, but I couldn’t do it today. I don’t think I’ve even been bowling since the Bush administration.

This isn’t a bush, but it is leafy!

I’ve loved variegated leaves since the moment I learned the term, and this English ivy is no exception. I don’t even think it is supposed to be where I found it, but it works.

It probably hasn’t been mysterious, for a long time, what causes variegation. But it was a mystery to me. And then I looked it up one day. I always wish I hadn’t bothered. The answer wasn’t enthralling and the mystery was gone.

Here’s one you never hope goes away:

Sure, the students can come back, but you always hope the summer, and its symbols, stay forever. Otherwise, you’re just left with a Tuesday.

Aug 19

Happy National Tell A Joke Day

It is National Tell A Joke Day. (Should that be in all caps? How does national tell a joke day look, in comparison?) Did you know it was National Tell A Joke Day? This is one of those holidays that always sneaks up on me. But, fortunately, I caught it just in time.

I asked Siri to tell me some jokes to mark the occasion, because that’s what one does these days. I think I asked for 15 jokes, and these are the best eight of the bunch. These jokes, then, are the second best part of my day:

Now to put this in my calendar so I don’t miss it next year.

Aug 19

Why I brag about our students

I frequently tell students that empirical data points are important on the resume. A professor I had in undergrad taught me that. He’s teaching at a university in Texas now. Nice guy, questionable reviews on ratemyprofessor.com. Here’s one of them now: He marks every tiny mistake and your grade suffers.

The nerve of that guy! And a journalism instructor! Taking off points like that! He was a copy editor in a previous life, so I am sure that’s a big part of it. Also, there’s the issue of getting things right versus getting things wrong.

Anyway, it’s been almost 20 years, but I remember him as a kind man. Always had a big smile. Like a lot of teachers, once you decoded what he was after you could make some nice progress. He was big on feedback since so much of what he taught was grounded in subjectivity. And getting that feedback could often times be the most useful best part of his class. Some of those lessons still ring in my ears. He was also very patient during office hours. I hope some of that part rubbed off on me, by accident.

Back then there weren’t as many administrative support positions as students enjoy today and the few that were around were somewhat overwhelmed. Plus, I reasoned, the people who’d been in my field would be more helpful in drafting the right kind of resume for my field. So I went to the faculty and this one man was generous with his time, working through several drafts of the brutal document with me, marking every tiny mistake, like the copy editor he was. And he liked empirical data points.

So I’ve always had them in my resume. There’s not a job description that doesn’t include a mention of ratings boosts, enrollment increase or social media gains and some data points or percentages.

Which is a long way to say — because I’m vamping, clearly — that another kind of data is peer acceptance. The media industry, you might have heard, is big on awards and honors. It’s a marker of professional peerage. A plaque! Maybe a trophy, or even a certificate! Ultimately they mean you get to mention them from time to time, say you are award-winning and so on. Plus, and perhaps most critically, some of these things give you additional feedback and you get to see where you are next to others plying the same trade. They don’t wow many people at parties, but they do look nice on a resume. For all of these reasons I encourage students to take the necessary steps to get over the requisite hurdles that allow them to jump through the hoops of getting their media efforts nominated.

If nothing else, I get to brag about them:

This is where I trot out my old saw about how student media members do this stuff in addition to their class work, their real jobs and in dealing with whatever is going on with their lives. These particular sports guys in particular always seem to be working when there is a significant game that they, as fans, would enjoy watching. But they’re working. They do it late at night and late in the week, even on those weeks when the campus is a ghost town because everyone else has left for a long holiday. It takes dedication to be a high functioning college student anyway, but it takes another round of that same spirit to do something as demanding as media work. And then, of course, they have to deal with me. All of this is a kind of first step into the media’s dues-paying process. It can be a thankless task, sometimes, which is why I try to thank them and show them off as much as possible. Oh, look, here’s another group to brag on:

One really nice thing that the ACM contests do is they share the submissions of each category’s finalists, so you can see the work of some of the best people in the country. I can say the students I work with are doing work that gets nominated for big national awards, sure. I can also say they are being mentioned with students in other great programs like Syracuse, Kent State, Quinnipiac and more. And we can see the great work the people in those programs are doing, too.

But mostly, being a finalist for a Pinnacle Award, that’s not a bad bullet point on a sophomore or junior’s resume.

Jun 19

I know The Answer

I had lunch with a former student today. Alex “The Answer” Eady graduated a year ago and has been doing news on WTIU here locally since then. We’ve been able to get together a few times over that period with her busy schedule. Today, though, was a sad meeting, because she’s skipping town.

I’ve watched her work for three years now, and now I’ll have to see it from afar. Her next stop is Virginia, and big things are in store for her. She’s got all the talent, charm, work ethic and know how one needs to be the next big thing. Her time is coming and she’s going to take advantage of it in a big way.

I’ll just miss the lunches.

But there’s always social media. And with her move, I’ll have former students, and now friends, working in 18 markets across 13 states.