Dec 19

nasses Nickerchen

I saw this word used a few years back and immediately fell in love with it: administrivia. It is an American thing, of course, and apparently came out of the 1930s. Can’t imagine why. And it became popular in education circles in the 1960s. Can’t imagine why.

Which is not to say that we’re the only ones burdened with the thing. Administrivia is everywhere. But the way it’s used is delightful. Even summoning up the word is a judgement: This isn’t cool, I know, but I also know it is necessary, and know you know, by my using this word, that I know it isn’t cool. And maybe it isn’t even necessary, but that’s bureaucratic inertia, kid.

Even saying the word is a bit of a challenge the first few hundred times you do it. It makes you sympathetic to the German speaker’s use of komposita.

The first time I saw this word, administrivia, it was on a syllabus. Which was perfect. It was in a bold font. Which seemed useless.

Anyway, that was my day, dealing with the details that must be dealt with in order to do more interesting work.

There was the approval of travel funds, the approval of payroll and the sending out a contract which had most assuredly been sent before. Arrangements had to be made for an office key to be turned in, and the first question about the next term rolled in about that same time. Somehow, another approval was required for the same upcoming travel funds. This prompted a great many notes. There are always programming notes to consider, both looking back and looking forward. And then there were the emails, always there are the emails, and the brief doorway meetings and so on.

The Germans don’t seem to have a word for administrivia, which seems like it would be an embarrassing oversight on their part.

I did learn a fine German proverb looking for it though. Wer den Acker nicht will graben, der wird nicht als Unkraut haben.

Speaking of komposita …

Hey, it was either that or going long on this little news note today: Wet-Nap maker planning to build area production facility, add 90 jobs

Nice-Pak Products, a manufacturer of wet wipes for consumers, health care, food service and other commercial markets, announced plans Wednesday to build a 760,000-square-foot production and warehousing facility in Mooresville, creating 90 jobs.

The Orangeburg, New York-based company already employs 413 people at its existing administrative and production facility at 1 Nice Park Road in Mooresville. The company, which has 2,500 employees worldwide, has operated in Mooresville for 45 years.

A man named Julius had an idea and started it all. He and his son got in bed with Colonel Sanders, and then things really took off. It’s an industry that is projected to have compound annual growth of about seven percent over much of the next decade. Everyone needs clean skin, after all, and some of that growth is going to come from just up the road. And that’s 90 new jobs rolled into what is already that county’s biggest employer.

The company makes products as varied as Wet-Nap, Nice n Clean Wipes and Grime Boss. What, you didn’t think you’d diversify in the wet napkin game? There are all sorts of pre-loaded moisture needs out there, friend, and businesses have to meet those needs.

It isn’t clear from that brief story if this means an additional facility, or a full upgrade and replacement project. Here’s what they have now. The exterior looks as clean as you would expect of such an enterprise.

The new place will be about five miles down the road from the old place, which is opposite a concrete mix supplier. Adjacent to the new locale are a small car dealership and a gutter cleaning service. It just seems a logical place, said a guy who was counting on those civic tax breaks to build the new facility.

They’ll start moving dirt late next year. It’ll be a project where no one goes home with grime under their nails.

Sep 16

Where the people are moving

As ever, this barn was at or near the top of a hill on today’s bike ride. It was but a 22-mile ride, and another piece of mounting evidence, impossible to ignore, that I don’t know how to ride on hills. But a nice little piece of farmland, somewhere, I think, around a place called Unionville.


Or maybe it was around New Unionville. Hard to tell at this point. They are both unincorporated areas — One has a recycling center, the other has a post office — and appear to be perfectly lovely and sleepy places to pass through.

Wikipedia tells me that Unionville was the center of the U.S. population in 1911. According to the 2010 Census the center is in a place called Plato, Missouri. As the crow flies that’s a 337 mile shift to the southwest in a century. That’s just migratory patterns. (And air conditioning.)

Furthermore, Wikipedia tells me “The 20.7-mile shift projected for the 2010–2020 period would be the shortest centroid movement since the Great Depression intercensal period of 1930–1940.”

Historically … If you looked at the mean center in 1810, the spot was in Loudon County, Virginia, 470 miles east of here. Short of a trend, let’s split the difference. I’m guessing, if you give it another 100 years, the mean center might be somewhere near Woodward, Oklahoma, which is 400 miles from Plato. Someone print this out and keep it for your great-great-grandchildren to verify.

But, anyway, hills or no, I averaged 20 miles per hour or more over the course of four different miles today. So there’s that. A quick glance at a map of Woodward suggests it might be flat. Maybe I should ride there.

Oct 15

We did a half Ironman this weekend

In Macon, Georgia it rained. We’d traveled over Friday night, stayed in a hotel and woke up early to get rained on. That wouldn’t be a problem. There was to be a fair amount of swimming on Saturday. Then there was lightning and big shuddering clumps of thunder. It rained and rained, everything was cold and wet and the lightning stayed around long enough to drive away the darkness.

For a time it seemed there would be no race. I talked to the race director who spelled out his options. The best option was that we’d have the full race. The longer the storm hovered over us, the less of the race we’d have. And it all came down to the formal start time. So I went back to the car and shivered from the cold rain and waited. I shivered and waited long enough that I started to hope the storm canceled the swim. The swim is my weakest segment of the triathlon. The rest of them aren’t particularly strong, mind you.

The storm pushed on through. And the race started just a few minutes late, which seemed an impressive feat while standing on the beach. Nothing else seemed impressive at the moment, though. I didn’t have enough time to finish my setup in transition, I was tripping over myself trying to put my wetsuit on while hustling down to the beach. I hadn’t had enough time to fill up the water bottles for my bike. It was a bad way to start.

But then the race itself started. It was a wave start. You go in with others in your age group. My age group launched second, so I didn’t have to wait around and get more anxious about it at least. I spent my time trying to count the buoys, make sure the wetsuit was fitting right and was in the water before I knew it.

There are two things about the swim everyone must consider. First, the cliche is that the race isn’t won in the swim, but it can be lost there. Well. I am no danger to the guys who were going to win the race. The second thing is that you have to try to not get your heart rate too elevated in the swim. It is a marathon, not a sprint. Well, a half marathon, but that’s a few hours away.

I’m swimming about 3,000 yards per workout in the pool right now. So I know I can cover the distance, which is 2,100 yards, or 1.2 miles. I know from experience that the first 300 yards of my swim are the worst. It takes that long to get my arms warmed up. I just wanted to keep my group in site for that long. I was pleased when my arms came around early in the swim and I was still surrounded by swim caps. And then I managed to hang on to the back of the pack throughout the rest of the swim, despite getting completely turned around in the lake twice. And by completely, I mean, facing the wrong direction.

Out of the water, off the beach, up the hill and into transition. I finished my prep, because I missed out early in the rainy setup period. Ran my bike over to the nearest barely-working water fountain and then started pedaling out of Macon’s Sandy Beach Park.


For 56 miles I pedaled. The course was described in such a way that led you to believe it was moderately flat. It was a little more hilly than that. More problematic was that the hills are a different kind of climb than what we’re accustomed to at home. That probably makes more sense if you spend a lot of time struggling to get up a hill. But it was a nice course; the roads were quiet, the route was pretty. The only real civilization was Roberta, a town of about 1,000 people, that served as the turnaround point.

I had to stop a few times, once for an apparel problem, once to refill water bottles and so on, and I was rather disappointed in my overall ride. I blame the hills. Around mile 53 I was ready to be done. Around mile 40 was when I let out my first harsh exclamation of the day. We drove the course the night before and I predicted when that would happen and I was right.

Before that I saw the cool Georgia Post building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

I also saw a really great old store sign that I wanted to go back and snap a picture. I didn’t stop on my ride, though, and we didn’t go back. This was about 17 miles into the course:

Which brings us to the run. After swimming 1.2 miles and riding 56 miles up and down the hills of central Georgia, I had to run 13.1 miles through the shadeless subdivisions of a few neighborhoods.

Remember, I said at mile 53 I was done? I found I was done again after the first mile of the run. And then at the fourth mile. This problem recurred pretty much on cue between miles eight through 12. But I got that emotional, finisher’s bit of steam after that.


I finished within four minutes of my worst-case scenario time. (Which was very slow, because I am quite slow.) We got our pictures taken at the finish line and, what do you know, we got the car loaded up just as another round of rain came through.

Saturday, we conquered 70.3.

I do not know what is happening.

Jul 15

The tank banks

I saw this piggy bank at Stonehenge. At the time I had no idea about the history behind it, which is, like most history, rather interesting.

It comes from a World War 1 British fund raising campaign. Six tanks toured the countryside promoting war bonds. You have to remember this is in the fall of 1917 and tanks were still the high end of war marvels. The public was fascinated to see in person what they were just starting to read about.

The tank rolled in with soldiers and artillery alongside. Airplanes dropped pamphlets, speeches were made. The tank was put through its paces before spending several days in the town with a table inside where people were giving money. They raised millions of pounds, nationally. Soon a competition emerged to see which place could raise the most money and “win” a tank. West Hartlepool would win and Egbert — they do know how to name things, don’t they? — stayed in the town until it was scrapped in 1937.

After the war was over, the government gave 264 tanks to towns and cities in 1919. Most just rusted out over time and sold for scrap. All but one was gone before the end of World War II. The town of Ashford still has their tank, the only one left. It is now a registered war memorial, though without its engine or gearbox and with replica armaments. You can see the tank here:

That tank, one of 1,200 Mark IVs the British built for that particular war, is thought to have never seen combat. Only eight remain. The Mark IV carried a crew of eight and traveled at seven miles per hour.

Feb 15

There are at least four (really bad) puns here

One more week and this becomes a thing, but today I saw this cruise down the highway.


If you think of it, most everything gets shipped somewhere, one way or another. But you never really think about that, at least until you see a truck hauling logs going one way as it passes a truck hauling logs going the other way. Then it seems silly. “They’ve got logs over here, too!”

Maybe it should have sunk in and stuck in our traveling minds the first time we saw a big truck hauling other trucks, or when you saw a freighter moving most any thing that can move on its own. Everything gets shipped, even the live fish. And you hope to never think about it, or become aware of it which, in this case, would usually mean bad news puns because of an accident. “Ofishials: Traffic flounders after accidents, bystanders threaten to sushi.”

Just Coelorinchus horribilis.

(Yes, I had to look that up.)

You want to see that crudely drawn logo, you say? No problem:


I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that the fish has a fishing pole. Like a fish can whistle.

Things to read … because I can’t whistle, either.

Boston’s Winter From Hell:

Sure, it’s not the same as an earthquake: The snow will melt, eventually. But that will bring more woes. The flooding will hurt the T, ruin roofs and basements and clog roads still more.

Where are the federal disaster funds, the presidential visit, Anderson Cooper interviewing victims, volunteers flying in, goods and services donated after hurricanes and tornadoes? The pictures may be pretty. But we need help, now.

This is more snow, seven feet in three weeks it says, than I’ve seen in my entire life, probably. And there are certainly big problems — many of them are detailed in that column. But, really?

(We’re absolutely getting two to four inches of snow later this week. I’m going to laugh at us.)

Easily the best story I read yesterday, Chasing Bayla:

Moore had engineered something that could be a breakthrough for rescuers, a way to sedate whales at sea. The man standing to his left on the Zodiac platform held the instrument Moore had conceived for the task: a pressurized rifle tipped with a dart and syringe filled with 60 cc’s of a sedative so powerful that a few drops on human skin could kill.

Bayla was probably seven tons, but you can’t weigh a free-swimming whale. If the estimate were wrong, an overdose could plunge Bayla into a catastrophic slumber and she would drown.

Moore scanned the horizon. Fishing charters and Disney Cruise Liners jockeyed for space at the shore. Ahead, the vast reach of the Atlantic met at every point with the prickling Florida sun.

He knew that the work of a lifetime shouldn’t come down to a single moment. He was the father of four grown boys. He loved his wife. His home was an island in Marion Harbor. He had published scores of peer-reviewed papers and commanded millions in grant money.

Yet the vow he had made to himself as a young man, the thing he had dedicated his career and heart to, remained unfulfilled. For Moore, nearing retirement and running out of ideas, there might be no more chances.

Blow spouted off the port bow.

That’s a slightly longer read, and it has stunning visuals. Well worth your time.

CNN … just … Does Kim Jong Un’s new look reflect a new attitude?

Journalism links:

Why Journalism Students Need a Baseline Understanding of Coding
Local newspapers are hoping online radio can be a growth area
Your ultimate guide to Snapchat
Snapchat boss sees music as a ‘really interesting opportunity’

And. finally, we return to the old Crimson archives that are still in my office. I’m trying to work through them all and file them away elsewhere. Occasionally I find some interesting things. Here’s one now. This was written in 1979 by a person who now works at a non-profit in Texas and a Kentucky physician.


Did you know there was a rear gate? It was right here: