Dec 20

They were hungry, I’m sure

Another week has begun, and so we are here, to charm you with your regular update about the cats. Over the weekend I had to open their most recent food delivery. Being cats, they were very interested.

Poseidon saw the box coming out of the storage closet and was intent right away.

I thought if I put it up on the counter I could do the things I needed to do — open the box, pull out the bag, and transfer the important information, like the proportions and the calendar progress, the date I opened it and all the nerdy things you would write on a bag of cat food. I don’t know why I thought I could do it on the counter unimpeded, since the cats spent most of their time on it despite by wishes.

I put the box, including the food and Poseidon, on the floor and pulled the bag out from under him. He was fine with it. Back on the counter went the bag. And up to the counter came Phoebe.

Who could write on a bag in permanent marker around a face like that?

Chewy, which has been dependable throughout, has text printed on the box encouraging you to keep the cardboard, because cats like boxes. We’ve got plenty of boxes around the house, thank you very much, Chewy. We will recycle it, though.

Today is the anniversary of the beginning of our engagement. It was twelve years ago today that we were under Our Tree in Savannah, the same place we spent a day on our first trip and the place we return on every visit. (We were supposed to visit again this spring, alas.) The next year we got married just across the street. I asked her if she would like to have more adventures with me.

And we’ve had great adventures, every day! And still plenty more to come. There’s tomorrow, and Wednesday and Thursday and that’s just the normal, daily stuff. Most times, those are the best adventures of all.

Nov 20

The cat pictures are at the bottom

I dreamed of my grandfather. I know we aren’t supposed to talk about our dreams because they mean little and hold no interest and this one is going nowhere anyway, but it’s my dream and my site. So, I dreamed of my grandfather. He was coming in the front door of his house. They had a smallish house, but big for its time. And it always looked larger from the outside. I suppose everything does from the perpetual memory of youth. He was a young grandfather, and healthy. He was probably still strong and working.

Most of my life that wasn’t the case. He had a few brain aneurysms when I was in junior high and it laid him low. He was working on his truck, he drove 18-wheelers late in his working life, and something between his brain and his heart just couldn’t get along. I suppose it was often like that for him. He recovered a bit, took some therapy, but I don’t think it really took to him, and that was it. For the rest of my life, into my 30s, he was there in almost every way, but couldn’t care for himself. He’d get dizzy if you stood him up to fast. Someone had to walk him even around the house he built. He was sometimes difficult to understand, which frustrated him, because everything was all in his head, he just struggled getting it out.

It made him nicer, in some ways. More patient. As if understanding his own limitations made him understanding of other things. He was pretty much always nice to me, even as a young grandfather, but I have stories that he’d been a hard man to deal with sometimes. But, after his own body humbled him and he became homebound and his working man’s hands grew soft, so did his personality. He was lovely, and yet still humorously opinionated in the way that old men are.

I wish I could tell you I had some conversation with him in the dream, that he gave me some insight or a sign or a tip on next weekend’s games. (He’d pick Roy Jones in that fight, though, and tell you boxing just isn’t what it used to be, and he’d be right.) But it was just a few images and flashes. It was their house, and I was there, but not modern me. Maybe a me out of time. And the furniture wasn’t really right. And the room was brighter than it ever was. The living room had a dark wood panelling and faced the east and was only light by lamps and the TV. It didn’t matter. Everything that happened in that house happened happened in the kitchen. I assume that’s where my grandmother was in the dream, in her kitchen, but I don’t know.

My uncle was there. And he looked like a younger adult in the dream, too, which meant it would have been the louder, cocksure version of himself, rather than the quieter cocksure man he’d age into. The younger uncle stood at the corner of my grandparents’ living room, where the hall and the kitchen and the living room meet. And for some reason, he had a garden tiller in the house, just sitting right there on the carpet.

Like I said, this dream went nowhere. It’s notable only because I seldom remember dreams, and this is the rare case when I do recall a dream, and it included an important person.

And that’s how my off week begins. It isn’t how my holiday started.

This is a story about the windows in our house. Really, it’s a story about our blinds in our house, which means it’s a story about our house.

I was just talking with a friend recently about the condition of some things. We bought this place from a family of eight. There two kids and a newborn, and some of the walls and doors prove it. I was saying that, some of the scratches and gouges and things, I’d leave, because they tell the story of the place. But some should be fixed, if I had the wherewithal, or a good Wherewithal Guy. One day some of them will be repaired and disguised, but the trick would be deciding which few to leave, to honor the kids that used to be here.

It’s a silly thing, probably, but it seems important somehow.

Anyway, a lot of the windows have blinds we inherited. Blinds are great! Precisely until the moment when they are the worst thing in the world. In the master bathroom there are three windows and in the last year or so I’ve replaced all three sets of blinds. One broken down with age and sunlight exposure — or kids rappelling off the wall — and one of the cats broke the other two sets. I hung a few sets of blinds elsewhere in the house, and that was fun.

You shouldn’t call that fun, because that would be a lie, and your house might be more perceptive than you imagine.

So let me try again. I hung a few sets of blinds elsewhere in the house, and that was a horrible, no good experience that I still dwell on when I’m underneath them.

And so it was that, today, we decided to replace the blinds in The Yankee’s office. Because one of the sets had decided that string tension was no longer a desirable attribute.

Having installed the six sets of blinds described above I can tell you this about blinds: the technology has changed since the last time you went blind shopping. You can’t get those with the raising-and-lowering strings on the right side anymore. These days, you adjust the height of your blinds with your mind! And also your hand, which you place along the bottom of the blinds, which somehow correctly interprets which way you want them to go. Also, whatever old school system of installation your blinds have, is now obsolete. Remember how I just told you I’ve installed six sets of blinds in this house? Well now I’ve installed eight. And there are three different sets of hangars at play.

And since I knew those things, we decided to not just replace the failed set of blinds in her office, but their companion blinds, as well. May as well bring both windows up to code.

What could follow is five paragraphs about today’s chore, detailing the moving of the desk, the removal of the old blinds, the removal of the old installation system — which involves breaking plastic and a stripped screw that I removed with a ratchet. I would have told you all about trying to figure out how the new brackets work with the new blinds, because while I hd two sets, only one came with instructions and, wouldn’t you know, they were in the second box. There is also the discussion of the installation of the new style of brackets, still awkward angles, still aching arms, still eight screws, and at least that many dropped screws.

But I won’t tell you those things. We’re already at 1,200 words and there’s still so much to go!

Somewhere during the evening, though, I remembered the blinds in my office window were also ruined. And maybe, juuuust maybe, the still working blinds from her office would fit mine. Not every window is the same size. That’s something you don’t often think about, but that’s something you can ponder the next time you’re locked down.

So, I retrieved her used-but-good blinds, which were ready to be disposed of, and tried them in my office. Same hanging system, meaning, quite possibly for the first time in the history of window covering systems, an easy installation. And here they are:

They look great in my window. I think I’ll keep them, and never touch them so they can’t break.

On Mondays in this space we check in with the cats. I am pleased to report they are both doing splendidly. A few weeks ago Phoebe enjoyed some time in these old grocery sacks.

And two weeks later Poseidon discovered them, as well.

I’d fold up the sacks and put them away for some future use, but they clearly belong to the cats now.

More tomorrow. Until then, did you know that Phoebe and Poseidon have an Instagram account? Phoebe and Poe have an Instagram account. And don’t forget to keep up with me on Twitter and on Instagram. There are also some very interesting On Topic with IU podcasts for you, as well.

Nov 20

Another “We’ll say ‘We knew him when'”

This is, I told Drew, one of my favorite parts. He’s a sports guy. One of the co-directors of the sports division this term. And he’s going to graduate in a few weeks. But he came over to the news shows this evening to do a bit of fill-in work:

He was, of course, ready, prepared, hit all his marks and drilled the delivery of a concise sports segment in a larger newscast. Did it in one take, as cool and as confident and as comfortable in the contrivance of television as someone can be.

It’s one of my favorite parts because I knew I got to watch him present tonight, and I’ll get to see him work one last time on Thursday and then he’ll start making his way out into the world, where the real work and the real learning begin. But I’m not thinking about that. I’m stuck remembering when he showed up as a freshman. When he somehow became the A1, and then talked the upperclassmen into letting him do extra segments if they found extra studio time. So he came to productions camera-ready, just in case, for several weeks. And, finally, he got his chance.

He’d written a new timely segment every week, just on the prospect of getting to stand in front of the cameras. And now it was here and they put him in front of a monitor and ran some graphics over it and he worked through the thing. It was obviously his first time, but he learned a lot, and quickly. He took the advice to heart. And now, three-and-a-half years later, he has a year of those solo social media hits under his belt. He’s taken all the classes, had the internships. He’s done the reporting and live shots. He was a beat reporter for tennis one year and football one year. He’s been a sports director. He’s hosted the talk show for about a year-and-a-half or more, now.

I stood off from the camera and watched him present tonight and thought about all those starts and stops along the way and enjoyed watching him carry himself like the young professional he is. It is, easily, the best part of my job, watching them grow like that. It’s fascinating to see. The really talented people we get, and we get some real talent, you can just see it all blur together for them. First they were halting and then they become dynamic and ready to really hone their skills.

I wish I had more time with those students, focusing on some specialized finishing school stuff, but those that go into broadcasting will get a terrific crucible experience in that new first job. May they all land somewhere exciting and sooner than later.

I did this interview on Friday, I think, and I sound exhausted! I had no idea until I listened to it on playback. Then again, I’m about six weeks into waking up tired. Everyone is pretty much in the same boat right now; keep your stones in your stone satchel.

Sorry, Kyle. It was at the end of a long week near the end of this crazy semester and I had some small degree of sleep and then I got to talk about economics.

But it’s kind of important stuff, as describing forecasts and prospects go.

Despite my exhaustion, economists are fun interviews. If you talk with them consistently you can learn a great deal about economists.

Oh, and I feel much more awake today. It’s only Tuesday, after all. No one is allowed to be tired on Tuesday. By mid-Wednesday, all bets, however, are off.

Here’s the morning show from Monday! Which they shot on Friday! And it’s a semester-ender, so, as is tradition with this show, they got a bit reflective.

They have a good time with it.

Useless fact: they were recording that show while I was talking with the economist. What does it mean? Who can say?

Nov 20

A note 10 years in the making

On Saturday we went for our bike ride and it was 46 degrees. I had on a pair of full finger gloves, two pairs of socks, a wind jacket and a DIY gaiter I made out of a toboggan. In perfect pitch with the season, it was gross and rainy. But right on this stretch of road something neat happened.

So every mile for the rest of the year — including the last three or so on that ride — marks a new personal best.

Why, yes, I do have a spreadsheet charting these things. Doesn’t everyone? Previously, 2013 was the best year. We did a lot of racing that year and I was starting to pile up solo miles to make up for losing out on the second half of 2012. And, I think, somewhere in those solo miles I started to see my riding as something that was mine, a carefree interlude from the rote things that control so much of our lives. Because of the triathlons I was in the pool twice a week and running several days a week and riding as much as possible. Between that and excessive work hours and the ridiculous commute I came to think of it as My Own Time. Which is, I know, a radical way to think of one’s free time.

I remember the view from the ridge I was on when the realization came to me: this is you carving out something for yourself. It was a disproportionately powerful realization; this thing that you do for fun is something you actually do for fun. It’s a conscious realization of agency you’ve always had.

One day it’s going to take, too!

Clearly the endorphins were out of whack that day.

A person’s interaction with their bike can be one of the most passionate relationships they have. It can sometimes be a mercurial one. A few years ago I ran cold on the idea of bike riding. It was something to be checked off the list before I could do other things. Almost sounds like a chore, doesn’t it? It got to that point and, suddenly, the thing that used to be an interlude was an interruption. It wasn’t my thing. It was, of course, interrupting nothing. I saw it, recognized it, and knew it. Still haven’t remedied it, but clearly I’m tapping out a rhythm to my own drummer over here.

By a curious coincidence that same year, 2017, was when my form, such as it ever was, started to vanish. It was subtle, but obvious. Couldn’t go as hard for as long, or as fast as suddenly as I once did, and so on. These are all things that are, of course, very relative. The important thing is that it happened and I noticed and it’s never been recovered.

But hey, that’s age, and not enough talent, or time. And, like any relationship, you have to put in the time. It doesn’t hurt if you bring a little innate talent to the thing, or want to work on it, besides.

I go back and forth a lot; its a thing on the list, it’s a thing I do. It’s a thing I have to do; it’s a thing I want to do more. Still trying to figure it out. I always take the ride, but the consideration always seems to be there. This isn’t, perhaps, about my bike riding at all. A year or two ago (who can even tell?) I made a Things I Want To Do List. The idea being these weren’t the tasks one must muddle through to achieve, but the things one does because they are pleasant. I spent some time on the list. There were a few drafts, as I found the proper rank order for all the common contingencies and considerations, because you should do that for your list of enjoyments. At the top of the list was “Ride your bike: whenever the weather is good.”

Maybe the solution is a lot more of those long, meandering rides that take place just because they can.

So, almost any sunny day we get for the rest of the year, because I’ll have some availability and because I am now in every-mile-is-a-new-record mode, I hope to have a little time in the saddle.

It will take many pairs of socks.

I say sunny because, otherwise, you’re just going to get glorious views like this.

Isn’t that inspiring? Doesn’t that make you want to get out there and do … something?

Like install blackout curtains through mid-March or so?

This week’s forecast includes some actual sun. I’ll be sequestered in the office. I was on work from home duty today, but tomorrow it’s back to campus. And next week, I’ll be back at the home office, or at least at the house.

Today I edited an interview I’m publishing tomorrow, caught up on email, and generally prepared for this last week of in-person work.

Most crucially, I started charting out what the next several weeks of work from home will look like. And, happily, there will be things to do. There are always things to do.

OK, perhaps that wasn’t the most crucial thing. I also had a Zoom meeting about some upcoming stories that students are reporting on. I think I may enjoy those more than they do, but I hope my participation is at least in some way useful for them.

Also, I got two new tires for the car today. I’d developed a slow leak in one that was going bald anyway, and the other wasn’t far behind. So I drove over to the tire place and put on my mask and nodded at the “Must wear a mask” sign on the door and walked inside.

And I immediately noticed that a good mask does not filter out the peculiar smell of unused vulcanized rubber. A guy was on the phone in the back office. He saw me, finished the call, hung up and put his mask on. The Boomer sitting in their chairs waiting on his car to come down off the lift did not have a mask on.

I’ve really had it with this sort of thing.

So the guy working there asked me what I needed. We went and looked at the car. He drove it into their work bay. I said, You know, it’s a nice sunny late afternoon. I’m just going to stand out here if you need me.

“I don’t blame you,” he said.

What I didn’t say, and I don’t know if he inferred, was Because I don’t want to sit around that guy, or your unmasked coworkers.

But I took his response to mean that he knew what I was on about.

So I enjoyed the sun in a medium-light jacket and caught up on some current events and began wondering if I should scale that Sisyphean exercise back next week, when my car came down off the work lift. Inside, to pay, I saw that the unmasked Boomer was thankfully gone. Two of the unmasked employees were right there. And I mean, right there.

So I left just as quickly as I could. Used their hand sanitizer — I see it like water in the South, now. If it’s on offer, you take advantage of the opportunity — and got to the car and used mine, wiping down the wheel and the door features and so on, just to be sure.

I rolled down the windows, because it was, in fact, a lovely afternoon, for a few blocks to let any cooties escape. And I listened to the hum of four good tires on the road.

By the time I got back to the house it was growing dark once again. So I set about doing a few household things until dinnertime. It was the productive Monday I’ve been trying to have for the last several Mondays, really. And there’s some satisfaction in that.

Nov 20

Election Day

My day started with a three-hour webinar. I have four of those this week. There was another hour of Zooming this afternoon. Plus two hours in the studio, where I watched the news team put together some nice election nice coverage. They’ll be proud of that. Team coverage, in-studio interviews, they pitched it back and forth. It looked awfully nice.

But it made for a full day. Or a full-enough day. (So I’m glad I voted last week, but from the look and sound of it around here, I might have waited longer last Monday than people did today.)

Here’s Noelle, anchoring for us this evening:

She’s so steady, and always does a really nice job.

We brought in all the big guns.

I got home just after 8 p.m., which is the earliest election night I’ve had since 1996, I think.

My first election night was as a cub at the campus paper, covering local and Senate and congressional watch parties. If you’ve not been to a Democratic watch party in a hotel banquet hall you haven’t really experienced local politics, is all I’ll say. That night I also talked to Bob Riley just after he was tapped for his first term in Congress. I believe his campaign office was a retro-fitted farmers market, if I recall correctly. The Republican would serve there six years and then two terms as the governor of Alabama. I also talked to Jeff Sessions on the phone that night. One of those gentlemen was more cordial than the other.

I was on the air, and still in college, for the 1998 mid-terms. It was ambitious of us, really. In 2000, well, I ended up catching a few minutes of sleep in my car between election events and being on the air the next morning. It was a long night, for sure. Everyone said that, and they said it about the next several weeks.

The 2002 midterms was a gubernatorial election in Arkansas, where I covered Mike Hubbard’s re-election, when he was still mostly normal. Arkansans also elected Mark Pryor to his first term in the U.S. Senate. He’s a family legacy in that state and had been the state attorney general. It wasn’t a coronation, but it was.

The 2004 election I was producing content, but don’t have a big memory of it. We were all just sick of swift boats and Michael Moore and the staid weariness of the Kerry campaign. The 2006 elections taking place around me saw all of the incumbents win re-election and there was nothing really of note beyond that. Back when people wanted a status quo. I edited a lot that night. And I also used the word “wary.” The next day I interviewed reporters and political scientists.

But 2008 was different. I was in a newsroom, but it wasn’t my newsroom. It was my first student newsroom and the mystery wafted away pretty early in the night. Still, a long night in the newsroom watching a paper being put to bed. I had to talk some people into covering, you know, the historic election of their time. Journalism!

In 2010 I watched the students working around a bit of history. The entire state had turned red. Everything in the executive branch, and for the first time since Reconstruction, the Republicans gained a majority in the state legislature. The man who engineered it, rose to become Speaker of the House for Alabama. Corruption charges soon followed him. He was convicted on state ethics law violations in 2016 and appealed and held off his sentence until September of this year. Just today, in fact, he was transferred from county to state custody. (He was also a former employer of mine.)

That year, 2010, also saw the first win for a woman in a contested race in the state. Alabama sent two women to Congress, including the state’s first black woman elected to Congress from Alabama.

In 2012 I walked into the newsroom after a class to find the news editor designing a front page for a Romney win and another for an Obama win. Journalism! I suggested making a question mark-style front page, just in case. Everything was decided before I’d finished eating dinner and so I watched them put finishing touches on that Obama issue long into the night.

I have no recollection whatsoever of the 2014 midterms. All the incumbent congress members were re-elected around me. I was living in two worlds, and so it always felt like I was sleeping over at someone else’s house and never where I belonged. And Robert Bentley was elected governor in Alabama. I think a lot of people would like to have fewer recollections than what comes to mind these days when his name is uttered.

In 2016, well. New school, new newsroom, new building, and I bet you remember your own experience from that night. It was another late night. I think I left after all of our productions were done at about 2:30 a.m. or so. That’s not an un-standard time for me, on election night.

Tonight, it was just after 8 p.m. when I left for the house. Now I have no idea what to do with myself, other than to watching glowing maps on computer monitors and television screens. So I’ll do that.

I’m also watching the work of former students covering the election pretty much everywhere.

I counted people working in 11 different states covering their local elections tonight. That’s something special, to me.

Here are some photos I took this weekend.

Some amazing weather we’re having right now. Taking advantage of every moment of it while it lasts. And hoping it lasts forever.

Some of those pictures are so nice that one or two of them might wind up as backgrounds on the front page one of these days. Speaking of which, there’s a new look to the front page right now. It looks something like this:

Go check it out.