Mar 17

Alone in the woods, with sunglasses and soup

Each day I make use of at least one weather app, the smart thermostat which is still patiently trying to convenience me it somehow knows what is going on outside and a variety of windows which display both front and back yards. I do all of this at night and again in the morning, before I put a single thing in my pockets to leave. And then I put the things I carry in my pockets, so many things. And then I go to the garage, because that is where I park my car.

I open the garage door, because that is easier than driving through it and replacing it every week. And then I settle into my car, crank it and undertake the normal procedures one uses. I put my foot on the brake, select reverse and then throw my arm over the other seat and look backward because that’s how everyone did it when I was growing up and that’s still the coolest move in a car. I snicker at the idea of a backup camera. No, seriously, every day, that makes me chuckle. And then I move the car, each time I am amazed by my good fortune of avoiding hitting things with the passenger-side mirror. And then I am in the driveway, and I back up about 15 more feet and I’m in the road.

Only, today, I was confronted by this thing that I knew from both ancient DNA and my own dim, distant memory.

That’s actually overselling it. Of course it was the sun. I was pleased to see the sun. “This is,” I thought to myself, “a sign of things to come.” That thought was immediately followed by “My, but that’s bright!”

Don’t I own some device that was designed to aid in the filtering of the bright and magical UV rays which are now descending on me for the first time since, oh, November? However long ago it was I had to really struggle to remember — and this part is legitimate — where I store my sunglasses in my car. But I used them today. So pleased was I that, in the parking lot at work I had to find a sunny spot for this picture:

I used to use this article in writing classes. It is about a man who stayed a true hermit, in the woods of Maine, for 27 years before police picked him up on a series of cabin break-ins. One reporter, the author of that piece, was the only person the guy talked to. (Turns out, I just learned, that story has become one of GQ’s most-read pieces ever. I’d give students that article on a Monday and would ask them to discuss it the following Monday. The few that would actually talk about it thought it creepy. At 20 pages of intriguing brilliance, most just thought it too long and admitted they gave up on it. Their loss.)

Anyway, the story appears again, by the same talented reporter, Michael Finkel, who has now written about it in The Guardian. And now he’s got a book on the story, released earlier this month. Read the GQ version, it is worth the time.

Tonight I learned that Allie likes minestrone:

She likes it a lot. Licked the bowl clean. Worked hard at getting the edges. I’ll have to leave her a bit of the broth next time.

Feb 17

11-hour Fridays

Morning show this morning. Everyone arrived early. One of the students brought donuts for our engineer. He and I realized none of them knew the songs “I Can’t Drive 55” or “I Wanna Rock” or “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)”

That sorta dampened the moment, donuts or no. They produced their show, the very famous Ed, from one of the popular nearby restaurants was their guest:

He’s a New Yorker who has been here for 30 years. He’s had that restaurant for 10 years. He says he’s doing the same thing he did in college, which was acting as the party host. And, most days, if you go into his store, that’s not that far off.

After the show I retired to do more editing. I’m reducing a lengthy, but not-entirely-dense technical document to create what will essentially be a piece of brief marketing material. Today I turned 26 pages of great notes written by a colleague into about one page of language.

In junior high and high school I had the same English teacher for four of six years. Mrs. Newman was sharp and intimating to teens, but she was hard and fair. Every Friday, for all of those four years, she made us write a one-page précis, or a brief summary, of a Newsweek article of her choosing. As we progressed, the articles became more demanding, the summaries more challenging and her expectations grew as the selections became more complex. It never got easier, but we maybe got better at it. She graded those on a scale of one to nine for some reason. I don’t remember every article I read or every grade I got on them, but I do recall one where she noted I could do better. That stuck with me because it stung me. On days like today, with a lot of editing, I think those précis were as valuable as any aspect of my formal training or years of professional experience.

So I thought of Mrs. Newman today. Oh, looks like she and her husband have a beach home now. Good for her. She retired a good while back, I wonder if he’s still practicing law.

We did some practice in the studio. One of our shows had auditions for next year’s hosts. So that was the afternoon. Also the sun came out, glorious and brilliant, acting like it had forgotten what to do with us after such a long time behind the clouds. Of course the cloud cover returned. Of course it’ll be another week before the sun is seen again.

In another studio, in another building, we also launched a brand new late night show. I went over to watch it get underway:

Rob is the guy on the right. He’s actually studying standup comedy as a major. We had a nice chat about it. He’s a smart young man. Going to be a great show.

And for the year so far that makes three new shows we’ve launched. These are full time students, and all of the productions are entirely student run. We’ve assembled three new crews and put together three new shows, in addition to three pre-existing shows. Not bad for being in a new facility and the students having to deal with me and every other thing.

Feb 17

The cuffs were stained, and it got stinky

From time to time a student asks to interview me about something or other as part of a class project. I try to be a difficult interview, thinking maybe the word will get out and people will stop asking.

I don’t actually act like a bad interview subject. I try to be helpful while they’re learning their craft, but the thought always occurs to me: I could derail this. I could send this off in an entirely different direction. But they’re going to get that experience soon enough.

Today I got interviewed as part of a magazine writing exercise about the importance of clothes. It seemed an unusual topic, what clothes are important to you. So I thought, for whatever reason, about outerwear. This jacket, that coat and so on. I guess because it has been cold, I was thinking of the things that help keep you warm. Somewhere in there I mentioned this old denim jacket I had as a kid. Denim, which has made a comeback once more, was a big status symbol back then. And of course the interviewer seized on this as her topic.

I didn’t have a denim jacket for the longest time, because they were expensive and we didn’t have that kind of money. But finally, for Christmas one year, I got one. It was, I told my interviewer, an off-brand and it was probably about 15 minutes after denim was the thing, but I loved it. Loved it. I wore that jacket constantly. Day, night, overnight. And I suppose I just eventually physically outgrew it. But I remember the joy of the gift and the smell of the jacket. And it wasn’t a good smell, because I wore it constantly and I was a little boy. My mom had to wait until I went to sleep and then took the jacket off of me to wash the thing.

The interviewer asked good questions, as I imagined she would. Made me really think of my answers. It became an almost psychological exercise.

Afterward, I sent my mom a text, telling her about this interview. I figured she’d have a funny anecdote for me that I could pass along to my interviewer and we’d all have a good laugh. She didn’t remember the jacket.

In her defense, it was a few decades ago.

Also, when I was little, The Count always scared me. (I was a sensitive child.) But Brielle doesn’t have this problem. Plus, she’s adorable, and knows her stuff:

In the studio this evening, the sports show took over. David and Griffin are going places:

We’ll get to say we knew them back when. They do such great work. But you could say that about a lot of people around here.

And this:

Feb 17

A little something for a lot of people

Here’s your mid-week upside down motivation, brought to you by Allie The Black Cat:

She’s always concerned about morale, now if only she could read, so she’d know the words were upside down.

She spends enough time staring at screens and books and paper. Maybe she thinks she can read. Maybe she just looked at that upside down. Maybe I’m the one that is wrong. Maybe she actually can read. Anything is possible, it says.

We went for a run late this evening, before it was time to head back into the studio. I thought we would be running indoors, so I just had shorts and a t-shirt. But we ran outside, where the windchill was 34 degrees. I am smart. So I got in five miles before I had to cut it short to go back to work. I didn’t get my full eight, but I did get this view after I showered and set out to walk back to my building:

That’s going to be a banner on the site one day soon, I think.

These two pictures are from last night. The news show I oversee now has a weather segment. This was from last night, when we finally broke in the green screen. Pretty cool opportunity for the folks studying the weather:

I spent some time in the control room last night, too. Mostly because there are a lot of lights and cool buttons in there:

Things to readHere by the owl:

CADIZ, Ohio — Don Jones supports students as an FFA adviser, represented by the owl during FFA meetings.

In FFA tradition, the owl is a time-honored emblem of knowledge and wisdom, and Jones has served in the adviser’s role for 22 years. Some of his students jokingly refer to him as the “wise old owl.”

In his classroom at Harrison Central Junior and Senior High School, he provides real lessons for real life as the agricultural education teacher. He sees 140 students a day, in grades 7-12.

Being the only educator in the program, with just one classroom, he has to turn away students from his program, which is an elective for the nearly 650 youth at Harrison Central.

That headline is no accident. That’s actually part of the opening ceremony the FFA uses at levels ranging from school meetings to the national convention. The teacher, or the adviser, is represented by the owl.

Last year I wrote about my advisors:

I had many valuable experiences, and this could go on and on, but the most important thing the FFA gave to me was the leadership of two good men. Mr. Swaffield and Mr. Caddell were battle-tested teachers. They are two solid, stand up, good, decent, morally upright father figures I benefitted from as a teenager, when a boy needs them most.

Scott Pelley, Lester Holt, David Muir: The Unprecedented Joint Interview:

And, finally: Lost songs of Holocaust found in University of Akron archives:

In the summer of 1946, the psychologist interviewed at least 130 Jewish survivors in nine languages in refugee camps in France, Switzerland, Italy and Germany. With a wire recorder — then considered state-of-the-art equipment — and 200 spools of steel wire, Boder preserved some of the first oral histories of concentration camp survivors. He also recorded song sessions and religious services.

A portion of Boder’s work has been archived at The University of Akron’s Drs. Nicholas and Dorothy Cummings Center for the History of Psychology since 1967. But it wasn’t until a recent project to digitize the recordings got under way that a spool containing the “Henonville Songs,” performed in Yiddish and German and long thought lost, was discovered in a mislabeled canister.

As I’ve said before: A significant portion of the 21st century is going to go toward the preservation of the works of the 20th.

Feb 17

My sun-eating Valentine

Some pictures are worth remembering. Some pictures you just know perfectly. I have about 13-plus years worth of snapshots on my website. And after Lauren, earlier today, posted a picture of the two of us from our 2013 trip to Ireland I wondered if I could recall the first one of her I uploaded.

The sun-eating one, I figured, had to be high up the list. And so I went back through our early months of knowing one another. I scrolled through the people we knew, most all of whom have kept us around, since then, until there I was, 12 years ago. February 2005. I remember the night I took this picture going down the highway, and that one is probably from a library, because I have always liked repetition in my pictures. These next two are at a Super Bowl party in Five Points we were invited to.

The Patriots beat the Eagles in that game. Paul McCartney was the halftime show. (I had to look this up.)

And, oh look, here are a few sunsets and clouds. And there she was. The 10th photo I uploaded in February 2005, the first one of her.

We were in her car. I know precisely where that was, two cities, two jobs (for each of us) and one car ago. She was probably taking me home after work one day. We were carpooling at the time. We’re traveling north, to soon turn west.

That next weekend we got invited to a dinner party — (thanks again, Laura!) and sometime after that we realized we were getting invited to places. That people in our little world thought of us as a package deal. I skimmed through the rest of the 2005 series of photographs. Jamie​ shows up, and so does Greg​ and Brian​. Look, there’s Justin​ and RaDonna​ and Wendy​, too! There are family shots in there, also. There are pictures of colorful people that you pass by in life. There are blurry, low-res, sometimes underexposed pictures in the collection. There are trips and sports and bands and Lauren figures into most of all of those pictures, somehow, even though she’s not in a lot of them. That’s how you remember, though, the circumstances and the stories and the time you went to the place and saw the thing and tried the unusual item on the menu. “Who” is how you remember those. Some are worth remembering. Some you just know perfectly.