Feb 18

There’s a cat pic, funny tweets and a podcast in this one


And the Olympics are on, of course, which, in our house, means two weeks of Olympics. Also it means a two-week quixotic attempt to understand NBC’s programming strategy. That’s the true Olympic sport around these parts.

Also, this, from last night:

Actual tears.

And then we got criticized:

I really enjoyed this episode of the podcast. I saw this story a few days back and thought I’d like to find an expert and talk about this with them. You know, localize what is, honestly, an incredible news story:

In what’s being hailed as a “major breakthrough” in Maya archaeology, researchers have identified the ruins of more than 60,000 houses, palaces, elevated highways, and other human-made features that have been hidden for centuries under the jungles of northern Guatemala.

Using a revolutionary technology known as LiDAR (short for “Light Detection And Ranging”), scholars digitally removed the tree canopy from aerial images of the now-unpopulated landscape, revealing the ruins of a sprawling pre-Columbian civilization that was far more complex and interconnected than most Maya specialists had supposed.

The story goes on at great length, and one of the many cool tidbits is that this research is going to force archeologists to revise their old population estimates from about five million people to 10 or 15 million. That’s no blip.

So of course I wanted to talk about this. I looked around and it turns out there are at least two experts on Mayan culture on campus. One is on sabbatical, but the other is here and she was incredibly gracious with her time. Anne Pyburn is the provost professor of anthropology, which is a university honor acknowledging her national reputation for scholarship, research and teaching. And wouldn’t you know it, she has spent more than a little time in these same jungles, working on this same sort of thing, with a Mayan specialty.

She talks about it all in the very measured way that experts often do, but she has some great ideas about what it all means. If I could just spend a few days a week following up on some significant story with a campus expert and examine why it all matters it would be an excellent use of my time.

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Feb 18

On the origins of nothing, and dogs

I tried an experiment this afternoon:

I also taught a class. I’m not sure which of the two worked out better, but I hope it was the class. I’ll go back and visit those students on Wednesday, though, and maybe the technical problems we had today will prove outweighed by the abundance of knowledge I attempted to bestow.

Bestow is an almost 800-year-old word. I bet you didn’t know that. In old English stow was a place. Then there was a “be” prefix and stow got an en on the end, somehow. And that’s probably a fascinating tale, but I don’t know it. I think it had something to do with a verb tense, though. You had “stow” as in a place, and then “to place,” it seems. And then someone misheard and miswrote and misread or found a better use and said “BESTOW!”

I had a professor who was a serious and legitimate etymologist. It was amazing the things he knew, the work he’d done or read. I wonder what he thinks of my ability to just Google that these days. I hope they’re all just glad we can look at things because the ease just, you know, might entice us to do so. Those etymology conferences, though, you just never know which way a committee is going to go. They could come out of those rooms at the Ramada and take an entirely different approach.

You know what’s hard? Googling things about the art and craft of etymology. You just get etymology links to the words you are co-searching. But I digress.

Digress is of 16th century latin origins, just so you know.

Anyway, that was a little experiment above, because John Curley was nice enough to talk to me last Friday. Funny story about that, I sent his station’s main account a note on Twitter and they sent me an email address and so I wrote to them. And then Curley wrote me right back as he was about to go on the air. He was very gracious with his time when we talked, and it was a most pleasant little conversation. The end of that piece is my favorite part, and the whole premise is sublimely funny anyway.

Pet poses from the weekend:

Sometimes you just have to reach out and touch someone’s big toe. That’s not my toe, of course, and here is a 90-degree angle.

We went to a Super Bowl party to not watch the game or commercials — there was something funny about Tide, and then Eli Manning did a thing and Dilly Dilly was disappointing and probably some other things, but I find it hard to follow along with the game or the spots in a crowd. Some people did seem to enjoy the halftime show and, for some reason, there was a single yelp when Jimmy Fallon appeared on the TV. But that’s small group dynamics for you. Nevertheless, a good time was had by all, as they say. And I got to play with a dog:

That is the preferred photographic style for the canine, a technique I settled on some 11 years ago now. (Time zooms.) That pose isn’t quite the perfect angle, but it was as close as this golden was going to let me get. He is a playful and loving dog, as just about ever golden ever gifted to humanity. And the outtakes are almost as fun as that pose:

More interesting material here tomorrow. I think the books section is going to finally make a comeback. There, I’ve said it out loud. Now it almost has to happen, maybe.

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Jan 18

A podcast, a video and 11 photos in between

There’s a lot here, owing to catching up from a full weekend. And it doesn’t at all get into the three-hour tin whistle concert we performed on Saturday. There’s a lot here.

We’re all from somewhere is the general theme of the show we produced today. It’s about a reporter who is using public records to look up the immigration histories of people who are lately very much anti-immigration. But most of us have family that started somewhere else. My old friend and former co-worker Justin Thurman of the USA Today Network told us about the story:

What’s funny is that Justin and his wife, when they tell me stories about their families, they sound exactly like my family. Just good old fashioned country folks, salt of the earth types. So much so that I have made a joke with them that we will one day find out we are related. And then as I learned more about my family history, it turns out that at one point my family was just a town or two over from theirs.

My family has some English and some Dutch and a few other things. One branch can be traced back to the War of the Roses, another apparently back to the Mayflower and still another group seems to know its way back to the 16th century. We’re all from somewhere.

Here are some photos I took of a walk we took yesterday.

A duck out at a frozen Monroe Lake:

Ice on scrubby brush:

I like photos of people at a distance, in silhouette. Sometimes the angles are such that you can’t see what they are doing, and so I wonder. I wonder what they are thinking, where they were before they got there, and where they might be heading after this. And I wonder about my wondering from a distance:

You don’t often see fog hang around until afternoon on a sunny day:

And then the sun turns the frost to droplets:

I think the birds like that a bit better. Warmer feet:

Here’s a picture of a vine holding a stick:

And a video I made:

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Jan 18

Our fingers walk somewhere else

This is new from earlier today. Indianapolis Star sports writer Zach Osterman joined me to talk about soccer, the nature of sports dynasties and a bit about how The New York Times is covering sports in Spain.

I don’t think I put this here last week. Here it is now:

ā€ŖAllie's snow video. #FamousOnTheInternetā€¬ #TheBlackCat

A post shared by Kenny Smith (@kennydsmith) on

This arrived today:

It has a lot of numbers, and a lot of information. It could use a few coupons. And I guess the time for spunky defiance has passed. The upper righthand corner is a sad concession to the times.

We didn’t get one last year. I’m not sure why we received one today, but I feel like I should hold on to it. One day the art inside will be humorous, at least. And we’ll be able to look back, in 30 or so years, at a few more industries that have disappeared. But maybe the phone book will make a comeback by then. Maybe

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Someone is going to have to index our social and biomedia pages.

Jan 18

It snowed a fair amount

Signs, we all see them. We see so many of them that we tend to tune them out. But we should really pay more attention. Consider:

“Crazy weather! Snow & ice is coming?”

Look, I’m not here to pick on the nice people at the hardware store. And they are very nice, I visit there a fair amount. I won’t even make a joke about their forecasting abilities. First, they work in hardware sales, not weather forecasting. Second, I don’t know when they put that message up. It could have been before all of this came down on Friday. Like I said, we tend to tune signs out.

But can we give a nod to the punctuation there? I feel like a lawn sprinkler has just come alive, gained sentience and learned part of our language, but none of our syntax, while I standing nearby reading a label on salt spreaders.

I’ve maybe spent a little too much time over in their paint and wood stain section, and the fumes in the fertilizer area can get to you, too, but I think they might be a bit cavalier with their punctuation.

My exclamation point, exclamation point view all weekend:

Since it started snowing on Friday morning, and we’d done all of our shopping and prep work around the house and made sure we had no plans, we just sat there, looked out at that and read, all weekend. It was terrific.

We also let Allie, The Black Cat, out to explore in it:

During some snow last winter we took her out on the porch, but she wandered around for a few minutes yesterday afternoon. She’s not an outdoor cat, but in her heart she’s an intrepid explorer of things close to the house. And if she can find dirt, she will roll around in it. Snow, well, it felt weird in between her pads, but she didn’t mind traipsing around in it after a minute or two.

You could tell, though, she knows she’s an indoor cat, and this is not cool:

Me? I’m nice and warm:

I have a lot of shirts from school colleges all over. I like the ones that are named after people or tiny places, rather than big cities or states. And this one is a small private school just outside of Philadelphia. My god-sisters-in-law went to school there and they had an extra shirt and it came to be mine.

The school is named after Zacharias Ursinus, a 16th century German theologian. That’s the Latin name he gave himself, which all the cool kids did back then. But his was a pretty direct translation. His given name was Zacharias Baer. Baer, Bears. Get it?

I’m sure all of the freshmen learn that before the snow falls on their first winter at ol’ UC.