Sep 20

A political campaign ‘listen to this’

When I was in graduate school I took a class on political communication. The professor was a famous and renowned pollster. And after a day or two the professor would ask the class a question and the class just looked at me.

I was conscientious of that. I didn’t want to be that guy, but they were pretty clear that I should be that guy. The professor would later become my committee chair, did me a few solid favors in the program and later took credit for introducing me to my wife.

He was only slightly wrong about that, but he’d earned the literacy license with me.

So esteemed was Dr. Powell in our eyes that, despite him asking us for years to address him by his first name, “Because we are colleagues,” we all still refer to him as Dr. Powell. He’s a good man.

And I was thinking of him while I was interviewing Dr. Gerald Wright, who is in the political science department at IU. We talked about the upcoming presidential debates. So I was very happy for the opportunity, because this is the part of politic campaigns that I like: the message construction, the real body work.

The debates, probably not as much. They’re important, but they’re not. You know what you know about the candidates. You like who you like. And not much that can happen at a debate, or even a series of them, will move people who have made up their minds.

They’re debates, but they’re not. The formats aren’t really debates anymore. We don’t know all of the details about this debate cycle, yet, but there’s little to suggest the previous sentence will be wrong. It has been written that they’re basically press conferences in their current form, and that’s not exactly wrong.

They’re entertaining and informative, but they’re not. You have to follow and know politics to be entertained by them. If that describes you, you won’t learn much that’s continually informative for you. If you’re apathetic to the process in general — and far, far too many are — then you’re probably not watching, or paying only scant attention anyway.

They’re a part of the process, but they’re mostly just a tradition at this point. It’d be terrific, from the perspective of civics, if they were more than an academic study. I’m sure Dr. Powell will have a great deal to discuss with his classes during and after the debates. And I bet Dr. Wright will, as well. You get the impression, from the interview above, that he’ll have a lot to say to his students’ benefit.

He asked, before I could remind him, if I wanted the soundbite answers or the professorial answers. You’ve no idea how much I wanted to insist on the really in-depth stuff.

Sep 20

Interviewing my wife

We had a nice bike ride over the weekend. I took it easy, nursing an old guy’s bike. (I have come to appreciate the wisdom of listening to my some of my aches and a few of my pains.)

The Yankee did hill repeats:

I did sprint repeats. She might have still been faster, though.

If you go down this hill, all the way down it, you can make it to the lake. And then you’ll wonder if you should regret that decision because theres only the one way back up and you’re on a bicycle. The bottom of the ascent starts out at 12-14 degrees, but averages out for a nice 4-degree climb.

We saw some nice roadside flowers, too.

Also, I interviewed her Friday. When you have a distinguished and renowned sports media scholar who has a home office just around the corner from your own, you book the interview. The premise is “We had the usual amount of sports, and then no sports, and now we have every sport imaginable!”

For the record, it was no easier to get her booked, but it was more fun talk to her and easier to edit. Which balanced out the difficulty of trying to write questions about things she talks about all the time. This is an issue for all of these experts: Come, please, talk about your understanding of your life’s work in a basic way. The difference being I’ve heard her talk about it for years, and, with these other people, I send them a cold call email, interview them, thank them for their time and later send them an email link.

If I got one wrong here, or, worse, left one out …

Every now and then I try to encourage her to do any number of shows of her own. One day I’ll find the right idea. Then I’ll get to edit some more of that brilliance.

Sep 20

I do not blame Canada

Found this very American guy on the walk into the office today. Maples remain nature’s first quitters:

Blame Canada, as the joke goes, but I can’t do that. The Canadians are too nice. I blame Michigan, which lets too much of Canada get over the border, meteorologically speaking.

This seems a silly thing to even think about just now. I can’t help it. Fall is soggy mess in my head because I dread the gray of winter. Summer is a perpetual exercise of waiting for the other shoe to drop because I dread the gray of winter. Spring doesn’t happen because it’s the gray of winter here until the second week of April. And that sits on your psyche all year long.

It’s a charming way to live, really. Even when the day, today, looks like this:

It’ll be gray before the end of the month, and then the weather will be all over the place until some point in December when the sun just gives up, all because the earth has to spin and rotate and such.

Sub-tropical living is the place I oughta be.

I talked to one of the student affairs people about stuff happening on campus, and stuff not-happening on campus. It seemed good timing for the student slice of audience. If that’s you, then this is for you. If you aren’t a student, or otherwise interested in student services and groups, you can safely move on.

Unless you’re a completist, in which case: Like Canada, I apologize.

Aug 20

How we’re trying to keep safe

Walked into the television studio for the first time today. Some things will be different this semester, but a lot of it feels the same. There’s a goodness to it, being in a room of potential, a space where people start to see their dreams come true, under lights where their skills begin to sharpen. It’s nice to be in a space like that, even if it’s just to study some of the new safety considerations.

But, in a few weeks, we’ll have students back in front of the camera. A different kind of recording today, though.

It isn’t every day you get to talk to a professor of pediatrics, who is also a medical school dean and the vice chair for health policy and outcomes research. Dr. Aaron Carroll wears a lot of titles. He’s also the director of the Center for Health Policy and Professionalism Research and is leading Indiana University’s arrival and surveillance testing for the 2020 return to classes.

He took time out of his busy schedule to talk about sending children back to school, and all of the work the IU campuses across the state are doing to help keep their communities safe.

It’s a good listen. Dr. Carroll is a great presenter. He’s built an ambitious program here, which is probably starting as one of the most ambitious programs on a college campus in the country. And, when it matures to his committee’s full plans will most definitely be at the top of the list.

Consider, when they implemented the re-entry tests for students IU returning to campus it became the biggest testing center in the state, virtually overnight. Some 100,000 students were tested in the last few days, and that was just to re-enroll. And it won’t stop with that one test that allows students to return. Pretty soon they’ll be running thousands of tests a week as a matter of course.

The university sent out two masks to each person on campus. Masks are required. That was a $600,000 expenditure. As Dr. Carroll says in the interview, this is entire exercise on the university’s part is about money and will. The university has had the will to build out, at some considerable expense, a robust system designed to help try to keep us safe.

It won’t be perfect, no. Nothing will be, and I think we acknowledge that here, but there’s something to the effort, and Dr. Carroll is a capable person, surrounded by similarly talented folks. That just has to filter down to the rest of us. A lot of this will come down to individual choices. Mine, yours, and everyone else’s.

Aug 20

It goes much faster now

We’re counting down the days until classes begin again next week. That’s something to look forward to. No matter what you do, no matter how much you work ahead of time, whether in a normal semester or, as we’ve learned this year, a pandemic, there’s always a huge crush right at the starting line. There’s always more. Always the last minute thing, the unexpected, the sudden memo that subvert’s some previous week’s work.

So it was that at one point this morning I was in a Zoom, and on a webinar, and following a work-based Slack chat and having a text exchange all at once.

That, as I noted elsewhere, is Friday-level bandwidth.

On the bike, it was a rare day. It was almost fast for me — though admittedly average for others. It was one of those rare days where I could look down and proudly note I was pulling 20 mph up a hill and pushing through 38 on a slightly ramped down -1 percent decline … and still get dropped.

But on two segments I really worked on I set new PRs. On the first one I knocked off 19 seconds off my best time over that 1.2-mile stretch. That was a nine percent reduction. Who knows if I could do that again through there. (I know. I know how I felt at the end of it. I might find a second or two, but not much.)

And on the segment nearest the house at the end of a swift (for me) I took four seconds off my fastest time in a 1,000 meter sprint. If I can cut 16 more seconds off my time there I’d make the all-time top 10 on that Strava segment. It seems … improbable.

Kyle Anderson, is an economist at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business at IUPUI. I talked with him today to discuss the state’s economic condition as we make our way through August. He talks about the prospects for recovery, sectors hardest hit, evictions, personal advice and more.

He isn’t as optimistic as the last time we talked, but he does see some positives out there. I wonder if economists figure “At some point, no one is going to listen to the gloom. I need some silver linings in here.” One supposes an added benefit of having all the data at your disposal that an economist can call upon has to lead to something good, somewhere.

After we wrapped it up he said I asked good questions. So my minor in economics is paying for itself once again.

Some stuff from Twitter …

This was amazing, and I should have stopped watching the conventions right here. No way anyone comes out with anything much better than Rep. Gabby Giffords.

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