Jan 21

A mediation on …

There was a peculiar color in the air — is a phrase that has never been crawled across the web by Google’s spiders. It’s also wrong, in the sense of how we use language, which is why it’s never been written, one supposes. But it is particularly accurate in how we use science.

Color is, you might recall, the range of wavelengths based on how matter behaves in light, each substance’s combination of atoms and electron configuration send signals to the inner bits of the eye. Those signals work their way back to the command center for processing. Rods and cones, brain interpretation. And the brain says “There was a peculiar color in the air.”

So, really, it should be, my eyes and brain were detecting odd things brought on my the angle of the sun and various atmospheric considerations.

What I’m saying is that this usually green shrub held an unusual yellowish hue. So, yeah. There was a peculiar color in the air.

And it just hung there, for much of the day, or at least as long as I stood at the window looking at things, nodding ponderously, re-considering, not for the first time, how light works.

Photons, bouncing off things. What a concept! Once you can wrap your mind around that, the sky — with it’s shorter, smaller wavelengths — is the limit.

I changed the photos on the front page of the site to more generally reflect the season. Three of the photos in the set, including the one below, are from this year.

So click on over to the front page to check out the new look. And check back often, those do get updated.

And have a great weekend! Check back on Monday, when we’ll look in on the cats, and see if we can’t make up something interesting that did or didn’t happen over the weekend.

In the meantime, visit Twitter for more, and check me out on Instagram. And, hey, did you know that Phoebe and Poseidon have an Instagram account? It’s full of timeline-beautifying cuteness. Check them out.

Dec 20

I got in a ride today

It was a spectacularly beautiful day today. The rarity, the miracle, which that can be here this time of year. It was sunny and clear and almost warm. I’m not used to the cold being the norm, but it is the norm for here. I’m used to this being the norm here. It was in the 50s. You could see the sun, and the blue. That’s the way it should be. It’s an unexpected gift here. That’s just sad.

But you take advantage of it. And I did with a late afternoon bike ride.

I rode in shorts! With no gloves! Sigh.

Here’s a clip from a neighborhood part of my route, and the trail I added on at the end just to tick up the odometer a bit.

Kmart closed their two stores here in 2016 and 2017. I don’t know where motorists have been getting their licenses updated since then, but they’re all due a new road test. They were brutal today, so, in that way, it was usual.

This is from a different ride. It took place two or three years ago, and also it was during a different season. Everything was so green! And warm!

Anyway, we’re now essentially caught up with the county’s historic marker series. I ride around and take pictures of the signs and what they’re commemorating. One new marker has been installed recently, and another has been re-installed since I went by it last. So I have two more weeks of this we can still look forward to in this county. And then, perhaps next year, I’ll start riding to the markers in the neighboring counties.

Anyway, click this image to see this post.

Ferry Bridge

Two things: I hate taggers. There’s not enough community service in the world to deliver on taggers. Second, have you ever noticed how every bridge is always the biggest or longest or highest or heaviest? Why must every bridge be superlative? Can’t we just acknowledge the brilliance of the engineering and what they mean, rather than an assessment of their constituent materials?

Anyway, to see all of the markers, just click here.

Dec 20

The week with bad titles, part four

This area is rich in limestone. The campus is full of local stuff. Courthouses around the state feature stone that was ripped from the ground around here. The stone was the necessary ingredient for the move Breaking Away‘s subtext.

We watched Breaking Away when we moved up here. The Yankee had never read it. It’s still a fine film, and I wonder how townies feel about it. It still holds up, even if the locals would tell you there are some geographical problems. And I’m older now. Growing up it was a movie aimed at me, the child. Today I’m much, much closer to the dad’s age than the young kids who really make up the movie. The dad’s big speech, which probably raced right by me each time I saw it as a kid, really sank in differently that last time we watched it.

And it’s popular far and wide. Indiana’s limestone is what you see at the Empire State Building. The U.S. Holocaust Museum, the Federal Trade Commission, the National Archives, the Department of Justice, Wilson Center, the EPA, NOAA, the Department of Commerce and more, they all came from here. Federal courthouses, churches, college campuses across the country, tons of them feature Indiana limestone.

At the height of the industry, the state sent 14.5 million cubic feet of dimension stone to all of those projects, most of it coming from this region. It has certain attributes that make it both aesthetically pleasing and professionally easy to work with. Even today, those cutters quarry 2.7 million cubic feet of Indiana Limestone each year, and it generates about $26 million annually in revenue.

And it all started right here, or, rather just a few miles up the road. The first real digging of limestone in Indiana is the subject of this installment of my old and forgotten, and now remembered and almost completed historical marker project. I’m showing off all those beautiful painted signs in the county. I rode to all of them on my bicycle. This particular one is the second-furthest away from the house, in fact, so enjoy. Click on the image to see this particular entry.

The marker itself, which you can see by clicking over via the image above, is a bit removed from the location it celebrates. You can’t, in fact, see the old quarry (it failed in the 1860s) by road, or even from the bird’s eye view of Google Maps. But there’s some more local history sitting in the center of the park in that sleepy, small town, population 200. (Stinesville was laid out 28 years after the quarry began, which was when the rail line showed up. The post office arrived five years after that.) The bonus photo you’ll find in the post is of a locally important bell. It came from a church established in 1894, just 67 years after that first quarry was dug. The community saved the bell in 1995, and I bet there’s a story behind that which the web isn’t telling us, and it was put in that park in 2005. So it’s been there 15 years now. I wonder where it was for the 10 years it was being saved.

Oh, here it is, in a local historical newsletter, from 2006. It seems the church building has had several lives. First it was a congregation for Lutherans, and then it became known as the First Christian Church. It was badly damaged in a 1964 storm, though, and a few years later the church was sold to a private individual. All the contents were auctioned, including the bell. And then in 1995 the bell was going to go on the market again, but the community preserved it. Later, the church building, not made of limestone, was repaired, renovated and is now a private residence. Happy ending. And, in the summer of 2015, the last time the Google car came through, it needed a fresh coat of paint. I believe it’s had one since then, and now that I know what I’m looking for, I’ll check on it when I’m out that way again. But the lawn was well-kept! So, like all of us, it’s in progress.

If you’d like to see two county’s worth of historical signs and the places they’re highlighting, go to the main page.

Nov 20

A light Wednesday

My contribution to the cause today was cleaning up two inboxes, knocking a few episodes off the Netflix queue, a little house work and wiping out some leftovers.

Also, I reworked the front page of this website. And that’s why it was a light day. Would you like to hear about it? Oh, you’d rather just see it?

Click here to see the front page.

It has the same premise as the previous version — big on buttons driving you to social media or the key basics. The background moves, which is the point. The original iteration of this design had a video component, but I wanted to get away from from javascript. So I went to a still image. That’s fine, as far as it goes, but I liked the movement, and I love the variation. So I put in some keyframe animations.

And the delightful part is that the coding was only ridiculously frustrating for a day or so. (Also why it was a light day.) But, despite that frustration, it’ll be easy from here. I can quickly make changes to the art to keep it topical or fresh.

So I like this design. Be sure to check it out. (If it doesn’t feel like it works right, please let me know.) I need to add a few more buttons, but this is only a Wednesday, and that’s definitely a Monday kind of job

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.