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14
Jul 14

Going home, and home again

Woke up this morning, pleased with how I felt considering the race the day before. Packed up the car, loaded the bike and said my goodbyes to grandparents and mother. I drove two towns over to visit my other grandmother.

She lives in between a town that has 1,250 residents and a village that has 281, a place where the arrival of the first 24-hour convenience store heralded the closure of a Piggly Wiggle and the local supermarket.

There’s a McDonalds and a Hardee’s and a Foodland, now, so they’re in high cotton. The barbecue place where I picked up lunch uses the walk up model most often seen at ice cream stands. The menu is littered with delightful typos. The town library, which looks like a bank, is closed on Sundays and Mondays. But they’ve expanded their Wednesday hours, where you can now get a book until 5 p.m. All of this isn’t bad for a literal one stoplight town.

Fishing and being between here-and-there are the two main calling cards of the community, which is growing. A few more storefronts popped up last year, and there are 51 more people in the town than at the turn of the century.

At the second largest intersection in town — a block from the largest, which is really just the U.S. highway that runs through the area — there is an old Coke sign on the side of a building. When it had faded beyond recognition they re-painted it. They displayed the same old Christmas decorations for at least 25 years, and they were old when I first saw them as a child. Hanging on to history is important here. I suppose that is why most of the local websites haven’t changed in years.

Just down the street from that second intersection is a four-gravestone cemetery with this marker:

Andrews

I found that in 2010. Andrews volunteered in 1862, at the age of 69. He was a pensioner from the War of 1812 when he signed on to ride for the CSA. There are some arguments, apparently, that he would have been the oldest soldier in the Confederacy. His captain, John H. Lester, would remember him in 1921 in a publication called Confederate Veteran:

He was discharged in 1863, in his seventy-first year, on account of old age, against his very earnest protest; in fact, he was very angry when informed that I had an order to discharge him. I appointed him fifth sergeant of my company and favored him while in the army in every way consistent with my duty. He was a neighbor and friend of my great-grandfather, Henry Lester, in Virginia.

The local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy is named in his honor. One day I’ll meet one of those ladies and find out what they know about Andrews. The only other thing I know about him is that he was a grocer.

Wouldn’t it be interesting if he was behind that old, local supermarket?

Anyway, down the side road, beyond the place where we once ran out of gas and all the familiar old houses and the new sports fields and through a miniature subdivision that sprouted from a fallow field. We’re back on roads that just have county numbers now, in a place that, until recently, still used “rural route” on their mail until they thought being a bit more precise might be a useful thing in case of emergency.

Finally to the road that my grandmother lives on, next to the house that her parents built, where her son lives. She’s surrounded by pastureland and woods and a babbling little creek, idyllic places where I spent so much time as a child.

grandmother

We had lunch and chatted and watched a bit of television. She caught me up on family health and pictures of people’s kids. There’s always a medical update or a studio portrait to see.

Drove home, in time for the neighborhood potluck. Tonight’s theme was country cooking, guaranteeing I would overeat, know it at the time, and not regret it at all. All of those things came true.

Oh, yes, these. There’s a new interchange coming that will serve as a southern bypass around Montgomery, a city that already has a bypass. I have to go under them every so often and am interested in the progress. You look up through the thing when it is just framework and imagine, “One day, there’ll be cars and trucks there.”

bridge

This phase, which started in 2011, was originally slated to be completed this year. That seems unlikely at this point. The entire project is estimated at a cost of $500 million and a completion goal of 2022. If you’ve ever seen a highway project, you’re guessing over and after.

bridge

And if you think that is plywood, let’s just all assume it is a trick of the light. We’ll also let someone else be the first people to drive over it.

Lastly, Weird Al Yankovic is releasing a video a day for the next week in what is surely the most brilliant marketing move we’ll see from the music industry this year. Here’s his first:


10
Sep 13

Those busy Tuesdays

I’m feeling a bit better. I can move some, which feels like too much, but is at least a bit.

It’d be one thing if you got this way by doing something fun, a new adventure or trying a new exercise, but this is from the car or from trying to fix myself or from holding my head wrong while icing my shoulder. And so it is that not just one shoulder, but both are giving me fits. Fourteen months on of this, not quite good as new.

So I’m not moving much, or too fast. Which is great when you have things to do. Today was one of those days of small things that eat away at your day. On its own your email and your reading shouldn’t take forever. Small chores like helping the occasional student or fixing the occasional boom mic isn’t the biggest time sink.

Writing a brief blog posts on the Multimedia site doesn’t take forever.

Getting in and out with the generic haircut is pretty quick. Driving around waiting for dinner inspiration is annoying, but it is only one thing. Watching every major news site fail at streaming the president’s oddly dichotomic speech is another thing.

All of those things become cumulative, I guess. And they’ve been going on for about 14 hours so far. And when you are moving gingerly. Yes, that’s what we’re going to blame. I’m moving slower today. It always comes back to the back.

Things to read that I find interesting.

Your standard 80th anniversary story:

Fifty years of a marriage is a rarity these days. But don’t tell that to Cranford and Myrtle McDade.

The couple (he turns 100 in January, and she is 96) recently celebrated their 80th wedding anniversary, chalking their long-lived marriage up to give and take.

Alas, we don’t know their secret. How you not ask their secret I don’t know.

It is rare that you read football analysis that is so evocative of history. It is almost inconceivable that the comments on a football story actually have something to contribute. But this piece offers you both:

Human empires rise and fall, typically following similar patterns of decay that can be picked out by observant followers of the chain of events. For those who didn’t have the opportunity to take any classes at UT from Professor M. Gwyn Morgan, the parallels to the collapse of the Roman Empire are there to be made. Since it’s instructive to take a big picture look at your program (and it’s no less depressing than considering our prospects against Ole Miss) we’ve provided a glimpse into the collapse of Mack’s program through the lens of epic historical collapse.

NASA says last night’s fireball was the size of a baseball. Also, it was ice. Which one supposes is an educated guess based on something already categorized in space and more or less anticipated or an assumption based on the notion that there hasn’t immediately been any evidence of debris found along the tracked flight path.

Oh look, the international media is reporting more about the questionable ethics and scruples of our own government than the local folks. Can’t imagine why:

A judge on the secret surveillance court was so disturbed by the National Security Agency’s repeated violations of privacy restrictions that he questioned the viability of its bulk collection of Americans’ phone records, according to newly declassified surveillance documents.

Judge Reggie Walton, now the presiding judge on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (Fisa) court, imposed a significant and previously undisclosed restriction on the NSA’s ability to access its bulk databases of phone records after finding that the agency repeatedly violated privacy protections.

The documents, mostly from 2009 and declassified Tuesday, describe what Walton said were “thousands” of American phone numbers improperly accessed by government counterterrorism analysts.

But, as always, if you’re not doing anything wrong the only thing you have to worry about is this tired cliche, right?

Tonight the student-journalists are hard at work on The Crimson. They assure me it will all go quickly. This is the first paper of the year, which almost always means they are mistaken about that. But we’ll see.

As always we’re excited to see what comes of that first issue. I don’t know everything they’re working on — a feature, not a bug — but from the snippets I’ve heard about it sounds pretty intriguing. Tomorrow the paper will be on the stands.


16
Jul 13

Have you noticed?

It is slow here. Have you noticed? July is slow. I am doing other things, like catching up on old posts and catching up on email — there’s a special filter in my email called “You thought you were done, but no” — and catching up on other important things.

Plus, none of it, so far, is terribly exciting. I’m riding and running, but that’s about it. So July is slow. (Not unlike my riding and running.) Have you noticed?

But I did want to say this: One year ago today I was having surgery, getting titanium and screws, thank you very much, because 53 weeks ago today I was falling, destroying my collarbone, hurting my shoulder and whacking my head on asphalt.

So after a year of that: six months of fuzzy memories — and some periods I just don’t really recall at all — and lots of travel for work and pleasure, physical therapy, impatience and somewhat starting to feel like myself again, finally starting to ride again and wondering, for months, if I was ever going to really feel like myself again … I kinda do.

I still have some muscular issues in my shoulder, but I carry stress there anyway. I have, on occasion, finally started to notice the absence of pain in my collarbone. The surgeon said six months to a year, but I’d given up on all of that.

Last month, though, for about an hour one day while snorkeling, I realized that nothing was hurting. And it had been 11 months since I could say that. Nothing. Hurt. (It is hard to pry me out of the water anyway, but I almost willfully got left behind that day. The absence of pain is a pretty incredible feeling on its own.)

This week I’ve noticed a few times where I have to willfully turn my attention to my shoulder and my collarbone. Are you still there? I don’t think I notice you right now.

This dawned on me last night. Delightful progress.

Of course right now that section of my upper body is singing the tune I’ve come to know so well this year. It has been that kind of year.

But it is getting better. It isn’t perfect, but it is better.


14
May 13

Just a few random things

There is a chipmunk. Being a chipmunk he tends to move very quickly. The cat has, to my knowledge, never seen him. She is not the most attentive indoor hunter of things outdoors. She’s not the most attentive hunter of things indoors, but I digress.

Anyway, the chipmunk took the time to sun himself today. I was able to get a shot from a fair way off. I have now documented the chipmunk:

chipmunk

Aubie came to visit us at the game tonight. Aubie has a flashing problem:

Aubie

No one in the family has bothered to confront him yet. I think everyone is waiting for the right time.

He also sat with us for awhile, until the children came calling. Aubie is a ladies man, but he’s all about the kids, too. And so, after a time, he was off to hug little girls and tousle the hair of the young guys.

AubieYankee

All of this during a baseball game that Auburn lost to Jacksonville State 6-1.

Grading papers. One student wrote “This class has shaped how I view journalism and will be foundational in my future studies in this major.”

That made my day.

And then I graded on. And on and on.

Still not done.

Two new things on Tumblr, here and here. A lot, lot more on Twitter.

Also I converted that not-quite-good Toomer’s Corner thing I wrote last month into the Big Stories format. You might have read it here or on TWER, but it is a different way of seeing it. Sometimes that makes all the difference. I’m going to use that format for things every now and then. I expect there will be a few additions this summer.

Which is on the way, by the way. Summer, I mean. We hit 79 today. We’ll be in the 80s tomorrow.

Talking with my grandmother Sunday I told her that I knew she’d been frustrated by the spring, with the cold temperatures. She said it was the coldest spring she could remember. And she said she wouldn’t complain about the summer at all. When it gets here.


29
Apr 13

Sunny Mondays are the best Mondays

I’ve just this now learned an interesting thing about WordPress. When you are in the Dashboard, after you’ve clicked Posts you get that list of entries you’ve been writing about. Some people, and I’ve seen you, have many different posts in progress at one time saved as drafts. I don’t usually write drafts, unless I’m interrupted, but it happens every so often. And it happened last night when the computer popped and the screen turned gray.

Well, OK then. I stared at it for a respectful amount of time, checked the plug, the battery, did the random search on the keyboard for the Any Key and then rebooted the thing. It all came right back. Somehow rebooting the machine, restarting the browser and restoring the tabs meant that I’d created two versions of the Sunday post. I published one, didn’t realize I had the other and it stayed on as a draft.

Write me! Write me!

I didn’t notice that until just now. I have two posts titled Catching Up. Well, click, examine, verify. Problem understood. Now it is time to run the resolution protocols, initiate. So I did all that, realized the draft could be deleted …

No! No! Not me!

And clicked Trash — if ever there was a more prescient judgment of the thing you’ve been working on, there it was. When I clicked Trash that joker disappeared.

There was no “Are you sure?”

“Really sure?”

“Cause we think it’s Trash. Mullenweg says so right there. But if you want to keep this around, you might think about Cancel.”

“No?”

“OK then.”

“Last chance.”

“Seriously.”

“Can’t you hear your words dying?”

“Fine. Let it be on your head.”

“We can’t drag this out any longer. This platform powers 16 percent of the web you know.”

None of that. Just gone.

I’ve just written 300 words on the a delete function. (It took about two minutes. It will not be trashed.)

So a lovely Monday. The sun was out, just a hint of warmth in the air. We hit 76 today, which is just two degrees off the average. I believe I’ve said it three times already this year, but spring is finally here. And if we’re proven wrong again we’re all going to write Al Gore a note.

After purchasing locally grown, artisanally-made carbon offsets printed on fair trade, Brazilian rainforest hand-woven stock. When those come in, and we’re shivering in May, we’d write the former vice president and congratulate him on his success at beating back global warming. The suggestion would be that maybe he turn down the air conditioners in his mansion, close the doors and windows and let us get on with the season.

But it has been lovely today, even for Mondays, which are never really all that bad. I had a burger for lunch, because it is Monday and I do that every other one or so. I watched this clip that landed in my Twitter feed:

It truly is all of the things Ray Hudson said, and so was Hudson’s call. If you don’t know the sport I can’t explain to you how impossible it is to do what Lionel Messi just did. What Hudson suggests is that Messi is a mutant, and that might not be far from the case. He’s short, but fast. His pace over the ball belies his size. He has amazing control of everything, himself, the ball, sometimes defenders and maybe the tides. He has the benefit of playing on a terrific team with other potent weapons and in a system that benefits him perfectly. All of these things are true. It is also true that, for the last three years or so, he’s been not far from becoming the greatest player of all time. And he’s only just entering his prime.

Not nearly as good as all that, but 60 Minutes recently produced a package on him:

Anyway, yes, a beautiful Monday. Everyone is smiling on campus. What’s not to smile about? The sun, the sky, progress!

Someone asked me last week about teaching at Samford. What are the students like? I get this question from time to time. It is a good question, because I get to talk about what they are, and what they are not. I’ve had students who take spring break trips to Jamaica, but not the tourist part, the part where they go do mission work. I have students who’ll spend a summer involved in third-world countries, doing their part against this or donating to that. They are, by and large, extremely motivated, caring people.

And then I get to share anecdotes like this one that President Westmoreland shared today:

One night last week this post appeared on the Samford Facebook page:

“I’m a Homewood PD Officer. I was in the drive thru at McDonalds last night about midnight – I work night shift -to grab a quick dinner. There was a car load of Samford students in front of me. When I got to the window to pay I was informed that the students had paid for my meal. It was a small gesture but it was a bright spot in my shift. Please share this on the page – with any luck they will see it and know it was greatly appreciated.”

In class today we discussed movies and the trade publications of journalism. A student stayed late to work on her foreign language homework. Two others were designing an advertisement sample.

I saw a former student who is shooting a video package and we talked about his summer plans covering political activism in Washington D.C. He’s interning at a church right now, too. Multiple internships are important these days.

Most are drawn to hard work, which suggests they can be successful. They all seem to come from places that make them care about the things around them, which gives me great hope that they might all be content.

If, that is, I warn them about this delete function in WordPress before it is too late.

I’ve forgotten this, but we’ll make up for it now. Normally I add these links at the end of the week, just to be synergistic, but have neglected to do so the last several weeks. So here are things I’ve posted on my campus blog:

Five things to count on and remember in big stories

What do journalists do if the 3G network is down?

Don’t get absorbed in this Twitter mystery, this isn’t the Zapruder film

What mobile isn’t

Harnessing the power of crowdsourcing over West, Texas

Studying the atmosphere in West, Texas

Beware the television GFX error

The key skill of modern journalism, according to Jarvis

Layout: how not to do it

Sometimes less is more

Also there are two new images on my Tumblr blog, which has once again returned to action. The first one is here, and has a long quote, which all the Tumblr kids go crazy about. The second one is a drawing involving babies and hearts. What’s not to love?

And, of course, there is always much more on Twitter as well. Tomorrow, more Tuesday than anyone knows what to do with, also the spring picnic!