Mar 15

A day in Georgia

Today we were at the New Hope memorial for Southern 242 – Georgia’s largest aviation disaster.

The Southern 242 committee just unveiled their upcoming memorial sculpture.

Around the pedestal, the committee says, will be the names of the 72 fatalities and 22 survivors of the 1977 crash.

A terrible storm, bad radar brought on by the storm, a bad forecast, complete systems failure on the plane and human error on the ground led to the crash. The pilots, former military aviators, then steering a glider, desperately attempted the unprecedented: landing a DC9 on a country road. Witnesses on the ground say Capt. William McKenzie and co-pilot Lyman Keele, with 23,000 flight hours between them, put their front wheel on the center line of the two-lane road. But for power poles. The wings hit poles, snapped trees and spun the plane out of control.

When the plane came to rest, emergency workers couldn’t get to the site for the debris. Survivors were carried through that house, into the backyard, through the woods and to a parallel road. Everyone that made it into that house and out the back door survived.

At the memorial, they prayed and sang and rang bells for the dead. Over the years it has turned into a reunion. I wrote about all of this a few years ago.

We had a late lunch here, a nearby north Georgia barbecue joint that had good brisket.

And then in walked this guy:

Isn’t that a great photo?

Dec 14

Catching up

The weekly post of extra pictures, brought to you by Extra Photos Almagamated!

Doing up the northern experience in the proper fashion:


They make their own chocolate here. I’ve never tried it, because it costs $3, but I’m curious about what a seagull tastes like:

Coastline confections

Never put on someone else’s glasses. This happens:


The traditional shrimp cocktail, of which you may never have enough:


It is a pretty special thing when Sammi lounges on you:

Sammi The Love Dog

My wife’s godfather’s train world is quite impressive. The next several shots are from an industrialized city that is always in progress:



We saw this locomotive in Denali, Alaska. He’s ridden it. And when you’re a train guy, and you ride a train, you go buy the train:



And now a bit about model details. You can’t even see most of the ice factory unless you’re leaning directly over it, but check this out:

He’s even got distressed tracks, and earth erosion on the berms. The man is masterful:


The Seaboard was running when we visited yesterday. From 1967 until 1983 the Seaboard system ran from Florida to Virginia:

If these are the last Christmas lights we’ll see this year, let’s be happy their huge:

Part of my run today:

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:


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.


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.”


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.


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:

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.

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.