Jan 13

Return to the saddle once more

Wake up!


Your time of slumber is over, Cateye and Felt. I have many, many miles to start adding back into my routine. And today is the day that slowly starts. Today is my first day on the road since the crash and the subsequent surgery.

Looking back on those helmet photographs in the crash post makes me queasy. Thinking about how that lousy ER wasn’t concerned at all about my head just makes me angry.

Time marches on and now I can pedal on. I have a new tire on my bike, a Gatorskin. Everything is tuned up. I put on a pair of bibs for the first time since June — I’ve been riding the stationary in normal lycra. The bib strap goes right over my collarbone, which I hadn’t even considered, and that was the first thing that came to mind when I pulled on the straps.

Put on a jersey, threw on my new cycling jacket — a lovely Christmas gift this year. Filled the water bottles, put on the bike shoes, noted I was missing a glove and searched that out. Filled the tires with air. Put on my new helmet, which was a gift from my mother not too long after I crashed. Matches my bike almost perfectly and was a great way to inspire. I’ve thought a lot about that new helmet while recovering.

Walked the bike outside. Felt a bit anxious about it. I told The Yankee, right about here:


I don’t normally get too worked up about things, but there are questions. Will I remember how to balance? Can I clip out of the pedals without embarrassing myself? Can I manage to stay upright? What happens the first time I really I have to lean into the handlebars? Will the shifting still make sense? What will I do when I see debris in the road?

That’s what caused the accident, after all.

Turns out, as she said when I clipped in, it is just like riding a bike. So I stood over the frame and smiled and pedaled off to the road behind our house, where I start to warm my legs.

There was a lot of energy in my legs today, but my lungs felt impressively shriveled. That’s OK though. This was just a refresher ride. I have to figure out how it all feels and what I can hold up to. I’m a long way from doing real miles, and that’s sad and —

Ow. My neck is stiff. I’ll blame forgetting the cycling posture. But I did a little warmup ride. I had to climb one little hill. I felt gassed, but not terribly embarrassed should anyone see me. I’ve got a great scar I can use as an excuse and this is just day one.

So a few weeks, I said, of just getting everything back under me. And then I can think about miles and fitness. But I’m riding again.

Riding again.

Dec 12

This plumbing has happened before, this plumbing will happen again

For the seventh time in our two-plus years in the house I undertook a plumbing chore this evening. The working mechanism in the tank of one of our toilets had forgotten how to turn off — a plastic tab having turned to dust or what have you — which threatened an overflow and so on.

The good news is that this is the third one of these I’ve replaced in the last 18 months. At least it is easy.

The big thing is keeping everything dry. You have to drain the tank, and then climb between the cabinet and the porcelain and work your way through two plastic bolts. These were made in China, of course, so they are the best plastic money can buy.

And then there’s the water dripping, because a little drip is better than a lot of sponge drying. After that the new device, which will surely find some way to crumble before 2014 arrives, goes in.

Seen another way this is really an exercise in defying the Mayans, who were big on plumbing:

A water feature found in the Maya city of Palenque, Mexico, is the earliest known example of engineered water pressure in the new world, according to a collaboration between two Penn State researchers, an archaeologist and a hydrologist. How the Maya used the pressurized water is, however, still unknown.

“Water pressure systems were previously thought to have entered the New World with the arrival of the Spanish,” the researchers said in a recent issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science. “Yet, archaeological data, seasonal climate conditions, geomorphic setting and simple hydraulic theory clearly show that the Maya of Palenque in Chiapas, Mexico, had empirical knowledge of closed channel water pressure predating the arrival of Europeans.”

I had no idea I’d find that story when I started the Mayan joke.

Anyway, after a few attempts, the washer was seated. The newest fine plastic from China was in place and tightened.

Also replaced some light bulbs in the other bathroom, because electricity with wet hands is fun for everyone! And because if you’re going to one of the home improvement stores you may as well combine your misery. The bulbs are on the primary aisle when you walk in and the cheap plumbing stuff isn’t far away. Naturally, since I knew exactly what I needed tonight, I ran into two staffers who offered to help.

“Yes. Can you just wait here? Soon enough something I don’t understand will inevitably break in my house.”

We did our Christmas cards tonight. I was responsible for the stamps and the return address. The cards look great, because my lovely bride picked them out. I think everyone most in our address book is getting one.

Everyone else is getting an email with a JPG attachment.

Then I made a Christmas card for Allie. I’ll put it here tomorrow.

Tonight I also added several new banners for the blog. Many of the new ones are a departure from the thin 900 by 200 pixel design. Tell me what you think. (And reload to see more. Or see them all in one place, here.) My next trick will be to organize them in something that resembles a seasonal classification.

Oh, hey, there are new things on the Samford journo blog:

Maps that tell stories

A few lessons from Newton media coverage

You saw the Newtown picture now read the story behind it

There’s also Twitter and Tumblr and this, the complete Star Trek trailer.

See you tomorrow. Remember: Allie’s Christmas card will be here.

Oct 12

Pictures, lots of pictures

Did a photojournalism presentation for my class today. I showed the Taylor Morris photo essay I mentioned yesterday. I handed out some notes. I showed off some audio/visual slide presentations, silly stuff really.

I talked about all of these photos for an awfully long time:

If you’ve been visiting the site — or lurking in the photo gallery section — over the years you’ve probably seen many of those.

Just remember, some of the shots in that slideshow are meant to be bad. Most of them are average, at best. I told the students today that I had one photojournalism class with a brilliant professor and another photography class with another talented teacher, but I’ve had photos sprinkled in newspapers and magazines and on websites and in books here and there over the years. Not because I’m a great photographer. Click through there, you’ll see.

I’m a serviceable photographer, I told the students. Being there, researching the subject matter, knowing how to tell a story visually, anticipating the action, knowing your equipment, understanding a handful of basic photographic techniques and having extra batteries … that counts.

Link bait from the school blog: What will the iPad mini mean for journalism? I wrote that on my phone. Technology is amazing.

Oct 12

“Would you mind if I take your picture?”

Woke up early. Went to sleep late. That probably explains the dozing off I did this evening.

But I had a nice workout this morning, moved some weight around, turned muscles this way and that. Rode the stationery bike for an hour or so to get a good sweat. I’m ready to ride my bike on roads again. I’m still trying to wait out my shoulder, though. This, he said for the 13th week in a row, is getting old.

Had a meeting with the boss. Did some work on our scholarship program. Had lunch. Critiqued two newspapers and challenged the editorial staff to make their work even bigger and better. Gave an interview to a freshman.

Ran around campus and took pictures. I wanted to take some shots to demonstrate what not to do. This is surprisingly easy for photographers like me. So here are a few of those. But look! The back of her head is in focus!


Ms. Debbie keeps our department running smoothly. She’s such a sweet lady. And now she’s pretending to do work with some of our students. The young lady you can’t say was a section editor at the Crimson last year. Her friend there is a student and a model. You should see the shots where he is mugging for the camera.

Too wide. Far too wide. No information, but it has some motion into the background!


Frisbee is a big part of the quad culture, so show it differently, I’ll say. I asked this guy and his friend if I could take a few shots. “We’re not very good,” they said. “Fine, I’ll just crouch in between you. Buzz me.”

You have to suffer for your art. Also, fill the frame. Motion, action, showing the face. No rule of thirds, though:


I can’t count all the things I did wrong with this picture. Now I have to point them out to my students:


Dogs! On campus! This can be exciting and cute. But not if you compose the shot like this:


Unusual and creative and illustrative compositions make for better photography. Dogs learn the world through their noses, so this one is slightly better:


I took that picture five years ago, in a different state. Looks like the same pooch, though.

So I walked all over campus looking for things to do right and wrong to show in class next week. Now I’m type the rest of the night away. Some kind of life I’m lucky to live.

Oct 12

Auburn is unfortunately bad at football

As in, unfortunately bad. And they are not just bad, but also unfortunately bad. This morning was the fourth 11 a.m. kickoff of the year, which is a good measuring stick for your team’s play.

We watched the game on television, because it was in Oxford. I tweeted things, as many of us do these days. In my mind, this is all about the coaching. The players are giving it their all, but they aren’t being put in, or finding a lot of places to be successful right now. Tough to watch, but worse for them, I’m sure.

Two of the things I wrote:

“Third and 13, stay on this side of the orange sticks, y’all.” That’s good coordinating.

You can’t figure out what Scot Loeffler is doing? Don’t worry. The players don’t understand it either. I blame the coordinator.

I feel for the seniors who are on that side of the ball. They deserve better than this. They all do, really. The coordinator, Loeffler, is in over his head. Gene Chizik apologized to fans last week. Who knows what he’ll say about a 41-20 loss to Ole Miss which allowed the Rebels to break a 16-game conference losing streak.

Auburn, meanwhile, is 4-8 in the SEC since the national championship. They’ve lost six in a row to conference opponents — four of them highly ranked — by a combined score of 192-68. So it hasn’t even been particularly close.

If you look at a head-to-head comparison of the three worst seasons of Auburn football this century, the data points aren’t close there either. This, from Justin Lee, says it all.

You decide:




For something more fun than this, I’ve gotten caught up on the photo galleries. I had to catch up from almost the exact moment I ruined summer. Anyway. Here’s July. There’s August. And here’s September.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a dinner date. The Smiths are joining the Willis (Willisi?) this evening.