Nov 20

Giggles and risotto

Quiet day at the office. I sent a few emails, dabbled in some spreadsheets, identified the upcoming tasks and walked some halls. That was about it. It was your typical Friday-before-a-holiday sort of feel. And I have some days off coming, so it was quite the quiet day.

Since we’ve wrapped our in-studio productions, these are some of the last few videos of the semester, notwithstanding things they may produce from afar.

So let’s start off with the late show, which was produced in Studio 5 on Tuesday. They’re bringing the funny:

And last night, in Studio 7, we wrapped it all up the same way we started the semester, sports!

And while you’re waiting on whatever your sports weekend has in store for you, check out my buddy Drew’s last show hosting The Toss Up. They’re talking women’s basketball, and IU’s basketball team promises to be a good one this year. And this show is one of the best of the year. It’s a good way for Drew to sign off:

We expect big things out of that guy, and we know he’s going to come through.

At the end of the day, it was oddly warm. Oddly still. It was 63 degrees and we were in the gloaming and back home it would have been time to watch the barometer. But I studied the forecast earlier in the day and nothing bad was coming our way. It was just … kind of pleasant.

So I did the daily decontamination procedure and went out to sit on the deck. We stayed out there, me trying my hardest to make her laugh, until it got good and dark, when it got nice and chilly.

And my staycation began, as it should, with giggles.

Nov 20

No calculator was harmed in the making of this post

It’s a weird time. I have a normal work schedule on Wednesdays. My weeks during the semester are normally split. I’m done at a respectable hour on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Tuesdays and Thursdays are long, but these other days I feel like a normal person. Except I am now old enough to feel the effects of a split schedule in ways I didn’t when I was 23, and so it doesn’t feel especially normal.

I’m honestly not sure how Mondays work anymore, since I’ve largely been working from home on Mondays since March. But I’ve been going in four-days-a-week since July, and in August the students came back and in September we ramped up production and so it went like this. I would leave campus just after 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and then go work a 9-5 day on Wednesdays. And then I would leave the building on Thursdays closer to 9 p.m. and work another regular day on Fridays. Well, on Friday afternoon the weekend feelings kick in. So that is taken care of. But Wednesdays? And now that it’s dark by 5:30. That, of course, presupposes the midwestern cloud cover lets any natural direct light shine through.

Like today, for instance. High 44. It was partly cloudy. And then the sun set (I had no idea the sun came out. I was hiding under fluorescent light all day.) at 5:25. That’s about the time I got to the house. So no bike ride for me. What am I going to do with the evening?

“What did you do with the evening?”

Well, let me tell you, dear and gentle reader. We fact checked a story The Yankee was reading. It was about some lavish meal somewhere. How could all of these things — the story itemized many of the plates — only amount to a little over two grand?

It was, when you heard the many items, a fair question.

So I pulled up the menu for a restaurant 634 miles away and we analyzed the data.

While some specifics were left out of the story, to protect the carnivores, one presumes, we ultimately decided that the total bill was plausible and likely.

And I subsequently decided I needed something better to do.

And did I find it? No, I did not.

But I will.

TV shows, for those who like TV shows. These are the last episodes the news crew will produce in the studio this fall. I am urging them to do more stuff remotely between now and when we reconvene in person in February.

They even teased a winter series of stories in here, which was nice. Now they’re on the record! They have to follow through!

Saying publicly that you’ll do something is a great motivator.

They produced those shows last night, which is why it was just after 8 p.m. when I left our old historic building. It was gratifying to watch the seniors rally the underclassmen and congratulate them on the semester and say all of the things I would normally say. It’s fun to see them slip effortless into those roles.

I was curious how that would work this year because the interpersonal dynamics, by definition, are more restrained than normal. If anything, they’ve found ways to work around and beyond that and be better for it.

We build broadcast pros and leaders around here.

We had two productions running concurrently last night. The two above in Studio 7 and the late night show was being produced in Studio 5. It’ll be out later this week. And all of that means we’ll be shooting the last in-studio shows of the term tomorrow night. Watch this space for me bragging on them.

Nov 20

Another “We’ll say ‘We knew him when'”

This is, I told Drew, one of my favorite parts. He’s a sports guy. One of the co-directors of the sports division this term. And he’s going to graduate in a few weeks. But he came over to the news shows this evening to do a bit of fill-in work:

He was, of course, ready, prepared, hit all his marks and drilled the delivery of a concise sports segment in a larger newscast. Did it in one take, as cool and as confident and as comfortable in the contrivance of television as someone can be.

It’s one of my favorite parts because I knew I got to watch him present tonight, and I’ll get to see him work one last time on Thursday and then he’ll start making his way out into the world, where the real work and the real learning begin. But I’m not thinking about that. I’m stuck remembering when he showed up as a freshman. When he somehow became the A1, and then talked the upperclassmen into letting him do extra segments if they found extra studio time. So he came to productions camera-ready, just in case, for several weeks. And, finally, he got his chance.

He’d written a new timely segment every week, just on the prospect of getting to stand in front of the cameras. And now it was here and they put him in front of a monitor and ran some graphics over it and he worked through the thing. It was obviously his first time, but he learned a lot, and quickly. He took the advice to heart. And now, three-and-a-half years later, he has a year of those solo social media hits under his belt. He’s taken all the classes, had the internships. He’s done the reporting and live shots. He was a beat reporter for tennis one year and football one year. He’s been a sports director. He’s hosted the talk show for about a year-and-a-half or more, now.

I stood off from the camera and watched him present tonight and thought about all those starts and stops along the way and enjoyed watching him carry himself like the young professional he is. It is, easily, the best part of my job, watching them grow like that. It’s fascinating to see. The really talented people we get, and we get some real talent, you can just see it all blur together for them. First they were halting and then they become dynamic and ready to really hone their skills.

I wish I had more time with those students, focusing on some specialized finishing school stuff, but those that go into broadcasting will get a terrific crucible experience in that new first job. May they all land somewhere exciting and sooner than later.

I did this interview on Friday, I think, and I sound exhausted! I had no idea until I listened to it on playback. Then again, I’m about six weeks into waking up tired. Everyone is pretty much in the same boat right now; keep your stones in your stone satchel.

Sorry, Kyle. It was at the end of a long week near the end of this crazy semester and I had some small degree of sleep and then I got to talk about economics.

But it’s kind of important stuff, as describing forecasts and prospects go.

Despite my exhaustion, economists are fun interviews. If you talk with them consistently you can learn a great deal about economists.

Oh, and I feel much more awake today. It’s only Tuesday, after all. No one is allowed to be tired on Tuesday. By mid-Wednesday, all bets, however, are off.

Here’s the morning show from Monday! Which they shot on Friday! And it’s a semester-ender, so, as is tradition with this show, they got a bit reflective.

They have a good time with it.

Useless fact: they were recording that show while I was talking with the economist. What does it mean? Who can say?

Nov 20

To next week!

Ooooh, Friday the 13th. Are you spooked yet? It’s a time when silly little superstitions like that, given way to as flights of fancy in a simpler time, might be acknowledged. I wouldn’t have noticed it at all this year —

“Because time has no meaning?”

Well, sure, random interlocutor who has appeared in this bit of text even as I write it in the CMS, but that’s not what I meant.

“Because you don’t look at calendars anymore?”

Well … right, but, really, who does? And, anyway, what are you doing here, you made-up phantasm of a person I’ve created to fill yet a few more pixels on the page?

“I’m here to be spooky. Boooooooooooo!”

Yeah, that’s not going to work because, as a rule, I run a lot of lights around the house on Fridays to help create some energy and festiveness, so —

“OK, fine. May as well explain how you noticed today was Friday the 13th, oooooooooo!”

Right. Well. Anyway. The local talk station host mentioned it yesterday evening. He started in on the whole thing, as one does, and he got about a sentence into it, and you could hear it coming in his voice, when he stopped —

“Because it put him out of sorts?”


“Because his electronics died? A byproduct of Friday the 13th gremlins?”


“Because he — ”

He realized no one has any use for it right now.

“So he did some conspiracy theory stuff?”


“Full moon?”

No. We’re not even close to a full moon right now, anyway.

“Then what did he do next?”

He talked about basketball.

Anyway, another week in the books, and we’re one week closer to the Thanksgiving break and some time off and then virtual learning and more work from home. And we’re going to make it.

I’ll say right here, I was skeptical of the whole thing. Bringing students back from all over the nation and points beyond? I’m no public health expert, of course, but it defied common sense. To some degree, as it turned out, doing all of this flew in the face of the best advice actual public health experts would provide. But the university put a robust system into place for its nine campuses and 100,000-plus students and all of its professionals and they’ve pulled it off. I was skeptical, but if you’d asked me to draw out a best case scenario this summer it would have been surpassed in every way. I’m pleased to be proven wrong.

Sure, some people got sick, but there were contingencies plans in place. It’s in no way authoritative or exhaustive, but I have heard of one student who was hospitalized with Covid-19. More often, those who did test positive were quarantined and worked their way back to health. I’ve heard a few anecdotal cases of long haulers, but hopefully they come through it OK and sooner than later. To bring back all of those people, though, and see it work as well as it did, even as the case counts are starting to tick up these last two weeks (while they’re surging throughout the state and the region) is something of a positive.

The moment the university brought students back in August they made them all get tested. Immediately, the university became the largest testing center in this state. I don’t know if they’ll share that tidbit on the campus tours, but the parking lot outside of Assembly Hall and the dozens, if not hundreds of people who worked it, are big players in the state’s Coronavirus history now. The university continued a testing pattern throughout the term that added more and more data to the system. It wasn’t perfect. Nothing is. On this campus alone there are 46,000 students in a normal term — probably a few less this fall — and they’re all human and that’s injecting a lot of chance and habit and decision making into the best-laid plans. This is why I was skeptical. There were some problematic instances. Greek Life had a few problems, some of which were simply structural. Other things, well, yeah, they’re college students. And we all remember being 19 and how wise and considered our decision making was at the time. A few things were more forehead-slappy, but ultimately, it all worked.

We have five more days to go, but we also have a dashboard that tells us the university did better than the community, in terms of percentages. Part of that goes to the aggressive and proactive approach the university took. And part of it, I think, has to be that you’re dealing with a set of people of a certain age who, by and large, are trained to do what’s asked of them. Also, the university laid down the law on that quickly and convincingly, and continues to do so. Anecdotally, I heard of more mask difficulties with faculty than students.

And so I was skeptical. All we have to do, I said in April, is account for and rewrite human habits for everyone. People want to be social. They tend to gather close together. They have no idea what six feet means — even when you say it several times. People hug and carry on and have a good time and basically do everything that an airborne communicable disease is ready to exploit.

But here we are. And it was tough and demanding and upsetting, sure. It’s been tiresome, but it has had its moments. Students, generally, did not have the experiences they’ve come to expect or envision. Compromises had to be made in that sense, but they got a world-class education and by-and-large. Also, the working student media had an entire year’s worth of content put before them without even trying. It’s a rare and weird thing. And coming to terms with that is a lesson of its own. The students, though, they helped keep each other safe. Problems aside, they did it.

So now we turn our attention to next week, the last week. The university is offering go-home tests to students, which makes sense. One assumes there will be some clear literature on what that means and doesn’t mean. Communication, as ever, has proven to be critical and difficult.

I was very pleased when I thought up the idea of go-home mitigation testing three or four weekends ago and then learned, the very next week, that it was going to be something the university offered. I, too, have learned to think like a public health expert, at least on this one obvious thing. (Who among us hasn’t tried to be an expert this year?) Today it occurred to me that whatever a student might have caught last this week is something they’ll take home with them at the end of next week. And, again, no public health expert, but I wonder if that’s something that could have been controlled for in some way. And I wonder if that’s something the actual experts tossed around this summer when they were making all these plans.

Anyway, five more days of classes. Just four more days on campus for me, and it’s really a wind down week, anyway, given the general feel of things right now. By this time next week I’ll have oversaturated my hands for the last time for a while, I can wear fewer masks and I won’t have to maintain two separate laundry systems for around-the-house-clothes and cootie-clothes. I’ll still work and do all of the Zoom meetings that life can throw at me, but I won’t need a complete decontamination procedure at the door.

Have some sports television my students produced last night. Long on football, which, it turns out, Indiana might be good at:

And you know what we’re good at? Talking? They talked Masters, because it’s November in Augusta, too. This was a well-done program if you like hitting little white balls with elongated sticks.

And you? And your weekend? What’s in store? Anything new? Nothing new here. It’ll be very similar to every weekend since March. But, suddenly, it feels like it won’t be the same, but its own change of pace. Weekends are so often about what’s on the other side of them. And if that applies to weekends it should apply to weeks too. And what applies to the other side of next week is a welcome change. Nothing superstitious about that.

Nov 20

A marker, notes to myself, and a video

Do you know what this building is? It is quite important around here. And there might be just enough context clues to make a good guess. But do you know?

Integrating basketball

If you click on the image you will get your answer. It’s a part of our long-overdue and oft-forgotten historic marker section of the site. (Click here and you can see them all.) The goal was to ride my bicycle around to see all of the historic markers in the county where I live, take pictures of them and the locale or place being featured and share them on the site. Because the people demand weird combinations of what interest you! And, further, the people also insist you forget about the project for several years at a time, having assumed you’d just uploaded them all.

And, well, I did all of that. I rode my bike around, took the pictures, started uploading them, and then assumed I’d done it all and forget about the thing entirely. Two weeks ago I was deleting stuff off my phone — or as I like to think of it, a device that’s always telling me it’s memory is completely full — and I found some of those marker pictures. I cross referenced the site and felt immediately chagrined for the two or three people who have clicked through or stumbled in some how.

There were, I noted when I began my comparison, four historic markers and sites that had not included on the site. So I have a month of Thursday content! And in looking at all of this I was able to delete a few subdirectories of old marker photos from my laptop — or as I like to think of it, still another device that’s telling me it’s memory is full.

There is also at least one new marker. It is a replacement for one that wasn’t on display the last time I rode around looking for these. And there are, the state’s official list tells me, one other recent addition I need to cover and, hopefully, not forget entirely.

Anyway, that building above is the locale and structure featured in the second week of far-too-late updates. And, for the locals, it’s an important spot for a few other reasons, as well.

Two more markers are in the hopper and those other two new ones will wind up here eventually, as well.

After that I’ll have to start riding into neighboring counties or move entirely.

Let’s see, this county is surrounded, contiguously, by six other counties. And in those …

Brown County, three markers, 50 miles
Lawrence County, four markers, 55 miles
Greene County, two markers, 75 miles
Morgan County, five markers, 98 miles
Owen County, three markers, 100 miles
Jackson County, seven markers, 120 miles

These are doable, some of them easily so. Another thing added to the to do list.

And if you aren’t here for that, maybe you’re here for this. It’s the late night show the students produce. The monologue is about making the jump from the kiddie’s table at Thanksgiving.

Sebastian has a point.

I like to tell the students that a lot of these experiences they are building will one day become anecdotes in job interviews one day. Tell me about a time when something broke under deadline. What’s one example of how you handle conflict in a working group, and so on. No one thought “One year I had to write/deliver/shoot/direct monologues in a mask” was going to come up.

In the other studio the sports crew did two shows tonight. And tomorrow I’ll have an interview and then more TV studio time to round out the morning. Thursday nights mean a quick turnaround, so, we’ll see you for tomorrow’s after action report.