things to read


15
Mar 17

Alone in the woods, with sunglasses and soup

Each day I make use of at least one weather app, the smart thermostat which is still patiently trying to convenience me it somehow knows what is going on outside and a variety of windows which display both front and back yards. I do all of this at night and again in the morning, before I put a single thing in my pockets to leave. And then I put the things I carry in my pockets, so many things. And then I go to the garage, because that is where I park my car.

I open the garage door, because that is easier than driving through it and replacing it every week. And then I settle into my car, crank it and undertake the normal procedures one uses. I put my foot on the brake, select reverse and then throw my arm over the other seat and look backward because that’s how everyone did it when I was growing up and that’s still the coolest move in a car. I snicker at the idea of a backup camera. No, seriously, every day, that makes me chuckle. And then I move the car, each time I am amazed by my good fortune of avoiding hitting things with the passenger-side mirror. And then I am in the driveway, and I back up about 15 more feet and I’m in the road.

Only, today, I was confronted by this thing that I knew from both ancient DNA and my own dim, distant memory.

That’s actually overselling it. Of course it was the sun. I was pleased to see the sun. “This is,” I thought to myself, “a sign of things to come.” That thought was immediately followed by “My, but that’s bright!”

Don’t I own some device that was designed to aid in the filtering of the bright and magical UV rays which are now descending on me for the first time since, oh, November? However long ago it was I had to really struggle to remember — and this part is legitimate — where I store my sunglasses in my car. But I used them today. So pleased was I that, in the parking lot at work I had to find a sunny spot for this picture:

I used to use this article in writing classes. It is about a man who stayed a true hermit, in the woods of Maine, for 27 years before police picked him up on a series of cabin break-ins. One reporter, the author of that piece, was the only person the guy talked to. (Turns out, I just learned, that story has become one of GQ’s most-read pieces ever. I’d give students that article on a Monday and would ask them to discuss it the following Monday. The few that would actually talk about it thought it creepy. At 20 pages of intriguing brilliance, most just thought it too long and admitted they gave up on it. Their loss.)

Anyway, the story appears again, by the same talented reporter, Michael Finkel, who has now written about it in The Guardian. And now he’s got a book on the story, released earlier this month. Read the GQ version, it is worth the time.

Tonight I learned that Allie likes minestrone:

She likes it a lot. Licked the bowl clean. Worked hard at getting the edges. I’ll have to leave her a bit of the broth next time.


15
Feb 17

A little something for a lot of people

Here’s your mid-week upside down motivation, brought to you by Allie The Black Cat:

She’s always concerned about morale, now if only she could read, so she’d know the words were upside down.

She spends enough time staring at screens and books and paper. Maybe she thinks she can read. Maybe she just looked at that upside down. Maybe I’m the one that is wrong. Maybe she actually can read. Anything is possible, it says.

We went for a run late this evening, before it was time to head back into the studio. I thought we would be running indoors, so I just had shorts and a t-shirt. But we ran outside, where the windchill was 34 degrees. I am smart. So I got in five miles before I had to cut it short to go back to work. I didn’t get my full eight, but I did get this view after I showered and set out to walk back to my building:

That’s going to be a banner on the site one day soon, I think.

These two pictures are from last night. The news show I oversee now has a weather segment. This was from last night, when we finally broke in the green screen. Pretty cool opportunity for the folks studying the weather:

I spent some time in the control room last night, too. Mostly because there are a lot of lights and cool buttons in there:

Things to readHere by the owl:

CADIZ, Ohio — Don Jones supports students as an FFA adviser, represented by the owl during FFA meetings.

In FFA tradition, the owl is a time-honored emblem of knowledge and wisdom, and Jones has served in the adviser’s role for 22 years. Some of his students jokingly refer to him as the “wise old owl.”

In his classroom at Harrison Central Junior and Senior High School, he provides real lessons for real life as the agricultural education teacher. He sees 140 students a day, in grades 7-12.

Being the only educator in the program, with just one classroom, he has to turn away students from his program, which is an elective for the nearly 650 youth at Harrison Central.

That headline is no accident. That’s actually part of the opening ceremony the FFA uses at levels ranging from school meetings to the national convention. The teacher, or the adviser, is represented by the owl.

Last year I wrote about my advisors:

I had many valuable experiences, and this could go on and on, but the most important thing the FFA gave to me was the leadership of two good men. Mr. Swaffield and Mr. Caddell were battle-tested teachers. They are two solid, stand up, good, decent, morally upright father figures I benefitted from as a teenager, when a boy needs them most.

Scott Pelley, Lester Holt, David Muir: The Unprecedented Joint Interview:

And, finally: Lost songs of Holocaust found in University of Akron archives:

In the summer of 1946, the psychologist interviewed at least 130 Jewish survivors in nine languages in refugee camps in France, Switzerland, Italy and Germany. With a wire recorder — then considered state-of-the-art equipment — and 200 spools of steel wire, Boder preserved some of the first oral histories of concentration camp survivors. He also recorded song sessions and religious services.

A portion of Boder’s work has been archived at The University of Akron’s Drs. Nicholas and Dorothy Cummings Center for the History of Psychology since 1967. But it wasn’t until a recent project to digitize the recordings got under way that a spool containing the “Henonville Songs,” performed in Yiddish and German and long thought lost, was discovered in a mislabeled canister.

As I’ve said before: A significant portion of the 21st century is going to go toward the preservation of the works of the 20th.


30
Sep 15

Window tape

It is that time of year again, when the art students are covering the windows in the university center with … tape. This is one of my favorite projects of the year. I don’t see them all, of course, but let’s just go with it. This is one of my favorite projects. Check out a few of the examples:

window

window

window

I’ll share a few more of them tomorrow, before they take them all down. (Window art is ephemeral.)

The only story you really need today:

The walk home after the Mississippi State game was kind of surreal. People were pointing at him, smiling at him, shouting his name—or rather his new name.

Lucas Tribble is … the Mustache Guy. Well, sometimes Jumbotron Guy. But mostly the Mustache Guy, which the Mustache Guy prefers. And the Mustache Guy is kind of a big deal. People know him. Which is kind of funny considering the whole mustache thing was a Ron Burgundy inspired, month-to-grow joke for Fiji picture day a week or so back.

“I kept it (the mustache) throughout the week just to heckle my family when I saw them.”

But, if you need other stories, here’s a super creepy one:

The federal government found a clever way to make a little extra money last summer.

Some vendors who provide federal agencies with goods and services as varied as paper clips and translators were given a slightly different version of the form used to report rebates they owe the government.

The only difference: The signature box was at the beginning of the form rather than the end. The result: a rash of honesty. Companies using the new form acknowledged they owed an extra $1.59 million in rebates during the three-month experiment, apparently because promising to be truthful at the outset actually caused them to answer more truthfully.

And just to get your mind off the behavioral engineering, the weirdest, saddest, grossest story you will need today:

A Madison County family slain this summer was shot and stabbed before their home was allegedly burned to the ground by the husband and father of two of the victims.

Details of the bloody Aug. 4 slayings in New Market came out Tuesday afternoon during a preliminary hearing for Christopher Matthew Henderson, an alleged bigamist facing seven counts of capital murder. Henderson, 40, and the first of his wives, 42-year-old Rhonda Carlson, are each charged with multiple counts of capital murder in the slayings of his other wife and several members of her family.

And, finally, a story you can listen to, with Trussville Tribune editor Scott Buttram as my guest:


31
Aug 15

Things to read

We are back in full stride with the Monday post of fun links to check out. A little something for a lot of people here. So just scroll until you find something that sings out to you.

This highly anticipated museum is set to open. I can’t wait to see it. This is a photo gallery, but don’t expect much in the way of captions, but the photos look promising. A look inside Birmingham’s new Negro Southern League Museum.

Google’s self-driving cars can’t handle bicycle track stands:

Ever performed a track stand, where you keep your bike upright at a stop without taking your feet off the pedals? If you have, you’ll want to avoid trying that around Google’s self-driving cars, at least for a while. One Austin-based cyclist reports an encounter where one of the autonomous cars was comically unsure of what to do when it spotted him doing a track stand at an intersection. Every time his bike moved even slightly, the car would lurch forward and promptly hit the brakes. Nothing happened beyond some good laughs, but it was clear that Google’s self-driving code didn’t know how to handle a not-quite-stationary bike.

Humans can’t handle that either, in my experience.

Poor headline aside — why read the story after this? — they’ve buried the real story. Netflix will not renew its Epix deal at the end of September, Hulu signs up for Epix content starting October 1:

The company explains that “while many of these movies are popular, they are also widely available on cable and other subscription platforms at the same time as they are on Netflix and subject to the same drawn out licensing periods.” Netflix instead wants to focus on original films and “some innovative licensing arrangements with the movie studios” that will result in “a better movie experience” for its members.

Also, “Starting next year, we will be the exclusive U.S. pay TV home of the latest theatrical movies from the The Walt Disney Company, including Pixar, Lucasfilm and Marvel movies.”

Huge signings.

You know, when you read these pieces all together … it is pretty obvious why no one wants to talk about it. China and Russia are using hacked data to target U.S. spies, officials say:

Foreign spy services, especially in China and Russia, are aggressively aggregating and cross-indexing hacked U.S. computer databases — including security clearance applications, airline records and medical insurance forms — to identify U.S. intelligence officers and agents, U.S. officials said.

At least one clandestine network of American engineers and scientists who provide technical assistance to U.S. undercover operatives and agents overseas has been compromised as a result, according to two U.S. officials.

The Obama administration has scrambled to boost cyberdefenses for federal agencies and crucial infrastructure as foreign-based attacks have penetrated government websites and email systems, social media accounts and, most important, vast data troves containing Social Security numbers, financial information, medical records and other personal data on millions of Americans.

Counterintelligence officials say their adversaries combine those immense data files and then employ sophisticated software to try to isolate disparate clues that can be used to identify and track — or worse, blackmail and recruit — U.S. intelligence operatives.

TV Remains King in Political Ad Spending:

There is an adage in American politics: Campaigns don’t start until the first commercial appears on television. Despite the enormous growth of online campaigning, that half-century of tradition is proving a difficult habit to break.

Candidates and outside groups are expected to spend $1.1 billion on digital advertising in 2016, up almost 700% from $162 million in the 2012 elections.

That this would happen is no surprise. That it is happening so quickly caught me off guard. Live Sports No Longer TV’s Holy Grail in U.S. as Ratings Peak:

“Everyone thought sports rights were the Holy Grail,” said Brandon Ross, an analyst at BTIG Research. “But if your revenues are not as high as you expected and you’ve signed long-term, high-priced agreements, that makes things tough.”

Live sporting events are a top reason people still pay for cable, so media companies battle each other for rights to broadcast athletic events. Sports traditionally have boosted ratings coveted by advertisers and driven up the fees paid by pay-TV operators such as Comcast Corp. to carry channels.

Yet sports haven’t shielded TV networks from subscriber casualties. ESPN has lost 3 million subscribers in the past year and Disney cut its profit forecast earlier this month, sparking a massive selloff in U.S. media stocks. TNT and TBS, which carry basketball, baseball and golf, each shed more than 2 million, and Fox Sports 1 lost 440,000, according to Nielsen data.

12 basics of interviewing, listening and note-taking:

Not long ago, I taught a workshop on these topics to the young men of Poynter’s Write Field program, about 40 minority students attending middle school and high school. They found my lessons useful, so I thought I would pass them on to a larger audience.

I realize these dozen strategies constitute the basics. But when I am struggling with a craft – golf, music, writing – I find it helpful to remind myself of those basics, to climb down from the penthouse and visit the ground floor.

There are terrific extras in the comments covering most of the additions I’d suggest. So I’ll just add two more. First, pay attention to the subject’s nonverbals. More often than not, they won’t give you much. But when they do, they’ll make the interview. Second, if you’re in that person’s “home field” pay attention to the surroundings. Those details are often gold.


24
Aug 15

What’s on your whiteboard?

A couple of our faculty members have these by their doors:

They didn’t give me one. Probably for the best. Who knows what I would write on it. Probably koans:

Shuzan held out his short staff and said, “If you call this a short staff, you oppose its reality. If you do not call it a short staff, you ignore the fact. Now what do you wish to call this?

I do have access to a giant chalkboard. Maybe I should write about the philosophical mysteries of faith, reality and the universe there.

Today I had a few students come up to the office studio to record a few intro and outro tracks for a podcast project we’re launching tomorrow. They sound impressive, which means we must now make the rest of the project sound equally good.

No pressure or anything.

Things to read: Because we haven’t used this gimmick here in a long while.

Agricultural drones may change the way we farm:

For centuries much of farming has been legwork: walking down rows, through patches, going plant-by-plant to check for weeds, bugs, parched soil, any sign of distress. Modern machinery, soil-testing, computers, and ground-based sensors have made crop monitoring and tending more efficient, but still lots goes unnoticed.

Even with a trained eye, there also are inevitably data that can’t be detected at scale, such as nitrogen deficiency or diminished photosynthesis, the chlorophyll-powered process that is crucial for a healthy plant. And if one ailing plant is found, what is the impact on the sometimes hundreds of thousands of plants that surround it? Farmers were long left to guess.

Not for much longer: Agriculture drones may soon be flying across America’s farmland.

I ask an ag journalist and an ag tech person I know about this story. “What unconventional things related to the use of drones are you seeing?”

They aren’t seeing anything unconventional, because the idea of convention is a bit thin at the moment as it relates to drones in agriculture.

You knew this already, if you’ve been reading me anywhere … Digital Media Consumption Is Booming as Investment Floods In:

Here’s some good news for online publishers: People in the U.S. are consuming more digital media than ever before, and their appetite for it is only growing.

According to data from online measurement firm comScore, the total amount of time spent with digital media in the U.S. increased by a whopping 49% over the past two years, driven largely by the use of non-desktop devices.

Time spent with digital media on smartphones grew 90% between June 2013 and June 2015, comScore said, compared with a 64% increase on tablets.

In case you were wondering: Scientists are crediting the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge for breakthroughs in research.