Thursday


17
Nov 22

We only go back a century in this post

We have rapidly moved straight on into holiday mode. It was a sneaky and sudden shift this year. I was wondering how these Dickensian commercials made it into the breaks of football games, and then looked at the calendar. That was surprising. Well, time means nothing anymore, and the weather has, until just last week, been unseasonable.

But I receive a monthly email from the thermostat people. This is our one publicly acknowledged concession to having a smart home, connecting a remotely programmable thermostat to our domicile. It is useful when traveling. But the downside is the emails. The upside to the email is that, once a month, we receive a basic summary of our heat and A/C use. For instance, the heat was up a little bit in October, compared to last year, but the air conditioning was drastically lower.

Also, and this may just be copy holder for all I know, I haven’t consulted the National Weather Service here, the email says our average temperatures in October 2022 were 6° cooler than October 2021. The average high three degrees lower, the average low 44 in 2022, compared to 54 in 2021. So much for the late warmth confusing my knowledge of the seasons.

Enjoy, then, this brand new conspiracy theory that I’m hatching with every keystroke before your eyes: Something about vaccines and wearing masks are altering my perceptions of days.

There aren’t a lot of mask wearers around anymore, are there? Despite, well, you know.

Holiday mode is upon us. We are having guests next week and trying to put a thing or two into an itinerary, such as can be had. I am setting the over-under on trips to the grocery store, from next Sunday to the following Saturday at four.

This means I’m also counting the hours until a few days off work. And, judging by my inbox, everyone else is, too. It’s a delightful thing, the unacknowledged and entirely unified feeling of we’re all just waiting … until … And there’s some solidarity involved in that too. Everyone is looking at different dates. My Thanksgiving begins tomorrow. Some people will push through a few days next week. I’ll be thinking of you while I’m doing my level best to not think of work.

My contribution to the cause today was this. I canceled some things. I reminded some people of something two weeks out. I scheduled a few programs for two and three weeks away. I found myself in a series of tedious emails that will be resolved next week, when I won’t be here. (And saying they were tedious is not a criticism. The tedium was mostly my doing.)

This evening I donned long pants and a long shirt and gloves and ear muffs and a headlamp and ran two miles in the brisk cold and snow flurries. It wasn’t a personal best, but I wasted little time getting that down. Then I sat in the garage and sanded wood for almost three hours. A few more hours of sanding and the longest running project in the history of woodworking will be ready for a dry fit. Saturday, then. I had dinner at 10 p.m., and am planning on reading myself to sleep.

But only after this.

Some unsung hero(es) at the university library has collected and preserved and digitized some ancient newsprint. It makes for a fun few minutes and, now and again, we’re going to dive into some old random stuff from the alma mater. Why should these bits of history exist in only one corner of the internet? If I can’t be there, I may as well bring imagine something now generations past. This is The Plainsman, 100 years ago today.

Remember last year! Centre is Centre College of Danville, Kentucky. It was already 100 years old by this point, and that previous year, 1921, the Colonels whipped up on a young Auburn team, 21-0. No one had forgotten. They all remembered.

Frank McLean Stewart, college student.

Stewart, having gained hard-earned insight from that choice, shared his wisdom with others before graduating with the class of 1923 with a degree in agricultural science.

He became a field rep for the American Cotton Association, then worked for Belle Meade Butter Company before becoming a dairy farmer. He spent a decade as the executive secretary of the Alabama State Milk Control Board and left there to work for the War Food Administration late and just after World War II. In the 1950s he became the state’s commissioner of agriculture.

I wonder how many times he told that story when he was a younger man.

I’m always struck by how ads in smaller parts of the country, for the longest time, didn’t even bother with addresses. Just get to our town. Ask around, someone will tell you how to find The Cricketeria. (I see references online to the Cricket Tea Room through at least the 1930s, but that’s where the trail stops. Similarly, I found William Abbott, born during the Civil War, died, next door in Opelika, just before World War II. He came from a family of photographers.)

I don’t know that I’ve ever run across anything about this ice cream parlor. But everyone knows Toomer’s. Back then, of course, it was an actual drug store. Today, many owners later, it’s a busy gift shop. Same name, same corner.

This was another drug store. At one time, in a walk of two or three blocks you could hit five drug stores. Sign of the times, one supposes.

What do you suppose they’re implying with these quote marks?

Remember, this is 1922. The technology was ascendant. It would have been farther along, but the government stepped in during the Great War and took over the airwaves as a matter of national security. You could study radio, the engineering and broadcasting elements of it, that is, and it was understood to be a military endeavor at the time. Radio at Auburn has a big history. I’ve written about it a bit here, you’ll see a bit more on the subject … right now.

This is the next issue of the paper next one in the collection is from about two weeks later, Nov. 29, 1922. Since we’re here we may as well breeze through it. (Oh, and, yes, Auburn avenged the loss to Center. It was a 6-0 game, the Tigers mauled ’em. Every bit of overwriting possible was used to describe the game. We’ll skip most of that here.)

It’s about time radio did it’s part! Remember, this is 1922, so all of this is an incredible step into the modern age.

On page 4 — it’s a four-page newspaper — there’s a long column that turns this into a process story. They’d just gone through some upgrades and expansions. Now 5XA and WMAV boasted four radio telegraph sets. More technology was coming, but by the time you read this in the paper they were already at 500 watts. Not so much these days, but that was a huge range considering there was less interference in the atmosphere. The paper in Birmingham — the publisher was on the university’s Board — had donated a radio phone, so they had the strongest setup in the South. They would soon be able to get weather reports directly from Washington. All of this led to WAPI, which was a station I had the great honor to broadcast on for a year or so.

The more things change …

It’s easy to take water out of the faucet for granted, if you have it. It’s easy to laugh at a time when you couldn’t take it for granted. It must have been some kind of experience to have lived in that time in between. I assume this is part of that time.

The guy that wrote the above, Reid Boylston Barnes, Itchy to his college friends, was born in 1903, went to law school, and eventually entered the U.S. Army as a captain during World War II, serving in the military judicial system.

He mustered out a lieutenant colonel and continued on his path of becoming something of a legal giant. He died in 1984. He saw some changes in his life. Including …

I was not aware that this was a thing … nice to see some humor in an old newspaper ad, though.

Speaking of literary societies … I wonder how popular they are these days.

This really takes you back.

Maybe I should keep that one. It could be recycled every term, for any generation of college student!


10
Nov 22

Snow enters the forecast – the season cometh

The wind is harder. The leaves have lost their color and grown crunchy. The mornings have a chill. The evenings, on the quiet ones, you can almost hear the thermometer giving a great sigh. It gets dark early, so a quick walk right after work looks like this.

It’ll get worse for another month and change, but then the solstice brings the first hint of a distant reprieve. The next day is longer! By a minute! And 10 days later the coldest month begins. It’ll already be cold, and dark, and gray, though. In truth, while something on me — my toes or ears or fingers — will always be cold, the actual temps will rightfully be considered mild by some. Winter is relative, but it is a constant, much like my whining about it. And it’ll stay that way until April.

My electric blanket is ready.

I will keep it out of the snow, which is due in on Saturday morning.

All of the signs suggest a hard winter, he said, writing on one of the last two days of wonderful, mild weather. The caterpillars with seasonal setae are suggesting it — because caterpillars know things. Even social media is suggesting it. As if you needed another reason to put a pause on social media.

Anyway, we went on a little walk into the gloaming, which ended in the proper darkness. You’d think that this would change the sort of conversation that you have with someone — like it’d be more whimsical or unguarded or dreamlike — but not really. It was the usual normal of nerdy.

The real difference is that we had our first instance of “How is it only nine o’clock?”

Six months ago, and six months hence, it’ll just be getting dark about that time. But, for a time, I can reacquaint myself with more indoor hobbies.

They’ve really been piling up.


27
Oct 22

At least the photos are pretty

I said to myself that, this year, I would not go crazy posting leave photos. How cliche. How ephemeral. How incomplete a reflection of the season. How pretty.

That tree is one I never see, because I had to be on a different part of campus today. I had to be on a different part of campus today because a product is being micromanaged. But my part of this particular project is done now. So I spent the afternoon in the more familiar building, doing the more familiar things, and saw more familiar leaves on the way out.

That red maple in the early morning light was nice, but these sweetgums are showing off.

There’s a parking deck on one side of these trees, and some tired campus rental houses on the other side. For a few weeks in October, though, nobody notices all of that. They’re looking up at this.

At the end of the day it was back out to the UPS Store to return something. We watched a young woman hand the UPS desk clerk a bag of clothing. No, that’s not exactly right. She handed her one item from the bag at a time, and the desk clerk was bagging and putting stickers on each individual item. It must have been a good week for that young woman on Poshmark. And a good day for UPS if there’s someone willing to pay you to wad up that shirt, put it in a clear back, slap a sticker on it and add that to the pile of yoga pants and blouses you’ve already packaged for her.

This took about five minutes. She had a lot of clothes to ship.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with that young woman’s personal economy.

We then visited the not-Publix. One needs produce, after all. Peppers and onions and apples, a little thing of coconut milk, why not. Some pizzas for a quick snack. And then to checkout, with little incident.

We use the self checkout aisle, of course. I always say that you should have to pass a test and get a license to use the self checkout. But it occurred to me this evening that I’d have to pass that test as well. And the poor impatient people behind me might think me unworthy at this whole thing, too. The self checkout monitor, responsible for six stations, was as unflappable as ever. And by unflappable I mean unimpressed. Which is to say, busy staring at her phone.

“Help is on the way,” seems like an Isaac Asimov subplot gone awry.

Anyway, that was the day. Nine hours at the office. Barely two of it at my desk. And then two stores and now the house, those leaves and still, still, waiting on the weekend.


20
Oct 22

271 words that say nothing

The forecast said we’d hit 60-some degrees today, which is an improvement from earlier in the week. The first day in a slight trend of warmer temperatures. But, as I ran errands this morning, it surely didn’t feel like it.

The Yankee had an appointment to make this morning. Some of her first times out and about, and so that is another sign of improvement. (She’s doing well and staying on the mend!) But she can’t drive herself yet, so I am now playing the role of executive chauffeur.

Here and back, here and back. You know how that goes. We had lunch in the car, just like the not-too-long-ago days. And that was when the sun finally burned off the clouds. That was worth 15 degrees, easy.

She came on campus after that for a meeting, and sat in my office for a while as I finished the day’s chores. A few of her students stopped by — she’s incredibly popular with the people who know the score. Stamina comes back over time, though, and the half day’s worth of activity wore her down. By the end of my work day, she was ready to go.

So we went!

At the house, we sat beneath this tree for a while, until the sun dipped low and the temperature started to slide back toward where the day started. And that’s the rhythm of things, isn’t it? No matter how far you go, how tired you get, you always come back to where you started.

One hopes, anyway.

The forecast calls for another week or more of warmer weather ahead.

One hopes.


6
Oct 22

Briefly on the beauty of the early quitters

You don’t usually notice them. But, sometimes, you see a bit of nature and something about the moment makes it worth your attention. And sometimes the light and the color and the smell and the moment all come together and you bend down to pick up a leaf.

Then there are those moments where you find yourself bending over in the middle of the road, wondering what you’re doing. There could be cars coming.

But sometimes that moment is worth it.

So long as there are no cars coming.

Maples are huge disappointments, as early harbingers of what is to come. Quitters, I call them. But they do it so beautifully. One can’t help but admire them, if even in frustration.

Though I’m never sure if I should interpret the grand gesture as an apology for what’s to come, or for their letting go so soon.

One supposes it’d be better to hang on tenaciously, and then be beautiful in doing so, but that’s not always the way of it with leaves. Or many things, one supposes.

My contribution to the cause today was this. I scouted a location of a video I have to shoot next week. No idea how I am going to shoot it. I moved a table and two chairs into storage. And I had a few meetings.

Also, I filed down a bit of a strike plate for a door. It looked like a professional operation, what with my using the file and all. At the end of it, the door works better than it did before, which is always the goal, the letting out of things that should go out, the allowing in what needs to go in.

Which wasn’t what I was thinking about when I stooped down to pick up that leaf. But it was what I was thinking about when I missed, and had to reach for it again.

There were cars coming! (I usually notice those …)