Feb 18

There’s a cat pic, funny tweets and a podcast in this one


And the Olympics are on, of course, which, in our house, means two weeks of Olympics. Also it means a two-week quixotic attempt to understand NBC’s programming strategy. That’s the true Olympic sport around these parts.

Also, this, from last night:

Actual tears.

And then we got criticized:

I really enjoyed this episode of the podcast. I saw this story a few days back and thought I’d like to find an expert and talk about this with them. You know, localize what is, honestly, an incredible news story:

In what’s being hailed as a “major breakthrough” in Maya archaeology, researchers have identified the ruins of more than 60,000 houses, palaces, elevated highways, and other human-made features that have been hidden for centuries under the jungles of northern Guatemala.

Using a revolutionary technology known as LiDAR (short for “Light Detection And Ranging”), scholars digitally removed the tree canopy from aerial images of the now-unpopulated landscape, revealing the ruins of a sprawling pre-Columbian civilization that was far more complex and interconnected than most Maya specialists had supposed.

The story goes on at great length, and one of the many cool tidbits is that this research is going to force archeologists to revise their old population estimates from about five million people to 10 or 15 million. That’s no blip.

So of course I wanted to talk about this. I looked around and it turns out there are at least two experts on Mayan culture on campus. One is on sabbatical, but the other is here and she was incredibly gracious with her time. Anne Pyburn is the provost professor of anthropology, which is a university honor acknowledging her national reputation for scholarship, research and teaching. And wouldn’t you know it, she has spent more than a little time in these same jungles, working on this same sort of thing, with a Mayan specialty.

She talks about it all in the very measured way that experts often do, but she has some great ideas about what it all means. If I could just spend a few days a week following up on some significant story with a campus expert and examine why it all matters it would be an excellent use of my time.

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Jan 18

That day which starts the thing toward which everyone is working

Sometimes you get to know people and you come to realize that they’re going to do just fine and the world is liable to turn out just fine when they are one day running the show. And I typically meet people preparing to go into some media field or another. And I spend a little more time around the news people, of course. And they can be pretty squared away folks, which is always nice. And today I got to interview one of those people.

Carley Lanich aspires to be an investigative reporter. This semester she’s the editor-in-chief of her campus newspaper. And today we talked about some of the coverage being done by her peers at Michigan State. It’s a pretty smart conversation:

And if you’ll excuse me:

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Jan 18

Sometimes you dress up for news, I guess

You can take a tie off with one hand. It is an art and has, and demands, a certain flourish. And if you do this in front of a cat, she’s going to want to play with it. It is a cat’s way: chase the moving silk thing the hooman puts on some days. And if she plays with it, that’s fine, until she produces her claws. And then you have to do something else. So I dressed her.

We have the best dressed cat in town, I’m sure.

This afternoon I was joined on the show by a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. We talked about some of his students work, which is impressive. You can hear about it right here:

You can also find other episodes of The Best Story I’ve Heard Today on its new host site, Podbean. All of the current run have been transferred there and now I have to see about getting this thing syndicated in a few different places. After that: advertising. (Maybe?)

We’ve talked, on that show, a few times about the Larry Nassar trial. Here’s a story worth reading, it offers its own masterclass on interviews in reporting:

I saw the confident Larry Nassar, buoyed by a reputation as a caring miracle-worker. I saw the charismatic doctor, a man with a legion of adoring supporters. I saw the smooth Nassar, a master manipulater (sic) who had convinced police and university officials that earlier complaints were misunderstandings — and went on molesting young girls.

At times in the about 30 minutes we were together, he came off almost arrogant. That was particularly true as he tried to convince me the “misunderstanding” was the result of the women’s ignorance of his sophisticated medical work. His demeanor didn’t come as a surprise. Nassar was revered in gymnastics and highly regarded internationally as a sports medicine physician.

But at other times, I picked up a different vibe. When we first met, Nassar essentially pleaded that we not write a story. He even indicated he could provide dirt on USA Gymnastics officials. As we talked, particularly when he wasn’t directing the conversation, Nassar came off as much more socially awkward. Faced with a question, he would stammer. His eyes fluttered. They’re the kind of nonverbal cues I look for during contentious interviews.

This young woman is pretty incredible:

And, as the Indy Star reported, it started with an email.

Some more tweets:

And some good news from Las Vegas:

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Jan 18

Our fingers walk somewhere else

This is new from earlier today. Indianapolis Star sports writer Zach Osterman joined me to talk about soccer, the nature of sports dynasties and a bit about how The New York Times is covering sports in Spain.

I don’t think I put this here last week. Here it is now:

‪Allie's snow video. #FamousOnTheInternet‬ #TheBlackCat

A post shared by Kenny Smith (@kennydsmith) on

This arrived today:

It has a lot of numbers, and a lot of information. It could use a few coupons. And I guess the time for spunky defiance has passed. The upper righthand corner is a sad concession to the times.

We didn’t get one last year. I’m not sure why we received one today, but I feel like I should hold on to it. One day the art inside will be humorous, at least. And we’ll be able to look back, in 30 or so years, at a few more industries that have disappeared. But maybe the phone book will make a comeback by then. Maybe

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Someone is going to have to index our social and biomedia pages.

Jan 18

They’re good at taking care of the roads here

Look how pretty! Snow falling on our building on campus …

And from inside that building, from a corner window in an unused office on the fifth floor …

All of the schools and the city government closed down. We worked. And the road crews did too …

Sorta …

Happy weekend!