07
Sep 21

No cohesion, but a lot of interesting Tuesday tidbits

Back to work again this morning. And most of the morning spent catching up from a day off and a long weekend out of town. But I only woke up twice this morning wondering where I was.

Stands to reason you could spend the rest of your Tuesday wondering where you are after a morning of that sort.

It’s never quite the same as when it happens in the early morning hours, though, is it? You open a blurry eye and wonder where you are based on whatever light is creeping in from whichever direction. By whatever level of chance is involved, my last two bedrooms have enjoyed the same layout. Even some of the same colors. Once in a great while I wake up truly confused, because the only real clue is in the ceiling, and I can’t focus on that with one blurry eye, it seems.

But this never happens in the rest of the day. You don’t turn from your typing, or move your eyes from that memo, or rouse yourself from a reverie and wonder where you are. It must have something to do with the eyes, or the fluorescent lights.

It’s amazing how many pieces like this are floating around out there. It almost seems odd that there could be a new experience at such a ubiquitous thing. But, it’s true.

Weird how those experiences get turned into published articles while trying to treat a quick steak and a yeasty roll as an ethnography.

I put our name in at the hostess stand and was told it would be about a 10-minute wait.

I didn’t mind the wait. I used the time to take in the ambiance, which was unlike that of any restaurant I’d been to before.

I appreciate the need to get to atmosphere in your photo essay, but you’re asking people to believe you’ve never been to a restaurant which has a theme of neon or kitsch or both.

The author found herself overwhelmed by the “massive” menu and the restaurant which felt “even bigger than it looks from the outside.” That’s called perspective, by the way. The author says she doesn’t like steak. She ordered the chicken.

All of which is to say she buried the actual important story here.

Same-store sales are up over 80% over 2020, which was of course low because of COVID-19, but they’re also up 21.3% over 2019 levels.

This despite reduced hours in many places, like the one she visited in Rochester. (There are two in that town.) The one nearest us, for what it’s worth, always seems busy these days.

I wonder how sales in other restaurants trading in “folksy charm” are faring.

I still can’t imagine eating in a restaurant at the moment. And one day, when that feels comfortable again, I’m sure the menus will overwhelm me.

Speaking of which, don’t forget, we’re flying a drone around on another planet.

Have you noticed how every rover we’ve put on Mars, or every probe we’re sending into space, seems to be outliving the design specs? No planned obsolescence there. Maybe these NASA and JPL people know what they’re doing.

Or maybe …

I never had the honor of meeting the late George Taliaferro. I wish that I did.

If you know the story, you know that he, and his wife who was a trailblazer herself, are larger-than-life personas around here.

While I did not get the opportunity to meet him, I have watched a lot of footage of Taliaferro speaking to classes and doing interviews. He was a passionate, fascinating, caring man. People talk about that first-to-be-drafted tidbit and in that clip above they mention his many skills on the football field. I’m here to tell you that football was the least of it. A former Media School student put together this little mini-doc that seems to capture Taliaferro very well.

He worked with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Baltimore, counseled prisoners returning to their regular lives and was a leader with the Children’s Organ Transplant Association. He taught at the University of Maryland, was dean of students at Morgan State and returned to Indiana to teach. His wife, Judge Viola Taliaferro, the first African American to serve as a magistrate and then judge in the Circuit Court of Monroe County, remains a powerful voice even today.

Finally, a nice little musical number …

Roy Orbison released that song in 1961 at the age of 25. I wonder what kind of star he’d be if he were 25 today.


06
Sep 21

Happy Labor Day

Welcome back to you and me. Nothing happened here last week because … well … you didn’t miss much around here. It was the second week of classes, and, as ever, the first few weeks of classes are hyper-charged. If anything, the post-lockdown might make that period run even longer. Typically it’s a two week rush to find a semester’s cruising speed. Looking at the upcoming calendar, the ops tempo isn’t evening out for another week or two, though.

Meaning things might feel like they’re running at a normal speed … as we approach October.

The most fun things last week, perhaps, were an interview I conducted about two interesting new studies and some television stuff. We had a practice shoot for the sports crew and a big call out meeting Thursday night.

Late that same evening we climbed out of the car after a long drive for a weekend visit with my family.

This was our second visit since the pandemic. And just my third trip, total, since all of this began. We act conservatively and try to stay as safe as possible so we can have visits like that. It makes sense if you’re being risk adverse.

And the trip was nice. We picked up barbecue in Louisville and had a lot more great food all weekend. We sat poolside with my mom, saw my grandfather and finally won a game of dominoes from him, got to hug my uncle. And we watched the hummingbirds dance.

We came back today. If it feels like a full day’s drive that’s because it is. But work calls again tomorrow, and there are cats that need attention. And, since I didn’t give you anything last week, there are extra kitty pictures this time around.

Phoebe is (almost always) a good girl. Except for when she’s on this ledge.

It’s a weird thing, really. “You’re cute, but you’re not supposed to be there. Get down. Wait, let me take a picture first.”

She likes afternoons on the stairs, which gives her some nice indirect sunlight warmth. There’s also a change of temperature near that spot on warm days. Maybe she prefers a half-and-half temperature.

Poseidon prefers tasty snacks.

Again, “Stop buying that! But not before I take a picture!”

He managed to get one out of the box. We think he just likes the crinkly foil. Or likes dropping them on the floor, since we did that a few times.

Phoebe also likes sitting on that box. As we’ve discussed here before, we’re dealing with two cat lawyers. ‘On the box isn’t on the counter,’ is, I’m sure, what’s behind those eyes.

And, also, ‘As you can see, I’m not getting into the treats like he is.’

Poseidon is caught.

And he is notably chagrined.


27
Aug 21

Downstream from here

It rained this afternoon. Less than 20 minutes of the wet stuff fell from the sky. Something between a trace and a measurable amount. Just long enough to make me stay at the office a few minutes more, you understand. I rode out this randomly appearing rain cloud with purpose, doing a computer networking test that I learned earlier in the day on an extra classroom.

By the time that chore was done the rain was gone. And the little creek that runs alongside the building looked like this.

There’s something about the limestone that’s all around the place that slows drainage. If the water can’t go into the soil it just rolls to wherever the terrain wants it to and, here, that means Spanker’s Branch and down into the underground system just after that last shot. In an appropriate number of hours or days I’ll be using this same water to clean up after dinner.

It’s comforting, really, knowing there is a cycle to this, and we have integrated a system into it.

Saying a thing like that, about the dishes, is just one short step from trying to assign a story to that particular bit of water. The happy bubbles, and all of that. At which point you’re simply anthrophomorizing dihydrogen monoxide.

“What’s this ‘you’ stuff, pal?”

You’re right. You’re right. Not one among you has ever wondered about the hopes and dreams of the water you use while doing the dishes. That is the most ambitious part of the water that comes into our house. How else to explain how it gets on the countertops, the cabinets, my shirt, under the dish drainer and everything else?

I got some under the drainer this evening. No idea how that happened.

We’re hitting the books again before the weekend begins. We’re looking at a few of the interesting bits from one of my grandfather’s magazines, the January 1954 edition of Popular Science. We started this particular magazine a few weeks ago now, and you can see the first ads if you click that previous link. Click the image below and you can enjoy the next nine photos and bring yourself great worth and merriment.

But if Popular Science doesn’t interest you, you can see the rest of the things I’ve digitized from my grandfather’s collection. There are textbooks, a school notebook and a few Reader’s Digests, so far. It’s a lot of fun.

Just like your weekend. Unless you’re getting rained on. Watch out for Ida.

I’m taking next week off here, but we’ll be back for more fun of this sort the following week. See you on Labor Day!


26
Aug 21

Back to the year 1921

Let us once again go back in time, to see if anything interesting was in the paper 100 years ago today. And there’s … not a lot … that captures our eye these years hence. Sometimes a slow news day here is matched by a slow news day then. It isn’t exactly the planets aligning, but it could seem close enough if you wanted to think that way. The better read is that probably no one feels like doing more than necessary in the middle of an August heat wave.

So to quickly gloss over the day’s lead story from the August 26, 1921 edition of The Birmingham News

That’s the West Virginia Mine Wars, a series of strikes, skirmishes, kerfuffles and outright battles that ranged through the 1910s and early 1920s. At the first of August a police chief and his deputy were killed by hired gun thugs when they were going to trial for a violent shootout earlier in the year. That was a tipping point. For weeks miners started arming themselves, and moved to just outside the state capitol. The firing was just starting again when they put this paper together. Thousands of union miners and another few thousand police offers, militia and others were clashing. President Harding was tinkering with the idea of martial law. National Guard were standing ready to be shipped in. Today they call it the Battle of Blair Mountain, which ended on September 2nd, and it claimed about 130 lives. It wound up being a defeat for the miners, and union membership plummeted. Ultimately, the mine owners success helped lead to a larger, stronger movement in many other industries. This was nearing the end of the West Virginia violence. Within the next decade, though, the unrest and violence spilled over into eastern Kentucky.

Anyway, inside the paper … a very vague ad on page three.

This makes sense if you are of the time. Lots of ads, across the country. You’re meant to see it as a seal of approval.

Text of another ad, from elsewhere at about that same time reads, “Like all thoroughbreds the Pup is inclined to be exclusive. He will talk for only one clothing store in each city. And that’s got to be a good one. He symbolizes the live successful merchant — and he is always on the job.”

That we don’t have more in this ad is likely a teaser. Maybe the Pup was just coming into the market.

Knowing, as we do, what was to come in just a generation, this was probably a good idea.

That was page four. She was launched on the first of September. The next month a new treaty went into effect, so the battleship was never actually completed. The Washington was sunk in late 1924 as gunnery practice. It took several days to sink her, and the analysts decided the armor was inadequate.

This standalone photograph is on page 10.

You won’t be surprised to learn that there are people who track presidential pets.

This advertisement really strikes a tone, doesn’t it?

MOTHER!

This is an interesting ad during Prohibition.

These days that address is a parking lot.

I’m not saying these jokes are funny, but on a full page of comics, these are perhaps the best two for modern eyes.

This was a great downtown store. A.B. Loveman’s Dry Goods Emporium was founded in 1887 and soon became the Loveman, Joseph & Loeb when Moses Joseph and Emil Loeb came on board.

When you saw this ad in your 1921 paper, you were reading about the largest, most magnificent department store south of the Ohio River. Most of the store destroyed by fire in 1934, but they rebuilt on the same location. They expanded across town and the state, until they went bankrupt in 1979 and closed the next year.

Today, the beautiful old store is still for kids, even those bursting through the roof. The Loveman’s building is home to the state-of-the-art McWane Center.

It is a terrific museum.

And that’s it for today, and a century ago. Come back tomorrow, for more tomorrow, and probably some history that’s a bit more recent.


25
Aug 21

Where I struggle hilariously with plant identification

We haven’t had a random flower post in a while. I didn’t even have to scour the archives to arrive at that conclusion. But I did arrive at a big bunch of these wildflowers at the end of my evening run. The exercise was nothing to write home about, but the rain to the north meant we had clouds, which kept the recent 100-plus heat indices at bay. And the views were lovely.

There’s something that flowers like purple torch out there (Bartlettina sordida), but I don’t think this is that. The inflorescence is similar, but the rest of the plant didn’t fit the bill. Lovely flowers, no matter the species.

Some good old fashioned ironweed (Vernonia gigantea). It grows everywhere around here. They’re all blooming in their glory.

This is perhaps either wavyleaf, a thistle (Cirsium undulatum) or meadow blazing star (Liatris ligulistylis). I could be wrong about both of those. Embarrassing, I agree. But, simply put, I didn’t have that many horticulture classes in undergrad.

And the ever-present wingstem (Verbesina alternifolia). It’s just starting to bloom, and will be with us until October or so. Butterflies love it.

I saw three butterflies. And there were a few bumblebees out enjoying the pollen from the wildflowers, but not enough.

Maybe they’re off buzzing around some other stand of flowers, but I can count on one hand how many I’ve seen this month. The recent heat has been a part of that. We know they don’t like temperature spikes, but their general absence feels a bit disconcerting.

And the birds! Haven’t mentioned this, but in May and June there was a local bird die off and the state Department of Natural Resources asked people to pull in their bird feeders. Our three little feeders provide no end of amusement in the yard, but we can’t have that while the experts are working out this puzzle. Avian disease scientists are trying to figure out the cause. They’ve ruled out a lot of things — avian influenza, West Nile and other viruses, various bacterial pathogens and the always tricky Trichomonas parasites — but haven’t been able to solve the mystery yet.

And that’s the story of the flowers, the birds and the bees, all between the apple and the sycamore trees.