18
Nov 22

This is light

I am now in full Thanksgiving mode. With days to burn, and company to host, I’m taking next week off. There is a turkey in the freezer, as I might have mentioned; there is cleaning to be done tonight.

Got half of the vacuuming done. Started preparing the guest bathroom. Put sheets on the guest bed. Straightened up in the kitchen. Stuff like that. It was the highlight of an unadventurous day: the big breath in before the holiday rush.

I need more than a day, more than one big breath, to prepare for the holiday rush. I’ve seen our schedule of festivities — And they will be grand! They always are! — and I am tired from the contemplation alone.

Anyway, quiet day at the office. Quiet, productive evening at the house. I also road 30 miles.

This ride was notable because it put 2022 into second place in my annual mileage chart. Now the modern me trails only the 2020 version. (We had more time to ride during the early days of the pandemic.) The question left before us is, whether there’s enough time left in the remainder of the year, and around the holidays, to break the 2020 record.

It would take a concentrated effort, but I’ll try.

Anyway, my week of being a bachelor ends tomorrow. The Yankee returns from a short conference trip. On Sunday we’ll go to the airport to pick up her parents. And the season will be upon us.

You should see this turkey.


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!


16
Nov 22

The beginning of Thanksgiving

I finally figured out how to take photos of autumn leaves. It is the shutterbug’s lament, how to express the majesty of autumn. Even the best, high definition lens, top-of-the-line processor, perfectly saturated image leaves something out. You can’t get the emotion, the smells, the crispness of the air and the texture of the foliage in a photograph.

So, of course, here we are at the end of fall, the beginning of winter (it has been snowing again) but I finally figured out something important.

Night, and light.

This stand of American sweetgums is right by the parking deck I use on campus. There’s a nice set of street lights that, just now, are doing some quality work. Those red and greens are terrific.

I would have stayed to admire them, but I mentioned it has been snowing again meaning it is just cold. All the time.

I stopped by the grocery store, hoping to get ahead of the holiday rush, and found I might have been already been too late. There are turkeys …

… but not the size we want. On the left side of the case a bunch of eight and nine pounders. On the right side they go well into the 20+ pound range. I got a bigger one (More leftovers!) but it is sensibly oversized. Someone else needs that 29-pound bird. I need to leave room for all of the other tasty things that will be on the table.

We wondered about freezer room, but that’s not a problem. I could put this thing outside, in the shade on the windward side of the house, and it’d probably stay frozen. I did not — we have coyotes within earshot, after all — but I could have. It’s cold, is what I’m saying.

There are also turkeys living on the hillside behind us, but I don’t think those turkeys and this bird would … ahhhh … get along, seeing as how mine doesn’t have much to gobble about.

Since I mentioned, yesterday, the band playing in the studio, here’s that show. Hank Ruff and The Hellbenders:

He’s popular, and the studio was full of people who enjoyed their set. Tonight was sports, and, because we’re in the upside down, World Cup soccer talk, in November. I spent the rest of the evening reading, and being smothered by cats, who are presently desperate for attention, and body heat.

It’s cold.


15
Nov 22

‘It’s all pop music,’ is a thing I said today

Tonight there was a band in the studio. Hank Ruff is a recent IU grad, and he’s making it as a performer. Beats grad school classes! He’s been on one of our shows before, just before Covid, he said. He would have been a sophomore then and I had no memory of that … until I looked it up just now.

Look how young everyone was! February, 2020:

Since then, a pandemic happened. Charlee went home to Green Bay and became a reporter there. Kendall is reporting in Milwaukee today. Hank topped the iTunes all genre chart for a day, knocking Encanto out of the top spot, which he rightly, casually, mentions.

I’d mention that every day.

Anyway, they have new single coming out in January, Hank Ruff and his band played for us this evening. I don’t know how many country acts have a saxophone player these days, but the guy in the far background has figured out how to make his spot work in this group.

I was going to make a “Is that country music?” joke, but about that time they played a song that Hank said his dad wrote decades ago. The song was “I’m Not Crazy (But I’m Out of Her Mind)” and that’s about as country a song title as you can imagine.

Safe to say they’re on their way, too. He said he and The Hellbenders played 15 shows in September. Good for them. They played three songs, ran their own audio and did a thoroughly professional load out.

I wonder where local band members go after they’re done for the evening.

“Evening.” Their mini-set was wrapped by 7:15 p.m.

After the shows I pointed the car to the house, checked the freezer for turkey room, set up some sanding for later this week, heated leftover chili for dinner, petted the cats and straightened up my home office. It needs more than a straightening, but it was in such a state that a straightening itself was a transformation.

Now I’m just waiting for the Artemis rocket to launch. Maybe everything will work right for their window, anyway. (Sometimes being a fan of science and amazing thing leads to long hours.)

Let’s spend some of that time on the Re-Listening Project. I’ve just working my way through all of my old CDs, in the order I acquired them. It’s fun, it’s nostalgic, it’s an excuse to post videos.

First up today, a soundtrack for a movie that was bad then and hasn’t improved with age. The movie gets terms like “cult hit” and “zeitgeist,” and the dreaded “mixed reviews,” but sometimes words get used without the writer knowing what they really mean. It made good box office money, and most importantly the music was good! Good enough, I suppose. The soundtrack was a platinum hit in Australia and Canada, and twice certified as platinum in the United States. Presumably that was on the strength of Lisa Loeb’s breakthrough single.

I’m sure I bought this because it had three or four songs that I wouldn’t buy on their own. I can tell you how important this was. I never listen to the thing. Almost never have.

There’s a good Juliana Hatfield Three song in there, and it’s always good to have The Posies to point too. Dinosaur Jr. makes you seem well-rounded, and there’s Loeb’s smash hit, not that I bought this for the Loeb song. “Stay” was good, still is, but “Stay” was already everywhere. And then there’s a Me Phi Me classic. It’s aged far, far better than this movie.

Maybe I should look up Me Phi Me’s full catalog.

Up next, the followup to Radiohead’s surprising smash hit, “Creep.” That song took over the airwaves off their debut album, and so the pressure was on when it came to producing and releasing “The Bends.” The record broke the top 10 in Belgium, Scotland, and on the UK Albus chart. Certified as a gold record in at least four countries and platinum in the U.S. and New Zealand and it’s a multi-platinum record in Canada and the UK. They rolled out seven singles, half the record, between September of 1994 and July of 1996. The angular guitars and the emotional falsetto helped draw a line in British rock of the period.

This was great car music for me. Probably a lot of late nights in the car. I drove a lot during this part of college, and so there was me, and, often, Thom Yorke.

“Blackstar” wasn’t a single, but was definitely a late night, car-clinging-to-asphalt track. That chorus is really something.

“Sulk” was a political song, addressing a 1987 mass shooting in England. Pay attention to what Ed O’Brien is doing with the effects on his guitar here.

Title track? Title track.

The Beatles, The Smiths, a David Bowie pastiche, and as critically divisive as a pop song can be, I guess.

After this brief toe dip in Brit rock, we’ll return to Americana pop … probably on Thursday, only on the Re-Listening Project.


14
Nov 22

Weekend and Monday photos and videos

You’ve been waiting for a whole week to hear from the cats. Let’s hear from the cats. (We know what moves the needle on this site. It’s the cats.)

Phoebe found some sun the other day, and that it happened to throw some beams onto a part of jeans, all the better.

Yesterday I started researching heat lamps and heating pads for the cats. Perhaps not as fun, or useful for them, as naps in the sun, but maybe they could get the job done.

Poseidon, meanwhile, would like you to know that he found the potato that fell onto the floor.

Yesterday I returned the favor and looked under the dresser, finding four toy springs and three bouncy balls. Under the bed there was another one of the springs.

It snowed Saturday.

But don’t take my word for it. And don’t trust that photo alone. There’s also video. It was 31 degrees and I stood outside for at least 90 seconds capturing video for this. I suffered for my art; the least you can do is suffer through my art.

This was the best kind of snow, though. There was a half-inch to an inch. It looked pretty, nothing stuck to the roads, and, most importantly, almost all of it had disappeared by today.

I had a bike ride Sunday afternoon. I was not riding in the desert like my avatar. It was cold outside and there was still snow on the ground, so I was, of course, indoors. Hence:

This was a marginally important ride, which is to say it was in no way important at all. But, with this 32-mile ride I moved 2002 into third place in terms of miles per year. Move out of the way, 2013! And I’m coming for you, 2021! In another ride or three this year will be in second place.

It will take a concerted effort to put this year atop the charts. Sure, there’s a month and a half left to go, but there is, of course, a lot of travel figuring into these last six weeks.

Lest you think this post is entirely about the weekend, here’s a collage I made for LinkedIn today. (The social media site where I get some actual analytical success?) I wrote:

“You can’t do creative work without collaboration,” is a thing I say a fair amount to students. Recently, I had the opportunity to collaborate with some students on a series of four specific welcome messages for members of the incoming class of 2027.

Jenna Williams and indispensable Lily Schairbaum worked on this project. Haley Ryan, Taniya Jones, Tristan Reed and Nicholas Jager shared their enthusiasm about what they do at The Media School. These videos will work nicely, but only because of their generosity and good cheer, all of which comes across in the finished products.

I’m sure I’ve previously mentioned that video project in this space. These snippets are from the four videos I produced for incoming students because, this year, we wanted a little more customization to our welcome videos. Hopefully the high school students and their parents that are receiving those videos like them.

And that’s enough for the day.

OK, one more thing. Here’s a glimpse at the moment before the sunset, as seen from the top of the Poplar’s Garage.

Now that’s enough for the day. But there’ll be plenty more … of something … tomorrow!