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!

Nov 22

An apple a day keeps the doctor away, as do vaccines

I watched students produce a show this morning, and also watched a show promo that should win some awards, or — what with college students specializing in dark humor and all — a visit from the local police department, I’m not sure which.

Put it this way, they decided they wanted to add a dramatic jib shot to this promo. The jib is the camera on the big long boom that makes those cool faux-flying shots happen in a studio, or at fixed events like lap races. They wanted to utilize the jib for a dramatic shot and I thought, “I’ll go lend a hand and do that.”

But before I could say that, someone else volunteered. Which was great! Student work is student work. And then when they actually recorded this ultimately ad libbed promo, I was glad the other person decided to work with the jib because there would have been no way I could have envisioned the jib shot he produced. It was, in point of fact, dramatic.

Anyway, I hope that promo sees the light of day. I’ll share it, if it does.

The rest of the day was full of emails. Catching up on other meetings of the week, cinching a neat little bow on small projects, booking people for future projects and the like. Somehow that filled most of a day.

And I tried a new apple, because it is apple season and apples are delicious and Apple Twitter is making me do it and an apple a day keeps the doctor away. So let’s try the Rave.

People compare this to the Honeycrisp. It is, in fact, a cultivar out of Washington that joins that variety with the MonArk apple out of Arkansas. Some of the Washington State people have their hand in the MN55 cultivar, as well.

My normal apple eating system doesn’t work on this apple. I bite off all of the skin, and then work through the flesh down to the core. But a Rave seems to need the tartness of the skin to complement the bubblegum sweetness inside. That sweetness wasn’t working in isolation. So next Rave, big bites.

I have tried three new apples this week, and now I must decide which of those I prefer for repeat purchases. Fortunately, I bought two of each of those three, so I have a few more days to be sure, but I’m pretty sure.

And that’s what Apple Twitter is all about, I gather.

It isn’t scientifically truthful at all, by the way, the old expression. There’s no proof that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but there is some evidence that daily apple eaters have to take fewer daily prescription medicines. The original Welsh rhyme was “Eat an apple on going to bed and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.” It is traced back to 1866.

They didn’t have nurse practitioners in Wales in the mid-19th century. We didn’t invent those until the 1960s here in the United States. It was a stop gap to address a shortage of physicians. (Makes you wonder, no?) Dr. Loretta Ford observed that … well, let the National Women’s Hall of Fame explain:

because of a shortage of primary care physicians in the community, health care for children and families was severely lacking. In 1965, she partnered with Henry K. Silver, a pediatrician at the University of Colorado Medical Center, to create and implement the first pediatric nurse practitioner model and training program. The program combined clinical care and research to teach nurses to factor in the social, psychological, environmental and economic situations of patients when developing care plans.

When the program became a national success in 1972, Dr. Ford was recruited to serve as the Founding Dean of the University of Rochester School of Nursing. At the university, Dr. Ford developed and implemented the unification model of nursing. Through the model, clinical practice, education and research were combined to provide nurses with a more holistic education.

So there you have it. For most of us, this has been a part of the health care system for our entire lives. (Wikipedia tells us that Ford retired to Florida decades ago. Hopefully, at 101, she is hopefully able to find excellent medical care when she needs it.) Residents of 26 states can see NPs which have full practice authority. In 24 other states the nurse practitioner is required to work under the supervision of a physician.

Which is how I come to find myself in the little clinic attached to the grocery store — and no formulation of that sentence will ever not be weird — visiting with a bubbly nurse practitioner who called me a goober this evening. Apples and doctors, but not NPs dear reader, oh not hardly.

The two shots she delivered, however, those will help keep me from seeing a doctor. One hopes, anyway. New Covid booster and a flu shot in the same arm are now on board, and expertly done, one after the other.

But now my arm is sore, and my throat is just the tiniest bit scratchy. The tiniest bit: I would have a sip of water or a peppermint and not have thought anything more of it if my bicep wasn’t reminding me where we went this evening. But no real side effects. Let’s keep it that way.

Must be the apples.

Jul 22

The show doesn’t always go on

We were going out for a frivolous experience. An adventure! Adventures are very necessary. They vary in scope and scale and, as such, grand gestures or big activities do not an adventure make. The best adventures are the smallest ones, generally speaking. And most anything is an adventure in the right company. But today’s was to be a frivolous experience. This would, by my count, be the sixth since the pandemic began. We’re on two hands now!

This is a cornfield we passed today.

Our frivolous experience was canceled. Covid.

Fortunately not us, but someone in the show. We went to Cincinnati to see Barenaked Ladies again. You’ll recall we saw them a few weeks ago in Indianapolis, it was a fine show, had a great time. (I sprinkled video here over the next week, if you’d like to scroll back in time.) Soon after that, The Yankee found some re-sell tickets for cheap. We drove over to Ohio. Guy working in the parking booth at the venue told us the news.

And sure enough, there it was. The word had come down, it just had not caught up to us.

So we spent the evening down by the river, near the baseball stadium, enjoying the warm weather and the park. Got a bite to eat and headed back to Bloomington around 9 p.m. Some of the clouds we saw on the drive back.

It was not the adventure we planned, but it was a great adventure nevertheless.

Saw this at the rest stop. Anyone have any idea what this is meant to do?

Also at the rest stop … Do you ever read rules, or signs, and think, This is about a specific incident? This is about a specific incident. Surely.

We didn’t get the concert, but there’ll be another, at another time. The one we just saw was a 2020 date, twice-rescheduled. This one, I guess, is a 2020 date that will eventually be thrice-rescheduled.

They named this, in at least 2019, the Last Summer on Earth Tour. I wonder if they’ve rethought that at any point.

Since we didn’t see it tonight, here’s the encore from July 1st. Barenaked Ladies closing the show with Toad the Wet Sprocket and Gin Blossoms.

We’ll see them again. Soon, hopefully. Because the 90s will never end, I guess.

Mar 22

American Airlines is the worst thing in the American airspace

Subtitled: Finally, now finally, on our Spring Break 2020 (And this time we mean it) trip

We are in Mexico today. We are finally in Mexico. Just as of today. Should have been here on Saturday. But the journey to our sojourn was negatively impacted by forces beyond our control. In other words …

TL;DR — American Airlines is a terrible way to travel.

It starts like this. We booked this in 2019. Then Covid. We rescheduled twice, because Covid. We were supposed to fly Delta, as we often do, but they canceled this route because of Covid. So American Airlines became our only option to Cozumel. Months ago, American Airlines rescheduled the first flight out of Indy, to make it even earlier in the morning.

So we woke up at 4 a.m. to arrive at the airport to do airport things and got on our plane which couldn’t leave on time. There was a fuel door that wouldn’t close, you see. The captain pilot must leave the plane, study the problem, Google the panel code, call his mom’s neighbor’s uncle about it, and then request a repair team to come and bolt the panel shut.

Then, and this part is very true, the pilot comes over his comm system and says “Well, that’s done, but this plane has an awful lot of computers, so it’ll take a little time for us to get started and in the air.”

Gentle reader, dear friend, if an airplane pilot ever complains, or speaks aloud in wonder about the amount of electronics on his flying sky tube, disembark the vehicle immediately. This is simply good life advice.

Only, you see, there’s a script the pilot is using now. Sure you can get off the flying sky tube. Reschedule a flight. Who knows how that will go. And if you leave this flying sky tube you’re not getting back on this flying sky tube. Tricky door panels and all that.

So we stay on. We depart (very) late. We arrive in Dallas very late for our connection. And this is where the troubles began.

We landed, and waited and waited and waited for the plane to connect to the airport, because of personnel problems. Meantime, our connecting flight just … left. Left five minutes early, even.

What airline does that?

(Later — Note how that flight departed early and was still delayed in arriving? Should have been a red flag for everyone.)

So now we’re stuck in Dallas with nothing but our luggage and dreams. There are no more flights to Cozumel, on the Saturday of the first week of Spring Break for most of the US. There are flights to Cancun and, after standing in a line for many hours, we are on standby for each of them.

Abandon hope, all ye who enter the purgatory of ineptitude that is American Airlines, and the studied indifference and downright rudeness of their employees at Dallas-Fort Worth.

Also, that sign in the foreground? May as well be hieroglyphics out here in the real world. You wonder how long before some bored maintenance crew takes them all down at this point, and where the last tattered one will be.

We also spent hours on the phone, to no avail..

We finally arrived at a place euphemistically called Customer Service. We went here three times on Saturday, standing in exceedingly longer lines each time, to be told different stories, tall tales, excuses and downright lies. Six hours or more in this line alone, for lies.

It was well-staffed. If you like irony and travelers’ distress. I painted over the very young person standing here just in front of us to demonstrate the time when the eight-station desk, the one featuring hours-long waits with a line stretching beyond eyesight into the distance haze of the airport. It was staffed by exactly one American Airlines “professional.” At max capacity, there were three people working at that desk.

And dear and gentle reader, at this point I have written 651 words on this shambolic experience, giving you only the highest points. The details will be spelled out to the executives at American. (I found a helpful mailing list.) Suffice to say, to you, that you likely haven’t had the displeasure of dealing with customer service of this sort in a long, long time. The business model, on the phone and in the airport, and at every level, seems to be “Get these people out of my line and into someone else’s.” We spent an entire day and night at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport dealing with these miserable people. And they are miserable. They are angry, and they are angry at you. Do not dare inconvenience them with your inconvenience, no matter how polite or flustered. Also, they’re the ones getting paid to be at the airport today.

Finally we got a voucher for a hotel. We had to re-coordinate with our condo people, who have been amazing. We had to cancel dives. (This is a dive trip. You go to dive and do little else. Because of this airline we have lost 45 percent of our dives.)

We spent Sunday doing nothing in exotic Dallas. Spring Break! We did nothing because The Yankee had to go back to the DFW airport on a luggage journey, another quixotic four-hour tale. One of our bags got to Cozumel yesterday.

American Airlines: Where incompetence meets apathy, in the sky!

Hertz canceled our car reservation, another American Airline knock-on effects, so we also spent about four hours on the phone with American Express and Hertz trying to make this right.

Which brings us today, and the Cozumel airport, after we finally arrived two years, and then two-days, late.

The Yankee retrieved the piece of luggage that arrived yesterday without us (I’m impressed we got anything back from these yahoos) while I stood in the Hertz line, because, we were told, time was critical. The people in front of us at the little Hertz desk, no dice. This bodes well. That poor family was irate, but no carros means no cars.

Meant the same for us. The guy starts to explain it to me. I said, “Please stop, and thank you. But you’re going to have to explain it to her,” and about that time my lovely bride came back with our lost luggage and I stood well, well away, over at the Avis desk, where I got one of the last cars they had available. We previously had a week-long Hertz reservation for less than the daily rate of this Avis car, and American Airlines will get that bill, too. (And the two-night Dallas stay, and the three extra Uber rides. And another for missed dives. It’s going to be fun.)

To sum up: American Airlines is terrible, and by 4 p.m. Saturday afternoon Smith’s First Rule of Economics, “Don’t make it hard for me to spend my money with you,” was invoked.

If American Airlines is the only way to get to somewhere I need to be, I’ll go anywhere else but there.

But enough about that, for now.

We’re staying at a place called Residencias Reef. Let us sing their praises.

It is a nice oceanfront place. We rented a one-bedroom condo. The furnishings are fine and it is well appointed. There’s a note on the printer that says you can’t get these cartridges in Mexico, but some are due in from Estados Unidos this month. Had I known, I would have picked some up for them. It seemed necessary after seeing all of the things there. Need Gorilla Glue? Got it. Forget your beach reading? Two shelves worth. Fresh fruit? At the ready. Sun block? Bug spray? Right over here. Bikes? Paddles for the paddle boards? Of course. Dry bags? You bet.

They’ve been beyond patient and kind to us. As we’ve noted, this is our Spring Break 2020 trip. We postponed it at the 11th hour that because of the rapidly deteriorating Covid situation, wondering “Will they even let us back in the country at the end of the week?” (The next week the mercurial federal government supposedly shut the door to Europe and Canada, after all. And there was something about a wall?) The condo owners were very understanding in 2020. We were ready to make this trip last year, but then a Covid spike hit. They kindly let us postpone once more. But this, they said, was the last time.

It was more than you could ask for, really.

And then we had to write them Saturday and say “We’ll be there Monday, because American Airlines is terrible at their job.”

Residencias Reef has been great. If we come to Cozumel in the future, or steer anyone else here, it will always be with them in mind.

Also, they have two heated pools.

And we waded into the ocean, which was chilly.

Tomorrow, we dive!

Jan 22

May your weekend move more slowly than your week

Bright and early once again this morning, headed in for a first-thing-this morning meeting, and was rewarded with a bright and clear morning for my effort.

I run a small Friday morning meeting and 80 percent of us were in attendance, a success given these pandemic times. The rest of the people are all students and, at the end of their second week of classes, they are all in full-on “Let’s just get to Spring Break mode.”

Oh, but aren’t we all?

When that meeting wrapped I went into one of the television studios, because there was television to produce. We will see the first shows on Monday, or thereabouts, but I was taken back by a philosophical conversation that evolved while we were transitioning between shots.

The host of the film show was discussing his move to wear suit coats this semester, because it is cold, you see. But he likes the cold. Prefers it. But he also likes warm temperatures. He might even prefer that, we decided, as he leaned into the bit. And before long he found himself saying that he imagined a place where he would be all the temperatures at once, and what would that feel like? Would it feel like anything at all?

Which gave us the moment to wonder what the absence of temperature would feel like. Certainly it couldn’t be room temperature, for obvious reasons. It also wouldn’t be the cold vacuum of space, for similar adjective-driven logic. So what would it feel like, the absence of temperature? And I found myself wondering about that for the rest of the day.

Mind you, this is a group that debates about which prepositions make the best puns.

After they’d wrapped up their second show in the studio I was able to retreat to my office to do office stuff. Until it was time to go into another studio to teach a few students how to use a new software setup.

It was there that I realized that, for the next week and a half, when I have to be in tight quarters with any of these people I will ask them if they were at the Purdue basketball game. If they rushed the court. You can find the footage online. Lots of people. Filled the stadium and then filled the court. The only people wearing masks were the cheerleaders.

I don’t know any of the cheerleaders right now, but, it turns out, I know a lot of these other people who enjoyed their moment of fandom. The rest of us are doomed.

If there is an outbreak I wouldn’t be surprised. Of course it might be difficult to find in the current trends. Of course “what even is an outbreak?” is now a thin rhetorical device. Well, here, it’s …

Computer, enhance …

We’re breaking records across this state, and locally, every day now. Consider that for a moment. Two years in and we are still breaking daily records of most any metric you’d care to examine. It has all led to some interesting stratifications. (Further complicating apathy and exhaustion.) I could spell this out, but I’m sure the same is happening around you.

Around my family, it is happening again. The testing positive part, I mean. Someone with youth and vigor and the general healthiness that most of us are blessed with in our younger days is out doing things without regard for the impact of others, then brings the disease to their older, infirm relatives.

And not for the first time, because we can fix neither indifference nor selfishness.

(Which is as kind as I could be toward specific family members after two re-writes.)

Anyway, near the end of the day I had a pleasant conversation with someone I don’t normally have the chance to talk with. That chat ran longer than I realized and so I left the office at about 5:30.

I worked late all four days this week, then.

Next week I hope to only do it twice.

The daily duds: Pictures of clothes I put here to, hopefully, help avoid embarrassing scheme repeats.

This is a new jacket. Bought it in the fall, cut the tags off last night. And it’s a shirt I bought ages ago, but have maaaaaybe worn once or twice, and a new pocket square. I like all three of these things.

Just not together.