Mar 23

IACS, day one

That’s the International Association for Communication and Sport to you and me.

We woke up this morning ready for IACS. Still jet-lagged, but sure of where we were, and grateful we made it in time to participate in the conference. Travel issues aside, knowing where you are when you wake up is a good thing. And I’ve become an incredibly poor traveler. It takes me a day or two to get on the right schedule. So far, though, I am impressing myself today. He said, after the rare mid-day nap.

But that’s getting ahead of things.

Our hotel has a fine breakfast. The dining area is just off the check-in lobby, and at the host stand someone is waiting to ask you your room number. They check that number against a list. And, as we ordered breakfast, we’re on the list.

So a guy is standing there waiting to talk to guests.

“Hola. Buenas dias. Número de habitación, por favor.”


And, without a moment’s hesitation, “Oh, Mr. and Mrs. Smith. I am the hotel manager. We are sooooo very sorry about your experience last night.”

So word has gotten around.

Breakfast was fine. We then walked the 400 meters to another hotel where this actual conference was taking place. Here’s The Yankee delivering some of her most recent research to her sports scholar colleagues.

She loves this crowd, and they all love her, too. She said later in the day that this was her favorite conference, but she didn’t need to say that, it was obvious. She was among her people. Similar academic interests and, pleasantly, no big egos.

My lovely bride has been studying the American coverage of the Olympics for almost 20 years now. These are the things we know for certain. Primetime NBC coverage is aimed at a female audience. Fifty-six percent of the audience is female and NBC knows this. So there’s an emphasis on storytelling, and there are no combat sports shared during primetime. Some 60 percent of NBC’s primetime coverage is given over to women’s sports. (Conversely, ESPN famously devotes about six percent of their coverage to women.) All of this, her research says, makes the NBC Olympic coverage the largest media coverage of women’s sports.

And! This year, for the first time ever … women were allowed to be smart.

This might seem like a small thing, but media portrayals matter. Is an athlete athletic or a mom, or tough, or someone’s girlfriend or gritty or whatever. In these last games, commentators tied a woman’s intelligence was to a quality performance.

Now, I guess, the question is whether that will turn into a trend over the course of the next several Olympics.

Speaking of intelligence … The second most interesting thing that happened at the conference today was that the daughter of one of our grad school professors presented some of her original research. She’s a junior in undergrad at Florida, and a thoughtful, talented young woman who brought her junior thesis about collegiate athletes and NIL to all of these noted scholars and … it was really, really good. Really good.

As soon as the panel was over, two professors approached her and started recruiting her for grad school. The Yankee was writing down ideas about how the two of them should work together. Her mother, our former professor, is an incredibly gifted scholar, so none of this is surprising. But it’s no less impressive. Most of us, almost none of us, weren’t doing this kind of work or presentation in undergrad. It was quite exciting.

In the evening, we walked down to the Sagrada Familia, Antoni Gaudí’s famously unfinished church.

We’ll be visiting there on Sunday.

But there’s more conferencing tomorrow!

When we got back to our room this evening there was a fresh fruit plate, a chilled bottle of champagne and a note from the hotel manager, again apologizing for last night.

This is a good hotel, a really fine place, and they’re proving it. Not that we asked, in any way, for this sort of treatment. But we’ve quickly come to appreciate Spanish hospitality.

Mar 23

A note to self about coasting, and other things

I’ve been mulling over creating a syllabus for a trauma interview course. The idea starts with understanding that not all interviews are the same. Some of them require a more delicate care than others. Some would benefit from having some purposeful training.

The idea, for me, started several years ago. I read a profile, which I can’t re-locate, about a reporter in New York renowned as the guy that interviews people immediately after they’ve just found out a loved one has been killed. (What a thing to be noted for, huh?) He talked about his process — the respect involved, the solemn decorum, even the way he dressed for it. It was a thoughtful thing, and it’s worth expanding on.

I remember discussing this in a reporting class during undergrad. I think we did about 20 minutes on the concept. It was essentially, some people want to talk. Some people will not be prepared to talk. Some people will think you a ghoul. Accept whichever response you get, and don’t take it too personally.

It was, I guess, a different time. I think we can do better. Perhaps some people, in some classes, do. But I would argue it needs to be more than a simple unit.

The idea starts, basically, with social worker and trauma specialist Resmaa Menakem’s definition.

Trauma is a response to anything that’s overwhelming, that happens too much, too fast, too soon, or too long — coupled with a lack of protection or support. It lives in the body, stored as sensation: pain, or tension — or lack of sensation, like numbness.

That’s from a 2020 interview, but I ran across it again the other day, and an entire lecture or conversation — a conver-lecture — sprang to mind fully formed.

The back-of-the-envelope notes suggest there’s a mini-term class here, easy. I am sure, the more I dive into it, there’s a full semester in the idea. Perhaps there is more. You don’t know until you really get into it. And I’ll get into it after Spring Break.

It’ll start here.

Trauma reporting
Listening to trauma
What happened to you?
Covering violence
Grief and COVID-19
How to approach people affected by tragedy
When interviewing trauma victims, proceed with caution and compassion

I, of course, think of this in a journalism context, but there are institutional approaches here, as well. And, furthermore, there are other elements to this, most critically, the second-hand trauma that impacts journalists from time-to-time. This was never discussed in any class I took, or any newsroom I worked in. There’s no newsroom I can think of why that shouldn’t be approached. There’s no reason why I can think of that isn’t taught, considered, and re-visited.

So I’m speaking it into existence, as it were.

Rode my bike this evening. It goes like this: following all that climbing last weekend, there were rest days — brought on by necessity and scheduling — on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and then a brief ride yesterday. It felt rough. Tonight’s ride was faster, but maybe felt worse.

That avatar in front of me was fun. We paced one another for 10-plus miles. This was my first time ever on this particular route (though some of the roads on this one are on other Zwift routes) and I could tell from the HUD that this was his second lap, at least for the day. He knew the course, which is important.

We took turns pulling, which is the polite thing to do. Everybody gets a little draft and conserves a tiny bit of energy that way. Somewhere along the way he got tired of that and attacked. I let him go, but pulled him back a short time later. Then I started toying with him. For the next two or three times I pulled through I stopped pedaling for just a moment. It’s a question of touch and timing, but you can pass the other person when your avatar’s feet aren’t moving. It’s a funny joke, to me anyway. Look at me! not trying! Now I’ll pedal some more …

So we kept taking turns. Him in front, me drifting by him, then taking a quarter-mile pull or so, then him in front again. I like to think that my little joke aggravated him, and then made him grin with grim determination.

On that route there’s a little climb over the last mile and he was waiting for it. Just after the bottom of the hill that guy exploooooded. He was gone, suddenly 30 seconds ahead of me, and then a minute. I got about half of it back, but he buried me something good.

I learned this: I should coast less — or is it more? And, hey, it’s the weekend …

2023 Zwift route tracker: 78 routes down, 46 to go.

Feb 23

Flying into the weekend

Look who is passing back through. The nearby ponds are a stopover. And since they’re only here for a short time, and since their presence is a welcome signal, we welcome the site of the Canada geese. The squeaking, honking, flapping, fluttering geese are back.

May they fly north with great speed, and may warm weather be in their wake.

We’ll see 50s and 60s for the next few days, and some sun. I’ll happily take a few more weeks of that, and then complain internally until the real spring weather arrives.

Timing is everything for spring weather. Those geese know it. That’s why they’re heading north now. Some of the trees understand it. That’s why you’ll see buds emerging at some of those naked little twigs. The days are getting longer and the insects are noticing all of this, too. Now we just need to prevail upon the prevailing weather patterns.

Spring will arrive in 54 days.

I’m doing a bit of a silly thing. As regular readers likely recall, I’m working my way through all of the routes on the Zwift bike riding game. It’s a great way to work up base miles, between outdoor riding seasons and trying to tackle all of the routes at least provides some variety. There are 124 routes and growing. I started that at the beginning of January, ticking routes off this checklist. Not all of the routes are available every day, and, of course, I have to work around my regular schedule, as well. At some point all of this will get a little more demanding, because of that selectivity, and because I started crossing the easier routes off first.

And now we come to the silly part, I am going to try to knock off three of the more demanding courses this weekend. The gimmick being that if you do all three, your Zwift avatar gets a nice new Rapha kit to wear.

So, tonight, I rode the first of the Rapha Rising stages. I wound up climbing 2,500 feet, all of it felt nice and easy, but it will get more demanding. There are another 7,400+ feet of climbing to go tomorrow, and Sunday.

That’s a fair amount of work to do for a virtual kit, I think. But I need to get those three stages off the list anyway. It’ll dominate the weekend’s fun, and just might impact how I feel about stairs on Monday.

In this installment of the Re-Listening project, where I am playing all of my CDs in the order that I acquired them, we find ourselves firmly in the summer of 1996, and listening to Tonic’s debut album, “Lemon Parade.” It went platinum and featured three singles, including “Open Up Your Eyes,” and the smash hit “If You Could Only See.” The former got a lot of rock and alt rock attention. (This will come up in a future edition of the Re-Listening project.) The latter topped the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks, and number 11 on the Billboard Airplay Hot 100. That single spent 63 weeks on the chart. The record itself peaked at 28 on the Billboard 200.

There’s a lot of texture and distortion in the guitars, but the rhythm section deserves some attention throughout the record, too. And we’ll come to that, but first, the one that was, I guess, inspired by Steve Earle or The Pogues, or perhaps both.

You can hear what I’m hinting at with the drums and the bass line, if you listen all the way through. And that’s great, but the ballads are, to me, the best part of the record.

Here’s the other standout. And there’s a video, which is … odd. This wasn’t a single. Fine little ditty, though.

Tonic struck at the right time. The sound was just right for loud big speakers and soaring, noisy solos. Along the way, they earned a few Grammy nominations. I’m listening to this in the car, trying to imagine having all of this in headphones or earbuds. It seems a challenge.

They released five albums, the first and the second saw their biggest chart success. It was the mid-late 90s and pop music was about to change underfoot. They self-released their last record, in 2016, as a lot of people were doing by then. On the website they’re now a three-piece, and there’s one show listed this fall, in Oregon. The lead singer, has released three solo albums. The other two guys do a fair amount of work scoring TV and movies, it seems.

Up next in the Re-Listening project was a John Mellencamp maxi-single. This was a radio station giveaway, I’m sure. It features four tracks, one of them the single he was promoting that summer, and two B-sides you already knew, so we won’t spend a lot of time here. But this, which I had no recollection of at all, really captured my imagination last night.

Like you, I had no idea I needed Mellencamp to cover James Brown, but now I realize the error of my oversight.

In 2018, Netflix released a documentary-of-sorts. It was a live concert from 2016, with Mellencamp doing voiceovers, telling extra stories about life and art and whatever else. It was worth watching, if you ever found yourself nodding along to Johnny Cougar.

He released his 25th studio album last year, and, a few days ago, the 71-year-old set out on a North American tour that will keep him on the road through June. Maybe that’s what the geese were on about.

Feb 23

En garde!

Here is shaky visual evidence of my first robin(s) of the spring — another of the false signals. The first being two days in the 60s. The next will be emerging tulip leaves. But, for now, a small flock of robins are flittering around looking for worms.

It was snowing on me at the time.

We are 63 days away from spring arriving here.

Also, does it look like that robin might be a bit of a litterbug and a smoker? I think that robin is a bit of a litterbug. And I have to think that this bird is setting itself up for some longterm health problems.

This was going on in the studio this morning.

Members of the university’s fencing club came to give a demonstration for the morning show. I talked with their two student coaches. Fencing, it turns out, is a thing that enjoys competition against other club teams and varsity programs. They said there’s a big difference between varsity and club teams. And, sometimes, they face off against teams that have people in the Olympic pipeline. That, they said, is another sort of thing altogether. It was interesting to hear them talk about that. And, having run by an Olympic distance runner, and swam in a pool lane next to an All-American, I can appreciate, a little, what they’re saying.

So I said I just wanted to get all of this kit and then spar a bit with my lovely bride on the walking path near our house, just to make the neighbors wonder what is going on. Apparently the equipment isn’t that expensive. They priced it all out, and I figured it’d be more.

But the skill, I don’t have any of those.

What was fun, though, was watching the fencing team members give a crash course to the show hosts, and then watching the two of them face off.

That was good fun, and now I have one more anecdote about the things that take place in our television studios.

Here are some things to read.

A new study found that having at least one conversation with a friend a day increases happiness and lowers stress levels.

A new study published in Communication Research sought to find out what types of conversations people need to have, and how often they should have them, in order to improve their well-being. The researchers found that having at least one conversation with a friend can increase happiness and lower stress levels by the end of each day.

“While other research on well-being focuses on things like grateful thoughts or journaling, my focus as a researcher is about what we can do in our interactions to improve our well-being. This gives us a valuable list of things people can do to improve their days,” Jeffrey Hall, one of the researchers, told VICE.

Previous research showed that talking about one’s problems can reduce stress, strengthen our immune system, and reduce physical and emotional distress, but this study suggests that people don’t necessarily need to bond over their misery.

Hall and his team identified seven types of communication that are commonly found in social interactions: catching up, meaningful talk, joking around, showing care, listening, valuing others and their opinions, and offering sincere compliments.

Most stories about active research want to jump the gun, but this seems straightforward, which is a good sign.

So talk to more people, I guess.

Just not in front of your devices.

Google exec says Nest owners should probably warn their guests that their conversations are being recorded:

Google’s Nest smart devices are always listening — their microphones detect loud noises and cameras track sudden movements in a home, and can start automatically recording at any time.

Because of that, Nest owners should probably warn their house guests that they’re on camera, according to Google devices chief Rick Osterloh.

When asked by a BBC reporter whether homeowners with Nest have such an obligation, Osterloh first said he hadn’t considered it.

“Gosh, I haven’t thought about this before in quite this way,” Osterloh said. “It’s quite important for all these technologies to think about all users… we have to consider all stakeholders that might be in proximity.”

Osterloh then acceded that warning houseguests about Nest devices’ recording capabilities is proper etiquette, stating that he already does so.

Do you see the contradiction?

Then again, we’ve come a long way with reconciling contradiction.

COVID-19 is a leading cause of death in children and young people in the US:

COVID-19 was the underlying cause of death for more than 940,000 people in the US, including over 1,300 deaths among children and young people aged 0–19 years. Until now, it had been unclear how the burden of deaths from COVID-19 compared with other leading causes of deaths in this age group.


Among children and young people aged 0 – 19 years in the US, COVID-19 ranked eighth among all causes of death; fifth among all disease-related causes of death; and first in deaths caused by infectious or respiratory diseases.

By age group, COVID-19 ranked seventh (infants), seventh (1–4 year olds), sixth (5–9 year olds), sixth (10–14 year olds), and fifth (15–19 year olds).

COVID-19 was the underlying cause for 2% of deaths in children and young people (800 out of 43,000), with an overall death rate of 1.0 per 100,000 of the population aged 0–19. The leading cause of death (perinatal conditions) had an overall death rate of 12.7 per 100,000; COVID-19 ranked ahead of influenza and pneumonia, which together had a death rate of 0.6 per 100,000.

This is where I always bring up my carefully researched polio trivia.

The polio epidemic in the United States peaked in 1952 with 57,000-plus cases. That year, 3,145 died and 21,269 were left with paralysis. Stark contrast.

And if you want to see another sort of contrast …

Why does the South have such ugly credit scores?:

“The reason why credit scores are so low in the South has gotta be connected to medical debt, because that’s the most common type of unpaid bill that people have,” Braga said. And the South, he said, easily has the highest levels of medical debt in the country.

Of the 100 counties with the highest share of adults struggling to pay their medical debt, 92 are in the South, and the other eight are in neighboring Oklahoma and Missouri, according to credit data from the Urban Institute. (On the other side, 82 of the 100 counties with the least pervasive medical-debt problems are in the Midwest, with 45 in Minnesota alone.)

And sure enough, when you look at areas across the nation where adults are struggling to pay down medical debt, they have similar credit scores.

That’s some map. Click through and check your county.

And then go out and have a great weekend. You’re due!

Feb 23

This evening was pre-empted by sleep

Saturday update: There’s the Re-Listening project, but nothing else to report. After work I went to the house and sat down. And then I had dinner. Then I did the dishes. Then I fell asleep and slept for about 12 hours. So this’ll just have to do for Friday.

Sometimes I have been guessing when I picked up a CD. Sometimes I have a specific memory of that, when, how it came to be. I suppose it’ll continue to be like that as we go forward in the Re-Listening project. Paradoxically, there might be more guessing the farther along that we get. (I’ll blame the web for that in due time.) Today, we’re doing a bit of both. There’s something distinctly remembered here … and … yet …

“All For You” was released in January 1997 and I picked up Sister Hazel’s “… Somewhere More Familiar” soon after, when it was released the next month. It’s a happy, jangly pop record. The record went platinum in the U.S., peaking at 47 on the charts. “All for You” is the single you couldn’t avoid that year, and it made it #11 on Billboard’s charts.

I remember driving up U.S. 280 in the early hours of one morning playing and re-playing this track, learning the words to this song.

I remember I stopped at a Chevron for a bathroom break, looked at the newspaper box — remember those? and saw a stunning Birmingham News headline. But, and I’m looking at a quarter-century-old archives to verify this, the rest of that little anecdote is a false memory. The timelines don’t match up. So much for that story.

Anyway, “Happy” was a late-breaking single.

I saw Sister Hazel a few times, small clubs, festivals. Good times. They liked to tell you they were from Gainesville Florida, like their origin story was punctuation.

This always struck me as a sweet song.

Otherwise, after a time, the sound gets a little repetitive. It’s a good time, easy breezy sound, though, and I’m always happy when they came on. I played this CD a lot around my apartment. Upbeat stuff helps with late night work, I guess.

Sister Hazel, another band celebrating the 20th anniversary of a record this year, are still touring. They have nine dates booked this spring. I wonder what members of a band and their crews do with these thoroughly achievable schedules. (There are a few documentaries about touring road crews out there. It seems like a daunting job.)