Aug 22

Milwaukee; we were in Milwaukee

Seems so obvious now, right? It was in the photos and everything. And if you looked up the Roosevelt story, or tried to figure out that tree joke, you would have figured it out, or given up, in short order.

We were in Milwaukee for the USA Triathlon National Championships. The Yankee raced twice. On Saturday she competed in the Olympic distance triathlon, a 1,500-meter swim, a 25-mile bike ride and a 6.2-mile run. Here are a few quick clips, where she is rocking the bright kit of her sponsor, Team Zoot:

This was her third national championship event, and she finished just barely outside the top 100. Pretty great at a national championship level. (She was 33rd in the swim and 79th on the bike. In the nation!)

That was on Saturday. On Sunday, she competed in the sprint distance national triathlon, her fourth national championship event. This particular national championship was abbreviated a bit because of approaching weather. That just made it faster and more fun. A few more clips, and you’ll see her in her coach’s team kit, Dream Big.

In Sunday’s super-sprint she finished inside the top 100, and in her individual legs she was 34 in the water, 69th on the bike and 99th in the run. And she doesn’t even like the run.

Also, she had those surgeries, and these are second and third races she’s had while still recovering from those. (She just finished the official physical therapy about 45 minutes ago.) So, it was a successful weekend of racing. Quite impressive. A lot of fun. And it was all in Milwaukee.

Here are some photographs.

This is the pier at Discovery World where they started the race. On Saturday they did a mass start by age group. So if you were a male 25-29, you started at the same time as all the other guys in that bunch. On Sunday, because of the weather and the logistics, they did a self-seeded time trial start. Four people went in at a time based on their self-reported swim times. It is in no way official or make-or-break, but it has the benefit of being slower, which spreads out the field, particularly on the bike course. This was important on Sunday because they shrank that route in a concession to the weather, but they didn’t have fewer athletes. It’s all about spreading things out. And, theoretically, the staggered time trial start does that. Also you just watched people jump in the water for hours. Discovery World sounds pretty awesome. And the front of the building will be a banner here, soon.

Here, The Yankee is coming out of the water in the Saturday race. Barely off the ramp and already making muscle poses.

And her finish on Saturday.

Here’s a big from Sunday, where she is showing off one of the medals she won.

This is really cool. This is Madonna Buder, who is known in the sport as the Iron Nun. (Yep, she was a nun, and last year she crashed on a training ride and fractured her shoulder, collarbone, and got four fractures in a rib. Nun means the one thing, but the iron part of her nickname has several meanings.) She has opened six age groups for triathlons – meaning she was the oldest in the field each of those times, starting with 50 and over. She’s also the world’s oldest female Ironman finisher, a record she’s held since she was … 82! She’s done some 45 Ironman races.

Buder was smiling all weekend, constantly. She’s a celebrity. Everyone knows it, and they all think they know her. She’s probably met all the long timers. She did her first triathlon at 55. Yep, she has been doing this for 37 years, including those 45 full triathlons and some 350 more at shorter distances. This weekend, now a fresh 92 years young, she was doing the sprint at the national championships. She’s getting a little help up the ramp and hill from the swim, which an awful lot of people did. I also saw her heading out on the bike, and she was in perfect control.

You’re intrigued now, so here are some of videos.

She was in a Nike commercial a few years ago. One of the best Nike commercials of all time. Just watch it.

Here’s a brief interview she did in 2020.

And here’s a longform piece on her, from 2019.

Sunday, she ran, ran, across the finish line.

Aug 22

Where are we now? One thousand words of hints

Let’s drag this mystery out a bit more. Last night we drove late into the evening, before checking into a hotel, our base of operations for the weekend. But where is this?

Here’s a hint. This is a tree I stood under to avoid the midday sun.

The peeling bark, characteristic of the species, and the brilliant contrast of green leaves and a blue sky aren’t giving it away? They are good clues. Not a clue: my standing under a tree, seeking shade. My skin is so fair it will turn red anywhere. So while that’s no help at all, the bark might tell you something. Give it another look.

No? Need more? OK then.

I saw this on a wall in a hotel near ours.

Let’s have a closer look at that plaque.

I know this story, perhaps you do, too. I hadn’t put it together that we’d be so close to this moment of American history. This would have been on that trip, at the train station, but not the actual moment.

There are plenty of photos of Roosevelt’s trip — he was a former president and campaigning for the office again after all — including one taken just before he was wounded.

It was October; there was a chill in the air. Roosevelt was moving from the Gilpatrick Hotel to a nearby auditorium, where he was to give an evening speech. It’s dark, there’s a crowd, and among them is a man named John Schrank. He’s a bartender, a lay Constitutional scholar, a bad poet, a New Yorker. A short man with red hair, round cheeks and thin lips, he blends into the crowd, and manages to work his way right up to the car where Roosevelt is waving to a crowd.

Schrank has been waiting for this moment for a month. He’s been trying to get this opportunity in any of the eight states and big cities Roosevelt has visited in the last few weeks. He’s been waiting in this town all day. He’s been waiting here, specifically, for hours. He’s not going to fail now. He got to within six feet of the former president, fingering the revolver hidden in his vest. In a surging moment of adrenaline, amidst the noise of the crowd, he squeezes off a round.

The place looks like this today.

It did not look like that in 1912.

Before he could fire again Elbert Martin, a man who grew up about four hours away from here, threw his body at the shooter. Martin was a high school football player, and in every photograph he looks the part. He’s a stenographer, has a law degree, and is also Roosevelt’s security.

Others leap in to help, wrestling the attacker to the ground. They’re holding him by his throat. The gun has skittered away. Roosevelt staggered back, catching himself on the car, and sees his shooter.

Roosevelt says, “He doesn’t know what he is doing. Don’t strike the poor creature. Bring him here. Bring him to me.”

They’re now face-to-face. Martin puts the gun in Roosevelt’s hand. The crowd didn’t realize the former president had been shot. He didn’t know it either. Some people thought the round went wide, but there are immediately chants to string the man up, but police take him safely away. Roosevelt gets in the car and taken to the auditorium where he’s supposed to speak. An aide notices the hole in his coat. Reaching under his overcoat, Roosevelt feels blood, but says it is a minor wound.

At the auditorium his personal physician gives Roosevelt a closer look. The round from that .38 went through Roosevelt’s coat, and through the doubled-up 50-page speech, and his metal eyeglass case, before piercing his chest. Roosevelt refused his doctor’s plea to call off the speech. “This may be my last talk,” he said. He was intent on delivering it.

The man who introduced the president told the crowd he’d been shot. There were gasps in the auditorium, but at least one man shouted “Fake! Fake!”

So that’s been around a while.

Roosevelt came to the stage, unbuttoned his coat and the people could see his bloodstained shirt. He spoke, wavered, spoke some more. Along the way he delivered the immortal line, “It takes more than one bullet to kill a Bull Moose!” The crowd ate it up. He asked his very worried physician how long he’d been talking, and the doctor said 45 minutes. The former president said he’d speak for a few minutes more. The crowd laughed again.

Later he did go to the hospital, and they sent him to another one, to see a renowned specialist. Roosevelt, who had first come to the presidency when William McKinley was assassinated, was cheerful, and walked into that second hospital, smiling, cracking jokes, waving. He had X-rays at the second hospital — not available for his predecessor. Roosevelt’s doctors decided he was lucky. The bullet did not go into his rib, did not hit anything vital, and the man was in good shape. They didn’t operate.

He would, of course, go on to give many more speeches. He lost his campaign for a third term in office, but continue to build the legend of Roosevelt, the great man, until his death seven years later, in 1919. He carried the bullet in his pectoral muscle the rest of his life.

Schrank pleaded guilty. He said he was afraid Theodore Roosevelt was trying to establish a monarchy by running for that third term. Schrank died in custody in 1943, at 67. Over the years he talked with more reporters than you’d imagine possible today for a would-be assassin. Those interviews make for curious reading. He had apologized to the city — figured this out yet? — and was later pronounced a model patient at the ward where he spent the rest of his days. His body was donated to a medical school.

We drove by it last night.

So where are we?

Aug 22

A post about tearing things down, and building things up

I’d like to tell you about a building I’ve never been in. It is a building you’ve never heard of, most probably. You won’t care at all, until you do, but that’s my job here.

This building was erected in the 1960s as an off-campus dormitory. It had an indoor pool. It wasn’t considered very attractive, even in the 1960s. (I KNOW!) Derisively, it has been called a project of Bland & Boring Architecture Inc., which is a firm that probably doesn’t exist by that name. And if someone is using that, they should change it, posthaste.

Anyway, this place failed as a residence hall, all 150,000 sq. ft. of it. And then it failed as a sorority house. All of this is odd because the only thing more under pressure in a college town than parking spaces are living arrangements. You can be sure that truism goes back generations. And yet, here’s the Poplars Building. Failing as a place to live, it became a research and conference center, and this town’s first premium hotel. We’re in the 1970s now, and the promotional material promises a bufeteria. And I know what you’re thinking.

Bufeteria? Did Elvis stay there?

Yes he did, in 1974.

Fans stood in the alley behind the hotel, after one of his two shows here, but they were once again disappointed by the Poplars, and by the rock star. He skipped out after one night, when he was apparently scheduled for two. We can’t say, here, that this is why the hotel concept fizzled, but there’s certainly a correlation.

When the hotel was on it’s last legs the university took on Poplars and turned it briefly into an academic unit, and then used it as administrative offices. The pool was filled in and became Human Resources. Some 400 people could work in Poplars.

Now, it is coming down. This is from a story from last October.

“We might be out by the end of the month or the end of November,” says Tom Morrison, vice president of capital planning and facilities. “We do intend to demolish it, probably starting before the end of the calendar year. We haven’t bid that yet but that’s coming up soon.

“Rest assured we’re not going to implode it.”

That piece goes on to discuss the aging building, how, because it was a hotel, offices became mini-suites with private restrooms. That seems like a really great perk, but it also discusses how that became a detriment, and some other details. But, now, 10 months removed from that copy I can tell you two things. They are out of the building, and Morrison was correct: Poplars isn’t being imploded.

It is, starting today, being scraped to death.

This was at 9 a.m. this morning.

And at 10 a.m., they were making a bit of progress.

This is just a block away, so I can take these pictures, like this one, at the end of the day, with ease.

Who knows how long it will take. And no one knows, yet, what will go in it’s place. The current plan seems to be a green space, which would be nice, but that might also be a placeholder until a specific need presents itself. The biggest need is the parking deck next door. That’s been closed since early summer for much-needed maintenance work, and that parking deck is much needed, because parking is always in short supply in a college town.

Residential buildings are too, here, but that’s an entirely different and less interesting town-and-gown conversation full of predictable quotes.

Rather than fill your time with that sort of thing, I’ll try to provide some daily updates on the progress of the de-Poplarization going on nearby.

And this evening, we hit the road. Maybe you know where we’re going. Probably you don’t. It really comes down to how closely you’ve been paying attention to all of the platforms. Allllll of the platforms and, probably, whether, you’ve used Google with that in mind to try to determine the answer to this mystery which you didn’t know I was springing on you until just this moment.

I really should work on building the suspense a bit more, I know. There’s only so much time in the day, though, and all of these platforms need very subtle, sly, programmatically specific content.

So here’s your hint … we passed these along the way.

If you’re good you at least have a direction now.

If you don’t have this particularly geographical frame of reference (and I didn’t until earlier this year, so no fault will be found) just keep up with a few of these other places over the next few days. Content there will help flesh out the particulars. There’s always more on Twitter and big clues will also be found on Instagram, too. Of course, this will also be resolved tomorrow, so you could just wait here and refresh this page …

I really should work on building the suspense more.

Aug 22

There’s nonsense, a great book and a terrific video here

It was a lovely day. Fine blue skies, no ceiling to be found. It is a standout day, standing out. Gray yesterday. Grayer tomorrow. Sometimes it is difficult to enjoy the one for thinking of the other.

But that’s not a problem today. It’s too bright and blue for that. And warm. Hot, even. The heat index flirted with 105 today. A good day to enjoy the sun from the shade, or indoors.


Sorry, I was cleaning some schmutz from my keyboard. The near symmetry almost suggests a meaning. Almost as much as any other meaning here. Perhaps more! Maybe I should really highlight it.


You’re right. That’s too much.

Anyway, nothing to it. Welcomed a new person to the office. Watched construction work beginning outside of the building. Ate a peanut butter sandwich for lunch. With pretzel bites!

Probably explains the schmutz.

I also brought two more books to the office. One of them is a volume on First Amendment research, rounding out my collection. The other is the famous Communication of Innovations book, Everett Rogers’ second edition from 1971. He made an entire career on this, and its supporting work, and it’s brilliant. But I might be biased. I had one of his students as a professor in graduate school, and his work comes up all the time because of how it resonates in these fast-moving times.

“An important factor affecting the adoption rate of any innovation is its compatibility with the cultural beliefs of the social system.”

This is a line from the fifth page, explaining why a two-year public health campaign failed in one particular Peruvian village. The effort focused on installing pit latrines, burning garbage, controlling insects and boiling drinking water. In most villages, the public health workers got 15 to 20 percent of the housewives to boil water. Rogers notes that, in Los Molinos, a village of about 200 families, only five percent made the innovation.

In Los Molinos, tradition links hot food with illness. Boiling water was appropriate only for the sick, and a person who is not ill wouldn’t drink the water because of the cultural norms. And Rogers further breaks it down, as a sociologist should.

Two pages later, he dives into social change as “the process by which alteration occurs in the structure and function of a social system.” And, in four more pages, as a footnote, he describes development as “a type of social change in which new ideas are introduced into a social system in order to produce higher per capita incomes and levels of living through more modern production methods and improved social organization. Development is modernization at the social system level.”

Soon after, he gets into innovation, “an idea, practice, or object perceived as new by an individual. It matters little, so far as human behavior is concerned, whether or not an idea is ‘objectively’ new as measured by the lapse of time since its first use or discovery. It is the perceived or subjective newness of the idea for the individual that determines his reaction to it. If the idea seems new to the individual, it is an innovation … The ‘newness’ aspect of an innovation may be expressed in knowledge, in attitude, or regarding a decision to use it.”

In the fifth chapter, “Adopter Categories,” we get the famous graphic.

Nobody ever made a better bell curve.

Classroom flashbacks are a lovely thing.

And if that’s not your speed, there’s this great package from Vice. Dexter Thomas went on a ride with Erick Cedeño as he follows in the pedal strokes of the Buffalo Soldiers, the 25th Infantry Regiment Bicycle Corps who took a 1,900-mile journey from Montana to Missouri in 1897.

It took them 41 days, going over mountains and through forests and deserts and rivers. They pedaled and pushed their bikes across dirt trails, and railroad tracks, covering about 50 miles a day through all sorts of weather. The iron riders, as they came to be known, crossed five states and the Continental Divide, making national headlines. This was no small effort, and it came with a lot of baggage — in both senses. Thomas and Cedeño talk about all of that. It’s a really nice package over an incredible effort, in a unique moment in American history.

Aug 22

Welcome to August? Somehow?

I wiped out a little spider web with my pedal just before my morning ride on Saturday. I looked down and saw two small webs close together, oriented horizontally, on top of the wet grass. I was wondering what sort of insects the spiders would get in webs arranged that way, when my left pedal went right through one of the webs. The little spider will have to build again for his supper and I felt bad about that.

I also picked up this blade of grass on my bike shoe in the yard.

It stuck there because of the morning dew. It stayed until I hit 24 miles per hour. Either the dew dried, or the breeze got under the blade, or it just gave up, or even got to where it needed to be. It hung on for about a mile, though, and I felt good about that.

At one point I thought I’d caught up to my lovely bride, but it was another rider. I blame hypoxia. And the fact that this other person also had long hair, and was wearing something similar to one of The Yankee’s kits. But, after thousands and thousands of miles on bikes, most of it chasing her around, I figured out my error … because it wasn’t her pedaling style.

Which meant she was still somewhere ahead of me, which meant I was still behind, which meant I had to pedal even harder.

Caught her just at the end of the ride.

Wrapped up the Tour de France Femmes this weekend. Anthony McCrossan, a British commentator who was the world feed voice for both the men’s and women’s Tours, had a perfectly characteristic go home line.

Let’s do a quick check with the cats, so that we might satisfy our most enthusiastic visitors. They’re having a grand ol’ summer.

Though I’m not sure what they were doing here.

It’s always a bit weird when they do the same thing. It’s never obvious what they’re up to, and given their normal dynamic, this always feels a bit creepy.

Phoebe had a great nap yesterday. Not sure how this is comfortable, but, hey, she’s a cat.

Poseidon was a very good listener this weekend.

He listens. He doesn’t process. Doesn’t do what we ask of him. But he listens. Give him that at least.

Anyway, welcome to August. However that happened, I hope you have a big and happy month ahead of you.