Jul 21

What is the community risk? Here’s a podcast to answer that

I got up in time for a run this morning, a simple neighborhood shuffle to cover 2.75 miles. I made it back inside just in time to grab a shower and then record a podcast.

After which I made a quick to drop off the recycling. Which I did just as the best part of the day’s rain decided to fall upon us. So I was soggy for much of the day.

And later in the morning I edited the podcast, making this officially the most productive day of the week. It’s going to be difficult to top Tuesday, rest of the week, he said without looking at his calendar.

Here is that podcast. This is IU Northwest economist Micah Pollak. He’s part of a team of a physician, a med student, a biostatistician and more. They got all of the data from the school districts across Indiana this past year and tried to create an understanding of the risk involved with sending more kids back into their classrooms. What is the risk to the larger community? Take it away, Dr. Pollak.

Now, what expert am I going to ask questions of next? It’s not that easy of a question to answer in the summer. You’d be surprised how many people don’t check their email when they aren’t in their regular weekly campus routine. (Lucky.)

When I pitched this program last year I said I could do a lot of shows within the context of Covid-19, and this conversation with Pollak makes 50. Soon I’ll be expanding it into other topics, I think.

That’ll be something to start figuring out tomorrow morning.

May 21

Something for you to listen to here

We had so much to do this week — a week’s summary on Monday and a lot of outdoor wildlife on Tuesday — that we’ve had put off this week’s check-in with the cats until today. Probably the most successful feature on this humble little blog, so let’s get to it.

Phoebe has lately really enjoyed whatever this toy is. We throw it in the air, and she catches it or bats it down. And, now, she … licks it … I guess.

Poseidon has kept his attention on the birds. And the squirrels. And the chipmunks. And the rabbits. And maybe the cicadas. Who knows what he’s looking at here.

I went out for a little run yesterday. It went bad before it started — Not unlike today’s bike ride! — but at least I saw some interesting plant life.

Hand it to those local bike shop bros, though. Ask them to work on three things, get your bike back nine days later and they addressed … at least one of those items. I’m not saying it’s frustrating, but I think you could put those pieces together.

That was a delightful afternoon ride.

I talked with a clinical psychologist this morning about substance use disorder. It was an interesting interview. The tricky part was asking reasonable questions. This is not an area I’ve spent a lot of time in, and I wanted to set up an actual, you know, expert, with some useful softballs.

The hardest part was getting the whole thing down to 30 minutes. Those last 90 seconds or so are always tough. That’s the downside to talking with experts, there’s so much worth hearing.

So click that little play button, and I’ll go find some more people to talk to.

More on Twitter, check me out on Instagram and more On Topic with IU podcasts as well.

Mar 21

Life is full of color, and also a podcast

While this isn’t where I post all of my little outfit choices — last week notwithstanding, when I was really just trying to share … something — I was rather proud with how this one worked out. You shouldn’t, they say, mix prints. But what do they know anyway? A small plaid and some small polka dots? That shouldn’t be a thing. And your pocket square, they say, should be a mild contrast, to compliment the other thing. A complimentary contrast, if you will. No one really says that in this context, but maybe they should. Anyway, blue and purple are next to one another on the color wheel, and so maybe this shouldn’t work. But it seemed like a good idea this morning, and I think it was.

Maybe it doesn’t work, but I thought it did.

It got an emoji-filled comment on Instagram, which is where I’m putting these, so I can sorta keep track of them. But now I wonder if I should put them in another other place.

I bought these flowers last month. Seemed like a good idea that morning. But as that particular day went on I grew irritated at something that was, of course, of vital importance. I don’t recall what it was. Something was off — or something wasn’t working right, or it was a hard day at work, who knows — and I’d committed myself to going to the store, which has become a stressful exercise over this past year.

So I bought flowers in a bit of a mood, basically. And maybe that was the secret. They lasted until this week. We refilled the vase three times. Five weeks on one little batch of cheap fresh cuts.

Maybe it was the indirect light, or cutting the stems at an angle, or the thickness of the vase, or the quality of the water from the tap. Probably it was that I put so much sugar in the water. Or the mood? I hope it was not the mood.

Now, would you like to hear about the day’s Zoom meetings? Or how I taught someone how to edit audio this afternoon, but just listen to this instead.

It seemed a good topic. And it seemed a decent enough almost-commercial. And, as it turns out, it was quite interesting. The more I thought about the questions I would ask the more I convinced myself this was a good topic. How do college admissions work in a shutdown pandemic world? If you can’t give tours, how do you tell your story? If you can’t show it off, how do you sell the student experience?

Serendipity stepped in, too. As I was working through the two weeks-and-change of trying to get a date figured out with her assistant the university announced they would allow on-campus tours once again. Outdoor tours. Small groups. I saw one the other day, on my way to take a mitigation test.

I am giving one in a few weeks to a young man who has written me throughout the year, eager to see what his college experience will look like. It seemed a good idea, it turns out, because it is.

Mar 21

Here’s a backward way toward hope

A year ago, today, was the day our university began it’s multi-campus shut down. That’s nine campuses, more than 100,000 students and at least two or three professionals, besides, spread out across an entire big state. It was a Wednesday, the Wednesday before spring break and they said everyone was going home and spring break would be two weeks and the situation would be re-assessed along the way.

And, look, a lot of us aren’t ready for retrospectives. I know I’m not interested in it just now, but I just want to say this one piece. A year ago, tomorrow, was my last day on campus for a while. I went in that evening to watch the sports guys wrap it up. Their sports director did a little monologue and he held his last meeting and there were tears. Students were graduating and realizing that it was very likely going to be not at all how they imagined. Well, what has been since, right?

Last March, right away, the entire IU system went to work on handling the most immediate tasks and planning a safer future. I had the opportunity to be a very, very small part of some of listening in to a slice of a portion of some of those plans as they pertained to my corner of things. It was fascinating. It was informative. It was frustrating. And, taken as a whole, there’s no mistaking it: Indiana University put every single one of their experts and their hardest working people on the job of doing this right.

Still, not everyone is back on campus, but we’re headed the right direction. I’ve been back full time since February and three and four days a week in the fall. The campus generally has a slow summer feel to it, and that’s been by design. Meanwhile, statewide, cases and hospitalizations are down. Vaccine uptake is increasing. IU is scheduling an in-person graduation for students in May and a fall term that’s more familiar than unusual.

Did her experts and staff work tirelessly to make the best of this? You’ve no idea. Did some of the top minds in their infectious disease and public safety fields go above and beyond for a full year? They won’t sing songs about those people, but they should. Did the university step up in ways big and small? The university distributed 290,000 masks at no cost. They built two labs to process their own Covid tests, up to 50,000 a week. We did everything but socially distance the storied buildings.

There were hiccups, I’m sure. Universities don’t pivot on a dime, and maybe no one realized until this past year how much that happens in giant operations is attributed to inertial motion. But what IU did is singularly impressive. This isn’t a retrospective, but it’s worth acknowledging that one thing. The university took care of her own.

And, somehow, they let me do programs like this …

I’m pushing 70 of those now. And it’s getting a tiny bit cheerier. Oh! Sweet hope!

And this speech from the president came out today, too. So petty of the White House trying to steal my thunder. But that’s OK. We’ll let them in this instance.

I also saw the saddest, sweetest note today. One of our former students, who is now on air in west Texas, got her first vaccine shot today, a year, almost to the day that her father passed away from Covid. What must that have been like for her? (She already had super powers, though.)

But this is what I’m really excited about.

We are one year into this and we are finally talking about the underprivileged and the rural communities. This state is sending out mobile vaccine units. Companies that are in the smallest towns you’ve never heard of are talking about getting in this fight. It took a year, but on the other hand, it only took a year. (It took less time. It took those places watching the big cities burn and then seeing the embers coming into their neighborhoods, and they started thinking about where their sleeves were in relation to their wrists and elbows.) In under a year, and we’re getting to the far flung places.

When I was in the third grade I developed chicken pox at my grandparents’ house in north Alabama. My grandmother, having raised tiny human beings before, suspected that’s what it was, anyway. And she took me to the pharmacy, the only medical concern in easy reach. The pharmacist there, non-plussed as he was by being asked to diagnose people who walked into his store, confirmed it and gave us the lotion, told us to stay away from anyone else and sent us on our way. That was three-plus decades ago. Last year an aunt and uncle got a Covid diagnosis at that same pharmacy. The closest hospital, where my aunt spent several days, is a 45-minute drive away on a good day. And that’s easy, compared to some of these places. Their little part of the world is hardly detached from the rest of us, but it can sure feel like it if you needed to see someone for health care, to say nothing of a specialist.

That we are already talking about these rural places at all, that medical experts and businesses are trying to figure this out, is a good thing. That different sectors of the economy are searching for a way to add more distribution points so that the people thought about the least can be addressed just like anyone else is a good development. Hope is where you place it. And don’t you agree we could use as much of that as we could get?

There’s a reason Shandy Dearth talked in our podcast about getting a vaccine so grandparents can safely hug their grandchildren again. Hope is where you place it.

In the studio for sports shows tonight. Tried a little something different for the gif. Who knows how this will end up.

The shows will end up just fine. They’re under good direction and I enjoy getting to watch them all work. And you can enjoy these particular episodes online tomorrow. I’ll share them here, I’m sure.

Jan 21

Light day around here

Web work today, and if only I meant Spider-Man work. But I updated a lot of pages I update around the web for work things, leaving only many of these pages un-updated. There are two glaring areas on this site to deal with, and I’m going to get into one of those this evening.

I did add one thing to this site, on the front page. Careful observers will note one of the old photos has been replaced by a new photo. Check it out. Maybe you’ll see it. You’ll definitely see it. There are only so many photographs to look at in that display. Maybe you’ll notice it.

So there’s a new student loan grace period in place thanks to an executive order President Biden signed last week. So I talked with Phil Schuman, who is the executive director of Financial Wellness and Education at Indiana University, to see what this means for alumni, students and potential borrowers.

Dozens of people will listen to this, and you should, too.

Nationally, student loan debt reached $1.6 trillion dollars last year. Average monthly payments are between $200 and $300 and the U.S. Department of Education says about 20 percent of borrowers are in default. Tough economic times, to be sure.

And I spent part of the afternoon looking for the next podcast idea. And that’s the day. Some days are more fruitful than others, what can you say?