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?

Dec 20

The week with bad titles, part three

I forgot to include this here earlier this week. So, without prelude, give us the fancy old-fashioned banner.

I talked with Dr. Siering a week or so ago about pedagogy and remote learning and all these sorts of things that faculty and students are dealing with just now. It’s a good episode if you’re a faculty member or a student. (And you know they all stop through here.) It might be only for them. But, nevertheless, we’re covering all the bases.

And now I have to go out and find a few more people to interview. Should be fun! What topics should we cover?

We haven’t filled out this space with other stories recently, let’s do that now.

Birmingham woman raising 12 kids after sister, brother-in-law die from COVID

Already raising seven biological children ranging in age from 2 to 17 as a working, single mother, the 40-year-old Birmingham resident’s last conversation with her dying sister in UAB Hospital about the arrangements for their kids was no longer hypothetical.


And her sister’s children are not without anxieties of their own, she said. On top of the grief of losing both their parents, the children are reluctant to go outside out of fear of catching COVID-19, Francesca McCall said.

But all things considered, she said, “We’re doing OK. They have their [tough] moments at times, processing everything.”

The GoFundMe account has raised $40,000+ since that story was published.

These seem like charming people. Philly’s Four Seasons Total Landscaping dishes the dirt on the news conference heard ’round the world: ‘It was nothing we anticipated’:

The merchandise sales of Four Seasons Total Landscaping have taken on a life of their own. The conference room at their office has become a makeshift fulfillment center, as Siravo and the company’s 28 full-time employees take turns bagging orders and printing labels, starting at 6 a.m and racking up overtime hours working long into the night.

Partnering with half a dozen local vendors (all but one is located in the Philadelphia region), the company has sold over 35,000 orders for T-shirts, ugly Christmas sweaters, face masks — totaling $1.3 million in sales. (Much of the money will be used to pay back vendors, shipping costs, and more, Middleton said, making clear that Four Seasons won’t be putting $1.3 million in its bank account.)


In hopes of helping others during Four Season’s moment in the sun, Siravo said the company is participating in a Toys for Tots drive with St. Christopher’s Hospital. Through Dec. 11, visitors can drop off unwrapped toys at the office in exchange for a Four Seasons sticker. Separately, Siravo said the company is also collecting coats, hats, socks, and other cold-weather clothing to donate to local charity.

This looks like a nice place to visit. The Munich Atelier where stained glass comes to life:

The Mayers oversee the business from a series of sunny, art-filled rooms on the top two floors of the building. Dozens of warrenlike workshops and ateliers crowd the four floors beneath — here, workmen restore historic stained-glass windows and mosaics, while others make contemporary works. The labyrinthine basement archive houses an extensive collection of vintage stained-glass works.

The only problem is that he’s going to look like Carlton Banks for the rest of his life. The hardest-working man in show business:

Yet as much as the world equates Ribeiro to Carlton, the years following The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air may have revealed more about the man—his persistence, his versatility, and his undeniability. If you let him tell it, for a while the role Ribeiro played so well was the role that held him back. “Imagine for a second you do a role so well that they tell you you’re not allowed to do anything else ever again because they can’t believe that you’re not that guy,” he says. But the ceiling Ribeiro hit as an actor forced him to develop other skills, which helped him emerge as one of the most versatile—albeit underrated—performers in Hollywood.

I’ll never understand. You’d think casting agents and directors would be … imaginative.

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

Nov 20

Another “We’ll say ‘We knew him when'”

This is, I told Drew, one of my favorite parts. He’s a sports guy. One of the co-directors of the sports division this term. And he’s going to graduate in a few weeks. But he came over to the news shows this evening to do a bit of fill-in work:

He was, of course, ready, prepared, hit all his marks and drilled the delivery of a concise sports segment in a larger newscast. Did it in one take, as cool and as confident and as comfortable in the contrivance of television as someone can be.

It’s one of my favorite parts because I knew I got to watch him present tonight, and I’ll get to see him work one last time on Thursday and then he’ll start making his way out into the world, where the real work and the real learning begin. But I’m not thinking about that. I’m stuck remembering when he showed up as a freshman. When he somehow became the A1, and then talked the upperclassmen into letting him do extra segments if they found extra studio time. So he came to productions camera-ready, just in case, for several weeks. And, finally, he got his chance.

He’d written a new timely segment every week, just on the prospect of getting to stand in front of the cameras. And now it was here and they put him in front of a monitor and ran some graphics over it and he worked through the thing. It was obviously his first time, but he learned a lot, and quickly. He took the advice to heart. And now, three-and-a-half years later, he has a year of those solo social media hits under his belt. He’s taken all the classes, had the internships. He’s done the reporting and live shots. He was a beat reporter for tennis one year and football one year. He’s been a sports director. He’s hosted the talk show for about a year-and-a-half or more, now.

I stood off from the camera and watched him present tonight and thought about all those starts and stops along the way and enjoyed watching him carry himself like the young professional he is. It is, easily, the best part of my job, watching them grow like that. It’s fascinating to see. The really talented people we get, and we get some real talent, you can just see it all blur together for them. First they were halting and then they become dynamic and ready to really hone their skills.

I wish I had more time with those students, focusing on some specialized finishing school stuff, but those that go into broadcasting will get a terrific crucible experience in that new first job. May they all land somewhere exciting and sooner than later.

I did this interview on Friday, I think, and I sound exhausted! I had no idea until I listened to it on playback. Then again, I’m about six weeks into waking up tired. Everyone is pretty much in the same boat right now; keep your stones in your stone satchel.

Sorry, Kyle. It was at the end of a long week near the end of this crazy semester and I had some small degree of sleep and then I got to talk about economics.

But it’s kind of important stuff, as describing forecasts and prospects go.

Despite my exhaustion, economists are fun interviews. If you talk with them consistently you can learn a great deal about economists.

Oh, and I feel much more awake today. It’s only Tuesday, after all. No one is allowed to be tired on Tuesday. By mid-Wednesday, all bets, however, are off.

Here’s the morning show from Monday! Which they shot on Friday! And it’s a semester-ender, so, as is tradition with this show, they got a bit reflective.

They have a good time with it.

Useless fact: they were recording that show while I was talking with the economist. What does it mean? Who can say?

Nov 20

Plenty to hear and see

Have you ever had a day that started with the best of intentions, but then the clock did something weird and you don’t get any of the planned morning things done? You’re not sure how, but you’re left saying, Well, today’s list just became Thursday’s.

No? Just me? OK then.

I recorded something yesterday and it’s out there today, so, please, enjoy:

It seemed a logical line of questions to me. Should we do this? What should we do? How should we do this?

And I’ll tell you a little secret, I got into one of these topics and I was just trying to keep the question on track and under control and thinking How can I do Christmas? Should we even be talking like this? and it’s a little bit heart rending. So, as you might imagine, the question wasn’t going so well.

But just as that happened an alarm on my phone went off. And that gave me the opportunity to re-frame and re-phrase the question. And Shandy Dearth, who is the public health professional here, is a total pro. Also, she’s got really solid advice and perspective and you should listen to what she has to say.

I got home tonight, shed the clothes that had been exposed to the elements of semi-public society, took the cleansing and decontaminating shower and came downstairs to a plate almost ready for dinner:

All I had to do was put the meat on the rice. That’s thoughtful, and full service romance.

Also, it was pretty tasty, too. And, I’m told, we’ll have a flaming onion tomorrow …

It was a studio night tonight, which is an excellent reminder for me to get caught up on studio stuff. Here’s a sports show from late last week:

And here’s a talk show, where they talked about the greatest of all time in all the big sports.

I think they should do a greatest of all times in lesser-known-in-America sports. Make them work at the show prep, and really stress having to sell the argument to an audience who already doesn’t think about Tom Brady or Michael Jordan or Lebron James or whomever.

You know what I need to know? I need to know the best flat to ever swim in water polo, and the greatest brakeman in bobsledding history.

Now that’d be a show worth sinking your teeth into.

Until we get that, please scroll back up and listen to that podcast. Please, and thank you. And wear a mask and social distance and stay home when you can.