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8
Sep 21

They call it The Smith II, no doubt

I had my car in the shop last week. Routine stuff. I needed new brakes. The mechanic called me to tell me I needed new brakes. That was thoughtful of him since, when I drove the car there, I told him I needed new brakes. So he put on brake pads and charged up the air conditioner and I got my car back just in time to drive it safely to the ancestral haunts and back here.

And, this evening, we shipped my lovely bride’s car to the mechanic. Her alternator died. The mechanic is making his boat payment this month off the Smiths.

Her car died in the parking lot across the street from the office. She’d gone to pick up my bike from the bike shop, which is also right across the street. (And, hopefully, this fourth trip for bike repairs for the year has solved the continual problems.) So it was that she texted me that her car died. We tried all the things you try, and, yep, it was dead enough for 5 p.m. on a Wednesday.

Fortunately, we have a roadside assistance service with our car insurance. It’s an app, and it warns you somberly that there are delays because of staffing and just, you know, the world. So since I was already at work, and had to be in the studio tonight anyway, I said take my car and go to the house and do stuff while I stand here with your car until the truck gets here.

Josh, the tow truck driver, was a bit late, but the app kept us updated enough, and the insurance people have an automated text message system that keeps tabs on the whole thing. But the weather this evening was nice and I was standing in the shade. Standing in the shade, that is, in between going into the building to vainly work on someone’s technical problems, poking my head into the studio, fielding insurance company texts and getting updates from colleagues, anyway.

Whatever she did with her time at the house, while I sat with her car, I hope it was productive.

She will drive my car tomorrow and Friday, at least. I will be on my bike which, hopefully, works. The mechanic will drive his boat, The Smith II. I hope it’s a great one. Nothing too overpowered or ostentatious, but nice enough for him to entertain his friends. And I hope they all laugh when he explains the vessel’s name.

Eventually Josh, the tow truck driver, came along. We pushed the car into position, hoisted it up and drove it the four miles to the mechanic. You presume that’s what happens. The man was a professional, after all. And what is he going to do with yet another car that isn’t operational at the moment?

And I got in the studio to see some studio stuff. The sports crew were working tonight.

Their first shows will appear later this week and, as is customary, I’ll put them here.

Speaking of the sports crew …

Michael is working in Iowa. News and sports in the quad cities.

And speaking of sports … this one is a high-water mark in baseball for me.

Read that and watch this over and over. Every part of it gets more interesting with each recollection.

As sports oral histories, that’s one of the better ones you’ll find.


7
Sep 21

No cohesion, but a lot of interesting Tuesday tidbits

Back to work again this morning. And most of the morning spent catching up from a day off and a long weekend out of town. But I only woke up twice this morning wondering where I was.

Stands to reason you could spend the rest of your Tuesday wondering where you are after a morning of that sort.

It’s never quite the same as when it happens in the early morning hours, though, is it? You open a blurry eye and wonder where you are based on whatever light is creeping in from whichever direction. By whatever level of chance is involved, my last two bedrooms have enjoyed the same layout. Even some of the same colors. Once in a great while I wake up truly confused, because the only real clue is in the ceiling, and I can’t focus on that with one blurry eye, it seems.

But this never happens in the rest of the day. You don’t turn from your typing, or move your eyes from that memo, or rouse yourself from a reverie and wonder where you are. It must have something to do with the eyes, or the fluorescent lights.

It’s amazing how many pieces like this are floating around out there. It almost seems odd that there could be a new experience at such a ubiquitous thing. But, it’s true.

Weird how those experiences get turned into published articles while trying to treat a quick steak and a yeasty roll as an ethnography.

I put our name in at the hostess stand and was told it would be about a 10-minute wait.

I didn’t mind the wait. I used the time to take in the ambiance, which was unlike that of any restaurant I’d been to before.

I appreciate the need to get to atmosphere in your photo essay, but you’re asking people to believe you’ve never been to a restaurant which has a theme of neon or kitsch or both.

The author found herself overwhelmed by the “massive” menu and the restaurant which felt “even bigger than it looks from the outside.” That’s called perspective, by the way. The author says she doesn’t like steak. She ordered the chicken.

All of which is to say she buried the actual important story here.

Same-store sales are up over 80% over 2020, which was of course low because of COVID-19, but they’re also up 21.3% over 2019 levels.

This despite reduced hours in many places, like the one she visited in Rochester. (There are two in that town.) The one nearest us, for what it’s worth, always seems busy these days.

I wonder how sales in other restaurants trading in “folksy charm” are faring.

I still can’t imagine eating in a restaurant at the moment. And one day, when that feels comfortable again, I’m sure the menus will overwhelm me.

Speaking of which, don’t forget, we’re flying a drone around on another planet.

Have you noticed how every rover we’ve put on Mars, or every probe we’re sending into space, seems to be outliving the design specs? No planned obsolescence there. Maybe these NASA and JPL people know what they’re doing.

Or maybe …

I never had the honor of meeting the late George Taliaferro. I wish that I did.

If you know the story, you know that he, and his wife who was a trailblazer herself, are larger-than-life personas around here.

While I did not get the opportunity to meet him, I have watched a lot of footage of Taliaferro speaking to classes and doing interviews. He was a passionate, fascinating, caring man. People talk about that first-to-be-drafted tidbit and in that clip above they mention his many skills on the football field. I’m here to tell you that football was the least of it. A former Media School student put together this little mini-doc that seems to capture Taliaferro very well.

He worked with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Baltimore, counseled prisoners returning to their regular lives and was a leader with the Children’s Organ Transplant Association. He taught at the University of Maryland, was dean of students at Morgan State and returned to Indiana to teach. His wife, Judge Viola Taliaferro, the first African American to serve as a magistrate and then judge in the Circuit Court of Monroe County, remains a powerful voice even today.

Finally, a nice little musical number …

Roy Orbison released that song in 1961 at the age of 25. I wonder what kind of star he’d be if he were 25 today.


23
Aug 21

A day of hope

I, like billions of other people, don’t use Facebook that much anymore. It’s too crowded. And there’s only so much time in the day for noise, anyway.

But this year I have been trying to go every day and peruse the memories. It’s worth it to clean those up sometime. And these last few days have offered some doozies, all from just a year ago. It’s interesting to see how much has changed, and how little.

When was it, that the old life slipped away, and wise men and women worried that it was never to return again? Was it all at once or, did it come to mind gradually over that hot summer last year?

Someone instinctively felt it, but the signs were there for all of us to read. Henry White was a turn-of-the-century diplomat, and a signatory of the Treaty of Versailles. He noticed the same thing, as his biographer said, when Europe marched itself into the Great War. “He instinctively felt that his world — the world of constant travel, cosmopolitan intercourse, secure comfort and culture — would never be the same again.”

There may be great gains, yet, but when they are counted, what will we they be, and how will we measure them against what has been lost? It is at a moment like this where we search for the spirit of an era. This one having not been filled to overflowing with optimism and confidence, might cause a person to continue the search. A searching mood such as that could feel like a spark, a great light of promise by which we set the world to right, rather than being rolled under the world in the darkness.

It’s a cycle, and in our study of history we know it is anything but unique. Heroes shape the world, victims struggle through it. People have been warmed by that spark and felt that exuberance before. They will do so again. Hope never dies as long as we can move and feel. Sometimes it smolders low, at other times it will not be ignored.

We are, perhaps, at the start of such a moment. I pray that we are, and that others take up that feeling, as well. It’s too beautiful and full of possibilities to wrap it up and set it down in a box, all but forgotten for some later time.

This is a day full of hope.

And cats. It is Monday, after all. Even in the middle of a heat wave, Phoebe needs her blanket naps.

She does that all by herself. Usually Kitty Me Time means going all the way under the blankets, but maybe it was a little too warm that day for a completely immersive experience.

And I guess they’ve decided to have a cute contest this week. Look at Poseidon’s handsome face.

What’s not to love about a look like that?


6
Aug 21

They grow on trees

The joke around here is that the maple is nature’s first quitter. They turn and fall and they miss out on weeks of glorious summer. That’s coming and, along with it, the awe of autumn. But that’s later. Today? This is just hurtful, oak tree.

Speaking of trees … We have an apple tree in our backyard. Big enough to duck under; not tall enough to climb. We only just discovered this year that it was an apple tree. Five years here and this is the first time it’s bore fruit. Some sort of green apples, but not bitter like a Granny Smith. I set out, then, to identify the apple variety. There are 27 green apples out there, and isn’t that a delightful thing to learn?

We started plotting what we’d do with a whole tree of apples. So many pies! I was mentally picking out the knife and the cutting board, excited about the prospect, you understand. I figured, without knowing the exact apple, we’d just have to estimate when they were ripe, but that’s OK. Nature is a great teacher and there’s a window for this sort of thing.

I have this nice thin knife and a small glass cutting board and it makes a pleasing sound when you work through a fruit or vegetable. Just add cinnamon and enjoy. I have plans. Had plans.

I just noticed the apples are gone. All of ’em.

Squirrels.

(That’s a recreation.)

They didn’t leave a single apple. Here yesterday, see ya’ next year.

Hungry four-legged smugglers.

Let’s wrap the week up with a few things I put on one of the work accounts. Interesting studies performed by interesting people. A lot of grad students, in this case, which makes it even more fun. Watch them all, so you can stay abreast of the latest in social science research.

And within the next week or so we’ll have even more new research to highlight. But that’s for next week. For now, the weekend!


5
Aug 21

Faster than Olympians

I’d like to tell you about a great adventure on the day, but the truth of it is that there was the office, and then there was enjoying the evening in the backyard, and then enjoying the Olympics into the night.

Two weeks of Olympics following three weeks of Tour de France, mean a lot of televised sports. And the Vuelta a España starts next week. And then you’re into football season. Honestly, being in a safety-first, approach to going to as few places as possible has done wonders for my sports viewing this year.

I’m getting bored with it.

I did update my 404 page today. I noticed, to my great chagrin, that there was a broken link in my missing page. That’s mortifying. Better that I found it myself, rather than someone pointing it out. The error had been there for an embarrassingly long time. I can only assume that means that people don’t run across the 404 page that often.

But isn’t that exciting? I tested links! I moved tables! I saved and refreshed and changed some language!

That is a full on Thursday!

I wanted to share this amazing track event we discovered this evening. It is, in fact, from a few nights ago. Perhaps we missed it, or maybe NBC, burdened by time zone problems covering the Olympics half a world away, couldn’t figure out where to show what’s being called “the greatest race ever” many hours later. I wanted to share it, but NBC has limited where their programming can be shared, and where their pre-rolls can run. It’s a business model, I guess.

Here’s a video you can see on my humble little site. I did the math, we’re going faster than the world record hurdlers. We had better gearing, and fewer hurdles.

It was to be a 90-minute ride. Before we’d gotten through the second neighborhood on the route The Yankee had a problem with her aerobars. She got that resolved, and it allowed her to go faster. So, before we’d gotten through the third neighborhood on the route she dropped me.

Just as I caught back up to her, some 15 miles later, we called it just a bit early, right about the time I shot that video. Sometimes, catching back on feels like the greatest race ever.