Category Archives: Personal

What newsrooms used to look like, long, long ago

The sardonic Managing Editor Bill Sorrels presides at his desk in the middle of the newsroom (he had an office somewhere, too). You see Dave Hampton running somewhere in the background. Note the decor.

The sardonic Managing Editor Bill Sorrels presides at his desk in the middle of the newsroom (he had an office somewhere, too). He’s apparently reading one of the proofs I fetched. You see Dave Hampton striding in a blur across the room in the background. Note the go-to-hell decor — the unmatched linoleum, the rivers of proofs tumbling from spikes on the Metro Desk behind the M.E….

Having just wrestled with the new definitions of an old word, “reporter,” here are some images from the very start of my newspaper career, so very long ago. When reporters were reporters.

After I dug out those pictures from 1978 to go with this post, I started poring through some old negatives, thinking yet again about digitizing them (and again overwhelmed at the enormity of the task), when I ran across something I had forgotten existed.

Apparently, I took my camera to the paper one night during those several months I worked at my first newspaper job, back in 1974. I was a “copy clerk” at The Commercial Appeal in the spring and summer of that year, while a student at Memphis State University. That means I was a “copy boy,” with the title adjusted for the political correctness that was coming into fashion at the time (but which for the most part did not touch this newsroom). And indeed, we did briefly have one girl join us boys standing at the rail, ready to jump when someone called “copy.”

wire machines

Copy Clerk David Hampton, later longtime editorial page editor of The Jackson Clarion-Ledger, in the wire room.

We were among the last copy boys in the country, since new technology was doing away with the need for someone to run around doing the stuff we did. Which meant reporters no longer had anyone to lord it over.

I just found these three exposures, found on one short strip of 35 mm film in a glassine envelope. I don’t know whether I took more, or where the rest of the roll is.

Anyway, I appeared to be documenting what I did at the paper by taking pictures of my friend and fellow copy clerk David Hampton doing the same tasks I did every night.

You can see Dave hurrying across the newsroom on an errand in the background of the photo at top, which shows one corner of the newsroom from the perspective of the managing editor’s desk. This part of the room is mostly deserted, with a reporter casually conversing with an assistant editor over on the Metro desk. This is 7:15 p.m., shortly after most of the day side people have left. The place would have been bustling about an hour earlier. Dave and I would be running for the next six or seven hours. (I wish I’d gotten a shot of the whole newsroom when it was full of people — but I probably would have been yelled at. That would not have been a novel experience, but I preferred to avoid it.)

In the foreground of the photo is the late Bill Sorrels, the managing editor, with a characteristic smirk on his face. I had him for a reporting class at Memphis State. His “teaching” technique consisted of telling stories from his reporting days, and stopping in mid-story to go around the room asking everyone, “So what did I do next?” and smirking when they got it wrong.

Bill would look over the galley proofs I brought him with that same expression, and then call out embarrassing critical remarks to reporters and editors about the mistakes they had made. (This was the kind of old-school place where grown men were chewed out and ground into the floor in front of everybody by their bosses.) The only actual work I ever remember seeing him do was on Aug. 9, 1974. He called me over and gave me a piece of paper on which he had scrawled, “Nixon Resigns.” He told me to take it to composing (on the next floor) and have it typeset in our biggest headline type (probably about 96 points), then have them shoot a picture of that and blow it up until it went all the way across the front page — then bring it to him to approve before they set it in metal and put it on the page. Probably the most “historic” thing I did in that job.

Above and at right, you see Dave in the wire room checking one of the 10 or 12 machines there that chugged out news from across the world non-stop — back in the days when ordinary people didn’t have access to such via Twitter, etc. We were the nursemaids to those machines, making sure the paper and ribbons never ran out, that they didn’t jam, and that the stories were ripped off the machines and taken to the editors who needed to see them.

Below, Dave is in the “morgue,” in later more polite times known as the “library,” where he’s been sent to fetch something, probably a photo, that someone needs to go with a story they’re working on. Given the size of the envelopes, these are probably mug shots, or maybe metal “cuts” that were already made to run in the paper previously. We saved those, when they were of repeat newsmakers, to save time and metal. They were uniformly 6 ems (picas) in width.

Another world. I never again worked in such an old-school environment. This was the old Commercial Appeal building, torn down decades ago. The long-defunct Memphis Press Scimitar was up on the fifth floor, if I recall correctly. Most news copy was still written, edited and processed in the old way — typed on manual typewriters, the pages strung together with rubber cement, edited with pencil, and set in metal type by noisy linotype machines up in the composing room. Once the type was set for each story, individual proofs would be pulled of each story, before they were placed on the “turtle” that held the full page — which we would run down to the newsroom. There was a lot of running back and forth.

This place was already an anachronism; it would have been completely recognizable to Ben Hecht’s characters in “The Front Page” It was what the makers of “Teacher’s Pet,” which I saw on Netflix the other night, were going for in the newsroom scenes. (Nick Adams played the copy boy in that film, itching for his shot at becoming a reporter. He was excited to get to write some obits one night. For us, the transitional job was to be the copy clerk who did the “agate” — rounding up police blotter, marriages and divorces, property transfers and other routine list-type copy and typing it up to go into the paper. I got to do that once, when another guy was out, and felt I had taken a huge step up.)

But new technology was creeping in. The non-news departments wrote on IBM Selectrics, and their copy was scanned and set in cold type, and pasted up on paper pages. And maybe some of the news copy as well — I see a Selectric behind Sorrels on the Metro desk. And a couple more on the rim of the copy desk at right.

It was also a crude, rough place that was about as non-PC as anyplace you could find in the ’70s. It’s ironic that they called us “copy clerks” instead of “boys,” because there were few other concessions to modern sensibilities. Culturally, every other newsroom I ever worked in was as removed from this one as though a couple of generations had passed. Although it was 1974, this newsroom would have been more at home in the first half of the century. It was… Runyonesque.

In the following decades, I didn’t miss this place, and was happy to work in a more civil environment. But I’m glad to have had this throwback experience; it gives me something to feel nostalgic about when I watch those old movies made before I was born. Yes, I say, it was just like that — those few months at the Commercial Appeal, anyway….

Dave, fetching a "cut" from the morgue.

Dave, fetching a “cut” from the morgue.

‘Survey says…!’ My opinion continues to be in great demand

"Survey says..!"

“Survey says..!”

At the moment, in my Inbox, I have messages asking me to fill out surveys giving feedback about:

  1. The last time I gave platelets at the Red Cross.
  2. A recent lunch at the Capital City Club.
  3. My dealings with the service department at Canon regarding a malfunctioning printer.
  4. My dealings with the AT&T service department regarding a faulty router.
  5. My recent six-month checkup with my internist.

Two of them came in on the 11th, two on Monday and the other today, and I haven’t gotten to any of them.

And while I appreciate that they all care so much about what I think of the service, the cumulative effect is a bit overwhelming. Reminds me of school, when every teacher assumed she or he was the only class giving you homework. They meant well, too.

The one I definitely want to respond to is the Canon one, but not yet — because, unbeknownst to Canon, we’re not done yet.

I have this wonderful ImageClass MF6160 dw printer that I got for Christmas, and it’s given me great service ever since. Until a couple of weeks back, that is.

There are two things about it I particularly love — the multiple-page-document feeder on the top for copying and scanning, which saves a lot of tedious standing there to feed it; and the fact that I can immediately print out anything I see on my iPad or phone from anywhere in the house.

But then I came back from vacation, turned it on, and got an error message and a complete refusal to do anything — copy, scan, print, whatever.

I spent several evenings trying to call Canon before realizing they shut down the phone lines at 8 p.m. (the recording would tell me they were closed, but would NOT tell me what the hours were). So I sent them a long email, with all the particulars, and received a response telling me to call. By 8, of course.

So I called. And the guy who answered was unable to call up my email, so I started from scratch with him. He concluded that I needed to download some new firmware. But my printer had not come with a USB cable, so he said he’d just send me a new printer.

Which is great, right? It came yesterday — earlier than I expected, so great again. But my new AT&T router came the same day, so I installed that first and got all my devices up and working on the home network before dealing with the printer. (Everything went as advertised with the new modem/router, so yay, AT&T! A loyal advertiser on bradwarthen.com, by the way…)

I finally got it all unpacked, and carefully put all the pieces of orange tape that came on it onto the old printer that I have to ship back to them, and turned it on. No error message! And it copies fine.

But it won’t print or scan because I can’t get it to connect to my devices via wifi. Even though I’ve been through the ritual of making the connection several times, and each time it says it’s connected.

And of course, by this time it was well after 8 p.m.

So tonight I’ll call them, and see if we can get all this straightened out. And after that, I’ll fill out their survey. And I’ll be happy then, because I love my printer, and I just want it back.

And then maybe I’ll get to the other ones as well.

I mean, it’s nice that they care what I think….

Hey, I know! Since they value what I think so much, maybe they’d all like to get together and pay me what I used to get paid at the paper to express what I think! If they’d do that, I’d fill out surveys all day….

John Oliver on the plight of newspapers

I had trouble finding time to watch this, and if we wait until I have time to comment on it, I’ll never get around to posting it. I have actual work to do.

So… I urge y’all to watch it, and comment, and I’ll jump in and join you later.

I’ll just say that the piece is well-done, and accurate. The truest thing Oliver says is when he indicates that no one has figured out a good way to pay for the journalism our society needs going forward (now that print advertising, which used to be like a license to print money, has essentially gone away). In other words, he says a lot of things I’ve said before, in a less entertaining matter. (My Brookings piece, for instance, wasn’t crafted for laughs.)

That’s the truth, and the tragedy. One can make fun of all the media executives who are trying various stupid strategies to keep going, but the indisputable fact is that no one has come up with the right approach yet…

I had a great time hanging with Burl the last few days

Burl and me, with Fort Sumter so far in the background you can't quite make it out.

Burl and me, with Fort Sumter so far in the background you can’t quite make it out.

It was great getting to see my old high school classmate Burl Burlingame — and his wife Mary, also a veteran journalist (and night editor at the Honolulu paper) — the last few days.

The exterior of the Hunley museum/research site is undergoing improvements.

The exterior of the Hunley museum/research site is undergoing improvements.

As you know, he was here for the International Plastic Modelers Society’s 2016 National Convention & Contest, where he was both a presenter and contestant. He gave a great talk Saturday morning about what most people don’t know about Pearl Harbor, from which I learned a lot. After that, I accompanied the Burlingames to Charleston to see the Hunley.

Of course, I couldn’t help telling the guide that “You realize this is the world’s leading authority on Japanese midget subs,” thereby putting pressure on both the guide and Burl. But Burl was up to it, and he was fairly impressed with what the Hunley folks had accomplished. I was, too. I remain amazed that they were able to remove all that concretion from the outside and the inside of the sub without destroying the whole thing.

We capped the weekend by cooking out at my house, where Burl and Mary met a few folks I thought they might like to meet, plus most of the Warthen clan.

A good time was had by all. Or by me, anyway.

From the video: The future founder of the UnParty enjoys an Uncola, in 1971.

From the home movie: The future founder of the UnParty enjoys an Uncola, in 1971.

If you’re not a military brat like Burl and me, you might not realize what a special thing it is for your friends and family to meet one of your high school friends. Before meeting Burl on our way back from Thailand last year, my wife had met exactly one of my high school friends — briefly, in 1975. Burl brings the total to two, out of a class of 600.

Burl and I graduated in 1971 — as part of the festivities Sunday night, I showed some Super 8 movie footage (silent, of course), recently digitized, from our last days of high school. As it happens, my Dad shot some footage of me talking with Burl and another friend or two outside the HIC on graduation day — at a distance, with a feel like surveillance film. Unfortunately, you mostly just see the back of Burl’s head. But there is one split second when Burl leaned toward me to make a point, and you can barely make him out.

Burl in 1971.

Burl in 1971.

One’s youth can be so elusive. It’s tough to recapture.

It’s the only photographic evidence that we knew each other, all those years ago. Burl noted last night it was sort of our version of the Zapruder film. This would be extremely difficult for today’s 17-year-olds to imagine, as they text out pictures, and HD video, of themselves with their friends on an hourly basis, if not more often.

Here’s hoping it’s not another 45 years before we meet again.

Our version of the Zapruder film...

Our version of the Zapruder film…

 

‘Think light’ if you want to wrestle Shute

Yes, another “Vision Quest” reference.

Blame my elder son this time. He brought the above weigh-in video clip to my attention because he knew it would remind me, as it did him, of the big weigh-in scene in the movie. (Oh, and to you adolescent boys out there — don’t bother watching the above clip; you never get to see anything. For an ultimate fighter, who you might think would be about as bashful as a Viking shieldmaiden, she’s very demure.)

“Think light,” said Kooch (a great secondary character, by the way). And Loudon did.

Speaking of which…

I’m nowhere nearer to being able to wrestle Shute than I was the last time I mentioned it.

But I learned this week that I shouldn’t worry, because my weight, at 180-something, remains way under the national average now:

Americans aren’t growing taller, but their waistlines are growing wider. A new federal report reveals that U.S. men and women weigh about 15 lb. more than they did 20 years ago.

In the report, published Wednesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, researchers looked at data from 2011 to 2014. They found that the average man, who’s about 5 ft. 9 in., weighs 195.7 lb., and the average woman, almost 5 ft. 4 lb., weighs 168.5 lb. For men, that’s about 15 lb. more than average in 1988–94; women are now more than 16 lb. heavier. Men and women’s heights were about the same two decades ago….

This is a puzzle, though, because 75 percent of us reporting eating healthy

Here’s what I mean when I say I’m a ‘centrist’

I’m trying to blog smarter by converting long comments into separate posts. Here’s the latest.

In this case, I had — in the interest of using words economically — referred to myself as a “centrist,” as I frequently do. Both Bud and Harry Harris took exception to the reference.

I replied

Dang, dang, dang! I wrote this somewhat involved, extremely insightful comment a little while ago on my iPad, and lost wifi in the middle of saving it. Let me see if I can reconstruct…

Of course I’m a centrist, to the point that the term has meaning (more on that in a second). I’m an adherent of the postwar governing consensus, the area that Clinton and Blair tried to get us back to in the 90s. I disagree with those who would pull us way from it.

That said, “left,” “right” and “center” are fairly silly terms. I really don’t HAVE a comfortable place on the artificial left-right continuum, and trying to place me, or anyone who THINKS about issues rather than buying them off the shelf prepackaged, on that line can present problems. But since I’m not “left” or “right,” “center” is a convenient term to use.

It’s also convenient because I am for CORE values, not those on the fringes. Here’s what I mean by that…

Government is about solving problems together, or at least efficiently providing those basic functions that we have general agreement government should handle. So I’m interested in areas where the parties overlap, not the areas where they pull away from consensus. We need to identify and build upon those areas where we can work together. And if we get good enough at that, maybe we can branch out to some of the tough subjects.

For that reason, I generally don’t like dealing with Culture War stuff, and get upset when it looks like an election is going to be about such things. Bud says, for instance, he assumes I “still advocate” for traditional marriage. I wasn’t aware I HAD been advocating on that subject. At all. He also mentioned Blue Laws. At one point some years back I made a gentle, passing reference to the fact that opposition to blue laws is one of the sillier overinterpretations of the 1st Amendment’s Establishment clause. Having a sensible agreement to have a day without commerce and hustle-bustle is hardly thrusting a particular form of religion on anyone. It’s just a gesture to basic human sanity. And I say that whenever Doug and Bud bring it up, which they do a LOT, because such a sensible suggestion is DEEPLY offensive to their libertarian reflexes. But I can’t recall advocating or campaigning for such. The most I’ve said is that it’s a shame to see such a life-calming custom go away.

Seriously, when I start campaigning for something, everyone can tell. (See: Confederate flag.)

But back to my point — I don’t see it as productive to invest a lot of political capital in those things, because the fights over them drive us apart and make it harder to agree on the things that should be easy.

The problem these days is that the parties and associated interest groups have polarized us so much that the area of consensus has gotten smaller and smaller.

Bud thinks this is a GREAT year. Well, in a couple of ways it is, but not the ways he thinks.

First, among thoughtful, informed participants and observers, there’s a greater willingness to step out from the stupid left-right, Democratic-Republican dichotomy and consider candidates on their merits. Once people do that, you see the Bushes (whom Bud despises so much), Graham, Sasse, Romney, et al., distancing themselves from Trump or opposing him outright. The latest encouraging manifestation of that is Meg Whitman declaring for Hillary, and the formation of a PAC to encourage Republicans to vote for the lesser of two weevils.

Sure, there are still plenty of Republicans out there who think this is a normal, left-v.-right election and anyone who would support anyone but Trump is a liberal Democrat and therefore the enemy. But I prefer to celebrate the people out there who GET IT.

Also, with Trump as their standard-bearer the GOP has so abandoned the flag-and-country ground that the Democrats were able to co-opt it and position themselves as the party of traditional patriotism last week. In other words, the Dems celebrated the things that used to unite us all, rather than just concentrating on differences (the usual Identity Politics and class warfare stuff).

Of course, this deeply offended the centrifugal forces of our politics, who want to see us fly apart. For instance, Gen. Allen’s speech offended both the military-hating portions of the left and the Democrat-hating elements on the right.

But these are positive developments, to a “centrist” like me…

allen

A problem with the new Passport parking system

ticket

I’ve enjoyed, for the most part, using the city’s new Passport parking app. I haven’t minded — much — paying that 35-cent-a-session fee for the convenience.

And of course, the most convenient thing about it is that wherever you are, you can extend your parking session — by 15, 30, 45 minutes, an hour or more. No more excusing yourself from a meeting and running a block to plug in more quarters.history

But here’s the thing I don’t like: If you miss the end of your session by so much as a split second, you can’t extend the session. And worse, you can’t start a new one!

And I see absolutely no reason for this. If I were doing it the 20th century way, no one would stop me from going down and plugging another quarter in. So why should this new technology, which has no reason to be, be even less convenient in that regard than the old way?

This problem doesn’t arise if the app works as advertised. It’s supposed to give a two-minute warning before the session runs out — plenty of time to tap in an extension. But in my experience, that warning comes only about half the time.

Here’s what happened to me today, as evidenced by the ticket above and the screenshots at right…

I started a one-hour session on Assembly Street at 9:01 a.m., and went up for my breakfast. (Oh, for the troll out there who always acts SHOCKED at the hour at which I start my day, see what happens to your body clock after decades of working at a morning newspaper. I start my day later than average, and work on later than most in the evening. As I did all those years at the paper.)

Anyway, I had just started reading another item on my iPad (I read three newspapers at breakfast, plus other stuff brought to my attention via social media) when it occurred to me that my session must be almost up. As it happened, I checked precisely at 10:01, and it said my session had just expired. So I immediately tried to start another session — just 15 minutes — to give me enough time to get to my vehicle (and then some).denied

I got the rejection you see at right (click to make it bigger). As I expected. I shrugged, knowing I was already in violation (but a bit peeved that I was being prevented from addressing that), finished reading what I was reading, and headed down to my truck. I got there at 10:12. The ticket on my windshield had been written at 10:06 — five minutes after my good-faith effort to extend my session by 15 minutes.

Yep, I courted that ticket by reading for another few moments before heading down. If I had not, I probably would have arrived at the moment the meter maid was printing out the ticket.

So no foul. Late is late, and them’s the rules of the game.

But isn’t the point of the Passport app to allow people to do what I was more than willing to do — pay more for a few minutes more, just as I would be allowed to do were I standing at the meter with coins or Smart Card in hand? (And remember, I was NOT trying to exceed the meter’s two-hour limit — I would have been 45 minutes short of that.)

This seems a flaw in the system to me. And I see no good reason for it. Do you?

I’ve got no beef with paying this fine — despite the failure of the warning that was supposed to sound and let me know I was nearing the end of my session. But I do think this “lockout” feature, which seems a matter of policy, should be changed.

Y’all, now would be a good time to go give some platelets

I just got this from the Red Cross:

Greetings,

I hope all is well.  We are currently under an appeal for platelets and could use your help right away.  If you can help us with a donation, please fill free to call, email or schedule via app.

I look forward to speaking to you and we certainly “Thank you” for being a Life Savor.

Respectfully,

Tracy B. Vaughn

Apheresis Donor Recruitment, Biomedical Services
American Red Cross
South Carolina Blood Services Region
2751 Bull Street, Columbia SC 29201
(803) 251-6082
Tracy.Vaughn@redcross.org

You may ask, “Why don’t you go give platelets, Brad?”

To which I say, I do. All the time. I did it last week, and the week before. And I will again, soon.download (7)

As I told the lady who wrote the above message, I still have a slight amount of bruising around where one of the needles went in last time, and I’m thinking it would be better to wait until that’s faded before I go.

Maybe that’s not important. And if she writes back and tell me that, I’ll go ahead and set the appointment.

But it sure would be great if some of y’all would pitch in, too. Not everyone can give, so those who can, should.

For instance, Kathryn Fenner can’t because she spent too much time in England at a bad time. (Mad Cow Disease or something there was rampant then.) I have a gay friend who says they won’t take his blood not no way, not nohow. (I wish they’d change that, if only so he wouldn’t have that excuse any more.)

I myself had to take a year-long hiatus after visiting Kanchanaburi, Thailand, last year. But that ended in March. I’ve given several times since then.

So as I say, those of us who can, should…

CRC honors Jack Van Loan, Nikki Haley

Jack Van Loan in 2006.

Jack Van Loan, flying back-seat in a civilian aircraft in 2006.

Today at our annual luncheon at the convention center, the Greater Columbia Community Relations Council (of which I am a board member) honored my good friend Jack Van Loan and our governor, Nikki Haley.

Jack received the Milton Kimpson Award for a lifetime of service to his country and to this community. As you’ll recall, he was an Air Force pilot who was shot down, captured, tortured and held prisoner for several years at the Hanoi Hilton, where he became fast friends with fellow prisoner John McCain. Since moving to Columbia in retirement (he’s originally from Oregon), Col. Van Loan has been a community leader particularly in the Five Points area, and is the guy who built the annual St. Pat’s Day celebration into the huge event it is today.

We honored the governor with the Hyman Rubin Award for her leadership last year after the killings at Emanuel AME in Charleston — for the way she led us in mourning and honoring the dead, and for (in my mind, especially for) doing the unlikely thing and leading us, finally, to take down that flag. Her leadership during last fall’s floods was also mentioned at some of the meetings I attended.Nikki Haley

Now I’m going to tell a tale out of school, and if it significantly bothers a consensus of my fellow board members, I’ll take it down…

Some very good people who are deeply invested in the cause of the CRC contacted board members in recent days to protest our honoring Gov. Haley. In one case, we received a long and thoughtful letter reciting a litany of reasons why, because of her policy and political actions in office, she did not embody the spirit of Hyman Rubin, or of our group.

I can’t speak for the rest of the board, but I can speak for myself on this. My reaction was that the protests were thoughtful and respectful and stated important truths. Most of the items counted against the governor were things that I, too, disagree with her about.

But I strongly believed that we should give the governor the award. (And while I didn’t poll everyone, I haven’t yet spoken with a board member who disagrees with me.) Our group is about community relations, particularly in the sense of fostering better interracial relations, and what the governor did last year did more on that score than I’ve seen from any elected official in recent years. Despite what some believe, she did not have to do what she did. I did not expect her to do it, right up until the miraculous moment when she did. Based on what I have seen over almost 30 years of closely observing S.C. politics, what she did was a complete departure from the norm.

So I was pleased to see her receive the award. She was unable to attend personally, but she sent along a video clip in which she thanked us quite graciously.

Congratulations, governor. And thank you for your leadership…

FYI, the UnParty almost ran its first candidate this year

The candidate that wasn't, posing on the State House steps (for the ADCO website, NOT for a campaign!)

The Candidate Who Wasn’t, posing on the State House steps (for the ADCO website, NOT for a campaign!)

Actually, “almost” is a little strong, but the UnParty’s unleadership did think about it a good bit. (You think Ethan Hawke was good as Hamlet? That was nothing compared to this.)

I just got off the phone with both Micah Caskey and Tem Miles, who are in a runoff for the GOP nomination for Kenny Bingham’s House seat. I plan to post something about both of them before the day is over. (OK, so it took me until the next day.)

But before I do I should tell y’all something that I’ve mentioned to a handful of people, but not to you or the world at large:

When I heard that Kenny Bingham, my representative, was stepping down, I immediately thought about running for the seat myself — as an independent, of course. (I’ve told Messrs. Caskey and Miles this.)

Ever since I left the paper, I’ve thought about the fact that, after all these years of telling politicians what they ought to do, maybe I should get off the sidelines and do something myself.

The most logical office for me to run for would be the House. My understanding of state government and issues is far greater than my knowledge of local government. And the idea of trying to raise the resources needed to run as an independent for Congress, especially in my über-Republican district (represented by Congressman-For-Life Joe Wilson) was too high a mountain to contemplate climbing. Anyway, I think people should hold other offices before aiming that high.

And the state House would be easier than the state Senate.

But I wasn’t interested in running against Kenny (or my senator, Nikki Setzler), largely because I think he’s done a good job over the years. Also, I didn’t see how I could beat him.

So this seemed like my chance. And a good one, in one sense, even though an independent is always at a disadvantage: If I ran, I would run overtly against both political parties. I would tell voters exactly what I think of the parties, and that I was running because I didn’t want Columbia to become any more like Washington than it was. (I’d tell them a lot more than that, but that would be the thrust of my elevator speech.)

I’d be running against my opponent’s parties, not the opponents themselves.

If that pitch was ever to be effective, it would be in a year in which voters are highly disaffected from the parties — with most Republicans picking a non-Republican for president, and almost half of Democrats going with a non-Democrat. And when disgust with the partisan gridlock of Congress is at an all-time high.

If I would ever have a chance, that is. My chief handicaps would be:

  • Running as an independent, period. Despite all that disaffection, voters in this country for the most part have no practice at wrapping their minds around the concept of an independent candidate. It takes a lot of explaining, which means you start out in a hole. You run as an independent in a Republican district like mine and people assume you’re really a Democrat and trying to hide it. (Sure, I’ve written thousands upon thousands of words explaining my distaste for both parties, but how many people will go read all that?) Beyond that, it’s a hugely difficult task logistically — you have to gather thousands of signatures on petitions to get on the ballot. (At least I think so — I didn’t get to the point of actually going to the election commission and finding out all the rules.)
  • Raising the money. Because I simply cannot self-finance, even partially. I can’t spend what I don’t have. And raising money is hard for me, just as it’s hard to go out and sell ads on the blog. Not my forte. (I have raised money with some success — such as when I was on the Habitat board. But asking for money for a cause like that is far easier than when the cause is me.) Which means I’d be ill-equipped to overcome the difficulties that an independent would have with fund-raising to start with.
  • This is the biggie: There has possibly never been a candidate for public office in South Carolina who is on the record (on the easily-accessible record) on as many issues as I am. And none of my positions have been crafted to help me win elections. (In fact, I’ve spent a lot of time urging pols to do the right thing even when the right thing is unpopular.) I don’t regret any of them, but the fact remains that there are thousands of cudgels out there for an opponent to beat me with. And while every one of my opinions is chock full of nuance and careful rationale that I think would help if the voter bothered to go read it, a lot of them could be misrepresented with devastating effect.

But those aren’t the things that cooled my ardor to run. Two factors stopped me. (Or at least, stopped me so far. I’m 90 percent sure I won’t run. Let’s see how this runoff ends up. But the truth is, I’ve now waited so long that I’ve made the already-long odds close to impossible.) Here they are:

  1. Some people I liked — and who I thought would be strong Republican candidates in the general in this Republican district — filed to run. I liked Bill Banning when he was my county councilman, and was sorry to see him lose his seat. And I had breakfast with Micah Caskey (I was curious to meet him because my mother was friends with his grandparents and great-grandparents in Bennettsville) a couple of months back. I agreed with practically everything he had to say about why he was running. And oh, yes — he’s a combat veteran. I didn’t talk with Tem Miles until today, but knowing I liked both Bill and Micah, and that they would both be formidable opponents, was enough to seriously discourage me.
  2. I had a bad spring with my asthma. For the first time in years, it wasn’t under control, and I couldn’t do my daily workout — and undertaking a campaign of going door-to-door nights and weekends was just unimaginable for me. I’m better now, by the way, but I lost a lot of precious time. You’ve got to feel GREAT to undertake something like this, and I didn’t there for awhile.

So anyway, now you know where things stand — or might have stood. I thought you should know this stuff before I write about either of these candidates, which I hope to do within the next 24 hours…

When I told Kenny Bingham himself that I might run, he was kind -- he didn't laugh.

When I told Kenny Bingham himself that I might run, he was kind — he didn’t laugh.

I was denied the right to vote for lack of a photo ID!

direct mail

My colleague Lora Prill at ADCO brought me some of the primary-related mail she’s received at home. This is about a third of it, she says.

As you know, I’ve been pretty dismissive over the years of the respective positions of both Democrats and Republicans regarding voter ID. (Basically, I think Republicans came up with it to address a virtually nonexistent problem, and Democrats exaggerate the degree to which it amounts to an insurmountable obstacle.)

So my Democratic friends should really enjoy the irony of this:

Today, I was denied the right to vote for lack of a photo ID!

But I’m not going to picket the State House or anything, on account of it being, you know, my fault

Basically, I showed up without my wallet, something I realized when I walked into the polling place, approached the check-in table, and reached into my jacket for it. I announced my problem, was told, “You’d better go home and get it.”

Which I did. But I did it on the way downtown, and didn’t go to the polling place again, as I no longer had time. (Get this: I searched all over, and finally found it in a pocket of a pair of pants I was wearing on Sunday. Which means I drove around all day yesterday without a wallet. Sheesh.)

But I’ll go back this evening. Which makes me a little nervous. I usually vote first thing, so that I don’t have to worry about something coming up to prevent me from making it by 7 p.m.

Also, I don’t get to walk around all day with one of those “I voted” sticker, which, square that I am, always makes me feel a little bit proud of myself.

So, that’s me. How about you? Did you vote yet? How was it? Were there lines? Were there technical glitches? Share…

Sorry, SC Democrats! I see no point in voting in your primary — a matter of geography, you see

unnamed

Got the above via email over the weekend.

Nice of you to think of me, SC Democrats, but I see no point in voting in your primary.

If I lived in Richland County, it would be different, as Cindi Scoppe noted in her recent column, aptly headlined “SC voters have one chance to make a difference, and it’s not in November“:

Unless you are so partisan that you can’t bring yourself to vote in a primary for the best or at least the least bad candidate in the other party, you should go where the elections are being decided. I always vote in the Republican primary when we have statewide contests, because those races are decided in the primary. This year I’m voting in the Democratic primary, because there are no statewide races and I live in Richland County, where all but one of the legislative and local contests are among Democrats. If I lived in Lexington County, I would vote in the Republican primary, for similar reasons.

Exactly.

Cindi and I agree politically about as much as any two people you’re likely to know, which means that she doesn’t care which party wins in November any more than I do. But she cares about having her vote count, which is why she votes in the Democratic primary where she lives, and I vote in the Republican over in Lexington County.

So that we get a voice in the actual election. Because where I live, the Republican primary is the election.

I’m glad my girls are home from Tel Aviv

A shot one of my daughters took in Jerusalem.

A shot one of my daughters took in Jerusalem.

My two youngest daughters returned over the weekend from a friend’s wedding in Tel Aviv — that is, one is back home here, and the other is back in Bangkok.

I was relieved when they were back in their respective homes. I didn’t really worry about them being in Israel on a rational level. Even when there is a terrorist attack in a given city on a certain day, 99.999 percent of the citizens are unharmed by it.

When I think about the odds of coming to harm in a relative “trouble spot” in the world, I think of my experience covering the simultaneous fire and police strikes in Memphis in 1978. It was a huge national story, and if you followed it on TV you’d think the city was on fire, with no one to put the fire out or keep order. And yet, most people were entirely unaffected. I was in a Memphis restaurant at the start of the curfew imposed because of the “emergency,” and the customers being turned away were surprised and irritated — they thought it ridiculous.

At one point, I found myself part of an impromptu press gaggle with a senior official on a street in Midtown. Tired of trying to press my way through the mob, and realizing I wasn’t really getting anything out of it, I stepped away. I walked across the street, and looked back. The clamoring knot of media types made it look like something exciting was going on. That was a shot that might make it onto TV news, if there were no fires to shoot.

Then I conducted an experiment. I turned slowly around, my line of vision passing through all 360 degrees. And all around me was complete, unperturbed peace and order. Only in maybe five degrees was there disorder — and that would have decreased if I stepped a few more yards away.

Ever since then, I’ve kept in mind that perspective whenever I think about the risks of being in a troubled country or city.

So on that level, I didn’t worry about my daughters being in Israel — mostly in Tel Aviv and Jaffa, but with side trips to Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. I knew that they were probably safer there than in peaceful Thailand, what with the traffic in Bangkok (oh, I wish I hadn’t just thought of that).

Besides, I didn’t see any reports of violence anywhere in the country while they were there.

But that was just the rational level. I’m a Dad, so there was a tiny bit of irrational worry while they were there in a country surrounded by people who don’t want it to exist.

So I’m glad they’re back, especially in light of this:

At least four people were killed and five wounded in a mass shooting at an upscale market in Tel Aviv on Wednesday. CBS reported that police were saying that two suspected terrorists had been “neutralized” after the attack at Sharona market, while Haaretz reported that the suspects had been taken into custody.

God have mercy on the victims of this atrocity and their families. To them, of course, it’s little solace that most people in Israel were unharmed.

My girls, posing and mugging in Tel Aviv.

My girls, posing and mugging in Tel Aviv.

OK, it’s time to start the ‘Vision Quest’ regimen

I experienced a shock yesterday. I stepped on my bathroom scale, and it read 187.0.

Yeah, I was fully dressed, including a sport coat, wallet, keys, iPhone and very heavy shoes. But still. Almost 190 pounds? I’ve never come close to that before, and I’ve been weighed at doctor’s offices while similarly burdened many times.

That weight will seem like nothing to you if you’re built for it — saying if you’re a tall, big-boned guy like Doug.

But I’m not. Look at me. I’m a skinny guy. I’ve always been a skinny guy.

This is unfair. I did not earn these additional pounds, most of which are gathered around my middle, making it very difficult for me to perform such everyday tasks as, say, wearing pants.

I put on about 10 of them when I took two courses of prednisone trying to get rid of poison ivy earlier in the spring. Then, for the first time in years (and I suspect there’s a connection here), I started having trouble with my asthma. I’ve had to switch medications, and haven’t fully stabilized yet — which means I haven’t been working out.

If the added weight IS contributing to my breathing trouble, that’s a vicious cycle. I really need the exercise to drop the pounds; changing diet alone won’t do it.

Shute, the undefeated state champ at 168.

Shute, the undefeated state champ at 168.

But I’ve been doing better with my breathing the last couple of days, and so it may be time to begin the push toward a normal weight. Full paleo, of course, and at least 40 minutes a day on the elliptical — that should do it.

The goal, as always with me, will be to get under 168 so I can wrestle Shute, should the opportunity arise. “Vision Quest” speaks to me, as a former (undistinguished) high school wrestler.

If you see someone sprinting across the Gervais Street bridge in a rubber suit with Red Ryder’s “Lunatic Fringe” playing in the background, that will be me. (Actually, I think it was John Waite’s “Change” in that scene — see 1:22 on the clip — but people remember the other song better, so…)

1-lAHHlTuhDZVm5fhGhvmCYg

So THAT’S where my platelets went

platelets

I thought this was kind of cool.

The Red Cross sent me an email telling me where my last platelets donation went. I mean, I guess they can’t tell me who got it on account of HIPAA and all, but at least I know where.

Which reminds me. I’d better go eat a big lunch because I’m scheduled to give today, at 5:15. I was supposed to give last Wednesday, but they were backed up that day, so I rescheduled.

I’d better go do my RapidPass — it’s another innovation that saves time after I get to the Red Cross on Bull St. I can answer all those embarrassing questions online. Which is less fun than answering a real person — you can’t ask, “What was that date again?” when they ask whether you’ve accepted money for sex since 1977 — but probably more efficient…

money for sex

Once more, I manage to pass as an earthling…

Just got a call from my internist’s office. After my annual physical in January, he said he wanted me to come back in a few weeks and get blood drawn again. I forget why. Last year he did the same, and then it had something to do with creatinine. I think it was that again.

So I went and had it drawn last week.

Moments ago, someone called to say my blood was “normal.” That was the extent of the information provided.

So there. You’ll have to take back all those things you were thinking about me…

14_1

Hey, you know what ELSE affects how much sleep I get?

sleep

Yeah, I know, I know; I should have fixed this on my phone the last time it happened and I complained about it.

But I forgot. Now that I’ve had this fresh incident, I’ve fixed it. I don’t think it will happen again.

Anyway, I’m kind of a zombie today. I woke up twice during the night because of the poison ivy that is aggressively trying to take over my left leg (I’m going to see my allergist this afternoon to talk over strategies for combating it — boots on the ground will not be off the table, far as I’m concerned).

Then this, at 5:52 a.m. What with all the itching, I never dozed back off for any of the precious hour and 23 minutes left until my alarm went off.

Yeah, I shoulda taken care of this sooner. At the same time, I do want to complain on behalf of people who don’t know how to turn off such notifications.

The category of things that I want news sources to wake me up for is very, very narrow. “Tornado bearing down on YOUR house, specifically!” is pretty much it.

The last thing I need to be awakened for is advice on how to get more sleep…

As if a DST Monday weren’t bad enough

As y’all know, I hate Daylight Savings Time. Hate it.

And the demonic DST gods know that I hate it, and they take it out on me. For instance, in recent years, it has started at randomly chosen, earlier and earlier dates. This enables them to do things like this to me:

On Sunday, my wife, who is from Memphis, flew there to visit her brothers and their families. I needed to get her to the airport by 6 a.m. Which I am more than happy to do. But the DST demons saw that, and immediately decided that would be the night when we lost an hour — because that’s the one weekend I would feel it the most.

Fine. No problem. I can take it as well as dish it out. I went back home from the airport and, after tossing and turning for about an hour and a half, went back to sleep and slept past 11:30. (We had gone to Mass the evening before; it’s not like I was going all heathen or anything.)

Then this morning, at 5:28 a.m. — which in a rational universe (a universe in which everyone understands that noon is at the height of the sun) is actually 4:28 a.m. — my phone goes “DING!” So I pick it up, expecting to be told something important, and I get this:

DST

Really? You had to wake me up to make sure I knew I could have another cup of coffee if I wanted it?

Yeah, I know — I could turn off the notifications for that particular news app. But I turn them on so that I can get timely notification of actual news events. Not so that I can be waked up and told stuff that could most definitely wait until later!

As it happens, I already knew that it was OK to have that second or third cup of coffee. And thanks to this, I needed it today…