Monday, December 19, 2011

Post retirement plans

Lots of folks ask me what I plan to do when I retire (less than five months away...)

One thing I might do, based on my many years of teaching writing classes, marking up student writing (and evaluating portfolios) at Winthrop, is to teach/lead "Correct Usage of Comma" workshops.

Winthrop students, by and large, have only the vaguest understanding of when to use and when not to use commas. Many of them, for example, still do not have one iota of understanding of what constitutes a "comma splice" or run-on sentence.

I will of course come up with a sexier name for my workshops.

But this is my thinking at this point.

I have only a few spaces left, so if you're interested in my "Correct Usage of Comma" workshops, get in touch with me.

My fee is yet to be determined, but it will be commensurate with instruction received and results/improvement achieved (on a pre-workshop and post-workshop test of comma usage.) Ability/resources to pay will also be taken into account.

Quick test of your comma knowledge:

Which one of the following is correct punctuation usage? (Got this little teaser challenge from my friend Judy Longshaw.)

A. Eat up, grandmother.

B. Eat up grandmother.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Sign says it all

Knowing I have a soft spot in my heart for dogs, Leah Walker, a student in one of my Media Writing classes, sent me this little sign.

I love it!

Thanks, Leah.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Special day at the Winthrop Stonehouse

What if they gave you a retirement reception and you couldn't make it?

Happened to me last Saturday.

But thanks to good friend Jamie Low, who captured it on video, I still could enjoy it.

I appreciated all the kind words from colleagues and students.

Thanks again, Jamie, for the video clips!

(Double click on the center of the video to fill up your entire computer screen; gives you a better view.)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Human brains decaying?

If you're like me, you're "wired" for many of your waking hours.

You check your email every now and then (way too often) via your iPad, iPod, cell phone or laptop.

You Facebook or blog or Tweet (again, probably way too often.)

I say "too often" because all this time indoors or outdoors on our electronic toys takes away from time we could spend exercising, walking our dogs or enjoying fresh air and sunlight.

All the time we're online also tends to make us overly sedentary and socially isolated.

Yes, notwithstanding Facebook and email, the Internet, TV and other manifestations of "synthetic entertainment" are affecting us badly.

All this is according to Dr. Andrew Weil, M.D., who wrote in the Nov. 7 & 14, 2011, edition of Newsweek that our fascination with the Internet runs counter to what we were made for--that being for most of human history we thrived in natural environments and bonded with one another (in person) as hunter-gatherers. We once lived close to nature, and that kept our brains and nervous systems in good working order, according to Weil. Such an approach to life also gave us spiritual sustenance.

Not today with all the time and energy we spend on the Internet.

As a result, even with all our resources (our computers, our electronic savvy, our money, our cushiony in-door enviroments), we're less healthy, and many of us are becoming OUTRIGHT DEPRESSED.

Weil calls it a "disease of affluence."

Here's what he writes in that Newsweek article: (That's his mugshot, by the way, with this blog post.)

"People who live in poorer countries have a lower risk of depression than those in industrialized nations. In general, countries with lifestyles that are furthest removed from modern standards have the lowest rates of depression.

"Within the U.S., the rate of depression of members of the Old Order Amish--a religious sect that shuns modernity in favor of lifestyles roughly emulating those of rural Americans a century ago--is as low as one 10th that of other Americans.

"...Putting this together, there seems to be something about modern life that creates fertile soil for depression."

Our reduced physical activity and limited real or actual human contact (as well as our disconnection from nature and sunlight and the outdoors) is something we were never wired for, according to Weil.

So what can we do today to avoid sinking into depression or social detachment?

Here are a few ideas:

1. Live in the present. Staying mindful is how we used to live. We didn't worry about the future or stress about the past because we were focused on survival (the here and now) and that's what our brains are used to.

2. Be conscious of your sleep cycle. Humans were made to sleep when it's dark and be awake when it's light. Strive to sleep in complete darkness (get some dark curtains!) and go outside (or be near windows) during the day to catch the natural light.

3. Interact socially (in person, not just online). Humans, like most animals, crave social interaction and it's crucial to make interacting with others a priority for your happiness.

4. Cultivate silence. Many of the noises in today's world disturb and startle us, which is why it's a good idea to surround our selves with silence (or at least sounds of nature) whenever we can.

5. Limit time spent with computers and other technology. (Yes, give up your iPhone, iPad or iPod--at least for a few hours every day.) Go outside and play, I used to tell my kids. (Now I should take my own words to heart!)

We needn't convert to the Amish, but we can learn quite a bit from their lifestyles!

(Here, by the way, is a video interview with Dr. Andrew Weil):

Friday, November 4, 2011

SPJ at WU--2011-2012

Events/activities for 2011-12:

Thurs., Nov. 3, 2011: Dinner and networking session with Charlotte pro chapter of SPJ. Met at Sir Edmund Halley's Tavern in Charlotte. Featured speaker: Charlotte Observer columnist Tommy Tomlinson. Guy Reel and I were there, along with WU students Hannah Schwartz, Amie Detar, Connor de Bruler, Claire Byun and Sarah Aulin.

Thurs., Feb. 2, 2012: Dinner and networking/Q&A session with Mark Kemp, editor-in-chief of Charlotte Creative Loafing Magazine. Met with Kemp and the Charlotte pro chapter of SPJ at Sir Edmund Halley's Tavern in Charlotte.

Thurs., April 19, 2012: Reception and recognition/awards (at Winthrop University) for the top four area high school essayists in the SPJ-sponsored writing competition on freedom of the press. This year our chapter received 31 essays. Students from the following schools entered our essay competition: North Myrtle Beach High School, Gaffney High School, Homeschool, Northwest Academy, Heritage High School, Lexington High School, Brookland-Cayce High School, Porter-Gaud School, Pinewood Preparatory School, Wando High School, and Westminster Catawba Christian School.

The winning essays (as determined by the student president of the Winthrop SPJ chapter and by a Winthrop mass communication professor and a journalism professor emeritus) were:

First Place, Mary Alexander Barron, Westminster Catawba Christian School
Second Place, Chien-Hsiang Huang, Lexington High School
Third Place, Amy Duvall, Gaffney High School
Honorable Mention, MaryAnn Mills, Westminster Catawba Christian School

All of the students who entered the contest, as well as their teachers, parents and other family members, were invited to the reception. The first, second, third place, and honorable mention winners read their essays to us. An audience was on hand to hear their work. Certificates and prizes (from the Winthrop Bookstore and from the Winthrop Department of Mass Communication) were presented to our top four winners.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Cool mountain ride

The full majesty of what I saw and felt Sunday afternoon driving back to South Carolina from East Tennessee and through the N.C. mountains can't really be captured on video or in pictures.

I can still see those magnificent autumn colors and feel the crisp mountain air. The images are from Highway 181 between Jonas Ridge, N.C., and Morganton, N.C.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Nude photograph by Winthrop professor gets acclaim

Mark Hamilton, a Winthrop University associate professor (and colleague of mine) recently made the news for having one of his photographs selected for inclusion in a prestigious national exhibit in Oregon.

A brief news blurb (about Mark and his photograph) appeared a few days ago in Rock Hill's daily newspaper, The Herald. It's interesting that The Herald would not publish the actual photo, explaining to readers that the picture featured "adult content."

It will be interesting to see how the Winthrop University public relations machine publicizes Mark's recent photography recognition.

I've always wondered who makes the call at Winthrop on such potentially earthshaking decisions?

Is it a committee of Ph.Ds? (Dreadful thought to imagine such!!)

Is it a nameless and faceless censorship guru of some sort?

Incidentally, I blogged on Feb. 17, 2009, about Mark Hamilton and one of his photographs. At the time, Winthrop took the position that it would post a news release about Mark's photo achievement but would NOT run or publish or publicize the actual photograph in question. (The old blogster went ahead and posted it on his blog anyway.)

Will our hyper-image sensitive "Live, Learn and Lead" Winthrop publish or distribute Mark's photo this time?

(Mark Hamilton's mugshot appears with this blog post by the way.) You can access his photo that I blogged about in Feb. 2009 by clicking here.)

And, in case you missed it, here's that recent story in The Herald:

Winthrop teacher's nude photograph in Ore. Exhibit

From staff reports - The (Rock Hill) Herald, Oct. 15, 2011
ROCK HILL -- A photograph taken by a Winthrop University professor has been selected for a national exhibit.

Mark Hamilton, an associate professor of fine arts, is one of 20 photographers to be included in the Re:Nude Exhibition: The 21st Century Nude in Photography exhibition at Black Box Gallery in Portland, Ore.

He produced the image this summer as a result of a Faculty Research Grant for a series of images in a project titled "Yearning."

Photographers were asked to show "a body in question, in transition, peril."

The juror for the exhibition is T.J. Norris, a multidisciplinary artist, independent curator and writer living in the Northwest. He has curated original exhibitions for the Smithsonian, among others; studied with international photographers and had his work included in public and private collections; and written for art magazines.

Hamilton joined Winthrop full time in 1999 and in addition to teaching, works on fine arts projects, collaborative projects with photographer Jennifer Hamilton and commercial projects for select clientele.

Earlier this year, his "Introspection" photograph won one of the Renaissance Photography prizes in London and was also on display at the Center for Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins, Colo.

Note: Hamilton's photograph includes adult content and cannot be featured at

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Dirt track field trip for Winthrop class...

Winthrop students accompanied yours truly to a dirt track last Friday night just outside of Gastonia, N.C.

It was a memorable, fun, ear-blasting evening.

Hope you enjoy my slideshow:

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs was one lucky human being

He found what he loved in life and stuck with it--even when he got fired and had to start over.

And starting over--freshly anew--when someone has pulled the rug out from under your feet can be a good thing.

It can actually be liberating and give you a chance to spread your wings like you've never done before.

Steve Jobs exhorted us to "stay hungry and foolish."

Don't know what that means?

The man who co-founded Apple, and who died yesterday at age 56, put it well in his commencement address to the graduates of Stanford University in 2005.

Here's what he told those graduates:

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Would Nikki Haley have been elected if she were heavy?

Can a fat woman get elected to high public office in America today?

Not likely, if Ruth Marcus is right.

Marcus wrote a column--published in today's Charlotte Observer (and copied below)--that says obese women don't cut it in American politics.

If the obese but very popular and well respected N.J. Gov. Chris Christie were a woman, he wouldn't be where he is today, let alone be mentioned as a potential candidate for the presidency of the U.S.

That's again according to Ruth Marcus' take on women and men running for office in the U.S.

She's probably right.

Consider, for example, the attractiveness of South Carolina's female governor--Nikki Haley. She's for sure nothing to sneeze at. Some would call her a head-turner.

Nor is Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann lacking in the looks department. (The woman is an idiot but quite fetching physically.)

Even Hillary (I stood by my man even though he was a dog in heat) Clinton is a catch. I've always thought her husband Bill must have been brainless in pursuing Monica L.

Sarah Palin?

Well, okay, she doesn't read newspapers but she's Alaska cute. That's an indisputable fact.

So why is it that Americans have such a low opinion of fat women vis-a-vis fat men?

You tell me.

Meanwhile, here's Marcus' column:

Obese female pols seeking presidency? Forget it

Ruth Marcus
National Columnist
Posted: Wednesday, Oct. 05, 201

WASHINGTON On the subject of Chris Christie's weight: if he were a woman, we wouldn't be talking about it.

You might think that's because it would be too dangerous to go there, mentioning a female politician's weight. No, although that's true too.

Rather, we wouldn't be having this discussion because corpulent Christine Christie, if you can imagine her, probably wouldn't have been elected governor of New Jersey in the first place. Party leaders and wealthy donors certainly wouldn't be beseeching her to run for president.

Appearance matters in politics, for male and female candidates. But it is an inescapable fact of political life that for female candidates, appearance matters more. Successful female politicians needn't be model-thin, but cringe-at-the-thought-of-sitting-next-to-them-on-an-airplane levels of obesity are rare among women in politics. In a potential presidential candidate, being as heavy as Christie would be unthinkable for a woman.

It is no accident - although bad political manners to mention it - that the two most prominent women in the Republican Party today, Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann, are trim and attractive.

Christie's weight is no doubt unwanted political baggage. After all, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee lost more than 100 pounds before his presidential race. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, when he was, sorry, weighing a presidential campaign, joked that people would know he was running if he lost 40 pounds.

But those examples also demonstrate a certain comfort level among male politicians with their extra poundage. There is an Everyman aspect to a pudgy male pol. He can lament his weight without being humiliated by it.

Christie's obesity offers a regular-guy contrast to Mitt Romney's chiseled chin and perfect hair. "I weigh too much because I eat too much," he confessed after being treated for an asthma attack this summer. "And I eat some bad things too." Who can't identify with that?

Realities of gender politics

It is hard to imagine a female politician talking about her weight with that degree of equanimity. When Vogue interviewed Kirsten Gillibrand after the New York senator lost weight, she initially demurred about saying exactly how much. "Can I tell you off the record?" she asked the Vogue writer, before eventually allowing that she had dropped 40 pounds.

Gillibrand's Missouri colleague, Sen. Claire McCaskill, bravely took to Twitter to embarrass herself into losing weight. "I'm tired of looking and feeling fat," she tweeted in May. "Maybe talking about it publicly will keep me on track as I try to be more disciplined."

And then-Sen. Hillary Clinton, at a forum on faith during the 2008 presidential campaign, told how she sometimes sought divine intervention. "Sometimes I say, 'Oh Lord, why can't you help me lose weight?'" Clinton confided.

None of these women are close to Christie-esque proportions.

Sure, Christie's weight would have been a topic if he had run. If he were a woman, though, it would have been the end of the discussion. That's not a complaint, just a simple observation of reality when it comes to gender politics.

Ruth Marcus is a columnist for the Washington Post Writers Group. Reach her at

Monday, October 3, 2011

S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley visits our campus

Nikki Haley, the governor of South Carolina--and maybe its best looking governor ever--is quick on her feet, handles herself well in a town hall meeting and seems to really like being chief executive of the Palmetto State.

Even if our state is reeling from 11 percent unemployment and seems--if you take all the headlines seriously--to be perilously close to staying mired in a recession.

The message from Gov. Haley tonight at Winthrop, where she spoke to and fielded questions from about 250 students, faculty, staff and others, was that yes, South Carolina has been through hard times, but things are getting better.

Since January 2011, she said her administration has had the pleasure and honor of announcing 13,000 new jobs in South Carolina.

And $2.6 billion has been invested in South Carolina by companies since that same month, she said.

"So things are looking good," the 39-year-old governor with shoulder-length dark hair reassured the Winthrop audience.

She pledged that her administration's number one priority is "Jobs, jobs, jobs!"

Haley, born in Bamberg, S.C., seemed unfazed by some of the criticism and sarcasm she's heard about her recent directive that S.C. state government employees answer their office phone with: "It's a great day in South Carolina. How may I help you?"

That because she said it IS a great day in our state, and those same employees are only reminding folks (and themselves) that they work for the taxpayers of South Carolina.

She said her directive is meant as a means to help change the culture of state government.

Several folks asked Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants, about what state government's role should be in funding the arts in South Carolina. Haley responded that while she and her family love the arts and theatre and such, her priority right now is getting jobs for South Carolineans. The arts community in our state should lean on the business community for financial support, just like other charities and nonprofits do.

For retirees in the audience--or soon-to-be state government retirees--she offered a bit of a damper, saying that a S.C. state employee wanting full retirement benefits will soon have to work 30 years instead of the current 28 years of required service. (Ouch, this old blogger will get his 28 years of state government service in, effective May 15, 2012, when he plans to start living the more relaxed life of a retiree.) "We have to do this. We have to bite the bullet for the good of state employees," Haley said.

But please don't make that 30-year mark apply to yours truly! 28 years is long enough for me!

Overall, I think Haley did a commendable job handling herself and those who shot questions at her tonight. She's at ease and confident and seems sincere about devoting a lot of her energy to getting more jobs for South Carolineans.

She wasn't on time--taking the stage at the DiGiorgio Student Center about 25 minutes AFTER she had been advertised to start. But when she did speak, she was poised, smoothe and intent on winning over her audience with her message of jobs and optimism for the future of our state.

Our state's first female governor ever reminded us that just because someone is a politician doesn't make him or her a bad person, although "you do have to hold legislators' hands to the fire...It's a tough job they have in Columbia, but when they do something good, we should praise them."

The graduate of Clemson University and the youngest current governor of any state in the U.S. spoke and answered questions for about 45 minutes. I managed to get fairly close to her with my camcorder. Here are a few frames of video from immediately after she spoke tonight.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A dog and a guy

Who can understand the love and affection between a dog and a man?

The dog makes messes, chews up furniture and barks crazily and annoyingly during thunderstorms.

The dog is never satisfied. He always wants to romp and run and chase and play. With a herding instinct bred into him, he's never met or seen a moving vehicle that he doesn't like to pursue.

His owner, the man, tires easily in this, his 63rd year of life. His heart is out of rhythm and he breathes laboriously when he has to run after the dog and coax him back to safety.

And yet, the connection between the man and his sheltie dog--Little Joe--remains tight. The dog seems to live to be petted. His tail wags happily and his big slobbery tongue flops about freely when life is good.

Little Joe and me.

Me and Little Joe.

Who can understand or make sense of it?

(Photo courtesy of Jonathan McFadden, senior mass communication major at Winthrop University)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Another Monday night

What defines America?

Is it some politician or leader in Washington, D.C.?

Is it the Declaration of Independence or the U.S. Constitution?

Is it our country's great cities or even it's remote hamlets?

Is it our language or buildings or monuments or food?

Our stunningly beautiful national parks, blue, teeming-with-life, come-play-in-me and rollick-on-my-sandy-beaches oceans? Our towering snow-capped, majestic mountains?

Well, maybe it's a combination of all these things, but it's also something that happens at night once a week throughout the fall and winter.

We call it "Monday Night Football" and it's unique, I believe, to the USA.

Its anthem is sung with gusto by Hank Williams Jr. If you're an American, you've tuned in many times. Hank's song says it all. And his pulsating rendition has transformed Monday evening in America into a night of energy, excitement and entertainment.

I love Monday Night Football.

Sing it, Hank!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Made in America (or NOT?)

ABC News has been covering the deal that hundreds of colleges and universities in the USA have made with a catalog company that has very, very few items that are made in America. (Hundreds of thousands of college students shop from this catalog and are unknowingly damaging our already-hemorraging economy.)

Likewise, the ABC news coverage has touched on the number of items in college bookstores that are NOT made in America.

This might make a very good and interesting story for The Johnsonian, our campus newspaper, to localize to Winthrop.

Has Winthrop cut such a deal with this same catalog company?

Also, what's the status of goods that are for sale at our university's bookstore?

I took a casual stroll through there yesterday and saw some apparel that was "Made in Honduras."

Reason this is an important story is that hundreds of thousands of American jobs could be saved or restored if USA colleges and universities were more "Made in America" conscious.

Winthrop talks over and over about being globally conscious.

All well and fine, folks, but let's not forget to buy American whenever it's possible.

Here's the ABC News video (worth watching for sure):

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Yours truly 60 years ago...

Oh how the years slip by so quickly.

Here I am (in photo accompanying this blog post) in 1951.

I'm with my first cousin, Marcella Rowe.

Can you see the resemblance between then and now?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

This blog's for Little Joe...

I have a sheltie. His name is Little Joe. And he's 34 pounds of love, playfulness and rambunctiousness. He's my best friend and partner.

And wow, can he ever run!!

He relishes a wide open space to go at full speed--like a furry bullet.

When I saw this video, I thought of Little Joe; the video (of another sheltie) captures his spirit.

10-year anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001

I meant to blog about this last week, after students and I played these tapes (of conversations between those on board the hijacked jets on Sept. 11, 2001, and persons in air traffic control).

Turn up your sound and click here for powerful, unforgettable reminders of the chaos and drama of that fateful day 10 years ago.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Student shares this song with me

I was working in the Mac lab today next to a student (Kendria Houseworth) who was listening to this beautiful song by Kenny G

Really soothing.

Turn up your sound and have a listen:

QR codes back in the news

I blogged about QR codes back on April 29, 2011.

Knew they were here to say and we'd be confronting more and more of them.

Now comes this news, from the S.C. Press Associaton eBulletin, about who really scans those codes:

"A demographic analysis of those who scanned a QR code with their mobile phone in June revealed an audience that was more likely to be male, young to middle-age and upper income. More than half of all QR code scanners were between the ages of 18-34. Those between the age of 25-34 were twice as likely as the average mobile user to engage in this behavior, while 18-24 year olds were 36% more likely than average to scan. More than 1 of every 3 QR code scanners had a household income of at least $100,000, representing both the largest and most over-represented income segment among the scanning audience. The most popular source of a scanned QR code was a printed magazine or newspaper, with nearly half scanning QR codes from this source. Product packaging was the source of QR code scanning for 35.3% of the audience, while 27.4% scanned a code from a website on a PC and 23.5% scanned codes from a poster/flyer/kiosk."

Don't know anything about QR codes? (That's a QR code that accompanies this blog post.)

Best you Google them now and get in the loop if you're serious about digital communication.

I continue to wish I had a "smart phone" so I could start scanning them.

Maybe soon.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Aretha Franklin can brighten up any Monday

Who can sing any better?

She has a voice from heaven.

Take it away, Aretha!

Here she is with one of my all-time favorite songs:

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Days left in our M/W MCOM 333 (Fall 2011) course

Days left in our M/W MCOM 241(Fall 2011) course

Days left in our T/R MCOM 241 (Fall 2011) course

Let the countdown begin...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Convocation keynote speaker writeup is puzzling

I marched in our university's annual Convocation ceremony yesterday.

Lots of pomp and circumstance and high praise for all the good, positive things that have happened at Winthrop University over the past 125 years. Faculty strutted like proud (colorful) peacocks into and out of historic Byrnes Auditorium.

However, in the "Convocation 2011" printed program that accompanied this yearly ritual I noticed this puzzling sentence about the keynote speaker:

"He was honored by the university as the 2008 Outstanding Young Alumni" for his dedication to the campus and his community."

Question: How could he be more than one person?

Get it?

Another topic: I'm glad that "Freedom of Speech" is part of Winthrop University's "Dedication For Excellence"--read verbatim and with spirit by hundreds of people at Convocation yesterday.

"I will recognize," thousands of us in the audience intoned aloud, "that I can exercise the full range of my freedom of speech and will respect the rights of others to express themselves as guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States."

Valuable, lofty thing this ideal we call "Freedom of Speech" at Winthrop University.

So fragile in some respects, but nevertheless enduring and monumentally important.

Because if we don't have and don't genuinely practice freedom of speech, then what's the point of any of us being here?

Farewell to Nick Ashford

Legendary Motown songwriter Nick Ashford died yesterday at the age of 70.

Kick back and enjoy "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," one of my Nick Ashford favorites, by clicking here.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Beautiful family pictures--from the Midwest

I forget that I have the most beautiful family in the world. Some of them are pictured here at a recent weekend visit to the zoo in St. Louis, Mo.

In one photo is granddaughter Lucy and daughter Elizabeth.

In the other photo are, from left, son-in-law Patrick, Lucy, daughter Dorothy and granddaughter Clare.

Love and hugs to you all!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Intriguing animal story (and photos)

Larry Walsh, my first cousin, emailed me the photos of these wayward juvenile Sitka black-tailed deer.

Seems the deer swam directly toward Tom Satre's 62-foot charter vessel in the icy waters of Stephen's Passage, Alaska.

Once the deer reached the boat they began to circle, looking directly at the humans on board. Clearly, the bucks were distressed. With help from those on board the vessel, the typically skittish wild animals came willingly into the boat.

The deer then collapsed with exhaustion, shivering.

All four deer were transported to Taku Harbour. Once the group reached the dock, the first buck that had been pulled from the water hopped onto the dock, looked back,then jumped into the harbour, swam to shore and disappeared into the forest.

After a bit of prodding and assistance from the humans, two others followed suit...but one straggler needed more help. (He's the one being moved in the wheelbarrow.)

Folks at the scene did not know how long the deer had been in the icy waters or if there had been others who did not survive.

The good Samaritan humans describe their experience as 'one of those defining moments in life.'

Bet the deer, if they could talk, would agree.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Escaping life's ruts

Tommy Tomlinson, a columnist/story teller for the Charlotte Observer, recently wrote that too many of us find ourselves in ruts that tend to keep our lives on hold or kill our spirit.

Maybe part of our ruts are rooted in comfort zones (those places that we settle into and don't want to leave lest someone drags us out kicking and screaming.)

Are you in a comfort zone rut?

Here are Tomlinson's thoughts:

"Some days inertia feels like the most powerful force in the world, stronger than gravity or anger or love.

"How many of our problems would vanish if we just quit doing the same stupid things we do every day? Or started doing the things we keep putting off?

"I read "The Family Circus" every morning on the comics page. A lot of people love "The Family Circus" - we find that out at the paper every time we try to get rid of it. In all the years I've read it, I don't think it's ever given me an honest laugh. But it just takes three seconds. Maybe this time Jeffy will be funny. OK, maybe next time.

"Routines become habits, and habits become ruts that run so deep it's hard to see out. When inertia kicks in, your mind clicks over to autopilot. You could live your life blindfolded. You know exactly where to go.

"That's why one of the best ways to get out of a funk is to change your routine. It can be as simple as driving a different route to work, or turning left instead of right on your morning walk, or sitting on the couch instead of in the easy chair. Those little changes alert your brain that something new is going on. It makes you more aware. You see the world instead of just passing through."

Thank you, Tommy Tomlinson.

Now to dedicate myself to breaking out of my funk.

Some will kick and scream when I do that, but so be it.

A funky, rutty life is not what we were put here to live.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Plant-based diet newest twist in my lifestyle

I'm trying to enjoy life (well at least, to live life) on a plant-based diet. I watched this video of Bill Clinton and figured I had nothing to lose and potentially a longer life to gain.

What's a plant-based diet? Well, for starters, you eat absolutely no meat and no dairy products (no cheese or milk). What you do eat is lots of fruits and vegetables and nuts and certain kinds of bread--rye bread for example.

Giving this plant-based eating a try--not just to lose weight but to rid my body of toxins, chief among them cholesterol.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Playful pups

Here are two very playful (to say the least) dogs. They can't get enough of each other:

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Does your church have "it"?

Mike Lowery, pastor of Impact Community Church in Rock Hill, had a stirring message last Sunday.

Mike, who says the church ought to be in the business of serving and trying to get closer to God, noted that some houses of worship have all the makings or trappings of what they should be about--saving souls for eternity--but they fall short because they don't have "it".

You might wonder what "it" is.

It's tough to define this elusive, increasingly rare characteristic of churches. But we know, according to Lowery, that some churches have "it," and others don't.

The seven qualities of "it," he says, are:

•Vision. Churches with "it" know that their vision comes from God, not from man.

•Divine focus. A church with "it" does not try to do a million things. It only tries to accomplish a few things and ends up doing these very well.

•Unmistakable comraderie. Churches with "it" enjoy togetherness or connectedness with other churches or even with folks outside their congregations.

•Innovative minds. An "it" church is a creative church.

•Willingness to fall short. A church with "it" isn't afraid to make mistakes. It fails forward and learns from its errors.

•Focused outward instead of inward. (Nuff said!)

•Kingdom mindedness. In a a church with "it," it's not what the church can do for me; instead it's what can I do for my church?

Does your church or place of worship have "it"? Or is it "itless"?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Graduation at Winthrop University

Yes, I know May 8, 2011, was just another in countless graduations I've marched in or attended or otherwise participated in during my lifetime.

But graduation at Winthrop University is truly a special day.

Turn up your sound and click here to get a bit of the ambience and magic of the place where I'm honored to work.

(Thanks to Judy Longshaw for sending me this video.)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Hats off to Marshal Dillon

His name was James Arness, but most of us baby boomers (and our parents) knew him as the larger-than-life Marshal Matt Dillon of the long-running TV western "Gunsmoke."

The 6-foot-7 inch Arness died a few days ago at the age of 88, but his legacy of no nonsense toughness will last for many years. Scan the channels and you'll probably find a re-run of "Gunsmoke."

The show had a strong following for 20 years (an eternity on TV), finally signing off in 1975.

Who can ever forget the towering Marshal Dillon? The marshal, with his trusted sidekick and stiff-legged deputy Chester Goode (played by Dennis Weaver), maintained peace and order in wild, wicked Dodge City, Kan. Other regulars on the show were Miss Kitty Russell (played by Amanda Blake), who managed the Long Branch Saloon (where the marshal hung out and sipped cool ones), and spunky, wise old Doc Adams (Milburn Stone).

In recent years, Marshal Dillon and Miss Kitty were memorialized in Toby Keith's hit song "I Should've Been A Cowboy."

Here are a few lyrics from that blockbuster tune:

I bet you've never heard ole Marshall Dillion say
Miss Kitty have you ever thought of running away
Settling down will you marry me
If I asked you twice and begged you pretty please
She'd of said Yes in a New York minute
They never tied the knot
His heart wasn't in it
Stole a kiss as he road away
He never hung his hat up at Kitty's place

Want to hear the song and re-live a bit of Marshal Dillon lore?

Turn your sound up and click here.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Playmates/best friends

Kelli, my neighbor, shot these two videos of my beloved pup Jackson, romping about with her dog Kaci.

Jackson and Kaci have become best friends over the last few weeks.

If only people could get along as well!

Click here for video number one.

And click here for the second video.

Thanks for this footage, Kelli.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Carolina Girls

Here are three out of my four favorite Carolina Girls. From left: Lucy, Dorothy and Clare. (two granddaughters and daughter) Absent from picture, but also a favorite: youngest daughter Elizabeth

You go, Carolina Girls!

And click here to hear the song!

Friday, April 29, 2011

QR Codes coming to us quickly

Look closely at the images accompanying this blog post. These are known as QR (Quick Response) Codes.

Soon, very soon, we're going to be seeing these in lots of ads or in printed text. If you have a smart phone, for example, and your smart phone has the correct scanning software, you can scan a QR code with your phone; then you'll be taken to more information--more text, a website, picture or video.

Read all about QR Codes at this link.

For now, know what they are and get ready for them to become a part of your everyday life in 2011 and beyond.

QR Codes--already big and burgeoning in Asia, but still sort of a curiosity in the U.S. Look for them on business cards, signs, magazines, newspapers, buses--any place where you might need more information. (And we'll inevitably soon begin noticing them on t-shirts.)

Definitely something to keep your eyes on...

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Tighten your writing

The rules about writing say that less is more.

Make it terse.

Keep it simple, stupid.

Omit needless words.

Tighten your writing!

That's what a student of mine, along with yours truly, did today in my Feature Writing course. We took an 822-word published story and, using our editing scalpels (our brains), reduced it by about 50 words. And we did this without loss or distortion of meaning.

Puts me in mind of that great 1968 funk song "Tighten Up" by Archie Bell and the Drells.

Turn your sound up and click here to have a listen.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Anna Douglas and her staff shine brightly

Congratulations to Johnsonian editor-in-chief Anna Douglas.

Anna, who will receive her degree from Winthrop in a few weeks, was honored Friday by the S.C. Press Association as the "S.C. Collegiate Journalist of the Year."

She and others on her staff appear in the picture with this blog post.

From left: Tiffany Barkley, Anna Douglas, Jonathan McFadden, Connor De Bruler, Paul Ricciardi, David Thackham, Joseph Henderson, Devang Joshi and Amanda Phipps.

Kneeling, from left: Jessica Pickens and Claire Byun.

(Photo by Judy Longshaw of University Relations)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Quote of the week

It comes from NASCAR's favorite driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., who, upon finishing a close second a few days ago in a race at Martinsville, Va., wiped the sweat and tears from his eyes and said this:

I ain't won in a long time. I was thinking at the end I was meant to win the damn race.

Ain't it just a shame, Dale Junior. (That's Junior pictured with this blog post.)

I used to think "Ain't" was not a word, but guess what? Google defines it this way:

Ain't is a colloquialism and a contraction originally used for "am not", but also used for "is not", "are not", "has not", or "have not" in the common vernacular. In some dialects it is also used as a contraction of "do not", "does not", and "did not" (e.g. I ain't know that). ...

Friday, April 1, 2011

Tennessee man is "flush" with court victory

What's that old saying about one person's trash is another's treasure?

Case in point is William Terry of Oak Ridge, Tenn. (That's a photo of Terry with this blog post.)

Seems Terry wanted to grow flowers in an old commode that he had in his front yard. The city powerstructure cited him as violating an ordinance prohibiting from displaying such on his property.

Terry, however, insisted he had a right to grow daffodils in the old commode. He took the city to task (meaning to court.)

Guess who still has an old commode, with flowers growing out of it, in his yard?

Read about it in the following story, posted on and sent to me a few minutes ago by friend Jamie Low. (Thanks, Jamie!)

City's citation about potty planter tanks

Judge rules Oak Ridge man may keep using bowl for blooms

By Bob Fowler
Posted March 31, 2011 at 11:43 p.m.
EmailDiscussShare »PrintAAA

OAK RIDGE - William Terry won this bowl contest.

Oak Ridge's municipal judge Thursday dismissed the city's citation against Terry for putting an old toilet bowl in his front yard and using it as a planter.

The city said the commode is rubbish and violated the city's property maintenance code.

Terry argued that it's a flower potty and a good way to recycle something that would otherwise have wound up in a landfill.

City Judge Robert A. McNees III on Thursday ruled the city code definition of rubbish "is so broad it could apply to most containers and thus overbroad for the purpose of including Mr. Terry's commode.''

According to the judge's four-page order, "a city can enact ordinances purely on aesthetic considerations but must do so in a way that its citizens can understand.''

The city's toilet bowl crackdown is part of an ongoing effort to clean up neighborhoods.

McNees' order praises that effort. "The city's actions in trying to enforce its ordinances and clean up its neighborhoods should be applauded and continued,'' the judge opined.

Terry, an Anna Road resident, was flush with victory when told of the judge's decision.

"That is so awesome,'' he said. "I think it's absolutely wonderful for flowerpots everywhere.''

Said Terry of his toilet, centered under his porch and flanked by daffodils: "It is a flowerpot. It had been recycled. Everybody knows that except for the city.''

City officials last winter sent Terry a notice that his toilet, which at that time included its broken reservoir, violated the city's property maintenance code.

"It's all an interpretation of who is right,'' city code enforcement supervisor Denny Boss said Thursday.

Terry ditched the broken reservoir but also appealed the notice, prompting the city to cite him into court.

In court last week, Terry presented pictures he had taken of unsightly planters and other eyesores he'd spotted in the city.

Terry said he was stunned by the publicity the case received.

Next up, he said, "I might get two toilets and put them beside what you could call my driveway.''

Bob Fowler, News Sentinel editor, may be reached at 865-481-3625.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Two of my favorite student editors

Had a chance the other day to be captured in a photo with two of my favorite student journalists. From left in the photo with this blog post are Anna Douglas, 2010-2011 editor-in-chief of The Johnsonian (student newspaper at Winthrop University); yours truly (the old faculty adviser for The Johnsonian); and Claire Byun, newly selected Johnsonian editor-in-chief (for 2011-12).

You rock, editors!

(Photo sent to me by Heather Andolina at Winthrop University)

Friday, March 25, 2011

iPad2 vs. regular video camera or camcorder

A colleague of mine sent me this revealing clip about the new video capability of the iPad2.

Seems a journalist shot a story using her regular camcorder.

She then covered that same story with her iPad2.

Compare the two clips.

Who knew that a tablet could be so powerful?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Sticky notes from God

My first cousin, Larry Walsh, sent me these two sticky notes. They say a lot in just a few words.

Sort of like religious haiku.

Read and remember.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Woman gives her 4-legged friend mouth-to-mouth

I'm always on the lookout for a good dog story. That being the case, a piece from the Anchorage Daily News, reprinted this morning in The Charlotte Observer, immediately gripped me.

Seems there's a woman in Alaska who may be even more of a dog lover than yours truly.

Loves her sled dog "Miller" so much that she quit the Iditarod (1,150-mile sled dog race across Alaska) to give the suddenly collapsed Miller mouth-to-mouth and mush him back to a checkpoint (through the frozen, snowy wilderness) to a veterinarian.

Bottom line: Zoya DeNure (pictured with this blog post) helped save Miller' life. She didn't complete the Iditarod, but Miller--thanks to Zoya's loving, selfless care, an IV, warm blankets and a doctor's attention--is back on his feet wagging his tail and eager once again to be a sled dog.

Zoya, you da woman!

Miller, you da canine!

(Below is the entire woman saves dog heartwarming story:)

Iditarod turns into race to save stricken dog

By Beth Bragg
Anchorage Daily News

ANCHORAGE, Alaska Reunited with the dog she had feared dead, musher Zoya DeNure said she was done with the Iditarod for a while but not done with sled dog racing.

In fact, she's planning to enter the team - minus a male named Miller - in this weekend's Chatanika 200, a mid-distance race outside Fairbanks.

"You should see them. The dogs want to run. They've been training for the Iditarod. A 200-mile race is not going to faze them," DeNure, of Gakona, Alaska, said Wednesday, the day after she scratched from the Iditarod, which started last weekend, out of concern for one of her dogs.

Miller, a male believed to be 8 years old, collapsed in harness Monday night for reasons still unclear.

DeNure couldn't find a pulse and didn't get a response when she performed mouth-to-snout resuscitation. She put the animal in her sled basket and backtracked to the previous checkpoint at Rainy Pass, her heart in her throat and tears streaming down her face.

As DeNure mushed back to Rainy Pass, her team seemed to sense her urgency.

"Our team speed was really good anyway but it felt like they knew we had to get back to Rainy Pass. They flew. They didn't even hesitate. It was like, 'Yep, Mom, we know.' They knew there was an emergency. They hurried."

Near Rainy Pass, Miller opened his eyes.

Once at the checkpoint, she carried a weak and shaking Miller inside.

"They put an IV in right away," DeNure said, and they covered the dog with blankets. For the rest of the night, Miller was weak - even after 10 hours, he was unable to walk, DeNure said.

At 6 the next morning, DeNure scratched from the race - even though, as some had reminded her, she could have dropped Miller and continued racing.

Tuesday morning, Miller was flown to Big Lake, where DeNure's husband, John Schandelmeier, waited.

"When I got him yesterday morning, he was his normal Miller self," said Schandelmeier. "The vets gave him a 100 percent clean bill of health. He's hydrated and everything's fine."

But the vets didn't advance any theories on what might have happened to Miller.

The mystery of Miller's collapse factored into DeNure's decision to quit. If the dog's problem had been diarrhea or a sore wrist or something else vets could pinpoint, dropping Miller and continuing down the trail would have been an option, she said.

"But it wasn't like that. I didn't know if he was going to make it," said DeNure, who didn't get a flight out of Rainy Pass until Wednesday, a day after Miller was flown out.

DeNure, 34, doesn't regret scratching.

"I made a good decision. I made the best decision for my dog and my dog team," she said. "I'm not going to jeopardize my dog team for a dog race. Miller's got a life, and he's going to live and be with us for a long time.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The woman who never forgets a face or a name

Ever met such a person?

I have.

Her name is Sheila Solomon.

She's cross media editor at the Chicago Tribune. (That's her picture with this blog post.)

I've gotten to know Sheila over the years as a good friend of the Department of Mass Communication at Winthrop University. She happens to be in town (in Rock Hill at Winthrop this week) in connection with the 22nd edition of Mass Communication Week at our university.

Knew her before Chicago in her capacity a few years ago as a key person in the newsroom at the Daily Press in Newport News, Va.

Once she meets you, she never forgets you.

I, on the other hand, don't have such a keen memory.

What's the old saying?

When you get old, the first three things that go are your hearing, your sight (and I can't remember the last one.)

Sheila, wish I were more like you.