Sunday, December 31, 2006

Clarifying Thoughts on Ads, Careers

More often than not, I find that when I try to be brief, I end up being unclear. It appears this was the case with the most recent post. Let me try to respond to the thoughts individually.

Teaching Is a Reward
Absolutely! I really enjoy the contact with both undergraduate and graduate students. I believe that we can make a difference in their lives. I still keep in touch with a couple of students from the first class I ever taught. This contact with students is a perk of the job.

Advertising as Noble Pursuit
Mostly, my response is, "whatever helps you sleep at night." There are a lot of positive things that I can say about advertising. I find it fascinating that people identify so strongly with brands. That is why I have spearheaded research in this area. However, fascinating does not mean noble.

Although I usually avoid the topic, I think we have to delve into the notion of social capital. Robert Putnam's Bowling Alone comes to mind. There is a reason that we can so easily identify with brands. I see two major possibilities.

First, brands may take advantage of our evolutionary heritage. That is, we were not engineered to cope with artificial brands. I am specifically thinking of Reeves' and Nass' The Media Equation. If we treat mediated messages like we treat real people -- as Reeves and Nass allege -- then it logically follows that we would treat brands like read people.

The second possibility is that brands are taking advantage of some sort of void in our lives created by a lack of social capital. If you look at the transformation of advertising from informational to transformational, then the time lines are concurrent. As social capital has decreased, advertising has used fewer information-based appeals and more emotion-based appeals.

To state this more clearly, perhaps we form relationships with brands because other relationships are lacking in our lives. This would be in accord with Putnam's argument.

Here is a related quotation from a story today on, " 'Families today are pretty disconnected,' says [noted genealogist Maureen] Taylor. 'It is important for kids to have that sense of connectedness to everyone else, at a point where many kids and teenagers are feeling quite alienated. It is important for kids to know where they fit in.' "

The reality surely combines those two plus several things beyond the scope of this post. However, neither of these possibilities is especially flattering toward advertising.

Furthermore, if you look at L. J. Shrum's recent work on the cultivation of material values, then there is more unpalatable evidence for advertising and marketing.

My dad once told me that every successful salesperson that he ever met really believed in the product/service that s/he was selling. Surely this must be true. You have to force yourself to believe. The two quasi-anonymous comment writers here surely have done this. And there is no arguing that advertising can be beneficial for small businesses, large businesses, and for the adoption of new ideas. But that does not make it good for society overall. And there is some pretty strong evidence that it is not wonderful for the average individual.

I'm no media critic, and I'm not lambasting advertising. However, I do think it is extremely self-serving to find some inherent nobility in getting people to pay more for Tide when Gain works just as well. I completely believe that the "no laws" clause in the First Amendment should be interpreted as "no laws." But this does not mean protected speech is good speech.

Academic Versus Industry Pay
This obviously varies across industries and department. However, Texas Tech pays well. We are easily among the top quartile in communications. Despite the generous salaries, I could easily take on a marketing research position tomorrow for a hefty increase in salary. It is no stretch to say that I -- or an equivalently trained peer -- could come close to doubling our salary with a large market research firm.

But I don't want to do that, in part for the contact with students.

Appetitive Versus Aversive Processing
One of the many reasons that this broad topic interests me is that advertising theories do not easily translate to health communication messages. I would argue that this is due to, in part, the fact that selling is an appetitive approach. We try to activate existing appetites with our ads.

Conversely, most public service announcements attempt to get you not to do something. This is an aversive function. With low level appeals, it is difficult to activate the aversive motivational system. We believe that this is due to concepts we call negativity bias and positivity offset.

At low levels of intensity, the appetitive motivational system is more active that the aversive motivational system. And if you make a health appeal extremely intense, it is likely that viewers will avoid the message altogether rather than the specific behavior targeted.

Some health topics do make proactive appeals (e.g., use a condom) but these are not especially appetitive and usually involve eschewing some simpler, more pleasurable activity.

It's an interesting challenge.

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Saturday, December 30, 2006

Communication Profoundly Affects Society

I study human communication. Specifically, I study the cognitive processing of mediated messages.

I do not try to cure cancer. But I think that my research matters anyway.

Two of my friends seem to suffer from mild inferiority complexes about what we do. They tend to lament that we're not curing cancer.

Early in my career, I had similar reservations. I considered pursuing a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology because I did not want to dedicate my life to "helping people figure out how to sell cheese."

One day I was discussing this with Kansas State psychologist Richard Jackson Harris. He told me that I had it wrong. Instead, he said, the media shape the way people view the world, and that impact cannot be underestimated.

It was what I needed to hear, and it stayed with me.

Here at Texas Tech, we have the new Institute for Hispanic and International Communications. One of the overarching interests in the institute is the delivery of health care information to rural Hispanics.

Although this is an interesting topic, it did not seem especially related to my own research interests.

Until Thursday.

We were driving south on I-10 on the way to El Paso, and I turned off onto N.M. highway 404, affectionately known as the "Anthony Gap."

As I began to head east, I remembered something that happened almost a decade ago.

In fall 1997, I was the education and health care reporter for the Las Cruces Sun-News. One day I was travelling that same highway to cover a story in Chaparral, N.M. I was going to write about Las Cruces-based Memorial Medical Center's mobile health care unit.

I spent part of this afternoon looking through my clips (cut out articles I wrote) for this story, but it appears as if it never got clipped. Therefore, I cannot tell you much about the story I ultimately wrote. However, it dealt with bringing medical services to the rural and largely Hispanic population of Chaparral (64.5% Hispanic by one estimate I found online).

Reading that story in the Sun-News may have been all that some readers ever learn about delivery of health care to rural Hispanics. More importantly, that article barely touched upon the delivery of health care information to rural Hispanics. For those who showed up to the mobile health care center that day, how did they decide to go there? More importantly, why did those who never showed fail to do so? How can we get them there?

I'm not curing cancer. But our research may lead to more effective communications, which will get patients to go see the physicians, who can cure their cancer. And that is important.

It's a lot easier to go to work each day when you believe in what you do.

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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Three-point Clinic Keeps 880 Waiting

We drove back to Lubbock today so that I could watch the Red Raiders take on UNLV.

Instead of elevating coach Knight to sole possession of most NCAA basketball wins, the Runnin' Rebels put on a three point clinic.

Coach Bob Knight takes the floor before the game in search of win No. 880.

Big names were on hand. Here Dick Vitale calls the game for ESPN2.

Former UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian was on hand. "Tark the Shark" won an NCAA national title in Vegas in 1990.

The final score was disappointing. However, the night was one not to be forgotten. The sold-out United Spirit Arena was rocking. It was the first time the arena reminded me of Assembly Hall in Bloomington.

We'll try again for win 880 on New Year's Day.

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Holiday Tour Travels South of Border

Today's trip took us to Palomas, Chihuahua, Mexico. We had a great lunch at the Pink Store, and walked around town in the near 70 degree temperatures.

Here you can see some arbitrary people eating in the Pink Store. I recommend No. 5, the Pancho Villa Platter!

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Enjoying New Mexico's Beauty

One of the many benefits of having friends in town is that you see the sights. Today I headed into the Gila National Forest with friends James and Phil, my dad, and my half brother Lance. It was a great -- but long -- day.

Here dad and I hang out above 8,000 feet at Emory pass.

Later in the day, we went to the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. It is an amazing place, and it was especially great to have a Native American scholar among us (even if he studies languages of Native Americans of the Northeast). Sadly, James came down with a bug and stayed in the car while we hiked up to the dwellings.

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Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas from Sunny New Mexico

Hope everyone is having a great holiday season!
Photo credit: The other Sam Bradley.

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Sunday, December 24, 2006

Aliens, Enchantment Mark Christmas Eve

We spent Christmas Eve driving from Lubbock, Texas, to Las Cruces, N.M., the Land of Enchantment! It was (mostly) a great day. We had a big detour outside of Roswell for a mystery wreck, and our cat, Simon, had "issues" in the carrier.

Friends James and Phil got to experience the winds of the South Plains, as tumbleweeds assaulted our van south of Roswell.

If you're ever driving through Roswell, please do not stop at the McDonald's unless you have an hour or so to spare. That is the single most incompetent fast food restaurant I've ever encountered.

Here we cross the border from Texas into New Mexico.

Speaking of encounters, after we left the McDonald's, we headed to the International UFO Museum and Research Center.

This was a good time, but I recommend visiting without young children. They make is difficult to read. In addition, having kids running around yelling "Is it real?" seems to insult the true believers.

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Saturday, December 23, 2006

Congrats Coach Knight on Win 879

Coach Knight teaching during a timeout.

Coach Knight teaching on the court.

The scoreboard says it all. A win. And it's said it 878 times before.

LUBBOCK, Texas -- Today coach Robert Montgomery Knight won his 879th NCAA basketball game. The Bradley family was lucky enough to be on hand.

We also were lucky enough to have two friends in town from Bloomington, Indiana. IU professor Phil LeSourd and doctoral candidate James Angelini were here for the win. Since coach Knight won 662 games at IU, it was perfect timing for a visit.

The Red Raiders played well in the second half and finally pulled away from Bucknell.

It made for a great day!

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Friday, December 22, 2006

King of the Hill Christmas in Lubbock

Drinking beer in the alley with friends in West Texas.

There's even a picture of the state of Texas on the can!

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Reasons to Never Travel by Air

I hate to fly. I used to like it. Now I don't.
Perhaps it is because I am a control freak, and you have no control on a plane.
Right now, my half brother is stuck in Denver under two feet of snow. He has been there since 8 a.m. Wednesday. He has no idea when he will be able to leave.
Two other friends are stuck on the tarmac in Houston. They were flying here to see us ... due to arrive at 4:02 p.m. Instead the Houston airport is closed due to lightning. They are on the runway watching the light show.
This map shows current lighting activity (thanks to ultra cool site, Vaisala). Note how the country is almost free of lightning ... except for friggin' Houston.
To summarize, I know three people traveling by air today. All three are being hosed by fate.
Airlines: boo, hiss!

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

When You Really, Really Hate Olive Garden

When I am bored, I like to Google arbitrary stuff, such as the word "the."

Today someone forwarded me a screen shot of a news story about the Indiana Olive Garden sickness , but the Web page had an ad for an Olive Garden give away. Hilarious, yes.

So later today I Googled "Olive Garden."

The first two results were the restaurant, but the third was this rant about how Olive Garden is the devil for pushing wine (Olive Garden's response is especially priceless).

Come to think of it, they are really annoying about the wine.

Yet therein lies the power of the Internet. Obviously people are reading the rant, or it would not be the third highest rated result. In the "old" days, you could be hurt by word-of-mouth advertising. However, these non-mass media allow for feedback. The brand is taking a beating.

Sadly, I am nonetheless hungry for Olive Garden.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Homers Mark New Twist to Red, Blue States

Technically I do not study public opinion. Because it is a branch of communication research, it interests me nonetheless.

I am interested in how various publics come to identify with objects, especially made-up ones such as brands and sports teams.

As a former sports journalist, I try not to be a homer. That is, I try to be objective about my sports teams. But as we know from experimental psychology, I cannot. I love what I love.

Checking my regular news sources today, I noticed an interesting poll on Through their Sports Nation section, they were conducting a virtual college football playoff. The first poll pitted Ohio State against Oklahoma. The Buckeyes received the No. 1 seed, and the Sooners received the No. 8 seed.
As the seeds suggest, 87% of Americans thought that OSU would win this match-up. Although I do not often vote in these polls, I put in my click for the Bucks. Then I noticed the "View Map" button.
You can see the result above. State-by-state voting results show that sports fans in every state think the Bucks would win ... except one. Defying logic, 76% of Oklahomers think that the Sooners would win.
Instantly, a light bulb went off in my head. Identification!
Later -- but not now -- there was a poll pitting No. 2 Florida versus No. 7 Wisconsin. This was even more fascinating. You see, The Badgers play in the Big Ten (11).
Here the results were not so overwhelming. Most of the country favored the Gators. Not Wisconsin. Or Minnesota. Or Michigan. All Big Ten states, they were blue. Fellow Big Ten states Indiana and Ohio were grey. Fifty percent of Hoosiers and Buckeyes sided with their conference over the seeding.
Fascinating stuff, people!
Our hearts beat out our minds. I'd bet that some of these results would change if people had to lay money down. But when it comes to siding with our friends, we're all a bit Homer.

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Monday, December 18, 2006

We're Not Special for Creating Content

Time magazine named "you" person of the year. For reading this post. For posting a video on Youtube.


I'm still not convinced.

Time wrote, "There's no road map for how an organism that's not a bacterium lives and works together on this planet in numbers in excess of 6 billion. "

That sounds vaguely related to my comment, "With 6 billion speakers, who is listening?"

It's still a mass medium, but the gatekeepers are changing. As far as I can tell, about a dozen people read this Weblog regularly. That's not exactly changing the world.

You can get to it from a few different links. You can get to it from "Next Blog," but that's not really communication. If you got here that way, you were not looking for anything I had to say.

Instead, strangers get here from Google. And that just changed the gatekeeper from NBC or the New York Times.

Blogs that are read by the masses are still a mass medium.

Sometimes I write something good. Some days I simply phone it in. But in the 17 month history of this Weblog, the only real traffic came from people looking for topless pictures of a Texas high school teacher.

Sorry if being a dead end for softcore searchers does not exactly make me feel like a person of the year.

As somebody who studies arousal and media, I could have told you that sex sells.

I am a journalist by trade, thanks to New Mexico State. I am a communication scientist and a cognitive scientist by training, thanks to Kansas State and Indiana University. So I have some credibility to say some things about some topics.

But you cannot get away from source credibility. The more I have, the more I am an institution. The more I have, the less likely I am to just post random crap on the Internet.

Does that make me more or less like the person of the year?

When I was a reporter, I questioned dozens of sentences a day. In order to "say" it, I had to be able to back it up. Call me the establishment, but there's something to that.

It carries over today. I'm sure I could find dozens of qualifiers scattered throughout that last month's postings. I speak to the data.

And when I read something at, I have some idea of the vetting process that those stories underwent. Sure, stuff falls through the cracks. Mistakes are made. But it's not just fiction.

Youtube is cool. You can laugh at stupid people mixing Diet Coke and Mentos.

But it's not quite ready for the Pulitzer.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

I Was Wrong: Nirvana Changed It All

I'm a knee-jerk hater. As soon as the big bandwagon takes off one way, I head the other. I'd rather gouge my eyes out than watch Titanic. There is this entire list of things I hate "just because."

So there I sat at the dawn of the 1990s. In the past 24 months, I had seen most of the heavy metal "hair bands" in person. I loved Motley Crue and Metallic.

And here came punk-ass Kurt Cobain and Nirvana and something called "Alternative" music. I was pretty happy with the status quo, thank you very much. So pretty much f*** them.

I was going to school at Johnson County Community College (a long story for another day). I hung out with a kid named Andy Scarce (I think that was the spelling). We were both pre-med students, and we alternatively drove around in my Jeep Wrangler or his massive Oldsmobile Delta.

Andy listened to Nirvana, so it gained some affection by association. I came to like it over time. I bought the CD. I'm still not fond of the naked baby on the cover, but that music now feels like a part of me. It was part of my life.

The other day, I found myself saying, "Nevermind was the most important album of the 1990s."

It caused me to pause at the moment. It caused me to pause again as I ripped the song onto my laptop today.

I cannot imagine anyone reading this who has not had their lives affected by suicide. It's terribly sad when it happens to you. Yet I feel some profound angst for Kurt Cobain. Culturally, he was changing the world.

Yet one is left to wonder what changes never happened.

It amazes me the role that Nevermind has played in my life. It's not quite the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, but it changed everything for me.

Everything changed in 1991. I stopped being a jackass teen-ager and started becoming a man. I started this journey of becoming a cognitive scientist. And somehow the first step of that journey is inextricably wound up with Smells Like Teen Spirit.

P.S. Andy, if you run across this one day vanity Googling yourself, I'd love to hear from you. I didn't mean to lose touch. And I'd love to hear whether you ever became an anesthesiologist. Along the way I found out that I don't like to touch sick people.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Who Does Rob Potter Look Like?

OK, this is awesome. I was looking at my friend Leah's Weblog, and she had this cool celebrity look alike function.

So I tried it on my photo, but it was not very funny. Depending on the picture, I looked like Serena Williams or Matt Damon, both of whom are a stretch. Two different pictures of me had me most resembling Queen Latifah. When people meet me in person, they are often surprised that I am not an African-American female.

Being a jerk, I decided to try my friends. First was Indiana professor Rob Potter. I think this was the priceless match of all time, so I have stopped here. Judge for yourself. I think they are all excellent matches. I have met at least one of Rob's parents, but I cannot remember whether it was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or Cameron Diaz.

I suppose the take-away point is that facial recognition is a damned hard computational challenge.

Update: Just when you think this thing flatters you, it does not. Two of my photos have matched Matt Damon. Cool, right? But then the second photo also matches Vladimir Lenin and Britney Spears. Damnit!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Time: Why Grad School Beats Tenure Track

It's 5:31 p.m. on Friday of finals week. As soon as I finish this, I am going home. It seems that I am alone on the second floor of the mass communications building.

That's the big difference between the professor job and graduate school (besides the paycheck). My family sacrificed for 6 years of graduate school. During grad school you kept working until the paper was finished. When the muse struck, you wrote until it was done.

Family? They came second.

But not anymore. Sure, I am on a roll. But there are only so many times you can work alone late on a Friday until it gets old ... or your wife leaves you.

Today I picked up a paper on which I last worked on March 24, 2006. That's almost 9 months. If I worked until midnight tonight, it would almost be ready for journal submission. That's just a little over 6 hours.

When I come back on Monday morning, I will have forgotten where I was. I will have forgotten what I was thinking. There will be people here talking to me. I will not finish in 6 hours. It might take 6 days.

One of my former students sent me an e-mail today about the important things in life. I will try to keep that in mind when I turn around to look at the list of 8 manuscripts awaiting my attention. If I am lucky and dedicated (and my mom comes to watch my kids), 3 of those will be at journals before classes begin in January.

The other 5 will wait until spring break or summer.

If I win the lottery, I'm going back t0 grad school -- the intellectual womb.

I cherish the time with the family, but I tire of the seldom shrinking To-Do list.

Someone just left. So now I am alone.

Time to go!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Two Hires Push Texas Tech Toward Top

We're on the verge of being a top program here at Texas Tech. This morning we had a good faculty. We already had made three solid hires this year. The future is bright.

Then I got an e-mail that a top candidate accepted our offer. Thirty minutes later we got another such e-mail. Those e-mails made my day.

I shan't drop names here -- lest someone's grandmother find out someone's moving to Tech by Googling their name and finding this -- but these two additions are top notch.

It's difficult to get the people you want. We've had our top choices walk away at Indiana and Ohio State. It happens. People have family pressures. People have geographical preferences. I get it.

But it means something to be able to attract your top choices. Heck, I've been recruiting one new colleague since 2002. Sure, I got compared to a used car salesman in the process, but I am passionate about getting good people here.

Top-to-bottom, I will put our 2007-08 faculty up against any other top 10 Ph.D. program in mass communications. Our CVs match up, and our publication records match up.

And we have more fun than any other program that comes to mind. And you cannot put a price on that.

Wreck 'Em Tech!

Farewell Mr. Hunt; We Will Miss You

Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt died Wednesday.

He will be missed.

Thank you for everything, Mr. Hunt. You did a lot for my hometown, and I will always be grateful.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

One Conversation Can Make a Day

Today I had a meeting with one of our master's students. She's interested, broadly, in language and media.

This topic is one of my first loves. Indeed I started my career studying psycholingusitics with Bob Meeds at Kansas State.

It was a great talk, and it left me completely energized. Talking with a bright, motivated graduate student is the absolute best that this job ever gets. Thus, today was one of the two or three high points of the entire semester.

As a professor at a research institution, you live for days such as this.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Grading: We All Hate It

One of my colleagues today said, "I shouldn't have to give tests in college. They should learn because they want to learn."

But they don't. So we have to. And we hate it.

Students are sweating out grades. Some need a C to have the class count. Some need a B to raise their GPA to get into the college. And I hate it all.

No part of this is about the grade. It's about knowledge. It's about ideas. But yet it's all about the grade. The damned grades.

My phone rang as I was starting to write this. It was a student asking about a grade. I love to talk to students but not about grades.

Grades suck, but they're sacred. Once Excel spits out a number, that's the grade. There is no magic. The syllabus outlines a formula. I take that formula as a contract. And according to that contract, 89.9% is a B and not an A.

Rounding is the devil. I decided a long time ago that one cannot fairly round. In my undergraduate research methods class, it takes 900 points out of 1,000 for an A. It's simple. Tally the points at the end and add them up.

But shouldn't 899 really be an A? No. It's just 1 point away. If we make 899 an A, then what about the student with an 898? Now they're just one point away! And the keen reader will note that this never ceases.

And you see that I've already spent far too much time on this topic.

Grades. I hate them.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Neural Net Talk Illustrates Business of Ideas

A simple feed-forward neural network. Here the world provides some activation to the input layer, which propagates forward through the hidden layer and eventually the output layer.

Mired in grading, I took a brief jaunt to Starbucks with doctoral student Wendy Maxian. This was our final meeting for our independent study this session.

We withstood the 62 degree air to walk off-campus for an iced tea. Among other things, we've been covering some philosophy of science readings. My intellectual heart was warmed when Wendy got all of the key points and made the key connections.

Then we talked about a recent lecture on campus given by parallel distributed processing czar James McClelland. I had hoped to go to the lecture with Wendy, but then the flu happened.

At any rate, today's discussion turned to the lecture and neural networks. This is a passionate topic for me, and I have not had an intense neural network discussion since moving to Lubbock.

That changed today. Out came the circles and lines, as my Indiana friends used to call them. Neural networks are beyond the scope of this post, but once you understand them, surely you will love them. It's a paradigm thing. Connectionism. Ahhh. Read here.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Warmth Returns to West Texas

The high was in the mid-60s today. In the 60s for a week. Sanity has returned.

Here's a picture the wife took today of some Canada geese.

Congratulations to Buckeye Troy Smith

I offer congratulations to The Ohio State University quarterback Troy Smith, who won the Heisman trophy Saturday night.

Troy is a communications major at OSU and probably the only Heisman winner whom I will ever meet.

Troy was in my lab during Winter Quarter 2006 He was polite if not punctual.

That makes the seventh Heisman to head for Columbus. Troy's award was was the 72nd Heisman awarded. That means 10% have been earmarked for Columbus, including the only two-time winner (I count only three for that school up north).

There's only one thing to say: O-H-I-O!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Tonight Sonic Drive-In Feels Like Home

Update: Posting expanded 10:53 a.m., Saturday, Dec. 9.

Yesterday I was lamenting about dragging my kids across the country.

Today I am loving Lubbock. That's how life is inside my head. Always seeing every side of everything.

Both of my classes took their finals today, and I spent the rest of the day grading. I left the office after 7 p.m. On the way home, I called the wife, and she agreed to let me bring home Sonic for dinner.

I can't tell you what home feels like, but I know what it feels like. And sitting there at the Sonic drive-in, I felt at home. I'm not sure what it was. Those times sitting at Sonic in Las Cruces felt close-at-hand. That time sitting in a Sonic near Newton, Kan., on the way to Las Cruces felt close-at-hand.

When Emily and I first moved into the apartments on Miranda Drive in Las Cruces, there was a Sonic a few blocks away (in two directions). We brought our first daughter home to that apartment. We felt like real grown ups for perhaps the first time.

Walking around campus today I kept looking up at that deep blue sky. Many days I feel as if that sky is my best friend. I wish that I had time to sit and stare at it. Wherever I live, I want it to be under that deep blue sky.

There was one Sonic in Bloomington, but then it closed. There were none in Columbus. And it has nothing at all to do with hamburgers and tater tots (but they're pretty good). It's an atmosphere. The drive-in.

Being home. I like that feeling. And that's how I feel most of the time here.

I suppose that as an adult, that's the best you can hope for: most of the time. Here I can chat with people about New Mexico, and they know what I am talking about. They've been there. They've driven the same roads. That common connection. It's a little thing, I know. But those connections are what it means to be human.

The best news is that I'll be driving those roads in two weeks! This will be the first Christmas for us in New Mexico since 1997. Damn, that makes me feel old.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Moves Make Me Feel Like a Bad Dad

This week my daughter got a letter from her friend in Ohio. The letter talked about how much the friend missed my daughter. It talked about the activities that they used to do together that the friend now does alone. It talked about how the friend was doing in the elementary school where my kids used to go in Dublin.

I read that and felt like a big jerk. We moved here because of reasons mostly related to me. But we didn't have to move.

I know that families have to move. And my other daughter has a better friend here than she ever did in Dublin.

But I still feel like a big jerk. A really big jerk.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

I Am a Recovering Copy Editor

There are many wonderful things about being a copy editor at a metro daily newspaper. There were many things I loved about editing The Modesto Bee and The Albuquerque Journal.

However, once you start seeing the world as a series of mistakes, you cannot turn that off (ironically, I am almost totally blind tou errurs en mie ohn wurk).

When you are a copy editor, you learn little esoteric rules that no one else knows. And you own those rules. You can quote The Associated Press Stylebook verbatim. You know the difference between a "back yard" (noun) and "backyard" (adjective).

I can clearly recall standing in the middle of the Journal newsroom arguing with the state editor. His reporter called them "buffalo." Everyone calls them buffalo. Except they're not. They're bison. I lost that one. I was right. But I still lost.

I still cringe every time people call a "lectern" a "podium." And they call it a podium every time. You stand on a podium, people. Stay with me here.

One of my little pet peeve rules is "under way." Officially, AP says:

under way Two words in virtually all uses: The project is under way. The naval maneuvers are under way.

One word only when used as an adjective before a noun in a nautical sense: an underway flotilla.

Of course, no one ever uses underway in that second sense, especially in New Mexico. So I erroniously remembered the rule as one word normally and two words in a nautical sense.

Then yesterday I was reading, and I came across the story about pulling the U.S.S. Intrepid out of the mud in New York City. And the headline was, "Intrepid freed from mud, under way."

I almost had a heart attack, as I knew this was wrong. But then I pulled out my Stylebook, and I was wrong. And I hate being wrong.

Yes. I do need medication.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Arbitrary Thoughts on Weblogs

Update: Read Dr. Rob Potter's reaction to this posting here.

I started this Weblog to force me to understand the new medium. In some ways I am closer. In some ways I am farther.

There are four or five Weblogs that I read regularly. I often read Dr. Rob Potter's The Audio Prof. Rob was the pioneer who unintentionally persuaded me to have a try at this.

Rob's been busy lately. He doesn't post as much. This disappoints me, even though I understand he is busy. But I feel as if I am standing in the driveway waiting for my morning paper, and it does not come.

I like it when Rob writes about the profession (example). But I usually like it more when he writes about his life (example).

People seem to comment more on this Weblog when I wax about something personal than when I pontificate about my research. Somehow it makes me real, I guess. Yet I have started and then deleted dozens of posts because they seemed too personal. So I start over with something work-related.

Rob wondered about the future of his Weblog (read here). I wondered, too (read here).

I love comments. But I do not get them often enough. The whole point is that it is interactive. Heck, I am forced to mention the Ohio State football team at least once a week so that my one regular commenter will chime in. Instead, most people lurk.

I used to leave comments on Rob Potter's Weblog. Then he enabled the function where the owner has to moderate comments. I understand the reasons (I think). But I stopped commenting anyway. I think there may be a social scientific lesson there somewhere (N = 1). So mine are unmoderated. I just delete the occasional whacky one.

Of the two Weblogs I enjoy most, neither have anything to do with my research. They are about people's personal lives. One is from an old college friend. She uses a lot of photographs. This has inspired me to use more images (but ironically not today). And weirdly enough, since I know her and you don't, I feel as if I shouldn't link to it.

The other is by a young woman whom I have never met. But she went to high school with a buddy of mine. And for some reason he had me read it one day. And she's a pretty good writer, so I read it pretty often. It's my link to "real" bloggers. But she's a stranger, so you can read that one.

It's the trivia of their lives that is interesting. There are tons of Weblogs in my field. But I don't read them. For some reason, I don't care. I'd prefer to keep up on the progress of my friend's dissertation.

So, it's almost 300 postings later, and I am still learning. I am forming new opinions. I am learning that if I mention a product name, Google will find my post. If I write about some teacher's naked pictures, I will have more readers in one day than I normally have in a month.

I am convinced that any Weblog purporting to track the life and times of a teenage girl will easily gets hundreds of hits a day (e.g., the breakaway Youtube hit -- and fraud -- Lonelygirl15).

I like it when I find cool things, such as the fact that the Albuquerque Journal has a page that finds my Weblog and links to it because I link to them (I used to work for them).

Please leave a comment from time-to-time. They can be anonymous, you know? And then it will seem more like a Weblog and less like my Christmas letter.

P.S. If you think I was picking on Rob, I am really mad at my friend Johnny Sparks for not writing in his Weblog for SIX MONTHS!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Florida Deserves Bid in BCS Title Game

If you win the Southeastern Conference, you are a champion. If you are second place in your conference, you are not a champion.

I am perhaps the only fan of the current Bowl Championship Series system (it maintains the most important regular season in all of sport). No matter what you think, the title game should be a contest among champions.

Top-to-bottom, the SEC is better than the Big Ten this year. If you win the SEC, you deserve to play for the championship more than a second-place team from a lesser conference. Florida should play Ohio State.


Friday, December 01, 2006

Brand Emotion Paper Heads for Vermont

I am happy to say that my "pet" paper has been accepted for presentation at the annual conference of the American Academy of Advertising.

This paper deals with how people respond emotionally to brands (see a discussion about part of the paper here).

If you happen to be in Burlington, Vt., in April, be on the lookout for:

Bradley, S. D., Maxian, W., Laubacher, T. C., and Baker, M. (2007, April). In search of Lovemarks: The semantic structure of brands.