Me Burn My Bridge? You Lit It

Pyrite cube from Fuente del Moro, Navajún, Spain.
Pyrite cube from Fuente del Moro, Navajún, Spain.
Source: Wikimedia Commons

1. This Just Happened

In late August 2019, Millicent Whitehat, a recently retired college instructor, came up to me late one afternoon as we were leaving a reception at the university.

“So, you have a job on campus, right?”

“Yeah, webmaster for the College of Education and Health Professions, three years last July. It’s been great, it really has.”

“I’m very glad to hear it. You know, they did not treat you right, and I’ve felt bad about it, but nothing I could do. That [Reedman], I don’t know how you worked with him. He’s never fit in, I’m not sure who likes him. He has no personality.”

No personality, what did she mean by that?

“I’m not sure he was the problem. I felt we got along, got along well enough. He’s of a type in newsrooms that I knew, so I felt I could handle anything that came up with him. I never figured out what happened, that made them cut me out of the job. Do you know?”

“No, I never really heard.”

“I’ve wanted to find out, but to ask around I never knew who to approach. I mean, who really knew and who would tell me, and would they be truthful or lie, or would they know just part of what happened or just one point of view, and still there’d be no complete picture then either.”

“I understand. You’d best forget it and move on. I guess you did move on.”

“Yes, I did and this is great, where I’ve landed. Yes I’ve obviously moved on, but no I can’t forget. That’s just not something I could do. That hands it to them, you know?”

A mutual friend at that moment joined us, as if they had come in together and obviously heading toward the car. Millicent’s manner indicated the friend’s presence ended our talk. We exchanged cheerful good-byes, and I walked toward the campus center.

[Quotation marks are used here because I’m certain of near-journalistic accuracy. The absence of such punctuation later indicates reliance on strong memory.

[Names HAVE been changed. However, my name as always is “I” or “me.”]

So did Millicent know what happened? Gosh, how could she? 

Department chair Baton knows, most or all. Ethics center director (interim director at the time) Reedman knows, at least his role in it. Now-retired Professor Alto is complicit and had to have colluded. Beloved Professor Bass told me several times all this happened at levels above him and he was powerless. All assistant department chair Dr. Cornet had for me was a sudden gesture of empathy. Their word for me: “insubordinate.” The allegation is false.

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Lettuce Rejoice

Plate of lettuce salad
Source: National Cancer Institute’s 5 A Day Resources

It’s getting harder to find a satisfying bottled salad dressing, for the convenience. They seem sweeter now, at least the lower fat varieties.

Speaking of oil, there’s a way to cut that in half: toss your salad with a hand not utensils and you’ll need just half the dressing — 1 Tablespoon per serving instead of the suggested 2 — to coat the leaves. It takes seconds as your fingers quickly tell when all are moistened. That works when the cleaned lettuce is bone dry as experts advise or when the veggies are gently shaken of water.

Adapting this no-fat vegan 2-Minute Oil-Free Balsamic Dressing from Forks Over Knives has become my go-to rather than a Ken’s or Newman’s Own. I often prefer vegan mayo instead of Dijon mustard as the resulting emulsion is more creamy than tart.

The recipe is a modest amount but easily scalable. It makes just under a half cup of dressing, for 6-8 servings if hand-tossed (above) or 3-4 servings conventionally.

Easy, Real Salad Dressing

  • 2 Tablespoons quality vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • 1 Tablespoon vegan mayo OR prepared mustard such as Dijon
  • 1 Tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon dried herbs such as basil or Italian spice blend
  • pinch dried garlic
  • pinch dry mustard (Colman’s recommended)
  • pinches salt and pepper

Place all ingredients in a small jar with a good lid and shake. Refrigerate until needed.

Notes: Balsamic or red wine vinegar work great, but if you want a lighter color then rice vinegar is good. Cider vinegar has a stronger taste, but sometimes that’s the right thing.

Nutritional yeast is a flavor booster with umami.

Heck yes, this recipe is a starting point. Don’t worry about the nutritional yeast. Replace the salt with a dash of soy sauce. If fresh herbs are available, mix rough-chopped ones in the bowl with the lettuce and drop the dried spices from the dressing. Whatever. Go for it.

Transcription Transgressions

logo for the Pryor Center

While August 2012 still feels like fall before last on remembering my second and final layoff from the newspaper profession, June 2013 seems longer than the six years it maths out when I recall that month’s part-time job, transcriptionist at the University of Arkansas Pryor Center for Oral and Visual History.

Those few hours a week did teach me two lessons I won’t forget, the value of transcriptions and the fallacy of transcriptions. Visiting the Pryor Center for a book reading inspired me to ink these up.

While my next university job was the 2014-15 term at its journalism department, the courses I taught did not have an opening for a reporting exercise I hadn’t seen anywhere (which doesn’t mean it’s not done). In some beginning or intermediate journalism class, it’d be cool to present a 3- to 5-minute recording excerpt, such as from the Pryor Center, and have the students transcribe it. By transcribe I mean word for word, with all the stumbles and repeats the least and greatest of us utter when speaking.

They would be encouraged to repeat the tape as often as needed, using a free transcription software app. Afterward, I’d hand out or put on a screen the official transcript so they’d see what they missed.

The only students who could get an A+, one would predict, would be someone who was a former stenographer.

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I Would Appreciate Your Vote

My Razorback roots go deeper than I thought. My maternal grandfather, Ernest Mendel of Fort Smith (born in Hot Springs), evidently attended the University of Arkansas. I've checked the Senior Walks of several years; he didn't graduate.
Ben Pollock
Candidate Ben Pollock
Official U of A photo, summer 2014

I am running this week for a position on the University of Arkansas Staff Senate. The online balloting ends Monday, May 6. If you are a U of A staff member, you may choose to vote for me, and the following 150-word statement I was asked to submit just might sway you!

Or not.

As a longtime volunteer, I enjoy giving back. Working at the University of Arkansas these three years has been so satisfying this is an opportunity to return the favor. On the Staff Senate, I’d like to increase the body’s visibility through the year. That’s not just special events but would work toward an ongoing, transparent presence on campus.

About me:

My Razorback roots go deeper than I thought. My maternal grandfather, Ernest Mendel of Fort Smith (born in Hot Springs), evidently attended the University of Arkansas. I've checked the Senior Walks of several years; he didn't graduate.
My Razorback roots go deeper than I thought. My maternal grandfather, Ernest Mendel of Fort Smith (born in Hot Springs), evidently attended the University of Arkansas around 1920. I’ve checked the Senior Walks of several years; he didn’t graduate.
  • Fort Smith native, 3rd-generation Arkie
  • Bachelor’s, Communication, Stanford University
  • Master’s, Journalism, University of Arkansas, 2003
  • Earlier career: newspaper editor/designer, reporter, columnist
  • Current job: Webmaster for the College of Education & Health Professions since mid-2016; previously 2014-15 instructor with the Journalism faculty/Ethics Center
  • Activities
    • Treasurer, National Society of Newspaper Columnists Education Foundation
    • Recording Secretary & Communication Director, Arkansas 965
    • Planning committee, WordCamp Fayetteville, teacher of WordPress 101
    • Board member, Ozark Poets & Writers Collective
    • Also: Compassion Fayetteville, Canopy NWA, Tibetan Cultural Institute of Arkansas, Temple Shalom, NWA Pride Band

So check your emailbox for for a message like this:

image of email of ballot link for  2019 Staff Senate ballot

Lunch. Free? Sure.

Guy Unangst, early 1998, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette newsroom, Little Rock. Photo by Sandra Wyman
Guy Unangst, early 1998, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette newsroom, Little Rock.
Photo by Sandra Tyler

I have one good story about the recently departed editor Guy Unangst but didn’t know it was a story until a new reporter in around 2004 asked me, “Did you have a fistfight with Guy Unangst in the middle of the newsroom?”

“We did? What, us? Nah, there was no –.

“Wait a minute. You must mean the time –”

Who was I? In 2004 I was on the night universal desk of the Northwest edition of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. In 1997, the year of the story, I was the new Sunday editor, overseeing the newsroom end of producing the Sunday and Monday editions. Print.

Who was the previous Sunday editor?

Gruff Guy was.

In October 1991, Gannett Inc. closed the Arkansas Gazette, and the Arkansas Democrat bought its assets and became the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The Demzette management was determined to not grow complacent as merged papers seemed to do. It helped that Gov. Bill Clinton was elected president and the state newspaper had become relatively prominent. We used that clout to attract better talent.

The Democrat had hired me in 1985 as a news copy editor. A year or so later I became assistant wire editor and a year or so after that wire editor, in charge of national and international news, pulled from wire services and the syndicated arms of papers like The New York Times and Washington Post. After 10 years, I begged for a change.

Guy, who had worked at some major dailies, was hired as special projects editor to oversee enterprise reporting including investigative pieces. The Demzette around the same time hired another top editor for investigative reporting, and Guy proposed a new job he could also do, Sunday editor.

Reporters appreciated Guy, his meticulousness and his fierce loyalty to them. The newsroom’s midlevel editors, however, disliked answering to him on the biggest edition of the week. If there had to be a Sunday editor, make it someone else.

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Truth in the Stars

Four blue stars on Arkansas flag defined
The symbolism of the four blue stars on Arkansas flag is explained.

It’s been embarrassing.

The state flag of Arkansas includes an explicit reference to the Confederacy. The overall design can be seen as having similarities to the Confederate battle flag of the American Civil War. The early 20th-century legislation establishing the banner sets four large blue stars within a diamond to refer to the nations to which Arkansas has belonged: a triangle indicating Spain, France and the United States, and separately and uppermost the Confederacy.

During the 2019 General Session of the Arkansas Legislature, a Democratic Little Rock representative proposed dropping the Confederate reference and making a star symbolize the indigenous tribes that dwelled here before the European conquests. It was twice defeated in committee.

Why take the state’s word on such a matter? Why not as citizens proclaim the four blue stars be both inclusive and accurate? This detail might not make a sanctioned state history textbook, but a nongovernmental group could promote an alternative symbolism in defiance of accepted and prejudicial dogma.

Local 965 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees approved such a resolution March 28, 2019. I wrote the text, being a union member, sitting on the board as recording secretary and communications director. [A similar post is on the 965 website.] The rationale is that nearly all Local members are directly and indirectly workers in education. A modern flag is a teaching device, presenting facts and concepts. Educators have a vested interest in symbols that we use to impart knowledge and values.

Star Crossed: A Symbolic Act of Civil Disobedience

That Local 965, AFSCME, promote a fair and historically accurate representation of the official Arkansas State Flag.

Since 1923, the Arkansas Legislature has held that its fourth, separate blue star signifies the state’s membership in the Confederacy, the other three blue stars in place from 1913 representing the nations having held the territory from which Arkansas was carved — Spain, France and since 1803 the United States. (Reference)

The four-year Confederacy being considered a sovereign state comparable to the Republic, not to mention European nations, pales in comparison to how indigenous tribes dwelled in the region for centuries before, primarily the Quapaw, Osage and Caddo. (Reference)

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