Archive for the 'Knoxville' Category

Checking in, February 2021


Thanks to the powers that be for keeping this blog around for historical purposes…
It was one of the Manila blogs at the Berkman Center that migrated to WordPress years ago.
Meanwhile, after defending my doctorate while frequenting Berkman blog meetings, I went on to teach at the University of Tennessee  and at Radford University in Virginia, where I have since retired.

I still write online at and, both of which have fully functional “About” pages.

Here is a history page about the Berkman Center and the history of blogging:

Project Information

The blog goes on… from Tarheel to tartan


National Tartan Day starThe “Red Liner” name of this mostly archival blog refers to the subway I used to take between Cambridge and Boston, after moving north from Chapel Hill. But now I have to make sure no one from my new campus — Radford University — thinks I’m casting a partisan vote in favor of “Rowdy Red,” a sockpuppet excuse for a school mascot — once used as an alternative to Radford’s kilt-clad Scotsman called “The Highlander.”

“Radford” itself sounds a bit like a merger of Radcliffe and Harvard — or Hartford — but it lies six or seven hundred miles from those old post-Tarheel and pre-Tarheel stomping grounds of mine in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

The university’s namesake, the city of Radford, fills a 10-square-mile bend in the New River in southwest Virginia, an area proud of its Scots-Irish heritage and its own Blue Ridge highlands. (The university itself has property on both sides of the river, and the Radford Army Ammunition Plant in Pulaski County gives newcomers like me the impression that Radford City is larger than it is; my first draft of this post said the city “spans the river,” but it doesn’t. See Google Maps)

The university is part of the Virginia public higher education system, and just southwest of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. (Once upon a time, Radford College was for women and Virginia Tech was for men.)

To celebrate my arrival at a school whose teams are “The Highlanders,” I put a Scottish tartan behind my home page, as explained there. While that version of my grandmother’s family tartan is mostly green; Radford uses a more red and blue tartan in some of its publications.

I was disappointed to find that you can’t buy a kilt (or at least a plaid tie) at the campus bookstore — in fact, I get the feeling the simple-design-minded “college memorabilia” and “sports marketing” folks have pushed the university toward adopting a simpler solid school color or two.

Someone also has been promoting “RU” as a nickname for the school for sometime, which started to annoy me as soon as the “RU…?” puns stopped being cute. Why have a two-letter, two-syllable abbreviation for a school name that is already only two syllables?

There are plenty of schools that could call themselves “RU,” even if Radford does head the list. Google the word “Radford” and you find the university listed before the city name, unlike Boston and BU.

Maybe I can start a little business on the side with “Radford: Plaid and Proud” T-shirts. Hmm… Maybe in time for National Tartan Day next spring.

Note: Geographical update Dec. 16, 2015, to celebrate the appointment of a new president at Radford, and avoid misinforming him if he stops by this old essay.

Beyond the Esplanade


One of the last best things I did in Cambridge was to go see the July 4 fireworks from the bank of the Charles with blogging friends (Thanks, J!), getting closer to the flash and crash than my previous years’ vantage point in a crowd of neighbors atop Prospect Hill, a mile or so from the sound and smoke.

This weekend I was watching more pyrotechnics from atop another hill, the one I live on now. I’m so new here that I don’t even know if the hill has a name, but it gave me a new perspective for a fireworks show that competes for excitement and audience with Boston’s Independence Day.

Knoxville calls the Labor Day event Boomsday. A sponsor also calls it “the biggest single-day event in the state of Tennessee and the largest fireworks show in the southeast United States.”

Whille Boston fires its rockets from a barge in the river, these fireworks are launched from a high bridge over the Tennessee River — a bridge that just happens to be anchored to my new hilltop. Down along the river, the city closes a stretch of highway, turning it into a midway for the day, stretching off toward the university stadium. Hundreds of thousands of people join in the fun, and the “Tennessee navy” drops anchor in the river — about 200 powerboats that stay for Sunday’s Big Orange football game.

The Boomsday show doesn’t include the Boston Pops, Stars & Stripes Forever or the 1812 Overture cannons… but I read that there was some Gershwin broadcast to coincide with the most elegant part of the display, and at a more climactic point I did hear a few people singing along with Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA.” Next year, maybe I’ll find a seat closer to the sound system.
Beyond the Esplanade …