The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather


    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower


    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships


    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

3 months ago

University of Alabama research: What aged often want for Christmas is … you


Christmas arrives yet again and with it that familiar seasonal joy but also stress. Mom and Dad and Grandma and Grandpa are getting older, and ideas for gifts have run thin – very thin – for quite some time.

What could they possibly want?

Christina Pierpaoli-Parker, a University of Alabama student pursuing her doctorate in clinical geropsychology has conducted research that provides some answers.


“One of the benefits of aging is that it shifts your perspective, helps to reorder your priorities,” she said. “The psychological data demonstrate that overall quality of life and happiness tend to increase as we age.

“That pattern almost takes on a U-shaped curve where, on one end, earlier in life, happiness and quality of life tend to be pretty high before declining somewhat in our late 30s into midlife, as we try to establish ourselves financially, socially, professionally and romantically. But, as we age, usually around our 60s, our overall levels of happiness and quality of life tend to increase again.”

Pierpaoli-Parker said these trends appear during later life because of social-emotional selectivity theory — when people get closer to their deaths, their priorities shift from seeking information, knowledge, money and resources toward seeking meaningful emotional experiences.

“We want to spend more time doing things that we value with the people we love.”

So, what do people get their aging parents?

“In general, they don’t want stuff,” she said. “They want you. They want to spend time with their children, their grandchildren, and savor those experiences.”

So, instead of spending money on fancy things, Pierpaoli-Parker said more meaningful and affordable gift ideas for aging loved ones might include getting tickets to see a play or a movie, planning a trip or making dinner together.

“Invest in experiences. Focus on experience-based products versus object-based products. With experiences, you can spend a lot of money or make it homemade. However you do it, you can design it in such a way that it honors your values and your wallet.”

When do people make the cognitive switch from desiring object-oriented gifts to experiential gifts?

That, she said, depends on the individual and his or her life experiences.

She said research has demonstrated that some people who have a chronic disease early in life have already made this shift in cognition. But, generally, that mindset isn’t adopted until middle-to-later life, usually around the 50s or 60s. She notes, however, that it varies from person to person, context to context.

“The most important thing to emphasize here is the best gifts really come from a place of genuineness, thoughtfulness and love,” she said. “Time is the scarcest, nonrenewable, valuable resource that humans have. That idea becomes more salient with age.

“And, that’s why, as we age, time with other people is the best gift we can receive. When we don’t worry about the outcome of the gift and enjoy the process of giving it, that takes away the anxiety and stress and makes it a lot more fun. Process, not performance.”

This story originally appeared on the University of Alabama’s website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

7 months ago

Watch out for these summer bugs, Alabama

(University of Alabama/Contributed)

Alabama is one of the most biodiverse states in the nation, and bugs play a tremendous part in the circle of life here.

That’s according to Dr. John Abbott, chief curator and director of museum research and collections for the University of Alabama Museums.


Abbott said most of Alabama’s more than 20,000 arthropod species – invertebrates with segmented bodies and jointed limbs such as insects and spiders – don’t cause problems for people. But some can, and summer is the most likely time for humans and arthropods to clash.

“The big arthropods to be concerned with are ticks and mosquitoes,” Abbott said. “Those can be problematic because they can vector diseases. I always like to remind people that it’s not actually the tick or mosquito that’s causing you the problem, it’s the pathogens they’re carrying.”

Abbott said the primary disease to be concerned about with mosquito bites in Alabama is West Nile virus. With ticks in the state, it’s Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

“Someone actually brought in a black widow spider the other day that they captured from a house,” Abbott said. “They’re super common.”

Abbott said people view spiders negatively, but they’re actually a boon because they curb pest insect populations. Still, people must be careful around them, especially black widows, brown widows and brown recluses, the state’s most dangerous arachnids.

“They have completely different types of toxins. Black widows have a neurotoxin and can stop you from breathing. The smaller you are, the worse it will be.

“Brown recluses have a hemotoxin, which stops blood flow in infected areas and causes necrosis.”

Abbott said black widow spider bites cause a lot of pain, and seeking immediate hospital attention is highly recommended.

Brown widows, which look like black widows but for their brown or gray coloring, have a similar venom to that of their more dangerous black cousins, but it’s less toxic.

“It’s rare to be bitten by these spiders even though they’re very common, especially in the summer months,” he said. “People aren’t going to encounter them in any regular way. Something can be common, but that doesn’t mean you’ll commonly encounter them.

“Brown recluses are reclusive; it’s in their name. They are in dwellings but in parts not commonly accessed, like attics. Black widows also tend to be in tucked-away places like crevices, so most people aren’t going to casually run into them.”

Other arthropods to watch out for in Alabama are the Southern devil scorpion, centipedes, fire ants, yellow jackets and red paper wasps.

“The Southern devil scorpion here isn’t any more dangerous than getting stung by a bee,” Abbott said. “With the centipede it’s the same. It’ll hurt, but it’s not anything most people will have to go to the hospital for.”

Though painful, stings from the wasp, bee, yellow jacket and fire ant also don’t require a hospital trip — unless the person stung is allergic. Red paper wasps and yellow jackets can be aggressive, and can sting multiple times, unlike bees, which die after they sting.

“It’s good to take precautions when heading outdoors,” Abbott said. “Wear long pants, and spray the bottom of your pants with DEET or some other insecticide. That will go a long way in keeping things off because they oftentimes gather at your ankles and feet and crawl up.”

To avoid fire ant mounds, walk carefully. Stay away from secluded areas and crevices in the house, and put sulfur powder around ankles (it stinks and repels insects). If ticks are discovered on clothing or skin and they haven’t embedded themselves, remove them using a lint roller or duct tape.

This story originally appeared on the University of Alabama’s website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)