This lady would definitely land in Dante's Eighth Circle.
(Florence, AL) -- A woman will spend three months in work release for stealing nearly five-thousand dollars from her children's elementary school.

37-year-old Karen Lannette Spence -- a mother of three -- was secretary and treasurer of the Harlan Elementary School Parent/Teacher Organization when she stole money raised by the school's 428 students -- 78 percent of whom live in poverty.

P-T-O officials say Spence used the money for a computer, children's videos, hundreds of dollars in Wal-Mart gift cards and a trip to Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Officials say among the money stolen was several hundred dollars collected for the Muscular Dystrophy Foundation.
Kind of makes you feel good about humanity, doesn't it?


Spent two-and-a-half hours in here today. That was interesting. Stay tuned.

Tried to drop in on the UAB professor heading up graduate studies for communication management. He wasn't in, but I did accidentally meet a professor I regularly use for stories.

At SouthTrust, I met a receptionist who's brother once worked at the Barbeque House (best breakfast in Auburn). He cooked five years of my food. Truly small world.

Work today was slow. I had one of those days where I couldn't think of any stories to do to help out. Hate days like that. I also hate that for the first three hours of my morning it was not quite 60 degrees in my studio. I've been as good natured as I can be about this for about as long as possible.


Today I met the Great Britian Wheelchair Rugby Association. At first glance, you wouldn't think such a thing exists. Rugby? Wheelchairs?

Oh yes. They are coming from far and wide (Europe, Asia and Australia) this week, 12 teams in all, taking place in Demolition Derby here in Birmingham at the Lakeshore Foundation.
I just added Mark Carey to my links over to the left. He's doing a first person blog of the Mars rovers. As if exploring an alien planet just couldn't get any cuter, this guy's giving the machines a voice. Neat stuff. Check it out.
I just delivered this long soliloquy about how the news outlet's website is often viewed as a step-child. How it is ignored, considered the last in a long list of priorities for an often thin staff already under looming deadlines.

I lamented the fact that budgeting, limited staffing and a lack of creative thinking generally limits what can be expected out of an online presence. I argued that, given just a two man staff, a bit of tech support and active promotion you could draw in far greater audiences for varied, timely and more in-depth reporting.

And then in today's New York Times (free reg. req.), written by Amy Harmon
Since the rover Spirit landed on Mars three weeks ago, 32 million people have visited the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Web site ... The agency recorded four billion hits ... well over the number of hits recorded in the entire previous year ...

The interest, experts say, is driven largely by the vast amount of information NASA is making available for the public. As a population acclimated to video games and cyberspace finds itself immersed ...
Admittedly, a lot of that success has to do with the mysterious appeal of our little red neighbor hanging in the sky. My argument, however, is only strengthened by the statistics.
So a guy jumps/falls to his death from an overpass onto the I-565 early this morning. The Huntsville police say, "Whether he died as a result of the impact or as a result of oncoming vehicles hitting him we don't know yet." Its being considered a suicide at this time. Thanks to an Email tip, we once again beat the rest of the state to the story. (Huntsville not included.)


I just added two new banners to that random generator. Enjoy flipping through them!

Quietly: As I will enjoy the extra hits. Muhahaha.
Driving into work this morning, I was reminded of a great line offered years ago by my college buddy Nathan. "Fog is God's way of showing us all of our headlights are poorly aimed."

I miss that guy. He's still down at Auburn and, as far as I can tell, pretty much just ignoring me. But he's a lot of fun. And extremely smart. So if you run into the Great Sage and Eminent Man, buy him a drink and tell him it is from me. This picture was taken -- as best as I can tell -- in the fall of 1996. Our sophomore year. I met Nate freshman year in a biology class (remind me and I tell that story one day) and we became fast friends.


Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 (New International Version)


Me since Thursday afternoon:

Thursday: Sleep. Zzzzzzzz.

Today: Slow news day, technical problems (both at work and with blogger).


State representative Mike Rogers (D-Birmingham) is charging the state department of education with racism in an open forum.

That story talks about how the Bessemer Board of Education was up to its textbooks in debt ($6.5 million). Rogers, already slated to speak, rambled into a diatribe about state control. "How the hell do you know what you have on your books if you can't get financial records?"

That's why they took over of the situation, because they were fairly sure the local people couldn't handle it. Accumulating debt of $6.5 million being their biggest hint.

But Rogers continues, saying he will back legislation to change the way the state can intervene financially. But the best blast of them all, again at a public meeting, "Every time I look up, (the state Department of Education) is intervening with black schools. Not white schools in worse trouble."

Apparently, Bessemer wasn't putting a lot of money in the classroom anyway. According to this report which gives the school system C's and D's in terms of in class spending.

Ironically, I can't get the state department to return a call and stand by their side of the story today.
Email question -- I don't mean to sound crass, but how did you get the pictures of the hawk at the angle at which you got them, and keep your lens clean at the same time?

I used to watch a lot of Muhammad Ali fights. Stick and move, click and move.

But you know, the more I look at those pictures, the more I wonder. Hawk or eagle? Like I said, you don't see (either of) them much around here in the wild. And I am no expert. Anyone want to help display my ignorance?
Pay no attention to the man behind Mike Rowe Soft. He is not the true software wizard.


Four of yesterday's pictures were pretty good. Yall, it was so cold ... So half-sick and woefully underdressed I'm out running through these woods behind the office trying to talk this creature into sitting still for a few seconds so I could take a picture.

And it turns out that they can fly faster than I can run. Anyway ...

I cut my ear on a thorny vine. But after three or four minutes I couldn't feel it anyway. I got muddy. The people in the office building probably think I am nuts.

Click on the thumbnails for a larger image in a new screen.

My Navy's bigger than your Navy!
And my Navy can beat your Navy up!

There (further) goes the neighborhood.

State schools Superintendent Dr. Ed Richardson is being named the interim president of Auburn University.

Haven't found any fellow Auburn alumni that are happy about this. Some of Richardson's co-workers on the state Board of Education sound relieved. State school board member Stephanie Bell tells us today "There are some things in the last year or so that have been lacking that concern me ... I don't if that's because of his focus at Auburn, I do know that has been his focus for the last six months to a year."

Richardson was previously the superintendent of the (now highly succesful) Auburn City School system and has served on the Board at Auburn. Primarily though, most of his experience is in K-12. This brings up another issue, given the natural differences between the K-12 system and the higher ed programs, is such a job change ethically feasible? Now he must lobby against the Department of Education for state dollars. Where he had to persuade legislators to give money to K-12 for almost 10 years, now he's on the other side of the fence.

The grass is greener over there too. The 64-year-old currently makes $165,780. (One of the highest superintendents in the nation, in one of its most woefully underproducing states.) At Auburn, he stands to make somewhere in the neighborhood of $270,000.

There's another tale to tell. Even if he doesn't intend to try and make the job permanent as the Mobile Register reports, the proactive faculty on campus will not like this rush to name an interim. It was that same action with Richardson's predecessor, Dr. William Walker, that put him in office less than two years ago. An ill-advised clandestine search for a new football coach, the University being put on academic probation and faculty dissension ultimately led to his demise last week.

The faculty want input, an open search and the heads of Trustee members Bobby Lowder and Earlon McWhorter before discussion of an interim begins. They are clearly not getting their way.

Ironically, a disgruntled faculty senate is what got the ball rolling the last time. Frustrated with the Board and the administration, they appealed to the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges for an investigation into Trustee micromanagement and other complaints. That probe resulted in Auburn being placed on probation late last year. That's just a small step from yanking accreditation. Such a move would make federal money disappear, while simultaneously turning professors, researchers and students elsewhere and making degrees from the institution worth virtually nothing.

Around and around it goes. Auburn's most shameful tradition begins anew.
If you are like me and have a mother, go find her a spa. I've been getting my mom a full day at the Light Touch Spa in Louisville for a few years now as a Christmas present and she really loves it.
When one considers the boiling like a lobster, kneading like pastry, overcooked noodle condition ... wrapped like a hostess cup cake, and being rubbed like a fine steak with tips colored for an attractive, appealing presentation on the platter, I was a virtual smorgasbord of "woman experiencing rest, relaxation and serenity". Not to mention a killer lunch!!!!!!!"
That's just the summary of an in-depth report of her trip yesterday after she cashed in her gift.

Trust me on this, save up for a full day at the spa, you can do no wrong for weeks.
Have to love the comments from Buddy Sharpless, the executive director of the Association of County Commissions of Alabama. I interviewed him this morning about a proposal they are backing for more home rule by the counties, rather than the long-standing run-everything-through-the-legislature concept we enjoy so much in Alabama.

He was comparing and contrasting how his current proposal should be more "palatable" than the one backed last year by Governor Bob Riley. That one's complexities, Sharpless says, actually turned out to require more effort than the current method of operation to do work on things like noise abaitment and animal control. The Governor's proposal never had full support of anyone: legislators, county commissioners or the all-too-important special interests.

Sharpless says his proposal doesn't get into some of the tax issues and regulatory matters that were a stumbling block last time around. "We think it is a good opportunity with the financial difficulties facing the state that they not have to worry so much about local issues and allow the counties a little more authority to take care of their own matters."

How novel and populist. As my Associated Press colleague, Shedd Johnson said, "Good luck to them." Its likely got about that much of a chance.
I haven't made the time to look at the pictures on a big screen yet, but I caught a few snaps of a hawk as I was leaving work yesterday. You don't see them in the wild very often around here. If any of them are good (a few look promising on the camera's little LCD) I'll add them later today.


Alabama facts

After years of budget cuts to education, the classrooms are bracing to suffer once more. Dr. Joe Morton, deputy superintendent with the state Department of Education says Alabama's historically systemic textbook problems are about to get worse in the face of still more legislative budget cuts, "We spend about $7.19 per year per child on textbooks, when it costs about $80 to fill the bill."


Brandy and I had our Christmas Friday night. Practical and uniquely ours, it has become a tradition to do it late.

First its good, cause you can shop for the good stuff cheap. Nothing says "the thought that counts" like quality presents on clearance. Like I said, practical. Also, it just sort of goes with our traditional Christmas theme.

Brandy got an IU longsleeve t-shirt and a hoodie, an (authorized) bootleg of a concert we caught last fall, an emergency car kit and scarf.

We also opened a present that was left at my house with no name on it. Turned out to be the board game Upwords. We've already had a lot of fun playing it.

To see all the great presents I got, you can click here. Between all that and the rest of my gifts this year, it is obvious I got more than I deserve.
Friday I finally took my New Year's Day holiday. I slept in to an almost sinful 7 a.m. When I opened my eyes I saw a beautiful sunrise. And then, half sick, I grabbed a camera and ran outside in sweatpants, a t-shirt and tennis shoes in 36 degree weather. Some of the pictures have now been added on the 'visual' page.


A relative sent me this little joke. It got an unexpected laugh, so I'll share it with you!

After his death, Osama bin Laden went to paradise. He was greeted by George Washington, who slapped him across the face and yelled, "How dare you attack the nation I helped conceive!"

Patrick Henry punched him in the nose and shouted, "You wanted to end America's liberty, but you failed."

James Madison appeared, kicked him, and said, "This is why I allowed the government to provide for the common defense."

Bin Laden was subjected to similar beatings from James Randolph, James Monroe, Thomas Jefferson and 66 other early Americans. As he writhed in pain on the ground, an angel appeared. Bin Laden said, " This was not what I was promised."

The angel replied, " I told you there would be 72 Virginians waiting for you. What did you think I said?"


Here's how the state of Alabama will reconcile some of its budget problems (and it goes along with a Jan 13th entry):

There is a movement to freeze what the the state pays toward teachers' insurance costs. A single teacher, with no dependents, right now pays two dollars a month toward insurance. The state covers the rest. (Please try to hide your indignation better than those who scoff at changing this gift.)

They have paid that same amount for the past 11 years. Meanwhile, the cost of health coverage, of course, has done nothing but skyrocket. Within the next two years, the Public Education Employees Health Insurance Plan is expected to grow by some $120 million. Keep your calculator in your pocket, reform is needed.

A truckload of groups have long advocated for reform in PEEHIP as one way to help ease the state's burden. Three of the Governor's appointed Commissions -- charged with finding ways to cut costs -- have now formally recommended such a change.

State Senator Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) told us yesterday that all the teacher groups he has spoken with have agreed to changes in the insurance program, if it saves teacher's jobs. Previous estimates have shown the state hemorraging those positions this year if something doesn't happen. Meanwhile, State Representative Scott Beason is proposing a freeze to what the state pays in PEEHIP. He told me earlier in the week that doing so would prompt reform in the insurance program for public employees as well.

Right off the bat, Beason says, such a move with PEEHIP alone could take 120 million dollars off the deficit column for Alabama. A good idea in dealing with a program that could dwarf the General Fund Budget by the end of the decade.

There will be resistence ... Teacher's union Paul Hubbert will fight tooth-and-nail any changes. Today he's concentrating his considerable power on the Governor's Commissions, skewering them for not insisting that out-of-state companies pay "their fair share" of taxes toward education. Here he has a point, and it is worth noting that those Commissions are made up principally of prominent business figures. The same ones Hubbert is frowning on.

Reform is in the air. The Governor, moments after the overwhelming defeat of his tax referendum last September, said the people had spoken for smaller government. His GOP mates in the legislature seem to be thinking along the same lines today.

The wild card is, what will the Democrats (still controlling the legislature) do? They've been quiet on this matter, prefering instead to talk about another attempt at a state lottery.

But that's gambling on another day.
I had a nice chat yesterday with the head of the master's degree program for journalism and mass communication at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Their distance learning program sounds great, but is prohibitively expensive for a humble out-of-stater.

But that conversation, combined with the news that Wads is thinking grad school at State College and then law school has me really wanting to go back for a Masters. Well, those aren't the only reasons, just the loudest ones of this week.

So I've decided to drop in on the people at UAB's communication management program. Long time readers will recall that I tried to look into this new program last fall, but couldn't get a response from them. I found that to be disheartening, not to mention a red flag, but I'll give them one more try.
"(The Americans) say, `You are heroes, but at the same time, you are crazy.' " -- Brig. Gen. Munaam Said Abdul-Qadr.

That's the head of the police bomb squad in Baghdad in a story I am reading about the work they do. The 11 members of the squad have defused an average of 40-50 bombs each within the past nine months. They do their dangerous work in street clothes, armed with little more than wire cutters.
How strong am I in pop-culture? Apparently not very. I've only watched 85 of the top 250 movies, as voted by the IMDB.

On the upside, if I drag my sickly butt to the video store this weekend I've got what is apparently a good list of movies to choose from.


Just reading an intriguing op-ed by Andres Martinez in today's New York Times (reg. req.) about Paul O'Neill.

Former Treasury secretary Paul O'Neill is taking a beating over his scathing book, The Price of Loyalty about his time in the White House. O'Neill is about to be taking an investigation as well.

Conservative pundits dismissing O'Neill's claims about the Bush administration call him nothing more than a disgruntled ex-employee who was fired. Maybe.

Many of those same conservative pundits are saying that the President's advisers have completely removed their finger from the nation's pulse in the form of the proposed immigration bill.

It is interesting that no one has found the correlation in White House behavior.


The Governor's Commission on Efficiency, Consolidation and Funding has reported back on ways to make tough economic choices in tough times. Suggestions include reducing the number of state holidays, merging some state agencies, managing the state motor pool through a private entity, linking raises to performance and adjusting state employees salaries and benefits.

As you might expect, it is that last one that is immediately causing a stir.

As Bill Barrow wrote in today's Mobile Register.

Mac McArthur head of the Alabama State Employees Association, said "This report focuses keenly on taking the ax to state employees. ... I want to make it clear that I am unable to support these recommendations."

State employees, he promised, "intend to fight to make sure that they keep all that they have earned." And he lambasted the report as little more than a proposal to establish more study commissions and new government agencies.

McArthur is doing his job and his job is keeping other people in jobs, but it is hard to fight for these people. A recent survey of 13 Southeastern states ranked Alabama right in the middle of average pay and benefits for state agency employees.

What's more, the survey -- which did not include teachers -- revealed their average compensation to be more than 43 thousand dollars.

Friends, I'd have to come to work twice a day to see that much money.

The president of Business Council of Alabama, an ardent supporter of Governor Riley, calls McArthur's stance "politics of division." Given that McArthur sat on this Commission and apparently said nothing of his concerns until the eleventh hour, that claim has merit.

If your state employee average income is just under 20 percent above the state's median household income, it is easy to see the division. If the average state employee's annual compensation is actually greater than the real median income figures for the nation, it is easy to see the division (page 8 in this Census PDF).

I studied economics, but I am by no means an economist. However, the figures are telling.
Ten minutes after that last post -- and after about 27 hours of missing it -- I found my quarter. Its a long and potentially embarrassing story that will stay untold and hopefully soon forgotten. The important part is that my quarter and I have been reunited ... and we weren't actually that far apart to start with. Happy day.
I lost my "lucky" quarter. I'm worried about it. So if any of you guys see a 2000 South Carolina quarter worn down to practically nothing, please hang on to it and let me know. We've been together for almost four years now and I'm sure it misses me.

In other wonderful news, my throat is getting sore today. Not a good thing so early in the week. Yay.


Just added a new set of pictures to the 'visual' page. I walked my lunch off this afternoon. So go check out nine new pictures of various inanimate things on the Southside.

You know, a couple of years ago I stopped shooting pictures of people -- no one was ever happy with them, so I just gave it up -- and now I wish I could do that again. I just need to be a little bit bolder so I can shoot closeups of total strangers. I need a fortune cookie with confidence inside.
I think all the bugs have been worked out of my most recent change here. That picture at the top of the page should be different each time you stop in or reload the page. It is a javascript reading a random number and displaying the corresponding image. Right now there are just seven to choose from, but I plan to add to that. Like I said, I think all the bugs are out. If you discover that not to be the case, I hope you'll let me know.

And, as always, if you get that pretty blue and green tripod image, just reload. I'm not excatly sure what causes that problem. I think it is a miscommunication between the software from the wonderful people at blogger and the good people at tripod.


For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10 (New International Version)


Need a cool time waster site to check out? Convert JPG files into ASCII. A neat little concept here. You submit a picture online (smaller than 400hX400w) and it instantly shows you what that image appears as in the ASCII format. Loads of fun.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. 1 Chronicles 16:34 (New International Version)
I have nothing witty to add to this story. It doesn't need any help.
(New Orleans-AP) -- When mourners showed up for Finley Christopher Farley's funeral, they were told that the dearly departed had not departed. He was just being detained in a New Orleans jail cell.

Farley's parents, Eugene and Marion, made funeral arrangements in Decatur, Alabama, for their son after the Orleans Parish coroner told them their son had died in a hotel room. A death notice was put in their local newspaper and a service was set for yesterday (Thursday, January 8).

But as the death notice rolled off the presses, Farley was sitting in jail after being booked on charges of crack cocain possession and public drunkenness. New Orleans police had arrested Farley early Monday in the French Quarter.

Exactly how his name got connected with another man's corpse remains a mystery, as does the identity of the dead man.

A manager for the New Orleans funeral home that handled the body said it came tagged with Farley's name from the Orleans Parish coroner.

At Parkway Funeral Home in Trinity, Alabama, funeral director Michael Coffee said, "it's been a big mess." He said people were showing up for the visitation and then the funeral today "and we had to tell them the guy's still alive."

Something McClellan Said ...

President Bush is going to the moon and Mars.

This isn't the first time Mars has been considered. NASA cost estimates in 1989 of $400-500 billion effectively shut the proposal down.

But White House press secretary Scott McClellan raised eyebrows, saying Bush will "put forth a responsible budget that meets our highest priorities while working to hold the line of spending elsewhere in the budget."

Hold the line of spending elsewhere? The estimate was $500 billion 15 years ago.
"It was very unreasonable and cruel that she was given that picture," (Jennifer) Langston's attorney, Michael Sherman, said.

To find the context of that quote, read about this woman's unique punishment for a DUI death.

Not included in that particular version of the story, is the reply that I had. And I bet you thought it too ... just as Rosellen Moller, Clark's mother, told The Sharon Herald, "I thought it was unreasonable and cruel to kill my son ... It's Glenn in the casket. I figured she put him there, so that might as well be the picture she has."
I am as stunned about this as you are about to be: I got eight hours of sleep last night. This happens occasionally, but almost always on weekends. Rare is the day when I can get eight hours of blissful slumber during the week.

I fell asleep shortly after 7 p.m. last night ... and short of waking up one time, I slept until just after 3 a.m. And now here it is, at this late hour of the morning and I am still awake and alert (and don't mind it). I have no idea what to do with myself!


Alabama facts

Alabama performs woefully in yet another education report. Education Weekly's new Quality Counts report, says that the $3,918 spent per student for special education is among the nation's lowest. Meanwhile, Alabama is seventh in the percent of students classified as mentally retarded. These figures are an improvement for the state, but remain below the national averages. Most alarming, the ratio of black to white students classified as having mental retardation is three to one.

The full nationwide report is here.

The daunting task ahead will impact all states. By 2013, a vast majority of students with disabilities will be held to the same standards as their peers in general education, and they are expected to perform at the "proficient" level on state tests by federal mandate.
I have a question about the reciprocal nature of links. I noticed, to my extreme pleasure, that Karen Clark has linked back to me.

I started it, finding her blog some time ago and regularly dropping in -- and you should too, she's a clever person for a silver beetle. Anyway, she tracked me back to here and somewhere along the way deemed me worthy of a link. This is very flattering. But Karen, I just looked at your stats, you get 80 hits a day, send them my way! I know I'm not nearly as entertaining a read as she is, but surely someone (or 79) will come over for a visit.


The Department of Defense is looking to cut bases again. The 2005 Base Realignment and Closure program looks to cut more installations than all previous BRAC cuts combined. Alabama has four major military installations and the Governor is now swinging into action, hoping to insure that those facilities stay open and those jobs stay where they are.

I asked Governor Riley today, "What do you mean when you say 'whatever it takes'? After all, the federal government is doing the closing." The governor, in the middle of a tour of those bases, said he plans to talk with local officials and base officials to see what they need to help "Eliminate the negatives." He cited the need for a roadway expansion at the Anniston Army Depot so that BRAC could not say it was inaccessible.

Governor Riley points out how Alabama is fortunate in that several members of our congressional delegation sit on important military committees in the House and Senate. Then, he says, the job falls to the state to sell the importance of the bases in the state. For example, Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville has "one of the best research facilities in the world," the Anniston Army Depot "does all the maintenance on all-track vehicles, it is the only place in the world that does that." At Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Governor Riley points out that "every Air Force officer will eventually go through there in their career" and down at Fort Rucker in southeast Alabama, "hosts unique helicopter training for every branch of the mililtary."

But keeping the bases is not a slam dunk, Riley points out. He recalls a time when Alabamians thought Fort McClellan couldn't be closed because of the military police training and chemical work being done there. BRAC shut the base down, sending the responsibilities to a Missouri base.

Doing so again could be devastating. For example, some 5,000 jobs are directly tied to the Anniston Army Depot. Huntsville would all but wither on the vine if Redstone were closed. Fort Rucker provides the bulk of jobs to its community and a big chunk would be removed from Montgomery if Maxwell is shut down.
Prisoner poo. Just what you want to think about when you are taking a nice hot shower.

Turns out the Donaldson Correctional Facility has been polluting a nearby creek with raw sewage since at least 1996. Eight years this problem has not been fixed. The State Department of Environmental Management has now issued a second 90-day consent order for improvements to the overtaxed system. The first such order was years ago, but the problem wasn't fixed. The government is having a hard time regulating itself on this one. And while ADEM says its no harm to you, the water drinker, it can be devastating to the ecosystem.

Meanwhile, the St. Clair Correctional Facility is symbolic of the problem. A prison official says the place was originally designed for 600 inmates, and now holds 1,500. Never has the wastewater treatment system been upgraded.

Sadly, the Department of Corrections, freely admitted to me that at least four or five other locations are tottering on the edge of violating federal laws on this issue, but officials say they can't fix the problems. Too many prisoners, not enough money.

ADEM's spokesman told me they would rather not fine DOC, but prefers to work with them to remedy the situation. Just any time they can get around to fixing an almost decade old raw sewage dumping problem would be a good thing.


Went to a library book sale. Picked up two books. Brandy bought two. We paid a buck. I got Peter Jenkins' Looking for Alaska and Michael Frederick's Ledges.

Brandy got silly ... and she will hate this picture. Sadly, the good picture intended to make up for it was a bust. So she'll just have to deal with the goofy one. After all, we can't have blurry pictures here. Goofy, yes. Blurry, no. But, its no worse than some of the pictures she got of me.

Ever hear the expression "Never judge a book by the cover"? What about a DVD? I went over to the movie section and saw this ... When I (finally) get a DVD player I am checking this movie out ... I have to know what happens.


Remember Wilson from Tom Hank's movie Cast Away? I was reminded of Wilson tonight when I cleaned out my dishwasher. This little fella had fallen through the racks and melted. If I get bored, I can always strike up a conversation with him.


TGIF. This has been my first full week back at work since prior to my vacation. I woke up at 3 a.m. and went to work five days in a row for the first time in three weeks. My body has been protesting since Wednesday morning.

Top that off with it being an incredibly slow newsweek, being incredibly short-handed becauseof vacations and a colleague that's been fighting the flu (and the rest of us are desperately trying to avoid her) ... its good that the weekend is here.

Tomorrow I finally get to see the last Lord of the Rings!
You want to hear about a bad man? I've read this story twice now ... and the New York Times version (free reg. required) has a few more details. But if you want a serious hero, check out 25-year-old Sgt. Randy Davis, a sniper in the Army's Stryker Brigade.

In one month in Iraq, the Murfreesboro, Tenn. native has eight confirmed kills and two probables. That includes seven in one day.
Company B walked into an ambush in downtown Samarra in which gunmen on motorcycles used children leaving school as cover to attack the patrol. Sergeant Davis, armed this time with an M-4 rifle, shot 7 of the 11 attackers that American commanders say died in the 45-minute skirmish.

"We don't have civilian casualties," the sergeant said of how he avoided the schoolchildren. "Everything you hit, you know exactly what it is. You know where every round is going."


Alabama facts

Alabama workers' pay ranks sixth out of 13 states in the Southeast. A new survey considers average pay and benefits paid to state agency employees. In Alabama, the value of total compensation averaged more than 43 thousand dollars per employee. Averages range from more than 48 thousand in Kentucky to almost 37 thousand in Mississippi. The survey did not include school employees.

And a happy new year.

To happy endings and new beginnings.

Renowned physicist Brian Greene points out, "Time dominates experience. We live by watch and calendar. We eagerly trade megahertz for gigahertz. We spend billions of dollars to conceal time's bodily influences. We uproariously celebrate particular moments in time even as we quietly despair of its passage."

And I find myself always looking forward at a time when I always look back.

Its been an interesting year. An important year. I've learned a bit more about the world and a lot about myself. There's no sense recapping an entire year here. I'll spare you that, and ask instead that you spend a few quiet moments staring at the clouds.

Daydream about your year to come. Visualize what you hope to accomplish. Not in the form of resolutions, but picture the moments that, 365 days from now, we will have uproariously celebrated.

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