Even before former governor Don Siegelman was surrounded by indictments and investigations, the question arose: Who runs for the Democractic nomination for governor in 2006? Siegelman was planning a run, but it seems less likely with stories of indictments and grand jury investigations piling up.

So who does the encumbent Republican Governor Bob Riley run against?

The top ranking Democrat in the state hasn't thrown her hat in the ring just yet, but her numbers look good. As The Crimson White reports, Lieutenant Governor Lucy Baxley might be in the catbird seat.
Results of a recent survey show that many voters are hesitant to re-elect Republican Gov. Bob Riley while others favored Siegelman, a Democrat, for Alabama's top executive office. But the polling results are remiss of one small factor: Siegelman's indictment.

Published just days before the news broke, the poll's director said the data would be drastically different if the survey had been conducted after the incident.

"Siegelman's situation opens the door wide open for Lucy Baxley," said Gerald Johnson, executive director of the Capital Research Center at the Alabama Education Association's headquarters in Montgomery. "She is now the clear leader for the Democratic nomination."

"It is too soon for me to make a public announcement as to whether I will run for governor," Baxley said. "However, I certainly hope I can gain enough support from the people to have a viable candidacy in 2006."
What will make her even more viable is that at least two of the three largest issues that resonate with female voters -- healthcare and education -- will still be the top issues in state government in two years.


I've lately been reading this site, The Green Side that posts letters from a Marine in Iraq back home to his dad. They will increasingly make you proud. Here is the end of Major David G. Bellon's latest installment, where he describes the typical Marine sergeant.
I want to close by sharing with you that the coalition put a real hurt on the terrorists and criminals this week. I know it is horrifying to see the hostages killed on television but without being able to go into detail, the coalition has compromised and successfully attacked a number of senior terrorists this past week. While this is going on, the men are training new Iraqi soldiers and police officers and continuing to reach out to the people. The young Marines that are doing the work over here are committed young men who believe that they were doing the right thing. There were losses that are tragic. Losing Marines is a profoundly personal thing to their buddies and fellow Marines. However, I have yet to see the young men's will waiver. They just continue to go out their every day and do their job. Like I said before, it is humbling be around them.

So you've seen the movie, now you want to play. Fear not, there's an international Dodgeball meetup in two days.
The Macon Telegraph reports of Chuck E. Cheese being threatened.
A teenager dressed as Chuck E. Cheese was pelted with pizza and threatened with a beating Sunday by an angry parent who said the restaurant mascot wasn't paying enough attention to her child, witnesses told Macon police.

The 17-year-old was in costume as the pizzeria chain character - a gray cartoon-like rodent with large front teeth - when the 31-year-old Macon woman threw a piece of pizza at her, the report stated.

The woman then allegedly threatened to "whip" the girl when she changed out of the costume.

No charges have been filed in the incident.

Remember friends, restaurant rage is a terrible, terrible thing.
The Census Bureau says Alabama is better than only three other states in terms of high school graduation.

Only Texas, West Virginia and Louisiana have lower percentages of residents who are 25 or older holding high school diplomas than Alabama's 79.9 percent, the Census Bureau reported.

On the heels of this news comes another statement out of Montgomery that the Alabama Reading Initiative -- a successful in-school program -- will not be expanding in the short term, despite a pledge of more money from the legislature. This is because of the schedule differences between the scholastic calendar and the governmental budget calendar.

The project that started with just a handful of schools in 1998 is expected to include all schools in 2006.


"It's real scary."

The Secretary of State Nancy Worley on tomorrow's projected voter turnout. Less than one percent is expected for the primary run-offs. This on the heels of the June primary, which brought us a 16 percent turnout.

That day, Worley -- who as Secretary of State oversees all things electoral -- said, "There just aren't any exciting races." This is not a gubernatorial year in Alabama, the Presidential nominations are all but cinched long before people here can go to the polls. There was, however a barely contentious state Supreme Court issue.

The less-than-one percent turnout feared for tomorrow is, in a way, understandable. Much of Alabama isn't able to vote in these few and small primaries. The reason? No statewide races in either party. In 18 of Alabama's 67 counties there will be no voting.

It is sadly ironic that many of our fellow Americans spend so much time railing against the efforts our brothers and sisters and parents and children overseas hoping to ensure freedom for strangers while here at home we endure more apathy in each election cycle.

Taken for granted isn't even the right phrase any more.

The unanswered question: Are we so jaded that we don't take part or are we so busy that we don't bother?
Sorry for my absence. I worked this weekend and then left town Sunday for a funeral viewing in north Alabama. So I'm home, safe, tired and ready for a nice long nap.

Why is it that it only rains during the day when I am at work? Why can't it rain at about 9 p.m. when I'm in bed? I think I'm going to run a sprinkler up onto the roof.

When the entries have a sleep theme, even I get the hint.

Here's something interesting out of yesterday's Mobile Register. It seems traditional opinion is shifting in Alabama. Or the paper and the University of South Alabama had a quirky survey sample.
Less than half the 407 people surveyed said the war has made the world a safer place, a stark difference from April 2003, after the successful invasion, when more than three-quarters of respondents said the same thing.

"Many people were optimistic the war would make the world a safer place," said Keith Nicholls, a political science professor at USA who conducted the poll. "That optimism was shattered by the reality of our experience in Iraq."

Meanwhile, the latest poll results suggest that the number of Alabamians who believe the war on terrorism and Iraq should be the federal government's top priority has increased since a similar survey in January.
The President's approval rating has dipped in-state by eight points according to the poll.

A very politically astute acquaintance recently said, "If Bush loses Alabama, Kerry will have won in a Reaganesque landslide."

We aren't there yet, but he makes a good point.

I wonder how different this survey would have turned out if it were conducted this week. Will Iraqi sovereignty be a turning point for the GOP?


In Dekalb County, a fire department is destroyed by irony.

"I've seen this type of thing happen before and it's just tough to see it happen again," (Powell Fire Chief Joel) Everett said.

This is the third Dekalb County fire department in four years to go up in flames.
For those of us with loved ones in nursing homes, this is unquestionably a good thing. And now with fire protection rules in place and a deadline set for 2006, there is only one question: What took so long?
The sky over former Governor Don Siegelman's head is growing ever darker. This, as reported in the Mobile Register, from testimony before a federal grand jury Thursday about activities connected to the foundation used to fund Siegelman's failed lottery campaign.
Kimberly-Clark is among several companies that donated to the Alabama Education Foundation, a nonprofit entity created to fund the campaign for Siegelman's 1999 lottery proposal and later reorganized with the stated goal of improving education in the state.

Executives from the Alabama Farmer's Federation, commonly called Alfa, have said Siegelman personally solicited money for the fund after the lottery defeat, while not disclosing to donors that the money was being used to repay debt from the campaign.

Thursday's three-hour grand jury session -- the fourth consecutive day the panel has gathered at the Frank M. Johnson Courthouse in Montgomery -- continued what has become a wide-ranging probe into events spanning over Siegelman's 1999-2003 term atop state government.
The former Democratic governor has maintained his innocence.
In late January I interviewed for a job inside the corporate headquarters of SouthTrust bank in Birmingham. The interview went well, though the gentleman doing the hiring ultimately decided that every applicant he hand-picked were ultimately underqualified. I won't argue that point any longer.

As you might have heard, SouthTrust is being bought out by Wachovia, which has said that more than 4,300 jobs will be cut. One expert, as quoted in today's Birmingham News estimates that 1,500 to 2,000 Birmingham positions will be either cut or relocated.

This might be one of those times where apparently not "having the experience we're looking for" is a good thing.
"I feel like Dr. Morton could take education in Alabama to a higher level," said state school board member Randy McKinney, who represents southwest Alabama. "We don't just want to be mediocre."

This story tells us of a coming vote to name the new state school superintendent. Dr. Ed Richardson left the job to assume the Presidency of Auburn University. His deputy, Dr. Joe Morton, has been serving as interim superintendent and is considered the front runner for the permanent job.

It is disheartening to learn that the state paid Dr. Richardson $170,000 dollars for what even state school board members consider a "mediocre" job.

Sadly, this isn't a new realization, but it bears continual notice of where the state is (and isn't) spending our money.


Two months for rape. The family, and community, are understandably outraged at this ruling from Circuit Judge John Bush.

Our jails are packed, but are they so crowded that we can't stuff a man convicted of raping a 12-year-old in a corner somewhere? This contempible decision falls not too long after a national moral outrage over men convicted of violent crimes back on the streets to harm again. Statistically, this convict is a near lock for recidivism.

District Attorney Randall Houston said, "We tried the guy; that's all we can do. The jury found him guilty. They did what they had to do. We would have liked a longer sentence, but that's not up to us."

We would liked to have given him a life sentence, but that's not how our system works."

I know Randall Houston, he's a good man, a strong prosecutor. He's seething over this.
I spent way more time than I should have tweaking that countdown clock down the right column. Ehh, a labor of love I guess. I hope it looks right in your browser. If not, please let me know. Now that lunchtime is over ...


Karen: You know my fave music is early 90s ... Actually all the 90s.
Me: Pearl Jam until the Spice Girls
Karen: Including or not including the Spice Girls?
Me: The first singles of each, I knew then, were turning points in what the music industry was willing to give us. The first time I saw Alive, on Headbangers Ball, I knew it was going to get good. When a friend showed me a Spice Girls video I knew it was over.
Karen: (laughter) Good calls.
Me: Sadly, it was a guy that showed me the Spice Girls, "Check this out man!" I lost a lot of respect for my friend that day, even if he did love Jimmy Buffett.
Karen: (More laughter) I love the loss of respect aspect, it shows a lot about how we think.
Me: If you are about some girl power cheesie video, I'm sorry, I just can't hang out with you anymore. Ironically, the friendship faded a bit not long after that.
Karen: Like if your friend kills someone and asks you to hide the body -- you dont really lose that much RESPECT -- but when they get into bad music, it just goes.
Me: Oh I'll help a really good friend move a body -- though for immunity later I'd consider testifying against them -- but if you put on some Phil Collins "Psuedio" while we're tugging that dead weight around, nu unh.
Karen: (More laughter) Hey, I'll hide a body. I'd be like "OK, lets use your car, I'll get a shovel."
Me: Maybe the next time (HA!) that happens, I'll ask what is in their CD player before I agree.
"It will be a jewel in Auburn's crown," says history professor Wayne Flynt.
The Auburn University History Department and the Alabama Humanities Foundation plan to create an encyclopedia containing the entire history of Alabama.

This will be the first Alabama encyclopedia since the 1920s, the longest gap between editions of any state.
And it is going directly online.
How 'bout them Tigers? Five AU track stars qualify for the Olympics.

They're not alone. So far, 20 other athletes and coaches with ties to Auburn are already on the Olympic team.

With swimming trials and more track and field trials coming up next month, we expect the number to climb.


Mark Hasty reminds us that we are safer from s'mores because of the Patriot Act, which is being used to track down evil-doers. If you eat marshmellows, the terrorists win.
Your tax dollars at work: a teacher's aide hauled off a cruise ship to satisfy a bench warrant regarding a $50 fine for improper storage of food.
Vacationing from Riverton, Wyo., Hope Clarke said she had been rousted by federal agents at her cruise ship cabin door at 6:30 a.m. She was put in handcuffs on a bench warrant for failing to put away her marshmallows and hot chocolate while staying at Yellowstone National Park last year.
Now, the outrage here is not that she was fined for failing to store food properly. That is a serious concern when one is in the company of bears, as any visitors to Yellowstone must assume themselves to be. The problem is this:
The catch? Clarke said she had to pay the $50 fine the same day for the federal offense of improper food storage before she was allowed to leave the park. Nonetheless, a warrant claiming she had not paid went into the federal law enforcement database.
Bureaucratic screwup + random passenger manifest check = a bunch of money spent dragging somebody into court for a $50 fine. Thankfully, the judge involved displayed a modicum of sanity:
[US Magistrate Judge John] O'Sullivan had a copy of her citation indicating the fine had been paid and thought that her [nine hours] in jail more than covered the offense even if she hadn't paid.
And uhh, sorry about ruining your vacation Ms. Clarke.
Alternative radio is about to become the biggest fight in town. One of my favorite jocks -- and a very nice man who gave me lots of good advice when I was getting started -- is coming back to Birmingham radio.

Hurricane Shane will be competing against his old station on the ambitious Z-100 out of Tuscaloosa. I've put their notice over in the right column so we can all count the seconds until he cracks the mic.


Good news all, I have finally gotten word that I passed the entrance exam for grad school. This does not mean -- nor does it guarantee -- my being accepted, but at least that hurdle as been overcome. Thanks so much for your thoughts and prayers.

Now I don't have to worry over that part, but instead I'll sweat out my overall approval. So you can uncross your fingers and massage the cramps out of them. And, if you don't mind, cross them again for a few more weeks.
The cool eye of history is beginning to focus on the September 11th terrorist attacks. Here's the latest on what will surely be a contentious report from the 9/11 Commission. This from the New York Times (sub req):
Far from a bolt from the blue, the commission has demonstrated over the last 19 months that the Sept. 11 attacks were foreseen, at least in general terms, and might well have been prevented, had it not been for misjudgments, mistakes and glitches, some within the White House.

In the face of those findings, Mr. Bush stood firm, disputing the particular finding in a staff report that there was no "collaborative relationship" between Saddam Hussein and the terrorist organization. "There was a relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda," Mr. Bush declared.

Such assertions, attributed by the White House until now to "intelligence reports," may now be perceived by Americans as having less credibility than they did before the commission's staff began in January to rewrite the history of Sept. 11, in one extraordinarily detailed report after another.

With its historic access to government secrets, the panel was able to shed new light on old accountings, demonstrating, for example, that Mr. Bush himself, in the weeks before the attack, had received more detailed warnings about Al Qaeda's intentions than the White House had acknowledged.

For now, the panel is casting its work in tentative terms. Its final report is due next month, on the eve of the Democratic convention. In this election year, its contribution has already been to portray Sept. 11 not just as a starting point in the war on terrorism, but also as a point on a continuum, one preceded and followed by other treacheries and failures.
The official findings could yet serve to be the linchpin in the upcoming election. It is looking to be more and more of an impossible spin for the incumbent. Clearly, the White House should not have fought for so long and hard against the inevitable commission.
So someone figure out what's best for me. I'm shopping for high speed internet at home -- it is so nice to finally be stepping into the 21st Century -- but what to get? It looks like I have these options:

BellSouth Fast Access

Roadrunner High Speed Online

Earthlink High Speed Internet

So send me your advice, suggestions and horror stories.


There's been a horrible tragedy in Ensley today. Three Birmingham police officers were shot and killed, apparently while serving a warrant. I watched the television coverage this afternoon at work after stations finally decided to go wall-to-wall.

On the way home I delighted at the local radio coverage.

One news-talk station actually broke away from a baseball game to deliver a quick report. Well, they tried. At first there was a technical error (read, the reporter lost her cell signal) and that lead to about 30 seconds of dead air. They went back to the game, got the cell phone back and went back to the scene for a brief report.

But the best part was on the other news station. The host is ridiculing every news outlet in town, including the one he works for -- while everyone else in the market at least has someone on the scene. So four stations, two papers, at least one news wire and at least one radio station are at the crime scene; yours is not, but you take pot shots at everyone anyway.

Then the host allows callers to report from what television is saying. Read that sentence again. Then the host allows callers to report from what television is saying. The callers then get in on the action of belittling the local media.

The host takes a few more shots as well, talking about how no one in the market has any serious crime coverage experience (ahem), and basically saying anything negative that comes to mind.

The irony is delicious though, as I recall, Wasn't it you, sir, who got a big new contract that came immediately before I lost my job in a budget-cutting move?

He then makes something of an apology to his listeners outside the local area (of which there are a considerable amount for his show) and finally says, "Anytime three police officers are killed, it effects us all."

No kidding now, the next words out of his mouth have to do with Texas high school football.
If you ever suffer from insomnia, call the Columbus, Ga. police department and ask to listen to their hold music. Don't call them, however, and hope to be sent to the person you're looking for. I called for the media relations officer and -- somehow -- I'm now talking to the state-run television station.
I might be going crazy. A co-worker caught me talking to myself in the hall. Moments later I was trying to open the door to the stairwell, only I opened another door, which leads into some type of office. So I've either received at least part of my humbling for the day or I'm going a little nuts.
Alabama facts

Alabama is at the bottom of a national ranking on education. Population Connection's Kid Friendly Cities Report Card uses social, economic, educational and physical environment data to rank cities. In the "large city" category Alabama is represented by Montgomery (69), Mobile (73) and Birmingham (80).


I just turned down a job offer in Louisville. The big news station up there called me last week and offered me an anchor job. Happily I didn't even have to agonize over the situation because he was offering to pay less than my last job. And while being in the top newsroom in Louisville and close to family is tempting, a 22 percent pay cut is not.

Fortunately he said he would keep me in mind if anything else developed. Hopefully he wasn't just paying me lip service. Though I am not optimistic that he'd ever be able to afford me. Still, it is flattering to be thought of -- I hadn't even applied for the job.


Total oversight on my part, but I neglected to mention the Friday night festivities. We got Kym married off Saturday, but the night before everybody in that family went out to eat. And since I get to see Kym's son, P.J. about once every two years he and I and his wife found ourselves rocking out to this local cover band. Somewhere during the night they mentioned they had a website, so let me introduce you to The Toms.
Yeah, yeah. Boudleaux Bryant wrote it, big names like Roy Orbison and Nazareth sang it. But Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris will forever own Love Hurts. End of discussion.


Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday dear -- bang bang bang!
Selma police arrested Lorenzo Walker Saturday, shortly after he allegedly ended his son's birthday party with a hail of bullets.

Apparently, the man fired eight times, wounding (his girlfriend's sister Latoya) Powell twice, once in the neck and once in the upper torso.

Powell, who is pregnant, is in fair condition, according to hospital officials.

The personification of irony: Aggravated and demanding reform.
In April 2003, trustees had approved plans for a stadium upgrade, including the renovation and addition of luxury suites, more than 1,000 new seats, and the new concession stands and restrooms. The work was supposed to include murals on the concourses celebrating Auburn football history and was projected to cost $29 million.

"It was grandiose and we had all these great ideas, and now we're pulling back," said trustee Paul Spina, a Hoover developer.

The luxury suites, additional seats and some associated safety work will be complete this fall at a cost of $14.4 million. But it's going to cost $14.6 million to do the east and west concourse concession stands and restrooms. Baker Melson, the assistant vice president for facilities, said it would cost another $12 million to $15 million to do similar work in the end zones.

"When we approve a project to be done, we expect the whole project to be done," said trustee Bobby Lowder, a Montgomery banker.


It was a lovely little service. A family-only deal for Kym and Malcolm as they exchanged vows. Of course every wedding has a little quirk that keeps everything from going just right. In this wedding, the guy running the sound made it to the church about halfway through the ceremony. Sadly there are no funny kid stories to retell. I did almost trip over a pew while taking pictures though. Only one person saw it I think, but it was a nice mid-prayer acrobatic stunt on my part.


We had a business meeting today. The company held it at the McWane Center. After the meeting, but before the lunch with a special guest, we got to tour the Grossology exhibit. That was an experience. I took pictures, but all of them are ... well, too gross to put here.

After lunch we visited with Victor H. Hanson III and Tom Scarritt, the editor and the publisher of The Birmingham News. That was a lot of fun and I could have talked with them all day long about coverage and strategies and things. My co-workers now think I'm the kid that asked for homework over the weekend.

I was not that kid.
Watchers of The Daily Show and fans of stand up comedy already know of Lewis Black. You know he is hilarious. You know he is observant and you know he is acerbic. But you learn all that by watching perform. What you don't know until you meet him -- as I did after his one-night-only show at the Stardome -- is that he's a very nice man.

Something else you probably don't know: John Bowman, the guy on the right, is absolutely hysterical himself. You might have seen him on Seinfeld, but you haven't seen him until you've caught his stage act. He's non-stop, high energy and the perfect compliment to the headliner.


"Your honor, I'm not guilty of these charges," former Governor Don Siegelman told a federal judge in Birmingham today. He's charged with conspiring to rig bids for a state program to help poor, pregnant women.

He later said, "My purpose is to really ensure that the whole truth comes out, not just bits and pieces, but the whole truth. I know in my heart that if the whole truth comes out that the people of Alabama and the jury that is to be selected will see for themselves that I have done nothing wrong."

The Democrat maintains this is part of a Republican smear to keep him out of the 2006 gubernatorial race. Siegelman is innocent until proven guilty, but a taped conversation of one of his co-defendants is troubling.

"It's not a one-time deal," (Dr. Phillip Bobo said) when pointing out he'll make payments to the competitor every year. "So, I mean, y'all got a lot of - that's a lot of incentive. This governor is going to be governor for eight years."
Governor Riley says 19,000 jobs have been created in Alabama since he took office in January 2003. Touting the state's economy, he's pointing out that Alabama was ranked first in job growth among 17 Southern states by Southern Business & Development, and will be named the magazine's State of the Year for the second consecutive year in an issue to be published next week.
For those of us wondering why Iraqis have responded to Americans as they have, Mike Marshall comes through with more insight in today's Mobile Register:
In addition to anger over the lack of jobs, gasoline and electricity, Ammar cites two cultural factors for the shift in public sentiment against the coalition.

"Even touching a man's wife is a great insult in Iraq," said Ammar (Mufeed Hassan, a translator). "After a woman marries, her own father can no longer touch her, only the husband."

The Marines who initially occupied Baghdad seemed respectful of this Iraqi sensibility, said Ammar, but when the Army's 82nd Airborne took over security in the sector, they were less so. At checkpoints, soldiers would frisk Iraqi women as if they were men. American military officials later acknowledged this may have been a problem.

"Iraqis care about this more than food, more than money, more than their homes," said Ammar. "A male soldier searching an Iraqi woman right out in the open, in public -- this is a great shame, the worse thing you can do."

Ammar believes the rift between locals and the coalition has been aggravated by Iraq's not-so-accurate grapevine. This is a country where the newspapers, TV and radio stations were completely controlled by Saddam's government, so word-of-mouth carries more weight than the established news sources.

"We are not isolated the way you are in America, and we talk with one another all the time. So if a tank accidentally runs into a car, and no one is hurt, many people will hear about this quickly. But when the story passes from one Iraqi to another, they put some pepper on it.

"After a while, it will be that a tank rolled over a car and killed a man, then a tank rolled over a car and killed a whole family, then a tank rolled over a car and killed the whole family but one, and they shot the one who was not already dead."
Marshall has been shadowing the Alabama National Guard's 1165th Military Police Company out of Fairhope. This is his second tour in Iraq and he's turning out some very informative work. Kudos to him and the paper for the coverage.


Mom (sitting right) is here visiting through the weekend. Rick flies in Saturday morning. Kym (sitting left), Mother Number Two, is getting married Saturday, hence the company.

The MomHug(tm) is great. Though maybe the best part of the evening was when Coco and I found a lightning bug and helping it escape back to the outdoors.
What will surely come to be known as "The Great Picture Project" has begun.

I've put three pictures up in my entrance foyer. I decided to go with the artsy black & white on a white matte. The pictures are images you could find on the site if you wanted to look long enough.

But now the fun part begins. I'm going to do the den entirely in my pictures. I have to come up with some sort of plan -- color, black & white, both? -- theme ideas, frames that work for the room ...

Like I said, "The Great Picture Project."


Going on vacation? Fox News says, "leave your cell."
Some scholars are worried about the technology overload that characterizes modern life. “Informational environmentalists” is the latest term for those who yearn for quiet time, and a conference on the subject was recently held at the University of Washington’s Information School called “Information, Silence, and Sanctuary.”

“The issue is not just of cell phones but of information overload in general,” said conference organizer and Information School Professor David Levy. “There’s a lot of frustration around the amount of devices, information and the sense of being intruded upon.”

So, what makes people feel such separation anxiety when they’re out of range?

“They still need to feel like they’re in touch in an emergency situation,” said travel agent Kathy Sudeikis, vice president of the American Society of Travel Agents. “The convenience is really important to people so their kids can reach them, their office can reach them.”

Sudeikis said she doesn’t get requests for cell-free getaways — but has clients make sure they'll have a mobile signal when they go away.

“Cell-phone reception is more important than the view,” she said.

This morning at work our attention was held by an invasion of bees.

This afternoon we've been talking about bad 80s TV. Specifically mentioned: Simon and Simon, Cagney and Lacey, The Snorks and (my personal favorite) Turbo Teen.
Another Great Generation

Good news stories are also trickling out of Iraq. Here are a few highlights published today by Mobile Register columnist Mike Marshall. This comes from a profilepiece on some of the soldiers in the 1165th MP company, a National Guard unit based in Fairhope, AL.
Meet Mother Courage, Sgt. Peggy Horen

Sgt. Horen works full time for the Alabama National Guard with the 1993rd Personnel Service Detachment in Montgomery. When the 1165th was mobilized in early 2003, she volunteered to be reassigned so that she could serve as the company's personnel sergeant.

But her role goes way beyond processing leave forms and filing sick reports at her desk in the TOC, the Tactical Operations Center, where there is a radio and a coffee pot and everybody goes to gab. From that desk, she radiates. From that desk, with her quick smile, warm greetings and gently teasing humor, she lights up the whole company.

So I was shocked when she told me that she lost her husband, a helicopter pilot based at Fort Rucker, to a heart attack this past March. She went home for his funeral and was back here two weeks later. They'd been married 17 years.

Horen's regular Guard unit in Montgomery has been alerted for a call-up early next year and is expecting orders to either Kuwait or Iraq.

"So I'll be back here soon. No way would I let them come over without me."

Devoted husband and soldier

Back home, 29-year-old Spc. Shawn O'Connor served as a para-educator at Robertsdale High School, teaching special-education students while studying for his master's degree. O'Connor's wife Tracy, an occupational therapy instructor at the University of South Alabama, has never enjoyed an anniversary with her new husband. They are really still newlyweds.

"I was already in theater when our first anniversary rolled around, and now that we've been extended, I'm still not home," said O'Connor. "I just want to promise her that our third anniversary is going to be the charm."

O'Connor created a giant "Happy Anniversary" poster out of counterfeit Iraqi currency. Then he importuned a newspaperman into publishing it on their anniversary date, June 8.

What O'Connor never mentioned, but I learned later, was that he had applied for Officer's Candidate School earlier this year, and was accepted.

"When his orders came through, he could have gone right home," said Capt. Chris Butler, commander of the 1165th. "But then we got extended, and he came to me and said he was going to turn down that chance, that he wanted to stay here and stick it out with the unit."

Saving infantry or infants

Spc. Angela Peterson of Elberta is 20 years old, having joined the Alabama National Guard at 17 while a junior at Foley High School. The daughter of Phyllis Callaway of Elberta and Robert Peterson of Spanish Fort, she has been recommended by the 1165th for a humanitarian service award.

As a medic with the 1165th, Peterson is trained to give first aid to wounded soldiers, and she often goes out with the Humvee crews. Last fall, she noticed that a prisoner was mistreating a newborn infant in a holding cell supervised by the 1165th. The 15-day-old girl was listless, showing symptoms of shaken baby syndrome. Peterson requested that she be allowed to remove the baby from the mother and take it back to Camp Graceland.

When that request was denied, she enlisted the help of a chaplain back at the base. Together, they arranged to take the baby from the mother and had the child put in a children's hospital in Baghdad.

Peterson plans to attend Faulkner State Community College after the 1165th gets home later this summer, and will pursue a degree in a medical-related field.

"I'm not sure exactly what I want to do," she said. "But now I know I want to help people."


You'll no doubt hear far more than you want about the two kids now on trial in Georgia for planning a Columbine-style school shooting. Instead, I'm going to tell you the good news out of Memphis. This AP story was written by Erin Sullivan for The Commercial Appeal (free sub. req.)
When the teenage boy and his mother were living in the motel he would wake up while she slept and he would pray: God, let everything be OK ... He told his mother he was going to get a job. She said his only job was to excel at school.

When Kyle Summers graduated from Bishop Byrne High School on May 15, he barely had time to sit down because he was being called to the podium so often.

He won scholarships from five universities. He was commended for excellence in anatomy and physiology, honor choir, theater and work with the elderly ... Out of 41 students, Kyle was fourth in his class.

"I knew it was in the Lord's hands," Kyle said. "I couldn't just quit studying and give up. I had to keep trying."

When Kyle was 3, his father left him and Andrea ... By 2003 the bills had piled up ... That winter they got a two-week eviction notice. They had enough money for one night in the motel. A friend paid for two nights.

Andrea called a woman she knew who prayed a lot. Andrea didn't want money -- she just wanted prayer. That woman called her friends. Those friends called other friends. Soon, strangers were praying for Andrea and Kyle. People they didn't know sent enough money for two weeks at the motel ...

"I saw every day how she sacrificed and struggled so I could have a place to live, so I could have food to eat," Kyle said. "The least I could do is to go to school and succeed. And, one day, I'll take care of her."

Kyle has a full scholarship to Christian Brothers University in Memphis and will begin this fall. He plans to major in biology. He wants to be a veterinarian. This summer he will be a leader at a teen team-building camp in Arkansas.

Alabama facts

Just 45 potential state troopers remain in the current class.

The state has 370 state troopers patrolling highways, 13 percent fewer than in 1968. The Governor says we need 600.

There were 750 troopers in 1989 when the numbers started dropping from retirement or better-paying jobs. A 1981 study said the state needed at least 926 patrol troopers to keep its highways safe.


Brandy and I watched Shrek last night. I smuggled my camera in for a few pictures. Two came out pretty well. I'll have to try this again for other movies. I'm not pirating the film, I just wanted an image that was uniquely mine to put here. And since I am the last known American to have been to see the movie, I don't have to recap anything for you.

Still haven't decided which of the two movies I prefer. Though I was relieved by Antonio Banderas' performance. I was concerned about the casting -- so much machismo for a cat -- but he did a great job. Though maybe he should have turned on Shrek somewhere in the film.


Let's all put our junk food down. Forty percent of Arkansas children are overweight.
Forty percent of public schoolchildren in Arkansas are overweight, and nearly one in four is obese, a sign that obesity among children nationwide is probably far worse than health officials had thought.

These are words? Has anyone heard of these words or have I suddenly turned into Algernon? I distinctly remember a few of my spelling bee words: alpine and dictionary.
Alabama's speller-extraordinaire Laura Ann Brown, age 12, competed against contestants from all over the nation in the 77th Annual Scripps National Spelling Bee on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Rainbow City seventh-grader competed in the first and second rounds of the spelling bee, but did not make it to the third round. It prevented her from advancing to the finals after faltering on the written portion of the contest.

Brown spelled her second round word, "laloplegia," correctly, and said the written test had harder words than usual for the first round. Some of the written words she missed included such stumpers as: "epixylous," "gyascutus," and "Biedermeier."
All the same a nice run for the girl. Hope she gets a big welcome home next week.
On the topic of funerals ...
Me: I'll have no talk of goodbye. I want some avante garde, "See you on the flip side" kind of deal.

Kelly: Hey, maybe we could do one of those Captain Kirk things were we give our own eulogy!

Me: I want to do the Captain Kirk thing where I'm not really dead, but merely slightly out-of-phase with the universe and floating in a gaseous anamoly outside the ship.

Kelly: So, much like Woody Allen, you don't want to become immortal through memory, you want to become immortal by not dying.

Me: And if that is the only comparison made between me and Woody Allen I'll be totally fine with that.

Funeral services for Alberta Martin, the last widow of a Civil War veteran will take place next week.
Several Civil War groups, including the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, will participate in her funeral, (her caretaker, Dr. Ken) Chancey said.

Also, two bands that play music from the Civil War period, the 52nd Regimental String Band and the Old Town Brass Band, will play ...

"Mrs. Martin wanted a lot of peppy music at her funeral," Chancey said.
Visitation will be in Montgomery at the First White House of the Confederacy.


I should just rename this blog "Adventures in Lawn Maintenance."

You might recall that the front left tire of my lawn mower was fixed last week, but I encountered problems with the tire staying on the axle. I was able to remedy this problem Tuesday.

Following a torrential downpour Wednesday I finally got out to mow down the savanna today. This goes well until the wheel falls off the axle again! It seems that in all the recent excitment I've managed to lose a washer crucial to keeping the thing running. So having fully and correctly diagnosed the third and final problem I have to make another trip to a hardware store.

Now nearing my breaking point of dealing with a week's frustration over my lawn mower (and whatever the neighbors must be thinking) I buy a new washer ($.30) and have to pick up a new Cotter Pin (having mauled three in recent days).

So the sum total of the repairs have cost about eight dollars (counting a part I bought earlier in the week) and now I have a varied assortment of 49 Cotter Pins. At least the grass is cut.

I can't wait to burn my leaves, clippings and branches. I hope the yard jinx disappears before I start that project.
Up one spot to 47 and look out South Carolina, we're coming to get you!

That's the new ranking for Alabama by the annual KidsCount report, which ranks states on the well-being of children.

The point has been made that this report is using data for 2001. In time, however, we may look upon that as a renaissance when it comes to social services. In a few years when KidsCount reports on 2003 and 2004, we'll likely slide again.
Things we've talked about at work this morning:

The Primaries
Scratched retinas
Maximum Overdrive
Men at Work


Finally some good news from the newest crop of the Mtv generation.
During a recent shopping trip to Nordstrom, 11-year-old Ella Gunderson became frustrated with all the low-cut hip-huggers and skintight tops. So she wrote to the Seattle-based chain's executives to complain. The industry has been getting the message: A more modest look is in, fashion experts say.

The Web sites ModestApparelUSA.com and ModestByDesign.com — where the slogan is "Clothing your father would be proud of" — report that sales have skyrocketed over the past 18 months.

Many youngsters are frustrated by the profusion of racy teenage clothing, according to Buzz Marketing, a New Jersey-based firm that compiles feedback from teen advisers.

Thanks are in order to Pop-A-Lock for opening my car this morning. Got to work, took the keys out of the ignition and set them in the passenger seat to collect my things -- never do this.

Seconds later, stepping out of my car I realize that my pocket is light, awfully light. The coat hanger trick didn't work, so it was time to make a phone call.

If you don't have a roadside assistance program (I do, and that's how I met these folks) go look up their nearest location. Tip: If you can tolerate having your keys locked up, your tire changed or gas delivered until business hours (8a-6p) you'll save.


Finally got to watch IKE starring Tom Selleck. If you don't fixate on the thought that you're watching Magnum P.I. or -- heaven help us -- Mr. Baseball as the Allied Supreme Commander in World War Two Europe you're going to enjoy this drama put on by A&E.

At least after you get past the one General Patton scene. This is dicey, because unless you ignore the man altogether (and you can't) your Patton will fall far short of the real man or of the redoubtable portrayal by George C. Scott.

Making a movie about very real and very significant people is always a challenge: the casting will always upset someone. Selleck did a fine job of conveying the weight and pressure Eisenhower had to deal with before D-Day. Getting past knowing him as Magnum (or one of the dads in Three Men & A Baby) was the toughest part. The movie took the edges off of General Walter Smith's real persona. The directors also took a bit of the prima donna attitude out of British General Bernard Law Montgomery, but the character was otherwise brought to life by Bruce Phillips. They've cloned General Montgomery or they somehow cryogenically preserve him between movies every couple of decades; either way, they've nailed the look.

Which brings us back to General Patton. In his one scene he's presented as something of a desperate con man willing to say anything to keep his job after once again landing in big trouble. Uncomfortable is the word when one great military leader is begging for his job, even if Patton tried to snow Ike. Mostly though, the problem lies with the great tank commander being played by Major Dad (nee Gerald McRaney).

Otherwise this was a fine movie, portraying Eisenhower's sleepless nights, political prowess with Sir Winston Churchhill, failures with Charles De Gaulle and the true-to-life address to the British King and Queen.

The movie distanced itself from the Kay Sumemrsby controversy. The former model became Eisenhower's assistant and driver during the war. She would later say there was much more to their relationship, while Ike downplayed it. Historians have debated the issue since. One can only wonder if there was a nod to her in one of the montages, showing a silhoutte of a woman sitting in the driver seat of a jeep.

Elsewhere one glaring error: the wrong date was listed in the graphic showing Eisenhower visiting the paratroopers. In the movie he's talking with them in the daylight on June 6th. Those soldiers dropped into occuppied France in the early morning of the 6th, Eisenhower visited the day before.

Overall good drama.

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