Kenny Smith | blog

Friday, December 30, 2005

My fourth off day this week. Only cost me two vacation days. Conveniently two had to be used by the end of the year or the company would send an actuary to give me a stern lecture on "The importance of taking advantage of days off: Preventing the HR people from breaking out in hives."

I hear it is a doozy of a lecture, though the slides are said to be a strictly after-lunch proposition.

Driving around town today, while running errands, felt as though I haven't passed these particular places in ages, yet the sameness of the gas prices and other marquee miscellany-- and the concept of remembering that tidbit of information -- hints that the past five or six days have moved with a certain degree of solemn pacing befitting the holidays.

And so it makes sense that these past two days have rushed by.

Nice new waitress for Pie Day. A poet, she is. Just home from Alaska. Talked like she knew me. "You know I've returned from Alaska, lost 40 pounds, got my ears pierced and am wearing makeup. I've grown up a lot!" And indeed she has, though we'll have to take her word for it; I previously did not know her.

Might become a regular customer of hers. Since Ward left we've been adrift. First one week with family in town we were seated at a random table. Did not go out of protest of Ward's leaving the next week -- that and that it was the eve of Christmas Eve. They no doubt felt the economic impact however.

They were thankful today. Where would they be without my weekly guaranteed profit margin?

Anyway, Jess is a poet, and she's been published. Three times she says. Not bad for 20, I suppose, in the contemporary world of poets. She was entertaining, and didn't really appreciate the statement, "See you next Friday." She laughed it off, knowing nothing of Pie Day addictions. She is recently home from Alaska after all. She'll see.

Got two comp questions for grad school. Still waiting on two more. Answer those, defend the answers and then it is thesis time. Clock's ticking, has been for three weeks, but at least two questions are in. Now to get the paperwork rolling, and start researching the rest of the thesis. No classes, but a great term ahead, culminating in a nice warm day in May.

There will be a countdown here soon.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Got this picture from Melanie. Said it made her think of me on a misty day.

Some sort of electrician, and possibly faucet repair. If you call that number you better look up an area code for western Kentucky, as I imagine that's about where this was taken. Great to be thought of in that state, misty day or no.

Had to work today. Perish the thought. Only day of the week though, then I'm gone again. Slow day at the office. Very quiet. Not a lot of people around.

Not the rule at the library, where I thought of getting DVDs. Unfortunately the woman who does not understand personal space etiquette made that impossible. She also lived by the "Pull out every third DVD and slowly read every word on the cover" rule. I bet she doesn't get a lot done in life. For example: I left, went downstairs, came back up, went to the little bookstore in the back of the library, went back to the DVDs ... she was still pouring over the same cart.

Ehh, I'm just holding out for Lost. That particular library has the whole set now. One day I'll catch the discs there all at one time.

Two naps on the sofa. Then dinner and now a long night of sleep. These are the days of my life.

Thanks Melly.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Spent the past few days doing family things out of town. There was a birthday celebration, Christmas, general visiting, dinner and a musical. A fine family time.
So much Christmas I'll have to ship a box to myself. And when it arrives, it'll be like Christmas all over again!

Simple things, simple minds.

A little chilly at the family homestead, no snow -- though it did flurry on Christmas night, a half-hearted attempt -- and now it is starting to rain. In a little while I'll be getting on a plane that lands just five minutes after it leaves, accounting for the time zone change.

So I'll read a bit, more than five minutes worth. I'm cruising through Ambrose's book. Which will very soon bring me back to the inevitable question of what to attack next. There's about 20 unread books on my shelf waiting to be opened, but which will it be?

These are the pesky little annoyances that concern me: What should I read next?

It gets worse. Over a long weekend I'll have to "agonize" over which DVDs to watch.

Tough life, huh?

Sunday, December 25, 2005

An old, handed down, Christmas tradition, having a quick meal at a Waffle House. Usually this is a night mission, executed covertly as the Christmas day passes from fanciful dreams to another solemn memory. That time of the evening just before children themselves have moved on. Santa is resting his weary feet by now, store managers are hoping lots of people shop for knocked down prices at their retail establishments, I go to Waffle House.

Today, though, it was a mid-afternoon event. About 3 p.m. on a rainy Christmas day, I stopped in Hoover -- one of the only sane Waffle Houses I've ever experienced -- for a waffle, sandwich and people watching.

And since I only visit a Waffle House once a year, Christmas, there's been a change: they still don't except checks or plastic, but this one did have an ATM machine. Everything else, except for the two teens with antlers, remains the same.

Eight booths in this store. Barstools are now chairs with backs. There are nine of them, with full swivel capability. Two or three were being used, all eight booths were occuppied during my stay, ranging from the sadly alone to the kids getting away from their families to upwardly young couples with children of their own.

Usually you can depend on some sort of excitement at the Waffle House, a patron ill-advisedly hitting on a waitress, someone being a little too drunk and raucous, a sing along, something. Christmas is no exception, though it's a bit more quiet, the crowd a tad more earnest, the waitstaff slightly introspective, with everyone a smidge more resigned to the day: "It's Christmas, I'm at Waffle House."

There is, after all, nothing else open. Maybe, though, I visited at the wrong time of the day. Busy, but uneventful.

Merry Christmas, friends.

Coco says Merry Christmas

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Eve breakfast this morning at Grandmother Ocie's. This has become the newest family tradition, dating back just a few years now. When the grandkids were all very little we had Christmas Eve dinner there. Santa would at the same time be sneaking into one of the other family homes delivering our presents.

We've branched out so much now, and time is at such a premium that we're cramming as much into the day as possible. So there's breakfast, on a day I haven't really felt fully awake.

It now seems unlikely, when looking back, that we used to eat at this table. Same chairs. Same tablecloth too. And now Grandmother Ocie's great-grandkids eat there. Her grandchildren can't get their knees under there anymore. It's a tradeoff.

I walked out onto the porch, many of the same toys are there. The porch swings, the fall-out shelter and the barn are all still there. It rained a cold and persistent rain today, so the kids couldn't explore these wonders. And they still hold enough wonders to captivate a six-year-old. They still captivate me.

The fields behind the house looked fallow, the carport has been replaced, the chickenhouse is long since gone, but those changes don't blot out the site of so many young memories and wonders. They're stored safely away, leaping forward whenever they're called. And playing in the dirt is always called for.

That's what Grandaddy Tonice always called it. Each time I saw him at church or around family he'd lean over me, the kindest man in the world, with a soft gentle whispered voice that makes you involuntarily lean forward. His was a voice that, when it was used, always seem to have something important to say.

"When are you going to come up and play in the dirt again?"

He'd ride his tractors over his fields and I would sit on the little drop-off from yard to corn and play the afternoon away. So many flashes of little memories in that yard. Racing the carful of family home from the church just up the hill, the old house across the street, running through laundry on the clothesline, all the games and sports that children play in quiet yards, exploring old photographs and trinkets decorating their home, cool shade trees, dusty canned preserves, the air covered with the smell of jonquils.

I never spent more than a few hours at any one time there throughout my childhood, but they've always seemed to be some of the most important hours. And now I'm ducking under the ceiling fan because I'm too tall, and other children are amazed by the same toys we played with 15 and 20 years ago. Heck, one of them still amazes me. Maybe part of me does need to sit at the kids table.

After breakfast we returned to GrandBonnie's for lunch and presents. One of the best-received gifts was a scrapbook and DVD that's been put together of a family vacation my folks, my grandparents and my aunt and uncle had last month. Six hams in the mountains with a video camera. I understand the local Chamber of Commerce is now in negotiations to have them perform a seasonal act. Good for the sight-seers, they said.

After presents, we decided to stack the kids in gigantic gift bags for a picture.

Got all three -- Logan, Zachary and Kyle -- in the bags and was just framing them up when Kyle fell. That was the end of that photo-shoot.

These aren't my children, of course, so I'm trying to figure out this comment about seeing Christmas through the eyes of a child. Maybe they have to be yours. I think they'd adopt me. I'm the cool adult that will play games with them. At lunch I was definitely the person they had to sit with. Only remote controlled cars would pull them away. Sometimes I was even better than their parents. That, I think, was a matter of cameras; mine is digital, they can see themselves, I win.

All I want for Christmas was to give to others. Four angel tree children, four little local children and another mom and newborn, all got extra Christmas -- or in some cases, Christmas, period -- because of our family and friends efforts. That's the second greatest gift of the day.

The first was being able to spend this time with family with a small appreciation of such a precious opportunity.

Hope you have been enjoying your family and friends, and remembering the real gifts.

Friday, December 23, 2005

No work. The sun was up, the few remaining birds were alive by the time I stumbled into consciousness. Pack a bag for a quick overnight trip to family in north Alabama. First an office Christmas with my favorite Kelly.

We exchanged presents -- books, as it turned out -- I received The Giving Tree. A most excellent gift. I also got to spend about six hours gossiping with her. Then we watched a cold sunset over the top of space rockets. She works surrounded by them, you know.

We caught up, we laughed, we ranted -- OK, I ranted -- she put me in my place. It was thoroughly enjoyable. I'm excited for the spring which promises better schedules and the chance to to continue our meetings of the semi-occasional dinners halfway between us. Good times.

Made it to the family, went to Wal-Mart to watch the last minute shoppers. Surprisingly cordial bunch, even if they did often care the vague sense of desperation in the corner of the eye as they glanced about.

Checked out at the garden center, where they apparently store all of their Christmas items. The line was blessedly small here. In fact, we closed out the line. This was after 11 p.m. on the 23rd, mind you.

Finished Bob Schieffer's book this morning, finally. Good journalisty stuff. Now I'm on to Ambrose's Americans at War. A few pages of that and then I'll be asleep in a strange bed (gotta love that new mattress feel, ehh?) and wake to hear the sounds of six-year-olds impatiently waiting for Christmas. Feliz Navi-nap.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Last day of the work week for me; just two days remain in the year. Last of the shopping done. Last of the days escaping into darkness in the early afternoon. Last of the year is coming into focus.

But all that is for next week.

Today's biggest highlight: I'm ruining everyone's Christmas surprises. A story I'm not allowed to tell until after New Year's.

Amuse yourself with a little video snippet I shot last weekend. A dad holds his daughter as she swings. Shot that on my camera, and have no software to turn the picture, but she's swinging big and loves it. Not something you see every day.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

So I'm standing in a short line at the post office ... really, the car line for the big blue boxes was longer than this ... and this girl is asking the teller for a particular kind of stamp. Only they're out. And all they have are the love stamps.

Who knew?

Went to an electronics store, ended up playing video games. When I started winning it seemed time to leave. Whatever time-wasting I'm doing seems to be working, I find myself playing video games on the demo models. I don't even much play my own.

So I thought I should go read. And I did. And it was good. Had some soup with Bob Schieffer. When the bus boy at Panera, where they offer you two overstuffed chairs, a sofa, free Wi-Fi and do-it-yourself table cleaning asks if he can take your tray, he's really politely asking you to leave.

So now it's about 6:45 p.m. Go work on some Christmas stuff. Watch a lopsided bowl game, straighten up just the slightest bit and that's pretty much been my day, which is returning to normal.

Best part of it: more of that is in the forecast for tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Yes Virginia, Tuesdays before Christmas can move slower than the Mondays.

Gave out a few presents at the office. My favorite was of this photograph. Printed a five by seven, put some red matte under white. Had an extra little space of rectangle cut out beneath the photograph, and there we put in a tiny little sliver of Fenway Green paint. Went over very well. The best part of the Boston trip (here and here) was delivering that picture four months later. And, after seeing how great it looked, I can't wait until the poor overwhelmed frame shop guy can do my other ones. I'm flying solo on one other project though, and it scares me a little.

Anyway, Hobby Lobby rules. Second Christmas in the row they've helped deliver the best present. This time because of their inherent craftiness. They are crafty. This time of year, you might expect them to also be shifty, but no. Straight up, good people passionate about their work. It is a tremendous concept. And less expensive. A different shop wanted $70 for the project, the guy at Hobby Lobby did it for a fraction of that.

Greg really liked the art, BoSox fan that he is. It is one part Christmas and one part housewarming. Said its going into his office. I'll be buy in a few weeks to check.

Favorite part of the semester, the ditching of library books. A delirious sound, the ker-chunk of books falling into the bin. Ten books dropped off, the last nine hours of classwork done. I have nothing to do and that, too, is a deliriously wonderful sound.

So I went to buy new software. But that was a bust. So I went to the post office and shipped things. More of that tomorrow. Played with cats. Watched Starsky and Hutch:
When Snoop Dogg is the best part, you've got some problems, dig?
Maybe I need more proactive hobbies.

Mostly I'm enjoying, too much, the precious free time.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Science has left us in short-attention-span mode at work. You could blame the holidays, or the reflectively slow pace of things. You could blame slow news, few local crises or the playful mood of most everyone in the office.

I'm blaming the science of lava lamps. The boss was handing these out as Christmas presents to his staff today. There's also chocolate, but who needs that? we are a deprived groupd of people, none of us having owned a lava lamp before. Here's Brian's.

Brian, Greg and I went out for lunch today. Mom left town and had to have some Thai, so off we went. Ran into some family friends. Turned into a big table.

Funniest non-lava lamp anecdote of the day: Brian mentions the impending arrival of his copy of Serenity and the recent arrival of his Firefly.

You know what's funny? I just decided to give Firefly to myself.

"Really," he asked, "you did?"

Yep, just this minute ... I was going to give it to you, but now it is a Christmas gift to me.

The shade of his lava lamp matched his face. And now we have to find another gift. And, still, the grandparents.

I survived the mall. That should be a t-shirt, shouldn't it? Got parked relatively painlessly. In and out at the post office inside, no problems.

This needs to go far away, very fast

Here I've affected the helpless Southern Boy routine. The genteel ladies of the South can't resist this.

"Take this envelope and fill out that form. Just come back up, don't wait in line."

These words are the best gifts of the year.

Got a lot of pears tonight. They look very tasty and will be a big part of my lunch tomorrow. Tonight is leftover Japanese and doing not a whole lot of anything. Seven or eight days of that and I might start to feel guilty about it. Might. Worth trying ... in the name of science.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Did you know that, on a clear day, you can see 40 miles into the distance from Red Mountain? I didn't know that either. Something I learned today at Vulcan.

I love that place. Very quiet. Always seems a bit sunnier there, except when it is not. Went up to the observation deck, sadly not included in the virtual tour, and saw Jasper. Presumably so. It was the day for it, forecast in the upper 40s and overcast, but it was an uplifting day: 58 was the high, and just beautiful. Boiling, the Yankees would say.

And that was my birthday, exceeding the forecasts as much as possible. Had a little sliver of cake, watched a little sliver of football. Got some nice hugs, lots of phone calls, a mantle full of cards. New shoes, luggage and some fun little presents. Japanese with Mom. A Happy Birthday song on the answering machine. And now an early night. The perfectly complete day.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Friday, December 16, 2005

Company Christmas lunch today. A little tucked away Italian place. No parking, humble building. The place that you pass without even noticing it. Buried in a residential area, the restaurant doesn't look that much different from the nearby houses.

The houses probably don't have the same food though.

Nice little bistro, with posters of deep sea fishing, Marilyn Monroe, baseball greats in the restroom. On one wall is a very young Frank Sinatra. A mugshot. Even the smoothest characters had their bad days.

His crime? Seduction.

We should all have off-days like that.

The place also had a terrific grilled pork tenderloin, over mushroom glaze mashed potatoes. Never want to hear the wait, though, ask how you'd like your pork cooked.

Done Sparky, thanks.

There was cake at the office, thus beginning the worst dietary weekend of the holidays, to be sure.

Now: Cleaning, Christmas shopping, pie day.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

I'm reading a book for fun! Oh the simple joys. No more journals, books or research articles. Not for a while.

So I picked up Bob Schieffer's This Just In once again. Started this book in June, and it has been ignored a lot, which is a shame. I like the anecdotes and the observations of the reporter (those are always big hits with me) but today he offers the conclusion of a recent conversation in one tidy sentence. "Once you realize there is life after mistakes, you gain a self-confidence that never goes away."

Lunch out at Panera. Their credit card system was down. The young cashiers were at a loss. Panic brought out along the faces of the middle-aged. The world was ending. "How do we pay for our nutritious and delicious food!?"

Cashless society. A little storm comes, wipes out the network connections and there is gridlock at the counter. I had cash for once. I could carry it more, but it ruins the lines of my slacks. Makes me sit crooked too. But then, there's this. Greeeeeat. Better call Visa.

Impromptu school's out celebration at The Comedy Club. A family friend from Louisville is performing there this week, so ate with Big John and then caught his act.

John is a really nice guy. Unfailingly polite, terribly humble. Stood up there, all 6-3 of him, and gave a Thursday night show to a bunch of company holiday parties. Had a great set, too.

And I'm not just saying that because he maneuvered last minute seats or gave me a CD.

Mickey Dean was the headliner. Haven't seen him in a few years, so since his heart attack. He has a lot of new material from that now, and it is his best stuff. Other parts I've seen and I started struggling to stay awake, mostly because of the hour.

Greg Hall opened. He's of the singer/comedian variety, but he's also a musician. Bought his music CD, lots of great musicians on it, he's a fine guitarist and has a nice guitar rock, bluesy voice. The first song is an Ayn Rand reference. A good $5 buy. Tomorrow's lunch money, he says.

Then I promptly found a $20 out by the car. Instant kharma, the new currency in a cashless society.

Day three of Pandora. Today I searched The Jayhawks, which Pandora distinguishes the group for their featured "folk influences, mild rhythmic syncopation, acoustic rhythm piano, mixed acoustic and electric instrumentation and major key tonality." All that gave me this:
Teenage Fan Club - Ain't that enough
Jason Sinay Band - Drama queen
Pernice Brothers - Clear Spot
Chappaquiddick Skyline - Everyone else is evolving
John Cougar Mellencamp - Hotdogs and Hamburgers
Gillian Welch - Tear My Stillhouse Down
Terri Clark - Life goes on
Ryan Adams & The Cardinals - Sweet Illusions
Someone still loves you Boris Yeltsin - Travel Song
Pernice Brothers - Clear Spot
Of these first 10 songs, there was the one repeat, I found three new acts, two of those new acts struck me as "Ehh." Two I didn't care for. Pandora's success continues.

As does my search for sleep.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Turned in my last two school papers after work today. Almost 30 pages between them. One paper, on the evolution of presidential rhetoric, I really like.

The other is on the abbreviation of enthememes because of the media world we live in. So, according to Aristotle, one part of the rhetoric is left out and the audience draws that conclusion for themselves. Sometimes, the theory went, this allows politicians to make an inference for the audience, while assuming only a minimal political risk.

I like the first paper better, it was more interesting somehow.

Anyway, that's done.

Built a cabinet, started straightening up the house a bit. Went for Mexican on a cold and rainy night. The place was blessedly quiet. Went to the library. A relaxing night, one of many to come in the near future.

Hey, the semester is over, I don't have to obsessively fixate on anything for a while. Life returns to normal. I feel better about that already.

Day two of Pandora. I typed in Counting Crows, creating a "station" based on similar work. The first 10 songs:

Griffin House - These days (sndtrk)
Jason Anderson - O, Jac!
Morrissey - Interesting Drug
The Wallflowers - One headlight
Joe Firstman - Breaking All the Ground
Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - A Minor Place
Jeff Black - Hollow of Your Hand
Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - A Minor Place (again)
Mojave 3 - Some Kinda Angel
Ben Arthur - Tonight
Of this list, six new (to me) artists. Hey, I don't listen to music radio much anymore, DJ in a past life or not. All of these songs were great, though the rotation seems a bit limited, as you might notice. The problem there might be that they weigh the piano instrumentation a little too heavy in the Counting Crows' repertoire, thereby limiting their "like" suggestions. There were several Crows songs mixed in the first ten, though, and that's always a good thing. Their choices here are headed down a great path.

Also, when you sign up for that free acount -- there's one add, but you aren't staring at that screen anyway -- it recalls your previous "stations" and you can listen there in a click. Custom radio, that they rightly call a conversation. There's a lot of useful interaction here for you to use. Play around with it, you'll be happy you did.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Turned in a 15-page paper (with 30 citations) yesterday. It was about the process of inoculation in campaign speeches. Today I'm laying low. Two more papers to go. Finishing up one and fretting over the other. They're due tomorrow. All down hill from here. A nap would be good.

I'm not young like a used to be. Once I could do three or four all-nighters in a row. It was a gift. I paid for it on the weekend, but I could do it. These days ... well I worked all night Sunday. Felt good during the day, but hit a wall at about 8 p.m.

After about six hours of sleep last night, today is already fading away from my memory. Short-term memory is the first thing to go under duress of sleep-deprivation, you know. Right now I'm trying to unwind a bit and work a bit. Neither concept gets along with one another.

Fortunately the semester ends tomorrow. At some point over the weekend I'll get rest.

Need to sleep better yourself? Start reading.

Finally ... I discovered Pandora via Mark Hasty. And thank you, Mark. This is aptly named, you enter an artist or a song, and a host of similar artists' songs fly out at you on the basis of an analysis of your preference. I typed in Guster, and that created a "station" based on similar work. The first 10 songs:

Robbie Williams - Monsoon
The Damnwells - What You Get
The Stereo - Pay No Attention
Matt Nathanson - Curve of the Earth
Old 97s - Nineteen
Portastatic - Through With People
David Andrews - Everything to Lose
The Vines - She's got Something to Say
Jan Norberg - Jannady Rag
Cheap Trick -- Too Much
Three acts I hadn't discovered, eight songs I hadn't heard, seven of the songs were great. I won't make this a regular feature -- unless you want -- but I will follow this through the week, listing the first 10 tracks of "like artists" and a summary judgement. Mark called this ear crack. He may be right.

Monday, December 12, 2005

3:30 a.m. That is when I went to sleep. My first alarm goes off at 4:30 for work. These are the reasons I have three alarms. Some days it takes them all ...

And today is one of those days. It is also one of those days were I've become obsessive enough that every thought or statement somehow swirls around the school stuff. I've never cared for that frame of mind, yet always find myself there with the school stuff. Good thing I only have the thesis remaining, huh?

Oh, the final ... 40 questions. Finished in about 15 minutes. We await the scores.

So today at work was long. And an exercise in exhausted patience. Not because of anyone else. At all. I was just really tired. After work was the test and then the mall. Toy store, until a kid figured out the electronic drums. Candle store, until my nose couldn't take it anymore.

Around this time the adrenaline kicked in. So I did the only thing you can do in that situation: Chinese buffet!

Then home, where I kept up the appearance of being studious for a few minutes. And now it is bedtime.

Life'll pick back up very soon, I'm sure, leaving you with no shortage of things to read about. Like painting! But first I have to get unexhausted. Oh, and the November pictures will be coming along just any day now, which is a safe bet to make in mid-December.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

I had a three day weekend. Friday was glorious: bright and sunny.

I spent all weekend in the house vainly typing away on schoolwork.

One paper is all but done. Barely 15 pages, but 31 references! The others have, fortunately, gotten some work done. I'm now studying for a final. An all-nighter. Just watched an overtime football game and -- looking at the teevee schedule -- Die Hard 3, Jaws and 3 will keep me company.

If you ever find yourself watching 3, just go to bed. Doesn't matter what time of day, though I suspect ESPN only shows this tripe in the early a.m.

So, I'm not especially happy with the work level of the weekend. Only myself to blame. But at least one is wrapped up and the final is tomorrow, so that will also be out of the way.

Then its two papers Wednesday, painting Wednesday night (cause why not?) and then Mom is coming for a weekend visit.

As the presents begin to trickle in I remain very pleased that most of the Christmas shopping is out of the way. Including a neat little project that is doubling as Christmas-slash-housewarming. I'd say more, but that person visits here sometimes. I hope to scan it for the site as I give it to the recipient. I'm interested to see how the whole thing goes over though.

Speaking of going over, there's some old tests and notes that need to be looked through.

Anyone want to write about Aristotle?

Thursday, December 8, 2005

Firefox just ate my Thursday! I had the day pretty much written up here and then the thing crashed. I blamed Amazon. There I was, trying to figure out when, if ever, the next installments of Newsradio were going to come out on DVD. I was going to wrap up the day by telling you about the series, since I've been watching the first two seasons in 20 minute bursts the last few days.

So just go ahead, TV people, make seasons three and four. Don't worry over five. I couldn't bear it after Phil died. It was also eerie, tonight, watching an episode where he thought someone was out to kill him. I recalled the storyline, but it just has a sad prescience to it now that only makes me cringe, even if the payoff was a bad punchline and Dennis Miller walk-on.

So, to recap what you can't read ...

I said Monday that my last class ever was likely going to be held this evening. Nope. No class tonight. So my last class was Monday night. Just as well. It works better this way, I don't have to sit for two hours staring at the clock fantasizing about getting out of the room. So it stands as a final and a paper due Monday, two papers by Wendesday. After that, my mom is due in town next Friday or so. So between now and then, when you can't find me here I'll be writing, studying or straightening up.

And then I threw in a joke about pasting in some of my research here. Upon reflection that worked better as a stream of consciousness joke and isn't worth the repeated effort. There, I said it: I tell lame jokes. They amuse me, OK?

I realized one person got left off my scribbled Christmas list. Move this over there and there's an easy remedy, but I feel like a heel.

Down to four gifts to get though, so I'm a progressive heel, compared to last year.

Worked on a little side project this evening. Walked out of a store to a guy in a floppy hat, "Scuse me. Do you have a computer?"

Not on me.

I have no idea where that was going, because I was going the other direction. Maybe I should stop and engage these guys in the conversation, just for your entertainment.

Sort of like a guy that stopped me on the street a few weeks ago.

"Do you have a dollar?"

No, sorry.

"Bill Clinton was the President!"

Yes. He was. But I still don't have a dollar in my pocket. Brilliant economy, huh?

Cashless Society 1, That Guy 0.

Somehow that little story got neglected here, which is a shame. It is the sort of thing one could squeeze three or four earnest paragraphs out of in the heat of the moment.

Now I just find myself wondering more and more why he brought Clinton up. Hey, I met the guy three times and he never gave me a dollar and then asked me to hold onto it for you. Maybe you should get in touch and see what happened there.

A local outlet store. Mentioned it in conversation the other night, realized I hadn't been in some time. All their crap has to be new crap!

So I go. I add to the collection of college T-shirts. I found one Michigan shirt. Everything else looked tacky in an outlet store sort of way. Found a couple of candles. The "Wintertime" candle smells like "Wax." Maybe I should have went straight to the "Seaside Holiday" which smelled of something vaguely linen, even through the plastic. But that was a Yankee Candle that found a way into the store, so you'd expect a little more of it.

Picked up a CD for $3.99. Christmas. Frank Sinatra. If I play that once a season it pays for itself pretty quickly. Surely I'll listen to it a few times in the next two weeks.

I love outlet stores. A great way to spend a cold, rainy hour.

Mentioning that Clinton story gives me an idea. The work crew has been discussing the utility of podcasts. Most are just a guy sitting at his computer killing the art of talking into a microphone. Some of them are really good: useful, informative or entertaining. I'd want to do it with at least one more person, just so you could get one of those three things out of your time.

There was, recently, this one hilarious story that I could write about, but you have to hear it. Maybe soon I'll sit down and do that.

I find that to be a common phrase. 'Maybe soon I'll do that.' And so I should go off and do things, before Firefox eats anything else around here.

Wednesday, December 7, 2005

Another day, another morning starting in the 20s.

This is not what you want the DJ to be talking about when the alarm goes off. Not when the electric blanket is burning your toes a nice toasty warm.

A colleague and I were talking about the Season of Giving. She says she and her husband don't exchange gifts, but rather give to others. Sometimes they are profoundly mature beyond their young years.

(I sound old more below. Just so you know ...)

Anyway, they just had a baby this year. They've decided they're going to give her three presents a year. And, when she's a little older, insist that she donate one of those. This sounds like a great plan. I'm curious to see how it works.

And if their daughter isn't a sociopath by the time she's 15, then maybe I'll adopt that strategy too.

Went to the bookstore. Browsed. This is all the bookstore is good for anymore. Get your ideas, satisfy the undeniable need of tactility, and then scribble notes on books you want to order online. If you're good you can find a scrap of paper in your pocket and then one of those stocking stuffer pens with which to write your list of notes.

Really, it was like I wasn't there at all.

So I went down to the video game store and played Call of Duty. I was leading a squad of Soviet soldiers as the Germans laid siege to Stalingrad. All my soldiers spoke perfect English, but with that TV accent we've come to accept as meaning "Russian." Even the colloquialisms were American. Everything else seems very good on that game. Sayeth the man who never plays these things.

Dropped off the Angel Tree presents. Got a Chick-fil-A gift certificate and a "Merry Christmas."

Speaking of food, Wednesday is Mexican night. The waiter is a guy that has served my table for years. Nice guy. Very business like, very fast and out of your way. Always asks if he can refill your glass. Always. I've never noticed this before, until tonight when he asked if I would like a refill before my food got to the table.

I'll just eat the sodium and be parched, thanks.

Picked up some office presents. Bought for the brother and the sister and the step-pop. All the friends are done, save one. Just have to round out with the grandparents and a few cards. Relatively painless this year. Not at all like the stress of last year. Which ... apparently ... was so traumatic I didn't even write about it here.

No sense in reliving that anyway. A few stressful days turned into a fine Christmas. I suspect less stressful days will turn into an even finer time this year.

The optimism of Christmas.

Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Getting chilly. Broke out the long coat. The rule: Your legs get cold walking across a parking lot, you get the long coat.

There's no real hypothesis for this, rendering the essay useless inside one paragraph. A new record!

Stream of consciousness, can't you tell?

This is a catch up day. Home. School. Mail. I left work, got home and waded through. It feels like the Swamp of Sadness. Remember Neverending Story? Of course you do. Bet you didn't know the German title. Die Unendliche Geschichte. Just learned that myself. Also just learned a few more cynical things about the movie. Go check those out.

Swamp of Sadness might be a bit of stretch. How about Ditch of Dauntingness? Doesn't have the same psychological punch on an 10-year-old, I'm sure, but its a little bit better.

Me? I'm fine, thanks for asking. Just your typical end of school "Do some work" stress that always offered a roughly textured intimidation rather than a frenetic burst of energy. Not the work, but the volume of it. And the quality one demands of oneself. Ditch of Dauntingness.

Yeah, more on the quality of the work later in the week.

The actual attitude around here is far better. Tonight I put together my own Christmas present. This was the coolest thing. I got angel tree kids! Two of 'em! Two great big sacks of little girls clothes and toys and fun stuff and good stuff. Best presents ever, I think.

This is really a much more appropriate Christmas spirit than I normally have. Usually, by this point, I'm disgusted with the process and the commercialism and the traffic and the parking. This year I've vowed to buy at least two-thirds of my presents online.

I'm also shopping for less family and they are shopping less for me, but instead for those who need it more. Some of that is happing tonight and tomorrow. And I'll get to imagine these two little girls opening big boxes of clothes and fingernail polish and shoes and lava lamps and play jewelry.

(Dear sweet Salvation Army, if you had pages created for this sort of thing I'd link to them.)

I get, and get wrapped in, so many blessings throughout the year, that it seems entirely unappropriate to get any more. If this is my season of introspection, my thoughts will drift away to children who need tennis shoes, or a toy or food to eat. My extended family is sponsoring four girls this year. My nuclear family is sponsoring a single mother. Angel trees, another donation or two. I may give anonymously more than I do to my loved ones this year.

And I feel better about that.

'Tis the season. A much better one to recall than the cleaning and the papers.

Something else uplifting: Remember my few mentions of Dave Denniston? (You can find those here, here and here.) A couple of weeks ago he took his first steps since the accident last winter, 76 in all. Now you can see video. He's somewhere in the middle of that. And granted I have the slightest peripheral attachment possible (and barely that), but this is powerful stuff. Check out that guy at the beginning. He's has become the posterboy for that program and has been independently walking for some time, but he still throws that crutch down with the determined idea about what you can do with a five percent diagnosis.

"I encourage all of you to take a walk around the block today and realize how truly great it is just to be outside," Davo said. Keep at it.

So now with hearts sufficiently warmed ...

Monday, December 5, 2005

Greeted this morning with an Email from an old co-worker. Didn't I, he wanted to know, used to live here?

Why yes, yes I did. In another lifetime. Or four years ago, whichever passed first. I lived in those buildings for a year. Already I remember little of it. I slept a lot. Worked on puzzles. Listened to an anonymous neighbor's music at all hours of the day. Went to work, meet interesting people. Watched free cable. Read a free paper. Found four restaurants that served sweet tea. Made four road trips into other parts of the state.

That's about it.

Can't tell from that video where the fire was in the complex. Once again the television folks missed the best part of this story, aside from the injuries. Twenty people are homeless. Without homes. Merry Christmas.

This is the format's fault -- too short and with little to be gained, they feel, by revisiting stories -- but I've threatened to become a reporter that covers nothing but fires, just to show that this is about as compelling as it gets, particularly in our hyperlocal world.

Interesting, though, is the odd connection. Clearly I was never attached to the place, look at my memories, but this story has a different impact than your generic "kitchen fires out of control." Time, distance nor a selectively faulty memory could dampen the feeling.

Class today. None Wednesday. Final and paper due next Monday. Class this Thursday ... and that's all. I'll have most likely slung my backpack in a classroom for the last time. Thesis in the spring. Master's by May ... but who's counting?

With the thought of a couple of papers staring down at me -- boy, can I fixate or what? -- I'll still say that going back to school was an overall great move. Frustrating, vexxing, sometimes worth it, other times not. The bottom line is I'll have this degree, thereby devaluing so many other people's educations -- they're going to give me this? -- in 21 months. I expect dividends. And a cool cap and gown photo.

It occurred to me this evening that I'm eating way too well these days. This epiphany came along at the grocery store, where lots of odd realizations have been noted recently.

Probably the worst thing in my buggy was the milk. Or possibly the deli sliced turkey breast.

I've lost 20 pounds since early September, despite some responsible binging. "You hug different," my sister said. Fifteen more pounds and I'd be the improbable high school weight again. And I grew an inch or two in college. Lots of salad. Lots of fruit. Sweat tea just one night a week. It's been slightly impressive.

The other thing I realized at the grocery store, the one that prompted this whole line of thought, was that it is impossible to be cool at the grocery store. Not, say, James Bond cool. I saw people that were, no doubt, very cool in their normal lives, but this is a herculean task while trying to remember what aisle the peanut butter is on, or whether you're running low on eggs or rice at home.

You can't duck down rows of canned goods, dodging vegetables and other customers and be cool. You can't be like that while in the checkout line, fingering your keys or searching for the value card, no matter how hard you try. You can be indifferent, impatient, any number of things, but not cool.

Except for Jasmyne. She was the cashier tonight. I don't know her, except for her nametag. And that she had a jasmine perfume. That was cool.

Sunday, December 4, 2005

Goodbye Savannah. See you soon. That's City Hall. It, and everything around it, is extremely historic. We've been over this.

Hit up Lady & Sons one more time. Had a 20 minute wait that turned into 15. Like I said, the key is going in December.

And not eating three platefuls before having a dessert.

It rained on the way home. Hard. A lot. From south of Atlanta all the way to Birmingham with one small exception.

We played a joke on Wads. He fell for it for about six hours. Secrecy prohibits me from sharing the joke here, but it was a good one though. The punchline was "And then in walks a midget, with a scepter that he says belonged to John Paul II that he bought off eBay."

Got a few pages of school papers done. Saw gas prices at $1.88 just inside Georgia. Prices have apparently started ticking back up here at home though.

Saturday, December 3, 2005

Had lunch at Carey Hilliard's. Saw one of those restaurants last night, with the sky blazing from overwrought neon. The yellow arrow tracing three sides of a square. "Seafood" and "Barbeque" on the top and body. "Hilliard's" a constant. But just above it, midword, the sign spelled out each letter, as if in a cheer: "C-A-R-E!" "C-A-R-E-Y!" "C-A-R-E-Y-'S!"

It was the second one of those I'd seen. Must have been a linebacker at UGA, or some other reasonable name that belonged to someone with an inferiority complex. Asked the lunch waitress about that.

I'm from out of town and was just wondering, who is Carey Hillard?

"He's dead."

If you want to dropkick a low interest into the back of the booth, go with that reply.

Turns out he was just a guy. Started a store, dealt in barbeque -- legendary the menu said -- had success, opened another and another and so on. His son, presumably not dead, is now running the place.

And if the barbeque is legendary, the good people of southeast Georgia don't have much to choose from.

So now I want to develop a ratings chart. A legend on a map. If the menu says the barbeque is "legendary" that equals ... "World Famous" means ... No one knows what these things means, but everyone's barbeque is known far and wide. So the menus all say. Perhaps the word is spread from the herald of trumpeting angels, interspaced at strategic distances down the highways of life.

Why the barbeque? Why don't people know about the late Carey Hillard's slightly better than average Brunswick Stew? One would suppose that isn't the best text to throw on the menu, but the seedy underbelly of the restaurant industry has a certain hyperbole that makes it equate to something.

Forget to Walk Your Dog Brunswick Stew. Yes indeedy, so great you'll go home and want to bathe in it. The dog will moan and whimper for hours before you can fixate on anything other than the grandeur of that freshly chopped corn!

OK, a bit wordy for a menu, but we can edit.

Went to the beach. Walked about two miles on Tybee Island. Played with birds and shells, avoided the Atlantic of December, a little too cynical, that temperature. Your standard day-on-the-beach in sweater and jeans.

Got a parking ticket. The good people of Tybee Island have seen fit to run their meters on Saturday. One little meager sticker, a complete "Teehee, we're about to get 15 bucks off dem dere tourists!" is all the warning you get. No one on this road. Its a rental beach area. Parked on the left hand side, right at the dunes. You wash your feet with the little foot shower and your toes aren't dry before they hit the car's floorboard. That close.

At the very end of the dead end street, right up at the dunes, now. On the left side, because the right side was being grated. Got cited for parking "Against the flow of traffic."

Now, I know the rules apply to all. But, really, I want to impede the flow of traffic. If cars are driving down that last stretch of eight feet of road they are now running over beachcombers.

So that's 27 bucks they can put to lifeguards. And hire some why don't you? The December beaches were empty and my swimming could have been imperiled. If you're going to generate the revenue, producing visible expenditures is the least you could do.

Essentially it comes down to this: I'll pay the ticket, for the early December, late Saturday evening parking violation. My Alabama license plate and my Alabama money, however, will from now on visit and be spent elsewhere. I've done business on Tybee three times this year, but that tax revenue can go to others. Tybee is getting, next week, the last 27 dollars they'll make from me. Bad form creates a bad taste in the mouth.

After making at least 27 bucks worth of jokes in honor of Officer S.H. it was time for crabs. Yeah. that place is on Tybee, too, but I had pre-existing plans there. And, really, I can get seafood anywhere, with varying degrees of Jimmy Buffett.

They also have Christmas lights in the palm trees.

More River Street. Just missed a woman jump/fall into the river and quickly re-evaluate her life's prospects. Shattered her arm in the fall though. She was asking about her purse, despite slipping into shock. Police later said she was physically fine except for that arm. Personally glad we didn't have to go in the water. Would have been chilly and they say it moves at about eight knots.

A Christmas shop, another Christmas present. More street performers, especially these guys, who draw an audience and should be in a smoky blues joint somewhere. Sat out on patio chairs and watched the trumpet player. I've seen this guy before, but have now picked up on his theme. When a couple walks by holding hands, he plays Wedding March, for example. A bachelorette party stumbled past. He played that for the eighth time. I raced down to meet her, but she beat me.

"You were going to be my groom? Aww, how sweet. Do you have a cell phone? Can I borrow it?"

Oh how I long for the day when the question is simply 'Can I borrow your cell phone?' and then, the day shortly thereafter when she can not, because it is planted subcutaneously behind my ear. And on that day, we'll all walk about muttering to ourselves. Ahhh, technology.

Anyway, she was playing some odd bachelorette card game. One card said, 'Borrow a guy's cell phone and redial the last number he called.' By the time one of her friends explains this, she's dialing and I'm desperately trying to remember who I called last.

Mom? We're sitting at about 10:30 p.m. My family had been in the mountains for their delayed Thanksgiving. There was simulated skydiving involved. The hotel room where a cell phone was ringing right about now, I figured, was filled with sore, tired and possibly irritated people.

The girl rambles for 18.5 seconds and then is blessedly off the phone. Turns out she was actually calling a friend, who did not answer the phone. That poor girl was so far gone she carried on a conversation with a voicemail.

She gets married next week to someone who she says is a great guy. Good luck kids.

The contrast is an unhappy middle-aged couple, currently fighting their way down River Street. "You're my husband and my foot hurts, you could at least hold my hand!" He was having none of it. Hope they didn't run into the bachelorette. Another young couple was trailing just behind them, enjoying this. Frat boys passing from the other direction also heard an earful.

So the trumpet player is now blowing Glory. That's UGA's fight song. But there we sit, screaming as loud as we can the Auburn version which just sounds better. So on the night Georgia won the SEC Championship, we were stealing their thunder and being only marginally obnoxious in their state's oldest city, after having beaten that team just a few weeks ago.

It was a sweet sound floating out over the river.

Friday, December 2, 2005

Here's the pictoral representation of Thursday, my compensation for working Thanksgiving: Road and more road.

The road is beneath the camera frame. Its just road, so take my word for it. I never pay attention to that, why should I show it to you?

I woke up, this morning, in Pooler, Ga, which -- I believe -- is intended to be pronounced "Pooooooooooler." Its a decadently sweet sound, in a Southeastern U.S. sort of way.

On pronunciations, there was a guy at the dinner table last night that runs a shipping company and contracts with Dollar Tree, shipping their goods from a distribution center to area stores.

It is no longer clear how he got to the subject, but he got on a long riff about the company. "You sell things," he said to Wendy, who runs the logistics of the distribution center "for a dollar."

"A dollllllllllllllllllllllllllllllar."

It was a miasma, this word. Drawn out as it was on the O and the L. His pronunciation drove his point home. The repetition didn't hurt either. It has become a theme, since we found this store today.

As an aside, the signage on these sorts of things make me want to study fonts. Because that's what we do in the age of the internets: become an expert on something eclectically quirky. That font, though, is telling us something. There's a boldness hinting at what's inside, "Shop with pride, friends, and buy our many goods for a dollar." Anyway.

Today there was Christmas shopping. Couldn't find any presents for a dollllllllllllllllllllllllllllllar, though. And since people that read this got presents today, there will be no further mention.

I've got the presents on lockdown.

We've also figured out the Lady and Sons thing. Pretty much, the strategy is this: go in December.

I had developed a theory that Lady and Sons isn't really that good. Fixated on it for so long, and already well past starving, you could slather some butter on some bark and Spanish Moss from one of the town squares and you'd be in heaven. Untrue, however.

Had to reset the reservation once because Wendy was sleeping -- she had been working or something, but it wasn't nearly as imposing as the atrocious two-three hour waits that place normally gets. And, on the upside, that allowed a visit to City Market. Stores, shops, candy, art. Lights. And really nice carollers.

Back at the restaurant and waiting to be called I began walking full on and face first into the picture window to amuse the shivering people waiting outside and startle the warm people dining. The dining customers were oblivious. Maybe they thought I was just another street performer.

Random pictures: I won at thumb wrestling tonight. And then there were these ladies.

Random link: Dave Barry has nothing on me. Heard that song in the car yesterday and had eerily similar thoughts.

Thursday, December 1, 2005


Today is filled with the chores, the laundry, the packing and the driving.

End result: Georgia by night, and the silliness that will sustain me through the next two weeks of paper writing.

I think I can, I think I can.

OK, this isn't nearly as difficult as I would have you believe. This vacation is actually a happy conflation of Days That Must Be Used Lest the Vacation Gods Be Angered and Smite Them. So it seemed time for a weekend trip. A nice, long weekend trip.

Last semester of classes, too many fun distractions, the holidays, etc. Will power is a struggle; hard to maintain a focus. Hey, spring is coming eventually, promising a hands-on thesis and the culmination of the master's. In that context Aristotle is hard to be concerned about.

Sitting on River Street, that's a different matter altogether.