Kenny Smith | blog

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Tuesdays, as a rule of late, have been uneventful. Today is the exception.

The weather is beautiful. Spring. Bright and sunny. Short sleeves the order of the day. A carefree world colored with a bright yellow sun.

Atticus came to visit today. Justin and Radonna too. I think he drove though.

He just turned six-months old, but he's big. They didn't card him at lunch. That's how big Atticus is. So, anyway, they came down for a visit from a few counties over and much of the office went to lunch. I got to hold him and eat at the same time. Didn't have to, but if you don't practice that skill every couple of years or so you forget how. He almost put his foot in my soup.

See? I was forgetting how.

Home then. Tired and considering being sick. I feel fine, really, other than having a scratchy throat. That's just an inconvenience at this point. Hopefully it'll stay that way.

I was right. Gettysburg is taking the turn fiction before the second day's assault on Cemetery Hill. General Longstreet finally did something right, making a suggestion that Lee made more audacious. He's planning a 50-mile march around the Union troops, to cut their supply line and strengthen his own situation. That'd also puts the Confederates inside Union troops on the march to Washington. It is the strategy at Bull Run used again.

Grilled up tenderloin filet, sat back for a little television. Just barely made it through Boston Legal, which was great tonight. Denny Crane got married and because of a waitress -- or a coat -- he was in annulment proceedings three hours later. Lots of William Shatner, so it was a win. Not enough James Spader, which is unfortunate. The epilogue hinted that the two will be together more. Alan, in one of his sweeter moments, is moving in with Denny. How the writers tease us.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Today was hard to get through. Clouds held up a rearguard action for winter. Delaying the onset of spring while Jack Frost beat a retreat. We're looking for beautiful weather the rest of the week, so today is a little trying on the patience.

Even still, I drove over mountain tops looking for pear trees blooming. The younger ones are impatient for Spring to arrive, bursting into their full color over the weekend. The larger, older trees have been here before. They recall frosts and chills and even snows falling upon them as late as April. If the clouds are a rearguard, the first tentative blooms on the big pears are the scouts of Spring.

I should probably change up and read something that's not war history next, huh?

In Gettysburg Gingrich and Forstchen have us up to the night before the second attacks on Cemetery Hill. Somewhere soon they have to go from dramatization to their outright speculation. I'm now at the end of "the most terrible day." After that comes Pickett's Charge the next day, and it would take some big leaps to imagine a Southern victory after that debacle. So I'm guessing that the shift has to come quickly, and that I should find it tomorrow or Wednesday.

The Bauer hour disappointed tonight. Jack asked "How could I be so stupid?" I've been wondering that for a while now, though I'm told he's often made similarly poor decisions in previous seasons. Get this man a tuna on rye! He needs some brain food stat!

And when your large and stoic Secret Service agent is dropping terrorists at a clip better than your superhero we really need to revisit the focus of the show.

Thankfully the psuedo-boss is out at CTU and the ineffective boss is back in. Notice how often that guy calls the president? Notice how ineffective the president is at giving this sort of advice? To say nothing of when his wife is in the car.

And new rule for the Secret Service: Whenever the first lady does something impetuous, tell the president immediately. Somehow this woman is the locus of national security and, considering how he has just today wanted to ship her back to the booby hatch, this might not be the most desirable situation.

Isn't it interesting how he can ship her to some facility across the country with no real hand-wringing (before lunch even!) but now he's crippled by inaction? Granted RPGs are different than medically monitored sedatives, but there for a bit the NSA guy was running the administration. Maybe he should. Unless he's the second inside bad guy.

I'm guessing that next week we'll discover the deadly gas has been spirited into CTU. Security there isn't tough to beat, despite lots of people just standing around. Speaking of CTU security, has anyone else noticed from the rent-a-cop uniforms that they're the Red Shirts from Star Trek? Clearly, when the gas starts blowing, they'll be the ones taking big sniffs. The security and Jack's daughter. She'll show up at the office about that same time to learn the news of her father's survival.

She's dying off, friends. That'll set Jack off and the flame-broiled terrorist in this episode will be a bland appetizer by comparison.

We have to motivate the guy to keep him awake through the evening and overnight somehow.

As for me, I am afforded some sleep.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Coolish, but pretty. Too breezy to be outdoors maybe, but bright enough to hold promise. A nice day to sit in the sun in front of a window. So I did that and read for a while.

Picked up the week's groceries. Doing so while nursing a mild headache somewhat reduces the pleasure that is shopping at Publix. Figured out a way to save on the deli sandwiches -- a guilty Sunday afternoon pleasure. They still do not have Bama crunchy.

Watched a few movies as the sun shifted positions in the sky. One was Shark Tale:
Entertaining, but Will Smith is too old for this now. Extras disappoint.
Then it was time for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind:
Certainly original. Jim Carrey is brilliant. Just couldn't suspend my disbelief enough.
Started The Winds of War, which looks good, despite having Jan Michael Vincent cast as a supporting character. Robert Mitchum as the lead is undeniably cool.

This is a 15-plus hour made-for-TV epic. Long lingering shots that would be chopped outright today. I've worked through the first DVD, thinking it is a slow build.

Ribs for dinner. Just what the doctor ordered. Blood thinners for one, please. I do believe Dreamland puts something addictive in that sauce. Or maybe it's the salt.

Fun links: If your body clock gives you trouble, blame your suprachiasmatic nucleus. "The time in one's brain is elastic and personal," the story says. There's an interesting experiment mentioned there. I'm betting the stimulus sent adrenaline racing, heightening the subject's senses. Give it a read and tell me what you think.

Two thinks to look at. The U.S. National Archives and Record Administration is now on Google video. Lots of cool stuff there.

More important history on our site today. The Birmingham News recently unearthed some never before seen archives from the Civil Rights era. They are releasing it, with fascinating results. A couple of folks in our office put in some fine work on the final product, which you can see at Unseen. Unforgotten.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

More rain today, but it rings almost like an apology. Sorry about all this, but you'll have beautiful weather all next week. The prospect of mid-70s, sunny skies and blooming trees will do that for you.

As it is, today's rain is pushing through the last weekend of February, and perhaps the last meek effort of winter. With the idea that Spring is on the way and leafy greens coloring the sky a few drops of water are easily forgotten.

Found a barn in the rain.

Went to the library in the middle of the afternoon. Had a salad for dinner. Thirty minute wait for a salad. Such a great day had to be wrapped up with an ice cream.

Reading a new book. Gettysburg. NEwt Gingrich co-wrote this. He's an interesting enough guy. An idea man with skeletons in his closet. Some think he's running for president. Some say he should stay off to the side of the stage and whisper ideas and be scholarly. He's a great interview though. It was an interview, on The Daily Show I think, that got me curious. It is an effort at what they call "Active History." This is fiction, but not for fiction's sake, rather a speculative look at what might have been.

Somewhere the book departs from its dramatization of dialogue and private thought and shows the Confederate army winning the day. That moment, I think, must be coming soon. The rebels are now taking their first shot at Cemetery Hill. Gingrich and William Forstchen are very descriptive; it is a tough read to say the least.

Fun links: Will the universe be obliterated? What stars may support intelligent life? The best of life here: da Vinci's drawings.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Once every so often I still run across someone who can't comprehend going to work so early in the morning. I always say I used to show up two hours early. And you would not believe the perks.

That's I-59 North, just coming out of Malfunction Junction. The sun is rising up over Red Mountain far in the background. The middle ground is the modest skyline that Birmingham offers. I drive by it at two choices times a day. Here, and in the afternoon, on a flyover with the sun considering a retreat beneath the buildings.

For about 15 glorious minutes on the drive in, if you time it just right, there's a treat that will burn into the back of your retinas for days.

See the scrolling and glowing yellow sign on top of the building to the far right? That's Two North Twentieth (formerly the Bank for Savings Building), Alabama's first modern post World War II has a transparent ground floor with parking on floors immediately above. It looks old and weathered now, almost impossible to recall as new in 1962. The tall structure sticking up by itself is the AT&T building.

From this view you can make out two other distinctive Birmingham buildings. Note the red blotch in the distance, brightening the corner of the Alabama Power building. The complex is considered one of the most beautiful public utility buildings in the world. So much so that you need a better picture. I didn't take this. That picture also shows you the AT&T building, and, to the left Electra, the best looking 80-year-old in town.

Finally, you can also see the BellSouth Building appearing just under that floating streetlight. Completed in 1972, it always seemed futuristic to me as a child. It is always a treat to see the building at Christmas time. Each side has a different theme. One side will be lit as a stocking, another as a wreath, and so on. Still fills the kid inside with wonder. Though, now, in the daytime, it looks like the moving part of a bendy straw.

You can't see it in this picture, but after I bend around downtown on the Expressway and get on the surface streets you can find the City Federal Building. Easy to do in the dark since they've recently turned the lights back on. For a while the tallest building in the Southeast, and for many years the tallest in the state, it has recently sat vacant for about a decade. A lawsuit kept it from being razed. Now its future is a condo project.

All those are on the north side of the tracks, where I hardly ever have cause to venture. A simple matter of practicality really. Work, campus, everything I need is on the Southside or in the 'burbs. One day soon I'll have to go over there and visit things I only see from the interstate.

To the library, then. But only for a short time. It is Friday, after all. Home to work on a few school details. Things are starting to come together in my mind, which means it should be time to start putting things on paper. Which means I have a finite amount of time to keep it all straight in my head.

But not today. It is Friday, Pie Day, after all.

Fun links: Could you use some marketing research? Rad Research may have what you're looking for. Make your own search engine Rollyo. Some fun new tools from Yahoo to help make your site interactive. I might even add some here one day soon.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

I should work for the Chamber of Commerce or the Tourist Bureau. A lady from North Carolina wrote today asking for information about Mobile. She wants to move to Mobile, but has never been to south Alabama and could I tell her more. So I did:
Nearby Gulf Shores is a scenic area widely known for its beach getaways. They have very nice walking beaches and are just minutes away from some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

Mobile County is covered in history, from military to exploration to the original Mardi Gras and even things as obscure as the restaurant and table where Jimmy Buffet wrote some of his classic songs (he's from just across the bay). Mobile has always been considered "A city with potential" but they are now shaking off that name, becoming a city realizing their dreams with all the creature comforts. They have plenty of shopping and entertainment activities like minor league sports, outdoor adventures, terrific golf and much more.

Outsiders are beginning to recognize the promise of the place and there has recently been an influx in population. Mobile County schools make up the largest system in the state. The Mobile metro is the second largest population center in the state, behind Birmingham, with about 400,000 people.

The people are friendly, the scenery is beautiful and each time I've visited I always return home with wonderful memories.
I've written a few of these brochures in my day, can you tell?

My car got bumped a few days ago by a truck with one of those bicycle racks on the back. Didn't do any real damage. Broke some little plastic tabs holding the headlight firmly in place and poked a hole in the blinker light. At 210,000 miles, the car still drove, so I was pleased with the small repair list.

This has given me a few days of fun. Watching the headlight bounce around has been entertaining as I've plotted solutions. And then, yesterday, I remember there was a Pull A Part here in town. Pull A Part rules simply because of their online database of cars on the lot. So right away I knew there were three or four potential replacements on the lot.

Too much rain yesterday, so Brian and I hiked out there today. Had to print a map, because I've never been on that side of town. Brian realized why; that's a nice side of town. Several other junk yards mixed in with the delapidated and burned homes. I guess the property is cheap.

The only downside to Pull A Part is that there is a $1 cover charge. But a lunch hour there provided enough entertainment to be a steal. Brian and I each had parts to find, and thinking better of splitting up, we set off for the headlight.
On our way to the first three cars, all busts, Brian got the line of the day, "I think I just stepped on a hypodermic needle."

Then we found a body stuffed in a trunk.

Sure seemed like it at first. That only helped with the CSI vibe. Suddenly we were determining the forensics of the cars. Each one had a story; how they wrecked, what was broken, why they were in the junkyard.

One had a shotgun blast in the driver's side of the windshield. Baby shoes, CDs, a few books, all the trinkets of your day were still in these cars. Each one carried a story of life, interrupted. The driver of that Nissan forgot that important memento, and that just takes the wind out of your salvaging sails.

At any rate, of the 2,000 or so on the lot, five were what I needed to find. Got the two pieces on the fourth and fifth try and paid $16.85. Brian got a little piece he needed for his car and they didn't even charge him for it.

Popped in the blinker, avoiding any serious effort getting securing the new headlight globe. Tuned up both headlights to face the proper direction. The part of the road just two inches in front of the car were getting a great deal of light. Now they point straight out and I see I'm only half as blind as I thought.

Fun links: Two videos. The last of the Brokeback recuts we'll ever need to see. The Empire Brokeback and Brokeback Trek Thanks so much for those Brooke!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Earlier this week we talked of not being able to see the mountain for the fog. Today I've been looking out windows to a bulletproof fog obscuring everything more than two blocks away. There are faint silhouttes of old buildings in the distance. They normally show off their size and stature, but today the bricks have resigned themselves to sitting as a silent backdrop. And that was all there was to

Except the rain. The rain. The ever-loving rain. Something like two inches today, all day. Way over the average now.

Advisor meeting today. He likes my thesis plan as it is starting to develop. Says it is a good idea, one not previously researched thoroughly enough.

I expressed a worry that some aspects of it will seem a bit simplistic, but we're in agreement that the best research sometimes seems that way. So long as he likes it, which he does.

So then we specified the chapters, breaking down the concept in a way that doesn't seem terribly daunting. So now I'm going to work on taking the same laid back approach to the thesis that he does.

We'll see how long that lasts.

There's a good term: advice capitalist.

Jeff Jarvis does it. He's talking today about advertising, but as an ideas guy I'm more interested in media outlets and corporate communications and how to define, reach and talk with your audience. Not to, but with.

Many are trailing on this thought curve (my employer being a wonderful exception). Corporate culture is generally prone to inertia though, creating a fear of a progressive business model, but that's where tomorrow's revenue streams are found.

One other local media leader is talking about it. (Scroll to James Spann), while the corporate world is starting to understand what innovators are calling The Me2 Revolution.

Fun links: Study at Berkeley, via podcasts. Grab an Earth desktop and pick the time of day and season. Think these ad geniuses just got around to watching Office Space? Good spot though.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Looking at a weather summary of today, detailed by the hour, it would say "Overcast, overcast, overcast, light rain, mostly cloudy, overcast" throughout the day.

February isn't even trying anymore. Just a week left until we break for spring, but it's a long and tedious march to March. More of the same tomorrow, but with lots of rain, it'll be overcast at least until the weekend. We'll see a steady rain all day tomorrow, enough to weaken the morale of some. Already the area is about three inches over average for rainfall at this point in the year and showing no signs of stopping, at least until May.

People always look at the numbers and say, "Oh, look at Alabama's rainfall. You can grow anything there." But they don't see the breakdown throughout the year. You don't think of the choking summers and the scorched autumns with their no-burn orders. We've had 11.43 inches of rain so far this year. We could be flirting with 15 by the end of the month.

The East Coast got the snow, and the cold. And I've received Email politely telling me what I might do with my complaints of 30 degree weather. To be fair, the temperatures are pulling back up again. We'll be hovering around 50 for a while. Maybe "The Pope" will like that, and Email his blessings rather than his good-natured suggestions of scepter and thermometer.

Stumbled across Overheard in New York the other day. A fine site. I had this idea in college. Honestly. There's a notebook somewhere with hastily jotted notes of things overheard on campus and street corners. It was inspired, I think, by two of those students the school admits for reasons of magnanimity. In good weather, the National Weather Service ran the campus tornado sirens each Wednesday at noon. One day, in the mass herded migration of upwardly mobile young men and women in pursuit of higher education, the sirens went off precisely as scheduled.

Think World War II air raid siren.

In a cut path just by Parker Hall, a curmudgeonly old building meant for mathematics, with computer servers in the basement (which, as I understand, remains prone to flooding) two girls were walking the other way:
Girl 1: Why do they always blow that siren?
Girl 2: It is to mark the exact middle of the week.
Girl 1: Oh.
That she said it with such certainty was what mystified me. Immediately I turned on my heel, intent on getting both of their phone numbers. This was the sort of stimulating conversation I'd hoped for!

That last part isn't true, but their conversation was. And from there I began jotting down little snippets of talk. One of many creative ideas I had. A book! A-ha! A website does seem a better forum though. Why in the world would you pick up a book for this exchange in the restroom from earlier today:
Guy 1: I sliced my finger open badly. It won't stop bleeding. I think I may need stitches.
Guy 2: Did you cut it on a knife or on some other thing?
Guy 1: A knife. I was coring a pineapple.
Guy 2: You have to watch out for that exotic fruit. I always stay away from things grown in the tropics. Though I did enjoy some pineapple for breakfast myself, pre-cut, of course.
Such wit! Such timing! That conversation went from entrance to exit. I know. I was there to see it. And now you've had to read it.

Ehh, a Tuesday.

Two libraries today. It was an industrious day. Picked up some new material. We'll see how much of that can be plowed through.

Fun links: Did you know Dr. Seuss once drew editorial cartoons? See his entire collection here. Very erie to see those familiar shapes used in such ominous tones. History has, happily, judged him correct, and the relevance still stands. From Stephen Green.

Monday, February 20, 2006

The day carries with it a persistent type of cold. As if the wind is saying, "Oh yeah? This hour its going to be just a little bit more annoying, a little more needling." It's looked wet all day, in a Seattle sort of way. It was afternoon before we could see up to the mountain just a few blocks away. Even then the treetops seemed shy, the buildings just vaguely there, as if a camera trick implying mystique.

Why the mountain and the weather would get together and decide that, today, they'll resemble a Madonna perfume, I am not sure, but there it was. I'm just guessing, but the city probably still smelled better.

Got a call of possibly more family visitors on hospital related visitors, but late in the evening that possibility went away. Apparently wires got crossed in the medical ether, the patient being better than initially reported. We all breathe with relief.

Two hours on the thesis today. I feel productive, the whole thing is dizzying. Two more meetings on that this week.

Soon it will be time to put some research to paper. From there on, I hope, gravity takes over and the process magically takes care of itself.

A boy can dream.

The Bauer Hour really disappoints again. Though I'm thinking my prediction from two weeks ago that this week's episode would be great was only off by a week. But, then, I realize that's probably how they hope to drag me through the next 15 hours of this guy's day.

Here's a tip: we need a higher ratio of terrorist killing. One per hour doesn't deliver a lot of confidence in the viewing audience. Particularly when the petulant character heading CTU is realizing how porous security is at the Counter Terrorist Unit.

And he's getting beat up by junkies outside!

So now we're scouring the set to see who the second improbable government mole could be. Is it the bald NSA guy, he looks more ominous lately. Perhaps an ill-placed Secret Service Agent? The hobbit? Fairly sure it isn't the other hulking field agent, he's too bumbling to be the key to a diabolical evil plot. Of course the one bossy bad guy is now a good guy. And now he panics. And now he's dead.

Awfully lot of nuance in an hour of realtime, wouldn't you say? The character turns here are akin to professional wrestling. Anyone else notice that?

Really, the only constants are that the CTU boss is spoiled -- oh how we mock him -- the President as a terrible equivocator, Jack still without a port-a-potty and the First Lady who is one missed dose of medication from getting in the car and driving off with the Russians ...

Well. That solves that. Tune in next week!

Fun links: Like mazes? Have a billion. That should hold you over until Indiana Jones 4 comes out next year. Presidential makeovers and a new theory on prehistoric causality.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Oh I made it to the grocery store today. Found some great watermelon. Bought some things, put some things back.

Publix still doesn't carry Bama Crunchy -- of which I'm now the fourth hit on Google, telling me you people probably have no idea what I'm talking about unless you're in central Alabama.

And if anyone needs to find out why Bama is crunchy, they're stumbling on my site first.

My plan is underway, take over the Internet with obscure references to regional products. I'm please with how well this is unfolding.


In all, this is how wonderful perfect this lazy Sunday afternoon has been: I fell asleep to Olympic curling.

Finished reading McCullough just a short while ago. I'd like to see him write every seasonal campaign, in each area of operations, not forgetting the fighting in the South, where the strategy evolved a bit differently.

McCullough will likely not have the time left to do it, which is a terrible shame, but hopefully contemporary historians will treat Marion, Sumter and Greene with the same passion. It's unfortunate that Cowpens, Guilford Courthouse and others almost always gets overlooked.

Fun links: Create your own Simpsons character. Only a matter of time before the Cheney game came out. And this guy, he's no good at games.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Checked the temperature one time today to see 31.6. Got all the way up to 36 today. This just is not right. The average for mid-February is 47.

It rained this morning and has looked an unpromising shade of gray all day. The perfect day for pulling the mattress off the bed and putting it in front of the television for long stretches of naps and reading and DVDs.

More of the former two than the latter, it would seem. Slowly plugging through the first season of Cheers. Picking through the last of McCullough. Going through it with a bit of melancholy; it's a story I'd like to continue for McCullough's writing style. There's another six years of the Revolution to address, this doesn't have to stop right after Trenton and Princeton.

Hit the mall today for the best post office hours in town. Four on a Saturday afternoon on a day when no one wants to be outside, and when the circus is playing the mall, is not the day to be there.

Normally I enjoy places like this just for the scenic people watching. Today it was just irritating in a "Let's all stand in the middle of everything and clog up everything for people going somewhere" way.

That it was the mall on a cold and dreary Saturday, and that the circus was there, and the inexplicable appearance of the flea market taking up the walking areas made the whole place a modern, western world bazaar.

Nothing so exotic, but I did find a good deal on a nice chifforobe that probably couldn't be matched by any of the hoi polloi stores, and it came with an unconditional, money back guarantee insuring This Piece Has History.

Which is to say I could have bought a $450 dollar used piece, if only I had the money, the way to get it home, the place to put it or the desire to have it.

And to top it off I'd just missed the circus performance.

Went for Chinese. A buffet. There was a huge table for a Chinese family, so right away there's some confidence in the product. Until the three cute little girls find playing with their ice cream more fun than playing with it. And, as pretty much the entire restaurant learned, melted chocolate ice cream looks like "Diarrhea!"

My apologies if you are eating while reading that. And be assured it was more funny at the restaurant than right now, where it has almost come full circle, finally becoming disgusting.

The crab wasn't bad, meaning I broke my hard and fast 180 mile inland rule for seafood. Given that it had to crawl 250 miles sideways to get here -- presuming it started in Mobile, came straight up I-65 and didn't get lost -- it hadn't lost much from the stuff right off the coast.

That sounds silly, but at our coastal favorite I've dined just a shell's throw from the off-loading crane on the pier.

Only one logical conclusion: those little crab know how to scramble.

The best part of the Chinese buffet are the things that don't really belong there. The pizza there, aimed at kids, looked good. Six or eight flavors of ice cream, some more ultraviolet than others. Lots of desserts. Cakes, cookies, Jewish delicacies. Pondering all this I stumble onto the Chinese donuts. No buffet is complete without them, and I have to have one -- though now only a small one. Just as I reach out, greedy tongs in hand, I am accosted by a young woman vying for the same tasty treat.

"You better leave me doughnuts alone!"

I honestly have no idea what look I gave her, but she softened her expression immediately. Maybe I should have went through my first idea, taking the last two while saying, Here's a good lesson in buffet style patience!

But I left with only one.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Caught the city at the perfect this morning. The sun wasn't quite up, the buildings were starting to wake, like the light peeping through curtains to slowly rouse you. The off blue and purple shade of the morning, still so tentative, gave a depth and character we never see when the sun is overhead.

And the sun would appear today, angrily shaking its solar fist at an arctic cold front coming through. The high pressure is more determined, and the sun is an afterthought to a brisk wind promising a chilly and indoors kind of weekend.

Paid my last tuition bill today. I owe the grad school nothing more. Than a thesis. And the $45 for the ceremonial graduation rental. Nothing like fleecing you one last time on your way out the door to keep that school spirit alive, eh?

But that's for another day. Today was interesting on its own merits. The most interesting part being a conversation with a friend, which somehow became one of ancestry. Her family can trace roots to Ireland and Germany, with the Irish side being well researched.

And so then we did a little further reading:
Melanie: Moses Musgrave, born 1666 in North Ireland, immigrated to Delaware Canada 1685. Later settled in Pennsylvania.
Me: Armagh, Ireland, buried in Fallowfield, Chester, Pennsylvania.
Melanie: You're stalking me!
Me: Yes, but don't worry; I'm 300 years behind.
Melanie: lol
Me: So your great great great something, Samuel D. Musgrave fought at Brandywine during the Revolutionary War. Brandywine was pretty brutal.
Me: Oh wow, this is ...
Melanie: hmm?
Me: I promise, I was reading about him (not specifically, but as a statistic) just last night. Samuel Musgrave and several thousand others were taken captive by General Howe at Fort Washington in New York.
Melanie: mmhm?
Me: Easily the worst military affair of the war to that point for the (Americans).
Melanie: Interesting.
Me: And there is still a copy of his bible record.
Melanie: We have an old family bible somewhere with recent lineages I think.
Me: Most grandmotherly types have one somewhere it seems. I could be wrong, but it seems like fewer and fewer bibles have that affectation in them now.
Melanie: That's what the internet is for.
Yes it is.

She didn't seem as impressed nearly as much as I was. No one ever really is, but it doesn't get much more random; reading last night and a conversation today turning on the same moment in history. Wish I could say why that happens or what it means, but it at least gets my attention every time.

Pie day. Sat in the middle room -- the mud room, if you will -- between the parking lot and the restaurant waiting for a table, and every time the door opened you could tell it was getting colder. The weather is especially mercurial, with the bottom forecast to fall out tomorrow.

Today, meanwhile, there was a 34 degree temperature swing of current conditions over just a few hunder miles. It was 72 near the coast and 38 near the Tennessee border. These are the sort of tidbits you learn when you sit next to the weather guy in your office.

We watch more intently, each new piece of data becomes a laser beam of focused information that, if you stare at it too long, skewers the worldview. I suspect The Weather Channel could convince you that the world was ending just on the basis of national coverage and quick video cuts of downed trees here, brisk winds there and worries of ice over Dallas.

Things aren't spinning out of control. Any more so than normal, at least. We just see more of the smaller things faster now. The miracle of cable television. I, as always, blame MTV.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Here's an idea! We'll reinstitute Thursday as picture day around here. Only we'll take some of the pictures from the week, rather than the day. You get content and -- if I do this correctly -- it saves me photo time at the end of the month. We'll see about that.

Anyway ...

A week or two ago green stuff started peeking up from the ground. Today I saw a dafodil bulb. Earlier this week, the trees on the Southside were in full bloom. On the way home today other trees had also exploded.

Ice pellets are in the forecast for Sunday.

Ice pellets. What kind of forecast is that? "Thirty percent chance that frogs will fall from the sky. Unless this low pressure system filled with Dippin' Dots moves in."

The forecast yesterday called for cloudbursts. This is the time of year for them. Big puffy clouds in a quickly moving jet stream, the sun poking brief and dramatic holes through to the ground as it realizes it should take control of the situation and start baking things once again. Just a few more weeks big guy.

Until then, just be content with another beautiful sunset.

More reading today. We received word that the flowers mentioned here yesterday were delivered. Flowers were reportedly beautiful, the water in the vase disgusting. Might be time for another phone call.

Fun link: Just one link today, but for those who know gamers (I am not one) this video is all you need.

Sage advice.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The thing we learned at the office today: The phrase "Please hold for ____" is a great way to start a conversation. Particularly when someone should tremble when hearing your voice on the phone.

Imagine you, a plucky consumer, want to have a gift delivered and, after careful thought and consideration, take part in the 21st Century commercial revolution and order flowers online on Monday. And pay an extra three dollars earmarked to guarantee a timely delivery.

Only your gift did not show up, as tradition would dictate, on Valentine’s Day.

So now you spend a good deal of Wednesday negotiating the phone system of said company. (The name of said company has been omitted to protect the logistically underprepared.) *koff**koff* But their phones are so overwhelmed
that you're repeatedly booted out. Gee, wonder if other plucky consumers are facing the same difficulties.

Though the form Email reply you receive when you try that route assures you:
This Valentine's Day holiday is a busy time for us ... and our first priority is getting a gift out to your recipient.
A flaw in the design, no doubt, because here we are!
We wanted you to know that we received your e-mail and to assure you that you will be hearing from us shortly.
Uh. Huh.

So, in the third barrage of attempts to make contact with, desirably, a human, you attack the phone system in ways it was never designed to endure. A real live breathing person! Hit them immediately with the "Please hold for Mr. _____."

We've been discussing this, after the fact. You need the line, the click and ring signifying a phone transfer. And then you need to be emphatic and firm. She is quickly ready to pass you up the line.

"I'll put you in with the customer serv --"

That's just disconnecting me.

"Then I can transfer you to the corporate off -- "

They aren't even answering the phones.

In fact, did you declare bankruptcy on February 13th, oh vaunted flower company?

"I'll get you a floor supervisor."


(Using words in a contemporaneously atypical context you can also come off sounding like sophisticated old money. Next week we'll experiment with infusing a Boston brahmin accent with the Southern.)

This all actually happened in the office today, where the customer was instantly given a 20 percent discount, and a promise of reshipment. The company has no protocol in place to insure to the customer's satisfaction that the discount has been administered. And they don't train the staff to appreciate the irony of So I just
have to take it on faith when already I don't have any in you?
as a withering criticism.

So I'm considering mocking up an audio file for home use that includes a "Please hold for Mr. Smith ..." with an audible click and a ringing sound.

Though, I may advance the theory further. Between the click and the ring I'm considering adding some dialogue where you typically might hear hold music. Something along the lines of "At Bradley and Siegel your legal concerns are our priori - " ring, ring. And then I could 'pick up the phone' in my most authoritarian voice.

Life would be so much simpler with a practical top-level approach to consumers (found previously here and here)

Don't make it hard for me to spend my money here.

Got an Email earlier this week from a lady asking me if I could swing by a local cemetery and take a picture or two of her grandfather's grave. Happy to oblige. It could satisfy some curiosity the nice lady has and it’s an unusual errand to run. (It’d be too ghoulish to call this an adventure.)

This is a 19th Century cemetery, and the task became difficult quickly. Walking through every row I counted a few dozen graves with markers, but no names.

There were prominent local families. Streets and hills and a few buildings were coming together with parts of a new back story. There were several World War I veterans there, more World War II soldiers -- and more of those in recent years, sadly -- and all the other little markers of memory we leave for others were well represented. The oldest dated stone was 1914. One looked like a rock carried to
the cemetery that simply had "Alice" lightly engraved in a hasty hand.

So with no name found I got in touch with the groundskeeper, who was promptly stumped. He's now digging through official paperwork for me, which is where this story comes to its unsatisfying, if temporary, conclusion.

Mexican tonight. Taught myself how to read dive tables again. It's time to end the night with good bake in 106 degree water.

Fun links:Need new Zippo tricks? Need a new game? Play Rumblebox. Need a flying car?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

This page previously took a weekend day, or sometimes the whole weekend, off. Now there are brief notes here for a typical weekend day, of course, but the previous came from reasons both conscientious and practical. There was either a lot going on and I felt little need to have my head in here, or there was nothing going on, thus demanding even less need to be writing here.

Lately I'm wondering if Tuesdays should be given that treatment.

Maybe something needs to get added to that routine. As is, today consisted of driving to work -- my visiting relatives having left for the hospital before I did, destined to not return this evening -- working, and driving home to do small maintenance-type things to computer, home and school projects.

Again, don't ge me wrong. Tuesdays are fine. The only thing wrong with them is that they are not Wednesdays or Thursdays or Fridays. Really, the weekend may as well begin on Wednesday evening for me. Sometimes it feels like it.

I now have a small handful of thesis-type work to do. Setting up another appointment on that front and generally starting to get a little bit accomplished. This cuts both ways, both implying progress and serving notice that I'm only just now finally getting underway.

I keep telling myself that my advisor isn't overly concerned, nor should I be. One day that attitude will take. Until then I'll fret my way through. One thing that seems a relief, if I haven't mentioned it here, is that the actual finished paper itself apparently doesn't have to be nearly as long as I'd originally thought. And that's just the sort of thinking that breeds overconfidence, delaying true anxiety until the final days.

Fun links: One less Nigerian bank Email to receive. Did you see Lindsey Kildow's Olympic crash? That's worth a cringe, but because of smart armor she was only slightly bruised and is expected to compete tomorrow. France's Carole Montillet-Carles was not wearing that gear and was seriously banged up.

Monday, February 13, 2006

I'm staying up late tonight. Too much going on. First, there's family coming in. A family friend is making a visit to a patient at University hospital, and my doors are always open. Even when they don't get here early. Second, and I'm sure you've heard about this, the vice president shot a man. I can't wait for the Daily Show.

Went out for an afternoon walk, since the sun was determined to warm things up a bit. An apology for the weekend, no doubt. "Sorry I couldn't be there to warm you, friends, but the clouds were persistent and it was the weekend and ... well, its not like you were doing anything anyway."

Could have been worse. Could have been north. I looked at snow pictures, that's close enough, thanks.

So, anyway, along an artificial nature trail I found several squirrels, but they were camera shy.

Got a phone call from a poacher while I was out. Flattered, but no thanks.

Went to Sam's, intent on walking around with wonder and awe written in the body language equivalent of permanent marker, but then the call came that company was coming. So scramble home to straighten up, preparing my speech that three hours head start guarantees a pillow, but not much else beyond that in hospitality.

The favorite line of the speech, as I moved hither and yon the clothes and various stacks life's paperwork, was highlighting how the truck stop by the interstate would also be open in the morning when they passed it once again. Unless they wanted carrots they were going with something a trucker would love.

Watched the Bauer Hour. (Only 43 more prominent references to that term in Google. So that makes me almost marginally original, right?) Jack, no doubt, remains cranky from lack of food or time to use the little anti-terrorist agent's room. I'm also wondering if pasta or other brain food would serve him well at this point in his day.

It could be frustration setting in: he only killed one man this hour, perhaps that's what forced him into that bad tactical error at the end of the episode. I'm sticking with my prediction that next week's show will be a good one, but someone give that many some heavy hors d'oeuvres in route! We can conference in the president to an ear piece the terrorists can't see standing in Jack's super secret personal space.

Somewhere in the back of my head I could just hear him saying, "And you best be respecting my proxemics, yo." I just picture Jack reverting to street talk to keep his cool while he willfully lets the henchman terrorist assault and kidnap him. He might be talking to the office, but with his friend hand he's text messaging a friend "OMG U won't believe how little they pay me 4 this!" Jack's faking concern, but there's a flash in those eyes and an extra special huskiness to that voice that says "All you've assaulted is my pride. And we don't have time!"

This president, I've decided is the worst one since the last worst one. Your mileage and politics may vary there. As if you needed it, they offer the sledgehammer to prove the point where he tries to pass the strategic decision to CTU, who then sends it right back to him for more scoffing and other indignant emoting about how he's been put in "a terrible spot."

Though now I see that he rose to power constitutionally rather than election, but immediately at that moment I said aloud, This is why they elected you big boy! As if the guy could hear me on tape delay. ... Well, it was on Fox.

Go about halfway down that link if you need to understand the reference, where we discuss the unfortunate choice Fox made to air New Year's Tape Delayed Eve with Regis Philbin.

Speaking of unfortunate ... the local news promo for the lead story on authorities opening up lines of communication to reach the local church arsonist(s) couldn't be any more coarse. They opened the newscast with "Pick up the phone if you've burned Alabama churches."

As their news director tells me, "We aren't looking to reinvent the wheel here." He should; the current pizza cutters won't roll far.

Fun links: The Daily Show: Cheney's got a gun. You owe it to yourself to watch that entire video, which is an instant classic. Also, go vote for Kelly. She's in a Jones Soda label competition and wants your vote on all four of her great pictures from as many IPs as you can find. Picture one, picture two, picture three and picture four. Give 'em all 10s. And a bit of contemporary history; this weekend marked the 33rd anniversary of Operation Homecoming.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Since it is cold everywhere, that sort of appendage numbing, forget your phone number cold, I won't go on and on about it here. But, man, is it cold.

Some saw snow at various points of the day. Up the east coast there is a lot of that going on, from what I hear. Caught some flurries here in the headlights last night, saw some vainly hanging on against the windshield wipers and weather stripping, but that's about it.

While out in the colder than cold cold I did see the most unusual Valentine's Day gift. Sitting in one of those little island containers between rows and rows of commercialism was a gift basket wrapping. Cheap concession stand chocolate, and a six pack of Miller Light.


It was cold and dreary enough to take a nap today, in between episodes of Season One of Cheers. Picked that up at the library, marvelling at the few of these I haven't seen. The show is still great, of course, a classic of our time. Given its many years these became some of the best characters ever written -- they'd had time to be fleshed out and mature. Now it is odd to see them trying to define the roles for the first time. So many of them seem well thought out and true to what they'd become. John Ratzenberger's Cliff is barely a recurring character in the early going of the first season. Fortunately for us that oversight was soon corrected.

I've also decided that Sam and Diane are better before they were an item. Once you introduce romantic attributes to the characters someone has to become more humanized to make it palatable. Sam already was wonderfully human, Diane more the caricature, but she didn't move, and so it always seemed oddly repetitive. After the slapping episode, and the one where Sam buys the ring that gets thrown into a storage drain, there just wasn't much of that relationship I enjoyed. I did prefer the Diane character to the later Rebecca character. Now there was a bad caricature.

Is anyone else surprised to learn that Ratzenberger was in Empire Strikes Back? He told Leia to close the base doors on Hoth. "Because, as we've learned from the Conquistadors, a breezy chill in the night does wonders for the throat, but its the devil on the X-wings. And besides, these plastic walls here are only good to prevent melting if the doors are closed." Is he the only actor from Cheers with an action figure?

Do you think cell phones have caused a boost in traffic for those phone numbers scribbled on restroom walls? These are the thoughts you are encountered with when forced to air dry your hands because there are no paper towels in the dispenser.

Fun links: things to know about procrastination, a side view of the Sombrero Galaxy and Lincity.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

A big thesis meeting today over lunch and a youth basketball game. During two-and-a-half-hours of conversation and strategy my plan is suddenly exciting and promising again. Despite false starts, things work out that way.

Talked with junior college students for a couple of hours in the morning. The Yankee asked me to do mock interviews for her students in a speech class. Felt like a fraud handing out tips to these kids, most of whom have never done an interview before. And then I realized that I've done nine or ten successful interviews, not counting the ones where I didn't get the job, so maybe I do know more about it than they do. So that was fun, and funny.

Spent a couple of hours watching Rumor Has It:
Kevin Costner here disproves my Friends theory. A surprisingly good romantic comedy.
And then the cold front came in. Even Panera soup couldn't really warm things up.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Timed the sunrise just right this morning. The city's skyline was standing in silhoutte with a black to purple to red to orange to peach backdrop. Squeezed off a few pictures in just the right places.

And then the disk corrupted itself. So those pictures are gone. Fortunately I'd backed up, on two computers, pictures from last weekend. After losing priceless pictures of a 50th anniversary two years ago (here and here) I learned quickly to back everything up. Good thing, too. I had great snow pictures and a family mix that rarely gets to happen on the disk from last week. But those are saved. Only eight or nine from this morning are lost.

And that's how Friday started. The card got reformatted, everything is backed up on two computers, life moves on.

Right to back inside my car, where I spent an hour listening to a tentative rain, languished in a cold front moving in (they're saying the S word for some parts of the state this weekend) and read. David McCullough now has the Continental Army at New York City, if you care to know. Also, New York -- in 1776 not yet the largest city in America, but with a prominent red light district -- was considered the most sinful place in the new country.

That was worth a chuckle.

Met with friends, where we talked at length of Internet news. Had Pie Day. A quiet and early night preceding a big day tomorrow.

Thursday, February 9, 2006

I'm told the laptop is a bust. The guy I lined up to look at it finally looked at it. He was a little surprised at how dead it is, bringing to mind Miracle Max of course, only this guy couldn't perform a minor miracle.

It was a nice try though and, having no monetary investment involved, its more funny than anything at this point. The time invested has been more than compensated with punchlines. And when you do your taxes this season, don't forget to count your jokes. That'll be the most valuable part of my long form.

Scholastically, its a holding pattern right now. I expect some progressive development on the thesis tomorrow. You are deeply interested, I know, but I had to get to the root justification for the rest of my day somehow.

I watched Ike again:
Tom Selleck is too big, physically, but otherwise a good TV movie.
Movie errors based on recorded facts, though, are frustrating.

And, just to lighten things up, I then watched The Rundown:
Sophmoric, disbelievable action sequences, poor dialogue in places, but I loved it.
No accounting for taste, I guess.

I'm going to spend the rest of the night reading. When that's your highlight you've got it made.

Fun links: photo edition. Beautiful China, the country, not the porcelain. The lost world of Indonesia. The Augustine Volcano, from space. New music from new bands.

Wednesday, February 8, 2006

George Washington is about to attack Boston in David McCullough's book. It's all very gripping, really, from a storyteller's perspective. History, for so many people, became an endless recitation of names and dates in elementary school. Somewhere I started seeing beyond the rote memorization and into the people and feelings of a period, even if the text couldn't afford more than three paragraphs on a key moment.

You learned, though you may have forgotten it, that General Henry Knox brought cannon to Boston from Fort Ticonderoga. You have no idea how difficult that was. No one ever told you the colonies were void of any real military expertise. You probably didn't know until right this moment that Knox was 25 when he came up with this crazy scheme. A bookseller, he walked to the man on whom hopes and dreams had been pinned and sold him this plan. Washington bought it and sent him on his way. When he returned, Knox was given command of the artillery.

Now imagine if you put some real depth to it. We'd all love history. You all watch reality television, right?

This is why I make sure to tell people what's on my bookshelves. History, policy and detached observance of political campaigns imply the willingness to always learn more about the human condition.

Helps with the psuedointellectualism, too.

I'm waiting to meet with my advisor, so the next day or so has some downtime built into it, scholastically speaking. Seems like there's been a great deal of that. Chalk it up to perception. Chalk it up and pray for mid- and late-semester performance.

So I'm reading while flipping through the television this afternoon. There's really not much worth seeing in the daylight hours. One of the first two or three episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation with the Bajorans. They were still calling them Bajora, presumably a name used only in the one episode and, consequently, a name that's now more alien sounding than maybe the writers intended. An epsiode of X-Files from just before the focuse on how to play the alien conspiracy storyline. Is Fox's sister dead or alive? Who cares, bring on the clones. And there was Thin Red Line. John Cusack as the overly sensitive company commander in World War II, favored by Nick Nolte, going for apoplectic to the point that the crew was concerned for his health. There was a beaten down Sean Penn and hollow-eyed James Caviezel. Nothing breaks you out of a remote control reverie like seeing Jesus wearing a steel pot.

That movie was long on scenery and introspection. There's plenty of grit, but I'd always thought it outnumbered the voiceover narration going on at Guadalcanal.

Can you imagine this today? Give the New Dealers their due on this one. If this sort of program were going on today we'd likely see terrific handiwork produced by Cindy Sheehan.

Different world all together, wouldn't you say? I, as always, blame MTV.

There's a wealth of conversation in that last link. Mostly I wonder why these events are closed to the public. There are groups of people who turn out en masse to see Civil War reenactments, but probably know nothing of the Great War, or the Entirely Regrettable Incidents that Preceded It.

Meantime they want to build casinos on Gettysburg. I'm getting literature about that now. Interesting duality there. Take modern day Boston, from above, for example. Modern vice meets historical reverence. It works well, a nice mix there, but there's been a couple of centuries to tweak it. Casinos, though, go up overnight. Pre-fab and painful.

Knox would still recognize Faneuil Hall, I wonder how General George Pickett would feel about a good casino.

But I digress. I think.

So there was reading. I was asked "What's for dinner?" Mexican. "Oh. It is that night isn't it?" Another reader.

Quick and fruitless stops at Staples and Best Buy. Finally caught the desired high-tech product at CompUSA, where a guy actually asked if he could help, listened to my response, started his own and then just trailed off and sort of walked away to another aisle.

Nothing a little compressed air up the nose won't cure, I'm sure. You can get an airburst on this aisle right over here.

Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Some mornings the windshield isn't worth scraping. Particularly if it just ices itself back over before you get down the hill. Very odd, that. Industrial strength frost. Who knew it came in such variety? At some point you just have to suck it up and call it ice, but not this morning. We'd feared that, though, after torrential rain and a day of cold surely considered an outlier by the global warming crowd.

Just can't make some scientists happy, I guess. Meantime, go back in the lab and make me an ice scraper that works.

February, by the way, is expected to be bitterly cold. Apparently the jet stream has returned to her more bitter winter ways. Bring on March, I'm ready to see more green things. A few teasing blades of the daffodil have poked their way, once again, through clay and zoysa grass.

Quick stop at the library, two accidents to navigate on the freeway and still made it home before dark. First time in, roughly, forever. Watched the last of Battlestar -- when does the season two disc come out? -- and then did a little computer work.

Also uploaded two very brief snow videos. You can find them here. White stuff, its cold, you play in it, you get the idea. Good times.

Incidentally, one of the bonuses of seeing life through my viewfinder, at least I thought, would be the avoidance of getting pelted. Apparently "big electronic thing plastered to face" isn't deterrent enough. Thankfully my sister aimed low, but -- not having much luck in this realm recently -- she should probably just not. But all is well that doesn't end in me plunking down money for a new camera before I can afford to.

That day is coming just, thankfully, not today.

Realized Publix is better than Food World. Why? The clientele. During he past several weeks in visiting the former I have never bumped into the colorful characters that gravitate toward the latter. Maybe that's why Publix is a happier place. Give them this, though, these folks are endorsements from staying off the junk food aisles.

Food World also never seems to have apple juice of the brand and volume that I prefer. It has a little plastic handle around the neck, which serves to effectively eliminate the circulation in fingertips if held for too long. Publix is also slightly cheaper and significantly larger when it comes to produce, too. This is key given that so much of the diet is currently grapes, carrots, apples and bananas.

It's a colorful bag that rabbits couldn't resist.

Boston Legal was down tonight. Not much Shatner, one or two good moments from Spader, who's character showed another hint of his ethically questionable self before lamenting but otherwise it seemed like a placeholder. Maybe they were spent after their Super Bowl ad.

Daily Show, Colbert Report. They were on, but I was tinkering with the site. Hey, there's a new background here, did you notice?

Tuesday is over, bringing with it for the second consecutive week the observation that this may be least fun day on the calendar. Not that there's anything wrong at all with Tuesdays, they just aren't that fun. But Tuesday's gone with the wind. There's Wednesday to look forward to. Wednesdays are always more fun.

Fun links: One day footage like this, sparse, badly lit, no audio, small and otherwise pointless, will be the equivalent of old 8 millimeter tapes. Probably already is, but here's some anyway. First the weekend's snowangels (:07) and then rolling down a snowy hill (:13).

Monday, February 6, 2006

I got mail. About a week late, but I got mail. From my mom even -- she sent it to one of those more random Email accounts we've all accumulated over the years. You've horded them like a guy palming cigarettes in a bad prison movie. Only you don't know what their value will be or who will accept them as currency. But you have 'em. Every variety of your name, your name with every Email provider; you're acquiring, and squatting, on a new Email address a year, aren't ya?

It's OK. You can admit it, we're all friends here.

Anyway, into one of those accounts this Email went, discussing the second half of this entry:
Thanks for the compliments on your web site. But I have to say "Is that softball picture the BEST one you have of me? If so, I'll get you some more ... but then softball stars can't always look glamorous, I guess. Ghaaa ... that stringy hair!"

Softball picture somewhere around 1982(ish). Hunting Island was probably 1977 (give or take six months). The covered bridge one would have been about 1973-74 timeframe. You need to make these notes on those pics while I can still remember them. Otherwise, before long I'll be saying "Who's the softball babe?" and "Look at that cheerleader pose on that girl in front of the bridge."
So there we are. One mystery solved. Two of those pictures are older than I am.

It rained today. A lot. Going to freeze tonight, so tomorrow mroning should be fun. But not as much fun as today. Went by the library, couldn't find anything inspiring, so I moved on to better things. Namely lying on the floor and reading David McCullough's 1776. Simple things, simple minds, eh?

Started this on the plane to St. Louis. It is a close examination of George Washington through the prism of that one year. Right now we've set the scene and are just beginning the year and its already one you can't wait to get back to once you've finally put it down.

And I did put it down, for a bowl of soup and the Bauer Hour. Maybe they shouldn't linger on the latest random protagonist. I knew the little 15-year-old girl was going to shoot someone -- nice security SWAT -- just didn't know who. But then the waifish one pulls a 9mm from her person and shoots with deadly accuracy the latest random bad guy. Let's all just hope that, in reality, security is actually only slightly less pourous.

Not the case in the president's compound, where they once again hold bad guys, but leave him his belt, tie and a long length of rope tied in a suggestive knot. Clearly the Secret Service isn't in the habit of securing and detaining suspects for more than a few minutes; this would otherwise be problematic.

Which is kind of like eyeballing a precision millimeter metal cutting, but we'll assume terrorists are trusting custom chopper types can do this sort of work under pressure of being shot.

And that brings up the only other problem of this episode: not enough violence. There was only three fatal shootings (only two for Jack), two woundings, a mugging and one knockout. You know, when you spell it out, that is rather impressive, but I was told to expect more. Even full days of televised roughhousing has to have a down hour to set up the next plot twists. This leaves us all to believe that the episode two weeks from now should more than make up for it.

Fun links: William Shatner spoofs, well, himself. This was shot for an MTV show years ago. Still good. Brokeback to the Future a satire that you can probably figure out from the title. Top gun tomcat, a working, and really cool, model.

Sunday, February 5, 2006

The alarm went off, and over the last two mornings I've come to realize I really dislike this cell phone's alarm. It sounds too loud. Too important. Too much "We're taking on water!" or "Klingons are de-cloaking off the bow!" for a humble sleep interruption device.

So, turning that off, I slept for another hour and a half.

More brunch. More snowballs -- my dear grandmother took out a hit on me, instructing Elisabeth to hit me with a great big snowball, my own grandmother. Quick trip to the airport for lots of important hugs. This plane leaves on ly 20 minutes late, taking off behind a UPS jet, a good sign that I'll arrive in time to pick up a pizza and get home for the Super Bowl.

And all that happens, barely.

I cheer for the commercials which, on balance, were underwhelming this year. The best:
That killed him
Touch football
Practical jokers
Kermit the Frog
Snow videos middle of the week, there could be a short term feature coming here soon and fun links return tomorrow.

Saturday, February 4, 2006

The rain overnight turned into snow. Maybe two inches today and definitely the highlight. But very cold. No snow angels for me, having recently acquired the name snow devil from my mother. That's a wholly undeserved name as well, being that I did not throw any snowballs at her. The girls did, yet they are snow angels. They pelted me, I can assure you they are not angelic.

I did throw a few snow balls, but only in preserving my agressively antagonistic policy toward my sister. She loves it, can't you tell?

I got tackled once in one of our snow fights, which ranged through about five yards and a church parking lot. My socks were the only casualty becoming wet the moment I found myself on my back staring up into a white sky. And, friends, if cold wet socks are the price for rediscovering that lose-your-breath laughter it is worth every shivery prune-toed second of it.

Today we learned that making waffles from scratch is a time consuming process. When we introduced the mixer it went faster than the handheld whisk. Who knew?

Also watched Dateline, featuring Perverted Justice. Whoa. Just whoa.

I'll put up some snowy video this coming week.

Friday, February 3, 2006

"Are you still tired? You look like you have two black eyes."

And so it is.

Long day at work. Stayed two extra hours voluntarily. One beyond the boss. On Friday. It was airport time for me, so going home to drive back across town seemed foolish. Ended up meeting with Chess Club for a few minutes, instead.

Left for the airport, having successfully outwaited rush hour with the sort of triumphantilism that can only exist by saying Aha! I have outwitted you by staying at the office two hours longer than necessary!. And, having checked in earlier in the day and packed only for carry-on luggage it was no problem getting to the gate with 20 minutes to spare -- I'm thinking of making an art of this -- to sit in front of a jetway with no plane. Here we go again (and again.)

With about five minutes before the scheduled takeoff someone a gate away says the magic word "Louisville" to perking ears. For weather reasons, specifically a lot of rain in Tampa, the scheduled plane wasn't running. There is a plane, however, going to St. Louis. "And you should get on board, sir."

Never the one to disobey a frantic and weary ticket agent I climb on board, secure in the knowledge that another plane will ship me to my desired destination. Wow, an airline that plans this stuff, and that isn't in perpetual bankruptcy. (Look into it U.S. Air.)

Sit next to a guy who waited in the Tampa airport for eight hours. Spent too much of that time at the airport bar. He'd had little food for the day by the looks of things, and was happy to loudly tell me that the apple I'd had as part of my lunch wasn't a part of a meal, but, in fact, was a vital piece of bong equipment.

If you always do what the harried ticket agent tells you then you would do well to also let the guy with a toy monkey tied around his neck prattle on, resting comfortably in the knowledge that he's not actually flying the plane.

So landing in St. Louis is the plan. Hoof it to C16 they said. While we're waiting to leave Birmingham the gate changes. The wayward Louisville passengers, and there are many of us, begin to wonder if anyone is sure of anything. Concern grows when our next plane is scheduled to take off at 8:07. We actually touched down at 8:07.

An adventure.

Off the plane, finally. Here it occurs to us that, beyond waiting on everyone else to get off the plane, man knows no slower passage of time that doesn't involve a restroom. Sprint down a dozen gates ... to wait in line.

We all, and there are many of us who thought we'd travel to St. Louis on a whim, make the plane. And in good spirits for the most part. That in spite of a two-hour pluys delay, leaving Birmingham under tornado watch conditions and the mother of all worries: landing somewhere that you know no one.

And all because Southwest cared.

Listening U.S. Air?

A late supper at Fourth Street Live, which is a downtown revitalization project Louisville undertook just a few years ago. Now its entertainment, restaurants, clubs, bowling, concerts, and generally a loud and bright neon type of place. Las Vegas without the traffic, because this is for pedestrians. Which, unfortunately meant rain. Cold, cold, "Notice me" rain.

Stayed up late chatting with Elisabeth, who's also up visiting, talking of jobs and school and life and family. A reunion almost two years in the making.

Thursday, February 2, 2006

Ever have days where you wake up tired, but alert enough to realize that you will never be more awake than this moment, for the rest of the day? Yeah.

Walked into the ivory tower again today. Had a nice little chat with my advisor. Project Odyssey is still alive, no small success.

That's the new name for the thesis. A title which has nothing to do with the actual thesis, and will not be on the cover of the project, which is more political and message-based than science fiction sounding. Call it a for-fun title among friends.

Headed home for tidying and similar chores. The Yankee and I had Pie Day early this week. They did not have stew. It was cold and rainy and they did not have stew. As the evening progressed I became sure it was a plot against me.

Stopped in to CompUSA to return a wireless card. If my laptop won't work -- still trying to negotiate a fix -- then there's no need for this purchase. The receipt says CompUSA will accept objects for 21 days. Which -- for people like me, trained that 30 days is a retail standard and thereby waiting until Day 27 until seeking a fix -- sucks. So I called from home, just to see if it would be worth the effort to stop in.

Only CompUSA isn't HelloUSA, and they don't answer phones. Finally landed a guy in some national call center after dialing a local number, being disconnected, redialing to be beeped at in a most annoying fashion and dialing again to finally swim through the phone's navigation system for 10 minutes. The national guy said swing by and they'll decide. So I swung. And they decided. I got reimbursed. The whole thing worked well -- unlike the laptop, hiya Kelly! -- and was the biggest success of the day.

The January photos are now up on the picture page. They are now larger, for all the big monitor folks. They are fewer, in number, this time around as well. Just 16 pictures for January, but I intentionally removed some of the more marginal compositions. We all know what that means: overcompensation in February. You'll have to cut me some slack though. Looking back on January 2005 I only offered 18 photographs for the month. And, looking through them now, all but one of them is instantly recognizable, as if I'd taken them this week.

The only one I can't place is a sunset, and I have a fairly decent idea about that one. Which says I'm living through a viewfinder too much, obsess over these little pictures too much, or that time is flying by. But, anyway, the pictures are up. Thanks for stifling your surprise ("Pictures, just one day late?") and for dropping by to look at them, which I'll also consider a success.

Some days are so calm and peaceful that successes like that are enough. This can be one of those days.

Fun links: All video edition. First there's a comedy song for video gamer's widows. Then there's Sleepless in Seattle, recut. The blue ribbon, however, still belongs to the recut of The Shining.

Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Sometimes it pays to be blue. Or to at least wear the color. That's the shirt I wore today, entirely out of happenstance, and it would come into play late in the day.

Prior to that I got the opportunity for an exciting and fresh new start on a big project. That's a liberating feeling.

After that I went out to Bevill State's lovely Sumiton campus to see my friends from WBRC put on their weather spiel for the local folks. Far from being trite and meaningless, it was entertaining to hear cute old weather anecdotes and listen as station branding got mangled. Which, again, makes me question the seriousness of branding.

Of course it has an effective place and a useful purpose, but not in every audience and this idyllic campus was not that place.

One group recognized one of the more prominent personalities there by way of the gimmick stuff he does for Halloween. And for that group you can take all your lovely radars, 3-D graphics, catchy slogans and Weather Chaser ... Tracker Hummers and put them away. Just "give 'em some Jim Bob teeth!"

So I had this blue shirt on. Which also happened to be the color shirt the meteorologists wore. Only their shirts have a station logo on it and, oh yes, I don't work there. Nevertheless, I was asked a few times for an autograph. Not being famous (any more, or right now) it seemed out of place. Never mind that you've never seen me before, shove a pen in my face on the off chance that I might be someone. One more request and I was ready to oblige.

I stood over by the receiving line, because this is a phenomenon that never ceases to amaze. You've got your on-air personalities and their promo pictures. They happily and dutifully sign pictures, paper, shirts, foreheads (three tonight) and have a brief chat with you. There are little booklets with information about tonight's event inside.

The adoring public spends much of their time at the door oohing and ahhing over the picture of the weathermen on the cover. Take this image, print it on your standard bubble jet printer, be smitten.

And T-shirts! Don't forget the T-shirts! You'd swear, whenever a free shirt opportunity comes around, that the majority of the visiting public has only recently discovered they needn't go around au naturale. Can't blame it on the good people of Sumiton though. No matter where you go, no matter the function or the audience, this is the case.

Oh yeah, a dead ringer for Milton, from Office Space, was also there.

So after the program -- filled with weather anecdotes, a Q&A, some silly stories -- there was time for dinner. Local fare, from the legendary Green Top Barbeque. Here's a brief review and recipe. Their barbeque salad came highly recommended by the waitress, but we all passed. Its praises are also briefly sung here, making me think that the next time I'm up that way I'll stop in to give it a try.

Once again having the smiles of strangers coming and going won't hurt either.

So we're sitting there with a few of the weather guys -- one of whom, Chris Davis, blogs, and is subsequently in the blogroll -- and it comes time to pay. But the manager won't hear of it. He's taken care of the check, on top of making a box of sandwiches to send back to the television station. At least five people ate, and there seemed to be about a dozen sandwiches, which he just volunteered, that he gave away tonight.

Chris, I said, when you're on the air Saturday you should give a very precise forecast for Sumiton, and tell them it will be sunny at the Green Top.

Which is, I'm sure, why the guy did it. But it happens to them all the time. Chris is from Huntsville, a definite big fish in a small pond market. Birmingham isn't much different, the every day personalities are the community's celebrities. Moreso when you get into the smaller outlying areas. That didn't happen to me that much in radio, guess I picked the wrong medium, and I'm even less famous right now. (Note to self ... ) They are the superstars, the heroic athletes, the shining personalities.

The people I'll always be wearing blue around when I meet with them, in the hopes of mooching.