Kenny Smith | blog

Friday, March 31, 2006

I'm taking a getaway weekend. Seemed appropriate, all things considered. So here we are, crashing at Wendy's in Savannah. She has extra floor space and ignores the comings and goings of many tourists. "People come see me," she says. Happy to oblige.

Warm and cloudy here today. The blue sky poked out in the afternoon. Time enough today to trip over to South University for a t-shirt, but apparently edumacation isn't so important there after 2:30. That's when the bookstore closes; no shirt for you. It'd be a good one to have, but it is named after a person, John T. South III, rather than the region. They apparently have a Montgomery campus too, so there'll be another opportunity.

Had the chance to stop by Savannah State. That's Georgia's oldest historically black college, it has the feel of a small school on a big campus. Since 1891 Savannah State has held classes on this spot, but all of the buildings manage to feel like they came from the 1950s or later.

You have to walk out of the Student Center to walk back inside it to find the bookstore. There you'll meet the friendliest lady to ever work behind a bookstore cash register. She knew everybody. She knew me, and I'm from a different time zone. Bought an ash grey shirt, with orange and blue text. Looked more like Florida than the favored versions, but SSU students are Tigers too. They have shirts that say "Kiss me, I'm a Tiger" which would be cute, but not on me.

They also have the most politely worded, and intelligence insulting messages, cleverly placed in their restrooms. There apparently was a need to remind the 'gentlemen' of basic hygiene and restroom courtesy. Those signs never get old, certainly not at an institution of higher education.

Looooooong wait at Lady and Sons. Just off the river, the key is to get on the list and go about your business for the better part of the night. At four-and-a-half hours you've got a dedicated audience. They all have to be tourists, the Food Network devotees making their pilgrimage to holy buttered land, people would simply go somewhere else unless without an out-of-town determination. I wonder when Yogi Berra is proved right, when no one goes there anymore because it's always crowded. They don't care right now if someone is intimidated; there's plenty of people. Four and a half hours though for a buffet. She had to sell her soul.

The lesson here was that you pretty much have the run of the place if you close it down.

So the wait was on the terrace at Churchill's. After four or five minutes a couple sat down and started up a chat. Turns out we're watching the world spin by with Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Thomas Waskow. Read either one of those bios and you'll meet an impressive man. Even more so in person. Casual, funny and engaging, the Waskows are a charming couple in town for a wedding.

Shame they'd already eaten, they would have made delightful dinner companions. We exchanged stories -- and the stories he can tell: Vietnam, shaking down the F-15, Japan, 9/11 -- and business cards. He's reached the stratum of life where he knows everyone. I'll keep in touch.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Got chatty with Dr. David Lanoue, chairman of the political science department at the University of Alabama, and Tom Gordon, a political writer for The Birmingham News today. We're setting up a bi-weekly schedule rotating in top scholars and reporters covering the races to monitor the campaign season as the primaries and general election near.

The political ones will be more conversation than interviews. In fact, we're simply calling all the podcasts "Conversations." Where most of these interviews tend to take on the tone of a Q-and-A format, this one is different. I purposefully lined up two experts, introduced the thing, asked an opening question, let them talk until they stopped and then asked follow ups. Their answers ran longer, and the thoughts were sometimes more philosophical, but that was the point. They didn't need me trampling over them or injecting any insight into the topic; I'm just steering us through an informational dialogue.

The result is a nice 17 minute chat covering all the major players in the gubernatorial campaign and an overview into where the races stand two months and change from the primary vote.

Sorry about the quality of the audio. There may be some improvements in the pipeline to reduce some of that overmodulation, but the content remains the most important part of the equation.

You can hear it here. You can find more audio here.

A word of advice for those taking the I-20 across the line and into Georgia: Exit early, rejoin the interstate about 10 miles into Georgia. They've been tearing up the shoulder and now the left lane of a two lane interstate. This should frustrate drivers for some time given the usual rate of roadwork on I-20.

It turns out that Georgia Tech lies to us. The guy running that show is not a "Hell of an Engineer." And the Georgia grads they hired to stand around with their hands in their pockets -- literally -- don't seem up to the task either.

Here's one backroads map that would have been useful during my 90-plus minute stall. On the other hand, it did allow me to take this picture out of the side view mirror.

Speaking of pictures, the front page changed. Did you notice? Remember to check there often.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

New water heater is in place. It is very shiny, right down to the new copper tubing. Removing a water heater is messy work. There was much mopping that had to be done. The first few glassfuls of water to come through the kitchen sink were a disturbing color of brown. I have hot water, and just as importantly, a dry basement floor.

I did none of this work, hence the dry floor.

Hard at work on the thesis. Some of the material is begining to coalesce so that is promising. None too quick either. Decided to break things up and go out for a bite to eat and a study session. Found myself at Johnny Rays. Here's another victim of expansion. The original Johnny Ray's is still a big hit in an old Sambo's on Valley. The offshoot stores have never been good and seem to be devolving. Traffic tonight wasn't very heartening either. They go out and find the most high school of high school students they can find to work the floor, and now they're wearing shirts that say "JR - The Barbeque" and I had to stop and think about the joke. Oh yeah.

How effective is that branding? Ubiquitous in the short term, but has it stood the whithering test of two year's time? I'm sitting here reading a text called Campaign Talk and yet I have to force myself to recall the joke involved in the barbeque t-shirt. "I Like Ike" it ain't.

About these books. I walk in, sit down -- and this is one of those classy joints where they have hired a local artist to come in and paint a faux town on the walls so that they can try to sell these rooftops to local companies for ad space -- and this guy is glaring at me. A turn-around-backwards glare. Full on obvious eye contact. He won't stop.

"Him have books. Mongo no like books."

When he left he put his daughter on his right side and walked with me on his left side. No, sir, I promise not to educate your daughter.

Craziest thing I've seen in a barbeque joint in at least two weeks.

Since I'm in a barbeque joint, American Idol has to be played at an overwhelming volume from the corner television. I'm beginning to think this is a law in this state. I've had this same American Idol, barbeque experience before, and not in a deja vu way.

The local guy advances. The nine or 10 customers in the place rejoice. Must be the barbeque.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The water heater went out. Hard water and years of use wore a small hole in the bottom, it was draining about a gallon of water every few hours. Just a little more than the cement cared to seep. Thrill to the excitement! Bask in the adventure! Revel in the -- Eh, Tuesdays.

This was broken Tuesday, actually. In one day I was dealing with the water heater, no Internet connectivity at home and a quirky wet/dry vacuum. I was a little weary of driving home given this string of bad equipment mojo.

Figured out the shopvac's problem, no problem; on my third call to the givers of the Internet the service magically came back. I performed the fourth in a series of dances asking for the Internet's return anyway. I feel safer about the whole thing after that.

The water heater will be replaced tomorrow. Got a quote, and then the quote got $20 better. Good to know people. The only downside is the repair canceled dinner plans. Sorry, Kel.

She really should allow her archives to stay on her site. Maybe she's ducking any long-term consequences. Don't incriminate yourself; smart girl.

Today involved computers. A full day at work, followed by a full night at home working on one thing or another. Nothing to see here, move along.

Fun links: Save the 76 Ball -- they're pushing 1,500 signatures on the petition so far. It's trendy to save things, keep Americana alive! Web, print and design people love new eye tracking studies. Dr. Pepper reportedly spent five million dollars on commercials that will never air, "different strategies" are to blame. See them here. Why is a journalist reading about the relationship between prime numbers and quantum physics? Because in it is Douglas Adams' Ultimate Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything. Even Google says so. Speaking of Google, Census data has been mashed into the maps in a very cool way. And, finally, live streaming bald eagles.

Monday, March 27, 2006

I guess I just miss my friend.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

We moved boxes and furniture around all weekend. Filling them up, stacking them up, stuffing them in a truck. Drove the truck out of state, emptied it and moved boxes and furniture around some more.

A two-year-old helped with the unloading. "This is an important box!" She was the best part; this move came with a show. She later earned herself some animal crackers, perhaps the most important box of the night. And then she spilt milk on the new carpet three times, but no sense crying over spilt milk.

Helping people move is very educational. This weekend I learned that bathroom stuff should be secured in the early going. A big duffel bag with shampoo, soap, a change of clothes and towels. Put it on the truck last so it comes off the truck first. Stick it in the bathtub so it doesn't get lost. Then you can take a shower. Nothing like the dry, dusty dirty you become while moving boxes, driving to Atlanta and unloading the boxes.

Second most important lesson: pack the silverware.

We figured it up, though. It was about as half as hot this time as when we did it last May. Even still, I was down to a t-shirt on a chilly March night.

Now my hands are dry and cracked. I'm sore in odd places and have earned a few nicks and a nice new dent in a shin. I'd like a weekend after my weekend please. After this weekend's punishment, it is time to recharge the batteries.

Friday, March 24, 2006

The weekend that won't be a weekend. Heavy lifting. Sore limbs. Lots of driving. That is all ahead. I'm putting in my Monday order for a second weekend now.

Went to the bank today, left wondering why we deal with banks. I'm not to the bury-my-money-in-a-mayonnaise-jar point, but that might be a short walk. Deposited money from one account into another. Can't be reached until next Tuesday because I used a personal check. None of the ladies in the too-stretched polyester suits could tell me why my money would be less risky Tuesday, but here we are.

Let's briefly examine one of the many key problems of Check 21. Put aside the fact that this is a complicated law that says leads to more bounced checks (just not mine, thankfully) because the float is now long gone. Never mind that you no longer get your paper checks in the mail for account balancing purposes.

The law, considered an important money saver for the bank industry, has one implicitly acknowledged shortcoming. "Checks you write will clear sooner, increasing the risk that a check will bounce if funds are not in the account when you write the check ... You may not get access to the funds from checks you deposit any sooner, because the new law does not shorten check hold times."

After 30 months (about April 2007), Consumers Union reports there will be a study on whether banks are making funds available to consumers earlier than the allowable hold periods.

Bring me the mayonaise jar.

Pie Day and then a group went to see Arnez J. There he is recreating his dancing uncle. He is one of the few comedians I catch every time he comes to town. You should catch him too. Here's some video performances:
  • This one is from 2002, more than a year after I caught his show for the first time. All of this is old material he doesn't do any more, but the last bit he should keep. It was hysterical.
  • In this clip, from BET, he says "We grown grown folks in here tonight" and he means it; also quality old stuff.
  • This is a low-quality video, a brief cut of some of his new material. I did not record that.
  • Fun links: Someone googled How to stay awake like Jack Bauer and came in here. Jack Bauer could tell you, but he'd then have to kill you. His preferred method might be painful. It is best not to ask such questions. Just go to sleep. Much safer. More video: Andy Dick as Harlan McCraney, Presidential Speechalist and serious basketball dunks from Henry Bekkering.

    Thursday, March 23, 2006

    Beautiful day. Flew right by. That's about all you can ask of Thursdays. Yes, yes, you were a nice reflection on Wednesday, but you're holding up the prospect of the weekend. A slow Thursday is swimming upstream. Today the current was with me.

    Early this morning I interviewed Carl Stephens. You can hear that here. Not the strongest, as interviews go. It is a short stroll down the memory lane of Auburn athletics. Mr. Stephens confirmed what I discovered when doing PA at UAB, that you really don't have a grasp of the games in overview because you're so focused on minutiae involved. So maybe I was doing that right after all. As a consequence, however, only the biggest games come to mind. An Iron Bowl here, an Iron Bowl there, the Barn Burning, mostly, he says, he recalls the people involved.

    Carl is an old TV anchor, and I got the sense that he was bemused by the idea that someone wanted to interview him. It made a sports flag at work, which is great, and is a nice little memory to file away to tell to Auburn friends later.

    I was fortunate enough to interview Jim Fyffe for a documentary piece a few months before he died. I'd produced a radio show, and then this past fall got the chance to stand near Pat Dye when they named the field in his honor at Jordan-Hare. I've interviewed: multi-time ALl-American swimmers on their way to another national championship and some eventual Olympic appearances; the World's Fastest Man, a record in the 100m held for a brief time in 2000 by an Auburn student; the collegiate record holder in the discus. I saw the last season of one of the finest men in college baseball, Hal Baird and we were there for the brief renaissance of Auburn basketball. That season I almost ran over the center one dark night. He just walked out in front of me and hello Dakar, Senegal!

    All just part of the experience, I guess.

    If you haven't noticed you will now. Redesigned the site today. The content is mostly the same, the look is different. It keeps with the "Be aesthetic, be clean" vibe of the place. Its easier to dust this way, that's why I keep it so simple. Keep checking back on it, those pictures will change regularly.

    Had Mexican tonight. Two cravings for it in one week. My body must need the sodium. Did a little school work, that's about it. Today I swam with the current.

    Wednesday, March 22, 2006

    It is wholly possible to have a day go by with nothing of consequence or deserving of a lasting memory taking place. Today has been such a day. The last memory may well be the moment of resignation that it is, in fact, time to start cutting the grass again.

    The most ambitious of the little weeds are already up, looking painfully lonely and scraggly. The wisteria is out this week. Peeking through fences to give the freeway a blush of purple. Always seems an unlikely place for such an unlikely plant, but there we have it. And the kudzu too, but its heyday is yet to come. Perhaps I'll get to the yard next week.

    I promise that, unlike previous spring and summer seasons, this will not become a page dedicated to lawn maintenance.

    Most of the day seemed spent on the phone. Everyone wanted to talk, which is always a delight, but does not lend itself to anything productive on my part. Just as well, I would have surely found some excuse or another. Seem to be getting good at that.

    It's not that I'm not getting any thesis work done, I'm just don't seem to be doing enough. Every little bit, though.

    Fun links: The story of Wemoweh. A grad school colleague sent this video today, a couple of years old but still the best commercial ever. While we are on video of a superlative nature, check out a Tuesday clip from The Daily Show.

    Tuesday, March 21, 2006

    The Internets, as you no doubt know, take over every aspect of life. Not for the first time I journeyed out for lunch today, only to find the restaurant of my choice without the ability to accept plastic. Cashless society indeed.

    When I leave the office for lunch I always go early. More parking, less lines, I've been at work since 6 a.m. and so on. On this beautiful spring morning -- full of late arriving white fluffy clouds of cotton resembling the oil-painting persuasion -- people paying with Visa may as well munch on the security code. Panera, it seems, was offline again. Two customers were in front of me. The first couple finally, after much painstaking deliberation, an intervention by the manager, a call from the corporate headquarters and a Blackberry message from Bill Gates, finally had their monetary needs met.

    I trust that their sandwiches were delicious. I did not stick around, because the manager and Bill Gates left with the babyboomers, leaving two young cashiers, with surly words rolling around in their internal dialogue, to look blankly at the woman in front of me.

    There are scenes in some movies where the extras' action stops, with our lead characters left to ponder quizically over this unnatural and unsettling occurrence. That's what this felt like. I knew I was conscious, there was some doubt about the cashiers and the lady in front of me. After almost a full minute of this I turned on my wheel to walk across the parking lot to another restaurant.

    "Welcome to Moes!" Being just across the parking lot, they were having connection problems as well. The manager there said they were "having to do things old school."

    I looked and looked for the bird with the spike and the limestone tablet hammering out receipts, but they must be union, because that guy was on break and nowhere to be found. So that was pretty much lunch. Much of the hour I would have spent staring into tomes of academia were spent standing in line, watching my food get cold. There are worse indignities in life.

    After work there was the bank. There was a store run, complete with accidentally squished seven grain bread. See? Already a greater indignity. There was for-play networking of a very positive nature. Sometimes randomly generated Email to people formerly in the right places can lead to cell phone numbers that allow you to catch important people on good days. We'll see how that turns out.

    Then I went home and the next thing I knew it was 7 p.m. and time for a squished bread sandwich. The really soft fresh-baked kind. Really hard to enjoy a delicious and nutritious seven-grain bread banana sandwich when the bread isn't up to handling the stress of holding banana slices. Personified, the bread would be the one filled with indignity, complaining that it had already been squished between a gallon of milk and a tripod and what, exactly do we want from it?

    My bread does not talk to me. I'm just saying if.

    Fun links: A life sized Lego Volvo. Birmingham has enjoyed lots of success on American Idol, but what about the bands behind the singers? Here's Just a few cats with three great songs. Taylor Hicks' site had to disappear because of Idol contract issues. His band, Little Memphis Blues Orchestra has just recently had to remove tracks from their myspace account. There are still three great songs here thanks to the power of public radio. Want more of the local fare? Get a lot more music here. WBHM has more here as well.

    Monday, March 20, 2006

    It rained today. A lot. The sun poked through for maybe 10 minutes late this morning. Otherwise everything seemed ominous. Or flood-like. The drive home was almost treacherous. The rain was such that it delayed unloading the car or a trip to fetch groceries.

    The house was unnaturally cold when I got home today. The thermostat said 59 degrees. First day of spring and we're turning heaters on again. I've long since taken the electric blanket off the bed.

    Could be worse; the Ohio Valley is getting lots of snow.

    No Bauer Hour tonight, I'll be watching that Friday. Today I've spent time on the phone, watching World Classic Baseball and generally avoiding work that should be getting done.

    Time to buckle down. Here we go. More tomorrow.

    Fun links: A radio scan of New York City the day John Lennon was shot. A dad posts pictures of his daughter's dirty room in an attempt to shame her into cleaning. She returns the favor. That's Web2.0. Calculate your life expectancy. Apparently the biggest thing going against me is that I'm male.

    There's a joke there somewhere I'm sure.

    Sunday, March 19, 2006

    Rain. Lots of cold, annoying, sneaky rain. The first days of spring are peeking around the corner, but this is the weather that turns up collars.

    Pretty much all day, too.

    Deli sandwiches. Staying warm. Toying with the idea of a nap. Trying to be productive instead. That was the afternoon.

    Moved the Mexican restaurant routine to Sunday nights. Got there a little early tonight, but stayed around to listen to the mariachi. They've taken up a few new songs since I saw them last several years ago. Macarena sounds fun, they make Ricky Martin sound cool. They mix in old Mexican love songs, and play around with La Bamba.

    I did not hear, but always look forward to their version of Bricks in the Wall. You wouldn't think so, but the eight piece band -- two trumpets, three fiddles, two guitars and a vihuela -- take that song and make it their own. When they are through you could swear the song was written to be played like that.

    A little more work after that, and we'll call it an early night before a big week.

    Fun link: The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon. Always heard of this as African elephants. Read the link and you'll understand the reference. I thought I'd like to know more about recency effect, but I haven't found the right definitions yet.

    Saturday, March 18, 2006

    The sky seemed full this morning. Just ready for something to come along, turn it over and bring the rains down. The sun tried poking through once early, but lost the battle and would retreat again until the early afternoon. Spent part of the morning out and about walking. The lighting was so muted that I didn't even bother with taking a lot of pictures, focusing instead on finding a few macros. The best ones were the blooms of an aristocrat callery pear. Beyond that it was the typical yellow and purple flowers that run through the blades of grass so prominently this time of year.

    One day I'll learn to take quality macro photographs. For once I don't believe the fault lies with the camera.

    Day trip to Atlanta. A surprise birthday party. The victim was clueless. Some friends had picked him up for an afternoon of watching basketball, and his wife said he would have surely "gussied up." Apparently the surprise was almost ruined by one phone call, after which he jokingly accused his wife of cheating on him, but a quick and convenient excuse was made.

    At one point in the night there were eight children, all under the age of three, at the party. Everyone had nice watches. The kids all shop at the Baby Gap. I suddenly find myself in a room of yuppies and no one is calling me on it. I've blended in!

    The kids were even well behaved. The next time I need a present for a three-year-old, I'm going beach ball. "Best $1.98 you'll ever spend" one dad said in agreement.

    Fun links: Open source windows. I bought a new watch about a week ago -- an almost $400 dollar model for much less than 25 percent of the retail price -- but this $150,000 watch is ridiculous.

    Friday, March 17, 2006

    The perfectly quiet and still spring day. The weather was here, unnoticeable, but here. Sometime around the close of business the breezes blew in and things took a turn for the chilly. It became a long and quiet and lazy afternoon. The time for less navel gazing and fewer introspections and more soaking in of the moment.

    Fridays are good for that. If ever there was a moment to carpe diem, this would be it. The best time for carpe fishing? About 4:30 on any given Friday afternoon. Always a good catch.

    A local television station was handing out passes for an advance screening of Ice Age: The Meltdown:
    If you liked the first you'll like this; coming in two weeks.
    Better than the first, even if it had a love story subplot.What cartoon is complete without one these days? Just about now you're firing up the Email machine to write that the first was a lovestory, and yes it was, but that was before Brokeback when three cartoon characters approximating masculine social roles could care for one another in an endearing, selflish and straight way.

    Had Dennis Leary known Brokeback was coming he would have stayed away from this franchise. His machismo would have been the better for it. Now he has to play second fiddle to a mammoth with an indentity problem and Ray Romano's inherent need to provide the world with more tusks. If you know what I mean.

    Most of my office ended up going. Brian took his daughter. It was their first movie experiment and we rationalized that a free movie is easier to leave if she dislikes the inherent motivations of the sloth character. Some three-year-olds are highly discriminating about this sort of thing.

    Taylor did fine, she liked the cartoons, laughed at all the obvious jokes, pointed out a few things for the rows around us. All the cute things kids will do, endearing if you are there with them, slightly less cute if they're pointing out obvious inconsistencies in the roles.

    This movie had an opening act. The manager came in and did trivia. That was different. Multi-million dollar movie in a multi-million dollar theater (there's a lot of neon) and the guy straight from sophomore year classes is asking us to recall the first Ice Age. Kids dominated the trivia portion of the evening.

    Best part was watching Taylor. About two-thirds of the way into the movie, with her father engrossed in the on-screen action, she bent down to find a kernel of popcorn on the floor. She threw it in her mouth, creating the most profoundly simple look of joy imagineable. Dad saw it differently when he realized what had happened. I was two seats away and powerless, I promise.

    As best we know, this was her first experience with popcorn too.

    Late Pie Day then. The new favorite server got in a turf war tonight with another regular waitress. Some people fight over trees on the property line, they fight over a regular customer here, sweet tea pitchers there. All in good fun, though all the other tables might have been neglected.

    And then, from the corner of the eye came a tall and wiry guy, a countenance that seemed vaguely familiar, though something, the hair seemed wrong. But it looked like, "Ward!"

    He's returned from exile in Florida. Everyone else gets demoted a notch on the favorites list, ward is back. Fight for second place if you must.

    Said he'd been back in town for about a week, had been working non-stop. When I said that we'd all be glad to see him again he had the most surprising answer. You come to think you annoy people, holding them up from other tables, telling bad jokes they already hear three times a night, not turning around the chairs for other customers quickly enough, but he sounded genuinely relieved to see all the friendly faces.

    The guy got hugs and long handshakes from all kinds of tables on his last night. Struck me as odd when I saw it, but he's just that likable and it must feel nice to be that well-liked again.

    A strange litmus test came out of this. Katie suggested I watch A Night at the Roxbury. Not sure how we got to that, but it came up. Of course I promised I would, but left wondering if I should trust the taste of a person recommending that movie to me. Imagine that, Hi, nice to meet you as well. Tell me ... how do did you feel about "A Night at the Roxbury?" If you loved it, we might get along, we could even be friends. We just wouldn't go to the movies or rent movies together.

    Fun links: A promising new treatment for diabetes. A Lego aircraft carrier. And we apparently work too much, stifling creativity, problem solving and innovation.

    Thursday, March 16, 2006

    Turned ominously foggy this afternoon. A normal bright and sunny March morning became a day on a misty mountain. Cleared up as the sun fell for slumber, and returned as a brief and light mist as the evening grew. Very unusual throughout.

    Stopped by the bank, where nothing unusual happened. The teller that, a month or so ago, had the basic math textbook waited on me again today. My transaction went through perfectly, so I choose to find irony rather than worry in that previous encounter.

    Window shopped for a bit, discovered you can't get shoes in my size at discount stores. No 13s, let alone a selection. I'd just wandered back and thought to look. Sometimes you can find such entertainments in the patent leather. Not this day.

    I did find the Napoleon Dynamite shirts in great numbers, meaning that delightful and quirky little run is almost up. Also found two Lucky Charms and three Cheerios shirts. Somehow that theory does not apply to them. The best t-shirt was the one with the text "I am an individual." You and the 14 other people who pick up a copy off that rack. And, putting it on proudly before you go to the mall, you'll become a mindless automaton, albeit it in a nice 15/85 poly-cotton blend. Bow before the power of those weaving together fabrics that play on your fragile egos! Weep not at statement shirts, they scream "Notice me!" but never "Date me!"

    Remember the days of the No Fear gear? The heady days when young people weren't afraid to castigate others, clearly their lessers, for they had a slogan slapped across their chest, they had a witty phrase embroidered into their baseball caps. Yeah, looked silly then too.

    Full disclosure: Two shirts I own have similar prints. I caved because one was a crab and the other had a monkey. Bought them on the same day, both on sale, naturally. I crumbled before their collective t-shirt powers. Every other shirt that I wear that displays a a screen print is of a place I worked or a school I've visited.

    Had Pie Day. Taylor likes pie, she was just pouting on command. Her parents are teaching her to pout for bad service, in hopes of stepping things up a little. Manipulation can be a good thing. Her parent's aren't teaching her that, heaven knows there's enough in the world, but she'd be a ringer if they did.

    Fun links: The History Carnival, you can bet I'll spend some time here. Or you can be a presidential speechwriter by putting words into George Bush's mouth. Finally, there's the original intent of the internet, another uselessly addicting game.

    Wednesday, March 15, 2006

    Today is a sad day for the Auburn family. Carl Stephens is retiring from his PA duties. No longer will his beautiful baritone voice boom from the heavens. That's audio I recorded from the first game of his last season in the pressbox. I was fortunate enough to hear two more, the Miss State game and his last, the Iron Bowl.

    It seems like everyone has a Carl story. From his shilling, "That stolen base was fast, but not as fast as the relief from a Goody's headache powder" to the most memorable events where his voice gave us the narration of record, he can't be replaced. When we talk about The Barn Burning game (Which almost doesn't exist as far as the internet is concerned. Even if it was 1996, Auburn should have something about it online; this spurred a lot of growth on that part of campus.) against LSU in 1996 we don't talk about the loss, but we always bring up Carl's announcement.

    "If you have a car parked within 50 yards of the barn, please exit Jordan-Hare Stadium and move your vehicle." And a moment later, "Attention fans, if your car is parked near The Barn, never mind, its too late."

    There's quite a few stories from his PA work, but Carl Stephens was a TV guy years ago, hosting the postgame review show for coach Shug Jordan. That's where he became one of the most beloved figures, a mighty pillar of the Auburn tradition. He'll be missed when he turns that microphone off for the last time at the end of the SEC basbeball tournament in Hoover this spring. I'll be there to catch him a few more times.

    Interviewed Dr. Jean Weese today. She's a food safety expert with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. Talked with her about the case of mad cow disease recently discovered in the state. We put that interview, live to tape, up on the site at work. The audio is a bit primitive, but the content is the most important part in the short term. You can find it here.

    It'd been some time since I'd conducted an interview where I would later be heard as well. I'll get better. Doing news Q&A you record an interview, discard the Q's and used the best A's. Not so with this format. Live interviews aren't troubling, you think something, say it and it enters the ether, to temporarily amuse or befuddle the audience. A taped interview, you see, allows the chance to fix minor gaffes, tweak tiny goofs. It leads to a sort of introspective agony when you stumble over a word.

    I miss that.

    We're excited about using this as extra depth for what you might come to the site for. Not a podcast just yet, but hopefully we'll have you seeking out new audio on a very regular basis. Meantime, listen in to have all your mad cow questions answered. Write the bosses and tell them I'm brilliant. Couldn't hurt.

    Just kidding.

    Mexican night. Sat directly under a television and watched telemundo soccer. The commercials spliced action shots of American movies, soccer and girls. Some things are universal. As Mexican restaurants go, this one is probably right in the middle for quality. The Sunday mariachi is great, but otherwise it is all a study of in what order do we spread the meat, cheese and sauce.

    The people are nice, the crowds have thinned somewhat in the past year or so and the decor gives off that that bland almost-south-of-the-border vibe. Fairly standard, really. Sometimes, though, it's the small things in life. Sometimes the absurd. I believe I keep going back for the mirror.

    Watched the Shatner special. Most of that I'd learned long ago through reading one book or another. It was neat, though, seeing Lawrence Krauss, whose physics book I read in college -- for fun -- on the program.

    The really interesting thing was that there were important tidbits omitted from the two hour special that really should have been included in proving the thesis that William Shatner changed the world. One must realize that this was shot in 2005, and that some high end research hadn't yet become common knowledge, like going faster than light. And then there's a recurring plot device from The Next Generation episodes that holds a great deal of human promise. Researchers at MIT are using nanotechnology to restore vision in hamsters.

    Fun links: We get Email at work promoting the silliest things. You should hear The Colonoscopy Song. So it goes. ALDOT was showing off their live streaming cameras earlier this week. Someone go out and wave to the viewing audience.

    Tuesday, March 14, 2006

    Another high sky, bright sun, beautiful day. A few more of these and the yard will be demanding attention once again. The downside to spring, the (sometimes) weekly obligation to cutting persistently green things.

    This isn't bad until July or August, on those days when the mere thought of walking across a paved surface can break out a sweat. Best to concentrate on the perfect days we're receiving right now. The trees have bursted with color, soon they'll offer a vibrant green score to every scene of the season, right now we delight in the cool little breezes playing across the face of things, the first, and lasting, springtime flirtation.

    The work news mentioned here yesterday is that we're about to start doing live audio interviews on topical and feature stories. This was an idea I floated to the boss a while back, we're seizing on the mad cow story to launch this new feature, hoping people will listen on their computers and on their mp3 players. Not a true podcast, at least at this time, but we like the idea of using it as a new feature. Hopefully I can make it sound good enough to make it a regular feature. First interview is tomorrow.

    So the library today. I have marked on my calendar that two chapters should be written by March 30th. That's not too ambitious, just requires the effort to sit down and write it out. By this point some of the material and theory seem to mixed up in everything I do and think about, so I'm guessing it won't be too hard to sit and write it.

    Tonight, though, was a TV makeup night.

    The Bauer Hour gets top billing. Pre-empted from the usual Monday night slot because of bad weather, we have the episode in which no bad guys die. The president is cracking at the seems -- and the first lady is the one that needs the zoloft? -- setting the stage for the vice president to swoop in be patently evil.

    Lynn survived! We knew that last week, as Brian and I sat in the office watching the preview for this episode frame by frame, trying to identify who was still breathing. He's in the preview for an eighth of a second, lasted only slightly longer in the episode, but performed a heroic deed that saved others while leading to his demise. And the death of a red shirt, who got to exhibit more personality than any red shirt character in the history of red shirt characters. He talked sass to Bauer, and you just know that if the gas doesn't get him Jack'll come down there and do mean things to various bendy parts of his body.

    Speaking of talking ... is it just me, or is the dialogue of the show getting more stilted as the day goes on? No one's eaten and Steak Out doesn't deliver when you're on biochemical lockdown.

    Which brings me to the three greates plot points of the week. Kim's man is a clinical psychologist. Very helpful in bringing Chloe back from the depths of depression immediately after watching her friend die in front of her. Really, Jack says, "Are you ready to go back to work now?" Well it has been eight minutes. Tick tock Chloe!

    Then Jack goes out to try and fix this locked down computer. He has to brave the gaseous death. I hold my breath. Sitting stationary on the sofa I match him. He's moving around and being a superhero. Through the miracle of camera tricks he's better than me. Until he cuts away the last panel between him and the computer to find security bars. A recent upgrade, they decide. So people are pouring in and out of this place pell mell all day and we put bars in a wall separating one corridor from the air conditioning room?

    Learning this, he goes back to the safe room, duct tapes himself in. Duct tape. The stuff is so potent it is eating away at airlock seals, but the power of duct tape gives salvation. And since the a/c controls were locked down, how did they manage to vent that room?

    Finally the super bad guy, a former super good guy, emerges from a coma just in time to stick the retired super good guy in the chest with a needle meant to kill the super bad guy. Maybe more than the dialogue is getting stilted.

    Next week promises to have terrorist killing a-plenty.

    So Boston Legal was better. What's more, it was better with only three scenes including William Shatner. His entrance was tremendous, but this was Jams Spader's week to shine. One day I'll figure that character out. He prides himself on being so uniquely different that perhaps we're not meant to.

    Speaking of Shatner, I still have to watch the two hour History Channel piece that aired this weekend, How William Shatner Changed the World.

    But that's tomorrow. Now, it's bedtime.

    Monday, March 13, 2006

    It was gunmetal this morning. Where there should have been sun there was only a lightness numbly pushing through the sky. Just before noon the sun finally won the fight, the clouds moving off in retreat, and the electric blue sky had returned to shimmer down upon us. And then the winds came, stiff little gusts catching treetops and finely coiffed hair and threatening to push you from whence you came. Or at least make you walk upright.

    A front was pushing through. Storms were headed this way. They actually turned out to be a bit more substantial than predicted, with one twister to the northwest. Only light damage throughout the area as the rain tapped on the windows, a bored hand counting time. Had a nice light show through the evening.

    The afternoon was nice. Spent that time reading over school and work papers. Such a party animal today.

    The downside to the storm is that The Bauer Hour was pre-empted for break-in weather coverage. Being Fox, they naturally tape-delayed the show, with the programming note that it would appear later in the night. A few moments later the last of the storms fizzled out, they wrapped their coverage and went straight into the show. So at least we know Lynn is still alive. Thanks guys. Proud you decided to fill to the :36 mark and not to the top of the hour like a normal station.

    So Bauer Hour is getting moved to Tuesday this week. Staying up until 10:35 and then watching an hour of television seems like a leave of torture that Bauer would give potential terrorists. And, at the risk of sounding old, it isn't something I feel up to right about now.

    Cool new feature at work this week. Details to follow. In the meantime, Ray Houser is celebrating 60 years of broadcasting in Virginia. Sixty years. I can't imagine, though I know guys with similar stories. They're all American treasures. Listen to one of his show openings.

    Sunday, March 12, 2006

    Pictures are up. I neglected mentioning that. I'm getting very particular about what makes the cut, thereby limiting you to only 29 rather than the full 200 and something that actually made it onto my computer for the month of February. My server thanks me, you can as well at a convenient and later date.

    It reached 80 degrees today. Glorious and beautiful March. Already the sun and the warmth have taken on their attitude of permanence. We belong here, let no one attempt to move us. At about 4 p.m. a big wind came through, pulling a few more dead and desperately clinging leaves from the oaks. The sun was hiding behind the clouds just at that moment. It looked overcast and dreary and much like a fading autumn day.

    But spring burst through with its playfully trickiness. Oh how much fun a whimsical spring can be. You should stay all year, spring, either the part with the blooms or the part where you turn around one afternoon to realize that everything is helplessly green again.

    Tomorrow it will be hazy and warm, Tuesday it will storm. These are small prices to pay for the beauty of impossibly high clouds and those gloriously still days that leave you convinced they could last forever.

    How exciting is the World Baseball Classic? Originally the idea met with a sort of qualified derision, sometimes overflowing into scorn. Fans of major league baseball were concerned about injuries during what would ordinarily be spring ball. Baseball itself worried about a lack of interest. I've only been able to see parts of two games prior to today, but this game more than made up for it. Japan and the U.S.A. was some of the finest baseball you'll ever see.

    Rare is the day when the drama is so thick. Rarer still when you can be stirred by a televised baseball game. Rooting for a hometown team or being at the park for a good game is one thing, television baseball is generally an anticlimax of another order. Not today, oh no. The designers of this competition got their money's worth from that affair. I walked away celebrating the simple joys of television. Without it, how could I have watched such an important moment in sports psuedohistory.

    Shame it had to end with a botched call, but that's baseball.

    Makes me long for going to the stadium. In the meantime, there's more global hardball to enjoy.

    Went to Golden Rule for barbeque tonight. Boy do I hate Golden Rule. I eat at one of these about once a decade. Its a chain that started locally, with 19th Century roots. I feel as if I owe them the opportunity occasionally to win me over. It'd be unfortunate, otherwise, to live near great barbeque and be unaware.

    Yes, that's one way we measure quality of life here. In no particular order its churches, football, sweet tea and the 'que. Schools seem to fall on the second list for many.

    So every 10 years or so I go to a Golden Rule. The name of the place is the best part, and always makes me wonder how the waitstaff would like to be treated.

    Tonight they apparently want to be ignored in an empty restaurant, have their food delivered to them about 20 minutes after ordering, the barbeque being only so-so to bad and the potato salad being a pasty substance resembling potato salad. They also want to be forgotten long after their drink is empty.

    Look, I'm not one of those embittered former waiters bent on critiquing the efforts of others. I know those people, they aren't fun to dine with, I'm not those people. I have a very simple rule: If you make me thirsty, the tip begins suffering quickly. That's all. Come out and offer me all kinds of sincere sounding apologies for most anything else. If you look convincing it can be forgiven, but keep the beverages coming.

    The baked beans at Golden Rule are good, but its difficult to justify going somewhere just for a side dish. Beyond that Elvis was singing something so sorrowful it demanded to be blocked out for the sheer depressiveness of it all. The walls surround you with comfortable pictures of our local gridiron mythologies. The floor is a bare cement and even the girl at the cash register left me to pull my own receipt out of the printer. The perfect ending to another sub-standard dining experience from the Do Unto Others people.

    Back to the airport. This is habit forming. Thursday night, Friday, Sunday night. Didn't even have to park this time. (Thanks Golden Rule.) In many ways that's a good thing. There are few things in life that I loathe just because of a sheer lack of understanding, the airport parking deck here is one of them. The thing mystifies me.

    The architect -- or The Architect, if you go the Matrix route -- must have been a frustrated behavioral scientist. Nooks and crannys that go nowhere. Fences and walls popping up in random places. Exit signs pointing at up ramps. At least two thirds of the thing seems to point away from the actual terminal. And they want you to pay for this experience.

    Not tonight. A quick stop, sweeping in to pick The Yankee up and off we go listening to stories about a god-sister's wedding planning trip and barreling through the city at a brisk Sunday night pace. It is a curious aspect of this town, how the drivers slow down. I seem to know the one rush-hour commute speed, but at other times of the day, and on other days of the week, everyone returns to some pre-defined pace that qualifies us as Southern. It is charming in a "Get out of my way!" manner of speaking.

    Saturday, March 11, 2006

    A beautiful start to the weekend. Falling asleep Friday night with the sound comfort of knowing I'll wake up Saturday morning whenever I wake up. No obligations will have me rushing off hither and yon. The clocks don't have to be set. The sun and my subconscious will be my alarm.

    So at about 8 a.m. I woke up.

    Then I promptly took a nap. And then I stretched out on the sofa for a nice morning and afternoon of doing nothing much in particular. Cracker Barrel for dinner, and then back home to get ready for sleep.

    These are the days of my weekend life. Couldn't say when I had the opportunity to be a complete and total bum last. Usually on the weekends I get to be a marginal bum at best. This is a refreshing change.

    Another day or two of this and I'll be climing the walls.

    So much so that I watched Timecop: The Berlin Decision:
    A mindless and silly romp. Thomas Ian Griffith, how far you've fallen.
    The guy starred in Karate Kid 3 for goodness sake. Speaking of karate and starring, this film was made in 2003 -- they couldn't convince Jean Claude Van Damme to come back and reprise his role?

    The guy's writing a sequel to Bloodsport. It'll be worse than Rocky Balboa.

    Friday, March 10, 2006

    Another beautiful day. A special kind of Friday. Thursday afternoon felt so much like a Friday that this morning didn't seem so bad, this afternoon like a second Friday, another last day before school was out for the summer, a second senior year in college.

    Another airport trip today. Dropped off The Yankee over lunch. She's off to Yankeeland for a friend's wedding preparations. Two airport trips in about 20 hours. Creates a strange sort of deja vu, coming and going. The truly surrealist part was that one was at night, the other in the daylight. After one I fell into bed, after the second I went back to work. This airport chauffeur business is head scratching work.

    Watched Ben Affleck. I know, I know. He's terrible, but he's a guilty pleasure in the same way that bad time travel movies are. I saw Daredevil at the theater. I watch parts of Armageddon whenever it's on. Though more for Steve Buscemi. Today I watched Paycheck:
    Good, except for the bad third act. Uma Thurman as a lead?
    I can't explain it. There was just a moment in the chase sequence where the whole movie grew weary. I didn't grow weary, the movie grew weary. The revenge/satisfaction stuff just grew repetitious. That's sad given that this, in a way, was also a bad time travel movie.

    Dove into a book of thesis work tonight over a chicken sandwich. (I've smartly decided to put down the pleasure reading until the school work is done. I've also smartly decided not to bore you with the thesis readings. I'll save that for the fun reading instead.) I eat lots of chicken, and now I've psyched myself out after a long conversation at work about the bird flu. How cooked is well cooked for bird flu purposes? We want cooked chicken to avoid salmonella, but we might need more to avoid the latest purposeful panic. Could you grill that broiled chicken, then deep fry it once or twice? The bird flu won't get me, but the atherosclerosis might.

    Walking out of the chicken joint I got shot at. A running battle between me and a three year old. He had a straw, and I was fairly sure it was loaded. Suddenly he whirled, turning on his heel, making the universal "pew pew pew" gun noise. I shot back, but his straw, still wrapped, was the faster and more accurate. Finally he ran off to join his mom and brother.

    Reminded me of playing with little green soldiers as a child. They were elaborate affairs, troops decked out in World War II and Vietnam equipment facing off on the long flat fields of battle of Napoleon's dreams. My grandmother's living room was ideal. She had the short sort of carpet that allowed the little green men to stand up and move quickly. The guys in green always beat the dark rust colored soldiers. They were universally taken as the bad guys and couldn't shoot straight, their rounds always falling short. My grandparents endured the epic battles with great patience.

    "I'll be glad when they run out of bullets." It only works when you hear it in her tone, but I can hear my grandmother say it even now. It always makes me smile.

    And that's why strawfights are fun.

    Fun link: Just one today. This one's enough, and its going into my blogroll. It should go in yours too. MC Hammer's blog. Please blogger, don't hurt 'em.

    Thursday, March 9, 2006

    This is another one of those mercurial springtime days we're so famous for. Started with the slightest chill, which is to say merely not warm. The sun poked through the clouds a bit and warmed things up for a few hours. Around noon the winds from the plains blew into town. Ladies had their hair tossled, men were retrieving their ties from over their left shoulder. Didn't move any cars out of parking spaces though. Had to walk several blocks for lunch, reminding me of the virtues of going early, just in case.

    And that walk of several blocks was as bad as today got, which is to say not very bad.

    The cumulative effects of several days, or perhaps weeks or years, of not sleeping well have caught up to me. I fell asleep on the sofa for more than hour this afternoon, my cell phone rang (read: vibrated) twice and I didn't even move. That's sleeping heavy. I'll blame it on having been sick, from which I'm almost completely recovered now.

    Slept through the storms, and the bottom falling out of the thermometer. Heavy rains pushed through in the first of our March pleasantness. Everyone has spent the past two days getting worked up about this to spectacular degrees. Finally I've reduced myself to saying Its March in Alabama. That's what the weather will be like. Good thing, perhaps, that I didn't grow up to be a weatherman. I couldn't imagine having to answer this question 14 times on the soup aisle from someone who vaguely knew what I did, but couldn't be troubled to know where I did it.

    This would be my pet peeve, guilty of it as I am, of asking lazy questions. Just because I seek out answers to questions like "Where did the term Flea Market come from?" to satisfy my curiosity doesn't mean I know everything. Just because I might know the answer doesn't mean you shouldn't. Don't Email me asking about the weather. Use the Internet, you're here already. Watch The Weather Channel before you leave. Listen to the radio. Carry your umbrella anyway. It is March in Alabama after all. These are the people who have to rush for batteries the next time a hurricane comes up the Gulf. Oh never mind that we're 250 miles inland, let's concentrate on being a thinking, rational and responsible adult predisposed to having a few batteries and a flashlight in the home already.

    You know, just in case.

    Made a trip to the airport tonight to pick up a stranded friend. His flight was delayed by about two hours because of the weather. Any time you have those delays it takes your day away. Airports are designed like that; momentum robbing, soul sapping holding pens designed to make us dumbfounded for no more than an hour. You start adding delays, weather, holiday traffic or any of a number of other unpleasant variables and the whole experience is drawn into a moment frozen in time, the amber sealed tight but your awareness ongoing.

    Being stuck in the Memphis airport can only be worse.

    Fun links: Next time you're stranded somewhere you should make your brain cleverer. Clunky use of the word clever, no? Some clever searching for Noah's Ark.

    Wednesday, March 8, 2006

    Beautiful day today, light sun, high clouds, nice cool breeze. Just right for a walk. So I did.

    Had to make a trip to campus, time to rent a cap, gown and hood. The last $45 UAB will get from me. Nice lady at the bookstore offered congratulations. I was too busy thinking about that to notice that I don't have to spend any more money there. Lately I'm counting days too, backward and forward. This went by quickly, and I'm happy with that. Just 21 months to complete the program,and it seems as if I've hardly even been there.

    Sorry, there are a lot of thoughts like that lately.

    Counting that down I walked over a few blocks to one of the campus libraries. Found four things I'd hoped to pick up, tracked them (and one more) down on the third floor and then left there on my way to another library.

    There is a fraternity doing a sit-in philanthropy, there are three tossing a football, a few more throwing a frisbee. Sometimes this seems vaguely like a college campus, most of the time it feels like tired buildings plopped in the middle of town. Today was a day, though, where everyone could feel hopeful and sunny. There's flowers, there's birds, there's the observation that every one of these books has a red cover.

    Long walks to the car make for random thoughts.

    So much research can obviously be done online, but there's something tacitly about having to go to the library to pick something up, or complete research. I've never liked to study in the library. Always surprises me that so many people do. I do love to take out the books. The UAB libraries still stamp the due date inside, creating a nice little mystery. Where all has this book been? How many people have turned its pages for important statistics and theories to give them a good grade?

    Why have none of these books ever been checked out? I've noticed that about these books over the past year. The most popular of these has left the building five times in about two decades. The loneliest has been there almost 10 years and is only just now tasting its first bit of freedom. Secrets untold waiting to jump from the pages.

    Which means I'm completely off base in my research and assumptions or no one here has ever considered it before.

    I'll go with the latter.

    Tuesday, March 7, 2006

    It is coming along that most curious time of year, the month or so when people look at you like you're crazy because it is 3 p.m., 71 and gorgeous out, but you're carrying a jacket. Yeah, well, it was cold when I woke up this morning, thanks.

    Feeling much better today. Maybe I won't have to take any more pills beyond this evening. Not that I dislike them -- though I refused them for years, now I play a game of minimum water -- but it is such a chore to keep up with the schedule of them. This one every six hours, these every 12, those every four, but not to exceed this. Crop circles are less mystifying. At any rate, I don't think I care for Mucinex. Oh, it worked when my mom offered me a box on a visit there this weekend. And after 10 or 11 hours I could tell it was almost time for more. Felt pretty much dehydrated and deficient in every other way on them, but at least the sinus congestion had improved.

    Now, though, things are coming along nicely. Near hourly improvements yesterday. I can actually say more than a few words without my voice cracking -- this is an important thing for those of us obsessed with sound. I'm looking forward to being completely healthy by Thursday, thank you the miracles of modern medicine.

    Home, then to work on the thesis. Got a little research done today. More library time tomorrow.

    Finished Gettysburg. They end it with a brutal battle in Maryland, where the Union soldiers are routed as they try to escape the scene of the carnage. Things are looking glum, but at the end, Lincoln calls for General Grant, fresh off victory at Vicksburg, and buy the next book, won't you. I'll have to, the characters are really well drawn, to the point you side with humanism rather than a nationalistic pride. You end up approving of nearly everyone as a sympathetic character in some way -- the narrative form is a third person omniscient that switches between characters on both sides -- because the whole chain of events is unbelievably brutal, regrettable and seemingly realistic.

    A bit later: Ready to straighten up a bit and then some horribly persistent thing landed in my eye. The cure seems to be closing the eye and mashing it with my fingertips. Try that. Feels good compared to this. I can't see anything in the eye, but then I can't keep it open long enough to stare in the mirror. I'll go not focus on something else now.

    Monday, March 6, 2006

    I woke up coughing so hard and trying, in vain, to clear my throat that I thought I was drowning. And I've had pneumonia several times. The experience of fluid in the lungs isn't that uncommon.

    I've almost drowned once or twice, too, come to think of it. None of these are pleasant experiences. Your first conscious thought making a panicked throat clearing sound is also not the most fun you can have at 3:30 in the morning. I'm sure there was an entertaining dream in there somewhere.

    So that's sort of how my day started -- though I've improved throughout the day. A short time later it was time to get up. So now, early, I went to Wal-Mart. I think I was the only customer in the store. It was so quiet that, for a while, I wasn't sure if my ears and sinuses were still clogged up from the plane ride. In the frozen foods area some of the stockers saw me, and with the "A customer? Now?" look in their eyes I felt confident that I hadn't become the invisible man. One finally spoke to me, ahhh, I can hear.

    Loaded up on some more OTC sinus medicine, rounding out the chemistry now in my gut. The early morning did seem rather surreal, I'll blame a lack of quality sleep. Otherwise, today starts wtih the annoying sore throat, a few more horse pills and the realization that if I don't have a lozenge of some sort in play at all times I'll sound like I'm infecting the world with tuberculosis.

    More thesis progress. Worked on that for about an hour this evening. I'll write my first chapter this week. Slightly inverted, with Chapter Two being written before the longer Chapter One. Then more field work and a little bit more waiting. Things are coming on at such a rate, though, that you can feel the momentum gathering.

    With Chapter Two finished this week, I'll put a week or so into Chapter One. Then some more research time and some more sidework and probably the first week of April start writing Chapter Three. That should take a while, and needs to be thoughtful and accurate. Then Chapter Four, the Appendices and the References and I'm done.

    I have until April 21st.

    The Hours, Bauer tonight. Two episodes instead of one, oh how you will spoil us Fox. The sequence of events is getting mushy in my head, but I'll just point out that the first lady is, this hour at least, the only sane person in the administration. The NSA guy still might be dirty. The vice president should be asked to resign immediately and the president too, for that matter, on grounds of general incompetence.

    The Secret Service guy learns that murder makes women lusty. He should watch The Highlander movies to find out that hurting oneself will give him more than A Moment with the first lady. Before the evening is over, however, she returns to the man who's tried to commit her and conceeded to her certain death -- in one day. Come on Aaron, it's not like you have a lot of competition here!

    Over at CTU, one of the agents has come around to learn his wife is dead. This, and the drama surrounding Jack's daughter, move on without me as I know precious little about the backstory. I do know that Lynn should perhaps fess up to losing his security card a little bit faster. Way to go, killing yourself, dozens more and pretty much wrecking the nation's confidence in counter-terrorism operations. And to think just an hour or so ago you realized the place was a sieve!

    The first hour tonight would have made for a great cliffhanger, they could have stopped after Jack shot the bad guy's wife in the leg. That was cold stuff. Sure, Curtis shooting a bad guy was worthwhile and the guy Jack shot at CTU had it coming; I'd never realized, until now, that a wounding could make for good television. The execution of the two addicts, the death of two CTU employees and the eventual gassing of 40 percent of the CTU staff, not as much. Shot in the thigh? I'll marvel over that for an hour.

    Maybe she can hobble into the kitchen and make Jack a casserole.

    The cliffhanger for next week: who makes the ultimate sacrifice? Somebody tow a porta-potty to Jack and bring him a bowl of jello!

    Fun links: Someone is abducting cows. Can't be the military, which has apparently shelved super-secret space program Blackstar. There will soon be a time capsule in space however, and you can contribute. Maybe experts can use Tiltomo, a visual search engine, to look for them.

    Sunday, March 5, 2006

    Happy Day to Mom. (It's her birthday ...)

    Another travel day. These seem to become quicker trips each time. About 47 hours in all up north, and now back home. Again, nothing eventful during the airport experience. That's two straight.

    If it weren't for the slightly delayed plane you could say the day was perfect. Nice high skies gave way to a drizzle, though, before the plane showed up. Even still, that was another half hour with the folks.

    Landed unable to hear, thanks sinuses, in beautiful weather and had just enough afternoon left for a brief nap listening to birds outside. That's a tender way to drift off and wake up. First the birds and soon the crickets and the katydids. Once again the sweetest sounds are blowing in the South.

    When did the Oscars become the Tonys? Fire hazard and a song to bring the show to a grinding halt in one first musical act. Have we learned nothing from Great White? And then there was the Three 6 Mafia performance, making me think Guys and Dolls. No idea why, just looked like a musical. A musical about pimps. That train of thought left the station when they had to mute a part of the acceptance speech.

    And Jon Stewart missed the obvious joke about how hard it is to be a John.

    The television was muted (by the remote, not the censors) when Dolly Parton was on. No idea about the song, but I'm fairly confident she came out in her cute little white pants suit and her cute little Dolly Parton way and tore the walls off the building. Though that isn't what the award is about, it should stand for something.

    And she never said the word pimp, I'm betting either. At least on stage. Behind closed doors afterward, she had plenty to say on the subject. You never know about Dolly, but she's probably not the person you cross. Those eyes turn icy and those fingers grow claws and she'll show you what staying power is all about.

    Meantime the Oscars, and the inherent sympathy for that underappreciated pimp sect, are the vanguard of society, are they not? Thank you George Clooney. (Later: Go explain the ratings.)

    Have to love the passion of the self-absorbed. And this is why I haunt the dollar theater. They can earn their royalties for substandard movies pennies at a time from me. Suprisingly, though, there are more pimps, per capita, at the dollar theater.

    Stop me when I start to sound like Comic Book Guy.

    Saturday, March 4, 2006

    Being sick stinks. I'm taking three sets of pills, throat lozenges and cough syrup. They're just sinuses, routine in every spring and autumn way. Having three 70 degree days -- just enough to get reaccustomed to the idea -- only to head north for balmy highs in the 40s really stinks.

    I must still be feeling ill, though, because on a trip to the bank this morning the breeze blew in as I was shaded by the building and it actually felt nice. Someone call a doctor! He's delusional!

    Grandmother Dortha flew in today, always a special treat. We all went out for a family birthday dinner. Crossed the river and into Louisville. I have forever said that I want to take a trip and spend a day or three downtown taking pictures. Its such a beautiful city, filled with aging but proud structures. There are definite post-war boom parts of town, turn of the 20th Century structures and then the conventional architecture, which must have been Romanesque when the Aegon Center was built in 1993. This is the tallest structure in Kentucky, boasts a half-acre plaza and carries that beautiful signature domed roof.

    Drove right underneath the Aegon to get to the Galt House, where the dinner festivities took place. The Flagship is a rotating restaurant -- well, parts of it anyway, figure that out engineers! -- on the 25th floor of Galt House. The view overlooks the Ohio River and the Humana Building's postmodernism.

    Sunsets aren't bad there either.

    Highlight of the night: dancing with Grandmother. In every picture I have of that, she is smiling. She also made me realize that I need to take dance lessons and apparently she didn't hear me when I warned that I am old and arthritic.

    Friday, March 3, 2006

    An oversight from yesterday. Most important. Wads sends news that he's been accepted into the law school at Tulane. Those applications are being reviewed and returned from prestigious law schools throughout the nation. Now we sit and wait to see where they end up. His wife, Brooke, is similarly trying to land a professorial job -- how mind-numbingly odd, we all knew each other as underclassmen and what not, now there's law school, professoring and umpteen degrees between us. And, since he's going on to law school I suppose I have to find a new program to pursue as well. Silly competition.

    So that was Thursday's update. Today I'm growing sick. Battling a wierd throat feeling all week, but last night it was enough to prompt an early morning trip to Wal-Mart for drugs. One day I'll learn not to go in there at 5:45 in the morning. Half-asleep and sniffling incessantly, it was an even less pleasant experience than normal. The less said about this the better.

    Pie day was a lunchtime affair. Three of the four people at the table got the potato. Two asked for no sour cream, but got it anyway. This is why I never get the potato at Jim & Nicks. Fortunately we know the manager. He was chagrined by the error, and so pie was free. That's a good start to the weekend.

    Had to catching a plane this afternoon. The flight to Louisville has been rescheduled as a 3:20 instead of a 7 p.m. run. Not yet sure how I feel about that. Landed at about 5:20 local time, sadly with nothing exciting happen on either end of the airport experience. It's a rare day when a trip to the airport disappoints.

    Got in just in time for a dinner party in my mom's honor. Birthday weekend, birthday party. All adults. There was a retired teacher, her husband (I'm know told he's a retired electrician) who'd launch straight into hit-style politics. After we'd covered three or four topics, he thought better of discussing policy with strangers. Never a good rule for small talk. How can you know where someone falls on ideology? I thought to give him a populist Republican spiel just to cross him up, but decided against it. Putting off family friends, before dinner even, would just seem like bad form. A vet and her husband, the IT guy at a local Ford plant, were also there. She is Coco's vet; they call her a pediatrician, how spoiled is she? Her husband reminded me a lot of Lileks. Same quirky sense of humor, same unusual interests. Even sounded the same.

    These are the things I think about sitting at the dining room table, eating lasagna, with strangers.

    It has become a late night, I'm still sick. It is cold here. Three days in a row of 70-plus temperatures in Birmingham, just enough to train the mind to anticipate the soothing warmth of the sun when you walk outside. We make it to the 40s in southern Indiana. Think I'll stay indoors.

    Fun links: I placed second in the OTB Caption Contest. My uncle sent me this; let Fido read your mind.

    Thursday, March 2, 2006

    There is good news and bad news, as you may know, to little sleep. The good news is that four hours of sleep plays like an incredible nap. For about four hours. The bad news is that from 10 a.m. on you have to fake it.

    Eating Chinese for lunch does nothing to help that. As the MSG kicked in the talk of careers kicked in. Greg is going to be my faux headhunter. And I will be his. We'll test the theory that headhunters make you seem more desirable as a candidate. Sounds like a sociology experiment to me.

    My fortunes:

    Anything that is important enough to find, isn't worth losing.

    Focus on the positives and you will flourish.
    Seems apropos to the conversation.

    Small handful of errands. Stopped by the bank, my teller studying basic mathematics wasn't there. This comes as a relief. Hit a few stores for birthday presents. Almost painless. Home washing clothes and watching Winds of War.

    After finishing the second disc now, and being about five hours into I can say that Jan Michael Vincent was a 39-year-old playing a boy, and doing it poorly. Of course his love interest in the movie was 45 during the filming, but she was playing a more adult woman. That's Hollywood.

    Who knew Vincent is 62 now? He's one of those frozen in amber types. Set your culture clocks to Airwolf. Odds are you haven't seen much of any of his other work either, but you know who he is. The DVD's cover art has him in the background. The foreground is all Robery Mitchum. He's playing so mellow it's as if he's phoning it in, just waiting for page 146 in the script where he finally gets to skewer a German waiter. Vintage Mitchum, but, then, it is just a waiter.

    The man had met Hitler in the early scenes, but then we must weigh the historic versus the 1939 immersion. Mitchum wouldn't have known yet to give him the "I'm bored with you, go back to Austria and sulk" look. I have a feeling something like that is coming though.

    Here's a wierd one. Vincent did an episode of Nash Bridges. Two years later, Mitchum's grandson Bentley Mitchum did an episode too.

    Oh dear, I've stolen Lileks' schtick. What's worse, I was paying close attention to fedoras and background posters during this disc too. That guy is starting to wear off on me.

    Fun links:Greg points to this terrifically heartwarming story. Advice for life, from Tom McMahon who's spent the last 15 years caring for an invalid son. Everyone should read that. Keyboards, the repository of our DNA. Makes you wonder about the bathroom sink, doesn't it? Though I'm told she's very fastidious.

    Wednesday, March 1, 2006

    February limped away, March triumphantly took the stage with a flourish. It was warm this morning on the way from porch to car. Spring is here. Impossibly early it seems, but on the other hand, the friendly warm sun seems to have been gone for an awfully long time.

    Right about now friends in Pennsylvania are composing an Email with descriptive advice about what I could do with my longing and adoration for the sun, but I only wish they could be home to enjoy it themselves. High temperature of 75 degrees on March 1st. Tough life.

    Usually I'm driving through a sleepy morning town when the sun is still down. Then the sky is washed by an early morning spectrum of color, but today the sun was just poking over the mountain, backlighting Sloss Furnace.

    The boss and I stretched our legs with an outdoors walk at noon. Visited all the stores with high end artsy furniture that doesn't go in a normal home. Beautiful to look out, impossible to decorate a whole home, just on the price. Found some nice 19th Century Persian cabinets, a beautiful old Russian coffee maker dated around the same time and a wooden rocking horse from the Philippines. Guess some things are just universal.

    My boss, a thoughtful and well educated man, seemed far too intrigued when I told him about LED Throwies. Tiny lights as art, an interesting concept. Until you have to clean them up. I love this piece of advice from the site: "If you do it around a crowd of people, they will probably try to get into the act. It can quickly dissend into chaotic fun."

    Somehow it isn't too difficult to imagine my boss' neighborhood covered in tiny little lights next weekend.

    Bank and the library were the afternoon errands. That was enough, really. Libraries will wear you out if you aren't careful. Have to pace yourself.

    Met a tableful of TV people for dinner. Creative, talented, hardworking people. This is a caustic bunch, capable of brutally funny criticism of just about anyone, fake or real. My kind of people.

    The first object of ridicule was a script that will soon be a commercial. A 20 second spot, 124 words. That's impossible, by the way. Impossible in such a way that you can glance at the script and know. The writer of the spot, an executive and, in theory, qualified, managed to somehow overlook this. That person was not at our dinner, so in my loudest and most profoundly fake radio voice I read the spot -- flawed logic, bad grammar and all -- and crammed it in 20 seconds. Think fast.

    Somehow I doubt the people around our table were as amused during our night out. But the waiter kept refilling our glasses, and that was where the trouble began. Some people you just have to run out right after the entree. Television people are those people.

    Good times. Need to do that again soon.

    Put up a new background here. Loved the pink blooms, but there's a manliness factor to consider. Actually the orange links clashed too much. The Bradford pear trees in Vestavia Hills are much better for our purposes here.

    Sadly they'll be gone soon. The state DOT has, in its infinite wisdom, decided that trees in the median of that fine town are too dangerous to cars that slide out of control. Better that the cars slide across the grassy median and into oncoming traffic, one supposes.

    Vestavia is not the type of town that will implore the median barriers, so the beautiful trees will be chopped down and the people on the other side will be that much closer.

    A few people in the local establishment have said they don't hear anything about this from the public. This, of course, not being something that soccer moms and mid-level executives notice until the blooms and greenery are replaced with stumps and "Oh my God a Buick!"

    So we'll consider this Bradford as an early memorial.