Kenny Smith | blog

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Warm today, cold, cold, cold tomorrow. I feel a cold coming on before I can even feel the cold coming on. If that isn't a self fulfilling prophecy without the runny nose I don't know what is. Pharmacists, meanwhile, are already calculating the dollar signs at the thought of it. There is a reason, you see, why they installed a new drug store three miles from my home. It isn't a conspiracy, but a well conceived plan on the part of the pharmaceutical companies. Now if only they stayed open 24 hours.

Brooke and Stephen invited me over for dinner tonight. She served turkey pot pie and I took their Christmas portrait. Gave Brooke her Christmas present, an old, old print of a 1931 song about Alabama Polytechnic that isn't even played any more. So there we sat, a former band member and the three of us rookie hack historians on Auburn and not one of us knew the song.

She's got an old and extremely rare print of the fight song framed, so when I saw "Fight 'Em Tigers" it seemed a good gift for her. The lyrics:
"Cheer the team that's fighting for old Auburn's fame. Back that team on ev'ry play; Even as the men who fought before they came, They will win again today.

"Fight with that old 'pop,' Tigers, the wearers of Orange and Blue! Keep up that old 'rep,' Tigers, The Southland is watching you; And when you march on that field, remember again, Plainsmen don't yield so we're bound to win.

"We'll never give up, we'll live up to all that's before us; Woe to the foe for we'll fight, fight, fight for Auburn, our Alma Mater, oh long may her colors fly! Let ev'ry man cheer louder the name of A.P.I.!"
The words and music are by Joseph Marine and William Sykes, two people who need some research now, and has been copyrighted by an organization called The Auburn A Club, which doesn't exist anymore so far as we know. Seems pretty standard marching band fare. I seem to want to read it to the tune of "Hold that Tiger," but the sheet music is obviously different.

I'd already given Stephen his present, but since I still have a copy of that for someone else that may just stumble into the blog, I must remain silent about it for now.

I also showed them my other two new projects for which I need to invent more hours in the day. I'll stay silent on that for now as well, as it is an ambitious project that will also ultimately make it onto the website.

There are lots of things to get to, I have a list, and we'll get through them all some day. Hopefully soon.

I'm optimistic because I crossed two other items off the To Do List tonight, so hopefully that'll mean smooth sailing from here.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

There's a guy whose writing I enjoy that I've been trying to meet for a while now. We've exchanged Emails, but I've been looking for excuses to interview him because he is funny, smart and strikes you as the guy who could keep a table entertained all night long.

So today I interviewed Orson about the coaching situation at Alabama. Todd from rollbamaroll also chimed in and, together, they made a great podcast. You can hear it here or here.

Later I wrote Orson to say that I'd have to buy him a sandwich one day if we ever met in person. It would, I said, be like my personal blogging Graceland. That just seems like the sort of off-handed line that would appeal to the guy.

I took 103 pictures today. The last 100 you'll have the chance to see here later over time. I'll show you the first three now though.

I didn't really think anything of it at first, but I have three wildly different photographs in just over 20 minutes in maybe 11 miles.

First, there's downtown, taken at 4:19, with the sun backlighting the skyline. The sky is electric blue, so much so that you can see that despite the shockingly white clouds. The sun is falling beneath the Harbert Center, the pointy building in the center, with a distant sheet of clouds gauzing the light and a big fuzzy explosion that looks just out of reach. My angle is bad -- traffic -- but the whole view was bracketed by the parenthetical notation of two airplane contrails. It was a vibrant view of just after 4 p.m.

Ten or so miles away I'm in Hoover at 4:39. The sky would make most places jealous. End of November and we get high blue skies with just a wisp of cloud over a moon that woke up too early, eager to shrug off the day and get on with his shift.

A mile further down the road at 4:43 it seems that we've gotten ahead of ourselves. Maybe we've forgotten something. Oh yes, the sun's encore. That's a late spring sunset if ever there was one. We've been having that sort of weather lately -- don't worry it will change before the weekend -- which is wonderful, save for no one is in the mood to think up Christmas gift ideas, let alone shop.

At home I swept through a little of the EvIl eye. I'm beginning to get the better of the TiVo; it will not dominate my existence. That's steadfast refusal.

I also took 100 pictures of a section that'll make the website one day: old newspapers. You can't wait, I can tell.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

I overslept this morning. How much so isn't as important as the simple act itself. Throws the whole day off. Gives the guilt that keeps on giving. There are at least two things to fear: one is the Lord and the second is the ramification of a reticent alarm clock.

So I spent the morning feeling oddly sickly. Shook that around noon. I spent the afternoon making up some of the time I should have been working this morning. My boss is an extremely nice guy about these things. He simply said, "We were beginning to wonder about you."

That'll be pretty much the end of it. Brian will make a few jokes at my expense, I'll kick myself for a week and go to sleep each night knowing that I do this either once a year or twice in a week. Thursday should be fun.

So it was dark when I left work. I drove through the very first hint of rush hour. This happens rarely in my world of offset schedules, rarely enough that it becomes interesting to see. Today's rush hour was no different than a normal afternoon when the sun is still high overhead during my trip home.

Today I didn't head directly there. Just before Thanksgiving I got the latest Smithsonian Magazine and haven't had a chance to read through it yet, so dinner tonight was at Zaxby's. Made it through all the quick hitting stuff, the early fluff that fills magazines, the parts before the meat, where you can really find the juice. By the time I flipped to the cover story -- Geese: More human than you?-- it was time to finally head home. It'll have to be read tomorrow. I'm sure it will be a good article, Smithsonian rarely goes wrong, and the end result will be "Geese: Less duckier than you think."

All the way home I told myself I wouldn't turn on the EvIl eye first. There were things I wanted to accomplish before I fell into my daily dark hole of time. Out of curiosity I turned the TiVo on and was sucked in. Must. Be. Stronger!

Only had to watch for a few minutes though, so I moved on to a few other projects.

Time flies and suddenly Denny Crane was on. That Brad Chase now calls himself practically a Navy SEAL makes me wonder what kind of Marine he was.

Denny is jealous of the attention Jerry is getting from Alan. Me too, in a way; Jerry should leave. Though I did enjoy his soliloquy on the fraternal attitudes of lawyers was a nice moment. Nothing says warm love like deeply profound friendships. Or gooey butter cake.

Lincoln manages to shoot himself with a crossbow, but he survives, certain to annoy in a later episode. Shirley Schmidt is freed and calling for vodka. Alan and Denny fix their rift, I have to hear more explicit things about a Delta Burke character than I ever wanted to consider and next week the black cross-dresser comes back.

Aside from a few golden lines here or there Season Three isn't living up to its predecessors.

What I watched later that is worth another look: Man vs. Wild. It might not be Survivorman, which I don't think I can get, but it'll do.

Great, something else to TiVo.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Mike Shula got fired at Alabama. We should set records with that.

The famously odd thing was the rainbow I followed on the way home. I watched it floating over the interstate in the direction of Tuscaloosa. I looked at the clock, which was the eerie part, because it was 3:23. Paul Bryant had 323 wins when he retired at Alabama. Given the meteorological stories about the man, that part seems fitting.

I lost the rainbow at 3:29. Not sure what that means, your guess is as good as mine. By my count, though, there have been 289 Alabama football games since Bryant stepped downb, so I'll interpret it to mean that there's at least four more years of futility on the horizon.

Aidan Charles points to Chicago Public Radio's Third Coast International. As Dr. Charles says it "celebrates radio, storytelling and sound." Great stuff there. Check it out.

Meanwhile I'm going to check out the EvIl eye. Lots of stuff to delete out of hand. I'm getting good at that! The new goal is to only waste one night a week catching up on programs. I have to make it from Wednesday through today, so it is time to get started.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

I had to work this morning. Six day work week, woohoo.

Sundays are easy and quiet though, so there are worse things. Sleeping in past five would have been nice, but I could be doing far more unpleasant things with my time, so we'll call it a break even. I am starting a six-day work week after a four-day weekend after all.

I ate twice today. Twice more than I probably should have. But lunch was a wrap from Roly Poly. I was hungry. After that was The Guardian:
No acting, formulaic military movie. Great water shots though. Good dollar movie.
I find myself being hard on this movie despite having liked it. I also like Kevin Costner as an actor for the most part, but now realize that he needs someone better than Ashton Kutcher and Sela Ward to play opposite him.

I enjoyed the montage, it looked gritty enough to be a training video, but it left me singing the Montage sequence from Team America.

Congratulations are in order to the makers of The Guardian for choosing a title so generic, and enjoying such limited success, that your movie is the 36th hit on Google. That's impressive in a Top 10 Hits world.

Later was an Italian pizza ordered specifically for the ease of eating leftovers tomorrow night. Sometimes I look to the future, and I see a pizza box in my refrigerator and I like what I see.

After dinner it was time for Denny Crane. We haven't seen Boston Legal in two weeks because of preemptions, hence the Sunday night showing. This one is all about Lincoln, which is a character that they're using far too much right now. Jerry is back with his Asberger's syndrome and, again, too much. They should hire him back onto the firm for all the business he's bringing in just now. Delta Burke (which rhymes with work, as in on the face) is randomly tackling Denny Crane in the hallways of the firm. I'm a sucker for physical comedy -- Jeffrey Coho and Brad Chase fighting in the restroom was pretty funny -- but this is doing nothing for me.

The Yankee was right, too many random people walk the halls of this firm, which foreshadowed the latest psychotic woman who overheard the epilogue to set up this Tuesday's episode. Oh, and Shirley Schmidt has been kidnapped.

While I was off giving thanks the Season Two DVDs of Boston Legal arrived in the mail. At this rate, if they don't pull this together soon I won't be buying Season Three.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

I only landed the shuttle because I watched two people try it before I did. That's all.

I was intent on absorbing all the information in the Heads Up Display, but I ended up lokcing in on just things. After Rick landed the shuttle he gave me the "all you need to know to make this work" explanation, which involves lining up the icon representing the shuttle with the moving icon that represents the preferred glide path. It became an issue of touch and control, really. The computer was doing the rest.

So there I was focusing on this one thing, while I'd been intent to absorb the rest of the information on the screen as well. Rick said it is basically information assimilation. You're fixated, but after many simulations you can start drawing in another data point, and then another, then another, until you're studying the altimeter, wind speed, the different vectors and so on. Kind of like learning to drive. Remember how you got behind the wheel? Having seen this for years you thought it would be no problem, but suddenly you are faced with the 42,378 things a driver must do. Now, though, its cake. Same thing I think. Only my car has never landed from space with network news coverage.

Suffice to say I'm not really the guy you go to on the plane when the pilots all had the fish dinner.

Today I visited more grandparents. My grandmother made baked apples. It is a reasonably well known fact that her's are the best baked apples in modern civilization. Because she bakes them with love. And marshmellows. And a lot of sugar.

We watched the end of Hombre and all of The Man From Snowy River. Anytime you can book Kirk Douglas to play two roles you're doing something. If you can cake him in clay and give him a funny nose all the better. I watch a lot of westerns up here. They seem like a good idea, but one that never translates to my own home. Not sure why that is. Maybe it is something in the stillness of the air at my grandparents. (I've never heard the deathly silence that I find every time I stand on their front porch. This time of year the crickets have even given up.) Maybe the a dark wood-panelled room sets the atmosphere. Maybe it is a grandparent thing, I don't know.

Topics today ranged from a recent death, old toys, frog legs and goat stew. I'm not a frog leg person. I have a mental block. My uncle insists they are better than chicken, but you'd have to remove it from the bone and not tell me what you were putting on my plate. He showed me some he was freezing for later, and they are, as he said, big as a chicken leg. Farm raised. In China.

That kind of took the wind out of his sails. "They come from Florida," he said, pointing to an address on the box.

Yes, that's who distributes them.

I left him with the knowledge that the only thing better than frog legs was farm raised farm legs from Communist China. That was a nice feeling. Remembering the look on his face when he put all that together makes me smile. Probably the same reason that goat stew worked its way into the conversation.

My grandmother then dug out one of my toys that have been hibernating in her home for the past 20 years. The Tonka C.L.A.W.. The commercial starts one minute into that time capsule of video. The C.L.A.W. had the power and "you control it!" The C.L.A.W. also had sound effects from your neighborhood pinball machine and the poor man's Vincent Price. The playpersons -- ugh -- were sold separately, but you got the power shifter! Wonder what the competition was that forced kids to do without. Evil parents, buying inferior toys for their children when Tonka so clearly wanted to give the power directly to the kids!

There's also a great commercial in there for Transformers that all children of the 80s should watch. Starts at 2:13 and totally derails the competition during their own show. Someone really sold a bad local break there.

A few things stand out in the Transformers spot: why would the Decepticons be so readily accepting the "evil" label. They're Decepticons, there should be deception. Megatron, I believe, should fire his propagandist. There are young humans who you can bring to your side after all. Secondly, I had the tape recorder Decepticon. In the cartoon this was where I first began to wonder about mass. How could a robot that big become a tape recorder that small and still be carried around by his cohorts?

Yeah, childhood was pretty much over right there.

Back home before it got late. A belated Pie Day -- because we need more food, that's why -- where we didn't even ask for the Pie, it just materialized. And now home for a nice long mid-autumn nap.

Friday, November 24, 2006

One of the other things to be thankful for when sleeping in the living room is not missing anything. Last to go to sleep, the second to wake up.

Today was spent in Huntsville at the Space and Rocket Center. We ran into three generations of a family with ties to NASA. The son was trying to get his son interested in the grandfather's work.

"Ask Granddad about which one he worked on?"

"Which one did you work on?" the six year old asked.

"Apollo 17," the grandfather replied, a little quiet and sheepish that others might hear.

This was lost entirely on the boy, until they made it to this display of the ground the Apollo 17 mission covered. He can't appreciate it yet, but the father did. He'd reached a bridge in his life, where he'll teach his son how to throw a spiral and how his grandfather was a hero. Maybe he can set aside a silly dose of guilt he's carried for years because he, the son, didn't appreciate it quickly enough. Hopefully the grandfather will stay healthy long enough to see that moment crystallize in his grandson's eye too. "My grandpaw sent people to the moon ... "

Yes he did young man, yes he did. He and a select few thousand reached the engineering achievement of the millenium, because it was the hard thing to do. Your grandfather did that. Tell everyone you meet.

We later watched an IMAX about the lunar landings and, afterward, my mother asked me if that was something that is impressive to my generation. She was in middle school when NASA first kicked moon dust around. She probably remembers what dress she had on the day those crackling little words made it back into the atmosphere. We had moonmen on MTV and conspiracy theorists.

It is history to me -- many things are, even things I watched unfold live -- but to think it was only seven years before I was born that we reached up and grasped at something we've feared and marvelled at for all of time ... that carries a weight.

That we're on Mars, that's impressive. That we have tourists in space ... sadly that's already become blase. That I shared a room for a brief moment with a man -- and in any NASA facility the number is probably still "several" -- who put us there, that people a generation younger than I am will remember him, that's special in a very important way.

One can't dwell on these things for too long. There are shuttle simulators to land. Rick, the pilot, landed his shuttle the first time. The Yankee came in just a bit short. There was a clunk and a clattering at the end of the simulation that was a little unnerving.

Me? Oh, I put it down on the runway safely. My car doesn't brake that smoothly.

Then we all took turns riding the Space Shot. This is the ride where they fling you off the ground hydraulically and then you sort of stair-step bounce back down to the ground. Someone suggested the ride, I started talking smack. My grandmother, who delights in showing me up, agreed to a ride. So, suddenly, I couldn't ride the thing because I felt compelled to take pictures. You'll see more of these later -- presuming I ever get this Flash business figured out -- but I'll give you the most telling picture now.

But first, my impression as the ride began:
Yankee: Arrrrrgh!

Mom: Arrrrrgh!

GrandBonnie: When does the ride start?

Dinner at Dreamland, so the Dreamland Odyssey may now continue.

Perhaps I can't do this restaurant justice because I was with the family and didn't want to roam through the place -- which was nearly empty at 5 p.m. on a Friday night in Huntsville.

They had the same wood-fired barbeque pits, though. And the obligatory Alabama paraphernalia, including some former Alabama player of undetermined age who still carries around his action photo and signs it for people's walls. Dreamland didn't have a store in Huntsville when this guy played, meaning he keeps the thing in the trunk of his car, which is alternately the most awesomely ego-driven and saddest thing ever.

I will now go contrive action shots of myself doing something actiony and then sign them, insisting they are hung on restaurant walls. That has to be good for a free appetizer the next time I visit.

There was also a fair amount of Alabama A&M and UAH propaganda on the walls and, inexplicably, an Ole Miss helmet next to an Auburn helmet. That might be a first for the Rebels in a Dreamland joint.

Also, the waitress was nice, but the remote control guy was something of a liar. "I can't get that channel to come back" is pretty thin for a 21st Century audience who just saw it on your television there, Sparky. Why are you showing basketball for in November anyway?

Caught the late movie. Casino Royale. Before the dozen word review I must say that I've always been take it or leave it about the James Bond franchise. It just seems that something with such staying power should have more story behind it, or maybe that's the secret. In any other role having half a dozen actors portray the lead character in different ways would not float. Here, so long as you ask for your martini and land the woman and use the gadgets you're fine. And the cars. We musn't leave out the cars.

Those are all the ingredients for a guilty pleasure movie, so I've always approached Bond in a detached way:
I'll buy Daniel Craig. I hope they remake all the Bond classics.
The drive home across roughly half the width of the state was completed only as a mental exercise of continually calculating the number of small towns between Here and There.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

There are many things for which to be thankful. The list is probably longer than the day when you really get into the meat of the all-important minutia. We really need more than a day for the appropriate reflection. We really need more understanding of the value of appreciation.

This morning we took Coco for a walk down by the river. I counted the leaves on the water and the minnows in the water on a ridiculously-expanding list of things deserving my gratitude. Really I should just play Wonderful World and get it over with.

I'd already watched friends shaking hands, and saying "How do you do," so why not?

Anyway. The grandparents live just off a tributary of the Tennessee River. Over the past few years the state has been busy building a new bridge. The original plan was to remove the two old ones in favor of two new ones. The eastbound bridge, the newest of the old, was taken out and a new six lane bridge slowly went up. Westbound, the older of the two old green skeletons, is staying in place.

The bridge, built in 1924 lives because it has been designated a historic landmark, though it is now a bridge to nowhere.

Landmarks are important to different ways to different people. And to some landmarks have more than one component. Maybe we are detail oriented people, or a more needy memory, but, to me, it takes both bridges to complete the landmark. Topping the hill and seeing the bridges was always the "We made it!" moment after a long journey over the river and through the woods. Seeing one leaves you half empty. If your sentimental about such things there would be a sadness about that. If not, you'd see six beautiful lanes of shining cars streaming away to city or countryside and think, "That's good."

I feel half empty about it, which will no doubt be cured by a big Thanksgiving meal.

I've always been told this was once a two-way bridge. My family has no reason to lie to me about this, but I don't believe them. This is too narrow.

Standing on the east bank and looking back toward the family's side of the river. In the middle of the bridge you can see two stores. Once there was an electronics store that my grandfather ran before the phrase hi-tech had been invented. Next to that was a gas station, where my mother and uncle would buy Cokes for a nickle.

Also on the east bank you'll see the official survey marker, circa 1933. Surveyors found this to be 523.249 feet above sea level. I'm learning a lot more about this bridge by not speeding over it.

Rick is finding stuff: nuts, bolts, a few pennies, an exploded ceramic figurine. He's building a story of some guy's life based on probably a month of litter, including the 38 Special cassette tape I've found. For a moment we are crime scene investigators, or bad fiction writers. And then I found this old CAT rivet. Not sure what it actually is, though it appears to be purely decorative. There's no threading or grooves, so we'll call it a heavy duty ornament. Very festive.

Two goofs.

My Thanksgiving meal was probably much like yours was, which is to say mine was much like it always is. I have no idea what you eat for Thanksgiving. Last year, after all, I had barbeque.

Grandmother Ocie came down. She sat with her son and daughter-in-law, my grandmother.

After lunch we had the traditional spontaneous telling of stories and jokes. Of the simple holiday pleasures this is the one for which I am most grateful, and one I can share with you later since I've been recording these today.

Later we played Thump-its. I mentioned yesterday a board I noticed hanging from a wall in Cullman. Tonight we brought out my grandmother's board.

It is basically four-sided billards. You have a partner and, instead of using a stick for your cue, you thump your striker. The goal is to knock in your team's discs and then sink the final one, much like an eight ball. There are other rules variations, but you get the idea. It is a quick moving game that involves touch, bruised fingers and, occasionally, a deft cheater.

I am not one of those. I'd get caught easily, my lack of a poker face does have a downside -- these eyes are so trusting and I always tend to laugh. There are legends of a family friend, though, who could cheat his way through an entire night without so much as blushing. When I play most of the night is spent grimacing from a new bruise under my fingernail.

To be thankful. There are many things.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Today was a travel day. Around noon I finally got my act together, the car loaded up and on the road. Traffic wasn't bad, despite what AAA would warn you about in their regular holiday press releases. There was some slowness on the interstate around town, but most of that can be attributed to people who wrongly believed they belonged in the left lane.

Made Cullman in time for lunch. Ruby Tuesday's: because you need that much food heading into Thanksgiving feasts.

On the wall there is an old Carrom board. Thump-its, we called it, and outside of my immediate family and this restaurant I've never seen the game before. There are apparently more than 100 games that can be played on the board, but my family is always only played the one. I have a recollection of the cue sticks and the billiards-with-obstacles game that you could play on the opposite side of the board.

I'm sure I've invested hours into Thump-its, and I'm absolutely positive that everyone in my family older than I am has. Excellent table-top game.

Also on the wall is an old organ that I recognized in the distance. Later I would say that I found a copy of my first little organ, and my mother would correct me, saying that it was her first organ. I enjoyed it as a hand-me-down. Sometime next week I'll dig it up find the make and model. That should be interesting.

My folks had already settled in when I pulled into my grandparent's driveway. My step-father had been drafted to help move furniture. My mother was relaxing in a recliner and nursing a cold. Before long we'd be making faces at one another and then discussing the flotsam and jetsam of my childhood. A letter the Easter Bunny wrote to me as a child was produced for laughter and memories. My grandmother unearthed a letter of apology I had to write her in elementary school.

It seems I had a good little con in mind, but her parenting instincts sniffed it out and I was busted. Part of the punishment, which must have been ample as I never tried that again, was to write this letter, which she has kept and is now reading aloud some two decades later.

Then my baby book was produced.

Fortunately, at that exact moment I was drafted into the moving effort and I was spared any face-to-face ooohs, ahhhs and potential embarrassments.

A cousin is moving into a new bachelor pad. He had a truck and a trailer full of the contents of his life, which we neatly indexed into den, kitchen, left bedroom and right bedroom. He'll sort it out later, I'm just the muscle. We moved out an old stove. A really old stove. An aunt and uncle bought the piece when they first got married some 52 years ago. Beautiful, shiny and white. Looks heavy, but is surprisingly light. It has a left stove and a right stove, for cooking at different temperatures. Still works and waiting on a good home.

It had great switches and buttons and I kicked myself for about 20 minutes for not taking my camera. Really, though, how often do you want to take pictures when you're moving furniture?

That being said, if I'm ever elected to Congress I will propose legislation making it mandatory that movers photograph how they wedged cumbersome furniture through doorframes. With these pictures you can recreate the effort when you move out without wasting time on "How did we get this thing in here in the first place!?"

If I had need for another stove -- because the one in my kitchen is perfectly modern and so overtaxed, don't you know -- I'd insist on claiming this one just for the buttons. Instead I'm just hoping it doesn't end up on a stranger's front porch. Five decades it has been in the family and remains in excellent condition, it'd be a shame for it to rust out from neglect now.

In my grandmother's only slightly more modern kitchen, built when separate stoves and ovens were hip and when the nobs had fins like the Cadillac cruising the highway, we had dinner. Stew and pork roast and a big table full of pies that will last through the week. Because big filling meals like that are also what you need before Thanksgiving.

Later everyone is in my bedroom and won't leave me alone. My bedroom is now the living room, which is fine -- best TV in the house! -- but I wish they'd all go to bed so I could stretch out on the sofa and sleep. And enjoy the grandfather clock 12 feet from my head happily chiming away the quarter hours. That'll be a gentle murmur next to the dish-clanging alarm clock I'll enjoy in the morning.

I'd like to skip directly to the food instead, please. Thanks.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Thanksgiving week has a few of the best days of the year. This is one of them. There is a little internal mechanism that demands to be heard. When the sun falls early and the leaves clutter everything and the winds blow through a spring is tripped and suddenly your mind hears a little notation of the season murmuring from one of those places which start murmurs.

The holidays are here.

As a child this is grand, of course. As an adult this can be a mixed bag. Without kids of my own at this point I don't have that to look forward to, but I do have the precious agony and guilt of Christmas shopping. Even I'm growing wearing of asking why I'm buying things for these people. And my Christmas-for-myself presents only seem to get more extravagant.

Professionally the year is winding down with that same zig zag pattern the space shuttle uses to bleed off speed as it returns from orbit. The continued existence or foretold demise of a football coach and the aftermath of a horrible bus wreck in Huntsville will see us through the end of the year. The rest of the stories are taking the month off and we're cruising on the autopilot of food safety, new gifts and wrapping tips as the stories that will lead the day.

There's still work to be done. Don't mind that at all, but by now those stories are all formulaic and the mind is drifting off to pretty much anywhere else more fun -- Ohh! Cranberries!

That's pretty much what today, my last day of the work week, means.

Tonight I'm packing for a holiday trip, cleaning off the EvIl eye and generally trying to straighten the house up a bit. One could suppose that your holiday begins when you are off the workplace's ponderosa. One could go with the actual holiday (holidate?) itself.

I recognize Thanksgiving at the first site or realization of the things for which you can't help but be thankful, so Thanksgiving should start any minute now.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Monday has become the day to catch up on TiVo. The EvIl eye recorded a Star Trek marathon, three or four episodes of which I watched, a handful of Scrubs and a few other things that got deleted right off the top.

I ate dinner, left-over barbeque potato, to the dim light of Friday's Battlestar Galactica.

Just when I've spent the last few weeks bragging about how they haven't offered any placeholder episodes they give us this -- and a tease of more of the same next week!. So a pilot escapes the bad guys, and he brings back a tale that brings some incredible backstory to Adama's character, but otherwise this is a wasted hour. At the end of the episode they shuttle him off the ship, presumably to a quiet civilian life, so he's gone for ever but we don't learn why the Cylons let him go. And next week there'll be boxing.

There was also football, but (and pardon me if I'm the only person saying this) Monday Night Entertainmentball is all but unwatchable. I appreciate that MNF has forever been a showcase of pop-culture happenings, but this receiving line that ESPN is rolling out has quickly become too much. And Mike Terico, poor Mike Terico, for whom I've never cared, he gets my pity. He's stuck in a booth with Tony Kornheiser who, while admittedly a smart man, is bent on making Joe Theismann sound even more stilted than he normally is.

I'm that rare guy that liked Mike Patrick, Theismann and Paul McGuire when they were teamed together for Sunday Night Football. I disliked McGuire in the USC game Saturday night, and I understand now that he needs Theismann. Clearly Theismann needs McGuire too. Kornheiser is trying to fill this role of asking the questions and making the observations of the common man, only Mr. Tony has spent the better part of a career trying to be a wise-cracking patrician. Paul McGuire never felt that need, and you could always blame his late-night silliness on being past his bedtime or too many leather helmeted collisions.

Meanwhile, his new team on ABC doesn't even want him in the booth, banning him to the crane camera instead. We can still fix all this though. Put Tirico back on golf, reunite the Theismann and McGuire and let's leave Korneiser to radio. His timing's better for that anyway.

Oh, what do you know. Jacksonville has seemingly won a football game. And here with more is expert analyst Jay-Z.

When you no longer parody Gifford-Meredith-Cosell, but rather supercede it, you've really gone the wrong way with the franchise.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

There's cold and then there's Great googly moogly why am I outside!?!? That was pretty much today. At one point in the afternoon the chill was so unbearable that, instead of watching another movie going home won the day. The thermometer says the high reached up to 51, but I believe someone was sucking on the bulb of mercury.

I heard an old name and saw an old face this morning. And darn if it didn't look a little pudgy, a slow-eyed cherub, really. I hoped I look more awake and more alive when people pass me and then resolved to smile forever, just in case.

Went out to the movies to see Man of the Year:
About what you'd expect from Barry Levinson, Lewis Black and Robin Williams.
The plan had been to watch Invincible, but the cold proved I wasn't up to the name of the movie.

Instead I went home and warmed myself with the patriotic fervor of Rocky IV. We just caught the end of the movie, not even seeing the beginning of the big fight. Still, in the montage of the final nine rounds of boxing action, it occurred to me that history as been negligent. We give Ronald Reagan credit for toppling communism, but really it was Ronnie and Rocky. Listen to the Russians cheer him late in the match!

They knew, just as Drago did, that Rocky is like a piece of iron.

And then that wicked synthesizer kicks in, which pretty much tells you everything you need to know about the quality of this movie as a whole. Paul McCartney, fresh off "A Wonderful Christmas Time" turned out another electronic masterpiece.

Pay no attention to that splice at 27 seconds where the editors snuck in a little clip of Apollo. For one brief, shining moment the Italian Stallion looked a lot like Carl Weathers.

Make your friends feel sorry for you: Dolph Lundgren is still making movies. He went to MIT on a Fulbright scholarship and has a black belt in karate.

I was late meeting Wads for dinner, but I didn't care. I knew he'd beat me to the previously determined restaurant and when I walked in and said, Sorry I'm late, but Rocky IV was on he'd understand. He did, and then he quoted the post-match interview.

"Everybody can change!" I do believe the Gipper watched that movie on the flight to Berlin in 1987.

Just imagine if he'd watched Anchorman, which rounded out the night.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Hey Bama!


Click Clack!

That's five!


Friday, November 17, 2006

The perfect weekend is coming. Beautiful weather today. Iron Bowl tomorrow. Long holiday on the horizon. Sun shining down into the trees. Great way to start the weekend.

Except for this guy. Hope he's OK.

Rode home listening to radio callers discussing the merits of this, that and the other thing about corpses. Taken out of context it is positively morbid.

Yes, Alabama was good. Yes, Bear Bryant was a great coach. Yes, there's a great tradition. Yes, they're going to lose tomorrow. Yes, that'll be five in a row. The calls get repetitious after about six minutes.

It occurs to me, as I tuned those guys out, that the Iron Bowl, as a series, is now 38-31-1. These things are very cyclical, but Auburn has, of course, enjoyed things more in recent years than Alabama. Things are really tight in the arms race that is football in this state. The series itself, is getting to close for comfort for Bama fans. Alabama has led the series since 1965, but in a few years Auburn fans will really begin to realize that as well.

Consider: since Bryant died the series has been led by Auburn 14-10. Since Alabama's 1992 National Championship the series leans to Auburn 9-5. Alabama's Mike Shula is a doughnut as coach, so if he sticks around for a while -- not likely -- Auburn closes the gap quickly. If the Tigers continue winning at the 6-2 clip established by Tommy Tuberville then the series levels considerably more quickly. It is only a matter of time, that sweet, happy day, when Auburn takes the lead back in the series. We'll all remember where we were.

Went to The Library. Almost took a nap. Put on Auburn apparel. Got caught in the pre-holiday-pre-Christmas traffic. Already?

Met the group for Pie Day. Pie day now has a theme, courtesy of Taylor. Capped a near perfect day.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Some news just takes the wind out of your sails and the motivation right out of your heart. This evening I was straightening up for a house full of company for the weekend and decided to call the company to find out what I should get for breakfast Saturday morning when I heard "I was about to call you, we're not coming now."

Real life, it seems, got in the way. That's fine. I'll miss the company -- smaller Iron Bowl party now -- but completely understandable. And so now I'll stop cleaning and nurse a headache.

Lot of paint fumes in my life today. Eight hours in a big office with no ventilation irritates the eyes, makes the throat scratchy and gives one visions of blunt objects poking through brain matter. The really odd thing is I seem to be the one most troubled by this. I get there earliest, sure, but my desk is one of the most removed from the painting, varnishing, olfactory corroding experiment. The really scary thing is when I, me, whom can't smell that well at all, is the canary of the group there might be trouble. The good part, I think, is that this smell covered up the normal smell. The bad news is that this was also the day that a few people decided on cleaning desks with some sort of solution that was pH11.

So today it was truly a relief to head home, a sentiment I always reserve for Fridays.

Below our office they installed a restaurant this summer. Italian joint, original wood fired stove, nice place, very gourmet. A little pricey but delicious sandwiches. I ate there earlier this week, in fact, and ran in to Alan Hunter.

He's a nice guy, the kind of fellow who's grown used to his local and historical celebrity. Everyone recognizes him, but then they realize there's not really that much they can say or ask a man who was last a pop-culture figure almost 20 years ago. Their questions always revolve around something that is happening on MTV right now. The guy is almost 50, but he dutifully watches the network because he knows these questions are coming. He'd much rather talk about his more recent work, and he does a lot of important work for the local entertainment industry, but he's stuck. There's the moment of recognition, the wide eyes, the awkward silence and then "Well, what do you think about 'Two A Days'?"

He'll give it a very polite answer, but there's a sub-text there. He'd much rather talk about movies or concerts than a faux-reality show about local football.

Still he looks like the Alan Hunter of old. Only now he pulls out the old man glasses. Alan Hunter, who Rocked From Russia, is staring down the length of his nose through tastefully designed horn rimmed specs. Time plays no favorites.

Anyway. With the weekend plans changing I'm nursing the noggin.

Gave Wads his Christmas gift tonight. It was rather topical. He'd said a while back that if I could find a picture of the Auburn football team entering Jordan-Hare with arms linked and through the smoke that he knew what he wanted. Been sitting on that for the last nine games of the season, and if I didn't give it to him before the Iron Bowl it runs the risk of being a tone deaf gift.

Picture looked so good, though, I gave one to myself. Imagine this entrance from field level.

The Iron Bowl talk seems a bit muted this year somehow with both teams struggling. Part of that, I'm sure is just the matter of which circles you run in. The biggest thing is that the Bama fans seem all bent out of shape about a thumb. Sure there's T-shirts, but that's not fandom, that's shrewd marketing. Equally shrewd is the advent of the retort T-shirt.

It always amuses me how the simplest things can irritate Alabama fans. A quick look at the history of that simple little phrase will tell you a lot about the Alabama fan's psychology. I refer, of course, to the sidewalk alumni. The actual graduates hold themselves to a somewhat higher standard. Sometimes.

That golf story is told in the bland style of Wikipedia, which is fine, but in an interview with me in the final months of his life the late Jim Fyffe really turned on the story, talking about how his miracle shot led to him dancing around with the exclamation which was overheard by the Bama fan on the next tee box who walked back over to give Fyffe a piece of his mind. He later rationalized that if something made Alabama fans that upset then it had to be a good thing for Auburn fans and Touchdoooooown Auburn!" became his signature. Among the list of regrets, the loss of that interview ranks somewhere above the middle.


Two words, a digit, getting sacked 11 times, never winning at home against your natural rival, being gently reminded that their greatest asset has been dead for almost a quarter of a century now, things like this irritate Alabama fans far too easily. And we say it is Auburn that has the inferiority complex?

Which brings us to this week's On Notice board:
The talk might be muted, but there's a lot of football on the brain.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Lots of rain today. Just seemed ever-present. There was rain or the promise of it. At a few points it rained so hard as to be the most urgent and obvious moments of the day. That was nothing compared to the winds, possible tornadoes, to the south of us. We're in the second tornado season now. A lot people forget about the fall season when it comes to bad weather, and that's when people find themselves on television describing how a train sounds in the dead of night.

A skate rink got hit in Montgomery today. Minor injuries, despite being filled with children. Probably some other houses and structrues damaged too, but here it was just rain. Tomorrow it will be cold and overcast. Our six day autumn is over, we're now preparing for the three months of almost-winter that will run things until the plants say "Enough" and start sprouting green things to scare the cold temperatures away. Also there will be basketball. I'm not sure which of these bothers me more.

Cleaned some tonight. Caught up on back issues of USA Today. This will not be a habit. I read that paper for about a week once a year or so, just to give it the chance to be a more substantial paper. While it always seems to fail me, the features are sometimes good. They even fooled me on these over the last week. I'll now retire back to blogs and the occasional magazine, where I can find more than 15 inches of copy on something that might be, you know, important in a more than "Oh thats too bad, hey, here's my plane" kind of way.

I've made progress in my battle with the TiVo. Tonight I actually deleted unwatched shows from the EvIl one.

Coming soon: deleting programs from the recording list.

Coming now: Did an Iron Bowl podcast at work today. We tried Skype for this one. The good news: No one is overmodulated in Skype. The bad news: it is choppy (something to do with how Skype compresses audio packets we think) and has a lot of reverb. There's some frustration there, but at least we're not destroying speakers. Check it out here or see the A/V page.

At 13:29 it could have ran a lot longer, it could have ran forever, but there were time constraints and that reverb thing was driving them crazy. Somehow most of that didn't translate into the finished product, but it was there in their phones. It is very difficult, by the way, to make a cogent point when you're hearing yourself say words you said two seconds ago. You can't right brain, left brain that one.

Some pretty good names in college football lore in that podcast. Nice guys, all, though one of them was ready to talk smack. All too funny. Except for the technical issues. And the part right at the beginning of the podcast, where I might have committed cultural blasphemy.

You'll have to listen to find out.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I should be cleaning, but I can't seem to become motivated. This is like college all over again. Substitute cleaning for studying and "I don't feel so good" for "But I don't wanna!"

Spent a lot of today on the phone though, despite being terrible about keeping up with people on the phone. It's a curse. Some people are great with the phone, some churn out letters, I'm a face-to-face and Email kind of guy. So, unless we talk in those two ways a lot, just assume that no news is good news, I'm not a snob and, no, I don't hate you.

Because I don't. Just the phone.

OK, maybe hate isn't the right word. Maybe the phone and I are the couple that's been together for 60 years and have absolutely nothing good to say about one another. Yeah. We're very minimal, the phone and I.

Even while doing phone tests at work today I found myself not saying a lot. This is when you're supposed to talk, but me, not so much.

No Denny Crane tonight because ABC unveiled William Shatner's new gameshow. People wrote to ask how I would react to this show. More than one person asked me this. I was torn. I said I'd watch, but with a very low threshold for tolerance and ... what do you know? Look at the guy in the blue shirt. He's ... enthusiastic. Sorry Bill. At the end of the day, this is just another game show, and I tuned in for Denny Crane.

Which I'll have soon. Amazon sent the obligatory "Save 30%" Email for the Boston Legal Season Two preorder. I preordered, thinking I could use these Amazon gift certificates I've been sitting on for a while. Total price, after shipping for Season Two: $44.97. Gift certificate's value: $44.96.

One day, soon, I'll get a bank statement and wonder what that penny was for. At one 1/27th of a penny per episode, I can afford to be confused.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Today was one of those TiVo days, where the EvIl one kept me occupied from the point of getting home nearly to the point of going to sleep. Why not? I'm only five days behind. I have to stop recording so much stuff.

Is there a clinic for TiVo sufferers?

I first saw that video before I had the EvIl eye. Now I understand. I understand all too well.

I've been watching Jericho, the first program I've caught on CBS in years, perhaps decades, and it isn't bad. Standard post-apocalyptic fare. Let's hope that sentence never grows common, shall we? Bombs explode things, one small town tries to limp to recovery, neighbors have personal dramas in contrived circumstances that only happen in television. Hey, it's Wednesday night on CBS, take what you can get.

I've been watching The Nine which should get good, but has the slowest build in the history of network television. Strangely the best parts are the flashback sequences from within the bank during the hostage situation. Maybe they should have called it "52 Hours" and did a real time thing. Then we could all scoff at how Jack Bauer would have ended the standoff before the second commercial break, yo.

The other big highlight of the night was the latest episode of Battlestar, of course. Where a few episodes floundered in the first season -- just a few -- everything is running along at a great pace right now. The ultimate question of whether humanity would be barbarians for downloading a virus into their computer enemies was thwarted -- kind of had to be, or no more show, right? -- by the executive officer, who will not be brought up on treason and who would have not worked very well in the Truman administration one suspects.

Here's the thing, though it will disappear as a plot point: they were planning to use a biological agent which occurs naturally that humans had become immune to years ago, so why not do it again? There's a robotic smallpox out there somewhere. And speaking of which, why hadn't interaction with humans given them the Staphylococcus aureus from some malnourished kid already.

It is interesting how President Roslin will be so put off by hardline tactics one week and ready to plunge a rat disease into the bad guys the next week. You'd think that, after her cancer went into miraculous remission thanks to human-robot DNA that she'd want to keep some around, just for medicinal purposes. That is, after all, what saved the robot in their midst this week, the human-robot DNA.

There's another phrase that should never become commonplace.

Fun links:Wads sent me this, prompting me to think that maybe there isn't all that much work in law school. On this site you plug in names or issues and then watch them fight it out. Foriegn policies could be developed this way.

Maybe one of the funniest things that happened last night is that someone said "You must be from up north" because I didn't react in a shocked way to the low-40s temperature. Well, there's this accent quiz, you see, and apparently, I'm from the Northeast. Two things about this: all of my Yankee friends are laughing and, no. I've been listening to myself lately and the only thing I'm northeast of is Tuscaloosa.

Got another Honorable Mention on Outside the Beltway.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

There was a great plan for lunch and then one of those fall farm events where the land owners chuckle at all the city folk that actually pay to come out and wander around in their corn fields. To them this is a dubious investment at best. The cornfields are always here, and while their time there is unlimited, their acreage is finite. Yet, here are people from places with small yards or apartments or condos or, God forbid, townhouses, that want to stomp around making bad Shining and Field of Dreams jokes through a maze of corn stalks.

For the city folk, the time is now limited. Pumpkins have outlived their usefulness. Farmers are tired of hauling hay and customers on their trailers and the corn has long since turned brown. If you don't hit these places by mid-November they're going again until next fall rushes upon you.

So that was the plan. A good plan thwarted by the place not being open on a Sunday. A guy saw us driving around, looking lost -- this one always works, if not, pull out a deck of cards and play solitaire, someone will come along and tell you to put the black nine under the red 10 and then you can ask for help -- climbed in his truck and drove down to smile that "Not so bright are ya?" smile and tell us it was closed.

Yeah, well we're bright enough. We just don't understand this calendar thing. Everything else is a cinch.

Accidental adventures instead, then, in McDonough, The Geranium City.

Stumbled across a used book store. Not sure why I like these so much. I'm so backlogged on books that I'm intent to not buy any new ones, but I always find myself going inside. Maybe it is the smell of mildewed pulp, but that old scent was covered up in this store by a pot of simmering blackeyed peas cooking just off to the side.

Opposite the peas, just as you walk in the door there's an old Wurlitzer jukebox for sale. It had Fat Bottom Girls, My Sharona, I Write the Songs and Theme from Shaft, all which date the machine easily. There was a big For Sale sign taped to the album compartment, so no pictures of that. It was an unpretty machine lacking in appeal, perhaps the designers thought the music would be beautiful enough, but the big plastic buttons are slowly turning charming and what was once a garish new addition to the beautiful old Wurlitzer line is starting to take on appeal of its own. Sometimes we just age into things better than when we start out.

Around the side of that block is the city's hub, which remains full of businesses old and new. No suburbs here. McDonough, improbably small though it feels, is the county seat. The town square has a monument to soldiers in the War of Northern Aggression. The memorial didn't use that phrase, but you could read between the lines to see that it was in the first proposed draft of the statue.

There are several businesses here, an old drug store, a pawn shop, a few restaurants, a couple of antique stores and the town's welcome center all share the square with the county courthouse. We went in two of those antique stores, in one of them, Cornerstone Antiques, I found two more Nixon buttons to add to the campaign pin collection. (That page of the site is coming soon too. I promise. It's on the list.) No old pictures or newspapers to snatch up, but the two stores had plenty of prowling, which was about an hour of time between them.

After that it was time to visit the closed visitor center -- it was after 5 p.m. on a Sunday in small town America. It is an old gas station lovingly converted into a conversation piece. Still had the gravity powered gas pumps in place and the pumps were frozen in time at $.29 a gallon.

In the background there you can see the old air pump, or as it called itself, The Tireflator which involved determining the appropriate pressure and then cranking out your air. Way back when you didn't have to pump quarters into the machine to get air for your tires. And there's some sage language on the machine. "Balanced Inflation" sounds like some sort of bad campaign slogan.

Having worn out McDonough, the city that takes occasional catnaps through the big games on the tube, it was time to drive off into the sunset, sunglasses glowing and secure in the knowledge that The Yuppie Chronicles had been satisfied once again.

Dinner at Zucca where the pasta is excellent and the guy singing covers should stay away from Garth Brooks, tone down the Dave Matthews but continue with the Bob Seger and Ben Harper tunes.

Then there was Empire Strikes Back. We all, by now, know how that ends. There's a new ending in my mind, though, as the credits scrolled. Had we known, then, that Ewoks would have been in Return, would we have all stayed away?

All the shortcomings aside, John Williams' Imperial March still moves the audience. Contemporary scores are hardpressed to keep up, kinda like city folk and country schedules.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

New rule: There will be no TiVoing and tape delaying of Auburn's 11:30 games ever, ever again. Ye. Gods.

The day started so well, too. I spent the morning at a huge antique mall, shifting through the casted off of other lives.

Antique malls are loosely based on the flea market design, where people are renting space to store their stuff in a big room in the hopes that you'll buy it for your basement. Most malls, it seems, offer more of the newish, Pier One cast offs than actual antiques, but not Liz's Antiques in Cartersville.

Here you'll find the stuff collected in basements and attics from all over north Georgia and parts of South Carolina. These were the dreams and memories of people who've left us now, who's heirs didn't see the need to hang on to the old furniture, military helmet liner and records.

All of our collections of things will wind up here one day. Train up the children to appreciate the things to which you hang on. Train them or find someone that will take a welcome donation. If you don't I'll be prowling over your stuff.

Or you can cut out the middle man. I'm collecting political campaign buttons, old newspapers and old candid photographs.

Anyway, after the antique mall, where I did not buy anything -- this time -- there was the traffic. More than two hours of it for about 13 miles. They're paving two lanes in the rain. That better be the smoothest piece of road we've ever known when they are done.

Then there was the Auburn game. This team is a mystery, and the one thing we know is that they aren't a top five team. There's a lot of talent, but there's a lot of holes. Basically no one is happy, which is about par for the course after a sub-standard opponent.

The coaches would trot out the cliche that you don't have to stoke the emotions of a team going into a rivalry week, but that was the flattest rivalry game we've seen in a few years. It is not the loses, they're going to lose some, but the manner in which the team has lost that is disheartening.

Auburn lost 37-15, but it was nowhere near that close. I saw a stat, now long buried into the chasm that is the AJC's archive where UGA hasn't beaten a top five team this badly since 1943. Auburn, meanwhile, hasn't been that badly beaten while ranked in the top five in ... well ... a couple of weeks.

At least the BCS talk can stop. And maybe Tommy Tuberville will continue his trend of coming out big after a bad loss and maybe that'll mean another decisive win over Alabama.

Click Clack!

Tonight, though the pain was salved with mexican food and Carlos Mencia. They did not come together, though it would have been cooler if we'd met Carlos for Mexican. It just kind of worked out that way.

There was Mexican, there was Carlos. He did an hour and 20 minutes by himself, his now familiar themes, but mostly new material. He had three opening acts, including the hysterical Brad Williams, who you'll see on Carlos' show from time to time. Even he did some new material. Jo Koy was also pretty good; first time I've seen his act.

The Yankee has connections: getting seats in a sold out show. Total cost: 10 bucks parking. Sorta makes up for the free parking lot I had earlier in the day.

Friday, November 10, 2006

I neglected this picture yesterday. That's some stretch of I-20 in east Alabama. The repitition is simply because I love these shots. You can see a lot in where you've been. There's something poignant about the sun looking down with a sigh, preparing to slip away for the night.

"Oh, sure," the sun murmurs "you think I'm going to have a nap. Everyone always does. Truth is I must now go to light up another party."

One day the sun will get tired, but not until after a long series of half-hearted efforts. Then, suddenly, poof! And the partying sun will go nova. The parties that start thereafter will be significantly more modest.

But that's not for a long time, so happy weekend!

I also like that this picture has no cars on the road behind me. There were precious few off in the distance in front of me. For a brief moment I was my own island. And my view was orange.

I went to Rome today, where I followed a
and several ducks. I'd already read the paper, played two games of pool and cruised a gift shop.

When in Rome, one eats at the Harvest Moon Cafe, which is what, I'm told, is what the Romans do. The pizza's great. The cakes are better, but they won't give recipes. Google provideth.

After that there was a tour of one of the world's largest colleges. Berry has 28,000 acres, and that's after a modern sell off. A former admissions office employee (more on her in a moment) gave us the tour, including a brief bit of history and unofficial intrigue about Henry Ford. At any rate Martha Berry must have been a remarkable woman, and she built a beautiful campus where many of the facult and the students each live. In that respect it has an English prep school feel. It was virtually empty on a Friday afternoon -- most college campuses are -- but it put me in mind of Berea College, which I toured in high school.

I mentioned that during our informal tour, and our guide, laughed, saying that one ranking system found Berry College to be the second best school in such in such in all the land. Only Berry never liked discussing that at college fairs with prospective students because that inevitably leads to "Who's number one?" Number one, it turns out, is Berea, which, by virtue of the alphabet, is always put next to Berry at the college fairs.

The Berea reference brings up the Small World Box, as we now have another thing to throw in it. The tour guide is a graduate of Ball State, where she did undergrad and graduate school; my step-brother (allegedly) studies there. She is on staff at a nearby college with The Yankee and an Auburn grad who worked with my friend Brooke when she was on the faculty at Auburn. You'd need a flow chart with this, but the thought did cross my mind on the three mile drive from one side of campus to the other. The place is that big.

On the far side we stopped at Frost Chapel which is so idyllic that, I'm told, the crush for wedding dates there is so big that participants must have Berry ties. And girls book the place years out with prospective suitors. Not that the ladies from Berry would be desperate to find the right guy by the right date.

There's lots of deer here. And they have a popular equestrian team, where we stopped to see the horses. And a cat, which has little to do with people and even less interest in horses.

This is the perfect time to tour Berry's campus, as the leaves fall and the surrounding hills are alive in technicolor. I wanted to enroll just for the site of it. And then I saw a girl on an improvised tight rope which, we were told, has taken over as a fad for lack of anything better to do. So much campus, but not much life maybe. Gorgeous place to see though.

Teddy Roosevelt was once there. No one knew to tell me.

Pie Day later where the waitress asked the helpful question of whether I'd ever been to Jim 'N' Nicks before. Whenever this question gets asked I always plead ignorance. They care, and now they can help. This lady didn't buy it, calling me a terrible liar. She then wisely disbelieved most everything I said after that.

The pie was nice and big, nothing horrible happened with the food. We were sat down immediately, and left with the impression that perhaps the hostess remembered us. If so that's three stores where we have a lasting fame. I demand they name a dish after me!

And now, as the night winds down and the sugar high wears off it is apparent that this is a good day to look for that mirror that shows what's over your shoulder. There was a lot to see and do today, and some of it still undone.

Thursday, November 9, 2006

It's a small world after all.

New guy started at the office today. He walks in, we meet again. Something is said about "looking familiar." Yeah, you too. We do the obligatory back-tracking. Turns out we worked at the same radio station a decade or so ago.

Small industries in small places make for big reunions and "Remember when" stories.

You can tell a lot about a person by which stories they choose to remember. Your generally happy stories, sad and anguished tales or really randomly odd occurrences. Today we recalled the day a basketball player got angry because someone commented unfavorably about his footwork and soft hands.

The studio, it seems, was stormed by a 6-foot 11-inch guy angry at something that was said about him on college radio. We won't mention his name here for several reasons: he's in the NBA, apparently quick to anger and, oh yes, 6-11 and 250 pounds.

The rest of the day was spent in the car. Interesting how the mind can grow accustomed to certain things, leaving other routine happenings to become an alien event.

I'm used to driving in the dark, driving in the day and starting a drive in the dark that finishes in daylight. This afternoon I began a trip in bright daylight, watched the trees all turn golden from the sun behind me and watched the sky ahead progress from light blue to gray to black.

In the evening I'm usually already where I intend to be, so driving through a sunset has become a rare feature. The senses have something to say about the goings on around them, but the mind is thrown for a loop and generally sends the message that the senses aren't to be trusted.

This wasn't a bad thing, just ... odd. Odd in the same way that a plane about to land is odd. If you look out the window the right side of your brain realizes the speed and concludes that while airborne you're moving at a terrific speed. Your brain also decides that nothing on the ground should move at anything approaching those speeds, yet here you are. For that one brief moment between 20 feet and the ground some other part of the mind, the hypothalmus maybe, sleeping all this time, takes over with the important message that something is amiss.

So that was unusual.

Also unusual: Cracker Barrel has changed the menu recently. Chicken and rice is now Thursdays.

From that you'll find the perfect end to a near perfect day. If I asked for much more I'd be greedy.

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Today was a busy one, precious little to show for it.

Work today was highlighted by a new podcast. You might recall we did test runs in the summer and we've now been given the green light for a regular series. We're fleshing out details now, and building a set up that will give us better production values -- as it is right now, we sound a bit hot -- but we have high hopes for the future.

Today Tom Gordon from The Birmingham News and Troy professor Steven Taylor joined us to wrap up the mid-term election. Alabama does off year voting, so all of the state's constitutional offices were up for grabs and we discussed the biggest hits and misses, including the breaking national news of Donald Rumsfeld leaving the Department of Defense.

You can hear it here or on the A/V page. The podcasts are intended to be a regular feature now, so we are ambitiously looking ahead.

Speaking of audio/video, I've spent another evening slaving over Macromedia Flash. I've almost got it figured out, but grew bleary eyed and confused. I'll have to call in more help, but hope to have something new for you to gawk at next week.

Found a new show to love tonight. TiVo based on a keyword search for Auburn. Ordinarily I would have never found the show, or thought to watch it, as I rarely even scan past HGTV, but after two segments I'm halfway hooked. Turns out there's a mysterious mystery in a secretive house in Auburn, Maine. It was mysterious, you see. This house, with mystery. Where's Shaggy and Scooby?

Anyway, If Walls Could Talk is about people discovering the buried history of the houses and buildings they have restored. The houses in this episode were great looking too, which of course makes idle hands want one. Mostly, I think, to see if I could also uncover these charming little backstories that this show features.

Like I know anything about restoring a turn of the century home.

So, mostly, this is a breezy half-hour time-waster. Just when I thought I was getting out, the EvIl eye keeps dragging me back in!

Wads called to discuss traffic and politics. The former which had stymied him all afternoon, the latter which had invigorated him. On the one hand a truck poured produce all over the road. On the other Rumsfeld was poured all over the nation's highway of criticism.

I was watching the Mid-Term Midtacular from Comedy Central when he called, and decided to take him with me on a shopping trip. There were household staples that needed replenishing, though I have plenty of actual staples.

Now the laundry is freshly laundered thanks to a new box of detergent. It even smells spring fresh, a distinguishment lost on my clothes before they ever make it outside to be smelled by autumn. Daily my plans to sneak up on the trees and have them notice the fresh, crisp scent are thwarted. I intend for my clothes to say See, this is the season you should be opting for! Let's get on this! Either the spring smell or the cotton fiber aren't yet excited about this plan.

These things require a certain degree of momentum anyway. Once the trees and the flowers are on board we can take the Spring Fresh campaign directly to the celestial bodies which dictate the seasons. Today the oaks, tomorrow the sun! As soon as I figure out how to prepare a button-down for 7,000 degree temperatures.

We might have to cope with another fall and winter here. I'm not sure the R&D department are ready with this solution just yet. But I digress.

During my trip I made the mistake of going to the part of the store -- which shall remain nameless lest I am castigated for contributing to one corporate evil or another -- where the cell coverage disappears. Oddly enough this happens back near the electronics.

Once you lose your signal in the building it isn't coming back. Though Wads managed to reach me in the picture frames. Somewhere here there is a metaphor for something, but I must now put my stables up, paperclip something and then dry the laundry.

A new list is on notice:
Strange campaigns
Dead cell zones
Opposers of pie
As always, you can find the list in the top-left box.

Fun links: Brooke uncovers the true nastiness of elections with pre-school attack ads.

And this one was from the step-father, titled flying beneath the radar. I asked him if he was going to teach me to fly the civilian equivalent of this video one day. He said he'd LOVE to.

Go find your own talking walls.

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Did you vote? I did, despite being very wary of the races at large this time out.

This is the sixth time I've been eligible to vote, and the first five times I've had the natural progression of feelings: changing the world at 19, sure that I was unsure of what was going on at 21, voting for humor at 23, with purpose at 25 (in a post-9/11 world mind you) and with qualified support at 27 in 2004.

I've ranged fairly widely in my philosophical outlook in my early voting years, though the prism has narrowed the past half-decade as will happen when one finally starts to mature in their civic positioning. So it saddens me that I voted out of protest today.

Part of this was personal. One gentleman I voted purely against; he lost tonight by 17,000 votes. He ran a pretty lousy campaign too. I take no small satisfaction in that.

Elsewhere I voted against all the proposed amendments to the state constitution, also out of protest. The theory being that the 1901 document, the longest in the world, needs to be scrapped and a better one created. Voting 'No' on all the amendments is one way to signal the need for reform.

I'm for good governance and home rule. I have an understanding of the 1901 intent, but its a coarse approach in the 21st Century. There's no reason I should be voting on local issues that impact Prichard and Macon County or telling 30 other school districts -- not my own -- what they should do. This constitution, featuring the most regressive tax system in the nation, is flawed beyond repair, and the reform movement is picking up momentum. It'll be a while before we see any change, but in the meantime we're all voting 'No.'

I spent all night editing audio and resizing pictures in preparation of offering you more flash slideshows. I have a backlog on the To Do List here, and these are near the top. So tonight was the easy part, come tomorrow and next week I'll surely break Macromedia and quite possibly force a computer or two to quit in frustration.

If you have shares in Adobe, now the proud owner of Macromedia, you might want to consider selling before I single-handedly lower their value.

My political analysis: Almost all the state races went as expected. Governor Riley (R) is re-elected, Jim Folsom (D) returns to Montgomery as lieutenant governor, Troy King (R) remains the attorney general and the state gets its first ever female Supreme Court Chief Justice is Sue Bell Cobb (D).

I'm not going to start talking, much, about the next races, but there's a thought that Judge Cobb might be someone to watch in the 2010 race. Folsom's been there before and may not be the young blood that voters crave, so a savy and experienced judge with name recognition might be a safe play. The 2010 race, however, is four lifetimes and a marathon away.

Turns out the pollsters were right on the House and Senate races nationally. When we wake up tomorrow, dehydrated and in funky smelling ballot boxes, we'll have to figure out what all this means. In the meantime, democracy is on the move! Or the world is about to come to an end, depending on how you feel about parenthetical consonants and cartoon party symbols.

The other 80 percent of America won't be phased at all in the morning. Until someone explains Speaker Pelosi. Then that same 80 percent will shrug, yawn and reach for a doughnut. For the wonks 2008 can't get here soon enough, but for me, a nap sounds good.

Monday, November 6, 2006

Today has been a day of simple pleasures and simple repetition. There are no witty anecdotes to share. No funny stories or or colorful characters to spread to the world at large.

I didn't even leave the office for lunch.

I did, however, get home just before the rain, riding on a wind that pushed the last vestiges of summer out of the air and brought on the fall and teased at winter. It would then rain all night, and is raining a bit even now.

Well. I said summer was gone on that wind. Certainly felt that way as I stood at the door searching for the proper key. Thursday we'll bluff the thermometer into tickling 80, making this the teen that refuses to grow up well past the obvious time. May summer never leave.

We haven't been too hot or too cold recently. The numbers are all over the place. Narrow data sets will do that for you. But you didn't come here to be bored with mad weather rantings.

You came to hear about the TiVo!

At the risk of making some of the more dedicated readers think me boring, this is the other highlight of the day. Once again I've managed to catch up on a weekend of recordings from the EvIl eye in an afternoon. Didn't record a lot since Thursday is why. Small handful of Scrubs, and at this pace we have to approaching the full syndicated run of the show. I'll miss it when it is done, but relieved too. Lately that's been the big time eater. Chewed through four more episodes today, deleted 13 -- thirteen! -- EvIl suggestions from the weekend.

And then there was Battlestar.

They teased us that Baltar might receive the grand tour of the Cylon airlock, but that's an empty threat. If the show wrote him off they'd lose the primary antagonist. For a while, at least, we'll get a closer view of the bad guys while he's a guest on board of their fleet.

A fleet that's also looking for earth, but now one less in number after an ancient virus they accidentally brought on themselves wiped out a ship in short order. Despite all of that I'm now mostly interested in the Hybrids. They're compelling enough to need a backstory too, and soon.

On Galactica Starbuck and Tigh have turned grim. Adama offers a lecture and that makes Starbuck straighten up and fly right -- how ironic this is the least good character on the show -- but the former first officer is going off in new directions as a character. He's foreshadowing a thorn in Galactica's side stemming from all he's seen and done on New Caprica.

Where that's holding him down, the larger story teases us with the other five models of the Cylons. We aren't to talk of them. Ever. We don't know why yet, but now the happily neurotic, and barely surviving Baltar is wondering if he fits the description.

At the end of each episode now I find myself wondering how they can best themselves next week, but they always seem to do just that. With just a few exceptions in the first season everything seems to be filling in the story neatly, making ever utterance important, every movement worth close observation. It's the best show on television for another week. Up next is the ultimate dilemma that leads to the philosophical roadblock: This course of action makes US no better than THEM.

If you're behind, though, don't dive in. Start at the beginning and ease into the pool, the storytelling is fine, even if the universe is full of Cylons hiding in plain site.

Sunday, November 5, 2006

The tea machine is broken at Cracker Barrel. There was a wait, this being Sunday brunch after all. There were rocking chairs and some CD of country music covers on an unending loop. Those poor people must be exhausted, hearing Willie Nelson lament Roger Miller's drink buying, rent spending lifestyle. Dang me, dang me indeed.

Actually that was one of the good ones. Some unknown ladies were singing Vince Gill songs in keys lower than Vince does, which is probably Nashville for "Get out now."

So the tea machine is broken. That's Cracker Barrel for "Hope you have no afternoon plans." At least the table's by the fire, where the manager has thrown four new logs and all the customers are taking guesses at what is in the pot sizzling above the flames. The people to the right at the big circular table got here after us, were seated after us and got their food before us. That's OK, they have the cutest little kid, white blond hair, curly and wiry and he's adorable even when he cries. If you could mute him.

All children should have mute buttons. This is one of the reasons I'm waiting to have children. Technology needs to catch up with my desires for designer children. So far the blueprints are pretty modest and in line with what you'd think. The child should be born with:
Knowledge of chemistry and math -- They'll never learn it otherwise with me as their teacher, and a mother who knew the stuff would be nice, but too intimidating to the father.

A fluency of Spanish -- So they can work on both sides of the cultural stew.

A grasp of Mandarin Chinese -- So that they might work for our new leaders one day.

Common sense -- I'll teach them respect, but common sense might be a daft gift.

Mute button -- Preferably located somewhere that provides easy access.
I reserve the right to add new requirements into the eventual child's eventual DNA as the brilliant ideas strike me.

Spent the afternoon in America's 18th Safest City and the number one Destination for Directionally Challenged Extraterrestrials: Roswell, Georgia. This place might also have the most art galleries per capita in the western world. The visitor's center boasts 20, not bad for a bedroom community.

Visited a few of the shops, the antique mall which had some antiques, but nothing that made me reach for the wallet for a change. One of the oddly odd shops had a vaguely odd man minding the till. He was reading the paper, oblivious, until we commented on some of the more baroque and nightmarish ceramic art -- as a rule, baroque plus ceramic equals nightmarish.

The guy, though, in an odd accent that said "Not from here" and "Accustomed to solitude" noticed The Yankee's sweatshirt. "Did you go to Yale?" And then he noticed my API shirt. Somehow this led to graduate school and masters degrees where we were then pronounced "high-powered people." That was the joke for the next two blocks of ubiquitous art galleries.

Then we realized we were spending the twilight of a Sunday afternoon in the noontime of life at antique stores and art galleries. I must now pronounce myself a yuppie. Mission, as they say, accomplished.

To celebrate, the day ended with gourmet Mexican at La Paz. Went from country cooking to alien invasion to south of the border in just over eight hours. And all that without the timely dose of caffeine because tea machine that wouldn't work.

Saturday, November 4, 2006

Visited the Euharlee Bridge this morning. One of 12 remaining in Georgia, but closed to traffic.

Downstream the foundation from an old mill remains. Just off the creek is a museum and a general store, both were closed today. There was a little shed with a giant Civil War gunpowder pot and a few tattered World War II uniforms.

Found a tree just up that hill that was dropping leaves in a perfect circle. Looked like an illustration or a painting and not how these things really happen. Sat under that tree for a while, in the cool grass and the fresh leaves and looked up into the north Georgia sky and enjoyed a slow fall morning pass into the noontime. Got caught in a leafshower.

Over my right shoulder were a few more trees getting colorful and ready to turn loose. The breeze blows. God's just warming up around here.

Lunch at Four Way Lunch. That place is that small. Here's the inside. Imagine one more seat on the bar to the left and that's the whole restaurant. You can see the poster boards over the grill which hold the menu.

There's a clock hanging from the vent commemorating the opening of the restaurant in 1931. The guy sitting to my left says the place was owned by the same family until very recently. He says the little room in the back behind the sweet tea containers are where black customers ate during segregation. It seats three back there. The guy tells me the gravy burger or the chillie burger are really the way to go.

"That what you got right there won't clog any arteries," he said.

I had the normal cheeseburgers, the wisest decision I made all day. Smothered does not describe the gravy and chillie burgers. Drowned. Thanks to the staunch no food photograph policy on the site you are spared seeing this.

You are welcome.

Three burgers, one order of fries and two drinks: Ten bucks. Delicious and I'd go back.

Football. Alabama lost. Couldn't see the game, no idea how this happened. I imagine they are a despondent people after falling to the nearly hapless Mississippi State.

Florida escaped Vandy. LSU beat Tennessee for a convincing win. Good game. Arkansas was too much for South Carolina, but the Razorbacks have to face LSU and Tennessee in their stretch run. Two loses for Arkansas sends Auburn to Atlanta, provided they win out.

Auburn wasn't on TV, so I don't know much about the game. Four turnovers, a 27-0 victory over an Arkansas State team you're expected to beat.

Hopefully everyone will be healthy and ready for Auburn during the final stretch, where Georgia and Alabama will hear the Click Clack!

Friday, November 3, 2006

Spent the morning at work, the afternoon on the road. Leaving the office the sun looked like this.

I've only been at the office into the evening during bad weather and on a few other occasions when window-gazing wasn't really a priority. I have no idea what the sun does through all the windows and how it beams into the doors and falls on the bricks. At 3:22 in the afternoon, though, the sun is already considering a duck down beneath the nearby buildings.

Glad I took that shot on the way out the door now. Everytime you look at it you see something different. Those are the varied hues of autumn, where everything is itself and something else quickly again.

Mostly I like how the old Dr. Pepper logo falls right in that middle pane of glass. I didn't compose that shot. I'd never noticed how it lines up before, but the sunshine made it stand out somehow today. The old Dr. Pepper bottling building is right across the street, carbonation having long since fizzled and now replaced by offices and artsy things, but much of the old Dr. Pepper art work remains. There are little glimpses of the past over there, shimmering even as the block has come back to life.

The sun chased me for an hour, finally giving up somewhere as I crossed time zones.

Quiet Pie Day. My potato exploded on the plate, normally the spuds, huge as can be, stay self-contained, but this one was overflowing onto the plate, making it look even larger than normal.

I've had lots of pie the last few days. Tonight, leftovers Monday and a belated Pie Day last Sunday. You never get tired of it. We've found three or four restaurants, five or six dishes, three good servers. If that afternoon picture seemed nostalgic before its time, Pie Day remains optimistic before its prime.

Thursday, November 2, 2006

Things must be zipping along and falling into place because, for the first time in a while, a month of photographs have actually been compiled right away. September's pictures took about two weeks to make the site if memory serves. October's are ready in two days and currently waiting for you on the pics page.

Made it home with enough daylight to see how quickly the shape of things is changing. There's suddenly yellow everywhere. The maples and elms are retiring. The dogwoods have fully burned up and are in "Wait 'til next year" mode. The oaks are starting to go. One down the hill a nice rusty orange. One on the property line is putting on a beautiful show.

A small handful of oaks stand form a picket line. This little guy is probably from one of them. His acorn friends are suddenly everywhere too. They've been dropping by the dozen in the recent breeze and yesterday's rain. They'll fall down in the hundreds in the next few weeks. The squirrels will have their bounty for the winter, the trees will be barren.

Despite that the grass is still green and growing. I sit out in the yard watching the sun fall into the trees.
There is something easy and reassuring about that golden time of the day. I would have had to sit out there most of the evening to figure out that piece of peace for certain. It was tempting, but neighbors were making their way home and they'd soon start to look at me odd.

Other than that there was laundry, a little quality time with the TiVo and the West Virginia-Louisville game -- looked like the PAC-10 with a ground game to me.

Doesn't need tp get much more productive than that on a Thursday evening.

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

The dietary world and winery industry are abuzz with the news. Red wine is good for mice. A component of the win is extending the lifespan of obese mice. Just what we need, something that ruins the natural order of high-calorie mouse diets. You know where this is going. We'll have longer living obese mice, plenty enough to ruin Social Security and Medicare, or Mousicare, if you will.

Best part of the same story:
"This is fantastic," said Brown University molecular biology professor Stephen Helfand, who was the first reviewer for the journal Nature and not part of the team. "This is a historic landmark contribution."

Helfand said he won't be taking red wine extract supplements — but he has put his elderly mother on them. He said he's waiting to see if there are long-term ill effects for humans.
It's great! Try some Mom! Me? No, I'm uhhh ... I'm going to wait for later.


Don't rush right out and buy the wine. Or, if your neighbor owns a winery, do as he says and buy plenty:
A person would need to drink from 10 to 20 bottles of red wine a day to get such a dose. Whatever good the resveratrol might do would be negated by the sheer amount of alcohol.
"But," researchers say, "you'll be so schnookered you won't know the difference anyway. Oh, and dude, give me your car keys."

If I complained about the early darkening of the day and the general neglect of the sun we were certainly punished today. It was almost dark at 3 p.m. as I left the office. Then, as Rod Stewart said, the rains came. And I thought I'd leave; that is, I thought I'd get washed away.

Only a small sense of irony to drive through the worst rainstorm we've had in a long time pour out its wrath while I drove to pay the car insurance.

It rained for a couple of hours. Through the back of the house it looked like a rainforest. For a few moments it was a light show. The sound of thunder was replaced by the soft dripping of raindrops, which somehow seemed the perfect reason for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Then it got dark enough for Battlestar. I started the day three episodes behind, I'm ending tonight caught up for the first time in almost two seasons. There's a certain sad anxiety to that. After you get accustomed to the undesirable you're still, on the base level, comfortable with the situation. Now we're flying by the seat of our pants. Now the guys in the office don't have to always ask how far behind I am. Now I can speculate about plot holes in real time, so bring on Friday night!

Mostly I'm concerned with two Cylon points that are too difficult to explain and the wickedly awesome atmospheric appearance of the Galactica in the escape episode. Tom Zerick has surprised me twice, and Starbuck's storyline has fizzled a lot. I also have a conspiracy theory that she won't survive the season. I'm probably wrong, but write it down just in case.

Now on notice:
Daylight Standard Time
Slow Email
State of Arkansas in general
Poor Arkansas deserves better. See the list in the top-left box.