Kenny Smith | blog

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Rain. There was no daylight, only rain and a distant diffused glimmer of something resembling brightness falling through what felt like miles and miles of clouds. Weather Undground says 1.40 inches, but the National Weather Service is being conservative, I think.

When it didn't rain the ceiling was at about 14 feet, so I stayed indoors and watched football, catching the most NFL of the season, purely in mop-up games with little post-season importance. I also watched Wedding Crashers again, where I found a new brilliance in Will Ferrell's small role. He'll be the overstated Bill Murray of our generation, I think. Not as good, nowhere approaching subtle or nuanced, unable to move people with a flick of his eyes, a la Rushmore, where Murray absolutely saved the movie with one glance (YouTube is being boorish, so you'll just have to imagine it)

But Ferrell has Honestly I would have never thought that from his work on SNL, but Anchorman, Old School and, to a lesser extent, Talladega Nights, have me seeing his upside. He has potential and with a lot of hard work just maybe he could go places.

I'm still clueless as to why Vince Vaughn is popular, but obviously I'm not fit to be a judge of these things.

As for the rules of crashing a wedding, there might be something useful in there, have you the need.

Drive to the airport, in the rain of course, to pick up The Yankee. I discover people milling about in mild confusion and boredom is not the most fun group to be around. According to the arrival boards there is at one time more than 250 planes hurtling toward this building and the cement spread onto the other in the vicinity; the confusion of the crowd seems the better choice.

Luggage in hand we head for a belated Pie Day. The Yankee's mom was sick, it is going around of course: January, a pharmacist's dream. So everyone's a little sedate these days.

One last late Christmas -- I've done very well throughout the holiday, thanks, far better than I deserve -- and then suddenly it is time to watch the ball drop.

Poor Dick Clark. He certainly looks better this year, and he sounds a bit better, so good for him. Ego or not, it is almost unwatchable in a television photogenic sort of way. On the other hand, he's a courageous guy to open himself up to this sort of thing.

So here comes the ball, 5,4,3, ...

Saturday, December 30, 2006

No particular place to go. No particular time to be there. Naturally it was overcast. Took my leisurely time, as I am wont to do so. I'm probably able to be more leisurely than 90 percent of the western world and I'll take that. Occasionally there is the rush, or the being behind, or being behind the rush, but generally it is a relaxed lifestyle.

That's today too. The biggest concern making it out of town to catch a few stores in east Georgia still open. Tallapoosa, GA: Just nine miles east, an hour apart.

So I went to Lithia's Antiques, where a picture I ran across months ago has been stuck in my head. If I can find it I'm buying it and -- there it is. A quarter. Found another box of photographs at a nickle a piece, one from there. I'm really being the spendthrift today it seems. An Edmund Muskie button and a Santa decoration at 30 percent off, but the nice lady gave me the discount instead of the discounted price -- I think to think it is because I am Young and have Interest -- all for about six bucks.

"Muskie!" it says, with a little folded red ribbon attached to it, this was 1968 before ribbons were cool again. Muskie, he of the teary snowflakes was a Democratic frontrunner for a bit, ultimately becoming Hubert Humphrey's second, and they would, of course, lose to Nixon. Sometimes, one wonders if the nation would like to have a Mulligan. But, there was George Wallace, and of course Bobby Kennedy. Where would the Mulligans begin and end?

Sorry, there's a golf shop in this little town that I'll have to come back for on another visit. Got me thinking of my follow through, hence the need for many Mulligans.

I also finally had the chance to sample Burger Chick. I've mentioned the place before and am sorry to say the wait was not worth it. The nice server girl suggested the chili dog, but I have a conscientious objection to all things Chili and Dog, and prefer the "Go with what's on the sign" approach in a new dining experience. So the cheeseburger it was, but the burger was tough and the fries could use salt. Nice people working there though.

All of two picnic tables around back, but being late December no one else was interested, so I sat on both.

Raced the drizzle out of town and headed to Atlanta to cat-sit. They are very emotionally needy cats. It is very odd. They just look on, unphased, when you suggest that cats should be aloof. "Pet me more," the headbutts say. And so you do.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Fridays, fun as they are, are sometimes just a speedbump slowing things down into a four day weekend.

Still coughing as I am, but otherwise better, that's how today felt. Now it is over, nothing of consequence happened and I can move on. That involves a spare bit of cleaning, packing, hemming and hawing.

I'll fill this space instead with the parts of yesterday I absolutely neglected to mention.

First, Alabama is terrible in the Independence Bowl. Joe Kines is brilliant, but won't be retained as the coach. Shame, that. Oklahoma State, one of those "very good" 6-6 teams which means they shouldn't be bowling, managed to hang on and beat Alabama, one of those "shoulda been better" 6-6 teams. All this means there are too many bowl games so bring on the Rose and the Fiesta.

But football was after meeting Stephen at Reed's Bookstore. He was there, the store is near my office, we spent a few minutes looking at comically old things. Stephen found the first book he ever read, same edition even, so he bought that. I found lots of things not to buy. And the one thing I want to buy is still missing. Typical. "Come back and see me tomorrow." Sure thing.

And so that was yesterday.

Today I stopped by Reed's again, finding parking (a small feat given the late hour of the last day of the last week of the year) only to find out he'd forgotten to ask. "Let me send (my co-worker) an Email, which is what I should have done to start with."

Yes. You should have. I'm giving him through next week or I'll take my spending money elsewhere. Don't Make It Difficult To Take My Money. We're approaching that territory here. To be fair they've just begun what has to be the most agonizing move in the history of poorly organized retail and I'm inquiring about a specific 30-year-old book. To be completely fair we're about to start week three of this.

Turns out I'm determined to spend this money and it will burn the figurative hole in the figurative pocket and fall right into someone else's hands.

This wrapped up a four-day week heading into a four-day weekend and is a very small thing. After all, it was a beautiful day today otherwise. The kind that just wants you to put everything else on hold and enjoy beauty, for beauty's sake. I've learned to always oblige this request.

Here's a pretty nifty video comparing the old and new Battlestar Galacticas, which will unfortunately have to do since there's no new episodes until late next month. And since that's a whole year away watch the atmospheric jump again, just to hold you over.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Mom writes in about the oven in my grandmother's kitchen. Go about halfway down here for the first part of this. She says that, actually, the stove and oven were bought for the old house around 1964:
The stove sat immediately to the right of the oven with no space in between, (with) bronze splash tiles (very fancy for that era) around the stove top ... The stove and oven were first class stuff for the time ...

Later, when he built the "new house" in 1972 Mother wanted to keep her oven because it "it browns the meringue on pies so good," so he pulled out the stove and oven and incorporated them into the new house ...

She's been baking in that thing for about 43 years or so ... and it hasn't failed her yet ... Some things just seem made to fit perfectly in one's hand and that old fin knob on her brown oven fits her hand just fine ...
So there you have it. Stop by my grandparents and enjoy something baked in an oven that's been field tested for almost a half century.

Maybe I should let her invite you instead.

I spent my night building a webpage. Ended up building two. One works better than the other just now, which is the way of it I suppose. I should have been doing laundry or something productive that didn't involve a web server, but that is also the way of it.

Low key day all the way around. Quiet in the office, quiet on the home front. I think I spoke actual words to maybe three actual people today. Reminds me of the radio days, sequestered in a little booth and talking to everyone, but seeing maybe one or two people in a full day.

The New York Times had a nice piece on Gerald Ford yesterday. The Man Who Shouldn't Have Been is getting a fitting eulogy, so one of the national radio shows is asking the question, "How will our surviving presidents be remembered in death?" which has basically become a pile on of Jimmy Carter. Ahh, polemic politics and talk radio, you never grow old.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Christmas is over, bring on the spring. Get rid of the bugs, the viruses and the crud and let's see some green stuff in the trees again.

Dear Wachovia: Turn off the Christmas lights on the building.

Tonight, at the outlets (where I found no deals) I heard Feliz Navidad three times. Three different versions, at least two of which were bad and all far too catchy. Almost as bad as the Christmas sketch comedy DVD we watched the other night. Pretty funny stuff except for the couple singing "I'm Getting Nothing for Christmas." That is still stuck in my head, and that was on the 23rd.

I can generally tolerate the overdone Christmas for commercial purposes, especially when it rushes by so quickly, but the uncertainty of what follows can be a long and desolate place. What's next? Grey skies and rain? Blue skies and cold? New Years, the occasional blue sky day and then, finally, the sprint toward spring and St. Patricks Day? At least the flowers will be in bloom by then and we'll only hear Danny Boy once.

Never been a big fan of January and February.

At least there'll be no snow.

There was a moment, this afternoon, when I thought I was growing sickly again. There was a moment, this evening, where I finally felt perfectly fine. That one was the more odd of the two.

New Smithsonian Magazine in hand, I journeyed out for the traditional dinner at Zaxby's. It feels like it is getting colder by the minute, but I'm wandering around half-sick and outdoors anyway. So on the way to my delicious salad I felt half-sick. One of those sounds-worse-than-it-is moments that, compared to a few days ago, makes you feel as spry as possible. But there was a lingering "Blech" in there somewhere. We're now a week into this and I'm beginning to wonder if my voice will ever return to normal.

Order my salad from the cashier lady who seemed a little upset that I wanted mine "For here." It was pushing 9 p.m. and I was the only person in the place. So she had to be miffed when three different groups ambled in after I sat down. Naturally I was happy.

Incidentally, it was the restaurant closed 15 minutes early, once in college, that led to the consumer revolt that is now You Shouldn't Make It This Hard to Spend My Money With You. You don't want my money that bad? Fine. This philosophy, I know, will sweep the free market economies of the world. As soon as I punch up that name a bit.

Anyway, she scowled at me for wanting to dine in, more people followed; she's unhappy, I'm pleased.

And it was here that learned how quickly one can shrink their stomach after 10 days of binging. The answer: Two days. Halfway through the salad I was full and ended up ignoring the last three bites. A salad filled me up.

Only made it through the first few pages of the magazine, including a more or less useless essay on Greensboro, Ala. photography project. The guy, clearly talented, takes the same picture over time? That makes me my photography either brilliant art or makes the people that interpret this stuff are incredibly pretentious. A dilapidated, and finally shuttered barbeque joint has the chief curator of the Smithsonian American Art Museum raving "There's a sense of loss, of coming to a place you've been visiting for years and realizing that something you took as permanent isn't."

That's profound for a barbeque joint. Don't get me wrong, William Christenberry is a fantastic photographer and artist, far better than even my wildest aspirations, but where do I submit my collection to curator Eleanor Harvey? I absolutely admire, and am envious of, Christenberry's talent, (and would love to see his exhibit) but what I really want is a powerful quote from such a well-respected individual as a Smithsonian curator.

We're talking about a barebeque joint, after all. Fine pictures, but really they just make me want some 'que.

Left Zaxby's and stopped by the big box store for thank you cards and a few other items, got in the car and felt absolutely fine. Perfect even. Sinuses clear, voice returned to the normal range, no cough, no raging inferno behind the uvula, nothing. Finally! I'm healed!

Or not. Tomorrow will tell.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Back to it today then. The many of days of travel, being sick and the best one of all -- sickly travel -- have left a stockpile of tedious things to do around the homefront. Straighten up this, unpack this, unload the other thing. There's nothing adventurous there if you've ever lived in a house. Since you're reading this we'll assume you've been fortunate enough to belong to a society that allows for those sorts of chores so I won't babble on about the stacks of presents -- mine and those waiting to be delivered -- or the suitcase or the dishwasher.

I still sound pretty rough today, but I feel a lot better. Maybe this is the road to recovery. May it be so. There are few things more frustrating than the ability to simply breath. And this asphalt treated cheese grater throat experience. Even still, there's a tremendous improvement.

Someone was sick at work today. I hope they didn't catch anything from me, especially after having been so conscientious. I'd much rather be at work than home if I can help it. I could be sick and feel bad here or there, but the call of sick days was too strong, and I was actually wise enough to use them so as to not get anyone else sick over the holiday. At least I hope I was.

Considered taking today off too, just to see if I could stretch this into a full week without work, but I would have been going stir crazy by the afternoon. So to work and then back home. Oh I thought about post-Christmas sales, but thought better. What do I need anyway? I mean besides cleaning, organizing, writing thank you notes and getting a few packages in the mail?

Yeah. So that's pretty much the next several days.

There was also TiVo today, mostly quick things to breeze through or delete outright. It is interesting how this experience works when I leave town for a few days. I look ahead and realize how many programs will be waiting on me when I get back home. Tough life when these are the things you dread, no? Anyway, then nearing the end of my trip there's a small little speck of anticipation, Remember all those things on the EvIl eye's To Do List? You get to watch those now!

Yes, I refer to it as the EvIl eye in my inner monologue.

And then, inevitably, when I settle in to watch it seems there's only a fraction of the things I recall on the To Do List. So, this evening the whole thing was wrapped up, my tributes paid and the compulsive need to free up space satisfied, in about two hours.

Where originally it was taking me several days to wade through a weekend of programming I'm trying really hard to turn this into a Reader's Digest Abridged Version of the Condensed Book on Tape type affair. Synopsis-Conflict-Resolution.

That's how most everything in life with a conflict should be handled. Why drag these things on?

Fun links: Stationery Movies asks you to guess which films are being recreated with stuff you can find in your office. Someone has a lot of free time on their hands to dream this up, more than I do. I got seven on my first quick pass and then resigned myself to being defeated. I don't need to think that hard about staple removers.

It seems lately that every year is the Year of the Penguin. Yetis don't like penguins. They like to hit them with clubs. Play along in a mindlessly addictive game. Supposedly the high score is in the neighborhood of 328. I only reached 305.

If you love music you'll want to see this one. Rob Paravonian says Pachelbel is punk. As true today as it was in the 17th Century. "Pachelbel is following me." Indeed. Linky appreciation: ValkingBlog.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Ho ho ho and Merry Christmas. Here's a biscuit, now get out.

It wasn't exactly like that. Woke up at 6 this morning, thank you grandfather clock. Generally I wake up around this time every morning if I'm still asleep. This is the time to show up for work, and I've never understood why my body chooses to wake me up regularly then rather than the time I normally get up to get ready for work. That would seem a more logical thing, which is probably why my brain stays asleep. But this morning I'm up first.

That never happens here. My grandparents are the "You're sleeping the day away!" variety. Oh they'd let you sleep, but your sleep wouldn't change anything they're doing: brewing coffee, washing dishes, clanging pots and pans. So wake up, because you're sleeping the day away. But, for once, I'm up before anyone. The last time that happened here was, well, probably some Christmas morning when I dashed down the hall to see what Santa brought.

The grandparents were off for at least their third Christmas get together, and I have another half of family to see, so it was an early start in the rain. The forecast though calls for some north Alabama snow flurries after midnight. That should count as a white Christmas. For one, it is Alabama, even the mention of flurries in the weather forecast should be immediately considered a blizzard. Secondly, if I have to hear Christmas music it may as well be considered Christmas; I'll give you today, but Christmas music on the 26th is about as wanted as crinkled up paper on the floor. So, with those two arguments in hand we'll call it a white Christmas. Provided it snows the day after. Or anytime in the next week.

I realized at Thanksgiving that I speed through the little town where my grandparents live. There are a few shops there, maybe something I'd be interested in seeing, but I never pay attention to them. There's always only been the red light, the (now restored) Coke sign, the stop sign and then five miles of country road before the next turn.

But suddenly I see stores. Some of them probably haven't changed in my life. Some of them have been empty for as long as I can remember, but I'm finally peering through some windows. (They're all closed of course, only two of the town's gas stations are staffed today.) There are a couple of antique stores I'll have to visit. At least one has actual old stuff and not just the she-she frou-frou clutter. There is also a disproportionate number of craft type stores here for a town of 1,200 people.

Even smaller is nearby Anderson, population 354, prominently situated on a backroads route to Pulaski, Tennessee.

The road slips down a hill and over a creek into the town. For many years you would be greeted at that creek by a little ice cream shop named after the school's mascot, but now it is a propane park. You'd pass just a few local businesses and then be speeding to the border. For the few seconds your in Anderson, though, there's a lot to see. Well, maybe if you're from around there, otherwise it is just Smalltown, U.S.A.

They put the high school's football field on the main road and the school itself back out of the way. I've always loved that about this town. It is the kind of place that would put up signs proclaiming their local boys turned athletic heroes, but you don't see those signs. So you're left to believe they haven't yet fielded that caliber of athlete, but look at that football field! It just makes you some kind of proud, doesn't it?

Purists would be alarmed to see soccer goals now dotting that grassy stretch of glory.

One place there in town is open. Not a convenience store, but the Anderson General Store. Of the 354 people in this town I'm related to at least a dozen of them and I saw another eight people at the General Store, I should run for mayor. Unfortunately that slight about the football field's position of prominence would be my undoing.

In all seriousness, it was raining so I took no pictures, but thinking about it now I wish I could have done so. I predict a photographic safari in my future. You're counting the days, I can tell.

My grandparents are fine and unchanging, living in a state of constancy that I've come to expect of grandparents in general. You need that in life, keeps one grounded. From here I came, no matter the accomplishment or aspiration. To here I shall return, at least from time to time. They're still fun around the kitchen table, the same kitchen table under the same pine cupboard and trinkets on the shelves -- most of which I, as the oldest grandchild and the only grandson, dutifully contributed. They're still good for hours of conversation and food.

Oh, the smoked ham. You should have just been there. I'm not sure there's ever been one better anywhere. My uncle, he said many times, had a guy smoke it for him on this big truck sized smoker. We heard that story enough that I believe I could smoke one of my own now. The repitition, I finally figured out, only began when someone reached back onto the platter for more. So when another uncle stopped by, he had to try some and the story began again.

My grandmother has a nice collection of miniature houses she puts out for the holidays. She wanted a picture, I wanted to share it. Figured it'd just look nice against the background here, that is all.

Had to head home for work tomorrow, so after the hugs and goodbyes I drove on to meet Fin at Waffle House. (The Christmas tradition continues!) Last year I had a Christmas Day lunch in a Hoover Waffle House that had customers, but was very calm and quiet. Tonight the Waffle House off I-65 in Athens was hopping. There was a waiting list.

Fin and I got sat at the low table -- kids 'til the bitter end it would seem -- sandwiched between a corner booth and a cooler in the cooking area. Waffle House, come for the scattered, smother and covered, stay for the view of the silverware!

The waitress was a frazzled one, but she tried. We ended up staying for about two hours, earning her scorn as she couldn't make any more money off the glorified bench at which we were sitting.

Fin and I talked of wine and women and county jails, but he did not look like Richard Brautigan. (If anyone catches that reference your next waffle is on me.) For the second and third time today I heard Poison's Every Rose Has Its Thorn, telling us all that someone's depressed!

Since we talked of jails for some reason, and since he only offered the mugshot look, I give you Fin's holiday picture. His parents would surely be proud.

We lingered inside since it was raining and cold outside, which got drier, but only colder as I got closer to home. Somewhere just outside of Birmingham I got pulled over. The car directly in front of me stopped for some reason as well. The officer went to talk to that person and then came to tell me that the light that shines on my license plate had died.

It's nice when all the serious criminals are enjoying the holidays or are otherwise incarcerated. That frees up the local law enforcement to politely tell me to go to the auto parts store. Why he wanted to get out of his warm patrol car for that I don't know, but I applauded his dedication.

When I got home there was an Email from a friend of Santa's waiting on me:
Found your shots of Santa practicing over Tybee's beach. Beautiful, thanks for having posted them. He's curious as to if you had any others as he so rarely gets pictures of himself. (By the way, he thought that lens looked impressive.)
Robert runs Valking Blog with a paraglider of his own. He's now in the blogroll and I'll send him some pics for Santa. And hit one of them up for flying lessons.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

There was Christmas Eve church this morning, where a relative of a family friend was baptized. This is one of those old family churches, my aunt and uncle have been going here roughly all my life, so people there know me. And apparently the last time anyone saw me was when I was "this big!"

Not true, of course, I still manage to make it to this church once every few years at least. This just leads me to believe that I was far more memorable as a child than I am now. That's fine, because at 12 I'm sure I thought I ran the place. Also not true, but what did I know? Just what the Bible told me, and whatever basic cable was putting into my brain at the time, nothing more.

That church has changed a lot though. I remember wood panelling vaguely industrial carpet. Now everything is stark white, with few features to distract the eye outside of the aging pews and the new stained glass window above the baptismal. It makes the building feel newer somehow, but changes the perception of a lot of old angles. The far wall seems nearer, the slope into the main room seems slighter, while the slope up into the wings with the classrooms feels more pronounced. The senses, they are a-tilting.

The preacher, a younger guy, had a lime green shirt and a billiard ball tie. I'm accustomed to a kindly older gentleman delivering the sermons there. Some things just take getting used to.

But somethings are just natural, like GrandBonnie's chicken stew lunch. After that we headed on a drug store run, where we met a nice old man giving away a washer and dryer set to anyone who wanted one. He'd ask about it, you'd say yes and he'd reach into his pocket and pull out a clothespin with a washer glued to it. He'd scribbled "Washer & Dryer" on the side along with his name.

It was cute in an endearing way that makes you want to run home and tell everyone else about what you've just seen. I suspect you can run across that sort of attitude anywhere, but it just seems so much a part of that area that anywhere else it would feel out of place. Here are people who can take 11 cents of equipment and a splash of glue to create a story I'll repeat at least four times. Merry Christmas to you, sir.

Later we're at the movies, having agreed to take my cousin, his friend, her sister and a few young hangers-on to see The Pursuit of Happyness:
Formulaic and sappy, but good; an ode to the success of perserverance.
Here's a man laid low by life, who keeps getting up after every failure and rejection. There's a determined self-preservation there, a sense of obligation to his son, but throughout there is persistance. As Calvin Coolidge said, "Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "press on" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race."

That'll be your lecture for the day. Study it, repeat it to yourself often.

Oh, and it turns out the homeless people in the movie were actual homeless people paid California's minimum wage for their work as extras. Shame they didn't pay them scale.

After the movie we went home and I enjoyed a quiet Christmas with Mom. I got lots of nice sweaters, slippers, a gift certificate, a stocking full of goodies and more. Far too much stuff. I wasn't that good this year, Santa told me so.

See? Just after hitting the Christmas Good Boy Restart (opening presents) I'm prowling around the house taking pictures to supply you with something new to see.

For example: I love my grandmother's oven. It has been around since the edge of the beginning of time. I assume this is the original oven in the house that was built somewhere in the 60s. It is a separate oven stove, with the stove sunk into the counter, but the oven hanging inside the wall at eye level about four feet away.

Whatever the point, you also get a nice tropical blast as you walk by the oven when there's food being cooked. You'll feel it right across the sensitive skin on your cheek. Stay to long and you'll singe your ear. The neat things, though, are on the outside.

I'd never noticed the knob on the oven until I was finally tall enough to meet it at eye level. Ever since I've wondered what car lost its tail fin and how no one has ever lost an eye to the thing.

There's a light just above the knob with some writing nearby. Decades of good cooking haven't covered it up, thanks mostly to decades of cleaning, but that surface has seen better days.

It is aged, but it is still the Master Oven, striking fear into the hearts of main entrees everywhere. This is not an oven to be trifled with, for when that nob turns and that light burns red, ding, you're getting cooked something fierce. From the looks of things 350 has gotten the most use, but there's no slowing down this master of the kitchen. Turkey pop-up thermometers beware!

And while you're playing with the Master Oven's center dials, to the left is the Quick Set Timer, a clock with your convenience in mind. Its quick! I have no idea if this feature even works on the old oven now, but I just love the layout. Long lines gesturing out to numbers in a big, confident font. This was an oven that knew it was going to be in the kitchen with you for the long haul.

"You're cooking here lady," the oven seems to say. "Oh sure, you can read the timer from across the kitchen now, but you're going to cook so many meals here that you'll bake all of the nutrients out of carrots that promote good eyesight and you won't know if you're coming or going. But you'll know how much time is left on that casserole!"

Ads were wordier back then.

Me, I've always been a windbag.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

So this morning I woke up, coughed a little, wondered when I'd shake this throat thing, put some clothes in a bag and prepared to shuffle off. This also meant the gathering of presents, several of which were Left Behind. Home Alone, as it were.

If my presents suddenly animated when I stepped outside and had a rousing recreation of a precocious child forgotten by his family -- or contemplating the theological ramifications of post-commercial rapture, or even if they put on a two-act play of Toy Story -- I'm going to be very upset.

Did that while watching the first half of the Birmingham Bowl. Yes, it rolls over to, but for two glorious week in the bowl's illustrious six-month old history it was The Birmingham Bowl (while they sought a title sponsor), that's what the billboard and broadcast ads call it and what the tickets say as well, so it will forever be The Birmingham Bowl to me.

We're going to look back on these as The post-glory Glory Days of the sport in the Football Capitol of the South, you just know it in your shoulder pads. Nothing says renaissance like the number four team from the Big East and the third team from C-USA. South Florida won handily, 24-7 if you were curious enough to wonder, but not enthralled enough to care. Lot of people at Legion Field. More than 30,000 plus I'd say, purely as an estimate ... 32,023 and change was the official number.

It was no All-American/Hall of Fame Bowl.

Drove to north Alabama. Decided to brave Wal-Mart on Saturday, the 23rd. What am I thinking?

My mother called last night, desperate for photographs for an album she was putting together as a Christmas present. No problem I said. I'll upload some and have them printed at the local Wal-Mart and we'll be in fine shape. This worked out great, until the arriving at the store part of the idea. Not too big of a chore, though, as I've adopted the "Park in the first spot you come to regardless of the distance" philosophy because when the parking lots are in gridlock then you'll still beat the sharks circling for the good spot right up front. So in and out with little problem. Exiting that same gridlocked parking lot was a test of physics and engineering.

Finally I made it out, with 15 minutes to travel 28 miles on surface streets. Dinner was at 4:30 sharp and we've learned from experience they don't wait for the stragglers. We learned today that the stragglers don't even get a deviled egg.

I ended up getting two. The oldest of the children, 9, was hoarding. He had at least three deviled eggs on his plate when I found him out, and he was full by then. He gave one to me so he could clean his plate. The second egg was accounted for, but he couldn't get rid of the third. I took it as a gesture of pity. Here he was on Christmas weekend and broken hearted that he couldn't get rid of the eggs to go play.

And the kids they do play. There are three brothers: nine, seven and three years old. They get along great. Every time I see them they play well with one another and are generally well-behaved. There are bad days of course, but when we all get together they have a nice time. Two of them in any combination get along great. All three play well with one another, but put all three together and it turns into a madhouse. Last year I noticed this, and it was there that I realized I wanted no more than two children, strictly for sanity purposes.

This is a Christmas for the kids and for my great-grandmother, so they got all the attention and presents, as it should be. The other draw is the food, hence the no waiting. On the third surface of potluck dishes I ran into an aunt when making my second pass.

"What do you want?"

Less temptation.

She's the dessert aunt, and since I ruined my healthy eating lifestyle last weekend as a birthday celebration, why not continue that for two more days? So I yielded. And that will come back to haunt me; the ghost of Christmas Obesity is such an annoying holiday caller.

More Christmas at GrandBonnie's. Mom got her now annual full spa day. I apparently re-gifted myself despite the many fine presents I got. But the bulk of the presents went to GrandBonnie, as it should be. She had such a big haul she even overlooked some.

Friday, December 22, 2006

I was still awake at 4 this morning, feeling only slightly better but finally feeling tired. Remind me to not take two naps in a day again. I medicated and finally went to bed, intent to give this thing one more day to go away by itself.

By the end of the day I'm feeling much better. Only a slight cough and this persistent burning throat thing. Otherwise I'm all normal after a few hours of early morning sleep followed by another mid-morning nap.

On the subject of naps, someone remind me to never take two in one day again. I didn't care for all the restless tossing and turning last night.

Still have an appetite, I so rarely lose that, and good spirits. Went out to pick up a bite to eat just after everyone got off work and darted to the malls to join everyone else.

I don't understand the people here some times. It is as if we have only the one mall in all of town, and people from all over the region must make their way there. This is no Mecca, but people make their commercial pilgrammages nonetheless. Hoover is a popular place and one to be avoided right now. In a week it will all go away, and it will return to being the fifth or sixth largest city in the state (not bad for a town only half-a-century old) but for now it is threatening to crack the top four.

They have lots of police officers though. I saw an intersection with six cops working. Hoover city officials seem to think their redlights won't work effectively enough during the holiday season. They should be realizing that their streets don't work effectively enough. There are a lot of people, one freeway and two major surface streets. Through these three narrow corridors some 70,000-plus must trickle.

As the SUVs clot the streets arteriosclerosis and road rage are born.

No more rush hours for me, thanks.

(I'm spoiled, I know. Look at my normal work schedule: in at 6 and gone by 3. This traffic stuff is a strange phenomenon.)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

I woke up this morning with a burning throat, a nice cough and no desire to do anything. Called the boss, who graciously gave me the day off. And then, of course, I was wide awake. Feel back asleep at about 8 this morning, and then again in the middle afternoon.

I must not be feeling well if two naps were involved.

In official medical terms this would be called The Crud. I've suffered through worse, and will heal up just fine, but don't want to make Santa or anyone else sick, so I'm going on a self-imposed quarantine.

Worst of all is that I'm now wide awake again thanks to those two naps. Coming along on midnight and I'm sickly self won't do more than rest in the prone position.

Again, I've been worse. Far worse. Mostly I have the throat, the cough, the sinuses -- which are losing thanks to the Sudafed -- and a slight temperature. The worst part of it all is that boxing match feeling, where your body is busy fighting something off so you're vaguely sore in a post-car crash kind of way.

But I'm fine.

And now back to staring at the clock.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

There was a party at work this evening, but I demurred. Originally I was going to go on a self-congratulatory tour of buying a few Christmas presents. Instead I went on a pharmaceutical tour to buy drugs for whatever is bothering me.

Nothing serious: sinuses, throat, cough. I'll be fine, but don't want to get strangers, friends or family sick over the holidays so I'm being low key.

As for the birthday trip, just to revisit, it was terrific. Had a great time, but I feel older already. I didn't write anything on Monday because it seemed obvious and was mostly filled with travel and the logistics of making that happen. We bought some shirts, ran a few errands, had lunch, made a drop off at the airport and got on the road. I drove the Nissan Pathfinder all the way back. I looked like a serious yuppie.

Anyway, such an arbitrarily significant moment in life probably deserves more thorough introspection, but I tend to do that in the last week of the year anyway. So I think maybe I'll combine those later.

For now the Sudafed is calling.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Back to work. Back to the grindstone. I say that like it is horrible when it is anything but. Pleasant atmosphere, nice people, a nice workload, good hours. Never means it is easy to return after several days away though, does it?

Still I found myself looking forward to it on the drive in. If for nothing more to not be in the car. I think it was getting chillier as the morning progressed. But the day passed, the sun rose, slunk to an apex and then slithered away again. I left work to head home and stick my head in the television. Such is life on the first day back from being out of town.

I should probably be Christmas shopping, but the EvIl eye is watching me. Still, I breeze through the TiVo fairly quickly. More Scrubs, one Star Trek and then the mid-season cliffhanger for Battlestar.

After about a half hour in the cliffhanger really began to speed up. The drums beat a faster tempo, the conflicts were pulling up justshy of coming to a head. This is a great episode and thankfully I only have to wait until late January for the series to continue.

I'll say again, I was recently as much as a year or more behind, and now I have to wait seven days or, now, four weeks? There is no justice.

Battlestar is moving to Sundays next year, but the EvIl eye rewards me with automatic recording and it won't affect anything in my life. Technology is great: the best program on teevee moves and you don't even notice, budge or have to alter anything.

Oh, we're getting close to having those slideshows put on the site. And I should have one or two more from this trip to Savannah. I need to look through the family video to see if there is anything mortifying I can also put here. My misguided belief in your fascination with my life continues.

Thousands of people stumble onto my site every month if the stats are to be believed. I make no allusions about it, they all stumble in through Google images looking for graffiti and crickets and a few other images. Hopefully some other random thing keeps them coming back.

I thank you for visiting today, but I have nothing. Come back tomorrow when the profundity continues.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Slept in a bit this morning, driven less by schedules and more by leisure. Had brunch at Huey's Southern Cafe on River Street. It is a New Orleans restaurant through and through. Here I've come to realize that I would now have the ability to enjoy New Orleans. I'm speaking here of pre-Katrina New Orleans, of course. It is hard to enjoy much of New Orleans right about now, I would think, knowing what is going on -- or not -- just a few miles away.

The red beans and rice at Huey's? Delicious. The po' boys are fake, but the beignet is heavenly.

For reasons that escaped me I don't think the waitress got a nice tip. Perhaps she was too casual. New Orleans through and through.

We walked through some more of the squares, visited Marshall House and fretted over whether anyone else was enjoying themselves. Mom was enjoying the weather, Elisabeth was reading the signs, Rick was wandering around, it looked pretty fruitful.

Traipsed through Colonial Cemetery, which opened in 1750 and closed in 1853. Thousands of graves, not all of them within the cemetery's fences. Some of them have just been paved over and people drive over them constantly. Lots of hauntings -- if you're into that sort of thing. Just last night on the ghost tour the guide was telling us of several stories about the graveyard. Perhaps the most spooky story was not about ghosts at all, but about a Halloween fog that hung in the cemetery, but wouldn't pass through the wrought iron fence into the rest of the city. We saw that tonight. It is eerie.

Lots of big Georgia names in that cemetery, lots of historic figures, founders, heroes and infamous scoundrels. One of the more interesting ones, to me, is Archibald Bulloch. He was one of those do-it-all guys of colonial days. In so far as anyone knows he isn't haunting the place.

Those people who are buried outside the current perimeter of the cemetery? Their markers have been moved inside, lining a long brick wall. Savannah really has very little respect for its dead, but it has turned into a cottage industry for the city. The writing on the markers is just beautiful and the dates are simply heartbreaking. There was a big yellow fever outbreak in 1820. The city has faced mass deaths several times over, but there are an awful lot of small graves, infant mortality rates being what they were.

Stopped by Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. I did not wear my BYU shirt and go inside to look around as I did last year. I did that as the pope lay dying. My timing was impeccable, but the self-awareness was not. Couldn't figure out why everyone stared. And when I did it was time to go.

Beautiful building, even the largely overlooked side doors are overdone. Did not go inside this time. Mass was beginning and I didn't want to press my Protestant luck.

Across the street was a yield sign which seemed reasonable enough. We'll just file that under War Eagle Moment, Slightly Odd.

Hit up a few more shops, stopped in a coffee house for root beers. That place had amusing and officially sanctioned restroom graffiti. Everyone should have a stack of these to hand out to people in need. I'm just saying ...

One square was decorated with presents, but no one knew why. Presents in the trees even. We'll blame the artists.

And then, the beach! Where I found a strange flowering plant. I haven't the first clue what it is.

Mom and Rick gave me a new lens for my camera as a birthday present. This sailboat is a good way out, I don't know how far, but that's a 300 milimeter lens which means "a good way out." Not a bad shot though. Thanks for the lens guys! It is also good for my new papparazzi shots, or as I'm know calling them, The Brangelina Photographs.

It is also good for blatantly ripping off The Yankee's pictures.

Look! Up in the air! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's ... Santa Claus? I guess he's making practice runs over Tybee Island. Are the reindeer on strike?

Since we're now on the east coast the sun sets beautifully over ... the condos. That means dinnertime at Uncle Bubba's. Some people like steamed oysters. And then some people - koff Wendy koff - like them a little too much.

I had the crab stuffed flounder. Serviceable, good even, but not as good as Pearl's on Thursday night. The buffalo wings were delicious.

Later: I'm watching the clock. The last minutes of my 20s are slipping away.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Mom gave me another gift this morning, the scrapbook version of This Is Your Life. We all looked through it a bit in the hotel, and then later oohed and aahed over it more over breakfast at Clary's, which is one of the popular settings in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and a must visit for breakfast. You can see a little more about the cafe through that link, but you're here for the cute baby pics.

The first inside page of the scrapbook was really a triptych. Six photographs, three of my mother and I from her wedding in 2002 and three studio portraits from the toddler days. About the style of clothes I can only say it was the 70s. Cute as we were the clothes got better, but my mother couldn't; she was already perfect.

"Back in my day" I'll complain some ages hence "we didn't all wear seatbelts." I didn't even have a car seat, as you can see I was wedged between the bucket seats of the Mustang. I remember that car would later have lap belts in the front, but I believe that was a retrofit.

Never got to drive that car, though it stayed in the family at least through college. That bothered me for about a day.

I talked, yesterday, about finding my first house on Parris Island. Here is a photograph of the yard across the street. If I'd realized it I would have tried to match up a then-and-now photograph, but I can tell you those trees are bigger. About 30 years bigger.

I always wore hats as a child. There are more pictures in here with a cap on my head than without. It is amazing I have a full head of hair. It is going silver -- not gray, silver -- but I'll have it until I'm about 80 if my grandfather is any indication.

See that watch on my mother's hand? Nice little watch, a Timex with a leather strap, gold frame, iridescent brown face with classy white numerals. I still have that in a box in my extra bedroom.

Speaking of things I still have: Here's my first birthday cake. I had several first birthday parties because of family geography, but this one was celebrated in South Carolina. I know this because of the kitchen table, the big circle glass table is in my kitchen now. Those chairs though, white vinyl with arms that protected your ribs and round caster wheels, have been gone for several years. Nothing else brings back a memory, but I like that curtain.

Here's another party at my grandmother's house. My mother's mother. At Thanksgiving I asked them both if they'd ever discussed what she would be called. My grandmother didn't care, but my mother was intent that she would be "Grandmother." As the first grandchild there wasn't a precedent, but my mother would always call her "Grandmother." I would also hear everyone else call her Bonnie, and so the world's first mashup was born. She's GrandBonnie to this day.

That table and the large piece of furniture in the background are still in her dining room. I remember that candelabra and the ceramic Christmas tree (it lit up) and those pictures in the background of my mother and uncle are of course still in her house. Same wood paneling, but the curtains to the right have been replaced with snazzy vertical blinds that hide the breezeway door.

You can't see it in this photograph, but the bow tie I'm wearing is ridiculously huge.

At my other grandparents, on what must have also been a present unwrapping occasion. Not sure who is in the foreground, but I'm loving the paisley.

That rocking chair is still around and I actually remember a few of the toys in the background. That horse whinnied when you flipped the reins over his head. I'm sure I loved that. I must have loved that. Toys that make noise still fascinate me. I remember that yellow ball in the middle-ground. It was a shape trainer. And the Jack-in-the-box probably scared me everytime it popped open. I was a timid child.

But I was curious. We had one of those pistol grip sprayers on the garden hose, and one day I decided to look down the barrel and squeeze. Caught it straight in the eyes. Learn by doing I guess.

My mother and I mugged by a tree at my great-grandparent's. Behind the photographer is a fallout shelter. Just off to the right and out of the frame is a dinner bell and a big carport and storage shed. Across the street and back in the woods is The Old House, where my great-grandfather was born in 1919. That house and a lot of the prominent features of this yard are still in their place. I'll go up there next week and stand by that tree and look up that road to their church and take a great comfort in the stability of it all. Grandparents are good for that.

Here's my father's parents. My grandmother hasn't changed much, though her hair's lighter now. My grandfather looks exactly the same, but a bit heavier. He hasn't been that strong and larger than life in 15 years or so, but this is how I remember him, working in his garden with me always in his way.

So that was then, let's get back to today. That's a great scrapbook, Mom says it is still unfinished, but is an impressive archive already.

After Clary's we went back down to River Street. Despite our visit last night we only saw about half of the tourist magnet. See that building?

Here's a better shot. That's the oldest stone and masonry building in Georgia. Built in 1792, it was used as a ship's chandlery and keeps the theme with shops, a pub and a restaurant today.


On River Street we phoned in and arranged a semi-private ghost tour for later in the night. They weren't running a tour when we wanted, but I talked them into it. I also made late dinner reservations for fine dining at Elizabeth on 37th. Arranged for a private room even. I can do this because I'm a powerful person.

After souvenir and Christmas shopping we walked toward City Market. On the way we saw a poster for The Lady Chablis. Good to know she's still working. You're going to have to look up her site for yourself though.

City Market claims roots back to 1755 but it looks too early and mid-20th Century in architecture and contemporary in use to realize it. Instead of snooping for casual artifacts I worked on my paparazzi technique.


There's a nice Christmas tree in City Market. Nothing imposing, but picturesque amid the shops and the flower wagon and the gazebo. Spare on lights but long on red felt ribbons, it is a good tree for posing. At night and in the distance you can see a big bank building lit up in red and green lights. Christmas carolers will be out this evening. There are nice benches and interesting little shops hawking trinkets, souvenirs, spices, jewelry and more.

It was here, this same time last year when my phone rang and my mother told me about her skydiving adventures. I was mingling in and out of Christmas shops and she's doing wind tunnel skydiving in the Smoky Mountains. I felt 55 that day. That's fine, I don't feel 30 today. Time for that I'm sure, but not today. Still in those Christmas shops though.

Mom's trying on jewelry. It was at the point when she said, "I like this one and this one and ... oh my goodness" when it seemed like a good time to fetch Rick. She didn't buy anything, but they spent the rest of the night bragging on each other.

"If I said I really wanted it he would get it for me," she'd said. He would reply with "But she doesn't spend all my money." I'm paraphrasing, because their syrupy sweetness is not safe for direct quotation.

We stopped at a coffee shop, where Rick and Elisabeth ordered a baklava and offered me some. I don't like baklava, but no one believed me until after they shoved it down my throat. No one believes me. I'm turning 30 and apparently make so many dry-humor jokes that I have no credibility with my family and closest friends. Got a nice hug out of it though.

Is it just me or is watching the taffy making process unchanting? I also don't like taffy, not that I expect anyone to believe me.

The paddle boats which offer tours and dinner packages are all lit up. There was more shopping. On our way back up to the historic squares we ran across Santa.

It was time for dinner at Elizabeth on 37th where the food is just too delicious. I sampled the steak, but enjoyed the bass over quail. We enjoyed a semi-private table upstairs, were waited on hand and foot and I spent most of the dinner time being apprehensive about the price, this, that or the other thing. I do this a lot when I'm left to pick where we eat. I was only a co-conspirator in this one, but I did make the reservation. It could have been tragic, but everything was great. Wear something better than jeans though.

We did the ghost tour, but I'll holding the ghost stories -- there is sound and a few pictures -- until I need the filler.

Friday, December 15, 2006

This morning came far too quickly, and it involved a little more driving. We all piled into the Pathfinder looking for paths to South Carolina. More specifically we were driving to Parris Island and Beaufort. That's where I'm from, though technically I was born in Port Royal ("The birthplace of American civilization" ... "and Kenny!") in the Carolina lowcountry. That's where the naval hospital is, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

We drove onto Parris Island listening to my mother marvel at how things have changed in 30 years, in the most incredulous voice. "This just doesn't look right. That's not supposed to be there." That'd become the joke of the day, but the area has grown, and is in the early stages of a resort town-type boom.

Sidebar: Port Royal was home to the first North American fort, Parris Island the home of the first ship built in the U.S. And then there was me. Two out of three ain't bad, friends.

There was a recruit graduation (India Company, 3rd RTBn.) this morning, so we made sure to make it onto the base for that. My mother tells me I've been to dozens of these, none that I remember. I know as a child I was enamored with saluting and many of the ceremonial things and of course looked up to military uniforms, now I see these new Marines as steady, strong and sure, but above all very young men.

They could be in college, in a pub, following girls or playing ball, but they're standing in a small line of proud warriors. Together they are expert riflemen, trained and willing to perform in a brutal and often thankless line of work. Individually, and fresh out of basic training, they are calling everyone sir. The image cracks only a bit when they're again surrounded by family, where they are expected to be boys, though much of that has been sweat out of them on the island. Now they are men, Marines, headed for more training at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina or other duty stations. Their's is a noble cause, a profound sacrifice. And green has never looked so good.

A colonel comes by and introduces himself to the parents and families members of the graduates within earshot. He's bragging on the Marines, giving this same speech as he works down the aluminum benches. Of every 100 people who apply, the colonel says, 57 will make it to graduation. He then encourages parents to stay proactive while their young Marines are on leave. He had a unit graduate Wednesday before Thanksgiving he says, and then had a phone call over the weekend of a new Marine dying in a car crash. Even in elation and proud memories there are sober moments.

Through the graduation ceremony I find myself thinking about how interesting it would be to go through the training process and write it as a story, or how insightful it would be to do entrance interviews with a battalion and then ask them the same questions three months later as they graduate. There's an academic paper in there.

Some people, koff Elisabeth and Mom koff, can't follow rules, even in a place steeped in discipline. There's a lawyer and a private detective being conspicuous and breaking rules on a military base. Nice going.

We then set out to look for old houses which my mother, despite the many years and changes, found with ease.

This is the house I came home to from the hospital. The little duplex on the right was ours. The porch was not covered in those days, and the carport is new. The structure, I'm told, was designed around World War II and Mom was surprised to find them still standing.

The house is humble, but at the time it was prime real estate. A corner lot meant more yard.

Down the street was my first playground. We sat in the swings and took pictures and Rick took his turn at pushing me in the swings. Pushing an adult in a swing, it turns out, is a little more physical work than pushing a toddler, but he made a terrific video out of the experience.

We went looking for our second house on the base, but it was been demolished and nice new townhouse-like homes are going up at that site. These were apparently nicer homes, so it might seem a surprise to see them fall, but as Elisabeth pointed out, these new homes are on the main stretch of road heading into the base. They will look nice, modern and new.

We toured the base for a while, ending up in the administrative cluster (All the while with Mom saying, "This just doesn't look right at all ... ") to see the bookstore, museum and visitors center. One of the new Marines was showing his father how the rifle scoring worked. Like all Marines this one has learned to be a good shot.

We drove to Port Royal to see the Naval Hospital where I was born. Things have changed there too. The old front is now a hidden side of the building and the prominent entrance didn't exist in the 1970s, but it only took Mom a few moments to get her bearings and point out her hospital room. She narrowed it down to one of two third floor windows. Her room, she says, was either the one you see there whited out or the one just to the left.

How or why anyone remembers these things is sometimes beyond me, but it was an important place after all. We stood there staring up at the bricks with my arm around her shoulder while she told me about holding babies, my grandmother's love of baby feet and calling her father with the good news. He was back home in north Alabama having conducted his son's wedding the night before. Talk about your big weekend, marry your oldest off and wake up a few hours later to a phone call with the news of your first grandchild.

There were more memories to see. Mom wanted to go to Hunting Island to the beach and the lighthouse where she would take me to play almost every day. We walked the beach, I recorded the ocean, and went up into the lighthouse, one of only two all cast-iron lighthouses ever built. This is the only one open to tourists in South Carolina, and you can walk along the platform just under the light (132 feet high) to see the sub-tropic woods, the tan beach or calm seas with playful dolphins dancing just offshore.

We met one of the new Marines on the platform -- there isn't that much else to do around here -- and it is possible that I've never been more proud to shake someone's hand. He takes the whole thing in stride, unsure of what to make of all this. For three months he's been looked down upon and had every detail of his life dictated for him. Today, after an order to dismiss, everyone looks up to the guy. He's on a 10-day leave and then he'll report to Camp Lejeune. From there only the Commandant knows.

This is interesting. Last January I found this picture of the lighthouse in a scrapbook at my house. Today I took this picture. Not quite the same spot, but I was close without even trying.

There are only 167 steps to the top, feel the burn.

We then visited my first church. It was here that I heard my grandfather preach for the first time. The gentleman that owned the land gave it to the church and he'd been delivering sermons there while they were between preachers.

A few weeks after I was born my grandfather walked in through those doors in the back and the church asked him to preach that morning. From inside that wall nearest to the camera he apologized for not being prepared and then deliver his sermon on Psalm 23. He would die, far too young, a few months later in a plane crash. My family took their solace in the last line of that scripture, certain that he was dwelling in the house of the Lord for ever.

I'd never heard that story until I stood in the church's parking lot today.

Driving back toward Savannah we cross two drawbridges and stare into what the Carolinians call day down. We made it back in time to keep our reservation at Lady and Sons. Not just anyone can make reservations at the most hopping restaurant in town, but I know people.

We had the buffet tonight, with fried chicken and low country boil, lumpy mashed potatoes, zucchini casserole and the best lima beans known to man. Our waiter kept us in the desserts and, before long, I had a small crowd of servers gathering around to hear jokes. It was one of their slower nights, and Rick had the video camera out, so I had to ham it up. These things can't be controlled.

We goofed our way through some of the shops on River Street, where many random (and some planned) photographs were taken. Much like the Marine graduation, you'll be seeing more of these guys around here in the near future. They are two of the great performers that we always find on River Street, even the folks liked them, and they'll be the subject of a slideshow on the site eventually.

Oh, and Elisabeth found the best shirt for them. I just had to buy it. We pulled Mom aside, had her close her eyes and put this on, and then didn't allow her to see it until Rick could read it. They both seemed surprised and approving.

When mornings come to fast, days tend to end slowly and leisurely. Any day that ends on River Street is guaranteed to end well.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

This drive to Savannah just gets longer and longer. Makes for a full day.

First this morning there was to be a meeting at Southern Polytechnic State University. The student stood us up, but that just gave me an excuse to get another shirt from an obscure school. Should be hard to top this one, a dark gray number with green letters SPSU in a billboard font.

The rules of the obscure college shirt selection now say no schools with big cities or states in the title, in as plain (and cheap) a shirt as possible. SPSU is proud of their basketball program, and their football team (still undefeated) but my shirt is in homage to the academic institution as a whole.

So then there was a rental car, a Nissan Pathfinder, big hulking thing. It folds out to seven seats, supposedly good gas mileage and it looks like a monster to parallel park. Three cigarette lighter outlets in the front row of seating, for whatever that's worth.

Drives well though, this journey lasted roughly 57 days. I don't remember Macon and Statesboro seemed too far south and only lasted for a moment. Finally we made Savannah, checked into the hotel and picked up Wendy for dinner.

At Pearl's Saltwater Grill you can't get steamed oysters because they don't have a steamer, the waitress said, but there is a section of the menu that says "From the Steamer." She didn't care for that when I pointed that out, but I was smart enough to do that at the end of the meal. The food was delicious, the locals same some of the best seafood around. Great shrimp, I had the crab-stuffed flounder, which was wonderful. The whole place seemed warm and inviting. Amazing what you can do without a steamer in the budget.

By this time the folks were due in. They were scheduled for mid-afternoon, but missed a connection, so they landed just before 10 p.m. Picked them up, all happy and proud and newly on vacation, dropped Wendy off and headed to the hotel.

It is late, but there are preliminary birthday festivities to be had. This requires a trip down to the hotel lobby. And a video camera -- the folks got a new digital video camera recently and are currently taping everything. First I must read a card from Mom and Rick. And then I must read a card from Coco. The dog writes quite well and she has a strong sentence structure, but she flips her H's and her lowercase E's backwards. Takes a while to make sense, especially for an addled mind. She makes up for it by sending along her favorite treats, which I'll no doubt share with her at some point.

Finally there is another present, one that requires preparation and the closing of one's eyes. So I hide my eyes behind the cards and hear a new voice say something about a party. Someone, I figured, has walked into the hotel lobby and quickly figured out what is going on. Peering over the envelopes I see this someone is wearing this get up and I figure they've hired a singing telegram. And then I look through the glasses, staring hard and bleary eyed and --


We guilted her into flying down from North Carolina for a family visit. Everyone conspired against me to get her here. She'd been in her hotel room all afternoon, munching on pizza while we enjoyed seafood, she hid while we waiting for the parents to make their six-hour-late arrival. And then she snuck into the hotel lobby and surprised me.

They all surprised me and it's not even my birthday.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

There is a lot of driving in the near future, and so one fraction of that will be broken up today. A mid-afternoon sprint -- five-day weekend, woohoo! -- to Atlanta. Caught the thin tendrils of early traffic on the way out of Birmingham, sprinted through the upper arm of I-459 and didn't look back until the sun retired for the day around the Georgia state line.

Georgia is doing a lot of roadwork. The Georgia Tech engineers should not be proud of this, nor should they be thrilled by the UGA students they have working on the project. Apparently there is a piecemeal lane-widening underway (Operation Take That Alabama: Three laning our rural west). It is maddening how a simple merge can gridlock a two lane highway for hours. Been there, but not today.

They've chopped off the shoulders on either side, putting in a little extra road, so now you drive on a Cheron's limbs (Let that be a reference you don't get.). The problem is the light tan road of old has a set bump scheme, and now the new, darker, richer, chemically balanced tar recently poured has been smashed to a different lumpiness. More bumps equal happy Georgians, one must infer.

You don't realize this when you're in the traffic of people failing to read signs and change lanes appropriately. On the days when construction is not underway, today for example, one side of the car bumps on the twos and fours and the other side on the ones and threes. Your sudden lack of rhythm is basically shaking the car apart. Thank you GDOT.

So I'm all packed in one bag. I've been working on a method to get as many days or as few days as possible to equal the same amount of space in a rolling bag. An overnight trip? Full bag. Six days of socks and shirts? Same full bag.

It reminds me of a story I read as a child, a hapless wizard could make tremendous things, but always with a quirky catch. The most useful, and thereby almost useless one, was a bag of infinite capacity. You could store armies in this bag. Or crackers, whichever you needed. You could store armies and crackers. And don't forget that army of animal crackers. They could all go into the bag, but you could only withdraw the items in the same order in which you put them in the bag. So if you have a war to fight, you're better off putting the army in last. Unless they are hungry and then you have created a legitimate logistics nightmart. To say nothing of the high-fructose animals now straining to get out of their box, held in only by that familiar white plastic handle.

That wizard, he was a useful one.

So I'm all packed into one bag and the ever present backpack. I really don't need the thing anymore, but it holds my camera nicely. I can shove a few books and a notebook in there. There's aspirin and Band-aids, a microphone and the occasional toiletry item, because it seemed wise at some point. No longer in school it is just something to carry, a coy attempt at maintaining youth.

This trip is, in many ways, about that, so the backpack will likely be on one shoulder and the metaphor and reminiscence will sit on the other, to prevent a staggered shuffling.

Watched the finale of The Biggest Loser, a show I'd vaguely heard of prior to tonight. As these shows go this one wasn't horrible, though Caroline Rhea is considering the definition of the term. I could never watch the show through a season, but the end results are staggering. The concept: overweight people go on a personal odyssey to lose weight, with the biggest loser (har har) by percentage wins big dough.

That money is no doubt put into the every popular "Bon Bons, Now!" fund, but these people are incredibly inspiring. Every person you saw had lost at least 20 percent of their weight. The winner, a guy with high blood pressure, diabetes and rushing past 400 pounds, was being told by doctors to get his affairs in order. Eight months after this show started he's dropped more than half his body weight and looks like a new man in every way. Half!

Truly it is incredible, and a testament to an individual's drive and the motivational skills of the trainers. Results, of course, may vary, but if these folks can do it you should run a few laps and do a few crunches as soon as you get through catching up on my life.

The one place this show could excel would be in incorporating the television audience. They had at-home contestants representing each state, but if they used the viewers they could get a lot more mileage out of this. I said as much aloud and then they made the briefest of passing mentions about it. One of the contestants brought a guy who was so inspired by his efforts that he'd started a weight training program of his own.

NBC, you should take that and run with it. Incorporate this into local programming with a contest within the contest. Feature the biggest losers in each market, bring them into their local studio for a satellite feed and highlight other people who are succeeding at losing. Here knowledge of your neighbors can be empowering.

Also this season's winner should become the host, because he'd whip Subway's Jared Fogle daily. And Caroline Rhea is unfortunately only a few buffets from being a contestant. He's the better face of the show.

Before that, and before a long weekend of eating rich and hearty foods, I woofed down Mexican at one of those upscale yuppie type restaurants. Not the Mexican in the strip mall variety, but the Mexican with the faux seats and American servers variety. There I had the unfortunate loud comment in a suddenly quiet room moment, but it wasn't my fault.

It was actually the fault of someone I've never met, who's name I do not know, who's story I only half believe. But down the memory hole that moment goes, falling into obscurity even before the check was brought to the table. Guacamole is a powerful amnesia inducer.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

There was much TiVo. That bogged me down from returning home this afternoon until about 8 p.m. It was one part fulfilling the overwhelming impulse to watch and delete the accumulating programs, and another part knowing that there will be several days of programming to weed through the next time I fall under the EvIl eye's spell.

Looking at the EvIl one's plans there seems to be a lot of Scrubs on the To Do List. Most of the first run shows I've been watching are taking a holiday hiatus, I've deleted others and have even gotten picky on Star Trek, but there are a few episodes coming up I'll watch once again.

Tonight, for example, I watched Tomorrow is Yesterday. What can I say, I'm a sap for time displacement plots. Especially the silly little things like how one character feels right at home with technology from three hundred years in his future -- the pilot ends up using their equipment like he's an extra -- while a second character is rendered dumbstruck.

Interestingly, IMDB notes this piece of trivia about the episode, "The Enterprise crew intercepts a radio report that the first manned moon shot will take place on Wednesday. Apollo 11 was launched nearly two years after the filming on 16 July 1969, a Wednesday."

Take that moon conspiracy theorists!

My computer and I got more acquainted. I spent the second part of the night cleaning off my mp3 recorder, updating photo directories and trying not to crash Photoshop. Four new Flash or Quicktime presentations are in the pipeline for your eventual viewing pleasure.

Kelly (theme) does far better work on these things than I do, artist that she is, and deserves all the praise for them whenever we get around to knocking them out. I've been doing some of the prepatory work on them for a while and, going back over them now, they still look good. She hasn't even touched them yet, so I know the finished product will be something that makes us happy that you'll be willing to check out yourself. You'll remember the Gettysburg Flash project. That was all Kelly.

Now if only I could become as proficient as her, learn all this stuff myself and find a way to make them timely features ... but that's asking too much I'm sure.

I've offered to pay her for her time, but she's too kind of a friend. She also doesn't realize how many of these sorts of things I have in mind. I should quit for the night now, in fact, before I invent more work for her to do.

More Godiva for you, Kel!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Today is my Tuesday, and hence the week is all muked up in my mind. For the rest of the week I'll be stopping, pulling up short wondering Is this Tuesday or Thursday? Some things can't be helped. On the upside, we are into the holiday season, meaning more slow news days than not. That can be both a positive and a negative, it is all in how you hold your head.

It is the holiday season because Comedy Central bade goodbye to 2006 last night. Watched that this afternoon; Lewis Black did much of his current stand up, Greg Giraldo was clearly trying out some new material -- funny, but not there yet -- and Patton Oswalt is just warming up for 2007 with a great set. They did a Q&A and the whole thing seemed like the most antiseptic stab at a year ending feature you can imagine. Lots of outtakes on the site though.

Redeemed a handful of gift cards tonight. Dinner for two, which ultimately turned into three meals cost 40-something dollars. After the gift cards and a complimentary appetizer I paid nine bucks. Tipping extravangtly, the kid worked hard despite knowing he had a card table, I still got out for 20 bucks.

To celebrate I walked across the parking lot and bought new tennis shoes. It was about that time. I've been nursing a pair of slave-labor Nike's where the thin sole was just falling off the shoe. Couldn't sneak up on anyone, may as well have been sporting flip flops.

So now I have a pair of ultra white Notice Me, Please New Balance sneakers for the next few years. I have other shoes, of course, I'm just averaging a purchase a year now. Far better than as a child, when the Wal-Mart shoes were the only ones in my price range. Shoes that I once, seriously, ran through in one weekend. Bought some on Thursday or Friday and had to replace them on Monday.

My mother could never figure this out, how I could go through shoes so quickly. I was a boy, of course, and reasonably active. Her shoes, however, didn't get destroyed as quickly as mine. She wore heels in those days, and they obviously carried a different function than sneakers. She also had more than one pair at a time. That's the part of the equation she couldn't figure out -- or at least say aloud. Now, with less roughhousing and a pair of shoes for every occasion, they last much longer.

And this line of thought is the reason why you shouldn't stay in a shoe store for too long.

I say hit the clearance rack -- difficult for us big-footed people -- and then work your way back up. One pair on the clearance aisle was also in the general population. Same model, same price, different color scheme. And the all white pair fit better. Very odd. So my feet could have been bedecked in orange and blue, but instead they look like Penn State in a road game.

Alabama Facts: Alabama is indirectly blamed as the place that is spreading cogongrass, which is infesting the southeastern U.S.:
The invader is called cogongrass and "it's even worse than kudzu," said Jean Everett, a College of Charleston biology instructor who discovered three patches last month deep in (Francis Marion National Forest). "This is the plant from hell."

With long emerald-colored leaves that feel like razor blades, the plant also tends to be highly flammable providing fuel for forest fires.

The seeds of cogongrass came from Japan in packing materials and was first seen in Alabama in 1911. It is estimated that it covers as much as 1 million acres in the Southeast.
Cogongrass is moving quickly into our area. Note the 2003 map found on the bottom of this report prepared by Auburn, ACES and the Forest Service. Now look at this 2005 map. If it doesn't come up from the south it may move in from the west, Mississippi is fairly well blanketed. This stuff moves fast, maybe it is worse than kudzu. It claims primarily undermanaged areas, chemically lacing the soil so that other things won't grow, spreading by wind and by human propagation, "Oh, it's so pretty!"

I knew Patterson and Teem during my days at Extension and the University, Faircloth is now on the faculty at UGA. His colleagues have created a whole site dedicated to eradicating the weed.

Kudzu, on the other hand, is still a real and pesky problem. Also from Japan, the precocious vine was displayed as part of a garden. Southern climates were just too favorable and, as history tells us, the government subsidized it as an erosion control effort through the 1940s, only stepping away from the endorsement in 1953.

It did not, however, start in Alabama, no matter what Cartoon Network thinks (great Adult Swim video). A Tuskegee researcher and an Auburn professor/ACES scientist now encourage grazing to keep kudzu at bay. One ecologist has spent a career combatting kudzu and actually found one herbicide that makes it grow faster! Dr. Miller does work in Auburn, but for the Forest Service, and so the Adult Swim video is wrong, but only barely.

Anyway, between kudzu and cogongrass I'll have to remake the Alabama Facts graphic eventually, something in an overbearing green perhaps.

If you're from some other part of the world that doesn't have to deal with stuff that can grow a foot per day, give Jack Anthony a visit. Great photography ... and absolutely a normal view for many people in the southeast.

And try not to have nightmares about the Swamp Thing or Biollante.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

There was a moment, in the stillness of last night, when I didn't think there was sleep to be had. Quiet, dark, but wide awake.

May as well stay up all night, I sighed. I'll have to get up in a few hours anyway.

Approximately .894 seconds after that I was unconscious.

I did have to get up early for the occasional working Sunday. Apparently, my last waking thought carried over through four-and-a-half hours of sleep. Two minutes before the alarm went off I was wide awake. To work then, where I worked on work things. And then home, where I sighed some more, this time at Blogger. At this rate Wordpress will be coming soon.

The Yankee later decided on a movie, so we went to see The Illusionist:
Quietly, Ed Norton and Paul Giamatti deliver; needs a better ending though.
The Usual Suspects ending was overdone here, and a little obvious. Fine period piece though, definitely worth the dollar price.

Made a quick dash through the man mall that is Best Buy and then met Jess for dinner. (Hi Jess!) I've just realized that if you know the staff, and the hostess knows you -- really, how many names does she hear each day, yet she remembers mine? -- and you're having dinner with one of the people that work there you tend to get preferential treatment.

That's the way to do it.

At about 8:30, sitting in the booth and listening to a story about Alaska or the Sasser Worm or something or another I completely and most emphatically hit a wall. I'd enjoy a big bowl of Froot Loops as a late lunch and all the sugar must have chosen that moment to spontaneously evaporate from my blood stream. From then on I looked tired and grouchy, but really just wanted a nap.

Froot Loops. Now there's a brand name that looks silly not on the box. Just not right if it doesn't have those colorful breakfast bites as the O's.

Thus concludes our philosophical insight for a sleepy Sunday.

That's history: The Press-Register does a daily feature pulling out some of the tastier morsels from papers 150, 100 and 50 years ago. Today the Missouri Compromise made its first ominous appearance:
With regard to his opposition to the restoration of the Missouri Compromise and Millard Fillmore: "We sympathize with Col. Walker, to the very bottom peg of our soles, in his doleful jeremiad upon the 'times.' 'Party platforms' are humbugs -- made to be broken. We are as deeply and as painfully impressed with this truth as Col. Walker can be. Our leading men are 'made out of miserably small material.' The President of the United States is a 'miserably small' specimen and Congress is composed of 'miserably small material.' This is greatly to be deplored, and the fact cannot be too frequently or too urgently enforced on the people."
Doleful jeremiad. They just don't write them like that anymore.

The Missouri Compromise, an uneasy truce in the slavery debate, was one cause behind the coming war. This edition of the paper was from 1856. Millard Fillmore was out of office, having succeeded Zachary Taylor, but Fillmore did not win re-election. He supported the Compromise, shifted national policy when he rose to office and was the "miserably small" president. He signed the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, which pushed the Pro-Slavery South a bit too far.

The next guy, Franklin Pierce, fared no better. After being sworn in to office in 1853 he signed the Kansas-Nebraska Act into law in 1854, repealing the Missouri Compromise and the Compromise of 1850. New terroritories could now choose to be free or slave-states. The legislation led to the split of both the Democratic and Know Nothing parties, creating space for the Republican party and, by then, things were spinning out of control.

As for the "humbugs" the paper mentioned, the Democrats chose a platform opposing any further "agitation" over the slavery issue and supporting the Compromise of 1850. As for agitation, and "miserably small" people, the Kansas-Nebraska Act dissolved into pro- and anti-slavery neighbors shooting at one another. Bleeding Kansas was a societal red flag. Everyone was busy fretting over Washington when things were devolving on people's farms.

Pierce started his administration with peace and a bit of prosperity and threw all that way trying to mollify Southern voices, build a railroad and acquire more land for the country. By the time he left office he could claim a bit of peace in Kansas once again, but he'd become a reviled character of history and then drank himself to death. Doleful indeed.

Have a nice night!

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Slept in a little later than I'd hoped this morning. The sun was beaming through the kitchen window as I stared blankly out into the world. Whenever I wake up on the sofa I find myself staring blankly at things. A little television, a little toast and off to work, then.

The new hedge trimmer is a monster. It weighs six pounds, which feels just a smidge over the now discarded model, but it has a 24 inch cutting blade. Twigs and branches a full two feet beyond my wingspan must now tremble in fear.

It also cuts remarkably well. The old hedge trimmer was very useful, it chopped and sawed and mowed things down, but it now seems to have been working a bit on the slow side. This one revs much higher, the leaves and shoots of the bushes fall much faster. Two bushes went swoosh, an ornamental tree offered no resistance to a little pruning. Some unfortunate vines gave up the fight quickly. The last two shrubs, including a tricky holly, were felled in just a few moments.

It was a landscaping blitzkrieg. Some people say that saw red and then can't be held responsible for what happened. I saw green and I mowed it down in a blur of orange handled, double-sided blade chomping action.

The neighbors on either side were working in their yard this morning as well. One was mowing, the other had enlisted a friend for mowing and raking. One of them, I'm certain, stood in his yard and stared at me approvingly. Whether he was nodding approvingly at my new power equipment or stunned at seeing me -- my schedule is off everyone else's by hours -- I'm not sure.

And then I got the ladder out. There was some ivy getting a bit too big for its britches, and the Hedge Hog gave it the stern talking to it needed. This involved climbing entirely too high up the step ladder, stretching out as far as possible and running the trimmer one-handed above my head. So there I was, swinging an electrically-powered blade above my head some 15 feet off the ground. Looking back, I admit, that was rather dumb. At the time there was no other way and Well, the neighbor's out. He'll see me if I fall, so I won't have to lay out here on the cement all day was the prevailing logic.

I know, I know, but the shrubs look great!

And then I got inspired and started raking. Simultaneously the neighbors decided, in unison, to step back their medications a little bit.

I got the worst offenders, mentioned Thursday removed from the yard. There are now two giant swaths of green grass in the yard, framing the rest of the leaves between them and the driveway's cement and the road's old gray asphalt. It looks as if a giant carpenter is in the middle of sizing things up for some work in his shop.

After every part of the torso began to complain, as the sun got high and my time got short, I resolved to chop the rest of the leaves up with the mower another day. It is dark for 14 hours of the day here right now anyway, what is the rush?

There was some need for hustle inside. Company was coming and there was straightening to do. Tidy this, dust that, fold those, spread these and in the name of Martha Stewart's sake Hide that! Went to the grocery store for grocery things and returned with grocery bags to see my company patiently waiting in the driveway.

Justin is in town for the night, having driven down to Tuscaloosa from Gadsden for a soccer coaching clinic. He's crashing tonight and will return to Tuscaloosa tomorrow for Day Two. The Yankee and I gave him the option of dinner choices, operating under the theory that he could choose something he can't get in Gadsden. So he narrowed it down to either Moe's or Panera. How do those poor people in Gadsden get along?

So we went to Panera -- Moe's always seems more like a lunch food -- and sat discussing our favorite topics of bad football, worse movies and his little boy. And then the executive editor of his paper walks by. You can come all the way down to Birmingham, eat dinner 80 miles from your home and you still can't get away from the bosses.

We then went home and giggled over my copy of A Mighty Wind. You've seen a movie enough when you giggle at the lines before they are delivered. Things I learned from this viewing: The Folksmen's album covers were spoofs of The Kingston Trio and John Michael Higgins gets better every viewing. He should be Ned Flanders' long lost brother on The Simpsons.

Short night tonight, I have to work in the morning.

Friday, December 8, 2006

So Rich Rodriguez was coming to Alabama. All the papers said so -- finally the local media could agree on the story -- only at about 2:30 he decided not to. Whoops.

I did an interview with Grant on the Rodriguez arrived story this morning and then set up a podcast for work on the same subject. I was just maybe three minutes from publishing that podcast when the news broke: Alabama gets stood up again. As The Yankee said, "THIS is Alabama football." So the podcast never saw the light of day, instantly it was relegated to the "Lost Files" section, destined for release on a three disc collector's edition set one day ages hence. If even two family members bought that from a distributor it would be considered a success, which basically means no one will ever hear it.

Anyway, if you're interested in hearing what people thought of Rodriguez before he was the most villified man in Alabama football history, you can get the idea with the radio clip.

Later, I'm sitting in the local barbeque house with the old radio mentor, Chadd Scott who has to leave the table mid-sandwich to do a radio hit in Nashville on the very same subject. I've given him grief about not having me on the show he runs now, and we plot and scheme and reminisce and analyze the media in general. Stephen joins us, having also once worked for Chadd -- though only briefly, and not as well as I -- and at the end of our dinner Chadd drives off to his next appointment on his whirlwind trip through town and I'm standing out in the cold talked to Stephen.

So here I am, the Southern boy -- having been left by the guy from Wisconsin who currently works in Connecticut -- outside shivering in the 35 degree temperatures talking to the guy that just spent three years in graduate school in Pennsylvania. It didn't really get cold until he made some mention of it: "And this is as cold as it will get all winter long. He. He. He."

I was really just stalling. There was a trip into Hoover in my near future, and nothing says fun like 5 p.m. Hoover traffic in December. Originally I thought the plan was to meet Chadd later, meaning Hoover earlier, and things would have been fine, but things change and suddenly I must confront the monster at its worst, filled with glaring red and glistening white halogen eyes, the beast that never moves, but only sulks, and still manages to outpace the GDP of many third world nations, simply because of the season.

Hoover I dreaded.

But getting to the Home Depot was easy. It sits right off the flyover. Getting in and out was simple enough. Apparently Home Depot is not the place to shop for Christmas gifts on Friday night. Also no one at Home Depot seemed to want to help. That's their commercial tagline, of course, "You can do it, we can help," but perhaps I just didn't have the proper deer in headlights, wounded puppy look. I knew what I was after and found it easily enough. Breezed through the self-checkout with a big tarp and the 24-inch trimmer that calls itself The Hedge Hog and headed home, expecting big things out of it tomorrow.

And now I'm having trouble with Blogger, staring blankly at Wordpress and chattering away with a handful of people, all of whom are home on a Friday night. My kind of people.

(What follows are the five paragraphs on Battlestar Galactica which you may skip guilt free.)

For the first time in two years (almost to the day) I am completely caught up on Battlestar. Watched the new one tonight just after it aired -- a sentence that would not make sense just 10 years ago -- and am now facing a long week and change of going without. Oh the things I must suffer through: Blogger's broke and there's no Battlestar for a while. Terrible life, I know.

Anyway, tonight found an actually compelling backstory for Kat, one of the Viper pilots who's just there and controversial. Nothing quite like the chip-on-the-soldier character with no reasoning behind it. Turns out she's not who everyone thought. And suddenly she's racked with guilt about that, but only when she's found out. But Starbuck, who put it all together somehow, doesn't go public. Kat, contrite -- but mostly at being caught -- pulls off the heroic end in a high radiation star cloud.

Turns out she was a drug runner, who took up someone else's name in the post-attack confusion. So she's a Bad Person who's been serving well. And there's a boy -- there's always a boy -- and he's mean. And now Kat's dead. Radiation takes all nine lives apparently.

Meanwhile, over on the Cylon Basestar the characters that actually have one more life are intriguing, but only in the briefest appearances. That's probably good in the long term, but we learn that one of the Cylons has been offing herself because she's seeing things in the resurrection process that are mysterious and mystical and alluring. And also the hybrid that runs the Basestar is very aware of Baltar, even moreso than he is. Judging by the preview there should be more on this next week.

Oh and Colonel Saul Tigh returned to duty. This has been a three episode story arc, him returning after having to kill his wife for her treason, but I think there are a lot more compelling ways the character could have gone. Though having Karl Agathon as the executive officer was rather bland. Judging by Tigh's Wikipedia entry there might be a lot more to the characters that I'm missing out on. Add that to the reading list.

For now, though, I'm going to go signify the weekend by falling asleep on the sofa.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

The New York Times does a This Day in History piece each day in their news Email, where they send you hurtling back in time to the front page of an important issue. December 7th is always Pearl Harbor, as it should be.

But they've added to that today with a lot of charts, follow-up coverage and multimedia, which you can find here. Particularly worth seeing is the
audio slide show
featuring a Naval officer's widow and his photographs of the salvage and repair efforts.

Better still is the now uncensored work of Robert Trumbull. Censored for security reasons, he wrote for The Times on the rebuilding of Pearl Harbor over the next year. It is excellent story telling, another one of those examples that should be displayed in journalism school and tells the tale of a largely forgotten story. If you've ever found yourself watching some World War II special on The History Channel, you should read Trumbull.

Do you know what Wal-Mart doesn't have in their lawn and garden center? Lawn and garden stuff. That's right. Christmas comes each year and no one works in their yards because all that can be found at Wal-Mart is garland and tinsel.

So there was no hedge trimmer for me there. Which means going to Hoover (the mecca of Christmas shopping) at rush hour. No thanks. I'll go tomorrow.

So my neighbors, who no doubt stood on approvingly as I started the hedge trimming process yesterday, were likely dismayed at the partial progress they saw today. Tomorrow will be more of the same, I'm sure.

If any of the neighbors happen to stop by and read this, I assure you I'm straightening up the inside of my house. Thanks for your concern, no I'm not dead or ill, I just have a moral objection to leaf collection when half of the oak tree leaves are still a part of the trees. There will be a day, yes, when I regret that philosophy, but only one day.

The leaves actually aren't too bad. There's one stand of trees on the property line and the leaves seem to swirl and stick and fall back to the earth, exhausted right under the trees. Their slightly more ambitious brethren will make it down into the yard toward the drive, but they are far fewer in number. The day will soon be here that the lawnmower chops them all up, but that day is not today.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Turns out that I am psychic. I also saw that coming.

I'm out in the yard this afternoon, trimming away at the hedges -- three down, five and a fraction to go -- when the thought crosses my mind that one of these days I'll have to replace this old hedge trimmer. It is a nice tool, green and black and not so overly concerned with my safety to have a lot of orange on it. One little piece of plastic resembling a sword's tsuba, a big handle that always reminds me of some over-the-top Rambo M-60 scene. Plugs into the house for juice. Electricity to convince the shrubs they really should be shorter and more well-kempt, thank you, that's what we're looking for.

So I was trimming one of the bushes against the front of the house thinking that, one day, I'll have to replace this thing. A few whines, a few odd catches and an odd sickly cotton candy smell later I realize smoke is coming from the trimmer. It works again for a while, I got most of that bush done at least, before it quit altogether. Had to snap a few off by hand, just for symmetry's sake, but now I'm on the market for a new trimmer. Shame too, this one has probably been around for the better part of two decades. It is a molded plastic, proudly bearing the disposable confidence of the late 1980s or early 1990s.

Looking at the online inventory at Wal-Mart and Sears it seems the technology hasn't changed that much. Not really surprising, it is not as if the shrubbery has evolved to defeat our machinery's hungry chomping of twigs and leaves.

So there will be some lawn and garden shopping tomorrow. I'll be sure to Shop Smart, Shop S-Mart. Yeah, I watched Army of Darkness last night. I love that movie.

Tonight I watched The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell, which is a dramatization of a very real moment in American military history. I wanted to see it again for historical tidbits, of course, but got caught up in the acting. Everyone is bad, lousy even, and that drags Gary Cooper down with them. This feels more like a read-through than a cinematic performance and --


I then fell asleep on the sofa for an hour.

Did a little computer work, cleaned the EvIl off something good and now find myself watching Bulletproof Monk. I've seen the beginning of this movie about six times now and the predictable end once or twice and remain amused by Yun-Fat Chow. He is the modern and Asian reincarnation of Robert Mitchum: detached, bemused and probably shooting a better movie a few sets down the street, "But sure, I can hang out here for a few minutes." Now I'm intent, approaching midnight, to see the middle.

Kind of wish I'd let that one stay a mystery.

Fun links: Wads sent this one, simply titled Tommy's Thumb. The beginning and the ending are good. The middle is football highlights, just a few weeks ago, but already feels like history.

A movie I would not see, based on this trailer, but here's Mary Poppins as a horror film.

I loved that movie as a child -- who, of a certain age, didn't? -- but watching the footage there, despite the different context, I have a feeling it would stink the television room up today.

Speaking of old television, Jeff Moore, and I remembered old television after discussing our first web pages: mine had a big red beveled button, very chic in 1996, his had the Knight Rider light bar as a horizontal rule. Obviously a fan of the show -- who, of a certain age, wasn't? -- he watched an episode recently and said he almost cried at seeing the poor quality of the show now. I think I nearly cried too, the last time I saw an episode, but from laughter. Anyway, Jeff offered this site. Got a replica KIT car? That's the place for you.

I just thought the General Lee people were bad.

Jeff is a new addition to the blogroll, along with Rush Montgomery and Todd Jones. Jeff and Rush joined me for a podcast a few weeks ago on video game consoles, you might recall. Todd was on a podcast last week about replacing Mike Shula at Alabama. Nice guys all, with varying blog interests. Give them a read, won't you?

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

I went to Jim Reed's Bookstore today. Pawed over some magazines and things that might have some re-sell value on Ebay. I also looked through his old photographs and all of this made me realize: the really is overcharging.

I like Mr. Reed's store, but my interest might have peaked. It is old and creeky and meanders around the building in a very happenstance way. In the summer it is too hot. In the winter it offers two climates, and only one of them smells vaguely of kerosene. He's a nice guy, very personable and still running the till himself, to word off boredom I believe. But still, he's asking an awful lot for stuff he dug out of cellars and attics.

There's an undeniable sense of history to the place. You can stumble on ... Birminghamcana in just a few normal strides. It smells of old books and it has the dustiness of deteriorating paper. For the prowling, pilfering, playful personality it is a playground. I rarely buy anything from the guy though.

This, I think, would be the third time. His store is just down the street from the office, so we visit frequently -- his is the place where you can pace the same floorboards over and over and see different things each time -- but the prices always keep things in the store rather than in my home. Old books, magazines, papers, a taxi cab door, old metal mailboxes, heavy tube radios, random junk basically. These are the things that you'd buy and then proudly display in your basement, but not at his prices.

Estate sales here I come!

I did get two old magazines. I'm thinking way out ahead of myself here. If I can just not ruin them for a while they might be neat at a later date. The magazines were old, though, far older than this 1993 AT&T ad. That's from James Joyner's blog, where he notes "The old saying that the future ain’t what it used to be proves not to be applicable."

That should make these magazines interesting and that's all I can say for now.

Cryptic messages add to the intrigue of the place you understand.

I've been holding out on you. Perhaps because it hasn't yet felt like Christmas. I thought the cold might help, but this just leaves feelings of frailty and a general helplessness. Maybe some ornaments will help.

Because you all turn to me for guidance in this, I know. And because you're waiting for my signal to decorate. If you're waiting on the high sign from over here then you'll be the grinchiest grinch since the the grinch.

Have a tree ornament anyway. Have another.

On the way home from Mr. Reed's store the moon was out and just the right height as I drove into my neighborhood. So I got out of the car and no doubt alarmed the nice folks that live at the assisted living home nearby. But the moon, it was so full!

I'm not sure why my moon photographs turn out like that. I'm trying pretty much every manual and automatic setting I can think of and am using most every trick I can make up, but that is how they turn out. We should study this.

(That's your cue for another irregular installment of "An Unintended Journey With Kenny.")

To be as painless as possible, we'll just visit this one site. To sum up Andrzej Wrotniak, bigger lenses, more glass and some post production work.

This was the night's best effort to capture the moon. I would have stayed longer, but it was yellow and the night was too cold to be futzing around with the camera.

Denny Crane then. He hasn't said that in a while, come to think of it. "Denny Crane." A name that evokes passions, victories in court and stirs women. I wonder what the reasoning behind that might be.

Meanwhile Alan Shore had to represent two white supremacists, Denny had a case dealing with anorexia. Brad Chase and Jeffrey Coho had to sue God, a cellphone company settled out of court, so that worked out well.

If anyone does ever pull God into court and the Metatron has to testify that it is in the person of Alan Rickman.

Shirley Schmidt wore a bunny costume, that was great. No odd Lincoln this time. Jerry did show up, but only briefly, as did Delta Burke's character -- I think we're all ready for that story arc to disappear -- and Clarice, the cross-dressing black man. Everyone likes Clarence better, and he has a job with the firm now. Alan and Denny had a tiff, but it was cleaned up in time for the epilogue, which reminds me, what happened to the crazy woman that was eavesdropping two episodes ago? She's just disappeared. The fan site makes note that the supremacists storyline was intended for a different episode, so perhaps she got lost in the shuffle. That'd be a shame; we've lost someone that hear's voices but have kept Delta Burke.

This one was better than the last few efforts, but still not on par with where the show has previously peaked, and we're now into the reruns.

Monday, December 4, 2006

After work today I dropped off the Angel Tree gifts and said hello to the manager of the restaurant. We'd talked the previous week about how the tree had stayed alone it its corner with people barely looking at it. There'd been a lot of Angels on that tree, we took a chunk off, which must have speed the process up a bit. The temperatures have dipped since then and everywhere is playing Christmas music now, so the spirit of the season is starting to take over. Today there were far fewer Angels on the tree and a big stack of toys next to it, waiting for the Salvation Army to pick up.

You should make them leave three or four so people get the idea I said.

Whether he was relieved that we'd pulled 10 of them down -- he kept thanking me over and over -- or because I'd just stumbled on an idea for him he insisted on giving me free meal tickets. Couldn't avoid it, couldn't get out the door fast enough. Taking a peppermint from the basket with the flip, I will take one of these line wasn't enough. So dinner's on them next time.

Dropped off Brooke and Stephen's potential Christmas card photographs on the way home. Finally made it to the house to sit in a dark room quiet and still to catch up on the latest offerings from the EvIl eye and fell asleep mid-TiVo. We should interpret that as a "stop recording this program" moment.

I have deleted several things from the Season Pass manager. You care about none of this, I know, but I have to brag on myself here. The EvIl eye has been left to its own devices since Wednesday night and I was completely caught up before 7 p.m. this evening. I must be getting better at this. My lament has been heard! I'm taking my life back from the TiVo!

But not before Battlestar. Another placeholder episode. It added some backstory, Starbuck and Apollo? Noooo! Didn't see that one coming from the pilot episode. There are a lot of twist in this series, some so capricious they seemed obscenely improbably. This, this on the other hand was a given. Unlike in most series where two primary characters have a romantic history in their backstory or develop it as a story arc, this is something we've always seen as an underlying tension. It was during the break between seasons two and three that this bubbled into something worth grimacing over.

As per usual, alcohol kills Jiminy Crickets.

Interestingly enough, if you do an image search on Google for just Jiminy you find me at number eight. I get lots of hits because of that little cartoon, and all because of a chat two years ago.

Grocery shopping is inevitable. Though it seems even sillier when it is this cold out. This is hardly as bad as elsewhere, but when you get down to around 28 degrees you've really ruined the opportunity for outdoor excursions.

That did not stop the lady who peaked just after high school and is still living the dream. The dream of big fluffed hair peroxided to the last follicle. It was 7:30 on a Monday in a grocery store, but she must have started the struggled to put those pants on at least an hour before she made it to the canned goods.

That long slow walk down an otherwise empty aisle gave us plenty of time to make eye contact, assure we weren't blindly driving our carts into one another and then deliver a non-threatening expression on our faces. By the time we met I'd been studying her face for hours -- this must be a Kubrick film -- and I wanted to start her in a conversation that is best left to smoky dinners where brutal honesty replaces composure, but when we finally passed I could see that she'd had a rough go of it.

For a while I wondered if I knew her, something about that face seemed familiar. Probably not, people recognize me long before I remember them. I may have more than my share of the world's trivia locked away in my mind, but I couldn't tell you anything about 99 percent of the people I went to high school with anymore. So I don't know who she was, but that was soon replaced by the drama of Things Not Stocked.

Considering this day started with a moment of panic in the middle of nowhere -- My keys! Crap! Oh, there they are. Whew. -- and ended with finding a grocery replacement as the only worry we'll call it a win.

Or, as I said this morning when I found my keys, Going to be my kind of day.

I'm a lucky guy like that.

Fun links: We haven't done a recut in a while, and for good reason, but this one launches itself toward the top of the list. Office Space, as a horror film

Brian sent the prequel to Jack's Very Bad Day Number Six. In retrospect, calling it 24 was probably a lot better. Punchy is good. In the sequel at least five people die and none of them are killed by Jack Bauer. Clearly he's starving in this Chinese prison and he could really go for some Moo Goo Gai Pan!

Speaking of Brian ... last Christmas I completely mucked up his gifts for his wife (at least two of them) by speaking out of turn and writing things here when I wasn't aware she was reading the blog. There was some sort of lotion and then a huge DVD fiasco, in which he was getting for her the same thing she was getting for him which was also the thing I was getting for them. So we all ended up with copies of Firefly. This year I'm getting something for Taylor, not telling anyone and that will be the end of it.

But I can't keep this in. Elizabeth? I know what you're getting for Christmas this year.

Secrets I can keep. Christmas presents? No chance.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

I woke up. I did as little as possible today. Hot chocolate for breakfast. There was a mid-afternoon nap during a Star Wars movie and a little football in the evening. A late lunch, some faux reading, grilled steak and twice-baked potato for dinner. Preparing the presents for the Angel Tree.

I decided I would have played with at least four of the presents at the appropriate age, and perhaps two of them much later. I'll take them to the drop off point tomorrow afternoon, playing Santa Claus with a half dozen plastic bags.

Hopefully the kids will like the toys as much as I do. I should have put a call back number on them just in case. Oh you didn't like the helicopter and hovercraft set? Well I'll just swap it out and since you have it opened anyway ... Don't mind if I do.

I'm pushing 30, but the imagination is still stuck at about 12. That, I think, is why kids love me: the willingness to be their jester. I could be the poor man's Great Zucchini:
On the floor in front of us, the kids -- 2-, 3- and 4-year-olds -- were convulsed in laughter. Literally. They were rolling on the carpeted floor, holding their tummies, mouths agape, little teeth jubilantly bared, squealing with abandon. In the vernacular of stand-up, the Great Zucchini was killing. Among his victims was Trey, who, as promised, had indeed been re-transitioned into his own party.

The show lasted 35 minutes, and when it was over, an initially skeptical Don Cox forked over a check without complaint. The fee was $300. It was the first of four shows the Great Zucchini would do that Saturday, each at the same price. The following day, there were four more. This was a typical weekend.

Do the math, if you can handle the results. This unmarried, 35-year-old community college dropout makes more than $100,000 a year, with a two-day workweek. Not bad for a complete idiot.
I read that story last January, after James Lileks suggested it be taught in journalism schools, and thought Yeah, I could do that.

And by "that" I mean the running children's parties part, not the living a vacant life with a gambling problem part.
After the peekaboo age, but before the age of such sophisticated understanding, dwells the preschooler. His sense of humor is more than infantile but less than truly perceptive. He comprehends irony but not sarcasm. He lacks knowledge but not feeling. The central fact of his world -- and the central terror to be overcome -- is his own powerlessness. This is where the Great Zucchini works his magic.

The Great Zucchini actually does magic tricks, but they are mostly dime-store novelty gags -- false thumbs to hide a handkerchief, magic dust that turns water to gel -- accompanied by sleight of hand so primitive your average 8-year-old would suss it out in an instant. That's one reason he has fashioned himself a specialist in ages 2 to 6. He behaves like no adult in these preschoolers' world, making himself the dimwitted victim of every gag. He thinks a banana is a telephone, and answers it. He can't find the birthday boy when the birthday boy is standing right behind him. Every kid in the room is smarter than the Great Zucchini; he gives them that power over their anxieties.
I come from the school of thought that kids say not only the darndest things, but the most brilliant and powerfully observant things too, so in a sense they're smart in my eyes, just as the Great Zucchini allows them to be.

Maybe that's why I'm the one that is sore after playing a bowling game with a three-year-old yesterday. She had the good sense to keep saying "I'll be the bowler and you be the pin." She said it after each turn, so there would be no confusion, no equivocation, no opportunity for me to say Now you fall down! She toppled over one time, and it was then that we all realized she hadsn't yet learned how to safely fall and protect her head.

I fell over time and time again and, on one of those times, we realized that I have apparently forgotten how to safely fall. And that is why my hip, the anterior superior spine, is hurting today. Some floors don't give much.

But I'm padding, which is what I wish that floor had.

There's nothing really new for today, by design. It was everything the day should have been, and that was wonderful, too.

Saturday, December 2, 2006

I wore a black turtleneck and German leather shoes around the small town. Looking, no doubt out of place by myself. So spry! So young! So hopelessly dressed for a yuppie Saturday!

Yes, my shoes are German leather. I prefer more of a German Nationalist footwear than a corrupt and tottering Italian fascism. The German type is also cheaper, despite being some 200 miles further to my east. Perhaps it is the boot of Italy that dictate's prices. God's original branding kicks in and limits what I walk around in because Italy is shaped like a boot. "Catarina, we look like footwear, let's charge more, capiche? And then we'll have some more wine and pasta."

Hey, I was the stranger in a strange town in a turtleneck today, I can draw stereotypes too.

Two antique stores today. One was slightly antique-y, the other was more 'furniture boutique' which holds no use for me. So that was less than an hour this morning. After that was Christmas shopping. Picked up 10 Salvation Army Angel Tree kids this year. The system has changed. Previously you would fill up a sack with toys for the choosen child. Now, I'm told, you get the one gift per angel and then they're all grouped together later. So last weekend I was on the adoption market, and today I've bought them presents in preparation of giving the little rugrats back on Monday.

Five girls, five boys. The girls got make-ups and My Little Pony and Care Bears. The boys got Matchbox cars, a push cart for a toddler and action sets -- one had a jeep and another a hovercraft and helicopter -- and a flying Superman that vomits red discs from his pectoral muscles. That Superman, he's a great one to invite to your parties.

I considered the idea of getting the Darth Vader voice changing mask. And then, judging by the reaction of two kids who came down the aisle as I played with it I considered getting it for myself. The pre-recorded voice was great, but you couldn't really get to the microphone through the packaging for a store test. Also, the breathing sounded a bit much. James Earl Jones on a respirator making an obscene phone call too much.

"Leia *sssschhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh* What are you wearing?"

Only slightly disturbing.

The Yankee and I had plenty of time to watch football, including Wake Forest bore everyone silly with a smallish victory over Georgia Tech. Wake Forest is going to the Orange Bowl and they'll play Rutgers, we later learned, parity has turned the world on its plastic helmeted head.

Mary, Rich and Sydney came by for a visit. Syd now spells her name to the Mickey Mouse Club theme. That was just the coolest thing ever, and when I counted the letters in her last name and the letters in my last name it was instantly obvious that if I were to ever have children one would have a six-letter first name too.

Yes, kids for my amusement. Is there some other point?

Sydney had on her Christmas outfit, smashing red velour and sequins, but did not like the name Sydney Claus. I worked really hard on that and was upset that it didn't stick. She wears me out bowling, though. I'm the pin. After about six full frames pulling myself up gets a little bit slower. Her mother says I can tell her 'No,' but the child is working on a perfect game here. And then she throws one down the gutter in the eighth frame. Terrible luck, really.

She also planted her face into the carpet and it was all my fault and I feel terrible about it. She ran to leap on the big ball and I rolled it forward and just the wrong time and she caught air and gravity. On the ground her body shook as if she were giggling, but then the whimpering came and we all realized we were laughing at the child in pain. It was terrible.

Joe's Crab Shack for dinner. Ice cream to follow that. Sat up to watch the thrilling conclusion of SEC football for the year. Florida exceeded my expectations and should go on to play for the national championship. There's something to sleep on. Better than wardrobe decisions.

Friday, December 1, 2006

Today was company meeting day. We all gather together once a quarter and brag on one another. There is usually much bragging to do; there are many fine people in our office doing good work. Sometimes I wonder why they let the rest of us inside.

We are also going over site traffic. I think I'll be asking my friends in the statehouse to support legislation saying that Alabama has to fire their football coach every other year. Just wow. The internal numbers are just that, but on the big screen in the meeting this morning there was a definite shift. Suffice it to say that the Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving were big days, record-setting type days with the Iron Bowl fallout, Mike Shula speculation and the terrible bus crash in Huntsville.

That Tuesday the site did a huge number. This week, we're dwarfing that number. Making it look insignificant. All because Alabama is shopping for yet another head coach. Thanks Bama.

So the folks here are proud, of the site, not the firing. They should be proud (possibly of both?) and so the morning meeting was good. Everyone was happy and that, along with the prospect of a Christmas lunch, made the meeting move swiftly.

The company is having lunch at John's City Dinner. I hear it is great. Didn't go, volunteered to stay back and man the fort. You never know when a new coach will be hired, but if you aren't in the office you're guaranteeing it. By my staying we've now successfully put off the event until Monday at least.

I did get leftovers. The boss took pity and brought me a lunch. Salad, grilled pork chop with potatoes and green beans, Chicago-style cheesecake. The beans tasted green and the potatoes tasted vaguely of the pork chop and that's not a bad thing. Delish.

For Pie Day the waitress was a bit ... slow, but we parlayed that into a heaping basket of biscuits. When we get Ward he only brings the half-dozen basket. Now he'll have to step it up. Ate too much. Again. Brought home leftovers for tomorrow though. For a change I thought ahead to "leave some room for pie."

November scurried out and December said, "I'm here, now what?" Wind gusts around 50 miles per hour last night. Rain throwing itself to the ground. Throwing, not falling. It was 72 in the middle of the night mere moments before the bottom was to fall out of everything. We feared storms and a few flittered across well to the north of town, but the rush of wind and the crunch of already frazzled leaves seemed to be the extent of it. Good news: Most of the oaks are now denuded. Bad news: Oaks are terrible litter bugs that refuse to pick up after themselves.

So that's pretty much next week.

Website notes: I mentioned the coaching podcast, but there are some other new things this week as well. I started a Family Stories page where I plan to continue accumulating quality anecdotes for posterity. Also recorded forever -- and posted timely for a change! -- are November in pictures. What a beautiful month it was.