Kenny Smith | blog

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

February is going away like an old friend, one that leaves you so warm and happy you don't really realize they're leaving. And so soon, too.

Flowers are coming out. Some of the ornamentals planted along the interstate are in a full and furious pink bloom. Yellow tulips are ready to spring forth in my yard.

The grass will need to be cut soon.

Fell asleep on the floor watching TiVo. The EvIl eye numbed me into something slightly less than semi-consciousness this afternoon and then the phone rang. I did not recognize the number and, so, in my sleepy state answered the phone.

An old professor returning a new call. Very nice to catch up and nothing worth mentioning here, really. Just a chat. A chat that woke me up.

Take that EvIl eye! I have reinforcements!

Also got a call from a friend this afternoon. Got invited to a party, but unfortunately I can't go. Nice to know I'm still hip enough to be considered. Turns out one only has to be funny and this young friend thinks I have that in spades. Young family friends are so impressionable like that. Yes, I hung the moon. Not only did I do it, I throw it up there every night, just for you kiddo.

Spent a little portion of the evening staring at the television -- programs go so slow without the EvIl eye. You mean this lasts an hour!? I said to the empty room about 34 minutes into Jericho. So, yeah, I've become that much of a technologically-enabled snob.

Have you been to the Newspaper page yet? Added a few more front pages there. Start at the beginning or, if you're up to pace in the series go here. Two new pages there for you to enjoy.

Otherwise I've spent a little bit of the evening playing on the site and getting everything almost perfectly up to speed and approaching presentable.

Speaking of which, did you see the new treat on the Audio/Video page? If you haven't found that yet you just might like it, but then I'm partial.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Today has been one of those days that really just got away from me. Not sure where it went. Made it home on time, went through the normal routine of the afternoon. Stared out the window and made a mental note of how the days are stretching and getting warmer.

Watched the Sunday episode of Battlestar Galactica. It was another character developer. No weapons, no bad guys, just nice inter-personal conflict in age-old forms easily cast as a proletariat versus not-quiet-bourgeoisie/not-quiet-feudal-lords.

They've really created an interesting society, originating from something we'd understand as a television audience and then stirred into this confusion by the circumstances that drive the series. There's a lot of interesting ground that could be explored here, but it would be best for the series if it were not.

Why not? This is character-driven television, why can't this evolving society and conflict be a good program?

For one, there's the issue of it being a television show. Many of these issues would have to be resolved in one hour blocks, leaving to unsatisfying conclusions to nicely gripping builds. This episode, for instance, does all the right things. We have the middle class military guy realizing he's really a blue collar knuckle dragger, the hard labor problems portrayed by a vitally necessary fuel product and a difficult process to produce it, the military/governmental establishment and the protaganist -- though I think they're painting Gaius Baltar into a corner, as a character, with his newfound dogma. There are heavy issues to explore, but one mustn't delve too deeply. We've only got 40 minutes to set the stage and Cosby-up the ending. Sure enough, by the end of the episode labor and government are meeting and smiling. Of like minds, at peace and at one with each other.

Secondarily, this show, like all the programming in the world, is reflective of a few different contemporary issues. Wholesale societal evolution isn't the jumping off point they want.

Finally, these folks have to survive and reach their goal one day. Right? Some of them at least. The drama is in the getting there, of course, and the question of that resolution has forever been the crux of this series. Just for a moment, when it looked like Adama might actually put Cally up against a wall and shoot her for mutiny, was some extremely powerful tension.

Which brings us to the next point, maybe some of the secondary characters should fall away from time to time. I was considering this earlier; think about it, on 24 secondary characters will be killed. You've grown to accept that at this point into the series, but these are beloved creations that people have invested into emotionally and suddenly they're removed in shocking fashion. Nothing like that ever happens on CSI, House, Star Trek or really any series you'd like to consider. There are surely exceptions, of course, but what I'm getting at is that this is the series to utilize that tool.

Sure the bad, evil robots killed off 12 worlds -- just 12? ha! -- but those are numbers in the abstract. Three seasons in people are tied to the regulars. Starbuck, Apollo and the like can't just disappear. If they do it would be a big thing, but even big things are a bit predictable. When Adama got shot as a cliffhanger going into the second season years of television training told you what would ultimately happen with that story arc. These secondary characters, though, they can help move the story along, give the primaries necessary interaction, depth and grit. And they can display the ultimately fraility of humanity by the occasional and shocking demise.

There's 49,000 other people in this little fleet. Finite, but enough. Over the course of the series the writers could create as many new folks as necessary to tell the story, get the audience attached to their plight and so on.

I wrote all of that with no coherent end, so we'll call it more stream of consciousness than anything. More so, even, that normally appears in this space. (Occasionally, there actually is a plan.) There's no real hook to end this train of thought, no clever joke or tidy little bow. And I don't mean it to be critical of what remains a great, great show. There's just a lot of upside, I think. I do know, however, that the one thing that has disappeared from the show is the "Oh my" of the pilot when the Cylons were laying waste to a dozen worlds. Now all of this seems germane, but achievable. It has settled into a television show where it was -- and can be -- shockingly emotional theater.

Later. I left home for a meal, a read and groceries. Steak, thank you very much. No one was at the grocery store, it was almost closing time and nothing of interest happened. There were maybe half a dozen guys shopping, only one woman. So, guys, if you're playing the field, get to the grocery store a little bit earlier.

Picking up the last of my few items I thought Hey, I feel awake and full of energy! I'm going to go home and do a lot of productive things! It was just before 10 p.m., hence the enthusiasm. Now, though, home again, the energy has gone. I put away the grocerys, toyed with a few very small household tasks and am considering that old saw about putting off until tomorrow what I can avoid tonight.

The only difference, as far as I can tell, is one of fluorescent and incandescent lightning and the 10 miles of darkness in between.

Instead of being productive, I'm watching this video that Stephen sent in. Apropos of nothing, but it is an interesting, if slanted, view. Stephen writes, "This song should show that you can be optimistic about anything if you try hard enough and get really really sarcastic." That pretty much nails it, but when the time comes I hope it is nothing like this.

Goooooodnight everybody.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Television day almost started, for you, with another rambling four or six paragraphs of Star Trek miscellany. Watched one episode this afternoon, thought it out and considered, I could get five or more paragraphs out of this ... but why?

So, if you're wanting to know anyway, here's the short version: Squire of Gothos was the episode. William Campbell played the protaganist, Trelane. One of the books -- why must I know these things? -- later had Trelane as being a Q child. Campbell, also in the original series, portrayed Koloth in The Trouble with Tribbles. He would later reprise the role in Deep Space Nine. But how can the two versions of Koloth be so radically different? Star Trek writers would develop a backstory to cover the practical 1960s issue of makeup costs: The Augments> pretty cool actually. Anyway, William Campbell gets around. Here a Q, there a Klingon. Speaking of Q, though, Wil Wheaton just wrote about one of the Q episodes.

By the way, William Campbell has a Bacon number of two.

And remember, I just spared you four or five more paragraphs on just this subject.

I watched a History Channel special on the 40th anniversary of Star Trek. It was the usual boilerplate of memories and laughter, but about half of the program had to do with the Christie's auction. They moved that stuff for a lot of money. A lot.

The hero version of the Next Generation Enterprise was the largest draw at $576,000, but all the ship models were pricey. The flute from one beloved TNG episode -- you remember the one -- went for $40,000. Immediately after showing the auction clip of the flute sale they went back to Patrick Stewart for a reaction. His eyes got big, he laughed and then he chuckled "Its not even a real flute, it doesn't even play."

The really neat thing would have been to go through all of those warehouses storing 40 years of memorabilia. Oh happy prowling.

The Bauer Hour: Lots of talking, some minor plot holes. No one died, but there was that pesky little explosion in front of the president, who was wheeled away at the end of the episode, his condition uncertain. Jack faced former president Charles Logan who remarkably retained his larynx and dry britches.

Jack, apparently, has a suit hidden on his person somewhere. Midway through the show he emerged clean, pressed and dapper. His shoulder nerve injury for the day is completely forgotten now -- this level of continuity bothers me -- for we see no seepage on this nice suit. We're left to imagine that either Logan and Jack are the same size or he beaned a secret service agent and hid his inert body out by the furnace.

I wonder if these are the sorts of things that are addressed in the commentary on the DVDs. And if it isn't, how great would it be for the producers of the show to find the wittiest minds that think up these subjects and invite them in for a Mystery Science Theater version of commentary. There are a lot of folks out there lamenting that this suit appeared from nowhere, and a quick joke might make people happy. Most of the ladies, I think, are just lamenting that they only saw Jack in a suit for the briefest of moments.

Worry not, however. Next week he goes into attack mode, assaulting a Russian dignitary at the Russian consulate. He's only a choice familial insult from open war at that point.

I have high hopes for the direction they're taking the story. Anything involving disavowed torture methods of fictional characters in the pursuit of national security is good television drama.

Not so good is this Chloe, Morris thing. Something big and explosive has to happen here or all this time will have been wasted on a needless subplot. She's chasing him around, haggling him about what he's doing -- Is that why they're divorced? Is that what drove him to drink in the first place? -- but what could she have been doing in this past hour and change. Save the world first, mildly dysfunctional relationships later.

Jack's died for his country twice, Chloe, banging out a few more lines of code is the least you can do to help.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

This evening we went to Atlanta Fish Market. It was more like afternoon, around 4:30 I believe. Sometimes you just can't get seats in Buckhead ...

Actually we had a play to attend later in the evening and it became an eat first plan. So we ate on The Yankee's gift card. Ordered the salmon, but got the mahi mahi instead, somehow, and it was delicious. If you have the means, I recommend you give it a try. Delicious.

The play was Spamalot. If you're a Python fan you need to see it.

Just terrific, Merry-Christmas-to-me, stuff. It is mostly Search for the Holy Grail, a tad bit of Life of Brian and some exclusively for stage material that is fantastic.

The French were there, as were the Knights who say Ni. John Cleese does a recorded voiceover.

They even poked jokes at the area, including Ted Turner, Coke-Cola and Mei Lan, The Panda That Won't Go Away.

It could have gone on forever, delirious and giddy as the audience was. It was the fast two hours of theatre I think I've ever seen.

Highlight of the day, easily and hands down. Couldn't ask for a better afternoon and evening.

On the site: Something new just made its debut. A great deal of backslapping will be bestowed upon you if you can figure it out. Hint: Once you have the proper guess, treat yourself, there are several in an obvious place. I ripped my brother off to make that happen.

This week: More newspaper updates, more Glomerata editions and we'll put up some of the slideshows that Kelly slaved over.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Turkey burgers! Better than they sound, actually. Woke up with a mild hint of something approaching a craving for one and that's where lunch was held.

Meehan's, to be specific, home of the slow service from the waitress with too much mascara caked on her face (it will drip into your nose piercing one day, dear, and then where will you be? The bathroom, blowing Loreal out of your sinus cavity, most likely.) They're also home of the sun dried tomato turkey burger, which is really quiet good if you give it half a chance.

Let's talk about the waitress instead. Dave and his friend came by to visit for a moment and ordered a sweet tea and a glass of water. When they left the waitress stopped back by twice and finally said, "Oh, have they left?"

No. They've just turned invisible.

For just a second, for just a fleeting moment, she wanted to believe me.

She then passed her hand over the places in the stools where there bodies would have been, just to be sure.

Incidentally, lunch was the first time I've ever actually seen that movie cliché where someone comes in, orders a drink, takes a few sips and then exits. I've always thought of that as an excessive waste of good coffee, tea, wine, whatever the scene calls for, but apparently it does happen. And just imagine how much precious sweet tea was wasted if one of the actors kept ruining their line and the host must pour the glass over and over again.

Speaking of movies, caught a good one this afternoon. The Interpreter:
As thrillers go, better than expected, if a bit hard to follow.
Something about the premise and using Sean Penn just seemed uncomfortable, hence my delay in watching it, but today was an easy day to give it a chance. Penn was solid, as usual, though I'm never sure the point of his subplot. Figured it out after the profile, but I should have known sooner.

Experimental dinner tonight, using the coupon book we happened upon El Tequila. This turned out to be one of those hidden strip mall Mexican joints, so odds are going into it that it will be pretty good. The Yankee wondered aloud, just before we walked in, if we'd be the only gringos there. She was correct. Three guys with cowboy hats, playing at vaquero no doubt, walked in, but no other white folks. We might have gotten some stares, but no snickers.

Oh, and they were out of tamales. The one time of the year I want a tamale, and they don't have any. So right away I'm fearing the worst. After much agony -- in a strange Mexican restaurant I finally decided to get adventurous -- I decided on the Colorado Fundido, which was a grilled chicken breast covered in a special sauce and cheese. It was a bit wild, the sauce, but just enough to wake up the tastebuds. And the refried beans: best ever. I'll never be able to look at my usual Mexican restaurant in the same way.

Why is it, seriously, that the Hispanic music you hear in restaurants is so closely related to the polka? Ah, blame Texas.

Later, the Yankee decided another of the Oscar nominees needed to be seen, so The Departed:
Violent, profane, and funny in spots. I bet it wins an Oscar.
How they ever made a suitable-for-TV promo from this movie I'll never understand. Jack is great, everyone else does their usual solid work. Don't see it if you don't like shootings though. There are quiet a few, it is Scorsese mob picture after all. I see on IMDb that he calls this his B-movie. Time will tell.

Anyway, despite that B-movie deprecation, I predict it will win many awards. Alan Arkin will win supporting actor; I'll care about very little of it, if any at all.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Ahh, Friday afternoon. The afternoon of possibility. The afternoon where, finally, I'm caught with everything. Unless I'm not, and then it can wait. This is Friday afternoon.

New podcast today at work. The governor has called a special session of the legislature for next week. The topic is the recruitment of new industry into the state and an effort to get lower interest rates for school construction. To satisfy state law the lawmakers must develop a proposed amendment to the state constitution. That must then be voted on by the state. There are some timing issues -- legal and practical -- at play here, and so the governor felt these were the diems to carpe, rather than waiting on the regular session.

All of which just goes to show how the constitution grinds everything down in procedure. For basic business we must have an amendment pass the legislature, and at least 90 days after that the state must vote to ratify it or kill it. It is a deliberative process, to be sure, one not given to swift moves even on things like "We should look into getting some of that new industry everyone's talking about" or "we oughta create or improve our school buildings."

So the podcast today had two heavy hitters -- Dr. Sam Addy, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Alabama and Dr. Steven Taylor, political science professor (and friend of this blog) at Troy University. Not recorded was the part before the podcast where I trotted out my line about how maybe I should go back to school and get a PhD. "Smith is such a boring last name" the joke goes, "maybe I should add some more letters behind it." Addy says, "Just remember, PhD stands for permanent head damage."

That guy is full of one-liners. And good self-deprecating humor too. A pleasant surprise from a talented economist. In the actual podcast he is more serious, but conversationally he knows it is worth more to walk around with the "It's Friday!" aura about himself.

It is a nice podcast full of endless speculation and leading questions. The economist and the political scientist, pros that they are, went pretty much everywhere I asked them too. As we finished I remarked to Dr. Taylor that I've been reading his blog for too long. I'd ask a question, he'd answer it and then segue nicely into my next question. The things I want to ask you about already make sense to you. That's like, trippy man.

So check it out. We're all upbeat and optimistic because the state could do this thing right: What the Republican governor says the Democrat House leader also says, and it is an easy win, politically. And also because it is Friday.

The first picture I took today. That is looking east, obviously, at around 6 a.m.

I've written about this before, and mention it whenever someone thinks getting up in the predawn hours is brain-achingly tough. You get used to that. After a while you don't notice and sometime before that you don't trade the bonuses of no traffic and skies like these.

Most of my drive in is in a northeasterly direction. This time of year I can watch the sky off to the right brighten behind the trees. Some days I get lucky enough to catch that moment where the sun bends the dark blue back and the light escapes into the air, bathing the whole valley. The clouds hugged the distant horizon today, but they couldn't hold their line a little higher up and the rays burst through. I caught it as I made the big change downtown, where I turn almost due east and then quickly south for the last bit of my drive. The last moments before that direction change, traffic aside, always have an early morning anticipation. You have to top a hill that hides the scene, ride down the crest and then hug a big looping curve to the right. In that turn you see the skyline, backlight by whatever the sun gives you that morning.

And today the buildings were angelic with their golden rays shooting out to the sides and above. That picture is after I turned south, putting the sunrise to the left, out the driver's window and over Red Mountain. As the sun flew higher -- and the rapidity is amazing -- those fingers of golden light were pulled back in. The whole change takes about three minutes in the car, and in that time I pulled the camera out and, drove carefully and waited for a good shot. In the series of photographs taken, literally, within seconds of one another you can see the sunny hand curl away.

Going to work that early in the morning isn't that bad at all.

The last picture I took today. That's after a few hours of driving, the car panting on the exit ramp and again off to my left, off to the northwest, was this humble pair of office buildings. It has shut down for the night. It is 7 p.m. on a Friday, and its a tossup for whom is more relieved, that beautiful blue sky or the buildings who know their industrial carpet is getting a few days reprieve.

That's the actual blue of the sky, I didn't mess with the settings in photoshop or in the camera. Somewhere in there is the answer to why there are so many blues in the spectrum. Clearly we were meant to be more philosophical at these times of day.

Just two for Pie Day tonight. The ebbs and flows of the thing don't diminish the cultural significance of something that occurs with such profound regularity.

At this particular restaurant we've also found a new friend. He happened to wait on the table on the night marking two years of pie -- and helpfully tried to do the math on how much of this stuff we've eaten, but to our dismay. He was unimpressed at first, disbelieving perhaps that this has gone on for two years and involved almost two dozen people. He's seen us enough to decide we are serious about pie.

We don't have him trained yet for complimentary biscuits and drinks before we're sat, but we'll work on that.

Two bands you might like -- Adam Duritz suggested them: Augustana feels like mood music. Low Stars sounds like Friday. AD says Low Star's album (released last week) as "the most exquisitely beautiful country rock harmony album since the glory days of Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young, The Byrds, and The Eagles. It's just amazing ... It's just really cool."

Sounds like Friday. Good enough for me.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Hey! There's a new webpage!

Go on, go check it out. This'll be here, barely consequential as ever, when you come back.

The look is simpler, cleaner and neater. I've got the rest of the site down to a very small amount of CSS and the end result is a clean, spare less-is-more extravaganza.

Think about that sentence long enough and your head will teeter to the side and plop off your shoulders.

Anyway, this isn't just a redesign, but a slight organization and the addition of a few new features. As for the reorganization goes the biggest part of that is splitting up the audio. That page was just getting too cumbersome, so the new "Recordings" page is all the work-related stuff. The Audio/Video page kicked the slightly more serious stuff out, but is sticking around as its own page. The A/V is now more for play: things I've recorded as an audience, simple little bits of audio, the occasional flash movie, they'll all go there.

Speaking of video Kelly has really set me up there. I'm looking forward to sharing that, probably next week.

As for the new stuff: there's a newspaper section and a section called Glomeratas. Play around with them, you'll figure it out pretty quickly. Those will both be projects that will be added to on a regular basis, hopefully weekly. You'll of course be reminded about that here if you are interested in that sort of thing.

There are two more sections coming, but they'll stay hidden for a while. Also, I had a terrific inspiration this afternoon on another little tweak I'll be making. But, the largest part of the relaunch is over.

Most time-consuming hobby I've ever had.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

We reached a perfect 72 degrees today. Perfectly sedate day. The daylight is stretching out, and were not for years of memories of March and April cold snaps we'd all step outside and celebrate the spring.

Actually the skies today were very overcast. It drizzled a bit, it was cloudy, clearing only in the nightfall, but we did hit that nice 72 mark, an overture for the days ahead. We muttered only so often during the typical Deep South spring and now we're going to be rewarded with our usual utopian spring.

About this time last year I wrote something like that and got a little heat from some of the Southern transplants. Most of them are back in the South now, and they can remember how this works here, and they'll understand. We should hit 70 tomorrow and with the possible exception of a few outliers we'll mosey through a long stretch of days exactly like the coming weekend. The days will get so long we'll forget about the passage of time and think only of the pool, the beach and the lake. Suddenly the skin will start to boil and the days will stretch out for ages, we'll be sweaty, golden statues, immovable in the merciless heat.

This is why it seems so slow-paced. We'll race inside and stay in the winter, enjoy the spring and fall while we have it and move as little as possible in our own personal humidor. We've realized there are just a few places truly worth the hustle in July.

Right now it is like a small party, a reunion of old friends, we and the even keel breezes.

Tomorrow we'll have the same temps, but picture perfect skies. It will all tempt us through our office windows.

Skipped lunch today so I had an early dinner. Way early. Senior citizens were snickering as I walked inside the Mexican restaurant. As I walked to my table a woman was being carded for a margarita. The waitress was apologetic about it, but the lady was going the "I'm almost 30, I'm old, so this is nice." She looked 18.

Later I almost ran over an old woman in the produce section of the grocery store. She zigged when she should have zagged. Agile lady, must have been the carrots. I bought apples and a few foods to get through the week. A perfectly reasonable young man checked me out at the register, another kid sacked the goods. The whole thing felt like a television series where the characters are focus grouped and reworked to within an inch of their lives to meet some arbitrary U.N. standard of television parity. Just your standard 21st Century Leave it to Beaver moment.

Neither of these stories have amusing punchlines, life-affirming messages or heart-warming metaphors, they are just the two most interesting things that happened on my way home for the day. Vanilla temperatures, average skies, average day. Most days, when the sun is bright and the sky is warm, that's plenty.

The new website is almost ready. I'm one section away from rolling it out for the world to see. It could make its debut tomorrow. After that will be weeks of regularly additions and a lot of tedious notes in this place about those routine goings on. So basically the blog won't be changing in the new relaunch.

Here's a great video, Barenaked Ladies got a bunch of those Internet-famous folks to help make their new video. Steven sings "this little song is about second chances," which just fits most of these guys. If you haven't been introduced to any of these minor cult figures there are links to all of their videos on the YouTube page. Judson Laipply's Evolution of Dance still rocks.

That's it from here, where the medium days are the most frequent, and the second most appreciative around. I believe I'll do a very average chore or two around the house and then settle in for the evening, quietly confident in the normalness of it all.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Life is steady and predictable enough that, upon leaving for the office this morning it occurred to me that the new issue of Smithsonian Magazine should come in the mail today. Why? It is a Tuesday and it has been a while since the last one. Somehow that was enough logic and, this evening when I returned home it proved me right.

There's probably something very reasonable to explain that -- the moon's life cycle, or a subconscious realization that I haven't held a glossy magazine in a while, something -- but I haven't the slightest clue what the answer it is. I left home, pronounced today as the day, returned home and found it here, validating every wild guess I'll ever make.

Until the bookies show up, that is. Probably I could accurately predict their arrival as well and escape. I wouldn't bet on it though, too risky a gamble.

OK, no more puns, I promise.

The new version of the web site is inchoate, but drawing ever closer to its premiere. A little motivation this week should have the thing ready to go. Meanwhile, have you noticed the new background here? Nifty, yes?

From time to time I shoot things with the idea in mind that they may become backgrounds for the blog. The scoreboards from the weekend of baseball were briefly considered, the stadium seats were a leading contender, but third base just snuck in at the right moment. Must have been the quality lighting.

Dinner at Zaxby's with the Smithsonian. The staff on hand tonight was perhaps the most disinterested you'll see this side of McDonald's. Maybe they've figured out this process too: "It is raining, it is Tuesday, that cajun club guy is coming and after he shows up another dozen people or so are going to sneak in just before closing, every month with this guy ... "

After that it was back home for Denny Crane! Actually earlier in the evening I watched last week's episode, where Jeffrey Coho left the firm (but did he leave the firm?) and Clarence succesfully defends a woman in a murder trial. Alan Shore had to represent Denny, charged with selling medical waste overseas in a fat-for-fuel program. This put Denny on the stand where he told the heartwarming story of his uncle Bill. The story wasn't made up beforehand, as we learn in the epilogue that "Sincerity has to be spontaneous."

Here's the second of my troubles with what is otherwise a fine show. Alan rumbles on in his closing argument about the world, society, governments and about ethanol, electrical power and other alternative fuels and "Why aren't we using those?" There are a lot of ecological, energy return and pollution issues with some of these concepts. And that's to say nothing about that pesky little free market economy issue, but these things get glossed over for the sake of a good rant. Alan, great as he is, has become nothing more than a mouthpiece. As a character he is terrific, as a bully pulpit he is lacking.

He was more lawyerly in this week's episode, where he ran across his old friend Jerry and then tore him to shreds in about 14 seconds. I'm not sure if he became more disappointed in himself for doing that to his friend or more disappointed in himself that he felt the need to deliver such a sledgehammer to the temple so early. This is always there beneath the surface of Alan's character, though he rarely feels the need to display it, but it showed up quickly in this confrontation. And in his eyes, you could tell he liked it a bit. Perhaps that's what he is upset about.

In so much as Boston Legal is really a show about James Spader's character this probably wouldn't happen, but I wouldn't be surprised if he just didn't show up to work one morning and, later, the cops found him in some unfortunate and deceased condition in his room. There's a terrific war being played for that character's soul and sometimes it feels like determining the win will come down to a toss up.

Meanwhile Brad and Denise go to counseling and Paul Lewiston is going to stop going to the break room because of it. Denny goes to temple, hilarity ensues with spitballs and an injured Rabbi comes a-calling. Denny then horrifies his girlfriend and she leaves. Again. Wish she would stay gone.

Anyway. Lot of television the last two days, no? Looking ahead on the TiVo, there'll be less in the near future. If you've read this far into this your relieved, or saddened. I'm not sure which is worse.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Back to the TiVo we go, because that's what Mondays have become. Though I'm making serious headway here. When I first bought the thing this was an almost all-week pre-occupation. Since then I've completed some series and realized others were terrible. Recently Monday and Tuesdays were devoted to the EvIl eye, but the last few weeks I've wiped the thing out before Monday was thinking of calling it a day.

Today, though, I wrapped up just in time to get to live programming. The most notable things were the cliffhanger of season one and the season two premiere of Enterprise.

I remember the cliffhanger. Remember that awesome stretched out feeling as the camera panned to show a 31st Century (10 centuries in Captain Archer's future) in ruins. I remember being in a semi-important discussion about something at the moment, and really just wanting to watch the end of the episode. For some reason -- quality, programming time, morale, whatever -- I never really watched the show again.

Looking at the episode guide for season two, it seems like I chose wisely. Oh I managed to catch a few episodes here and there, and they all seem to be the compelling installments, so maybe I can ignore season two entirely and pick up on season three in bits and pieces. Given that the show is now in its own past in addition to the Star Trek universe's past, I'm really only interested in the big linchpin episodes and the time displacement plots. I have a weakness for them, I confess, but the typical episode doesn't do it for me. And many of these were done earlier and better by the other shows.

There was supposed to be some sense of redemption in the final season, so maybe that'll be worth seeing.

The season two premiere was very threadbare. Bad guys on the ship, the good guys try to take over, hero way off in the future, etc. The library scene was pretty nice, along with that cute nod to the future, "What's that?" "Maybe you shouldn't be reading that."

But the future becomes the trouble, because in the newly post-apocalyptic 31st Century a little copper wiring and a communicator can send you hurling back in time a millennium. I'm all for suspension of disbelief and all that, but you need more than a cute phrase and a soup ladle to get this done. Maybe Archer should have stayed disappeared for a while, the whole series could have changed in that one plot point, but it returned to more of the same already on the road to a quietly disappointing fate. The cliffhanger though, while hardly expository is worth seeing. There's the destruction of a planet, chases, attacks, ship invasions, time travel and more.

Sure there's all sorts of relativistic problems with prequel time travel, but I can ignore that. Moving through a thousand years with merely a communicator, however, I'm hung up on.

Anyway, speaking of Star Trek stuff worth seeing, Wil Wheaton is writing a new blog, which he should really call "I don't care about the residuals anymore. Seriously, I'm fine." He's reviewing the old Next Generation episodes as both an actor and a participant. Great stuff.

Wow, eight paragraphs on a bad television series. Let's not do that again.

How about a better television series instead?

The Bauer Hour! Just to review: Jack woke up this morning slovenly and unkempt in a Chinese prison. He's returned home, taken the best shave of his life and tortured with had nerves in his shoulder possible severed. Later he bit through a man's neck, escaped, tortured a guy, crumbled in the process, killed a colleague, quit and then rejoined the organization that probably doesn't technically have him on the roster and weathered a nuclear explosion. He saved a man in a burning helicopter, thwarted a subway attack, had a deliberate car wreck and tortured his brother twice. He's killed a few terrorists on a hostile entry,saved a colleague, disarmed a ticking nuclear weapon, been ambushed and barely survived a house explosion to say nothing of a dozen closeups of that dried glue on his hand.

Not once has the man's stomach grumbled. And you know how quickly you get hungry after Chinese food, to say nothing of the gruel Jack probably had in that prison.

Tonight he starts off by killing two bad guys in the first six minutes. Now we're talking! Thousands of people died in a nuclear explosion and justice must be served in a haphazard and circuitous fashion as dictated by the whims of the writers and realities of a 42 minute weekly television program.

Jack's blood is up and he's seeing Nina Myers in his sister-in-law and is prepared to squeeze, but she cops to being a pawn. "From your dad, alright!? I learned it from watching your dad!" Jack is stunned that James Cromwell and that wiley pig, Babe, are really behind all of this. Stunned now Jack? Just wait until another Palmer falls as you're off shoring up family concerns and Powers Boothe rises to power. Here's to hoping he revises the brash fighter pilot character from Red Dawn.

Actually the arc about Jack's father is quite clear if you think about it. Jack sees the world in black and white and while we come to realize later tonight that Jack passed on the family business as a post-adolescent attempt to "find himself"he really had an idea what was going on.

Clearly the familial genes are split cleanly. Graem Bauer was internally tough and scheming, but he had a snivelling appeal to him (Indeed, Lileks is going a bit further, drawing Graem as Piglet to Phillip Bauer's pig farmer.) but Jack remains the impetuous one.At gunpoint he spat at his father to kill him and get it over with. You notice that Jack's nephew, Graem's son did nothing of the sort when he was in custody. The dysfunctional Bauer family line is quickly drawing to a close, and all before Jerry Springer can interview any of them.

So Jack's all "Shoot me! SHOOT ME NOW!" but his father has disappeared out the back, leaving only a phone number for Jack to call. On the other end of the phone is a bearded Charles Logan! Rested and confident, and in defiance of the show's internal logic for the character, he's hanging out in club Club Fed, for now.

In a couple of hours he'll be quivering with a sharp implement pointed to his eye. Jack'll connect all these dots and figure out how this is the guy responsible for him being captured and taken to China rather than living a quiet life with a hysterical redhead and then there'll be no measure of torture large enough to satisfy Jack Bauer. By then it'll have been a full day since his last meal of that terrorist's AB negative and he may go all Lost Boys on Charles Logan too. Oh, happy day.

There, that balances out the paragraphs on television quality, we now return you to your normally scheduled equilibrium.

A couple of fun television links: Ranting on 24 and here are some overused science fiction cliches.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

More baseball! Because the sun is out and winter has grown indifferent and spring is slowly stumbling its way back into our hearts. We've missed you spring, now get in here and enjoy the "PING!" of aluminum bats with us.

Another pitcher's duel today, and Evan Crawford was the man, scattering five hits in five innings with five strikeouts.

Crowd favorite Bruce Edwards struggled at the plate today, but was his usual surehanded self in the field with three putouts. The man standing to his left, Mike Bianucci is another fan favorite and he had a nice day with a hit and an eighth inning sacrifice to drive in an insurance run.

Even bunts weren't working for the other team. Auburn's Dustin Spruill was working though, walking and later scoring in the bottom of the fifth. In the top of the inning he threw out a baserunner leaning the wrong way at first with a nifty move.

Auburn pitchers combined for seven strikeouts as Justin Bristow came in for middle relief and freshman Scott Shuman picked up the save.

Other pictures that just look neat: Robert Brooks struggled at the plate but had a good day at second. We've discussed Bruce Edwards already, but you can never have enough of a three-sport star. That man was an All-American baseball player in high school, all state in football and a state champion on the 4x100 relay team. He's majoring in laboratory technology, which, around here, means it is time for your close up.

The guys sitting behind us today talked about Edwards' chances on the football team which, they believed, was his original intention in signing at Auburn. But they rightly realized he is a bit small for the position. Were they right? These guys were of the psuedo-intellectual type, the kind where they know even less about most things than I do, so I question their accuracy. They did confuse him and call him by the shortstop's name for half of an at bat because the scoreboard was wrong.

One last cool picture, Ben Jones puts bat on ball.

Speaking of the scoreboard, Auburn swept the series with the 4-2 win. Here's the recap and the box score.

The drive home was uneventful and fast. Returning is always easier than arriving somehow. The mind and memory are set and suddenly there you are.

Back in town for a belated and sedated Pie Day. None of the regular players on a Sunday night, and apparently it takes the Sunday crew a while to melt butter. Pie still good, of course, but a little less tangy than to that which we've grown accustomed.

Lemon pulp was discovered in a slice a while back, so we know it is natural, and that explains the variance. We should just have them add more lemons.

After that, it was the time shifting all the cool kids are talking about, finally catching the two hours of Bauer from last Monday. Since it is six days old and you've seen the basic summary elsewhere I'll just say I saw the girlfriend's turn coming as Morris was pleading to escape. Seven million dollars is an obvious character twist.

Also obvious is having a decent person beg and plead and depend on a terrorist for an easy out be stunned when someone pours a little lead into them. People never learn. And how skewered is the 24 universe when the woman who just offed her demanding boyfriend after just a moments thought comes off as the decent one?

The drill? Ouch. Morris held on for about 15 minutes of torture. That's probably pretty good considering he's a shoe salesman with no torture resistance training. Jack, upon saving him, looked as if he'd give him a few practical exams, however.

"You gave him something that worked!?"

The day is young, Jack. Have a salad. Or walk right into a big explosion, whichever works.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Slept in this morning. Overslept. In a hotel bed even. Funny, that.

Hit a few antique shops around the greater Auburn area. A few in Opelika were closed or hidden. Found one on the outside of town that was almost promising, but it leaned more to frou frou than dusty history. And then there was Angel's Antiques in Opelika. This is an old Wal-Mart that is full of vendors, and those places are always hit and miss.

My theory over the whole antique search in the Auburn-Opelika area would be that those places should be teeming with old University castoffs. Either that or everyone has snatched them up and the shelves are barren. There were a few items, a few Glomeratas from the 80s and a couple of interesting pictures and a scratched up 45 which I reluctantly re-shelved, but I came away from both places with nothing. My wallet thanks me.

Met Fin for lunch at Momma G's. They've been celebrating their 30th anniversary amidst rumors of selling the land. Thirty years of Momma's Love. The restaurant hasn't changed since at least my freshman year. The website design is only a year or three newer -- but Brooke, they have poker on their "diversions" page.

The last time I was there, a few ears ago now with Brooke and Stephen, the floor slanted the same way I remembered. The same newspaper clippings were hanging on the walls above the same abused pool tables. The same -- the exact same -- Dave Matthews Band song was playing as during my first visit as a freshman many years prior. I've always wondered if they're recycling the alumninum foil for the sandwiches, but could never be sure.

In fact the only thing new in the place are the flat screen TVs.

After sandwiches we headed to Plainsman Park to watch Auburn's second game against UNC-Greensboro. It was a pitcher's duel, with Auburn's Paul Burnside coming out on top with his second win of the season after surrendered four hits in six innings. He struck out five and retired the first two hitters he faced in every inning.

Josh Donaldson (4) helped break it open. The lineup's best batter drove in a run and scored in the three-run fifth.

Right about then we were certain we'd been sitting in front of the most intelligent people ever admitted to Auburn. We spelled out the sarcasm here because they would have likely not appreciated it as an insult. Fin gives them his Really? stare.

Still a lovely day to enjoy the sun. See? Even as the sun slid over toward the coliseum it was a nice day out at the park, except for those brief moments when thin little clouds tried to hide the sun. Amazing what a whispy bunch of vapor can do to the temperature.

Final score: Auburn 4-2. Here's the recap and the box score.

Later we wound up at Toomer's Corner for lemonade. Haven't sat inside in an awfully long time. During football season it is all one big line for everyone's traditional pre-game lemonade, but now they've moved the tables back in, even though they still seem out-of-place. I still look for the little aisles of the actual drugstore, but those days are long gone now.

Once a soda fountain and a drug store, it is now a small diner, drink and gift shop stop. All of downtown is changing though. Almost every store on the four high-traffic blocks are businesses that are either new or that I remember opening in my time in Auburn. I count five exceptions. And everything that is very new is catering to a well-heeled customer, usually the young women with Dad's credit cards. I probably wouldn't have been able to afford this place if I were a student today, and there'd be a lot less interesting walking downtown.

Even Auburn Hardware isn't really a hardware store anymore. The little town is changing. College towns are always changing, it is inherent to their nature, but the Loveliest Village has outgrown the monicker as a descriptive. Even the churches are selling out. Must be getting expensive to live in Auburn, the president just received a huge raise; they give the man a mansion and his commute is all of three blocks.

Anyway. Dinner at Mellow Mushroom, one of those places that came to town after I did. Every time I go by a Mellow Mushroom I remember that initial excite. Mellow Mushroom! No one even knew what that was. It was pizza, it had to be better than Brand X (an actual pizza joint) and at least equal to the chains. Many students were excited about the number of taps they were going to offer. And the pizza, it turned out, was delicious.

The food is still great. Better, even, than the Birmingham and Vinings stores. Smells better inside, though the hippie quotient is about the same. Mellow Mushroom came to Auburn in 1996 or so, but Fin rightly observed the place already looks old somehow. Everything in a college town is transient, it seems, even the memories that should be frozen in amber. The collective spirit of a place just doesn't hold your memories as closely as you do, particularly in a city that refreshes half the population every five years.

After dinner, there were nighttime pictures at 38 degrees. The University Chapel is supposedly haunted, but we heard no bumps in the night. It is the oldest building remaining on its original location in Auburn.

Just down the street is Smith Hall, the building named after me. Otis Smith, actually, is the building's namesake. Late in his career he'd serve as president of the university, but he also had the unique distinction of serving simultaneously as a professor at Auburn (then Agricultural and Mechanical College of Alabama) and on the Board of Trustees at the University of Alabama.

There's a joke in there somewhere ...

But there are other pictures to take. That's Langdon Hall, old as can be in Lee County. Some of the early seccession debates were held in that building in its original location (just a few blocks away) when it was a chapel for the now defunct Auburn Masonic Female College. Abraham Lincoln spoke there in the 1850s.

Hargis Hall houses the graduate school.

This is the marker on the corner of Samford Hall. The stone comes from Old Main (here's a pic), which burned in 1887. The plaque beneath it commemorates the East Alabama Male College name and the institution's service as a military hospital during the Civil War.

Here's the cannon lathe, a Civil War piece headed for Macon, Ga. before being buried in Selma, Ala. to avoid capture. It was donated to the University in the 1950s.

See that arch in the background though? Same location, Mom and her girl Coco, about eight years ago.

Oh yes, and Samford Hall, the famous photograph everyone comes here to take.

And, finally Comer Hall, one of the buildings where I spent a great deal of time as an undergraduate. I'll leave you with a brief bio on Governor Comer.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The first part of today's entry will be called Traffic Whoas.

As in Wow, you people will stop for anything!

Made it to the interchange to shoot me south with no trouble. The interchange itself was cluttered with the unpredictable pre-rush hour traffic. Stop-and-go we barely went for about seven miles. The problem? A portion of a busted up palette. For splinters I paused on the freeway.

The next bit of travel was uneventful. Made it to Prattville and the outskirts of Montgomery where the traffic again came to a quick halt. Two lanes were closed. Only they weren't. Yet people were getting over early, so congratulations for roadway literacy when it comes to reading street signs. The problem seemed to be one car stalled on the right shoulder.

Made it through that interchange, now pointing east, and stopped around Mitylene. We later found two cars on the right side of the, each facing the other in the headlights-on-engine configuration. This was not blocking traffic so as soon as we got a good eyeful we all picked up speed for 1.2 miles to clump together again for several more minutes.

This time the incident to watch was two 18-wheelers pulled over on the opposite side of the interstate. We finally speed on once again, only to stop one more time to find, after a short while, one car sitting quietely on the shoulder of the interstate, its freshly charred chasis reflected in the shimmering lights of a police car.

Driving through Macon County is a study in patience, it seems.

So after all this, we've missed the first half of the gymnastics meet. LSU led Auburn midway through heading into the beam and the floor. Lindsey Puckett finished second on the beam, bars and floor and third on the vault. She finished the night second in the All Around. Carmen Nelms, unfortunately, struggled on the floor and beam.

I've lost track of who this is (sorry!), but the fingertip thing always worries me. How can fingers be strong enough for all this?

Swan dive! Claire Seiffert (I believe).

A.J. Mills' Swan dive, redux.

Julie Dwyer finished first on the beam and third on the floor. The Auburn fans felt LSU got too generous a viewing from the judges on the beam, while they struggled on the floor as the Bengal Tigers pulled away late. Julie kept her form though.

Afterwards, met Fin for a late dinner at Buffalo's. The Yankee chastised Stephen for staying home and not heading out to the park tomorrow.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

I spent the afternoon quietly gloating over the TiVo. I have bested the EvIl eye once again. That's two days this week! And there's nothing on the schedule to record for Friday or Saturday. So naturally I'm also mourning the absence of programming. Life is so tough.

Naturally there'll be about seven hours of programming to make it through on Monday. And the three combined hours of 24 and Boston Legal, now slated for a Sunday night viewing. See how tough life can be?

Worked on the site redesign for a while. It is very close to being ready. I expect the unveiling next week, though even now I'm reconsidering a few design elements.

This is the problem, I play with the minor details to the point where the original design has lost its luster. It is a curse, and probably the reason I once averaged less than a year on each full re-design. The current look is easily the longest running, but it was put in place to use minor tweaks. Same story on the new design, but it will have even less clutter as I pursue the less-is-more plan to its natural conclusions.

Which means less options for tweaks. Which means I could plausibly tire of it even more quickly.

One day you'll come here and the whole site will be in TXT format. After that: cans on a string and then smoke signals. That screaming monster of a computer you bought was clearly worth it now, wasn't it?

Speaking of screaming, holy ouch. I read about this somewhere earlier in the week and then, like any trained 2.0 citizen I just sat back and waited for the video. If people you care about are skydivers, or want to go skydiving, you should probably not watch that video.

There's a degree of calm there -- anthropologists might call it the "British stiff upper lip" -- that defies description. The conversation carries on towards the end with an almost audible subtext.

"Sure you're OK chap?"

"Right-o! The grandparents survived the buzz bombs, couldn't have been as nice as this."

"How's that?"

"They were underground after all, I'm staring into the sun with the beach right over there."


"The beach is right over there, right? I'm not so sure as I just impacted the ground at an incredibly meaningful velocity. Dazed, but otherwise fine."

"So we're still on for squash then?"

If you're going to get smacked around by the planet earth, break a few things and collapse a lung, this is as stoic as you can go. We will now hold all of you up to this bloke's toughness for comparison.

Maybe, you consider, he's in shock. Possible. If he is it is, again, the calmest and most resolute shock captured in modern media. The first bit of the video alone is enough to induce vertigo. And he's ready to go jumping again.

That's dedication.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day. It gets a semi-bah humbug from me. Within the context of overly manufactured and contrived "holidays" it is right up there. I'm of the camp that believes Hallmark needed a big sale weekend between Christmas and Mother's Day. "Money must be made in the first quarter somewhere! Jenkins! Get on it! And no going home to see your family until you've got something marketable!"

That's how that conversation went. You don't realize it with all the commas and soft color on the cards, but the good people at Hallmark talk in exclamation points.

Actually shared a banquet table with the now former president of Hallmark many years ago. A very nice man, pretty wife, beautiful daughter. Very engaging to a bunch of high school students. I pitched him my idea of the "I don't want to but am obligated to get you this card" line. Admittedly the title needed punching up, but I think I was on to something. The whole scheme didn't roll out as I'd imagined it, but if you search long enough you can find a card falling under that theme.

I also suggested the step-family series, and that one has come about, but I can't take credit. Society forced that one on the card makers. In fact we can credit that sort of growth on the many Hallmark stores now found in malls. So maybe fractured families aren't so bad; we're employing dozens of young women in malls staffing these stores nationwide.

Which, somehow, gets the whole thing back to Valentines Day. Get her flowers, bring her candy, offer several cards, otherwise you can expect to see an influx of step-this-and-that cards in your long term future.

Met the Yankee for dinner. Went to a place called Top O' the River, which was more on the side than on the top, and there was no river to be found.

Plenty of catfish. Big catfish. Delicious catfish. Perhaps the best ever, lightly battered and golden brown. Not the light tan with which I'm familiar. I'm a bit of a catfish snob, and it is one of those very irrational habits, but this place might have broken the mold. If I were to only eat catfish in the Tennessee Valley (and one place we found on the Arkansas River) I would have never tried this place, which now makes the best ever.

The young waiter was very helpful. Almost too helpful in that Wow, kid, you're trying to hard, relax way. The tables were of the advertising variety, with one lady offering "quck" service if you involved her in your real estate affairs. Her home, cell and office number were right there and I considered giving her a buzz to let her know about this ad, but who wants to be bothered with such agony?

Oh, and the fish were huge. I didn't take this picture -- I'm not that much of a tourist, but that's the scene as you walk in the door. There are two of them in that take, and they've both grown.

Saw some nice signs on the road back to the interstate. First there was the Vann Thomas Motel. It has seen better days, but as the nice manager lady (she of the "Hey baby, Well darling" variety) explained to me this is a trial run for her. Some in-law told her if she can make this place go that there are bigger hotels in her future.

The whole place has a sense of desperation about it though. She admires the sign, but many other features are in disrepair. The pool is a husk, the parking lot is a highly textured crater impact zone, the light bulbs on the sign haven't been in operation in anyone's memory.

Maybe it is a first chance for the manager, but it feels like a last chance for everyone else. This is where you go when you're passing through town in a shoestring, where you hole up when the wife kicks you out of the house, where people live, maybe where drugs are made. Unlike normal hotel-motels room occupancy doesn't directly correlate to whether a car is parked out front, a lesson I learned while trying to park near vacant rooms. Headlights cause curtains to flutter around and doors to crack open.

That sign, though, is a point of pride. The manager lady said "Hey baby, what are you doing?" She thought I was taking pictures because there's been talk of tearing it down. We both hope not. It is beautiful without any more modifications. There was once a little more extravagance along the bottom mirroring that line that comes in across the top at an angle.

In the bottom left of the sign you can see the holes where a secondary sign announced that these rooms had HBO. Some people have mentioned taking the Color TV part of the sign off "There's no such thing as a black and white television anymore darling," she said. The sign needs that though. It helps date what might have possibly been the last optimism the place had.

Past Vann Thomas I found Goal Post Bar-B-Q. Earlier in the day that football was floating through the uprights and onto the building's roof. The cold now, though, has frozen the ball in mid-air. That kicker isn't moving either. The wind chill has siezed up his hip joint. Repetitive stress disorder has given him arthritis.

Twenty seven degrees out. About 19 with the wind chill. Didn't really notice it until I touched the aluminum of the tripod. The aluminum was cold, yes, but it was so bone-jarring cold that the rest of your body went frigid with it on contact.

At that point, I resolved, the rest of the things I'd spotted weren't interesting enough for 27 degree photographs. There are plenty of things to shoot, I said to myself and the cold, empty night but spring will be here soon enough, this is silliness.

That dictates so many of my activities: silliness.

Goal Post, by the way, is on the state's "100 Places to Visit Before You Die." These are all foods, but "100 Places to Eat Before You Die" didn't focus group very well. And if you ate at all of these places it would prove prophetic; you'd likely see a defibrillator in your future.

I've eaten at just under three dozen of those places.

On the way home I played my favorite nighttime game, surfing through the AM dial to find far away radio stations. Tonight I stumbled across KDKA, Pittsburgh and WGN, Chicago. I don't recall having heard the Pittsburgh station this far south before. WGN is a fairly good mainstay in the area. Heard one station WLW, Cincinnati that is hardly considered a blowtorch and unexpectedly stumbled upon WMOX, Meridian and historic WABB, Mobile. I used to be on those airwaves, and they have no business being this far north (Their nighttime coverage even points the opposite direction.) Atmospheric must have been just right.

Just right for love. It is Valentines Day after all.

You did get her cards and flowers, right?

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

I went to bed early last night, slept seven hours. Why have I felt like I'm walking through waist-high muck all day? I can't figure this out.

Stopped by the grocery store on the way home for a condolences card and a few items for the house. Standing in the checkout line I finally recalled last week's debacle here, just eight feet away. (See? My brain has been firing at this speed all day.) I'm three people back with maybe half a dozen items and considering my options. Fortunately the cashier today was a bit swifter in the execution of her duties. She should be an inspiration to cashier's everywhere, which is clearly why she'll be on to some better job before summer.

Standing in line the cell phone buzzed with the news that my mom would be passing back through town again today and staying the night. Which is good since she did this last night and I didn't see her at all. I'll leave the light on for ya, but there might not be anyone at the welcome desk when you arrive, so to speak.

So she's coming, I have groceries and no TiVo to watch. Ha! I have defeated the EvIl eye!

And somewhere during that celebration the blue sky disappeared and was replaced with big angry clouds with bad intentions. The sirens go off and that's slightly unnerving. Tornados are common in the region, of course, and I'm in a fairly safe geographical area, but I'm upwind of the sirens and never hear them. Check the weather and one big cell has three hints of rotation and they're all moving just barely north of home. Just barely north. As in no butterflies flapping in Canada just now, thanks. Fortunately for the heavily populated areas in the southern Birmingham suburbs those storms were more teapot than tempest. There were tornadoes, this one about 30 miles southwest. Some 30 miles southeast there was more rotation to be found.

We had some small hail, lots of rain, some of it hard and a few light wind gusts. My scary picture from the porch. Terrifying, no?

I considered, for a brief while, following the storm. Sometimes I still do that, but then I remembered that my mother was coming back to town and any storm chasing tonight could only cause some sort of problem, mechanical or otherwise, in what can only be considered meteorological irony.

So I stayed inside instead, idly listening to the weather reports while scanning things for potential use on the website. Did more of this after dinner (met Mom for steak) and noted with some amusement that the later into the evening things got the more acceptable each scan became on the first attempt.

There'll be even more on the EvIl eye tomorrow. I've yet to see Monday's two Hours of Bauer (don't spoil it) and missed tonight's Denny Crane while having dinner. I may have won the TiVo battle today, but I'll never win this war. There will be something recorded for tomorrow of course.

Good things those storms didn't get in the way of any critically important programming. That would have made for dangerous conditions. Could have kept me up all night. Maybe then I would have felt better.

Monday, February 12, 2007

I spent this evening catching up on computer work and the tiniest bit of housecleaning. Mom is coming tonight -- at some point -- but at this rate I may be asleep. She's flying in from Houston and on her way back out of town again; my place is the crashpad.

So there's not much here today. Blogger made me change to the new version. I was concerned about that, a lot of people have had difficulties with it, but the progression seems easy so far. If only I could make the jump to wordpress with the same ease.

Watched The Doomsday Machine today for which I am grateful to the TiVo. This is one of the remastered episodes that immediately spring to mind when you think about what you'd like to see again for the first time.

And the difference is staggering. There's an old promo and a new version with the remastered footage on that page. Check them both out to see the amazing difference that 40 years can make.

Also watched the latest Battlestar -- fortunately I only had two hours of required EvIl eye viewing after the weekend, which is why so many other prosaic things got accomplished around the house.

This episode narrowly escaped being categorized as a placeholder -- that'll be next week, I think -- but it serves as a slow burn for Carl Agathon as they try to make his one of the more complex black-and-white characters around.

How all this came to be seems lost somehow. It is as if events transpired during the Super Bowl weekend, when the show did not air, of which we aren't aware which leads to some overt racism which is explained away on the wiki site from a television perspective. That explains a few of the more harsh moments that seem almost perplexingly out of character.

Call me simple, but give me some shoot outs when you do. This is a show, of course, not about aliens, or even space or really even good guys and bad guys; it is about human drama. However space is the setting and the good guys and bad guys are the catalyst for all this, and the more bad guys the more dramatic the storytelling becomes.

Otherwise we have scenes of combat pilots chewing the fat around a bar while playing a game.

Between a character episode of Battlestar and putting off 24 until at least tomorrow the action sequences seem a bit slow around here, don't they?

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Things previously learned, but reinforced nonetheless: I will not be the lone chaperone for seven children.

I learned this lesson as the kids were sitting at a nearby table at lunch. To be sure they were very well behaved, but the potential for problems was always there, lurking from sitting down with colors all the way through sandwiches and ice cream.

Stopped by a furniture store after that, just to see what all the fuss was about. Still don't know. Traffic is forever moving up and down this dead end road where there is nothing else but the furniture place and the furniture in there wasn't that great.

Intended to visit an antiques store after that, but it has been razed. To the library then, where I considered a few audio books -- great idea, only I don't retain any of the content audibly; I'm a reader -- and finally just settled on a few music CDs.

Off to the movies, where for a buck you can go on vacation. Or, if you're too cheap for that just exchange your home, a la The Holiday:
The romantic comedy where the romance and the comedy is purely secondary.
Best part was the Chanukah Party, and the old writer's appreciation scene at the end. In the romantic comedy the old man was the part worth seeing. Otherwise you're left with Cameron Diaz, who had one good camera angle, the usual from Jack Black, a slightly more human Jude Law and a terrific cameo by Dustin Hoffman.

Mexican tonight, with the new mariachi, who are called Garibaldi. There's only four of them, as opposed to the seven members of the previous group, and they put on a slightly more energetic show, though it is sad to think the old group isn't there.

They perform the usual songs for the adoring gringos, including a mini-set of Jimmy Buffett that has a table of very senior citizens in a frenzy. At a nearby table they saluted a visitor with happy birthday and then launched into Beat It.

Good thing I was recording.

At our table they played Under the Boardwalk and then produced a set list. At that point there was no passing up hearing the mariachi version of War Eagle.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

A re-cut to start Saturday properly. This will be of interest to Office Space fans and Stephen Root fans in particular. It is a reminder of why we have weekends in the first place. This guy might work in your office, and he needs his time off -- and his stapler.

Thai for lunch today, where I had to refill my own tea glass from the waiter's stand, which is a big deduction in tip. I filled my glass from the wrong pitcher the first time, which I'm sure means the guy owed me money.

We saw ice on the way in to the restaurant, a small patch hiding in the shade cast by a squat building on the southside. A tiny little patch, but a feeble reminder of last night's cold in the face of beautiful blue skies and mild temperatures.

Oh sure, we only broke 45, but the sun was out and the skies were blue and the whole scene was splendid. I peered out from windows at home later in the day looking through limbs that will have leaves on them in a month or so and stared out into the chromatic equivalent of infinity.

Also stopped at a local card shop of the slightly offbeat variety. They are renowned for zany gifts and wacky cards and, as it happens, I know people in need of wacky Valentine's Day cards. I also know people in need of normal ones -- I know lots of people -- and normal cards proved a little difficult to come by in a zany card store.

Nice guy though, there he was, surrounded by humor of the blue sort, humming along to gospel songs and pointing out his new Bush and Cheney paper dolls. He has a Rottweiler the size of your recreational vehicle. Remember the big moon worm in Star Wars? That guy would be intimidated by this dog, which is the best 400-pound lap dog you can imagine.

He smells lunch on your hands, but he just wants to lick you. The dog apparently likes Thai, which makes sense, considering his hanging out just across the street from the joint.

Seven or eight cars later, though, I'm on my way home to stare up out into that sky. There is some of the useless, but offensless Pro Bowl, a little paperwork and not much else.

There was a "it was on television" screening of the wildly popular Doc Hollywood. The TiVo review, wherever they generate that content from (anyone?) gave Doc Hollywood three of four stars. The movie earned only 5.7 of 10 stars on IMDB, which seems more accurate. I spent a few minutes considering the merits of whether this was a three star movie. That's how much else there was this afternoon.

Later in the evening The Yankee and I had dinner under old soda bottle caps at Cracker Barrel. Twice I've been there this week, so tonight I had breakfast. Somehow the blueberry pancakes made me sleepy, but that's been the case through most of the day. I slept enough last night that I've been drowsy all day. It has all the ingredients for a perfectly lazy and restful weekend.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Cold and mostly ugly. Spring it is not. The mercury could only be troubled to reach 40 today and the sun was incognito. We'd like to think this is merely a late-season slumber for the burning ball of fusion. We'd like to think he's just stretching out those old solar limbs and getting ready to warm us right in to the sunny, spring season.

That's all we're left to think right now.

The weekend will be better -- as weekends, by definition, are -- and that'll be a nice change up from this. Still, I'm wandering around outside with nothing but a long sleeve shirt on. This season has felt so odd in that way, where the same temperatures on two different days can be either pleasant or frigid. Makes no sense, so let's eat dinner instead.

Pie Day found us in a corner of the restaurant, under a television and talking of stubborn dogs and Anna Nicole Smith, and I am not repeating myself. It seems that no one understands the problems of how to house-train a stubborn dog, nor the reason Anna Nicole Smith is receiving so much coverage.

Some things are beyond my understanding and I've accepted that. In a very informal and inaccurate poll, however, I've discovered exactly one person who cared about this story this afternoon. Perhaps we all cared, but couldn't admit it. Perhaps that is why we all immediately scoffed with the Why Bother noise.

So we clucked over clucks for our bucks. And we made jokes of an interestingly morbid variety. People trapped in newsrooms do that. Some of the jokes will last for years. Otherwise it weighs too heavily on one's spirit on a Sunday night that This is what I have to look forward to tomorrow. It is the same thing police officers and EMTs encounter. It is terribly insensitive and wholly necessary. We can feel bad about it. We've probably all lost sleep over silly newsroom jokes for levity's sake.

But Anna Nicole Smith, these things write themselves.

We'll see all of her younger work, but the image that will stick in the mind will be of her vacuous television show. And the claim that she's the new Marilyn. She is no such thing and there will be no such thing.

Just as Marilyn was a product of the media, so are all of todays models, provocative and otherwise. But in Marilyn's time she managed to rise above a small crowd of ladies who've become anonymous faces. Now everyone has a face and precious few of them are anonymous, as Andy Warhol prophesied. At the end of the day this one will be a jeans and topless model who managed to make an old oil magnate marry her. That's it. She's a blip and we're wasting time and satellite uplinks on an obituary.

At least one of the talking heads this afternoon had it right, remarking how we should be talking about a few wars or any other number of things. He was right and so he'll likely never appear on air again. We must infotainment America instead.

The particularly wise reader will now be preparing an Email noting how much time I've spent talking about how little we should be talking about this person, but that person will read the sentence immediately preceeding this one, sigh, nod and move on.

Perhaps the most interesting moment of Pie Day was in noticing how we don't give Ward the typical silent waiter treatment. You know the one, in the middle of a conversation and your waiter appears with plates or refills and the table goes quiet. Not us. Not with Ward. I imagine he's starting a book just about now with all of the mid-conversation sentences he's hearing. All it needs is a catchy title.

They came for Pie.

Oh, Ward. I bought everyone's pie tonight. What's up with that?

Thursday, February 8, 2007

A day of commercialism, this. I'm pumping lots of money into society in the trickle up fashion, conservative economists would be so proud.

My Iron Bowl memento of 2005 has been returned. It did not take this long to produce, only for me to take it to someone qualified to provide the framing service. It is a very handsome piece, I think. Larger than my other sports mementos (Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium) but it should stand out more.

This is the 2005 Iron Bowl. The Yankee and I were on the sideline. Auburn tore the game open early, sacking Alabama's quarterback 11 wonderful times. I saw a friend, an Alabama student, but otherwise a great guy, playing in the game. We dedicated the field to Pat Dye before kickoff. Tiger flew in one of her last games (she retired this past season) landing literally three feet from me. Carl Stevens took his booming voice quietly into the echos of the stadium, retiring after that game (shortly thereafter he gave me an interview which you can hear here).

Carl probably didn't remember me. It'd been a long time since we'd spoken last, only then in passing. He was a legend and I was something only slightly better than a cub reporter. The whole interview, I imagine him sitting at home and wondering "Why is this guy calling me anyway?" A genuinely unassuming and kind man. And while Ric Smith (another good Auburn man) is now the voice of Jordan-Hare -- and sounds good from what I can hear over the television -- it will never be quite the same.

I could never go to another game again, having felt I've seen enough, having seen almost everything, and be happy. This will be the standard to which all other games will unapologetically fall short. I watch and cheer and exclaim and lament and brag and sulk, but with all that went on that day, no future game will never get better than that Iron Bowl, and I was on the sideline for it.

Great, great day. You can see all the photos here.

OK, one thing will be better, and the year that Auburn finally gets to play for another national championship you are all required to chip in for trip as a Christmas present.

So I got that frame today. I also stopped by the post office to pick up the newest addition to the historical collection -- which is coming along nicely enough, thank you, that it'll soon need a section of its own on the site.

This is a print of the 1918 cadet corp at Auburn, then still officially named Alabama Polytechnic Institute. It is something like 52 inches by 15 inches, gorgeous and huge.

Nothing about campus looks the same, of course, except for Samford Hall. That smokestack in the back left, is likely from Langdon Hall. That's the conclusion Terry Oglesby and I have reached. The cadets are probably standing about where Foy Union is today, or perhaps a bit further down around modern Tichenor Hall. That fence is gone, paved over and with it the hint of a gentle slope up to Samford. The place is covered with beautiful brick buildings and some recent work to make the campus even more pedestrian friendly.

Here is a contemporary aerial shot with some nice notes. The orientation of the two pictures is off. So imagine standing on the right margin of the aerial photo and looking across the width of the photograph, where you'll see Samford Hall near the top corner. Foy is in the middle, with Tichenor unmarked to the immediate right.

Venerable, dusty old Ross Hall isn't even in the older picture yet. Built in 1930, Ross is a whippersnapper compared to Comer Hall (where I spent many days), 19th Century Samford Hall and Langdon Hall, the historic University Chapel and the graduate school's Hargis Hall.

One I did not know: Auburn recognizes Langon and Pebble Hill as the University's oldest buildings, though it did not become a part of the University until 1985.

Tichenor Hall, where I spent much of the rest of my time, probably wasn't even an idea yet, opening in 1940.

Back to the 1918 photograph. Note the trees. When I first ordered the picture it was obvious that this was spring or summer. On the print I can see the date along the bottom. That's mid-April. Some of these young men were about to go off to war. Armistice was declared that fall, but no one involved here had no idea. The Germans wouldn't start talks until October, so in April these students were facing a very uncertain future.

Auburn sent a lot of soldiers into that war, from it came a lot of interesting historical literature and stories, including one about an Auburn man who supposedly led an Army band into Germany playing War Eagle, but those are stories for another day.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Nice day today. Sunny, high and clear skies. Mild temperatures. Just a pleasant little hint of what is to come. But we aren't there yet, oh no, says the little breezed the sun down below the horizon. The sun was nice and high and sitting outside was pleasant. The big yellow disk became a little orange sliver and it was time to retreat for a coat.

I was in Cullman at the time, waiting on Kelly to show up for an evening of fun at Cracker Barrel. We sit on the rocking chairs and talk. This evening we retreated to a car for warmth, caught up a bit more and exchanged ridiculously late and even more ridiculously early Christmas presents. (Why be six weeks behind when you can be 46 weeks ahead?) I, as always with Kelly, came out the better on the deal.

The hostess inside asked for a name twice, so I offered up Donner, hoping they'd ask for "Donner, party of two," but it didn't work out. A nice little country girl who sounded like Loretta Lynn or Dolly Parton or someone famous with a distinct accent waited on us. She was very patient, for which I was grateful. I'd gotten to the point of being hungry enough to find everything appetizing. We ate, we talked, we talked and we talked.

About this time I felt tired enough to fall asleep. My poor friends, what she must think of me, forever yawning and with the droopy eyes. I'm averaging about four hours of sleep a night right now, with a very, very brief catnap in the afternoon. None today, so the tough got sleepy at around 9 p.m. when it was time to head home.

Fortunately I spent most of the ride home on the phone chatting it up with people. I'm backlogged in catching up, and if I haven't spoken to you recently you're still on the list, and I'm working my way toward you.

The list isn't organized in order of importance, so don't feel insulted you weren't first. It is stacked by a complex order of the phone numbers, with the area code being used to denote a certain formula one must complete to put everyone in the proper sequence. Find some crop circles, you're liable to understand.

Of course, now that I'm home I've been wide awake. Watched a bit of All the President's Men as we discussed yesterday. I should just record some of the ambient newsroom sound and play it on a loop. No newsroom I've ever worked in has sounded like that, though. Even "way back" as a cub reporter everything was computerized. Bad, slow, horrible computers, but they were there.

At my first reporting job the station had a dial up internet connection. After that things got a bit better, with teleprompters and ISDN lines and then the following newsroom had mid-1990s machines that were old about a week out of the box and dot matrix printers that were literally as old as me. The last two stops have had much more modern equipment, but none of that old steady clickclickclickclick found in the movie.

Maybe I should put the sound on a loop and set it to play down the hall from the bedroom at bedtime. Like I'll need the help tonight.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

There is nothing quite so terrifying, if your personality appreciates irony, as the last three miles on the drive to the insurance office. Had to stop by there as a part of the day's errands. Despite it not being a visit about my car insurance there's always the tiny little nagging voice: Don't get hit on the drive over!

The trip over was otherwise nice. The sun at 4:30 looked different today than it did just a week ago. Where it has been a golden sunset at this time of the afternoon it is now a coy little nod. Just you wait, the sun says. We're going to have lots of fun again real soon.

Stood around the insurance for a while, another hint of things to come, completed my errands and went home. Cleaned off the TiVo, guaranting it will have enough room to hold me captive again through the early part of next week. I also went through the To Do list on the TiVo, delighting in how many of the things I can delete in advance. It is the little things, really, that make the afternoon enjoyable. The little things like the EvIl eye's menu sounds, they must have focus grouped very well, to be so calmly inviting. It lulls the viewer, and you won't realize for hours what you've been pulled into. It really is an EvIl eye.

As evening turned to night I finally drug myself to the grocery store. I left in plenty of time to buy a few days worth of supplies and make it home in time for primetime viewing. Stood in line for about 20 minutes. That's what you get for swapping lines midstream. The people in the first line behind me, people that weren't even in that line, were all going back to their lives. I was standing behind a woman struggling with produce and processing a check.

Yeah, the guy wrote out a check. I jogged back into the aisles remembering a last-minute purchase -- hurrying for no reason I would soon realize -- browsed through the DVDs in the impulse area, wandered into the pharmacy for no reason and still it wasn't my turn to check out. It was an experience of the exasperated-never-shopping-here-again kind.

All of that left me barely enough time to get back home in time, where I promptly put my groceries on the counter and forget them -- frozen items, milk and all -- for an hour. Good thing I'd allowed myself an hour and 40 minutes. The 20 minute trip took most of that time, leading nicely into ...

Denny Crane! This episode was all about the drugs.

One case featured the forgetting pill which, to Google's knowledge, does not exist. (But Boston Legal is the sixth hit, so maybe that means I'll soon be near the top as well!) Good thing too, as the hearing and its rhetoric were fraught with holes.

The other case covered a supposed treatment for same-sex attraction disorder. They had to make one of the regular judges come out of the closet for Alan to ultimately thunder away at pharmaceutical and the exclusionary practices of society. He then slept with the judge. The presiding one, a woman.

Denise is pregnant and in record time she received the results to a paternity test, which will set up a cosmic tale of parental woe that will guide the mid-card stars through the rest of the season.

Odo did not appear in this episode. Perhaps he was holding the shape of a chair.

Denny and Alan end the show discussing a sleepover, where there will be scotch, 'Smores and The Guns of Navarrone. Who can sleep with all that going on?

Speaking of war movies ... the EvIl eye recorded The Big Red One which, despite a low budget, bad location, historical problems and Mark Hamill is still a decent movie. I figured I'd watch until things became familiar -- which was right away, so I guess I've seen it all -- and then advance to the best line in the picture, which came up in conversation just the other day, "You know how you smoke out a sniper? You send a guy out in the open and you see if he gets shot. They thought that one up at West Point."

Also recorded without asking was All the President's Men. I'll have to watch that again in short sittings. Fine movie, a little on the vainglorious side, but that comes from the one-sided perspective. The bad acting was either really good or the good acting was really bad, I could never tell, but it really brings the characters to life.

How often do you really see Robert Redford stumble over his words in a movie, after all?

This is the movie of the book of the event that influenced a generation of young people on how they'd see their government and how they'd cover it as journalists. When people make mention, today, of some post-Watergate era, they are generally talking about the taste left in our mouths and the pursuit of journalists.

The beautiful part of this movie, now, is in how the newsroom has changed in a generation. Typewriters, obviously are long gone, but there's the slow dial of the old rotary phone, the red margined paper, the constitute clatter and carrying things from desk to desk.

Half these conversations would have taken place in Email and AIM today, which would have made the conspiracy even more confusing to the casual viewer.

You want real conspiracy? Hal Holbrook played Deep Throat in the movie, but he also played a character in The Firm. Who else was in The Firm? Jerry Hardin, who would go on to play Deep Throat in The X-Files.

Clearly John Grisham was trying to tell us something.

Site things: January photographs are up for your reviewing pleasure. You may see them here.

Someone visited by searching for the phrase burrito is like life, there's a hidden mess inside. I've never used the phrase, but do recognize there are times that the statement is full of merit. Thanks for visiting! And remember, life is also like:
A box of chocolates
An hourglass glued to the table
Licking honey
Juggling huge exercise balls
A boat
French toast
Must be hungry. Late dinner then.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Finally finished the latest Smithsonian Magazine. I'm about two weeks behind in reading it, which just means the new one will be in the mailbox soon. Though I've realized how they're doing themselves a disservice. All magazines have forever had those subscription renewal cards in them, far more than you need for one issue, but they are always there, falling to the floor and cluttering your car and office. Smithsonian puts one in about every third page. They are forever falling to the ground and I'm constantly picking them up, flipping them over, glancing at the price and stuffing them back somewhere in the middle.

And after doing this once or twice it dawns on you: I'm paying $36 a year for the magazine when they're putting the whole thing online for free. Is holding the magazine worth three dollars a month?

Guess which subscription I'm going to let expire at the end of this run?

Not today, but recently, I'd read about archeological digs in Georgia. Last week there was the mystery of the disappearing vultures. The answer seemed so obvious, but it took the researchers some time to figure out. As always: Read to understand.

Today I read about rising interest in Longfellow. This is a story that the Smithsonian Magazine excels at, giving little morsels, a nice biographical thumbnail and then we learn the modern relevancy is an uptick in book sales and a new stamp. That's significant, though, in that Longfellow will be only the second author to have a second stamp in his honor. But who is the first?

Here's the piece that takes the cake this month though, a nice little profile on Dr. Susan Solomon one of the people behind the groundbreaking Ozone/CFC work and a leader on the U.N.'s new global warming report now clogging your imagination.

As an aside, you'd think that'd be on the U.N. website rather prominently, for all the attention they're giving the matter. At least you won't have to deplete the rainforest to read about it -- that'd be ironic, no? -- you can see it here.

The most interesting tidbit is from the Smithsonian Magazine however, where the reporter notes:
Solomon logged more than 400,000 air miles over the past four years and held dozens of meetings with the report's more than 500 authors.
Four hundred thousand miles? Hey lady, thanks for saving the global environment.

Dr. Solomon has impeccable credentials, but maybe she should consider reworking the travel itinerary. Or at least not telling writers about your airmiles. Four hundred thousand? How many sets of [insert endangered species] luggage do you think your typical airline passenger could go through in all that time? It's enough to make you stare at the thermometer a little bit harder, until the extra radiation from angry eyeballs jumps the mercury a degree higher.

Which is what we're talking about here: shades of a few degrees. Therein lies my own concern about this rush to judgement. We've been on the planet a blip, we've measured the weather for considerably less time. It is hardly enough to find a trend.

And there's that whole pesky recent ice age issue and how the planet was warmer for millions of years during various periods of dinosaur activity ... but we're heap big culprits, and here's the data, so act now and feel bad.

I'm sure all those people in the midwest are relieved by this latest news though. Imagine what today would have been like without global warming. Best part of that article? The intrepid meteorologist in North Dakota:
"For this time of year, this isn't that unusual, as far as temperatures go," said weather service meteorologist Bill Abeling in Bismarck. "To get record temperatures this time of year in North Dakota, you've got to delve down in the 40-below region, so we're not even close."
But, to be fair, we're supposed to call it global climate change now.

You can trace that change back to Al Gore and 2004. He delivered a speech on global warming in New York City on January 14. January 15th set a record low for the Big Apple. The 15th was pretty bitter too, at two degrees. I recall hearing a news story where workers were going into walk-in coolers to warm up.

So climate change is more apt. More tangible. But it does lack some of the punch.

EvIl eye time, then. There were four Scrubs to watch, three of which I've seen. We moved through it quickly. There were about six Star Trek episodes, most of them the bad, late ones. They were generally skimmed over, but then there was The Cloud Minders, most notable for an insane Kirk and levothyroxine sodium, the two of which were not related.

One of the guest stars looked very familiar ... I believe I have a neighbor who's doppleganger was born just a few decades too early.

The Way to Eden? The Lights of Zetar? General hackery done in the name of Star Trek, two of those episodes rightly overlooked when people who know Captain Kirk's safe combination gather. I do not know the number to his safe, as I took Shatner's advice years ago.

And, yes, it is hammy, but Requieum for Methuselah. The man was 6,000 years old, he'd been Agamemnon, Abrahmson, Alexander, Brahms, Da Vinci, Hector, Methuselah, Merlin and more. It always makes me think that maybe Paramount should look up Gregory Widen because he clearly stole this storyline in creating The Highlander franchise.

The Bauer Hour: Jack killed a guy, Jack's dad killed a guy. Jack tortured his brother (again), it all looked very convincing and painful and not pleasant at all.

Jack and dad talk, and reconcile of a sort. It is obvious that Jack won't be taking over the family office now that his brother is going away to a secret European torture camp, but they're both more concerned with pining over time lost.

Which can only mean that Jack's dad is about to shoot the place up.

Meanwhile and elsewhere, Morris' brother is badly hurt from the nuclear explosion. He leaves the CTU complex just as the CTU people figure out he's the guy with the technical know-how to arm the rest of the thermonuclear weapons. He'd have to be coerced, we've over heard from the terrorists, but the day is young! The birds are in the air! The fallout is blowing east! Everything seems possible!

Jack's dad has a keeping up with the Joneses complex, because he killed Jack's brother, his son. Had a chat, covered the squirmy little guy's mouth with his hand and ran the plunger deep. Kissed his bald head and then called for help. Sorta makes you long for two hours ago when his only problem was a thin layer of plastic between you and breathing.

Jack also stared down one of his colleagues. The guy folded quickly, perhaps he'd heard about Curtis from earlier this morning. If only that guy's pistol had been a plate of taquitos, Jack would have felt much better about the whole thing really.

Where last week was a slow and plodding episode this one really feels like a ramp ... and next week is a double shot of the Bauer Hour. Someone. Will. Blow. Something. Up. On. Fox.

But now your nightly news.

Oh, Herman Melville has two stamps. Take that Hemingway.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Ah, the Super Bowl.

Didn't quite work out the way I wanted. Figured the Colts would win, made as much sense as anything, but I'd hoped the Bears would surprise me. I prefer their style of play and it is always fun to see a frustrated Peyton Manning lose.

But he won, of course. Indianapolis dominated on the field far more than the final score indicated. Manning is your MVP and is vindicated, no longer having "the guy who can't win the big one" label Which is good. That's just silly anyway. The guy's at the midpoint of his career, plenty of opportunity before him and anyone that wants to say he can't win the big one doesn't understand the game, nor has the right to talk about him.

We made a lot of jokes at Dan Marino's expense in the pre-game, but truth be told he doesn't deserve it either. He's not a Super Bowl champion, but he got there. He's a Hall of Famer, he dominated the game and that's enough.

The opposite side of that coin is Chicago's Rex Grossman. Everyone has loved examining the duality of his season: he's brilliant, he's awful, he's schizophrenic under center. He finished the night with a few interceptions, a few bad stumbles and a few botched center-QB exchanges.

Why are we all down on this guy? That's the same performance we'd give against a murderous NFL defense. If anything we should cheer the guy. Celebrate him. Manning says it in his own commercial "6-5 230 pound quarterbacks ... laser rocket arm."

Rex's commercial? He'd have to talk about how he's 5-foot-11 against a generous tape measure with lifts and just likes to float the ball deep. He's perfectly average, not blessed with the football acumen -- or sometimes focus -- that comes in Manning. He's given to distraction. He's going to keep you in the game on his best day. He should be our plucky favorite quarterback because he's the guy throwing balls down the street in your neighborhood.

Tough gig being the not-so-beloved quarterback in a city aching over a Super Bowl loss. At least Jim Kelly was iconic in Buffalo for all of those years of second place.

Speaking of commercials, though, the best were the Rock, Paper, Scissors spot, the Snickers ad, the Blockbuster pet offering, the axe/chainsaw commerical and the Lonely Robot. See them all here.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Visited The Home Depot today, where I was sadly prevented from using the safest table saw in western civilization. It had hand guards in blazxing hunter orange on either side of the blade, a big box over the blade itself and a combination code that was required for operation. Ethan Hunt might have been stymied, but only for a minute.

Safety first, of course, we must respect that, sadden us though it does, deprived of the simple joys of a table saw.

Made a few other stops, bringing the sum total of errands to four for the weekend. Three of them were successful. One, last night, involved standing in line as they built a Wal-Mart around us. Forty cash registers, four are open -- that's all you see. This was the Speedy Checkout line which has been redefined to fit within the Wal-Mart paradigm.

Half an hour later (and at least four customers with more than double the required items) poor brow-beaten customers are allowed to escape. This was a return/exchange mission, so it couldn't be avoided, despite the dimly lit parking lot which carried its own Agatha Christie foreboding. It is to the point that you have to want to go to Wal-Mart these days anyway. Leaving I only wanted for a Target. Or maybe just an online store.

One other trip today was just fine, another was a semi-bust, but sometimes that's just a promise of future adventure.

Hockey game tonight. Second hockey game ever, first ever NHL game. Had a lot of fun, though a few aspects of the game, I'm sure, will forever remain a mystery.

I understand the theatrics of the mascot though. He fell from the rafters, taunted the visiting fans down on the ice, reappeared during the first intermission to launch t-shirts into the crowd and was never seen again.

There was a very colorful national anthem.

And then the action began. The Thrashers, one of the league's better teams this year, got out front early, scoring on Robert Esche who was soon pulled for Antero Niittymaki who allowed only one goal and made 32 saves as Philadelphia went on to win 5-2.

Here's one of Esche's saves from later in the game. And here's one of Jeff Carter's unassisted goal which put the game out of reach.

The Flyers scored their last goal as we left (Look! The yankees are all bundled up!) for pizza.

Because of the win Philadelphia, though having a bad year, are my newly adopted favorite hockey team. They're even the new background on the blog. For a few weeks at least. The goalkeeper is in that shot, though he's buried beneath the text. As always you can see a smaller version of the picture by clicking on the link in the top left box.

Friday, February 2, 2007

The groundhogs are giving us short winters. Bring on the Spring.

I'm celebrating by taking the day off. Instead of a day in front of the monitor I've spent the day several feet away from the television. I've read exactly six blogs and answered a few Emails -- some of which are bouncing back, convinced I'm spam -- and that's it.

This is my indulgence for working Sunday, and I'm immersing myself in movies. Got up to about 44 degrees outdoors today, so staying inside seems justified. Spring might be coming early, but it isn't getting here today. Just overcast, still skies that aren't suitable for any sort of motivation.

So I watched Just Friends -- sucker for cheap physical comedy that I am -- the end of Star Trek III and JFK. Conspiracy theories aside, and one must always control for the Oliver Stone factor, the cast is tremendous. When you have a few hours to kill it'll get the job done. Just don't listen to Donald Sutherland too much.

You want conspiracy? John Candy is in JFK. He died, far too young, in 1994. He's doing voice work for a television program this year. That's better than Tupac.

Tonight we discovered a little chunk of lemon in the pie. Never really considered how they make the pie -- some things are lost to bliss -- but seeing that made the pie a little sweeter, a little zestier.

It was enough, that tiny piece of pulp, to make you want just a little bit more. Good thing I had the small chicken, then.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

I would invite you out to play in the snow, but there is none. Seems that we've misplaced it. And not misplaced in the sense that we lost it, or that it melted. It seems that we seeded the clouds at the wrong moment and all the snow blew to the north and the east. Parts of northern Alabama and Georgia are covered in a hearty one to two inches.

This, of course, was cause for a three-tractor-trailer wreck that locked up the I-65 corridor for the entirety of the day. My boss wrote and said he was thinking of sitting out today not because of the weather, but because these guys thought bungee jumping off a bridge in their 18-wheelers seemed like a good think to do oh, I dunno, right about ... now!

As I was leaving the office they were beginning the clean up phase. Glad I didn't have to go that direction. When an 18-wheeler is involved go ahead and block out six hours of your life. They were pushing 12 and hadn't started the cleaning process just yet. Detours were lovely we're told.

The best part about all of this winter weather, of course, was the preemptive school closings. Educators in north Alabama, using some of the wisdom years the business gave them, and all of the sense of humor instilled upon them by the state and local government, heard the local teevee meteorologist and decided to call the whole thing off hours before the sleet started.

My boss did venture out to take pictures of the snow. This is from somewhere in his community. Note the artery clogging precipitation on the street.

We have a blinking sign in the office that we've been playing with the last few days. You might remember these from the mid-90s, or even from this week with the much ado about Boston light bright sign scare. The sign has been buried for many moons but has re-emerged much to our delight. Now we can log on from home and dictate messages. Brian wrote an RSS code to pull in headlines today, and so on. We're taunting one another with it, there's no end to the merriment.

This morning the sign greeted me with "Glad to see you survived Winter Storm Ice Blizzard 2007!!!1!"

Oh, and television stations throughout the South, proudly crowing that their chief meteorologists will be staying in the WeatherCenter/StormZone/TempWatch/HighPressure Observer 3000s throughout the night.

I felt so much better having heard about that last evening. Finally. Someone is staying up to protect us from the sleet and flurries.

We got some rain. More rain this morning. Far as I know it rained the whole night through. I'd intended to stay up a bit and finish the laundry but that didn't happen. Something boring came on television and out I went. Looking out the window this morning, though, the road was kind enough to let the water rush down the hill. We hit 34 overnight and that's it.

Gloomy and overcast for the rest of the day. Rained on my afternoon drive and misted the rest of the way. Winter in February, but promising for the groundhogs tomorrow.

Do those guys unionize? Maybe they should. And then, of course, they'd all have to report their findings the same. At scale, but for those of us eager for spring, it might be worth it. We'll look into that.