Kenny Smith | blog

Saturday, March 31, 2007

The next few days around here will be heavy on pictures and light on words. You're relieved, I can tell.

Spent today in Forsythe Park, watching a grandfather give life lessons.

It looked like a movie. They walked along, sat for a few minutes and talked. Him kindly lecturing, mostly, and then they got up and moved along again. It was one of those things you'd think don't really happen, but there it was, in all of its Rockwellian glory.

Spring was there.

So were the bridal parties. There were at least two, maybe three there during the early afternoon. One of them had a string symphony. Another was a military wedding.

Hiding, we saw it all from under here.

Mexican for lunch, crashed a party for dinner. A guy Wendy works with is an Auburn man, he was having a get together and invited us too. This was the night, The Yankee pointed out, when I needed my mp3 recorder. The hostess' parents, Thelma and Richie from South Africa, were there. The sweetest, kindest, funniest couple. Wendy would have them say things in Afrikaans and would try to repeat it. Then she convinced them to take her back to South Africa this summer to meet rich farmers.

And then Wendy tried to sound like a New Jersey goodfella. Wendy is from Jackson, Ala which just a few miles from New Jersey and the accents are about as close together. Though Wendy denies this. She doesn't have an accent she says. To know Wendy is to love her, and to know an accent.

Late night, and an early morning tomorrow.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Spent two hours surrounded by plexiglass and chrome in an unending sea of traffic. On one side was a tractor-trailer, on the other side an RV, towing an SUV, which had four bicycles attached to it. At least that guy isn't letting the SUV's ruin the Earth. "Humanity one, Global Warming zero," he must have said as he emptied the waste unit of the recreational vehicle. This is also an indication of how gas -- those prices creeping up once again -- must not be too unpalatable. That wasn't the only RV hauling a something carrying bikes.

I have had too much time in the car to think. Two hours in barely moving traffic. Gripped, as it were, by a lot of nothing. Two hours for 30 miles of interstate. As it was nearing the stated end of the gridlock I muttered aloud that there should be fingers, at least, on the roadway. For traffic like this there should be something worth seeing.

There was nothing. Just merging delays. And that was incomprehensible when the road finally opened up. No wreck. No construction. No lane reductions. No interchanges. We're left only to blame Spring Breakers, the sometimes-self-fulfilling prophets that are traffic reporters and the gratuitous use of the brake pedal.

I don't have to drive in standing traffic that often, can't you tell?

Later: Ellabell, GA stinks. Fine people, but it is a smelly place. At least tonight. Stopped here for gas and restroom policy revisions and stood outside just long enough to come to this conclusion.

Fort Stewart, the Army installation, is nearby. Appropriate, somehow, as this exit is just past Olive Branch Road. There are some young soldiers in the parking lot of this gas station. I'm old because they all look so young. Of course they've already sized me up and outflanked me, just in case: I've been staring for too long. But they are composed and confident and they are off duty. They exist in this story only to remind me that Fort Stewart is nearby. They lost a soldier in Iraq recently. But they are here and so is that smell and no one is anxious to stand around outside.

Inside is your typically forgettable late-night gas station stop. Anonymous in its uniformity, subdued grit and flourescent lights. If the gas receipt hadn't said the town's name, if it wasn't a memorable name, this would have been the smelly place on the side of the interstate.

The place with seven dispensers of -- ahem -- adult products in the restroom. So, from here on in I have a strict six dispenser maximum. That's the rule. More than six, you drive on! The brand labelling necessary to make each of these seven things differentiate from one another goes beyond humorous to the disturbing, where six is a round number you can avoid, snicker at and move on without addressing the whole thing in conversation. Seven, however, that's going to come up.

Closed down Zaxby's in Pooler. Stopped for a Sonic Blast. Rang the button, the girl asked for the order, being punchy I inquired about their plasticware situation. You can never be too certain about the quantity of spoons in coastal Sonic stores. Stopping once a year or two ago at a Sonic on Whitemarsh Island the guy brought the Blast with bad news. Out of spoons, "But can I interest you in a fork?"

Perplexed by his dreads, the word choice and the lack of skates I had no choice but to nod and take the forks. Then I drove to McDonalds next door and got spoons, noting the Publix just behind the Sonic and McDonalds.

Tonight, though I ask about the spoons. The girl can't handle it. I've asked a question that makes her deviate from the script. You can hear the wires melting together in the silence coming through the speaker. I'm about to ring again, good naturedly suggest that we got disconnected and put in my order, confident that they surely have spoons. As I'm reaching again for the red button a guy comes on and is ready to take the order, lets me get through the whole process and then apologizes, saying the warm spring weather has zapped their ice cream machine.

Sparky? This Sonic, and everything around it is pretty much still brand new, if your ice cream machine has gone bad so early in its career on a day when the mercury soared to 70 degrees you might want to think about getting out of the franchise deal because they're really hurting you in the long run.

I thought better of going to another ordering station and asking again in a different voice. It was too comical, the day too long, the hour too late and the spirit of ice cream already melted in the brutal 62 degrees that 10 p.m. offered that it didn't really seem worth the effort. Ice cream will have to wait.

This is precisely the reason why I rarely suggest anywhere to eat; something always goes wrong. It started in college where I once mentioned Dairy Queen in the middle of the day and they were out of ice cream. Dairy Queen. Lock the doors and go home I said no one is coming here for the chicken fingers.

Finally got to Wendy's place. She's all settled in to the new digs, which is good since it has been four months. We talk notice the low-hanging and useless light fixture (foreshadowing concussion?) and the odd noise her air conditioner makes. "It sounds" she says, "like a leprechaun is in there strumming a rubberband."

I spend the rest of the night trying to figure up better imagery, but she nailed it.

Tomorrow, Savannah.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

This is my Friday. This is your Thursday and, for that, I apologize. But I worked last Sunday, and so I get tomorrow off. No more teachers, no more books, etc.

I did work today, brought to the office my new 1927 Glomerata. Had to show it off to a fellow alum and a few history buffs. Every dean and leadership member is filled with a name that's now a building. Sitting on the Board of Trustees was the original publisher of The Birmingham News There are photos of old buildings at once familiar and strange. All of the perspectives are different, and all of the ladies are flappers.

It is a great book. Got on e-bay from a very nice guy in Georgia. We've struck up a conversation the last few days. Says he found it at a Salvation Army store. He couldn't understand how someone could donate that dusty old tome. I don't understand it either, but someone, someday, will go through your things. They'll decide what's important, what they want to keep to remember you by and they'll make arrangements for the rest.

So you better collect cool things. And imprint their importance into the people who'll one day make these decisions. Raise and associate with packrats and your belongings will do well. Don't explain how important something is and someone will pick it up and resale it to someone else on e-bay for a small profit.

Fob James is in there. Not his son, Junior, the governor. Fob James. He's there with major league baseball players and teachers, engineers and farmers, the people who built 20th Century Alabama.

There's live action shots of the football team, but no Alabama game. This was during the time when the two teams did not play, the rivalry wouldn't be renewed until the 1940s, when the legislature got involved.

There are ads for the local stores, clothing shops in Birmingham and Montgomery, one place wanted to be sure you to get in touch by calling "Phone Nine." The Tiger Theatre advertised in the book. The Theatre hasn't been in place in years, but when I was on campus the facade still hung from the side of the downtown building. As an upperclassman I watched Gap move in. That was a sign of things to come.

But here are the students that went to the theatre, who shopped at Louis Saks in Birmingham. (Sound familiar? You might think of Saks Fifth Avenue, and you'd be right.) There's another Saks advertising his storefront in Auburn, across from the Old Post Office. There's an Old Post Office now, but ours would probably be their new one. This book is 80 years old after all; if any of these students are still alive they'd be around 100.

S.L. Toomer, druggist, advertised in this book. He was calling himself "The Store on the Corner." If he could see it now, he'd recognize Toomer's Corner, but he'd probably be pleased to be remembered. What more can we ask? One day someone goes through your things and thinks about your lemonade, your pharmacy, your Kodak products and how you've become the center of a small universe.

It is all in this book and probably no one has stared at these photographs in years.

I'm looking forward to sharing some of it with you one day, but today I'll direct you into the future. Just a quarter of a century later, but their children were attending a far different campus. Places that count generations in four-year spans will see growth quickly.

So, after beng teased with 1927, I'll invite you to join us in 1952, in what was another time of booming growth. If you're just joining the parade through time, you can start here, if you've been following along, you can pick up where you left off by clicking here. This batch is more student life. Next week we'll move into the sports.

Elsewhere: Like the new background? That's a dogwood in the front yard now in full bloom. Took that shot earlier this week and have been meaning to add it here ever since. It fits the season; we'll see how long it lasts.

Pie Day tonight. Gary told us about the good old days, when a cough would earn him some peppermint flavored corn liquor and a big body wrap. You'd feel weird the next morning, he said, but the cough would be gone. That was in Maryland, he said, which seems unusual. You think of the Carolinas, Tennessee and the Dukes of Hazzard when you think about moonshine. But Maryland?

Like I've said, long week. I'm wiped.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

If the day was a To Do List I've come out on top.

A bunch of little things today. A series of small things that, individually, don't mean much; altogether, though, it is an impressive list on a long night toward the end of a long week.

The late into the night part was work on the website, which I'll offer you tomorrow.

For that I should thank Terry, who's a wealth of information, and we'll both thank the Digital Libraries of Auburn University and Birmingham, which are both tremendous walks back in time. I just found General Patton in a Jeep in Germany with "War Eagle" painted on the front and sides.

Before you strap on the high speed time machine make sure you check out Terry. He's a lot more fun than I am.

Earlier in the day there were the basics of life: organizing, time wasting, general house cleaning, putting some things away and pulling some things out.

There was also dinner, over which I read about the archeological efforts to save Alexandria which sounds fascinating. They were performing engineering feats thousands of years ago that can still make us gasp, and it has been buried by the decades and people and progress. Lately the local government has come to realize what their development is doing to their history and they've become more receptive to looking back as they plan forward.

Part of that is a cultural imprint of archeology that's come before it. Perhaps the most prominent survey, the story notes, left the researcher telling his colleagues that Alexandria was lost, that they should stay in Greece and Rome. Contemporary research has shown that he was just a few feet from staggering finds. And, as that story hints, there is plenty to be found.

So check out the story.

And, now, more laundry.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Did the mid-afternoon nap during the replay of recorded television for which I've become famous. I drifted away for about an hour, missing nothing, having seen both before programs before.

What the first half of the afternoon lacks in excitement was more than made up for as darkness fell. I decided to hang a ceiling fan this evening, at right about 7 p.m. This, I thought, will take an hour, I can grab dinner and be ready for Boston Legal.

But no.

Got the old light fixture down, unwired that, started assembling the new fan. Noticed a great many wires, more than you'd normally anticipate and called the step-dad for a bit of expertise, just to make sure I wasn't about to electrocute myself.

Well if I burn the house down I'll be staying with you tonight.

"Come on then."

I'd really rather not, thanks.

So after a long tedious process of struggling with balancing everything just so, making the wiring work and getting everything connected and reattached, the arms become exhausted. But I'm in good spirits, and that's important for minor re-wiring. Until I realize exactly how dull my wire strippers are. And I have to redo that part of the process twice. Wires: Twisted. Wire nuts: Nutted. Motor: Attached. Blades: In place.

Now the sold separately light fixture. The directions are all wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. It is dark and, of course the circuit is broken so there's no light in this room, even if I hadn't removed the fixture. Snaking in from elsewhere is an extension cord and the most powerful heat-producing lap man has ever created. The air is on, I'm wearing Umbros and am about two jumping jacks from a full sweat. I'm not even moving around, but about ready to rename the room my private sauna. The sun could learn a few things from this lamp.

None of that is making the fan part go any faster. On a side note, this is the first of two indentical fans I'll be hanging in the near future, so now I have most of the mistakes out of the way.

Anyway, the light fixture is supposedly sold for this model of fan, but the directions are so obviously flawed I've decided the home improvement store made a small mistake. I'm ready to disassemble the whole thing and carry it in pieces back to the store. This because, according to these directions, I must now access a part of the fan currently covered by the recently attached blades. I'm not too happy about this. I've been standing on a ladder for a while, standing up to bend down, because my six-foot ladder and the eight-foot ceiling aren't doing me any favors. When I stand at a height I need for access I'm actually bending back down from the ceiling. I've climbed onto something to reach this silly posture.

And the lights ... I've already begun to question the balance of the electric box in the ceiling and now I'm a bit concerned that I'll have a ceiling fan that I can neither use as fan or light. Finally I see a way to "make do" and in doing that very thing realize that this must be how the design was intended to work. So that's attached, and then there's more wiring.

Finally, some fair amount of time after my "take an hour" plan began, the ceiling fan fits the bill.

Go back to the basement, flip the circuit and then run upstairs -- just in case anything is smoldering. Flip the switch, screw in some light bulbs and light the room. Cleaning up the debris from the project I find, on the back of the instructions for the fan, a little blurb about attaching the lights. These directions go precisely as I made the set up work, completely counter to the instructions found in the box with the light attachment

Just then one of the bulbs pops.

Tomorrow I'll buy new bulbs. And attach those pretty light globes. I'll hang the other ceiling fan in a week or two, probably not to long after having learned the lessons of this one.

There was no Boston Legal. This show always gets the business when it comes to programming moves. Next week's is new, and promises to be very interesting. There's a hostage crisis and flashbacks from a 1950s television show featuring a very young William Shatner playing a rookie lawyer. That's going to be good stuff.

Added the week's installments of newspapers. The latest are a the opening stanzas of the War to End All Wars. There are Germans and Italians and Russians and a big liner gets sunk. Hectic, scary times in Europe. If you've been following along with the series, jump directly to the latest.

Later: Turned the fan on, spins nice and smooth. It'll be quietly whirring its way through my dreams in no time.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Full day today. It was a day full of fullness, best I can do in the way of an explanation. Co-workers were kind enough to share some new music with me. I have the new Son Volt to listen to, but first I have to put down the advance tracks from the new Wilco. Qualified as I am to comment on music in a learned way, I'll just say the Wilco is great. It isn't a sing-along, but Wilco never will be. Good stuff to listen to.

See how talented a music reviewer I am?

How about this? I've enjoyed listening to Son Volt for a decade and I can't get to that disc because I'm too busy playing Wilco over and over. Something to consider.

At home there were a couple of episodes of Star Trek to watch. Apparently even in syndication, and as a child, I knew to stay away from the 1968 material. It was, as the winetasters say, not a good year. The Gamesters of Triskelion is not their best work, and it seems everyone but Shatner realized it at the time. The guy was trying though, really trying. A Piece of the Action is a little better, given the guest stars and Shatner slipping from 23rd Century Kirk to 20th Century Koik. Shatner isn't stilted, but he played a starship captain who was. Walter Koenig, meanwhile, he might as well have gotten scale for all his use in these two episodes. George Takei is nowhere to be found. Maybe he knew.

Quick, who's been across the Star Trek franchise the most (Majel Barrett notwithstanding)? Joseph Ruskin.

Moving on.

Star Trek Enterprise is wheezing its way through the regrettable second season. There are some good episodes coming, but they all lead to that regrettable finale, of which the less said the better. The Sci Fi channel is airing four episodes a night on Monday's, I'm catching (or skipping, as quality dictates) three a night, but ultimately we'll have breezed through the entire series in six months. We're about halfway there now.

I don't watch (or skip) all four because of 24. I realized this evening that I wrote nothing of last week's episode, but that was because it didn't get watched until this past weekend and I neglected to write about it here. So, since this is already an entirely television centric day, we'll gloss over last week's installment and then move into tonight.

Last week: Should Jack really be the guy piloting the drone with the nuclear weapon strapped on it? His hands have to be shaky because of an out-of-whack blood sugar. He did crash it into the earth, cracking the seal on the radiation container and dooming a few first responders. Also, a random guy was shot without prejudice. I really hope he was guilty of something more than being double parked.

Tonight, we find that the woman in CTU -- you know, America's one attractive, conservative, Republican lady from some unnamed (lest we offend) Islamic nation -- didn't do anything wrong. She wasn't helping the terrorists. She doesn't hate America. Though, just as they're explaining this I realize that they really needed her treasonous acts. If not for running some sort of backtrace on the data stream they would have never found the guy piloting the drawn with the nuclear bomb bungeed on top.

That guy died by the way.

So this led Jack off to some other guy who had a phone call from the Russian general intercepted by Big Brother. As Jack bolts off to do something rash Silver Spoons heads back to CTU, with the knowledge of the innocent CTU staffer crunched safely in his palm.

So Schroeder's colleague rolls over on him, but the Spoony one was doing what he was supposed to, which leads us to a dramatic moment where we study these two men's noses and chins. Ooh! Tension! Snap! No he didn't!

Jack shoots the some other guy he's chasing, also located nearby. That guy has a nice brother who's autistic (we'll say) and Jack's superhero powers of persuasion make everything nice, despite this first guy being riddled with bullets, impending terrorism, hacking and computer theft charges headed his way. The nice autistic guy is enlisted to help capture the Russian general, Gredenko. So the Russians come for the data drop, get ready to shoot the autistic guy -- I figure he doesn't make it out of this alive, or he gets a job at CTU -- but before he can the CTU guys drop him with a tranquilizer. And there must have been rhino tranq in there because he dropped like a stone. Two other Russians were killed, the new sympathetic guy is safe and is sent on his way to see his brother and that's a 35 minute story arc wrapped up nice and tight.

Meanwhile, in Washington, we're just ripping the Constitution to shreds. The vice president is ready to share fusion with some unnamed (lest we offend) middle eastern nation-state. The National Security Advisor, Karen Hayes, fresh from being unresigned, has asked the first sister to revive the president, lying in a drug-induced coma after the attempt on his life a few hours ago. The man's bleeding into his brain, but he still has command authority over the military since he's conscious once again. The only way he'll conceed that power now is according to the involuntary withdrawal proviso in the 25th Amendment. That'll take the vice president and the majority of the Cabinet.

And that's what happens next week.

About that, because you hear Jack Bauer say "The following takes place between the hours of 9 and 10 p.m." can we safely deduce he doesn't die in that episode? You know, for real? The man's been killed twice in this series so far, which I suppose makes him undead. That would explain the low priority placed on food or trips to the bathroom.

Zombie Jack says: "We don't have time! For braaaaaaains!"

We do have time tonight for Battlestar. This was the season finale, and must hold us over until 2008 -- that's mean guys -- so if you haven't seen it yet, you might want to skip to the next bolded section.

Actually I know some people who are still waiting to see it. I can't write much about this until they get a chance to watch. I've ruined too many episodes for them already this season. Gauis Baltar gets a verdict, we understand the (suddenly cheesy) music, the cylons appear and we learn about the other Cylons. Except for the cheesy music this was a great episode.

Oh, and someone found Earth.

Something you can find on the A/V page. There's another new slideshow with pictures and sound by me and the slideshow work by Kelly. This slideshow is part of swordsmanship display at Betsy Ross' house in Philadelphia. This is from last fall, and we were riding the trolley around seeing all the many cool things to see around downtown Philadelphia. (You should go if you can. Great trip.)

Anyway, of the series of these movies that Kelly has worked so hard on this is my least favorite. It is no failing of hers. There's too much sound in the background, every truck in Philadelphia came down the street while these guys were performing, and then our visit got cut short as the tour trolley returned to take us on to the next place. We didn't see the actual sword fight, but they were funny guys and looked talented from what we had the chance to see. The blond headed guy is the straight man, the dark haired fellow is playing the fool. They got good laughs from the peanut gallery, but unfortunately this part of the gallery had to go.

Kind of like now.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Work this morning and this afternoon. The weekends aren't so bad. Not that I want to do them regularly, but when you get down to it they are slow and quiet shifts. Lately we've all been taking on extras, but this shortened weekend will be repaid by a longer weekend elsewhere, so there's no serious harm in that.

Except for the alarm clock.

On the other hand, there's actual music on the radio on Sunday mornings, rather than every station thinking they must spend all their time talking. Many mornings I can make the 20 minute drive with just one song. And the morning shows range from bad to marginally approachable. Don't get me wrong, I love talk radio; I made my living there for several years, but This Day in History, Celebrity Birthdays and What I Did Over the Weekend stories will only keep you awake for so long. In the morning there should be at least some music. Some station should seize on the void. The local 80s station comes the closest, this of course being the station I want to hear talking on rather than music.

And if I wanted to listen to talk I could tune over to those stations, but there's nothing good local anymore since my friend Richard Dixon left town to play tunes in Orlando, so I'm instead rocking out today to music from the '90s. I won't say much more, lest I embarrass myself.

After work there was the library, some more reading, and finally some Cajun food. The Cajun Steamer is not bad, I'd go back just to try other things on the menu. And also because I got shorted on the Zydeco. I was promised Zydeco and instead got a guy who insisted on pretending to be an Italian mobster whenever he'd stop by the table. Nice guy, but it is difficult to imagine mobsters in khaki shorts.

Saw Stephen for the first time in ages, had some hot boudin, but no cold couscous. It would have not been unappropriate if they piped in Tiger Rag at the top of the hour, for what is Cajun without the Golden Band from Tigerland?

They forgot our checks for a long while, so dinner ultimately lasted two hours, but somehow that fits the motif for the place.

In the restroom was a portrait of Shorty Price. That somehow worked where the all too clean balcony and the obviously staged beads didn't. Walking back out the front we had a nice view of the kitchen and it was sufficiently dirty. Just right for the genre. The website shows they contract with fishermen right out of Bayou La Batre, so you're helping the state and a great local economy by having the crab.

So (Oh no!) we'll have to go back and have the crab.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Slept in a bit this morning. It was about 8:30 when enough sun found its way through the curtains to wake me up. Read for a bit. I finished Through the Eyes of a Tiger this past week. While most of the stories hinge on experiences around obvious games, they are allinteresting stories, unique to the people involved. Perhaps my favorite was one of those included early in the book, the tale of Henry W. Sweet, the oldest surviving Auburn letterman, who was able to see the first time Auburn hosted Alabama at home. You really have to be a part of all this to understand that story or how teary eyed it makes a lot of people. I won't do it a disservice by trying, but to say that wiping out 60-some years of frustration and realizing dreams that'd lived for just as long in the span of one brilliant fall day.

It was 60 degrees and optimistic and desperate and prideful all at once. People say that'll never be repeated at Auburn, and they're probably right. In six to 10 years, however, Auburn will likely be knocking on the door to even the series record. The year the Tigers pull even, and the year they pull ahead, those will be similar emotions.

Don't call me those days. I'll be busy; those dates are already booked. I'll be in a stadium with delirious people and it will be something we talk about and smile over for decades. You really have to be a part of all of this to understand how that'll happen too.

So I finished the one book and I have one other Auburn book in the To Do stack, so I figured I may as well work through that one. Stadium Stories is written by Phillip Marshall of The Huntsville Times. My colleague has a new blog on the site, and it is a great read. You should check it out if you are a fan of the Auburn variety.

So Marshall spent time peering into dusty microfiche machines looking at old stories, pulling out great statistics and tracking down old men for their old memories. It is a nice book, a fast little read, the larger essence of which I'm already familiar with of course. He's got some great quotes and a few nice anecdotes that aren't a part of the larger historical canon, and that makes this a good read.

This book was a gift from The Yankee, which makes me laugh whenever I think about it. Sure, even some of the ancient coaches that are referenced in this book have direct ties to Notre Dame or the East Coast, but there remains a Mason Dixon line joke in here demanded by history. The prominent cemetery just off campus is filled with markers noting professors who "Educated Southern Youth." The University closed during the Civil War to be a confederate hospital, the University Chapel is supposedly haunted by a soldier, the Old South parade (for better or worse) lasted well into the latter part of the 20th Century. In a crusty old way The Yankee buying such a thing would be at odds with all that. But the place is now full of what The Southern Agrarians called "the yankee dollar." All of these things have been interwoven, that's reconstruction for you. Sounds like an irreverent sitcom punchline: That's reconstruction for you.

We did have a conversation once about how wearing an Auburn shirt and a New York Yankees hat at the same time was pushing it.

The book though, 24 pages this morning and about halfway through tonight, is good so far.

Standing in line for lunch I met two ladies who'd just been over at two of the college fan apparel money making machine stores. They don't even apologize for it now. Alabama store, right next the Auburn store. They aren't even neighbors, they are, in fact, the same store. Only a long, low aisle gives the impression of separation. Cheer for whom you want, but you better by something, the whole thing suggests. Occasionally this can lead to taunts, jeers or otherwise fun stories.

This nice lady today said she was picking up some Auburn swag when a little boy, all of four, came up to her and annouced that he doesn't like Auburn, he prefers Alabama.

We train them young.

So the nice grandmotherly lady, who I've met in this line, says she reached down and gave the kid an elbow in the eye socket and started talking trash.

She did not, but the story would be hysterical if it played out that way.

The kid's mother says to her son, "If Auburn and Florida are playing who do you pull for?" And the child sweetly, and dutifully, replied Florida.

And that's when the grandmother jabbed his other eye with the clotheshanger she was holding.

So I'm standing in line with these ladies, and I suppose they are mother and daughter, and the younger of the ladies says she has a son who'll be in college next year. He's considering Auburn, Southern and Vandy. He'd be a legacy at Auburn, where he's already received scholarship offers, but he's waiting to hear word from Vanderbilt. He is apparently very smart and, from what I can understand, his grandmother never had to beat him up for choosing to cheer for the wrong school.

For more on how silly this can be, please read this story from earlier in the week. These good people have named their child Saban, after Alabama's coach. The new one, you know, the guy who hasn't won a game there yet. We've laughed at this a lot, but the father promises to make sure his sons -- the oldest is named Tyde -- continue to bleed crimson, else he'll put them up for adoption. Auburn is not immune to such silliness. Somewhere right about now there's a young adult walking around named War, with a sibling named Eagle. I haven't seen a story on them in a while, but I'm sure they've gotten their share of playground beatings, and they no doubt have cast aspersions on their parents accordingly.

Makes me wonder if any Georgia fans have gotten in on this silliness. Somewhere there's a 14-year-old kid named Uga, and he's already made up his mind he'll attend Florida, just for spite.

Became one with nature after lunch. The day has been too pretty, very warm and bright to stay indoors. The trees are quickly remembering their role as shade givers, so today was a good day to be outdoors. Saw some flowers. And four woodpeckers. Two adults and two very small woodpeckers, of which this is one. He may not look it, but that is a woodpecker. I'm not an ornithologist, but the continual pecking of the trees gives it away.

Watched a few Season Two episodes of Boston Legal, we're at the "Alan's crazy" arc -- getting now into a few of the episodes I caught during their original airing -- and then went out for dinner. Except the wait was 90 minutes. That's a non-starter at 7:30. Cajun'll have to happen another time. Mexican instead, where the people in the both behind me surely spent their meal rolling their eyes at the blathering about politics and the internets between bites of my enchilada.

This has been a great day, slow, measured and deliberate. Tomorrow I'll have to work, but it will still retain the essence of a weekend, some perfumes just cling to you, so it won't be too bad. Except for that waking up part, which is where we'll leave this until next time.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Daylight Savings snuck up on us this year. Spring did the thing that springs do, boinging into our daily routine in a delightful fashion. We're flirting, suddenly, with 80 degree temperatures and a sunlight that could convince you that you could see everything, if only you had the proper vantage point.

The days are brilliant, vibrant, and the world is coming back to life. Last night I was serenaded by the first loud cricket of the season. He liked The Beatles. Or he disliked them. I'm not sure yet, the buzzing all sounds similar really. At least this early in the season, but as summer creeps open us the ear will grow more attuned to the night's symphony and there'll suddenly be the ability to understand how the crickets felt about the British invasion.

Crickets don't eat beatles, so that's one for the fab four. Buddy Holly and The Crickets were a big influence on the Beatles, so that's another checkmark. Paul McCartney, it turns out, owns the publishing rights to the Buddy Holly catalog. So I guess the cricket is now compelled to enjoy The Beatles, who blared through my house most of the night.

As a child I figured Earth must be the brightest thing in space because we were as bright as anything else, and we had all this light we were manufacturing. I was a very young child. Now I wonder what it must be like, to put out a big high-tech space ear, ignore that "sound can't exist in a vacuum" rule in a very science fiction way and turn this way to listen. How delightfully noisy we must be. How much anger and hope and confusion and clarity must we project. How our astral friends must delight at the simple harmonies of pop songs in three bars, and the complex flitterings of our most gifted composers. How they must laugh at our science fiction. They do, after all, posses high-tech space ears which negate the "sound can't exist in a vacuum" rule.

So, yes, I mowed the lawn this afternoon. The above should be the big giveaway. I had far too much time to think, as only driving in squares can allow.

First I cleaned out the shed. Every spring, it seems, would be a good time to remove some of the debris that has accumulated in your hidden debris container, otherwise known as the tool shed. Mine is a big stand-alone wooden building on its own cement foundation. It has a vaulted roof and rafters and if you ran electricity to it, added some insulation and took all of the things out from inside you could rent the place out. The add would say "Must love authentic cement flooring."

I'm not cleaning it out that much, but there's a few bags of things that can safely be removed, seeing as how they've languished there waiting for all this time and have gone unused for want of a replacement, disrepair, a lack of a specific purpose or aesthetic appeal. It is amazing what only two garbage bags and a little reorganizing will do. The shed looks almost clean! And so begins my somewhat impactful stab at spring cleaning.

So after that there was the mowing of the grass. But before that there had to be the regular jumping off the riding lawnmower from the car. I wrote about this in the blog maybe four years ago, going into detail about the procedure and my at-the-last-second concerns and you would not believe the hits I still get on the subject. Search engines are an incredibly useful tool that people use in increasingly odd ways. It is insightful to see how people think about things like butt electrocution or inflation or deflation.

Kelly chides me on the extent of my description of yard maintenance, specifically the jumpstarting the lawnmower bit, but to this day it is one of the best traffic drivers on the site. That and a graphic of a cricket and some graffiti. Oh, the kids these days, they love the graffiti, and if it isn't the graffiti it is the fear of butt electrocution or drunken crickets.

And so we're back on insects.

Only I'm changing the subject back to graffiti. Just to stir up a few more hits. You'll pardon me my excesses, of course.

Graffiti, graffiti, graffiti, graffiti and graffiti.

I'm sorry. It is Friday, the weather is beautiful, I have an excuse to be outdoors, the weekend is here and there's Pie Day to consider.

We haven't heard the Pie Day Theme in awhile, so play it, won't you?

Brian's parents are in town for a visit, so it was another big table tonight. Brian and Elizabeth's parents are both great fun, and tonight we retreated to the familiar holdover of telling childhood stories about our own experiences. Brian's folks could have led the way, of course, but they are very cool about this sort of thing. And now their granddaughter, all of four, is informed. Don't know if you noticed Brian, but she was paying close attention. If any of her adventures ever seem familiar, you've only yourselves to blame.

And me. I told stories too, but they aren't very colorful. Almost vanilla, in fact. I was too afraid of getting caught. "What if?" is a terrific limiter, it turns out.

We also learned tonight that Brian's parents were spelunkers. That's how they met. Not in a breezy and damp cave, but in an organization devoted to people who fling themselves down into the earth. "The stories I could tell you" Brian's mother said.

I can't be teased with a non-story, though, and so I must pry. She did tell one of being hundreds of millions of feet beneath the surface and stepping blindly in the darkness across these little outcroppings to learn, only later, that there wild boars lurking beneath the ledges four feet below. Boars: The Animal You Most Want to Experience in an Enclosed Space. She also told stories of being places where someone had to stay on the surface to guard the ropes, lest the locals come along and maroon you at the bottom of the cave.

She was not impressed with my stories of adventures in very tame, park ranger-guided tours. Not sure why, there are probably beetles in those caves too.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Spent most of the afternoon writing letters. And pondering writing tips from Kurt Vonnegut and Orson Welles. I stumbled across the Vonnegut advice and a coworker forwarded the Welles rules -- which I have subsequently misplaced. They are good things to think of, and we should all take as much writing help as we can get. Either that or churn out something that would make Vonnegut proud and Welles blush. Since I haven't done that -- yet -- I'll take the advice. But I've found myself overthinking that this evening, so the writing has been slow. Not every piece of advice is applicable to every situation, of course.

Otherwise, today has been beautiful, quiet and uneventful. Not a lot of distractions, just a lot of navel-gazing.

I'm designing a new section of the site, and the layout of this one isn't as obvious as the rest. There's a specific logistical concern to overcome before I can introduce the new section, but hopefully I'm stumble upon the answer soon. Likely in the middle of the night when I'm asleep. I'll sit upright with the epiphany, nod to myself and then lay back down. I'll realize that it is only 2:30 in the morning and I have two more hours of sleep.

Ha! I'll say to myself, now wide awake, I can take a nice long nap.

After I've completely come to my senses I may as well be awake, I've learned to count the remainder of time between then and the alarm as cheating. Somehow the rest of my body accepts this and, when it happens, thinks I've gotten a lot more sleep than usual.

Only I'll sit upright with the epiphany, do the Ha! thing, fall back into the pillow and will have forgotten the thing by the time I sit down in front of the computer again.

That or it will occur to me while staring in the mirror. Standing over the sink is a great place for realizations. I've never understood why. We'll credit the ceramic, the sound of water and the lights on the side wall instead of overhead.

At any rate, at some point soon the right side of my brain will have an answer, I'll have something more to show you and you'll think "Maybe there's something to that mirror theory after all."

Dozens of people will let their dinner burn, staring transfixed into the mirror, waiting on uncertain things to become more clear. Some may succeed, some may fail, and those will find themselves staring into the mirror thinking "Wow, that guy might be vain."

I assure you, however, that these epiphanies only take place during the normal bathroom counter, medicine cabinet rituals.

Maybe it is the comb, then.

Nothing else to see here today. I left work, came home and have stayed in pretty much one place all evening. I did have a delicious tomato sandwich, but, really, you've had enough filler today, you don't need my recipe for that.

Oh, OK. Toast the bread. I prefer a seven grain honey wheat bread myself. Slice a tomato, dab up the dripping evidence. Add your favorite condiments, coldcuts and possibly a dairy selection if you are so inclined. Put all that on the lightly warmed bread, dab a bit of potato salad on the side of your plate and pour a cold glass of milk. Early dinner of champions.

Good thing I didn't read about Vonnegut or Welles' diet today, right? Who knows where I'd be just now.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

At this time we'll issue a qualified "Eh, you're off the hook" to Pat Moore, who represents Alabama District 15. She says did not abstain, but rather her voting machine malfunctioned during the pay raise override vote. I'll take that against her good word, but I wonder why no one raise a point of order about the voting machines.

Just one more note on that pay raise, and here I'll ask you to perform some basic math.

Lawmakers were previously paid an average of $30,410 per year as their compensation as an elected representative. They needed this raise, they say, because they can't survive on such a meager earning, so the new figure is around $49,250 per annum. These poor people! How do they do it?

Let's ask exactly half of the rest of the state, which is getting by on a median household income of $38,108 according to 2003-2005 data.

I searched for quite some time for more recent figures, to see if somehow the rest of the state's income had surged leaving only lawmakers and myself behind. That's not the case. So -- and here's your simple math -- we'll now consider the following formula, where the first figure is the new legislative pay, and the second figure is the median household income for Alabama.

$49,250 > $38,108.

This is a part time job for every one of those individuals we send to Montgomery. Supplemental income. They'll make more off their efforts here than half the houses in the state will make all year. And they have other jobs too. "But they need raises." All of you who can't survive the year with a second, part time, job that by itself approaches the state's median household income should consider resignation.

If you can't handle your own money any better than that you have no business handling mine.

So much to do I think I'll take a nap. That was the command decision my mind made this afternoon. The rest of my body didn't get the memo until the alarm on my cellphone went off. Even that my conscious mind didn't register (It had previously enjoyed a 100 percent success rate.) until it was too late. By the time I caught up to the time and the goings on around me I missed out on two fantastic Glom sales on E-bay. Distracted later in the night during a letter-writing session I missed another.

Pardon me if I quick myself for the next day or two. They were great, old editions, two from the 30s and one from the 40s, and I could have gotten them all for a song.

I'm quickly amassing a nice little collection of these things. Everyone needs a niche, I suppose. Niche firmly in place, I'll soon need another bookshelf. Oh, the not-burdensome-at-all difficulties of my life.

Speaking of Glomeratas there's another nice installment on that section of the site. If this is new to you, we're paging through th edition that would have been my grandmother's freshman yearbook, had she attended my alma mater. It has been both educational and entertaining, watching these now-70-somethings at play. Start the series here or, if you've been following along go directly to the latest. We're in the "Activities" section now, so there are some terrific candid shots that are worth studying.

Two pages are dedicated to a party of the future. The year 2000 was going to be a fantastic place, shocking even the Jetsons from the looks of things. Robots and aliens and ... well, you'll just have to read it for yourself to see how 2000 turned out.

I really like this, as a weekly project. It is a lot of fun and even now that this week's installment is complete I want to do a few more. Scanning is the one part of the process that keeps this a weekly feature, otherwise I'd spring into this and post pages of obvious jokes and occasional observations until my eyes were blurry.

Which they will be soon enough, and so I'll bid you adieu.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Andre Natta told us last week that The Birmingham News' Victor Hanson is now a step closer to demolishing his old building. With that in mind I went over today for my first round of photographs of the old place.

Going to be sad to see it go. The newspaper had clearly outgrown it, but there is a lot of charm in that 1917 building. Have a more artistically crooked view of the main entrance. In these last years you would walk through those doors and be faced with big presentations of The News' Pulitzer. There'd be a secretary there and if they left you standing around long enough it began to feel like a high security prison. Something about the walls sapped your energy. Seeing that prize winning paper though was always invigorating.

Take a closer look over those doors. I've never noticed the lightbulbs in the molding. Probably because there's only one still hanging there. Wonder when they were last turned on.

The News originally intended to re-use the entry in their new building, but after they examined it closely what was thought to be stone turned out to be fragile terra cotta. There'd been murmurings of preserving the building, but nothing feasible apparently came out of those talks.

And what of the new building? It sits directly across the street. The paper's home is flashy and modern again. And, for now at least, each is reflected in the other.

The Bham Wiki has a nice brief history of the building, with a self-styled quote from its opening and notation of the many additions. It will take about a year for the building to be removed and new parking put in its place.

And in Montgomery: State lawmakers decided to give themselves a raise today, ignoring hordes of voters' complaints, a few hundred protestors and a veto from the governor. A 62 percent raise for a part time job. I know some lawmakers, good men, I know there's more to it than just the 35 days they're in Montgomery. From what I hear three of the five I know voted with the veto, and the other two voted for the raise. This is expected but extremely disappointed.

If you can not subsist on this, a supplemental income, don't run for the office. If you can't subsist with the influx of such a flattering supplemental income perhaps you aren't qualified to have your hand in the state till. Given how money is frequently managed in government this should be a safe litmus taste.

Thankfully the representative I worked with in the last election voted against the override. Which only makes one wonder: had the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor not reneged on his deal with me, perhaps I could helped convince him he had some dreadful campaign messages floating around. Perhaps that would have shifted the balance. Would this have happened? It certainly changes the equation, as the man who beat him flagrantly violated procedure to run this through the state Senate in his position as president pro tem.

The lieutenant governor's race last fall was less than a percentage point. I'm no wizard, but saying "Maybe you should run on something other than 'I'm tall and he's a short, fat and crusty' would surely have been worth a few decimal places.

Seriously. The man's campaign said "The only six-foot-nine candidate running."

My gawd we must reward his physical stature with an elected office!

Something to think about, big man.

Interestingly, Lt. Gov. Folsom has now all but bolted the door on Gov. Riley's vice presidential aspirations. There had been a thought that the Republican governor would get involved, but that idea came with its own second thoughts when a Democrat was elected lieutenant governor. If Riley cares anything about the people that put him in office he can't leave that guy in charge again now.

I suppose he could. They all might get together and laugh about it later. "My how we snowed the voters. How forgetful they'll be. How Alabamians are apathetic to what goes on here in Montgomery."

We should take nothing from the realization that this was their first legislative action of the session and that it will pay them more than their peers to say nothing of their merit. Says a lot about the lack of their desire to give state employees that aren't teachers a raise. And all this happens almost four years shy from the ballot box, making it just a bit more smelly.

My representative abstained in this vote according to the unofficial record. I hope that's incorrect.I know my senator voted against the override, becoming one of the most vocal critics of this raise.

Next election cycle we'll see how closely people paid attention; we'll learn how much they care. Hubris can lose you a race in the margins. Demagogy alone could win a few races in the next cycle.

Site stuff: The new newspapers are up. Go directly to the new additions here. Elsewhere I'm getting ahead of the curve on the Glom stuff for the week and in to some interesting photographs. Look for those tomorrow.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Got home last night before it was too late. Text messaging and talking on the cell for the last few miles. I also learned that you can text message someone while talking on the phone with a third person. These are not safe things to do. The roads were unnaturally empty or I wouldn't have tried such a thing. And my messages were naturally very brief.

Also my fingers know where all the buttons are. Muscle memory: an unintended gift of the video game generation.

Watched Battlestar late last night, just so I could be caught up with the EvIl eye to start the week. This episode, throughout, felt like a big set up and in the teaser at the end that was confirmed. The season finale is next week, and the preview looks riveting. This one was the bridge that gets us to the cliffhanger. And apparently we'll find out someone is a Cylon.

Gaius Baltar's trial isn't going well. His team, including the recently resigned-his-commission-in-a-huff Lee Adama are just politicizing the trial, intent to take shots at Laura Roslin and not really work for their client. I'd be a little upset about that if I were a genocidal former president. Allegedly.

Why no one has offered up that he did those things under duress is beyond me. Perhaps the 12 colonies don't have that as a legal concept. Sure Baltar is culpable, as all self-interested opportunitists are, but the bad guys did stick a gun in his face, thereby making the profoundly withdrawn, narcisstic medium-bad guy the genocidal bad guy when we all got together at the next human refugee party and looked at the paperwork.

I wonder if he now thinks he should have stayed on that basestar with Six and Three. Would have been a lot better for Baltar than going out the airlock.

Next week the decision is read and the courtroom goes bananas. Which can only mean he's found innocent, unless of course he's found guilty. At least two members of the tribunal seem open-minded or sympathetic.

I'm curious to see where Colonel Tigh's recent craziness ("The music is in the ship!") goes. Tigh is an interesting character. I dislike him because of his extremely rough edges, but like where that leads him too. He's better when he's got at least one foot on the wagon though. And the Cylons are coming back.


Home today I was surprised to see there was nothing new on the TiVo. A whole productive afternoon!

So I worked on the webpage, handled a few tedious chores and set myself up for the week. This is an experiment of planning ahead on the site, it should be interesting and, hopefully, profoundly fulfilling.

Today on the site you'll see a few updated versions of the various recordings. Particularly the Family Stories page, where I've now embedded the audio into a photograph of the principle talker. Similarly there's an embedded photo and recording from the weekend's birthday party and an old holdover from the last trip to Savannah. You'll find those on the A/V page.

Also on the A/V page is another slideshow, this one on the Liberty Bell.

Kelly made that. Congratulate her. She's the one that makes it go. I just talked to the ranger with all the knowledge about the bell and took the pictures. Kelly makes it sing. So powerful are her talents that she's earned a theme song here.

Back to the ghost stories for a moment: I'd wanted to do a host of these, having recorded all of the guide's tales, but have just realized I have the sound but neglected the houses. I'll look through old pictures and see if I can match up a few more, because the stories are worth hearing, but that'll have to wait for a few days.

I'm also getting ahead of myself on the newspaper section, with all the heavy lifting done tonight, leaving only the writing tomorrow. Tomorrow I hope to get out in front of the Glomeratas in the same fashion. Speaking of which, I found a 1927 Glom last week. Pretty cool.

And I'd like to figure out how to set up the next section of the website, only there are problems of both a technical and a layout nature right now.

Elsewhere, Auburn owns the pool. Again. That's Coach David Marsh's last meet with his beloved Tigers, he's moving on to coach the Olympians and will be replaced by Richard Quick, his former mentor, will return to the Plains. He coached Auburn a few decades ago, and all he's done since is win (a lot) at Stanford and Texas.

My freshman or sophomore year a friend said that Marsh would be the next coach at Auburn to win a national title. So that would have been 1995 to 1997. In 1997 he proved my friend a great sage (and sometimes an eminent man). All Marsh has done since then is win five straight championships on the men's side of the pool, and seven in a decade. The women have claimed five national championships. Over that decade between the two teams there have been dozens of records broken, a handful of Olympians and an untold number of All-American honors. This is on par with the UCLA basketball dynasty of the 1960s and 1970s.

I have an interview with Marsh, on a tape somewhere, where he raves about the dedication of these swimmers, people who will pour in hours of laps to shave a hundredth of a second off their best times. That interview was really where I began to appreciate what they were doing. A year or two later I interviewed a few players who told this story from looking up at this hard driving, not quite maniacally dedicated man who just knew how to get the best (and then a little bit better) out of world class swimmers.

Together they've pulled down 12 national championships since 1997.

Some people tell a (possibly apocryphal) story of Coach Marsh out at his house on Lake Martin. Every year he would invite the team out for a barbeque and somewhere in that day he'd get in his little boat and tell the swimmers to come along. Only the team is big and his boat is not, so they must swim. They would follow along behind the boat to some island or some point. "Way out there." And then he'd make them swim back.

There are great big gators in that lake.

Success, you see, is sometimes survival.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

It has been chilly this weekend. The sun has taken the weekend off and the breeze has come in for one last reminder of a mild winter. Yesterday the meteorologists said there were indications of the type of snow that falls and then melts before it gets to the ground. A microcosm of the almost forgotten season.

For a few minutes in the afternoon the clouds parted and the day was beautiful. Otherwise the day appeared as if it was considered rain.

That was just for appearances, though, and a fitting backdrop for the day. We spent the afternoon on a cemetery tour. We're taking notes of family, hearing stories and finding the locations of people gone for decades, so that at least their resting place, and maybe a few of their stories can stay alive.

I saw 19 relatives, not counting cousins. A have a memory of one of them, my grandmother's father, though I should remember also remember her mother, but I don't. Only five of those 19 were still alive when I was born. Somehow this is all exhausting.

We also saw the crypt of a Revolution baby, born in 1776. More than a few soldiers from the Civil War, all who survived the war, most who rode with the Alabama or Tennessee Calvary. Most of them had tattered versions of the Confederate Stars and Bars. In that same cemetery was a woman born in 1861 named America. Her last name is most certainly not from the area -- in the six or seven cemeteries of the day you begin to notice the same family names -- and the internet does not know her. There are two similarly named ladies born later, but she lived, died and was buried in Kentucky and Ohio. I found it interesting that she was named America, I assume in the South, in 1861.

None of the veterans I noticed today died during their service, but lived to be old men.

Late in the day we found a pair of graves with a mailbox between them. A daughter, 17, died a few years before her mother. Their family and friends are leaving pictures and notes in little books filled in the mailbox.

I read a lot of the notes, mostly from the daughter's sister and friends. All of it the general stuff of life, school plays, new dogs and the like. All of them talked about how they were missed.

The mailbox was addressed:
Street of Gold
City of Angels
State of Heaven, 71200
Nothing like that in my family. Your average modest markers, some Mason markings for generations long passed. In one group were graves marked with stones that have been forever mute about who is there. Some of those are our family too. Their names and their stories are gone. Preserving the rest is falling to me.

I take this seriously. I need more stories, but I need to do this when I'm awake and can breathe. Whatever my body has been fighting off has left me weary and half-aggravated with myself at the prospect of getting sick again.

These aren't complaints. That's just the day. Any time I mutter to myself with enough frequency to sound like a complaint I think of the tough times and trying circumstances of others. I spent the weekend with family, played with children, watched my mother and uncle celebrate another birthday and spent a few minutes with my grandparents. I have nothing to complain about here.

You can't lose track of these minutes. If you can count them you're the better for it. So it was chilly and overcast; I can't breathe and I'm tired, but this was a wonderful weekend.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Florence this afternoon. Had to stop and pick up a few things, and somehow I got out of town later that I'd hoped, not really sure how.

We're working on some family properties today. Rental houses my great-grandfather built half a century ago. When the cleaning is done they'll be cozy little places. Original hardwood floors, small bedrooms, but a super-wide hallway. Many of the doors aren't cut well, losing an inch or so of width as you near the bottom. Despite the measuring problems the houses are fairly well built: the newest one is in its 40s.

Moved a refrigerator over, made a pattern to cover a whole for a faux-air vent, hung a ceiling fan, cleaned up in the yard a bit, just light work, really.

Light work because tonight there are birthday celebrations. My uncle and my mother each have their birthdays in March, but haven't celebrated together in years. For such festivities everyone gets involved.

The stars of the evening, though, were the twins. Those candles must have been re-lit and blown out half a dozen times. These are my mother and uncle's second cousins. And simply adorable.

They dance and play guitar. They are enamored with flashlights, and parrot things quite well. The little boy can't do anything without dancing around. His whole body is forever in motion and they stole the show.

And they do flips. Though she is better at it than he is. There comes a moment in this flip routine where the child must "Jump. JUMP!" He just stays limp, going the wet noodle route. She leaps into the air.

By the time the pizza was gone and the cake and ice cream had been distributed and everyone left, and my grandparents had a houseful, the night was growing long. I promised myself an evening of falling asleep while reading, but I don't even want to find my book.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Friday afternoon and the sun is shining. Nowhere to go. Nowhere to be. No schedule to keep. A bank trip and some things to do around the house, but there are always these things. I'm getting ready for a brief weekend trip, which means wrapping up the week, planning ahead for a few days and doing the laundry.

I'm doing these things while trying to not get sick. I've had that feeling for the past two days. If there is anything to the power of positive thinking then this'll only be a half-hearted attack of allergies, but time will tell.

And it will tell exactly in the middle of a family weekend, but these things can't be helped.

Tonight I'm catching up on the EvIl eye, of which some people might be jealous, but I need it for the content around here. I need it, I say!

None of the shows tonight are shows that I talk about here (you got lucky); I will say that you should check out Jericho. If you don't mind a little post-apocalyptic storytelling it just might be for you.

One picture for you today. I've been trying to catch this photograph for three days. It has been too overcast or my aim has been too poor. The traffic has been moving too smoothly or I couldn't get close enough to see over the wall. Pick your excuse, they're all valid.

But here it is.

Not sure why I like it. For the past few days there's been a nice green and white contrast there. It is just a block or two off the city's skyline, sitting in a green space between I-20/59 and the flyover from the Red Mountain Expressway. I'm on the Expressway here, headed in a northerly direction at this point. After joining 20/59 here you're driving the most heavily trafficked mile in the state and quickly funneled through the downtown junction. The wide shot, from higher up on the flyover and from farther away, would be better, but that's at the beginning of this big looping 90 degree turn. Even with two days of practice at this stand of trees I couldn't take this picture.

Today the sun was bright and full of spring's hope and the weekend's promise and that's the best that photograph will get. Sometime next week all the blooms will give way to leaves and we'll be wondering how we looked at nothing but twigs and sticks for the last several months.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Wrote some letters, went to the library, went to the mall. Felt tired at the mall. Just hit the proverbial wall to the tune of "I'd like to sit down for a moment, please."

So as I try to figure out what is wrong my former academic advisor from graduate school walks by with his wife. We all chat. He kindly chides me for sitting on the bench at the mall. No, I don't really look this old all of the time, but I may be coming down with something.

It occurs to me that none of these stores are aimed at me. And that no one else in the mall looks like me. They're either nice, kind looking old couples -- from whom I'm stealing benches -- young kids or middle aged couples with toddlers in tow.

I'm none of these things, of course, so I leave. But not without a stop at Things Remembered first. I made a horrible pun and the girl at the desk looked like she was considering blunt force trauma or not coming back to work tomorrow. I'd said enough, I felt, in my play on words about the store's name, that I needn't explore which option she was chosing.

Spent a lot of time at Hallmark opening up almost every single one of those musical cards. I got one for my birthday last year. Flip it open, noting that it is heavier and with bulk a normal card would not possess and then James Brown takes another four years off your life. "Owww! I feel good!"

He'd die just a week later. Makes me sad every time I open that card. But I open that card a lot, and I think that'd make James happy. Hopefully he got a really nice royalty check on the basis that a lot of white people out in the suburbs were appreciating his hits as cliches. Hopefully all of that money won't be tied up in a nasty and public trial between his heirs and claimants. The man deserves better than that, and its the sort of distasteful that will ruin his impressive body of work in a generation's mind.

Remember how Ted Williams went? Greatest hitter of all time, honest-to-goodness war hero? The man hit a home run in his final at bat, gave up his prime years in service to his country and flew combat missions in two wars. He swaggered and in a small way helped mend big emotional wounds in baseball. Ted Williams, it has been said, is the man John Wayne wanted to be. That's how we should remember The Splinter. People shouldn't have to remember those last unpleasant days when his family fought it out, but there we were. Some people, maybe, don't mind so much about their final legacy, and you've been watching an awful lot of coverage of that sort of thing. Me? I've been listening to music cards.

And I think the Hallmark store should hire someone to do this. Left to their own devices they just look like cards. Hire a person or two and everyone else flocks. While I stood there listening to Kung Fu Fighting and Hank Williams six people stopped by to take some of the songs in, and some of them home, at five dollars a pop.

You're welcome Hallmark.

Early Pie Day this week. Ward had a new guy to train, so things were "by the numbers." Not sure what that meant. We were instructed, though, to give the kid a hard time and that's just a mean thing to say, given the assembled personalities.

Ward says they no longer let him train the waitresses. "I'm too militant," he says. He is a Marine, and so for the rest of the night I had this odd vision of R. Lee Ermey.

In that clip Ermey is reprising his role as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, but, as he says to the assembled crowd, it is a family show. So in his efforts to stay civil the lecture takes a turn even he didn't expect.

You wanted newspapers though, didn't you? Two more new front pages for you to examine. Start at the beginning or, if you've been reading along, jump right to the latest editions.

One last thing: I won a caption contest. I think that's two I've won over there, but that might be too much credit, and it is too late in the evening to look it up. Usually, I'm humbled to receive honorable mentions, but sometimes you get lucky I guess. And all it took was a girl in a tiara.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Not much of interest to tell you about here. I straightened up a bit, did some of the more prosaic tasks of life -- including an uneventful and blessedly brief trip to the grocery store.

I tend to plan these excursions now to be as quick and non-impactful as possible. There is only so many experiences worth remembering happening in the frozen food section anyway. And what I saw someone I knew, standing there pondering the merits of crunchy versus creamy?

These things will just not do, so I race through the aisles, one arm extended, sweeping all the wanted goods into a cart, quickly rounding the last curve, having swapped the up-and-down aisle routine to down-and-up to not intrude on the happy older couple pondering the merits of ... of all things ... crunchy versus creamy.

And then there is the increasingly difficult decision of choosing the fastest of the two glacially slow registers.


Got home, found a new picture from Shutterfly. They offered a big 11x14 print for free so, for the price of shipping, I got an only slightly out-of-whack picture from Toomer's Corner.

That's taken from across the street, on the second floor of Bodega, where they let you begrudgingly let you snap a few pictures, but they're clearly not happy about the prospect of losing their scenic perch.

That's either the 2004 SEC Championship or after the 2005 Iron Bowl. I have shots from here from both, and both are superior rollings. Presently the photograph is held by magnets on the side of the refrigerator, but it'll find its way into a frame one day.

I suddenly turned around and there's far too many Auburn things of display quality in my house.

And I've suddenly turned around and there's dinner. Chicken parmesan. Yummy!

The Bauer Hour over dinner. It is getting late in the day now. Former President Logan has convinced his very ex-wife to meet with him at her halfway house bungalow. As his helicopter lands just outside the cottage we notice men playing tennis.

Not that there was a nuclear explosion just down the street a few hours ago.

Logan wants her to call the Russian president's nice wife and use what they call "diplomatic back channels" to help panic another third of the world. And Aaron, the former secret service agent whom Logan tried to have killed, is also in the room. Apparently she and he are now an item and I still think he deserves a spin-off show. In that one hour, last season, he killed more guys than Jack Bauer.

Speaking of Jack, he's still in the Russian consulate, cut off from the outside world. He was mid-conversation, exchanging pleasantries, when the bad guys clipped the phones. Jack! There's no time!

He finds two unsuspecting Russian bureaucrats, doing what Hollywood has convinced is the primary role of bureaucrats everywhere: flirting and whispering sweet nothings.

(Originally I had what babelfish was Russian for "Your place or mine?" here, but the browser didn't like it. Alas.)

Jack throws a pan of cold water on the pair, takes them hostage, uses his magnetic superpower powers of persuasion to convince them he's right and the man they work for is wrong. He does this in one quick verbal exchange. And they say international communication is dead.

So Jack sends that guy for a satellite phone so he can call CTU, where Ricky Schroder is now the ace field operative. Fresh in from Fort Bragg, and he'd like to be called Rick now, thank you. Possibly The Rickster, but only if you can do it without sneering.

He alpha males all over the office, which is a requirement for every new addition to the cast. No, that's not tiresome. And I've watched precisely a season and a half of this series.

So Silver Spoons is going to lead the raid on the Russian consulate to get the bad guy and rescue Jack. If the vice president OKs the first military action in a larger war on Russia. And the veep, the role Powers Boothe was made for, is ready to do that if Logan and his dysfunctional lifestyle can't pull it together. The vice president has also brought in the ambassador of [Islamic Country] and has threatened them in no uncertain terms. That's about as blunt as we're going to get, politically speaking, until we have the naval guys spelling out foreign policy in chalk on the bomb casings.

Which is the great thing about this show. Now everyone that wants to have fried terrorist tonight is thinking, "Boy, we sure do need a man like this leading the way!"

But Powers Boothe doesn't have to think about the long-term ramifications of what is politically expedient. Your president, however, must also solve global warming and stop hurricanes, to say nothing of the tacit approval of [Islamic Country]'s clandestine terrorist activities.

They never have said a name. I guess there was no need to offend a specific country, bringing a specific jihad down on a specific group of television production houses. So everyone all at once: Your country.

I'm guessing that, if you're an expert on this sort of thing, the dialect of the ambassador was vanilla enough so that you can't even draw a regionality out of his vowel use.

They are very conscientious.

So, anyway, everything comes together. The Logans get the Russians on the phone. The Russian president orders his diplomat to stand down, but he doesn't, so CTU is going to stick a Silver Spoon in his ultranationalist heart.

Oh, and then the former first lady stabs the former president in his current shoulder with what is presently thought to be a sharp knife. She had this look about her, but it seemed too obvious, so I didn't say anything about it. But there he was, looking like a loaf of bad home arrested bread. He's stunned, we laugh, and then he dies. Not very fitting, really, after all, his final moments were in the greater service to his country. In a way you could read all of this backwards and say he saved the day. Or at least the hour.

Next hour looks fun. The drones (now more nuclearier!) will be launched by the angry former Russian general. The vice president will, most likely at the end of the episode, order a weapons launch on [Islamic Country]. It'll only be, what, 7 p.m.? Give Jack a power bar and he'll be right back in this thing.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

I slept most of the evening away. That's the big event to discuss here. Had a sandwich, watched Sunday's Battlestar Galactica and then dozed off. And woke up. And then fell asleep. Did that several more times and that's pretty much been the day.

I'm famous for these. Happens every so often, it means I'll be more productive tomorrow, both to catch up on things from today and because I'll be well rested.

So Battlestar was good. Starbuck is dead, and life moves on for the cast. This episode, despite being about Gaius Baltar, centers on Lee Adama. Apollo has been grounded in his grief and is charged with working security for Baltar's new lawyer, his first one having been blown up in a most upsetting fashion. The new lawyer is brash, manipulative and vaguely English, so you know he's from a different planet.

Lee and his dad/boss tangle a few times and by the end of the episode the audience is convinced that Apollo is now his own man. We know this because Baltar's lawyer, after having been partially blown up himself, sends his client a letter pointing him to Adama the younger.

Who apparently is going to become a brilliant litigator, despite no formal training. That's good since he has absolutely no business being tasked with security. The man missed two bombs in less than one episode!

Not a lot of action in this installment, but plenty of drama. This was a character builder, and a terrific one. Next week's episode seems to be much the same. According to the law of television temporal physics some character (or characters) must now gain more depth since Starbuck and her requisite neuroses are no longer a part of the show. It would follow that her character's husband would drift into the background after his two grief scenes in this one. Katee Sackhoff did a fine job as Starbuck, but we'd pretty much seen the extent of the character as they'd drawn her. My only beef with the whole thing is in how they wrote her off. But I'm more see-the-positive which translates into blaze of glory rather than plumb-the-depths-of-her-issues which appeared last week as willing suicide.

They're turning on other slow conflicts within the Galactica crew and if that continues to be a subtle thing we'll have more nice confrontations, as the Adamas had in this installment. One can only hope they don't get entirely ham-handed with one of the obvious coming conflicts.

At this point I think we should try an experiment where there is a whole drama-filled episode without the first mention of Earth or the Cylons. They're doing such a nice job dialing in internal conflicts that this couldn't be too difficult. I wouldn't mind if they stayed out of people's minds for a while. We've seen enough of that as a story-telling device lately.

Still the best show on television that you're missing. It is only set in space. The show is inside the ship. And there are no aliens.

Since I slept most of the evening away, there's not much else here in the blog. You can see the latest additions to the Glomerata section. Start from the beginning there or go directly to the latest additions.

Fun links: If you can't compete in the Rock, Paper, Scissors tournament, there's an online game you can play against humans on their site. Brian talked some smack today, and he had to go down. He had to be beaten in four consecutive shoots. Elsewhere, there's Electricman for all you stickman fighters.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Back to work today. We'll call it a catch up day for the site. This'll give you a few links to explore and otherwise be brief.

Or could give you a few links and be lengthy. We'll see.

First, there's a new podcast today. I spoke with Dave White, who covers the State House for The Birmingham News and Wheeler, the nom de plume of the author of Alablawg about the state legislature. This might not be your cup of tea, but there it is. State lawmakers are trying to give themselves a 62 percent raise this year and that move, and how they are trying to make it happen, have a lot of people up in arms. Perhaps this will be the thing that gets people to pay closer attention to the legislature, and that's a topic we discussed in this podcast.

Elsewhere I'll offer you two pictures from the last few days. Consider it a peace offering for either being too brief this past weekend or too long-winded the rest of the time.

Last week two co-workers decided to fight out their differences. She uses her lightsaber like a girl. And, over the weekend The Yankee's cat made herself right at home in the new place. That's post move, of course, the cat is clearly exhausted from all of her work.

And finally, after many teases and vaguely indefinite references, I can present to you the first of the videos made by Kelly. I have several of these stashed, and will offer them up individually over the next few weeks. Feel the drama! Sense the author's need to stretch things out to a preternatural length. Notice how he hopes this becomes a regular feature!

Pay attention to the excellent work Kelly has done. I just took the pictures and recorded the audio, but she put together the slideshow.

This is a trip to Piedmont Park's Dog Park last fall. The place is like Chuck E. Cheese for canines, as you 've previously read. About halfway through you'll note the evolution of the photographic style. Somewhere during the day a dog banged his nose into the lens and the picture just worked. It makes sense, really, to shoot dogs this way. If you're photographing a child you'd want to take the picture from a child's height, why not see dogs the way they see the world?

Oh, there are methods to this sort of photography. I have a terrific book on, of all things, livestock photography. Turns out different animals need to be photographed in different ways. The angle is important, but more important is the foot placement and head position. Champion bulls and county fairs have lived and died on such efforts. Livelihoods and portfolios have ebbed and surged based on the lighting of a horse's musculature. At least one book has been written on the subject, and now one part of a blog post.

There are books on dog photography. I've broken all of the rules, no doubt, but the dog nose shot is sure to be an instant classic, all because of Kelly's awesome quicktime work.

And, of course, you'll find that movie, and a lot of other treats, on the A/V page.

Started a new book over the weekend. Through the Eyes of a Tiger. This was a gift from my mother some time back, and signed, oddly enough, by Brent Fullwood. He was an All-American and an NFL running back, but why he's signing other people's books escapes me.

The premise of the book is unique and interesting enough. The authors asked for Auburn people's favorite experiences. They were aiming for a tailgate in print form. Most of these stories are set around football games, but a few are about the University at large. My favorites so far about the guy who pedalled his bike 70 miles round trip to catch a game, the man who snuck into the 1972 Punt Bama, Punt game on an old ticket and the first overseas Iron Bowl. In state members of the 82nd Airborne in Europe during World War II decided to work up a game, you see, and they split off according to allegiances. Good story.

It was there that I realized I've collected enough Glomeratas now to include the class photographs of most of the older fans who submitted stories to this book. Maybe I should mention this to the Stanfields.

Not much else today. The rest of the evening has been given to wiping out the weekend's detritus on the EvIl eye. Most of it is Star Trek related, and I will spare you thusly. Holding off on The Bauer Hour until later in the week, so that'll be something to look forward to. There'll also be new ancient newspapers and Glomerata entries later in the week as well. Looking just a bit ahead, another section of the site will be appearing in the next week or two. We're suddenly at a point where there's new content on here daily, which means I should probably get to work.

More of that tomorrow.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Final two trips completed the move today. Three car loads and cleaning. I bounced a grill in my trunk for a few miles much to the dismay of the people behind me. The grill was safely stowed, the wind chimes, vacuum and doormat, the last articles of every day life were packed up, loaded, hauled and unloaded into the new place. The Yankee is moved, meeting the neighbors, re-settling and vowing to never move again. At least not this week.

In related news Direct TV's local installer is still not good.

Elsewhere last night's dinner was today's late lunch. Zucca, a very good Italian place, had the misfortune of having a little extra protein land in their dish last night. So I got two, two, two meals in one. This evening there was Chinese in a train at Orient Express. Midway through the cashew chicken a train rumbled by on the tracks just outside. The restaurant rumbled with it, mixing the Italian and Chinese. There are high power summit talks going on in my stomach.

Started a new book, more on that in the coming week. Finished, finally A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. The first two-thirds were better than the last. It is difficult to be critical of someone who's endured so much, though I think Dave Eggers wouldn't mind, but I just got the feeling that he wanted the story to be over just as much as I did. As a college kid he lost both of his parents within months. He then set about raising his younger brother with the help of only his siblings. Through all of this -- which is what the book covers -- the guy perseveres.

It is a good memoir though, when read by the right audience. To have been a 20something in the grunge or post-grunge era and to have been acutely aware that it was time for you to do something, to change something, but acutely aware of just how difficult that is. Eggers rushed on through and put out, for a brief time, Might, a well-regarded alt-magazine. You know it is GenX, because we're using the alt- prefix here.

Anyway, the next book will be lighter, breezier and a quick read. Then on to something more meaty. I do believe I'm rambling. And, as always, that's my cue. In the coming days I'll recover from the weekend of moving -- wasn't even my move -- and things will get back to normal with more substance around here.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

I've found that, if you're receptive to it, you can learn more than that cliched one thing new each day. Ever the astute student, I at least learn two things on most days.

Often I keep them to myself. If they are useful, however -- or metaphoric, or if I can get four paragraphs out of it -- I share those things here.

Two things today:
Direct TV is not that good. Their customer service, of course, is of the same shoddy caliber to which we've all sadly grown accustomed.

They're local installer has less to brag about.
We probably shouldn't be trusting them with blunt objects, cables, cords and various things that are beamed through the air.

That's eight hours of life given to a vain effort that you can never get back.

Makes me glad I have Brighthouse.

Friday, March 9, 2007

People say that once you hire movers you are thereafter spoiled. I have not hired movers and now, maybe, I am spoiled.

Probably a good thing The Yankee hired these guys because I simply couldn't have gotten the job done today. Some days you answer the bell and some days various muscles would like to have a nice little chat with you about what you're thinking of doing, mister. So I resigned myself to boxes, leaving the furniture to the hustling pros, who had a trailer fully loaded and unloaded in about three hours.

And one of those guys was setting up some side business on his cellphone during the move. And lining up business with one of the neighbors. Everything got delivered, very nice, very fast -- they were running for a time -- and a very pleasant experience.

At the new place the phone guy showed up promptly as scheduled, stomped around and did his work. Chatted for a moment and then oversaw the internet connection. He left, decided to call back and when he didn't get an answer came back to check on the situation. Now the phone works. This move is two for two for hired convenience. I'm tired and have done very little.

Things are moving along according to schedule in the great move of 2007 -- where I've realized that if I ever move there will be a Rapture Is Coming, Everything Must Go Sale.

I seem to learn a little in every move. In this way helping others uproot their life is useful. Today I've found that these professional movers stack the washer and dryer to the end of the trailer rather than the front. Partly because he's using a swinging hitch, but also because boxes are better up front he thinks. Who am I to doubt the man? I've learned, previously, that you should carry an overnight bag with all the things you're going to want immediately -- clean clothes, the shower necessities, perhaps a snack -- and to make trips with your precious and valuable cargo completely separately. And perhaps transport them separately, like a royal family, when at all possible.

Moving can be a learning experience and a test of patience. The moving part here hasn't been that bad, really, and the credit is due to the hired professionals.

I once had a neighbor who had his own moving business. Must have been a demanding line of work, and I always admired him for that. Someone has to, because you're willing to pay for it, and he was doing OK. Not a job I envy, though. These guys today, they said, had another move in the afternoon. They are paid by volume, not by time, so it is in their best interest to hustle. And one of them said their office was trying to give them a third job on the day!

Not a job I envy.

At Pie Day, more subdued because of post-move exhaustion (Even the restaurant seemed tired, but none of those folks were around earlier today!) I developed a neat blog idea. If someone would like to take this one and run with it your welcome. It is based on a throwaway line from Wayne's World that has always cracked me up: "For a security guard, he had an awful lot of information, don't you think?"

So we're talking about something like ... I don't know ... Kosher salt or something and Gary, our server, offers up all these incredible culinary tales. He's previously worked as a caterer and had to serve many Kosher functions.

At first the whole conversation seemed implausible enough to be absurd in a Clavinian sense, but the more he talked the more realistic the whole thing sounded. What he offered fit and seemed to extend my slim knowledge base on the subject. And so it was from Gary, a favorite server in a barbeque joint -- now with a new To Go box featuring a flying pig -- that I learned an awful lot about kosher catering.

The sauce. We were trying to decide if the sauce would be kosher. Of course nothing else in such a place would keep with the strictest kosher guidelines. They are stringent. We ended up talking about a friend who works at the National Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. She and her husband keep kosher and her husband is also a vegetarian. What he eats, I do not know.

So if you would like to start the extraneous information blog, you have my blessing. I suggest each post sets the scene, tone and conversation, then introduces the person who swoops in with the relevant knowledge and then detail what you've learned. If you do start this, let me know. I might like to contribute from time to time.

Told you it was a moving weekend, all energies, creative and otherwise, are given over to a forest of cardboard boxes and stacks of tupperware storage tubs. Anything else you get, meager as it is, should be considered a bonus.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Worked and then helped The Yankee with her move. This will be the next few days. You know how moves are, they consume you and absorb you, wearing the body down to not much of anything and occupy every waking moment from the beginning of the process to the end. For however long this lasts there will probably be little else mentioned here except for various sore spots.

She is moving from an upstairs place to a downstairs place, so that's basically two flights of stairs with your hands full. Helped with the final preliminary moves tonight. Just car loads from Point A to Point B. No more than a few handfuls, really. A warm up.

Can't be good that the ol' back said "Hi-YAH!" midway through that process.

Should be fun.

Had dinner at a place that called itself a tavern for reasons not immediately recognizable. It was filled with people fresh from work, and not too far removed from college. Everyone looked nice in their slacks and nice club-casual-wear and there I sat with dirty jeans and a dusty shirt. The wait was long and the sandwich wasn't that good. The two-piece band blaring right over my shoulder was the most useful part of the equation -- they did play Ray Lamontagne and, oddly, Seal. A little intense for a patio social hour on Thursday, but it worked.

As will I tomorrow, and so now some rest.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Trying out something new. Going to add a few dedicated systems to the day. Hardwire them right in there, immovable and inviolable. These would be the time management, self-discipline techniques we learned from juggling many separate performance graded tasks. I will because I want to, and similar determination. That and not run immediately to the television. The box as idle chatter in the room, for me, never works out so well. It inevitably turns into the central preoccupation and nothing else gets done.

But there are things I want to read! A great many things. And things to write! Quite a few of those too. So the TV will be neglected through the afternoon. The EvIl eye will become a little more sparse -- I'm winning the battle of record-me-watch-me anyway. I will sit in quiet and do quiet, measured and slightly more productive things.

It will be like the old days of scholastic yore, only without the math.

So starting today I have a new schedule. It involves reading for the first hour after I've returned home. I read so much at work that I've curbed most of my reading at home. The only trouble being my To Do Bookshelf has an ever growing stack. Reading only while you eat is a slow way to make it through books, sitting in the recliner and listening only to the hum of the 30-year-old refrigerator and the occasional yelp of a neighborhood child makes the pages go by faster.

After the reading there will be an as yet undefined segment of time devoted to some house need. Occasionally these two chores will be inverted when daylight is a necessity.

There will then be computer work, whatever is on the agenda for the day, followed by dinner and the TiVo's offerings.

Hopefully this will also lead to an early hour for sleep, but that part didn't work out tonight.

Everything else worked just peachy. I'm down to the last few pages of my current book -- the jury is still out on the appendix, would could be good or awful, there's really no middle ground here I think. I reshuffled and organized stacks of things to do, fielded a few phone calls and then bent to the computer work of the evening. Broke that up with dinner and Jericho which is good, good, good. Finally finished with more computer work. Short week, so things are compressed a bit.

Now appearing on the site are the February pictures. If you're still craving more, and bless you, you can find the latest additions to the newspapers section. If you've been following along you can go directly to the latest installments.

Tomorrow: New Glomeratas where we'll briefly examine student government, (lack of) health trends and fancy clothing. There's a big meeting at the office which always leads to hijinx, and there'll be some other frenetic activity to get through the day.

Next week: We start unveiling the videos Kelly slaved over. I examined them once again tonight and am so proud of the work she did. She really made three of the first four come to life. The fourth's shortcomings were of a practical public-transportation nature and we're still working on one more. After those five are released to the world I'll have to seek out more work for her to do. She's going to regret insisting on doing these for free. But she's just of that rarest breed: the super-giver. And she also announced the arrival of her cap and gown this week. Party in the Valley! Congratulations and, as always, thanks.

And thanks to you as well, for stopping by. Things will soon become more orderly, thanks to these new systems, which will delight the OCD tendencies in all of us.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Sorry I robbed you of yesterday's faux brilliance. It served several purposes, chief among them being highlighting the truly important event of the day and allowing a few more minutes to attack a few other things, some home and site maintenance and a bit of rest.

I've been tired lately. Exhausted yesterday. The throat tightened up and I was afraid of developing another nice sickly spell. I am improving, having slept a bit better last night, so I'm no longer concerned about getting sick anytime soon.

The only thing I really robbed you of, another witty observance of odd portions of 24, I can give you now. I can give you that now because I don't have any newly witty observations about Boston Legal, it being a rerun. You can find my thoughts here. One whole thought of the episode is worth re-reading, but I was a bit frustrated with the show just then. A comedic writer friend of mine says it is hard to continually deliver on a high quality show, and there are certainly enough examples of that to show he's right. I'd just hoped, and continue to hope, that Boston Legal has more than two good seasons.

Anyway, Denny Crane is in reruns until April. Here's to hoping for more quality mania from the mind of David Kelly.

One other television note before we get to Jack Bauer: I was sad to learn that ABC has canceled The Nine. "What's that?" you ask. "Precisely," says the person who decided to pull the lever. The executives at ABC were apparently high on the show, but it couldn't draw ratings. It was good, and its many mysteries will vanish into the ether, unexplained and even unaddressed.

Jack Bauer addresses nothing. He just delivers a big ball of hate directly to your door. Or the Russian consulate. Whichever.

So the president lie bleeding, the vice president -- the very awesome Powers Boothe -- is taking charge. The president's weasly chief of staff waffles this way and that, finally turns himself over to the authorities and says "Oh! Oh! They did it!"

Why he didn't ask the agents to examine the big flashlight welp on his forehead, or the duct tape residue on his coat and slacks, escapes me. That would seem to be corroborating evidence of the "I couldn't help stop the assasination attempt" variety.

Anyway, former president Charles Logan, with Jack Bauer by his side, goes to see the very Russian official. They play very undiplomatic games, but Logan comes away with nothing save the sneaky suspicion that his very slimy, and very Russian friend, is very much lying to him.

See kids? You can't trust those Russians.

So Jack has Chloe knock out power to the Russian facilities because he's going back in. This is sovereign territory and it is unclearly in the scheme of squishy international law exactly how close this will be to open war, but it is close. Chloe calls her friend at the power company, "Ooh girlfriend, you know what Dmitri said to me the other day?" and blink blink go the cameras. Jack walks in, draws down on the Russian diplomat and then pops him a good one because he doesn't "HAVE TIME!" and he really wants some borsch, or maybe a little caviar.

You know how Chinese food leaves you. Which is an interesting point that Charles Logan made to him. The last time he stormed a consulate he spent two years in a Chinese prison. And that was after he faked his own death.

Somewhere in there Logan tried to gain Jack's sympathy by explaining how he could empathize with being locked away. He's been under house arrest after all. Jack looks at him like he's sad he mistakenly left the chopsticks out of his suit coat pocket because they would be good for rupturing this guy's septum right about now.

It plays with your sanity, Logan says. I wonder how it is that a man that's been under cozy house arrest can now look more haggard than the man who was in a Chinese prison.

Must be the preservatives.

But back to the present, where Jack has informed his betters and they're like "No Dmitri didn't!" They quickly disavow any role in Jack's clear John Wayne ways.

Jack just cut off that guy's fingertip with a cigar cutter!

No matter how many times you see that on television it never becomes watchable. Yowch.

Jack gets the intel on the Russian general, vowing to fix Dmitri just yet, but then he walks right into an explosion. Here's where Jack has gotten sloppy and clearly in need of some brain food. He's forgotten that OSNAZ gassed their own people to get at a few terrorists in a theater. What did he think was going to happen here?

He's taken custody, CTU knows it, but Jack uses his special forces charisma to get his captor to believe him -- why this guy didn't just stay out of civil service and content himself with working every singles bar in the world escapes me -- and the guy starts making the phone call to CTU, but then he takes a head shot (who directed, Scorsese?) by the greatest victim of Russian typecasting of the modern age Boris Lee Krutonog.

Ultimately Jack is captured and there's about to be a significant international incident surrounding the consulate. Al-Assad the Good is dead, having now had the White House explosion conveniently placed at his feet by the vice president.

Oh, and there's that pesky little business about former russian general with a grudge Dmitri Gredenko is still on the loose and about two hours from flying our own drones at us with his ordinance.

They called him an ultra-nationalist which just seems downright scholarly and polite for a man with three nuclear weapons sitting at his very motivated fingertips.

Next week should be a fantastic episode.

Speaking of the Chinese, and we did somewhere up above, you can now test to see if your favorite websites are blocked from viewing. Mine, apparently, is unavailable. So is my work site. Newspapers in the southeastern United States are considered subversive. Be chilled friends, be chilled.

And thank you Jack Bauer. Thank you for helping keep my site open, free and safe here in the States.

Sort of makes me wish I'd been able to read the Chinese dissident Emails I somehow received in college. I got on a mailing list somehow, but could never learn much more than the overwhelming notion they're fighting for that which we assume. And they have to do it underground.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Happy Birthday Mom!

Easily the most important part of the day.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

When I left for work I saw this.

As I arrived at work I saw this.

Neither turned out as well as I'd hoped, but I'm including them here because I suffered for this art, such as it is. Thirty degrees (30!) and I'm out shivering in short sleeves and then, later, driving with the window down.

It is not my habit to check the weather for early on a weekend day, but perhaps it should be.

So I worked this morning. And well into the afternoon as well. Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton were cozying up to potential voters at a Civil Rights rememberance down in Selma, so the breaking planned event non-news kept us hopping throughout the day.

Both came down to speak churches and drum up a little support. From what I hear both adopted less than subtle southern accents every third phrase. The presidential hopefuls played nice, though, marching across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to mark the upcoming anniversary of Bloody Sunday (click here for context). Based on the coverage alone, you'd have to say Obama won the day. (UPDATE: Revisionist pandering helps.)

So that was the first half of the day. Got home in time to clean up, head out and pick up Big John.

The Yankee and I took him for Pie Day, where he may know more of the people that work there than we do. He did not know Ward's girlfriend. Whom we all met tonight. He asked us to wait until she go there before we left. At first we thought we were in trouble, but didn't realize we were being invited to sing that K-I-S-S-I-N-G song from grade school. We did not. She seems like too nice a person for that.

But I realized I needed to include Big John's bio (Because so many talent scouts are reading this blog these days. You can't imagine.) Big John was working the door at a comedy club and made an offhand comment about someone working an open mic night. A lady that worked at the club challenged him to do better, he came back another time and went on stage, got a little encouragement from a few people and worked his way into the tough world of comic for hire. He says that things really took off for him when he might my family. We're not big patrons, but generally just good supporters of the ambitious and good natured.

Now he has a DVD, where he's almost up to 45 minutes of material -- and all of it clean because "My mother is still alive," he says. -- I believe he sold almost everything he had with him last night.

So here's me and Uncle Big John. Note the family resemblance.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Stumbled across a great business idea today. I was entertaining the little girl sitting behind me at lunch and telling her parents about The Great Zucchini's birthday parties when the mother suggested I play with children while the parents eat. Not as glamourous as clown to the kids at $300 per hour like The Great Zucchini, but I can afford parents the chance to have a fresh meal. I can be a culinary au pair.

Eva is the cutest little girl, and of course this is my day without a camera. Thin curly hair, light blue eyes, she's very engaging and extremely expressive. She wasn't shy at all. And best of all her mother and father got the chance to finish their soup and sandwich while they were still hot. My food went ignored, and later my ice cream mostly melted, but the girl was too cute.

Eva's telling knock knock jokes -- though she did not get the interrupting cow joke -- and she makes the most complicated facial expressions and impersonations on request. "Do the model pose" and so on. She's a perfect parrot too.

I've long since known my "you won't be in trouble if I laugh" method of discipline will one day cause problems, but now I've realized another potential difficulty. As I play with Eva I realize I'll be in trouble with my own kids one day as an authority figure since I'll play with them constantly like a child myself. I'll be so silly and goofy that my kids I say, will never respect me.

As we continued playing game after game Eva looked down at her mother as if she'd been directed on stage, the precocious child with lines to old for her age, and said "His kids will never respect him."

From the mouths of babes.

Swung by the library to pick up a few things. A book on CD -- one a professor long ago suggested -- and several music CDs to while away some time. Everly Brothers, lost Elvis, classic Peter Gabriel ... the Hoover library has a solid selection of aging music.

Headed to the dollar theater, found a time for a movie, decided to kill the time between now and then with a trip to Blockbuster to peruse the previously viewed sale. On the way there I remembered a comedian friend was in town. Driving by The Comedy Club helped. I've been remembering and forgetting that Big John was coming for about two weeks.

Decided to stop and confirm that he was playing this weekend, thinking I'm the only person that's ever come in here and asked about the opening act. The box office lady was confused at first -- the headliner and my friend share the same first name -- but from that comes the most telling commentary on my friend.

Is Big John playing tonight?

"John Pinette? Yes."

Yes, I know. But I mean Big John.

Blank stare.

Real tall guy. Imposing looking. Dreadlocks. Nicest guy you could ever meet ...

It was the 'nicest guy' part at which she figured out who I was talking about. That, I think, says a lot about Big John. (He has his upcoming dates there, if he's in your town go out and cheer on one of the most genuinely kind up-and-coming comics around.)

Since I have to get up early in the morning to go to work comedians and a boxing movie could be too strenuous in one day, so put the movie off and try on some true laziness for a while.

Dinner at an Italian joint. The hostess had two broken and surgically repaired ankles and was standing on a cement floor. I stole her a chair and, becoming her hero, was bumped up when the Shaw party decided to not answer their call.

Good thing too, just did make it to the show, sitting right down front. The Suicide Table, the staff calls it. They laugh menacingly at you as they walk you down, whether you have a comedian who does a lot of audience interaction or whether he's purely scripted. I sit there a lot, it is remarkable how often there are empty seats there. After all, I got these at about six hours before the show and there were only two other tables available for the performance.

My friend, Big John, comes out, does his (very good) set -- where he does not pick on our table -- and finds a bachelorette party sitting stage left. At this point John Pinette strides out "They hired me as your stripper!" John Pinette, if you don't know, is a big guy. (He has noticeably lost a lot of weight though.)

First time I've caught Pinette's show live. He's good, you should check him out.

Outside I finally get to catch up with Big John, who's happy to see and still remembers us, though its been a year or so. We make plans for dinner tomorrow night before his show, meet John Pinette, to whom I'm introduced as Big John's nephew.

On my mother's side, I say.

"O ... K? ... " Pinette says.

Big John is a dapper 6-foot-5 black man with dreadlocks. I ... am not.

But Big John tells everyone this, people at the club, autograph seekers, the ragingly drunk woman that is annoying everyone and yet doesn't realize it. Those are the occupational hazards, neither Pinette nor Big John are immune tonight.

Big John has a joke about that, likening those women to overly anxious defensive linemen in both size and demeanor. He told me later that the joke was inspired in Birmingham, on a night not unlike this one.

Anyway, tomorrow I'm have dinner with my uncle.

Fun links: Your addictive game of the evening is elite base jumping. And when you're done with that, see if you can name all 50 states in 10 minutes.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Beautiful day. High skies, warm temps. Another cool snap is coming, but today we're revelling in Friday Glorious.

The flowers are here. Ornamental trees erupted along the interstates this week, splashing the grey concrete with bright pink. The corner of my yard is turning yellow from the bulbs. A few feet away a ground-crawling wildflower is adding flair to the thick rich blanket of grass that's been dormant and tan for just long enough. Spring is almost here. We like spring. Though you can keep the pollen, thanks.

Dreamland for dinner tonight. The original one, at the usual table. We note that it is kennysmith - Editingodd to see slim and trim, muscular people on the table's ads as we gnaw on the bones. There is also an illustration of a pig, and a reminder to pay a visit to the high, holy Bryant Museum, so it all balances out. We do not visit the Bryant Museum, but it is not for want of reminders. Some cities have signage welcoming you to town, proudly displaying the Lions and Kiwanis club logos. Here they just flash you some houndstooth around Cottondale. This is urbane living.

The waitress, she was not happy that her customers cared not for the small ribs. "They taste better," was her argument, but then you're working from a smaller survey sample on those, aren't you? And my price stays the same, whether the ribs are big or small, so bring me the big guys. She was not in the mood for offering The Yankee banana pudding, which we finally received, but now that I think about it I don't think she was in the mood to charge us for it, so it all worked out.

Everyone knows Dreamland of course, though there was a guy in his Alabama hat who seemed mystified by the seat yourself policy there. He had the look of someone who'd been there before, so it was rather odd to see the vacant "Help me, I'm a customer" stare. Makes me wonder ... and Dreamland customers should contribute to this discussion: if the place had a gravel parking lot -- and less of it -- would you be more or less inclined to go there as a first-time experiment.

You might think no, but you might have poorly shaded views of roadside barbeque. We might have to call you a vegetarian. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I dated a vegetarian in college. Sweet girl, great cook. I thought about that while I was chomping on rib meat tonight. I'm sure she'd be pleased.

Gymnastics tonight. Fourth-ranked Alabama hosted number eight LSU. At Alabama they make the gymnast rock stars. Maybe it is an apology for making them do their official headshots in football jerseys.

LSU had bars for the first event. They looked solid, but Alabama had the early lead off the vault, thanks to Terin Humphrey and company.

After LSU came off the vault -- one of their gymnasts is tops in the nation -- they'd tied Alabama halfway through the evening. Alabama turned to the beam and LSU to the floor for the third rotation and the crowd was fretting over an upset. Alabama is good on the beam, but LSU was tumbling well, earning second and third on the floor. The Alabama gymnast that would ultimately win the floor, Morgan Dennis turned helped edge the Tide back into the lead. It was the intent look on her face.

LSU's Ashleigh Clare-Kearney stayed focused on the floor, but Alabama is really good on the beam. Really good. They're also good hovering above the beam. But for my money the performance of the night was Lauren Klein's floor routine, she's just having a good time out there, placing second on the night no less.

But Alabama's really good on the beam. And, ultimately, it was the beam that won the evening. LSU was so close and steady all night, but one fall on the beam gave the meet back to Alabama, who are good on the beam.

Scary good. That's Olympic silver medalist Terin Humphrey again. She stayed like that for about 22 minutes. This is an approximate time because it didn't occur to anyone to time her for the first minute and change. She placed second on the beam, third in the all-around and won the bars, which are her primary event. These girls wanted to give her a 10, but the judges didn't agree. They weren't especially stingy judges, both teams had one of their best nights of the season, with Alabama edging the Bengal Tigers 197.250-196.925. There's several really good photographs taken from the floor at that link, if you're so inclined.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Storms today. Horrible, brutal things angrily flinging funnel clouds to the ground below. Bad weather we saw coming since yesterday morning. Down south the early numbers were tragically high, but have been scaled back in the confusion. Late in the evening there are seven confirmed deaths, five of those at a high school in Enterprise, Ala.

School systems really have a tough decision to make here. On the drive in to work this morning there was a report that one school system to the north had already decided to close at noon. The storms were expected around 3 p.m. and no one wants the kids in buses and on the roads.

The storms kept their schedule and with tragic consequences. The good folks down in Enterprise decided to keep their students together and today it was a sadly unfortunate decision.

March certainly roared in. Here's the Enterprise tornado.

We're fine in the central part of the state. A lot of heavy rain over the lower two-thirds of the state, with the worst in the Wiregrass and down around Tuscaloosa. Seems those storms wore themselves out of the seriously dangerous stuff before they made it into Birmingham, and were content to march through in a gigantic diagonal line of wet fury. Kept everyone on their toes, though.

The view here was far more sedate. The focus is intentional, but the rain was all I found on the way home. For a few minutes it felt like a race. Here we all were hurtling ourselves headlong into this thing head on. The storms from Tuscaloosa were moving forward and I was putting myself into their path even earlier.

About halfway home, though the realization set in that I'd beaten the storms. And home is safe: something about our area is geographically very valuable. The worst part of the storms almost never come into this community, usually passing just to the northwest. That's nothing to get complacent about. Today's last line of storms, in fact, bracketed the area perfectly, one just to the north and some nasty radar images immediately south. Apparently those were more noise than angst, more sound than fury, more hail and rainy puddles than swaths of destruction.

When I wasn't watching radar I added a few more pieces to the Glomerata section. Have you been to see the Gloms yet? If not, start there at the beginning. If you want to skip ahead to today's additions. Remember, these will weekly installments, so be sure to check back often.