Kenny Smith | blog

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

My three day weekend is over, happily replaced with a four-day work week. It is a good trade, one that I'm always willing to enjoy. Here, you make the time go quickly so that I feel bad about what little I've done, I'll show up for work one less day for it.

Never been able to figure out with whom I'm making that deal, but no one's called me Young Goodman Brown just yet, so maybe I'm still OK.

So, today. There was that. It was a Tuesday and it passed quietly and calmly. Those are the best Tuesdays, of course. They all seem to pass like this, though, and I'm not sure why it continues to surprise me, but I like that I can simultaneously be surprised and appreciative of it.

I stayed after at work a bit doing ... something, the details of which now escape me.

Journeyed to the grocery store, where shopping is a pleasure, and realized that if ever there was a place to have a medical emergency Publix should be high on the list. I counted three nurses up and down the aisles. There isn't a hospital around for miles.

Potatoes, pasta sauce, milk and various other dietary staples purchased the goods were taken to the car. Soon after I sought out the charity of some nearby store that doesn't secure their dumpster and deposited a few oversized pieces in with the rest of the milieu.

The company that removes the garbage from my home kindly asks that all of the garbage be bagged. There's not a compliance issue there, but I've learned through experience that they aren't easily fooled. Take something five feet tall and put the bottom half of it in your standard kitchen garbage bag and they're liable to leave it there. On the occasion when there's a great deal of cardboard, or some larger thing not fit for donation to one of the many outstanding local charities a dumpster must be sought out.

But hurry! And quickly! There's melty things in the car and it is something like 100 degrees outside!

Home then, where dinner was a scrumptious lemon pepper chicken thing from the Publix deli. The side items are not to be trusted, so there was rice and corn made from one of the many cabinets in my kitchen.

And now I'm considering reading myself to sleep. We're now 40 percent through the work week, a quarter of the way for me, thank you, and I'll take a few more just like this.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Returned home safely this afternoon. It was an uneventful flight followed by a normal airport experience. We got there early, earlier than necessary considering the flight was delayed for about 20 minutes. And at the new departure time we were still queued for boarding. Normally these things would be troubling, but this was a good day.

Slept in a bit, hung out with Mom, played with Coco, learned how to play the piano and had Mexican for lunch.

On the piano I'm now a prodigy. I pecked out "Heart and Soul" in about 15 minutes, and was picking up "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" when it was time to leave.

I just realized that, if you say that in the stereotypical Hollywood German voice you can really hurt yourself saying that. Try it two or three times. But I figure if I'm playing Mozart by ear there's not much else to prove.

Matt would be so proud.

At the airport I splurged on one of those massage chairs. They feel so good when they're moving down your back, but the part where those big mechanical maulers climb up your back is a bit much. After a few minutes there it was time for the plane chairs, designed by someone with the misfortune of suffering from spina bifida.

The return flight was much less exciting than the outbound journey. No bumps, quick landing, up and out of the plane to find the car just where it had been left; always a nice treat. Barbeque for dinner and then home to find the house just where it had been left, with all the stuff inside undisturbed as well. The ninjas that are a part of the security system are very vigilant.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Today has been rather sedate and restive. The sun was bright and the day was warm. Breakfast was forsaken for a big lunch, a home-cooked pot roast of the tender and yummy variety, including some corn grown specifically for this meal, freshly imported garlic direct from Garliclandia and a few other tasty treats.

We spent the afternoon in the yard, doing exactly two chores and goofing off the rest of the day as reward.

There are relatives with young'ins coming to visit my mother next week, and there was a small concern that the playground set of my step-sibs is too old to be used. Particularly the ladder leading up to the command position. Many of the rungs were rotting with rot. Down the ladder must come, said the deciders. Down before the children get splinters or mangle their calf muscles with old weather-treated shanks.

Indeed the wood was bad. I removed two nuts, hammered the bolts out of the other side and marveled at the relative humidity of Indiana. Today it reached 90 percent, and was just short of that while I was working outdoors. Incidentally the record heat for the day was 102, back in 1887. I bet they'd laugh at our global warming concept. They would laugh, but laughter leads to open mouths which leads to dehydration and, in those days, probably death.

Today was much more pleasant. We sat on the front porch swings, under the ceiling fans and watched the mid-afternoon pass by.

I took many pictures of Coco.

Here she is in her swimming pool. She loves that pool.

The Yankee sat in the shade of the oak trees. Those were the second chore of the day, as I'd noticed a small colony of silk worms starting to form. For about 10 minutes today I was an arborist. That's appropriate, because I intended to be a forestry major for about 10 minutes, but realized that two years of forestry classes in high school were plenty, and I had enough trees in my life at home, thanks.

And now here I am, making all those green-suited guys proud.

Because the ridiculous amount of lunch wasn't enough, we decided there should be a ridiculous amount of dinner as well, so we went to Tran's, the local Japanese steakhouse. These places have become the basic McDonalds of sit-down meals, I ordered without seeing the menu, and the food was as delicious as you'd expect. The kids at our table got to throw eggs in the cook's hat. He kept giving me extra food. He mistook my mother for my wife, which she enjoyed greatly, but the mistake has the unintended consequence of making me feel old. But she's proud; she should be.

After that we went to the local comedy club, which is your basic strip mall dive. The guy that owns the place has cornered the market and sees no need to upgrade anything. You sit in plastic lawn chairs. The "stage" is 18 inches higher than the ground. On your table you're offered free popcorn. A few years I was here when they ran out of popcorn and had to run to the big box store nearby to buy that 186 gallon bag of the stuff "Fresh popped in 1812!"

If they've ever had them, they've abandoned menus. They have a full bar, and a wait staff low on energy, so you figure it out. That's the basic message you would get if you had the fortune to talk to them for more than a few minutes. The pre-show clips are from a VHS tape - when was the last time you said that? - and was full of old and not-funny SNL stuff. Lorne Michaels would sue the guy if you knew this, if only to keep the non-funny stuff from showing. Bruce Dickenson and more cowbell, suprisingly, never gets old.

The opening act was, well, she was bad. They have a sign over the comedian's shoulder calling for "Applause," "Laugh" or "Fake it." The signs got the best laugh out of her. She's just getting started and this is to be expected.

My Uncle Big John did a few minutes for a new video he's putting together. That picture is from John's last appearance in Birmingham, in March. Incidentally, the Stardome in Birmingham is an excellent club. You never really understand that until you see other venues -- and John talks of playing in bars before karaoke -- and then it strikes you when the comedians talk about how they love working in Birmingham.

John did a great mini-set. His timing was truly on, and even his older material still had me laughing. He's working some new stuff in as well, which was top notch.

The featured act Ray Devito was pretty good. About half of his stuff was really strong, and I've no doubt he'll work up the rest of his material as well. Comedy is so difficult that I find it hard to be critical of people. I work with a guy that does some comedy writing and have known two or three other comedians who've given me a healthy respect for what they do, so perhaps I'm overly kind, but it makes you appreciate the laughter even more.

Here's a bit Devito did tonight. From that one camera angle I can tell that that place is nicer than the club in Louisville.

Which is nice, because the headliner spent the first four minutes of his act pointing out the flaws in the "stage" background. A faux brick wall, faux mortar, Christmas lights, bad wiring and stains. Also there's a table and a barstool, with cheap contact paper stapled on as a covering. Jeff Caldwell does more of a restrained, thoughtful comedy. Apparently the greats agree; he's got blurbs from George Carlin and Dennis Miller on his site.

Check out his clips. The rest of the audience didn't follow him along for parts of his act -- no Kentucky stereotypes needed here -- and he felt like he bombed, but he has nicely thoughtful observational humor making a good show.

The 85-year-old woman sitting to my right agreed. Incidentally, Big John was also her favorite.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Today was a journey up I-65 through rural hoosier country to historic Nashville, Ind. Founded as an artist colony by a few families in 1907, it now sits tucked in the blue hills as a shopping haven. It is store upon store of mostly local wares. A neat place to see, all contained in about six blocks where, if you're careful, you can spend a whole day. And that's what we did after a quick fruit breakfast at home and a drive through the amusingly named Gnaw Bone, Ind.

Gnaw Bone, as an aside, derives its name from the English bastardization of the French name Narbonne. Gnaw Bone is also the self-proclaimed "flea market capital of the world" averaging roughly one flea market for every five residents, according to the uncited Wikipedia article.

One supposes that the artistic stuff that can't catch on up the road in Nashville is later turned out at cut prices in Gnaw Bone.

After parking -- and realizing that the Census credits Nashville with less than 1,000 actual residents, but yet they have pay parking lots and scheduled tram runs for the tourists -- we begin.

Everywhere there are tourists and so here is a daisy. (Sorry, first thing I noticed.) The tourists are the whole point of this place, shopping for tourists walking down Main Street and Van Buren Street and off onto some of the little side roads with a few stores filled to the rim with stuff made by the locals, and other touristy fare you're bound to encounter in touristy places.

Some of the names you'd recognize if you go into these types shops much. In some of these places you shouldn't swing your arms too widely, because you'll break something, at which point the common Indiana "You break it, you bought it and here's your receipt, super glue is on aisle two" law comes into play.

They have a great hologram store/museum complete with so-real-you-can-almost-touch-it photographs of guns, animals and scary looking people. There are holograms of microscopes and binoculars and inside them you can see what the lens was focusing on. Everyone in town talks up the hologram store as a Close Encounters experience "Have you been yet? Oh you need to go there. Soon. Before they come back."

There are couples kissing, and freaky looking kids. There are holographic fish in a holographic aquarium, photographs of pop culture icons and all manner of things to tease the mind and the eyes.

And there's also Reagan.

That, apparently, is the only pulsed hologram ever recorded by a U.S. president, created in 1989 by Dr. Hans Bjelkhagen who, judging by that bio, is the life of every party he attends.

You could see every hair on Reagan's head. On others, you could see high quality definition of nose hairs, pores, epidermal imperfections and even smoke tendrils. These are exact moments frozen in three-dimensional, inescapably eerie green time.

That's the kind of store, really, that you'd skip if you saw a sign on the road. Too busy today. Maybe next week. Besides, holograms? But you really should check it out. And you'd think, at first glance, that you could breeze through in six minutes, knowing everything you'll possibly ever need to share on holograms, on the off chance that you met Dr. Bjelkhagen at a party. But it pays to linger. Holographic imagery, apparently is one of those things that offers dozens of little hidden micro-stories.

After that, I got pinched.

And pinching, as you know, is hungry work, so there was a late lunch at the Artists Colony Inn, built, says the menu, to honor the old Pittman Inn which was once at the epicenter of the most famous art colony in the country. I have no reason to disbelieve this claim, but at the same time it strikes you as a hard one to prove.

Their rooms are all well equipped with everything the struggling artist needs: microwave, four poster bed, television, queen sized bed, full bath. Those that discuss suffering for their art may be leading us on a bit.

I enjoyed a fresh and mild chicken pot pie and french fried sweet potatoes. That was every bit as over the top as you might imagine, and I made a vow to walk just a little bit more this afternoon just because of the side order. This is the view I had over my fries. Another old home converted to stores. "It's a living," sighs the house, but you got the impression from the roof that it wasn't that happy about the blue. Made for a nice scene, though.

Outside there's John Franz who's neither a retired psychiatrist millionaire nor a mad genius. Those are some of the stories people have imagined about the guy, but he just likes standing there and singing, making money on tunes mostly from the 60s by the sound of it, in his oddly soothing baritone. He's a local hero.

Oh the shopping we did in the afternoon. The things I didn't buy. There was a mini-car show. About a dozen cars, but that's probably big doings in a town this size. Also bands were playing on an empty corner under a canvas tent and across the street were the champion obstacle course dogs. All three of them. The place is Mayberry with cash registers and bed and breakfast joints and it is beautiful.

I left with a few framed pieces for the house, which might have been a minor record for the town as everyone apparently leaves with arms full of shopping bags.

We drove back with the sun going down over our shoulders. At home we had a late snacky dinner and played with Coco until it was time to think about the next day of food and fun.

That's why I have to stay away from here. My waistline doesn't need the encouragement.

Friday, July 27, 2007

The week let go early today. Around 9 a.m. the mind and body convened to realize and announce, "Lo these many hours are over, the weekend beckons."

The mind and body always jump the gun.

There was still a great portion of the work day to float through. The last of Media Days in which today I contributed only a few links and none of the real work. The sports guys are on top of that, and the rest of us are thankful. I'm also thankful that the above will be the last typing of that link. It is an odd experience, Media Days means the football season draws near, but no one really cares for the event beyond their program or the arch-foe. Everything else, at some point, is just Kentucky. Which makes you feel bad for Mississippi State, but not too bad, because you must save some pity for the pummelings they are sure to receive when the temperature cools by five degrees, the grills flame to life around the stadiums and we wonder if it will ever get cool enough for that new college sweatshirt we bought on sale.

Such is September and October in the SEC.

After Media Days, and after work, there was a plane to catch. But first there was a bag to pack. So home the car drove, while the mind considered the many countless permutations that can be selected when the trip calls for "shorts and t-shirts." This should be the easiest bag to pack, but something about the shorts, and their absence of anything below the knees, allows for more room in the suitcase. Subconsciously your mind knows this, plans for this, waits for this. That pesky subconscious part of your mind has drilled for this in your dreams -- hence the weird dreams where you're in the subartic in California jammers -- and now it is springing to action.

With a bag packed it is time to head out the door, but I'm intercepted by advertisers of the door to door persuasive method. Tick, says the ticket in my pocket. Tock, says the watch in reply. On the road the itinerary is restored to good working order, all is well, balance has been found, the earth will not spin off its axis and I, realizing the high percentage rates of successful driving, am on the way to making my plane.

I call a friend. He is heading home, out of town, as I am heading to the airport back across town. We will meet on the interstate. I plane to wave. We talk to stall, giving periodic updates of our progress. He's made law review and wrote a brief for a judge this week. We've drawn closer. I've done far less, but I'm not working towards a law degree just now. I have, however, packed a bag and am leaving for the weekend. We've drawn closer. He tells a funny store of the week. I tell a serious story I've read. We've almost on top of one another. I make fun of someone; he makes fun of someone. We've passed one another. How did we miss!?

This, you understand, would have been big. Colossal. Certainly the odds are good that in my many travels I've passed a friend going the opposite direction. Once, while taking pictures on the side of the freeway I was called by a friend wondering if that was me and if, in fact, my car was troublesome. Often in the morning drive I can mark my progress by the usual suspects and where they are on their daily journey. But this would have been the coincedental passage of people who knew it was happening. We would have waved. We would have told our children about this one day. They would thought it cool that we lived in a time when it was still legal to be in cars. It would have been momentous.

But we missed each other.

To the airport, parking with little difficulty, inside the terminal, stuck at the security checkpoint where I made the solemn vow to never travel with children because, honestly, the TSA must know something about them because they spend an inordinate amount of time on them. Those kids, they must be up to something!

Down to the boarding area where the passengers of Flight 1929, fast and famous friends all, are ready to board. Us talented and handsome A-ticket types first, if you don't mind. Don't worry though, C-folk, if you can't get a seat with your honey I'm sure Southwest can put you in baggage.

The lead flight attendant had been on a few too many trips over the rainbow, and he welcomed us to Louisville "where all your dreams will come true ... we are in Louisville, right?" The flight takes approximately 44 minutes, and they're still welcoming you on board 20 minutes en route. Just in case you missed the first three welcomes after you made the cattle call for a seat. Or perhaps it is for the people stowed in baggage. No one can be sure.

As we made the descent we encountered storms outside of Louisville. That was ... choppy. Our pilot was a pro and landed in a rain thick enough to look like a fog, or London. Off the plane, up the jetway, across the slidewalk -- I want one in my home, just so I can take the ride and stand on the left and walk on the right, rebel that I am -- and into the waiting arms of the folks. It is a weekend in Indiana and it is 9 p.m. with dinner at Lynn's still to come.

Later. We closed Lynn's, which is the most interesting time to be with the waitstaff, as they treat this as a confessional opportunity. "Forgive me customer for I have mis-poured."

The problem, we learn, with a place like Lynn's is that the eclectic design -- and the place is a surrealist's masterpiece, yo -- works against itself. When something works, it doesn't get fixed, it doesn't get replaced, it just fades to the background. There are flourescent lights with aluminum covers with hand designed lightholes -- Lynn made them herself -- but when one stopped working, and then a second, they just stopped using them. Instead, they hung Japanese lanterns. It is hippy revolt of the cubical in kabbuki theatre this place. There are also mannequin legs hanging from the walls, as if a bad X-Files episode happened and all you see are the models' legs, trapped in a frozen pose above delicious food and deliberately tacky table lamps. There's also a table that has a working model train inside of it. There are pants made of teabags, which come with their own suspenders.

Out front you're encouraged to play with the life-sized horse with an electrical plug as its tail. There is a percussive organ of PVC pipes by the door, with which you can peck out a tune with a flip-flop. A gigantic teapot pours water into a mug that flows soap suds into the street.

For some of the arcane scenery at Lynn's, you can see photos in my visit there last fall which grew into a day of old stores, Harvest Homecoming and football. I note, with some small saddness, that there is a question toward the end of that blog post that remains unanswered. I fear it may be asked again this season.

Anyway. At the folks' after dinner it isn't long before it is time for bed. There is a big day tomorrow of touristy window shopping.

Photographs. In the meantime there's one that I must share now or it will be forgotten altogether. And it dovetails nicely with one that my step-father gave me this evening.

Saw the first Wednesday after my Media Days fun. As ghost signs go, this one is of the nouveau variety. Somehow that makes it slightly less interesting, yet more ironic. Perhaps that's the fate of these old signs. Perhaps, upon reflection, they can think they've lived a filling life: Well, I've advertised, I've informed, I've made people laugh or think. I was strangely ironic and out of place and now I'm an historical piece of art, that's a good living for letters on a wall.

So, today's ghost sign is of the modern and technical variety. And, since we don't paint the buildings anymore, this will likely be scrubbed down any day now. Even our junked and useless stuff has a shorter life and is less interesting.

I found that one in Hoover, Rick gave me this one which, I think, he found in Indiana. I playfully asked why he didn't pick up the sign and bring it to me. I have a spot in the library all picked out for it. He said it was gone the next day. Just like that, the little orange silhoutte of indeterminant dreams was erased from our minds. That little orange man might have hoped to see his little orange kids grow up to go to Pitchman State University, but it will never happen now. Not with the death star ruling everything.

Reportedly there have been pay cuts for the associates formerly known as Cingular employees. Apparently the new bosses are less than the old bosses in many ways that employees measure bosses. I've noticed connections which seem to be less than the previous provider. Mergers are almost never what they're cracked up to be.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Worked a little late because of Media Days, but that's just a sign that football season is drawing near. Practice starts in the next week or so, it won't be long before we can count the days with our shoes on. Good times, good times.

Intended to play a little golf today, but didn't get home with enough daylight. Went to the driving range instead. Got rained on while fading balls on high, arching trails through the early evening sky.

Driving ranges, they say, are deceiving because they are usually so wide that every shot looks straight. Not so, says I. There were a few errant ones that needed no narrow fairway to point out their flaws. These are the Facts of Life: You take the good, you take the bad. It occurred to me this evening, though, that my best swings are the ones where I just get out of the way.

Life is like that sometimes; get out of the way and it'll take you places, like 220 yards down the range.

And I'd like a new type of driving range, please, one that is lined, much like a football field. With my new and innovative driving range you could tell precisely how far everything is going. I'm having a tough time figuring out the new irons because there seems to be an equality between the short irons and a similar situation with the longer sticks. Perhaps if I could hit them all equally well, and consistently, that would help, but, for now, it remains a mystery.

Italian for dinner, a nice minestrone and a meaty lasagna that'll be breakfast or lunch tomorrow. A quick trip to Wal-Mart and a few phone calls later here we are. I've been through the laundry and cleaned out the inbox. It has been the sort of productive evening where a few things have been accomplished, but without too many tangible results.

There is something to see, however. I didn't notice this when it happened (last year ... ) but I was quoted in the Los Angeles Times. The Times stories have a very limited online life, much like the stories on, but I did find the syndicated version on AZ Central.

I'm at the bottom. Here's the original entry. And, yes, I appreciate the irony of being quoted anywhere on something so pop culture. If the writer had known better she would have stayed away from me on the subject.

I'll resist the urge to shop myself out for more quotes.

And now, back to Feinstein's coverage of the 1995 Army-Navy game, where last night I went to sleep at the start of the second half. It is going to be a nail-biter.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Media Days, the portion of the year so profoundly overwhelming that even the people that don't do sports do sports. I'm doing sports. I gave up sports reporting years ago, wanted to stay a fan. Every once in a while, though, some duty calls and one must put on the sports hat. It isn't that much different, it isn't a trouble, or difficult or annoying, it is just a bit different and, given that I swore off sports reporting, amuses me somewhat.

So it goes like this: the 12 teams in the SEC descend on Hoover, Ala. over the course of three days. Four teams are represented each day by the head coach and two players. They are held before the media spectacle. The media are often the most entertaining part of the story. Apparently some 800 members of the sporting news world decided to request credentials, and they'll give those to anyone for the feel-good activity that is Media Days. If this keeps up they'll have to move the site, again, but there are worse problems that creampuff coverage of the chief moneymakers.

Currently Media Days is held at the luxurious Wynfrey Hotel. In the downstairs lobby are where the fans gather. Up the escalators is where we better-than-thou media types congregate, oohing and aahing over the chance to catch a glimpse and a photo of our betters. And then we ask silly questions, fully expecting cliched answers. It is sad in a way, but the audience for it is huge and so here we are.

I didn't work Media Days from the scene, but did some of the behind-the-scenes stuff at the office. After work I stopped by Media Days to take a few pictures to put here. And to get the new Auburn media guide. Those were my goals, I timed it just right, Auburn's folks were still working the crowds when I got there, and so I was in and out in less than half an hour.

Here is what I saw.

In one of the television rooms -- they segregate the media according to needs of space, light and leftovers -- I ran into Auburn's sackmiester Quentin Groves. He's a terror on the field, fast as lightning and has a wingspan of about 17 feet. He stands a very good chance at becoming the school's sack leader in his senior campaign. He's also one of the nicest, most humble, head on his shoulders young men you could meet.

Someone asked about "making it in the NFL" and he said he will have made it when he's sitting on his porch with his wife and his kids and his responsibilities are over. The guy has his degree, is married and could have most likely gone pro this last year, but stayed for one more run. He's extremely charismatic and charming and, as a person, he's just hard not to like. Until he straps on his helmet, and if your helmet happens to be different you don't like him so much anymore. You might fear him a little even.

I caught up to Tommy Tuberville in the print room, a ballroom the size of a basketball court. He wants you to fear his offense. And his defense. He's not really goldbricking this team the same way he usually does at this point. He sounds like he's expecting big things. On troubled young linebacker Tray Blackmon, Tubby says he's the best he's seen since Ray Lewis. They call him the "Little Ball of Hate." If Blackmon gets his act together, and Tubs seems to think so, he could be a terror.

In another part of the print room was AU's senior quarterback Brandon Cox. He's healthy, I've been talking to the scouts and they like what they see. The proof, as they say, shall be in the Kansas State, South Florida and Mississippi State pudding. Notice that swarm of media around him, though. That's nothing compared to what will happen tomorrow when minor-diety Nick Saban comes to rescue Alabama from itself. It is so fun to watch them wiggle over the guy. Alabama, though, could start the season 2-3, which would prompt a different type of wiggling altogether. For now, though, Bama fans are so cute when they're deranged.

Oh yes, here's radio row, the hallway that's always felt like a tacked on place for a room full of people so filled with self-importance. There's a great piece of humor in watching these guys come off the air and walking slowly through the room, hoping to make eye contact and be recognized so they'll be invited on someone else's show. If the sports talkers aren't joining the rest of the media in the lunch room odds are they're trolling for more air time.

This, of course, from the guy who kept careful notes of all the markets in which he was on the air doing news. (I've been on in all the bigs except New York and San Francisco. Cursed Big Apple!)

Incidentally, this is the slowest that I've ever seen radio row at SEC Media Days. To be fair, the day was almost over by then, which meant it was time for me to head for home. And right into a blinding rain shower as well. That was some good rain.

After dinner I worked on the Glomerata, bringing the 1953 project to a close. These are some of the better ads from the back of the book, always a favorite for people walking back through time. If you're new to the Glomerata you can start here. If you've been following along for a while now, you can pick up where we left off right here.

Up next for the Glom project is ... well ... nothing. I'm going to take a week or two off from them, give the scanner a break and spend my Wednesdays reading a bit more. Starting in mid-August, however, they'll return with the 1976 edition, should be fun.

Speaking of fun, and speaking of reading, I'm going to get back to Feinstein's book on the 1995 Army-Navy game. It has been surprisingly good, following both teams through the season and when I put the thing down last night the big game was just getting underway.

See ya tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

I spent part of the afternoon with some very talented young musicians. I'm putting together a podcast for next week on the Metro Youth Orchestra and a few of them played their instruments for extra sound. Bobby Horton of Three on a String fame was also there, he's going to perform with the orchestra at some point this season. He played an old civil war song on his banjo for me, and is probably now wondering why I took a picture of his tapping foot.

Don't worry Mr. Horton, I'm wondering too. It was one of those things that seemed a great photograph at the time, with the strumming and the picking and the tapping, but now I have a picture of two brown shoes.

Apparently, though, my recorder isn't cooperating. The interview part is on file, but much of their fine musical work somehow disappeared. I'm very upset about that.

Time to shop for a new recorder!

They were great though, and some of these kids (and their sibs) play three and four instruments. Can't imagine what it must sound like in their homes.

That podcast, though, will go up next week. We're all SEC Media Days from here on in at work and I'd hate for the musicians to get that buried. Meanwhile, there should be a media daze podcast on Friday to look forward to.

And that's enough work talk. But I am upset about the now untrustworthy recorder. Tomorrow I'll start shopping for a new one though.

Got the car worked on today. The belts they addes last Friday were a bit loose and a lot screechy. Yesterday and this morning I no doubt woke up the neighborhood on my way to work. It was a bit embarrassing to greet a coworker in the parking lot this afternoon to then hear that classic "demons being slayed" sound. Seventeen minutes later I was back on the road with an education on belt tightening, the squealing gone, the mechanic chagrined and generally much happier for my vehicular situation, thanks.

Watched a bit of the second Harry Potter movie tonight -- I know, I'm behind, and I have no intention of reading the books, though I did skim the epilogue of the last one Saturday -- had a nice shrimpy dinner and then did some work on the computer.

Stephen just came by for a bit and we had a nice, if brief visit. Law school, and the subsequent clerking, have kept him busy, but perhaps there'll soon be room to put the many busy schedules together more than once every other week.

Now I'm going to have cookies, watch 24 and read myself to sleep. It is always nice when you can plot out the next few hours of your life, doubly so if there are cookies involved.

As I dunk my chocolate chips you may enjoy the latest from the ancient newspapers. We're fully in the Great Depression now, and there's copy from the kidnapping and murder of Charles Lindbergh's baby and the arrival of FDR onto the national scene. Things, as they say, would never be the same again. So check out the newspapers. Start here if you're new to the experience. Click here if you've been following along.

Photographs. It has taken a couple of tries, regular readers will point out, but I've managed to capture those brief magical moments when the morning sun is glancing off the shimmering Amsouth/Regions building downtown on the drive into work. To the left is the Wachovia (formerly the SouthTrust) building and to the right is the Harbert Center, which hopefully won't be renamed anytime soon. Three of the most prominent buildings in Birmingham's stunted skyline have taken on new names in the last two years. I'm forever correcting myself on which is what. We'll now move along to some other morningtime photographic effort.

In the meantime, here's a photograph from this afternoon's podcast, specifically cellist Molly Goforth. She's studying music at the University of Louisville, and I met her for the first time today, but her mother, whom I've talked with a few times before, is one of the organizers of the orchestra. The musicians were great, talented, humble and almost shy, but they can play. I can't wait to hear them in concert.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Ever have those days that start out with the noblest of intentions? First you'll do this, and then you'll say that, and then you'll take care of those extra errands you've been neglecting and then you'll ... but first you'll ...

I had a day like that today. But, by the time I got out of the office the sky was a dark brooding blue and all of my self-imposed chores and errands could be put off until another afternoon. I just wanted to take a nap.

Which I did, for about 12 minutes. And then I read a bit, goofed off, almost dozed off again before having an ice cream sandwich and watching TV. There was another hour of the second season of 24 to watch. We've just reached the fourth quarter angle disturbance, where something oddly random happens courtesy of a character we haven't met yet.

Oh, and Jack's daughter is kind of dim. I think she's been kidnapped, assaulted or had one or the other happen four times today. To say nothing of being arrested and charged with murder. Maybe that's how I should have started writing this: Ever have a day when you just want to pull the covers over your head? That's every day for her.

Now I'm about to read some more. I'm almost finished with Feinstein's A Civil War. I vaguely remember how the game ends, but now I know some of the particulars involved -- it is a compelling insight into college football players, really -- and by then you'd be OK with everybody winning. But it can't happen that way. And the one guy in here that you'd really like to see earn some redemption will be up in the stands instead of on the field.

Feinstein writes it though, like the sportswriter that he is. He's taking no sides and he's been cheering these young men on all season long. I wonder, when he was finished, if he was as sad about that as they were, as I'll be. Some books shouldn't end, some should go on forever with the characters enjoying a sort of perpetual success. It is hard not to root for guys about to go into the Army and the Navy, and it will be hard to see their football story come to a conclusion in the next night or two. But all good things ...

... and patently sub-par things like this blog entry, must come to an end.

Tomorrow: More car fun, I'll tell you about a podcast, old front pages from the Birmingham News and more. Come back again.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

There was a moment, in the twilight of the day, when I looked out over my kingdom with a content satisfaction.

But that was the evening. In the afternoon I watched the TiVo'ed L.A. Galaxy-Chelsea match featuring a resting David Beckham making his American debut (and the half-dozen commentators who were breathless with the implications).

We knew he wouldn't play much, nursing as he is an ankle he hurt last month. Meanwhile the goal scorer for Chelsea is playing on a toe he broke last week. He did score on the opposite foot however.

More spectacle than sport, this was the perfect exhibition game, with Chelsea tuning up for Premiere League play and a Galaxy team that was mid-season, but still learning each other. The announcers, usually a very solid crew, couldn't decide on which narrative would be more important. And they couldn't decide how they felt about Beckham. At turns he was a savior, a spectator and athlete the world was impatient to see.

And this was the problem. The full weight of the regretable ESPN hype machine was behind this exhibition match, the place was sold out and Beckham came on for 13 minutes. I counted three touches (but was too busy making fun of the whole circumstance to be certain) and got one good, clean tackle. We watched that five times thanks to the ESPN replay. Meanwhile we missed several nice shots throughout the game from poor camera angles or from the ridiculous "Beckham Cam." Oh look! He's gesturing! He's taken his shoe off! He's rearranging his jockstrap!

So, sold out stadium, rarely attentive American audience and the star du jour plays a dozen minutes. Apropos to the rest of his time in the U.S. he finished the stoppage time with a weak corner kick off his bum ankle. That won't keep people's attention unfortunately.

He'll get healthy and be his usual accurate and brilliant self in set pieces, but he's otherwise on the downside of a storied career and not the progenitor of the new American soccer. He might have a future in American football though, after spending a day with Reggie Bush. That's a neat little video that will surely be a commercial for Adidas or someone this fall. It is always interesting to see how high caliber athletes can adapt so quickly to sports outside of their comfort zone. They catch on quickly.

Walked through Tannehill this afternoon, just to get outside for a while. Beautiful day. The sign said 90 degrees on the way out, and 93 two hours later. It got warmer as the sun was thinking about going down apparently.

I intended to take a lot of photographs, of course, but my camera battery died after two shots. Knowing that I was close to exhausting it I'd just started charging the other battery, which was hanging in the socket at home and doing me no good on the trails.

Saw the water trickle through the creek, watched it come right up to the little dam at the grist mill, but not spill over as it normally does. Saw a fawn way out on the edge of the park. Sat in the shade on a rock on one trail and tried to imagine doing this in full wool uniforms carrying guns and other equipment. This ironworks fired up in the 1830s and was destroyed by Union soldiers during the war. That was all but the end of formal fighting in the Deep South, at the end of March 1865. It can be very warm that time of year though, particularly for marching soldiers. Lee surrendered at Appomattox a week later and the majority of the fighting was done.

At the time this place was a bustling little village dedicated to the ironworks. Now it is a dusty little state park covered in pines and kids on bicycles. People here are more interested in their R.V.s and Trade Days and maybe that is as it should be. The old man working the grist mill today might disagree; he looked lonely.

A quick stop at the grocery store, a 14-minute nap and the plodding 28 minutes afterward to wake up later, it was time for dinner.

Pork loin is yummy. There's this seasoning you really must try.

Watched the last 24 episode from the second season that is currently stored in the TiVo. The show isn't over yet, but the nuclear bomb has been exploded in the desert. Jack, we are left to believe, survived the blast after parachuting from the plane. Ol' George Mason took one for the team -- and why not, he was going to do it the next afternoon anyway -- and everyone lived happily ever after. They never looked out over the desert in the same way again, and there's a 40-square mile area that will soon be home to the most lucrative chain link fence contract in the government's history, but all is well.

More and more I see where they lifted aspects of the first two seasons for the sixth season. The show can't be easy to write, but some things do seem repetitive in retrospect. Except for there's nine more hours of the season to go. The post-nuclear bomb tension builds.

There aren't nine more hours in my weekend, though right around the time the sun set and the world turned from blue to silver to gray that I stepped outside to prepare the garbage cans when I noted the stillness of the world, the insect symphony, the low grass and the perfect ambient temperature. Moments like this should go on forever. Moments like this happen a lot, where the world is quiet and unhurried and perfect -- we should just notice it more.

Photographs. Like I said, there was a plan to take a lot of photographs today, but my battery conspired against me and I took exactly two. Here they are.

I manage to take a lot of creek bed photographs, partly because it is fun getting to the middle of things and partly because they compose so nicely in my mind's eye. Never sure what to do with them after that. I like this one, though, because the stream and the trees make nice lines. That is all.

Off the trail there's a house with an old porch swing. We used to take over that swing and rock in the shade a fair amount, but now there are signs saying this is one of the rental cabins and "Could you stop sneaking up to where people are spending the weekend please?" They are rustic 19th Century cabins so authentic that you should probably have your tetanus shots up-to-date before staying overnight. The sign was politely worded, so I felt compelled to not swing, but just this once. It looks like there's a bedroom on otherside of a covered breezeway. Here's the roof of that building.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

I slept too late today. Half the day had passed before I was up to doing anything at a serious speed and by then I was pretty much locked into feeling tired for the entire day. That's the worst feeling, sleeping more than your share and your body demands more. How greedy can a body be? During the week it is fine on six hours and often far less. Now more than a day-and-a-half's average isn't enough?

Fortunately there wasn't a lot to get done today. There were some low-impact errands -- errands, just as we like them to be -- but that was about it.

Lunch from the Publix deli, and lunch at the Publix cafeteria. Finishing the sandwich I glanced up to see people walking in the mid-summer day toward the front door. They were facing me, walking parallel to the front of the building and they looked like they were walking in slow-motion. In the heat they might have been.

Each of them wore shorts. Two were slightly shaggy looking. Two t-shirts, two polos, four pairs of various casual shoes. They were all in khaki. They were unmistakable: The Four Fraternity Brothers of the Apocalypse.

The jokes won't get any better than that today.

After lunch I went to Sam's Club with The Yankee. I walked in wearing a Savannah t-shirt where a woman noticed and pointed out that she, too, enjoyed going to Savannah. And then she told me all of the barbeque I should try on my next trip. We became fast friends.

Inside I checked the blood pressure in one of those free machines that always orbit pharmacies and found that, despite barbeque last night and talk of it this afternoon, I just might be healthy.

Picked up a few things and then walked out behind a gentleman who was making a wholesale run on Gatorade. You never really want Gatorade until you see someone buying it by gross. What is he going to do with all that stuff? What does he know that the rest of us don't? Makes you sweat just thinking about it. Or it could be those upper-80s temperatures.

More stops, more groceries and then home to put up groceries and establish plans to consume the consumables so that I may keep the global economy alive. Not that there's any pressure or anything, but that steak dinner tonight is going to keep Wall Street humming into next week. There's charcoal to use, too, after all.

Caught up with My Favorite Wendy while the steak sizzled. Apparently the sizzle of steak doesn't carry over the cell phone as there was a good deal of tempting attempted. She would not travel from Savannah to Birmingham for the promise of a well marinated steak. Truly, her loss and more for me.

One side got singed just a tad bit, which was totally my fault. I dropped the ball by not picking up the sizzling meat. Instead of medium rare it was medium. The Yankee was worried, but such is another perfect day that it didn't hurt the steak at all and it was delicious.

After that there was a great deal of the second season of 24 to catch. First they couldn't find the bomb, and no one knew where Kim was. Then they found the bomb, only it wasn't the bomb, which meant they had to find the real bomb. Which, to me, was a signal that the writers put it all together and realized they'd written a riveting season of '23' and needed to hastily go back and write one more hour of the night. For "accuracy."

Not that this show has ever been concerned with that, even in the early days. Injuries have been shaken off like they were nothing and that makes me proud of our brave defenders. They just stopped putting bruise and burn makeup on some of them and Jack was in a plane crash (where something stabbed him in the quadricep which hampered him for at least four minutes) but everyone is still looking dashing, thanks. If it wasn't for the tense whispering you wouldn't think anything was wrong at all.

Except for poor, sweet, evolving George. He started out as a man of shady character but he's suddenly become a decent guy. I guess plutonium mutates lots of things about a person. He's going to have a great death scene I suppose.

But that's for another time. I'm exhausted from travelling to three stores and having demanded 12 full hours of wakefulness from my body on the day.

Sorta makes you appreciate Jack Bauer even more doesn't it?

Friday, July 20, 2007

Worked a half-day (the company generously gave us some time off for goal-reaching, my new goal is more time off) and then worked a half-hour longer than I intended. I'm that dedicated.

Stopped by the car shop to drop off my car. Sat and read there for a while. They were going to replace the cradle bushings and the belts, but the cradle bushings weren't that bad. The wrong belts were delivered. More waiting. Lunch instead then. And then golf.

The worst round of golf I have ever played.

The worst. Ever.

I'll just put it this way: I score golf in two different ways, first the traditional method and second by the number of golf balls I've lost versus the number I've found. I quickly gave up on the first method and all but gave up on the second method after the most disasterous first hole ever. I lost three balls! Lost a fourth ball on the third hole. On the fifth hole I hit across two fairways. Lost a sixth ball on the seventh hole and ... it seems like there was another ball that disappeared in there somewhere, but I'm too punch-drunk to remember where.

The woods are good, the irons are OK, the hybrids are very nice and I'm pushing the driver everywhere I want it to go. The pitching wedge absolutely slayed me today, cost me half-a-dozen strokes easily today. It was ugly.

On the last hole I walked around the water hazard gathering balls until the guy from the clubhouse came out to see what I was doing. At least I broke even on the golf balls.

The scorecard was far, far worse and shall never be discussed. There is, however, a plan in place to fix some of these problems the next time out, which should either be soon in search of redemption or never again in search of forgetfulness.

Got the car back. Drove home fine. On the way to Pie Day it sounded worse than it did when I gave them the thing this afternoon. Looks like we'll be getting that fixed next week.

At Pie Day we learned how the store tracks inventory and on the one hand it makes sense, on the other hand it is silly. For instance, I'm expected to drink 4.5 glasses of my favorite beverage. After hearing all the details -- and still not being clear on how they track that particular one -- it made me want to have more tea. But then I realized this would only punish Ward, which isn't the goal, but rather give it to The Man.

At the end of the night they polished off the chairs with some high sheen citric thing and I thought maybe I should sit, slip and fall. I could own the place! Jim N' Nicks 'N' Kennys. Sounds good.

They only use the one apostrophe, but I would require my new co-owners to be grammatically correct around my name. Something around me, somewhere, should be grammatically correct.

And then a glass of tea got spilled into the pie plate. Jeans, camera and pride were all saved, fortunately. That's another glass to the total. And they quickly brought another piece of pie during the cleaning process. Another tick off the inventory. We'll try not to make a habit of that, though, an awful waste of good pie.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Today was another day of errands. First I played the dutiful friend for a co-worker who was getting her car back from the mechanic -- a place I'm not long for. Took a few phone calls, arranged my mechanic experience for tomorrow, made a few more phone calls and dropped off an insurance bill.

I'm exhausted by 4:30.

Found the perfect way to pay the bills though: just walk into the office chatting on the cell phone. The lady said only "Need a receipt?" and I was off again.

But my next, and last, stop was home where I'm content to do as little as possible and spend the evening in the library.

So there isn't much going on here right now, but one thing you should check out. I visited the Southern Museum of Flight yesterday and did a podcast and photo gallery of all the neat things out there. They have the B-25 that was pulled out of a South Carolina lake two years ago, one of the first Delta planes, the first Blackbird over Hanoi, the first MiG-15 that defected from North Korea and a lot more. Check out the podcast and photo gallery and then stop by for a visit.

That's it for today. Thanks for stopping by, and be sure to come back looking for more substance tomorrow which will feature a half-day at work, a mid-day at the car shop and an afternoon on the golf course. More than a few stories should emerge from that.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Got home, left home, got home, left home. It was a day of many errands. And lots of reading. I've finally rounded the turn in Doris Kearns Goodwin's Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream.

This has been my in-the-car, read at lunch and between appointments book. It is designed to be a slow read in such a highly exalted position of my life. Good book too, it is almost more psychology than history, which may be odd from a history writer, but insightful nonetheless. I'd like more history and more quotes, because the ones she has are gold, but she sees Johnson as a man making rationale for everything he did. In that was you're given a terrific look inside the subject, but it tends to gloss over a few things.

Currently Johnson is about to fill Vietnam with American troops and Goodwin (and her readers) are trying to figure out exactly where that went out of control. I think I have it down to one memo. It is always a memo.

This is a good book from Kearns, but she ran into some controversy over a later effort. Seems there was a big controversy at Harvard over some plagiarism. Apparently this happens to the best of the name-brand historians, but it doesn't really take away from her effort on Johnson, which is the book that brought her the big publishing break.

This afternoon I did a dry-run on a podcast from my control board into the home computer. It was fairly boring and not especially meant for your consumption, but was rather intended to help me figure out an efficient way to do it in a basically one-handed manner.

The end result: I need to work on the levels. End result, part two: I should also work on subject matter that is good enough for public consumption. I'm especially hard on myself about this stuff, seeing as how I've done it so long professionally. Online these days you hear some that are good and some that are not so good, and I'd like it to be something slightly more than a flight of ego. Meanwhile, the better ideas already become work ideas, so I must keep a few for myself.

Speaking of podcasts, I did a really nice one at work today. You'll see it here tomorrow since I'm still producing the finished product. It is interesting stuff, particularly if you're into history. At least two of you must be if you're still after reading about LBJ above.

Chicken, done in the barbeque style for dinner tonight. There was a potato of the baked variety to go along with the grilled poultry. It made for a very nice late night snack.

After that, I'm also prepared to give you the weekly dose of Glomerata for your viewing pleasure. These are the last snapshots from 1953, the sillier side of college life in a rural town in the middle of the century. Next week we'll wrap up '53 with the book's advertisers, which is one of my favorite sections. Start here if you are new to the Glomerata experience. If you've been following along, click here to go right to the new stuff.

Some of these week's additions were hastily written, so please tell me of any errors in grammar or history that jump out at you. Extra eyes are always appreciative, I assure you.

I appreciate you stopping by today as well. Come back tomorrow for highly detailed reports of errands and the many loose metaphors to which you've grown accustomed.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

I tried Thursday, I tried yesterday, but today we finally got the banking done.

After work I stopped by ye olde inconveniently convenient bank and was successful in actually making some deposits. I could not learn my balance, however, because the region of Regions where my account is located hasn't converted to the new Regions mainframe. This also explains Monday's "you can't deposit that with the regular slip" fiasco. The poor teller tried for about 10 minutes to find my account before finally giving up and calling the other bank. So, in the merger and all the computer logistics that comes with that, they've basically isolated great swaths of their own institution. At least, she said, until October, when the other region's Regions makes the Great Mainframe Jump of 2007.

Meanwhile I'm watching one of those guys that sits at a desk -- what do they do all day anyway? -- help customers who suddenly can't bank online anymore because, you guessed it, the mainframe exchange has pulled everyone up lame. The new slogan "Bank easier" isn't yet working out for anyone, but it is a nice theoretical concept. I'm beginning to feel bad for the bank employees though. They've been dealing with this for three days now with every customer they see. And in their own accounts too. I wonder what they complain about over lunch.

So the guy at the desk is helping me and I decide to swap my accounts from that region's Regions to this region's Regions. I don't want to do this for another two months in any region. We do so and, an hour later, all is well in the world.

While at the bank the rain descended mightily. The roads were flooded because the storm sewers couldn't handle the water fast enough. Haven't seen that in a good long while. By the time I made it home it was bright and sunny the big puffy white clouds didn't have a care in the world. The odd pace of summer weather has returned. The bank problem is fixing itself. Let's go golfing.

Found some new clubs on Amazon. They retailed for $600, I got them at the significant Amazon discount and, after a very thoughtful gift certificate, I paid just a few bucks for these clubs. Perhaps, in 10 more years it'll be time for new clubs once again and I'll have to make a real investment, but the starter and now the intermediate set are working out just fine. I ordered them last week, they arrived yesterday, tried them out at the driving range today.

They are shimmering and black, these new clubs. This driver is about twice the size of my old driver. It looks a bit mean and intimidating. I'd anticipated a lot of shanks, but I decided I would work up to it. So I pulled out the smallest clubs from the new bag first and decided to try the new irons.

I promptly laced the nine-iron 125 yards. This shouldn't happen. A few more from the nine, and then I moved on to the eight, which I didn't hit as cleanly, but still pushed the ball out there fairly well. On it went, fading the seven-iron, smacking the six into the evening air before largely mishandling the five. This set also has two hybrids which I don't really understand how to hit yet. I burned a lot of worms trying to figur it out, before finally addressing the ball like a driver and bouncing the ball just past of the 200 yard sign.

I grew scared of what would happen with the driver.

The thing is massive, you see. The club head is a lot larger than I'm accustomed to. Indeed, my old driver looks a lot like my new three-wood. This might be too much driver for me to handle. The first ball went about 200 yards without being well hit. I fade some badly, I even discovered a wicked draw that I've never had before. The ones that flew into the sky the best felt like they were being mis-hit, but they were still landing around the 200 yard sign. It is a very forgiving driver.

And then I cranked one. I finally got into a ball and it felt good, my mind was registering it before my eyes found the ball, even before the backswing was completed. That ball went 250 yards down the middle -- which I can count having done on one hand -- and somehow it still feels like there's more in the club.

After a few more swings -- and shanks and hooks and curls -- the pressure was on. I found myself down to my last ball, which you should of course always hit well. It keeps you wanting to come back. But if you don't hit it well, then you're just sort of hanging out there, questioning yourself until you return. And I would be questioning new clubs. The last ball bounced just beyond the 200 yard marker and I can be content, at least until I walk a course this weekend, where I will undoubtedly learn that I can't control this driver for anything.

Later after a fine pork chop dinner I've cobbled together your weekly dose of newspapers of yore. These are Depression-era pages, the paper had decreased the price per issue and there is one story where the president is called out for not helping the unemployed, but life otherwise, seems to go on. There are plenty of good stories, and now more and more good local stories on the front page, but the coverage is highly varied given the overwhelming topic of the time.

You can start the newspapers here or, if you've been following along all this time, click here to see the latest additions.

Tomorrow: a new podcast and photographs from work, Glomerata pictures and perhaps more. Thanks for coming today, and make sure you come back, there will be plenty to see.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The banking saga continued today, but otherwise it has been just the sort of day you order up: calm, quiet, a few sprinkles in the morning but, otherwise, summer moving along at the usual aimless pace.

To the north they're on the backstretch of summer, having now surpassed the middle of the middle month of the season. Here people are beginning to think of football, but that's only because of the obsession with the game, and not for any serious want of autumn. Those days will come, late August and early September all this will seem silly, but just now the mid-80s seems picture-perfect. No one wants to say anything bad about the weather, which has returned more to southeastern summer from desert.

The boss came into the office this morning and said, "Want to hear how the airline lost my son?" Way to go Delta. He was practicing his righteous indignation, so he gathered around those of us renowned for manufacturing such an emotion, as if he were telling the story around a campfire. We gave him some more ammunition. It seems that the minor escort service was minor, and short on the escort part of the service as well. For this Delta makes you pay extra.

The details are his, Delta's and the FAA's alone, but everything worked out, but he, and Delta, are extremely fortunate. And when we sat down to compare our weekend stories his won the day.

As for the bank. I might have mentioned stopping by there last Thursday, but they'd closed early to bring the new mainframes online after the merger of Regions and AmSouth and the general mucking up of what is normally a fairly successful system. That was Thursday, and one hopes they had that fixed for all those folks who enjoyed Friday as a pay day.

Today I stopped back by again, having wondered at the new signage -- they went from a dark green to a lighter green, more of a baby byproduct, really. The logo was changed, to something even more pointless, but I'm sure it made the design department happy. And there's new propaganda on everything. There are green suckers, those green bracelets, window cling signs, new pens and more. The signs say "Bank easier."

My skepticism mounted immediately. Fill out the deposit forms (also new) marvel at the three tellers clustered together doing ... something, but nothing in the way of customer service (so far: same branch, same employees, same banking!) until finally one notices all of us are down here, waiting when we'd rather be anywhere else.

It is my turn to bank. She goes through the forms, looks at my material and rules that I can't bank with these new forms. She consults a colleague. I cannot, in fact, use the new forms. I must use the ones printed in the back of the checkbook, the checkbook which is presently not on my person. Bank easier, indeed.

For the second time in as many trips I leave the bank without having completed my transaction. I'll get my revenge. I'll show them. Tomorrow I'll go to a different branch!

At home I resolved to try and fix the lawn mower, which I broke rather handily last Friday. Seems I ran over something and now the thing makes the racket of the rapture when you engage the blades. I've been considering this over the weekend and have decided it can be one of two things.

The first would be simply fixed and make my efforts Friday seem marginally useless. The second might also be simply fixed, but diagnosing the problem would be difficult, since I'd decided I must somehow get the lawn mower elevated, start the blades and then see what's going on underneath the lawn mower. I was not looking forward to this.

Simple things first, rule out the obvious, troubleshoot the thing like a good outsourced computer tech support staffer would. The simple problem first, then. Roll the thing out of the shop, finally get it cranked, try the first fix, drive the thing into the front yard thinking If it flies apart and something cuts me badly a neighbor would be along shortly to see the gore in my front yard. I could lie for hours in the backyard with no one knowing anything was wrong.

It seems I'm both cautious and overimaginative about the dangerous possibilities of these two lawn mower blades.

Engage the blades, it hums along just fine. It seems that what I broke was a piece of metal that is functional when I have the bagging device connected. With the blades spinning the vibration was banging out some serious heavy metal. The problem is (temporarily) fixed, the blades work fine and I neither had to put the thing on blocks nor climb under it to look for further problems.

No one is more relieved than I.

All that to say, sorry Kel, that I couldn't come cut your grass, I had my own yard to tend to. You know how these things go.

Wow, five 'graphs on an inside joke for one person, a joke that's neither funny nor seriously cared about by either of us. Must be Monday.

Spent the rest of the evening working on something to share with you later in the week. You will like it. Or you will not. You may be rather ambivalent about it. You'll find out later in the week.

Tomorrow, though, you'll have another bank story of some sort, tales of the driving range featuring brand new clubs (they arrived today, and they look pretty snazy) and newspapers. That's not a bad Tuesday, I better rest up now.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The third Sunday in July means the singing at the Whitehouse. People travel from states away and look forward to this all year.

I chose a different route to the Whitehouse this morning, one that went through Brilliant, Ala. (If you don't click that one the next two paragraphs will mean nothing.)

We started looking for Larry's house. Its this one. Its that one! That's Larry driving in the car in front of us. Maybe he's behind the wheel in that truck that just met us going the opposite way. They could all be Larry. They're all Larry, truly, for once you've reached such prestigious heights this is your kingdom, and you're merely letting us pass through it.

Since there was so much confusion about which one of these mean Larry could be I demanded that he join us for the singing. Someone at the church, I reasoned, would know him. We could call him up! Having there by lunch. I could interview him! It would be fantastic. Someone in the church would know him. Someone there is more than likely related to him. He might be there on his own. He may lead a song. Oh how I'd sing if only I heard his name. Truly, I'm now a Larryholic. How can you not be? I showed that picture to some of the family at the church. The woman sitting in front of us does now Larry.

As I've probably said before, the third Sunday in July singing is as much a family event to me as it a church service. A church service with really good singers. A few of the gentlemen that stand to lead songs are blow-you-away good. Many of them have been leading churches all of their adult lives. Some of them are young guys just starting out, tentative, but doing it all the same. I'm the guy that can't and won't, so I'm proud of them anyway for doing it. I could stand in front of that same room and talk about any important or inane thing all day long, but singing in front of a group is a different kind of courage altogether. Particularly a group like this.

We'll get to the music, but there's a lot of fun to be had as well. First, a few pictures. The Yankee got into a staring contest with my uncle, R.C. She said and then he said. It went on for hours. Or minutes at least.

R.C. always leads a few songs at this singing. A few other relatives also will. I will not.

Here's my grandparents, who made it down after lunch for the afternoon singing. I sat next to them for the singing, bluffing my way through a soprano with my grandmother on one song. We might have both been off key, but we were off together and I wouldn't trade that for all the pure notes in the world.

Here's the whole family after the singing. The nuclear family that is. There are at least four or five people not in the picture. Instead of saying "Cheese" someone said "monkey butt." I've no idea why, but it somehow fit the general fun and silliness of the afternoon.

The singing is very serious, of course. We just happened to all be in a silly mood by the end of the day. Here are the prime instigators.

My grandmother leaned in between verses of one song and whispered "That's the prettiest song in the whole book." I've been thinking about that all afternoon, because it is hard to not agree. "But I know Thou art with me and to-morrow I'll rise / Where the storms never darken the skies." Pretty powerful stuff.

The way she said it seemed so conspiratorial, so confessorial; I was being trusted with a high secret. She was just being discreet of course, but I like the idea. I remember -- as a small child -- being amazed that she knew not only the words to all the songs, but know them by the page number alone without opening a book. I've watched her sing these songs all my life, but it had never occurred to me to ask which hymns she liked best. And now I know. I don't have a recording of that song handy, but here's the sheet music to 'Til the Storm Passes.

Here are recordings of a few of the songs we did sing today. There are several older ones floating around in the same subdirectory if you'd care to figure out the not-overly complex naming system I have in place. I'm adding four here, in addition to six or so from previous years.

First, there's I'll Live in Glory which should show off my bias towards the chorus and the various harmony layers in the high tempo songs. There's A Beautiful Life, which is a song that's approaching 90 years old. Also, as a child, the copyright dates in the sheet music always fascinated me. Some of those from the 50s seemed impossibly old, but time has changed my perception of the age of those songs. These older ones, from the teens, don't seem so ancient anymore, but they do feel historic. Love Lifted Me, from 1912, feels that way. This part of the country was still shaking off Reconstruction. There was a lot of hard living and some places, like Whitehouse, probably still felt like the frontier.

My goal was to sing all four parts in one stave. Doing it in one song is no problem, there are a few songs where I can do it in one verse, but one stave is a big challenge. After lunch we tried to figure out which songs might lend themselves to the task. We named all the fast ones that are always selected at the Whitehouse. They seemed like obvious choices, but they all proved too fast. It takes me about two words to get from alto to tenor or from singing any one part to singing another. The words have to be shaped just right too. I find it hard to fake my bad soprano on words with an "ei" sound. I'm not sure why I do this, but it amuses those around me and that's usually the only encouragement I need.

And today we found the song that I could sing all four parts in one stave: Winging My Way Back Home, a long-time favorite.

The preacher's sermon, which I don't normally mention here, discussed the history of a particular hymn. Horatio Gates Spafford of Chicago wrote the classic It Is Well With My Soul. In 1871 he lost his son, a prominent Chicago lawyer. Later that same year he lost his business and all his possessions in the Great Chicago Fire. That was the least he would lose. After helping to rebuild the city he decided the family needed a vacation so they steamed for Europe. Horatio Gates was to follow his family after wrapping up some business, but before he could he received a telegram from his wife. Their ship, the French liner, "S.S. Ville du Havre," was in an accident. When it settled on the ocean floor off Newfoundland 226 were dead. The cable Horatio Gates received from his wife and said "Saved Alone." A few weeks later he sailed to join his wife, asking the captain of the vessel to tell him when they reached the place where the Ville du Havre sank. When his vessel arrived there, Horatio Gates is said to have written this song. Through his grief Gates found his solace in his daughters' recent baptisms.

We've song that songs for decades, but it takes on an even more profound meaning when you hear the story behind the song. That's a recording of the Kleinwood Church of Christ in Spring, Texas. Every mp3 on their site is incredibly beautiful. One of these days I'll have to go for a visit.

Takes on a whole new meaning when you know the tragedy behind the song.

During today's visit to the Whitehouse I did not, unfortunately, get to meet Larry. Missing the checker's champion aside, it was a full and wonderful day.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

This morning featured a visit to Chuck E. Cheese. Haven't been there since I worked there in high school. I was Chuck for a year or so. Today we're there because old friends Justin and RaDonna are in town and we've been thinking all week of ways to entertain their son.

We'll get to that in a moment, but first there's an important issue to discuss.

This has been plaguing children at Chuck E. Cheese for years. Truly, this machine was in the building in the early 90s when I was there. That concern is Robo Bop. At first he's just scary lights. It could be an airport landing grid, some high-tech totem pole or the result of unfortunate cutbacks of a special effects budget.

The monster suddenly gains a face. There's an awful lot of erie going on here friends. How does one account for all that empty space, the place we typically think houses the heart and the soul? And those green eyes. They follow you everywhere. They're casing you, chasing you, sizing you up. And that nose. Is he on some sort of drug? What's he inhaling? Is he doing blow? Is Rudolph his dealer? What is it?

I've purposefully been shooting these in low light, because the full effect is too frightening to contemplate. You should brace yourselves. Send the children from the room. Go ahead and open the phone book to the counseling section now. If this doesn't create images of fear in your mind nothing will. I'm sparing you the closeup of the face. It is simply too garish.

I'm not afraid of robots. I'm not afraid of clowns. Clownish robots, however, shouldn't exist in my world.

Won him over with the rides in about 14 seconds, so it seemed a good idea. We didn't eat, but Atticus did ride almost every moving machine they have.

I caught a whiff of the pizza and realized I didn't miss that too much. Saw Chuck and was unimpressed by his effort. I still remember the feeling of that fur when it got sweaty and I don't miss that too much either.

Here's Atticus moving things around on a bulldozer with Bob the Builder.

I chased him around the elevated crawl tubes for a while. Given my predilection toward climbing, playing and generally acting goofy with kids I secretly hoped he'd want to check this stuff out. I hadn't been in the store since they added all this so I was curious too. Once again he proved that kids are faster crawlers than adults. And, after about five minutes my knees began to protest on the hard plastic. No one else seemed to mind though. All the while I was hoping we'd pass by the windows quickly so I wouldn't be seen and told to get down, depriving Atticus of his fun -- and how he jabbered! -- but fortunately I wasn't found out.

Later I was told everyone was watching this little shadow move around in the translucent tubes, followed immediately behind by a gigantic shadow. I guess I was a bit more conspicuous than I realized.

Not sure who had more fun, Atticus or Radonna. He even liked riding with Chuck, though the large furry version never caught his eye.

He also enjoyed riding the tractor that looks like his grandfather's.

After Chuck E. Cheese Atticus took a nap, it rained, we all contemplated naps and finally took Atticus to the Galleria in search of a little more fun. The Build-A-Bear store held little interest for him. The Disney store didn't do much. He liked the mirrors, though, and discovered his first escalator, which we went up and down over and over while he worked up the largest smile possible.

They don't like it if you take pictures in the mall. They swoop in. One guy came in on a zip line, a woman descended from the ceiling in a rapelling harness. A SWAT team assembled behind JC Penney. Local leaders issued proclamations and issued ordinances. Security followed me around for the duration of my time in the mall.

One of those, the last one, is actually true.

After a while they even had the cleaning services leaning in to our conversation. Consequently the nearby tables, floor and garbage cans where the cleanest they've been in many months.

The security lady that stopped me did ask me very politely to not take pictures. We agreed I would not take any more pictures. I agreed only because she was polite. She was calm and said sir, I said ma'am. She did not ask to see or delete what I'd shot (which was one photograph at that point).

I say all this for two reasons: First, I've read a few stories recently about photographers being physically assaulted by rent-a-cops over a benign photograph and second, the no photos in the mall policy is simply a silly one. Impossible to enforce given the size of cameras and camera phones, they are alienating their audience, namely cameraphone toting teenyboopers and myself (couldn't tell you the last time I was at the Galleria though). And I'm not convinced of what sensitive information I could be capturing in an image.

So here's the scandalous picture in question, which is my favorite of the day.

How will the mall face their competition now that I've taken this photograph and displayed all of their secrets? How will Democracy stand now that I've posted vital clues to the greatest mystery currently being pondered by Middle Eastern fundamentalist scholars "How do the infidels make those stairs move?" And those poor escalators. How will they go on after feeling the sting of a flash bulb?

In defiance I shot several more pictures in the Discovery Store. I was all set to discuss the irony, discovering new camera techniques in the Discovery Store, but what do they care? They're closing anyway.

Could be the floor salesmen. Mr Enthusiasm these guys. As Justin and I examined the small solar power robots one came over and said, "You could buy them all and take the solar panels out and create a huge robot!"

He'd probably have a clown face.

Friday, July 13, 2007

A day off. A three-day weekend. A morning on the golf course. Does life get any better? I submit that it just might not.

Walked nine holes in the mid-morning. Threatened with rain twice. I played poorly, but am heartened with how I'm hitting my irons. Henry gave me a tip a few weeks ago and that's changed everything. Truly. I have to readjust ranges and club selection now. On one hole I played an eight iron and put the ball into a tree behind the green. Out of curiosity I dropped another ball and played the nine iron just a few feet from the pin. The rest of the morning was spent trying to figure out what this meant. On the 17th hole I pulled a miracle from my seven iron. I was in a stand of trees with low branch cover and placed the ball 15 feet from the hole on a shot I shouldn't have even considered.

As always, my relentless goal in the golf game is to play one hole where all the sticks in my bag behave just as I want. If it ever happens I may never pick the bag up again. We're a long way from making that happen.

But, this was the second half-round I've played in more than three years -- I didn't play at all through graduate school and have never felt like rushing out in the waning hours of the day after an almost-normal work schedule -- and I took nine strokes off the first half-round. Maybe I can consistently take two or four more strokes off by autumn. I have a feeling I'll be playing more in the coming days.

See, three paragraphs of golf talk after three hours of walking (I tend to play slow), that's not so terrible, now is it?

The afternoon was full of lawn maintenance chores. Apparently the lawn mower or myself, one, did not have any big desire to be productive. I managed to break the lawnmower somehow. It still drives fine, but when I engage the blades there is a horrendous noise and vibration. A cursory examination revealed one problem and, hopefully, the absence of another problem. Next week I hope to figure the whole thing out.

The solution is a tricky one. How does one examine what's going on in the blade area of the mower without hurting ones' self? Very carefully, of course, but further hints would be appreciated.

And if you're one of the friends or family members inclined to fire off an Email about my being smart and safe, don't worry: I don't particularly care to get close to the blades when the engine is shut off and the key is in my hand. You needn't be concerned, I'm very protective of my digits.

To Tuscaloosa then.

The Yankee has family friends visiting, so I treated the mother to dinner while the daughter is in a ballet camp. Before that, there was a walking tour of the Alabama campus which the mother found to be an attractive place. And it is. Not as picturesque as Auburn by any means, but not without merit. One of the big differences being the powerlines. They're everywhere at UAT, they're underground on the Plains and it makes a world of difference.

After walking around the campus we headed to Dreamland which, as far as anyone knows, is the only palatable place in Tuscaloosa that isn't a national chain. I was concerned of what her initial reaction might be, given her normal world and the slightly sticky nature of the restaurant. She was educated on the barbeque, on the local sports culture and rivalries. Her closest analogy was in-laws that are Michigan grads which is as good a starting point as any. Fortunately she took it all on face value and I wasn't asked to yell War Eagle in a Tuscaloosa restaurant.

She also had the greatest guess at what, exactly a Crimson Tide is. Seeing all the construction in the area she decided it must be some allusion to the soil. From now on that's how I'll think of it, I'm sure. So I explained the actual origin, but left out what might have been a 1930's steroid scandal as the Atlanta Journal's Everett Strupper wrote "(T)he size of the entire eleven nearly knocked me cold, men that I had seen play last year looking like they had nearly doubled in size."

Anyway, she liked Dreamland, and pronounced the ribs the best she'd ever had. So that's a victory for impromptu tour guiding.

Photographs. Here's the president's mansion at Alabama. Nice looking exterior -- I've never been inside -- and a great history. Built between 1839 and 1841 it was considered a bit too lavish by the state legislature. The wife of a later college president saved the building from destruction by Union troops under the command of Maj. Gen. John T. Croxton. That's from the sign out front which says "According to tradition... " Maybe someone should explain the use of that word to them.

Across the way there's a marker in front of the Gorgas Library memorializing the officers and men from the University who served in that war, and the "cadet corps composed wholly of boys (who) went bravely forth to repel a veteran federal invading foe of many times their number in a vain effort to save their alma mater, its buildings, library and laboratories from destruction by fire which it met at the hands of the enemy."

Croxton sounds like a joy.

Here's the back stairwell inside the library. Aside from its period style -- who knew steps could have fashion? -- it is notable merely for the lines and the awesomely bad decorative design of the handrails. The library in general, however, is a handsome building. Inside I even found a few books with words in them. Most impressive.

And here's Canterbury Chapel, an Episcopal church which is either just off or just on campus, I'm not sure. Pretty place though.

We also considered many of the great anti-Alabama jokes that we could play, but that's hardly a strenuous mental challenge.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Last day of the work week, so I stayed an extra 20 minutes. Why not?

Stopped by the bank, but they were closed. A byproduct of the Regions-AmSouth merger. All the banks must get together for a computer pow wow. My bank was already Regions. The one that was swallowing up the other bank. Why does my bank need a computer half-day. I want to bank now! Take my money! You've never had a problem taking my money before and now you don't want it!


So, a haircut then. Can't mess this up. Just swing by the cheap chain in one of the out-of-the-way shopping malls on the most heavily congested non-freeway in America and put your name on the list.

And wait.

And read.

And get some golf tips from this magazine. Good, those will come in handy tomorrow.

And discover a new magazine, one that I really should consider reading a bit.

Unfortunately they don't seem to be posting their stories on line, so they've yet to figure that out, but the website is reflective of what they're doing. Garden & Gun is a new magazine. A magazine for the South, it says. I didn't get to read a lot, but the photographs are gorgeous. So are the ones on their website.

The haircut then. I may need to find a new place for this service. It has always, by virtue of being the cheap chain, been one of those places where you're lucky to see the same person with a pair of scissors in their hand twice. And if you find that same person the third time they probably aren't the caliber of person your hair deserves. So I got a new one today in this very transient place. She cut it fine, didn't talk to me much, also fine and then continue the basic running discussion/argument she and her coworkers were having.

It was a little uncomfortable. Sometimes, in these situations, you just try to be a hole in the water, but here you're trying to not get part of your ear loped off.

After that 15 minutes of almost-fear it was time to head home where cleaning and decorating awaited. Finally got around to hanging some stuff on the walls. A picture here, a diploma there. Spent some time working on a bookshelf and wondering where in the world to put the rest of these pictures and framed pieces. I've been collecting them without hanging them up anywhere. Now I have a stack and they all need places to go. These are the dilemmas of my life.

I've got it good. I know.

Had a light dinner, then did some computer work that you'll see around here next week at some point. And now in the last few minutes I've picked up a 1933 and a 1934 Glomerata at a steal. Paid less than 20 bucks combined.

Photographs. Neat clouds on the way into work this morning. Someone is trying to tell us something. Shame they chose Morse Code. Fortunately for you, I happen to know a bit of Morse's handiwork and, if you'll allow me, I'll attempt to translate now. It says ... Don't eat ... the red rope ... licorice.

No idea.

Also on the way in this morning I almost caught the elusive sunrise-waving-flag combination photograph. Have I mentioned I'm driving in this picture? Around an almost 90 degree curve? Don't worry friends, I'm very careful, paying far more attention to the road than the camera.

That's a nice subdued and almost reflective ending to a peaceful and not terribly eventful week. I'll take it.

Mostly because I have a three day weekend to enjoy now. Well, early tee time in the morning. We'll meet up again soon to discuss golf, lawn care and a trip to Tuscaloosa.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Is it Friday yet? Almost. Seems like it. At least for me.

After working last Sunday, I'm taking this Friday off. Since today is Wednesday that means it is my Thursday, meaning one more day of work.

Don't worry, I started doubting myself earlier today about this too.

It is going to be a busy weekend, which is fine. In some kharmic sense it will feel as if I've made up for not doing much this week. I've probably done the same amount of things I do any other week, but each afternoon has felt like one of those days that gets away from you.

Part of that is the mixed up schedule, part is looking forward to all that this weekend has in store for me. Part of it is because I have some thank you notes sitting on the table that need to be written.

The materials for that effort have been, for the past few days at least, been coming physically closer together. First everything was skewed across the house. The next day the thank you cards made it next to the box that will bear a small gift. A pen is working its way into the mix. Next the addresses must migrate.

Exciting times around the homestead, there.

Watched two more hours of the second season of 24, watched the premiere of the second season of Eureka, great little disarming show, that. Wonderful summer programming.

Did a lot, a lot of Glomerata scans tonight for you to check out. I timed this: the scanning, the resizing and the writing. I shouldn't have timed it.

But, have a look. It was a very good year, 1953. If you've been following along, you'll find the latest installment here. This book is almost ruined, I don't know how much more I want to ask it to do before I have to think about replacing it. But, it has held up for 54 years, that's a pretty good run.

Tomorrow night I'm going to try and pick up two more from the 1930s. That's worth staying up late for. Also tomorrow: the bank, the haircut and some house decoration.

Hang in there. There should be plenty of fun and interesting things to discuss over the weekend.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Rained (rain!) a little more today. We need more, lots more, but we're slipping into a pattern of understanding that it can still rain regularly here. We've had about .3 inches today, which is not significant when you consider the long deficit. But for the last four days or so we've had morning or afternoon or all-day showers. We're still getting the requisite amount of sun and big, fluffy, beautiful clouds, so it is working out for everyone.

I'm listening to the soundtrack to the IMAX film Hurricane on the Bayou. Kelly sent me this, given our shared love of jazz and blues and at least my love of zydeco. She sent it late, her note says. Not so much as forgotten as lost.

Well, Kel, right back at you. I stacked it in a stack and just uncovered it again. And I'm ashamed it took me this long to find.

I'm sitting inside and comfortable, but all of this music makes me think I should be outside, sweating lightly and approaching the thought of some good seafood. I'm remembering something I've never had; I've never been to New Orleans. Previously not much of the bless appealed to me for some reason, but as my tastes and interests grew and I became adventurous enough to want to go Katrina came along and now I'll probably wait a bit more. If I went now I think I'd go to work, but we'd all prefer the other, happier experience of the bayou.

So long as it involved a warm night air and lots of shellfish.

Speaking of adventure and experience and shellfish, an old friend from college looked me up out of the blue last week. Scooby's been doing missionary work for sometime, having put a promising journalism career on hold to do so. There's a certain amount of courage there that I don't have. You have to be a brave person to put important parts of your life on hold like that to pursue other important parts of their life. I'm always impressed by people who can do that, which is why library is full of travelogues written by other people, and not by your humble correspondent.

This Bayou soundtrack is really terrific. Curiously, mine has all the tracks out of order, but the overall impact remains the same.

Scooby is from Mobile originally, and is one of the more eclectic music lovers that I know (once you get past her need for ska) so she probably knows more about Zydeco than anyone where she is Out West just now. I wonder what the neighbors would think if they heard all this racket. It is beautiful.

And now there's a fiddle. Not a violin, a fiddle. Yes there is a difference. It is how you look at it the bridge and what you can do with it. My experience with the thing stops right about there, but there's a fairly boundless appreciation of the thing. Even when these guys are singing Creole and I'm clueless about what they're singing about -- something a wolf, fox and weasel I believe -- whatever it is, it sounds happy.

Tab Beoit is all over this thing, including this song, which is an ode to gumbo, but not electric. On the soundtrack it is what they call "the porch sound."

I remember when I stumbled upon zydeco. I'd read about it, and then I quite literally found it by accident. And while I don't listen to the genre every day, there will always be elements of every other type of music that must be held up for a comparison to what those folks are playing down there.

Not much else to tell you about, but I really love this CD. Spent the rest of the day grocery shopping, watching more of the second season of 24 on the EvIl eye and in a long, sweet phone conversation with a friend.

It was one of those types of chats that, for no particular reason, makes you aware of your gratitude for such wonderful friends, of which there are now many. Maybe at least some of us can make it to the bayou one day. We'll all enjoy the music on a sticky summer night. First plate of shellfish is on me.

Photographs. Driving home I saw more chain link in one place than I've ever seen. That's less than a third of what was on the truck. That's a lot of holes to dig in the earth.

We'll just do a multiples theme for the day then. I liked this one because of the light reflection, and mounds of produce always intrgiues me for some reason. But, if apples are your thing, then I've got you covered. Publix, by the way, always has terrific apples.

Site stuff: Did you know, by the way, that the June photographs were posted? Don't think I mentioned that. You can find them, of course, on the pictures page.

Don't forget to check out Henry's stories on the stories page. More than a hundred people have been on that page the last few days according to the stats. They can't be wrong. Those stories are worth the click if you like stories of the good old days, which is a phrase that the 85-year-old actually used in one of those stories.

Finally, and this is brand new, there are new newspapers for you to check out. Start here if you haven't been taking part in that particular trip back in time. If you've been following along, you'll find the latest here.

That's it for today. More tomorrow. Hug a zydeco player; they're making the world a more entertaining place.

Monday, July 9, 2007

More rain today. It is become blase, really. Ho hum, three days in a row of the stuff. Do we really need it? What's the point of it anyway? Are we in danger if we get too much?

We're only about 15 inches below the annual averages as of this writing after all.

At least some of the water giving lakes are up, but the recreation lakes are down to their winter levels. Some people are fearing the worst and looking to sell those lots. Could it a buyer's market be coming soon? Doesn't matter, I still can't be a buyer.

Sure would be nice to sit on a pier and watch the world go by though, wouldn't it? Perhaps if I found one or two people who's company I really enjoyed I could suggest a time share situation. We'll build extra cabinets -- some for your plates and some for mine. Clean it when you leave and make sure there's plenty of toilet paper at the end of each weekend.

Or does that sound more like a commune? Who cares, right, if it gives you a waterfront view?

I only mention fleeting dreams, of which I have many, because there is only so much of fleeting reality worth repeating. It rained a lot this afternoon. I watched the first Harry Potter movie for the first time:
Charming in parts, the young actors were great; the resolution is simplistic.
I'll watch the second one sometime later this week perhaps.

Did some computer work, remain stumped by 3-D scanning (any tips?). Enjoyed a stir fry dinner. Watched a little of the home run derby. Hunted around the house for lamps, amused myself with string. Cut myself with the string. Imagine a paper cut with more humiliation. No one will ever see it, given that it is on the inside of a finger and it only left the immediate impression of something being amiss, so there's no lasting impact. But still. I cut myself with a string.

I made mental notes of the things to do tomorrow and the rest of the week. Despite it being Monday the week already feels like it is winding down. Another one of those unexpected benefits of having the Sunday shift.

Purchased new golf clubs. More on those later in the week when they arrive and I get the chance to defile them with my awesome style of play.

That's pretty much been the day. I had a few nice Email conversations and watched another calm and peaceful day start with a big harmless orange ball of sun turn into a big yellow cauldron of medium intensity followed by ominous clouds which preceeded a quiet night before the opening of the newest symphony of the circadas. I think I'll go read a little more, just to round out the night.

Photographs. Whenever it rains hard it causes a big stir in our office. We're on the top floor of a two story building and anything more than a sprinkle you can hear courtesy of our suspend and unfinished ceiling -- we live and work and play in a "distressed is the new cool" world. Today, for a sudden moment, the rain announced itself loudly with a robust certainty. "I am here so that you may hydroplane on your freeways and consider your windshield wiper replacement options."

Whenever it rains like this someone goes to look out the window. And then another someone. If we can get a third, or even a fourth person over to the big windows we've reached a tipping point. Suddenly everyone must come over to gaze at this precipitation of which we are all impressed. Three of our easily amused souls went to the window today (I was the second) to catch a glimpse, and there I noticed one of our little cacti.

Poor guy. This must be terrifying for him. He makes do in his arid world and so rarely asks for anything from us. There's that rain stuff that all the adult cacti sang to the baby cacti about in their desert nurseries. "And if you're caught looking the wrong way, you'll get water in all of your needles and die. Goodnight children." We keep him from going outside to play by using forces he doesn't understand. He leans over to look outside, hoping to at least get an idea of what he's missing and suddenly here comes all of that water.

I wouldn't be surprised if, one day, we came into the office to find the stress made him shed all of those prickly little points. They'd surely laugh at him at the cacti reunion then. A parking lot view hardly seems worth it.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Worked today. Full day at the office, just me and one of the sports guys. I sit way over here, he sits way over there, it is very quiet. One of the featured stories of the day was the return of the rain (rain!). That's a pretty solid indication of the day from 6 a.m. until 3 p.m.

After that, home for silliness. A little housework here, a little television there. Watched the first episode of the second season of 24. This is no kinder, gentler Jack Bauer. "I'll need a hacksaw." Indeed.

Amazing what they'll put on network television when no one is watching closely. Tonight I'll watch the next episode, but they've already set the bar fairly high here.

Visited with The Yankee, Stephen and Brooke for dinner. We had cajun. I have leftovers. And an opinion of the place. It isn't terrific, but it isn't terrible. The waitresses could wear a few more microns of clothes too while they're at it. Really it is a public safety issue. What if some grease had splattered one of those girls from the deep fryer? I'd hate to think my catfish and scarred some hardworking young woman whose apron is longer than her shorts.

You'd think Hoover would institute a dress code for this sort of thing.

The boudin was delicious. I was given a cajun mustard that doesn't taste like mustard. Doesn't look like mustard. Might not even be from the same mustard fields in the Dakotas. A cracker exploded halfway to my mouth, so I caught crumbling cracker, crumbly boudin and this whitish mustard sauce in my hand and, apologizing to my companions, stuffed it down my face. There's not really much else you can do.

The restaurant is prepared for this. Each table not only has a roll of paper towels, but also a dispenser. It is bolted into the wall at eye level. It is as if they knew the cracker delivery guy was going to slack off and break every one in this week's shipment.

Even if the food is just average, and if the waitresses should think about a little modesty, I'll keep going back for that portrait they have of Shorty Price. Someone with a sense of humor hung that in the restroom. I believe ol' Shorty would like that. But only if George Wallace stopped in to use the facilities.

So that's pretty much the day. The week has started a day early, but there will be some consolation for that.

On the other hand I put in a full day but one half of the brain knows what day it is, so it still feels like time away. That same side of the brain will look at the rest of the week with the feeling that it is getting away with something. Not sure why. Within a day, though, it'll feel like the downside of the week already. Sometimes extra work can put you in an odd frame of mind, but you shouldn't tell the boss about it. They'll probably ask you to work a little more.

I don't mind that so much, so long as they don't ask me to work less or not at all.

Pictures. Saw this powerful sight on the way to meet Stephen and Brooke. You see big sunbursts like this you half expect Metatron to descend from the sky. You'd probably giggle if he had any resemblance to Alan Rickman.

After dinner we stopped for a Sonic blast. Cats love ice cream.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

And here is my weekend, crammed within one day. I must work tomorrow, so woke up today being overly conscious of taking advantages of the day.

So naturally I slept in. And that after retiring fairly early last night.

It rained, I had to sleep extra. Extra today being just after 9 a.m.

Wrapped up the last of the first season of 24 overnight. It was very good. You understand the Jack Bauer character a bit better now, reluctant but gleeful warrior that he is. You understand, having joined the series at the beginning of the fifth season as I did, how much better One plays than Six. I have equally high hopes for Two through Four. Options for obtaining the second season are now being considered.

Chick-Fil-A for lunch, splurging on both the original chicken sandwich and the glorious waffle fries. The line was daunting, but parted as quickly as I joined it. I ordered within seconds, and then enjoyed an awkward silence with the young man who had taken my order and didn't have anything else to do until he could reciprocate my payment with product and service. There was no one in line behind me, he didn't have to move on and he clearly didn't know what to do about the situation. "No one trained me for this!"

Silence doesn't bother me so much, so I stood there and hoped he wouldn't squirm because then I'd feel bad and have to learn all about his high school (Hoover) his parents (upper middle class) and how they made him take this job (lame). The suburban kid's lament. We've all had it. If you're suburban that is.

There's such a thing as the Chick-Fil-A theory, that you only really want it when you can't have it: Sundays. Grass is always greener and all that. Since it came to mind today it seemed a good idea to partake. Lots of people agreed. Where they disappeared to -- not so much a Twilight Zone flash or a somber music video fade away but more of an orderly vanishing -- remains a mystery. Just sat down with the food, content to not understand the overcrowding issue, but just happen to have food and a table so quickly, an old friend exited the restroom. He brought over his wife, my other mother of childhood, and we chatted for a bit. They left, food was eaten and then, shopping!

Sam's Club that is. I love the place. Filled, but not overflowing. Organized but unfinished. If only it were a bit more randomly placed, creating an urge to paw over everything and examine each box to discover its contents, the place would be perfect.

That and if you could buy paper towels in such quantity that didn't fill your shopping cart right off the bat.

And if chicken on two different parts of the grocery section were prepared, wrapped and priced the same. A high drama worked its way out over the produce section, about halfway between the two chicken sources. One was frozen, had 32 five ounce breasts -- I like chicken, but 32? -- the other was not frozen, but was eight ounce breasts 12 to a pack. When you did the calculus and carried the two the difference was a penny an ounce. The unfrozen ones won out, with designs to take them home and, yes, freeze them.

Once in a while you must feel like Viktor Belenko -- yes, it made me think of Belenko, yes my mind works like this. Belenko was the man who defected from the U.S.S.R. with his MiG jet fighter in 1976:
After a thorough debriefing, Belenko began a fairly lengthy process of adjusting to the US. He was initially suspicious of nearly everything he observed, even thinking that a shopping center which included a supermarket, electronic appliance store, clothing store, and gas station was somehow a showpiece established to impress him, rather than a fairly typical feature of medium-sized towns in the US.
We have so much at our doorstep, within an overnight drive, delivered from nearby, across the continent and from across the world. And, if you aren't ingesting anything from China lately, there's such a multitude of options that you can stand there and consider a fraction of a penny per ounce and truly, happily not care either way.

And don't even get me started on the pork chops!

Worked on the house in the afternoon. Rolled out a rug, straightened up a bit, prepared future plans that will require more planning. Skimmed through some television, I'd TiVoed the Patriot and Tombstone again just so I could prove my power over the EvIl eye, taking moderately long movies and reducing them to 40 minute masterpieces of pithy dialogue. I only watch the first bloody scene of Patriot, any shot that has a facial expression from Rene Auberjonois and the scene where Gibson's fictional character goes to play the poorly drawn Gen. Cornwallis.

For Tombstone I just advance the story along to all the good Doc Holliday lines. You're a daisy if you do. And the overacting that Kurt Russell gives us at the train station. "You tell 'em I'm coming!"

Dinner at Cracker Barrel, where I probably goofed with the waitress more than I should have. I felt really bad about it, but she was kind enough to say I'd been entertaining. She caught me with camera to my face and I had one of those moments where funny meets persistence, veering away from charming while heading straight for annoying. She brought nice food and lots of refills, we talked afterward and I apologized for the 79th time, so it worked out well.

Photographs. It rained all day, fortunately, so these are all indoors and from Cracker Barrel. Yankee Girl Scrap seems out of place by name alone in a Tennessee-based restaurant in central Alabama, but do you know what it is? Extra cloth? No. Soap? No. It is tobacco. Nothing says love and undiagnosed cancer more than a sword-wielding woman of questionable clothing taste is surrounded by something so righteously full of Americana as a red and white checker pattern. Roll some tobacco up today! Those boxes sit directly above the toy corner of the Cracker Barrel store. Draw your own conclusions.

Across the way, above some of the shirts of questionable style, there are more boxes to catch your eye, including Pepgen. A little hungry? Sluggish? Constipated? Need some alcohol? Pepgen is the bottle for you! It satiates, it invigorates, it regulates, it will get you drunker than the still behind old man Tilley's house! This stuff is 12 percent alcohol by content, meaning that you couldn't sell it as beer in contemporary Alabama, where the state still cuts you off at five percent. At just a buck for eight ounces, a good night on the town can be had on the cheap, thanks to the good people at The American Drug Company, Dayton, O. They'd originally started in Ohio, but after the great flood of 1904 the survivors where forced to move into the last dry corner of the state. Frustrated mapmakers everywhere insisted they weren't going to change their art again, and simply just erased the H-I-O. No one has complained, thanks in no small part to Pepgen, go out and buy some today! It will make you want to fly a biplane with radiation emitting wings!

Can't wait to see what kind of hits that paragraph gets on the ol' Google machine.

And, if the Pepgen is too strong for you, perhaps you'll consider the wholesome beverage that was Coca-Cola of 1926. That ad is from The Saturday Evening Post, so readers knew it was accurate, and time to sit back and enjoy a frosty beverage on Saturday evening. Be sure to grab one for the loving wife and adorable tot in your family. Careful Billy! That gourd will only drink so much! Nothing says "Refresh Yourself" more than dressing up in your snazziest Great Gatsby duds, remarking on these twenties "My how they do roar!" and putting blush on everyone in the family. No sir, little Billy won't have any gender identity issues when he grows up. His dad faught the Kaiser, and he'll fight the Nazis, but today mixing pumpkin juice and lukewarm soda is his only worry.

"It had to be good to get where it is -- 7 million a day."

The pumpkin makes 7,000,001 and there's no refuting that sort of evidence. Seven million people, and at least one gourd, can't be wrong. Counting was always a good metric for determining quality. Until McDonald's got in on the act.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Someone called this the 17th most exciting day at work ever. There was a lot of sarcasm in that statement. Not even any national news today. The cable networks ran with a low speed car chase in California for over an hour. A car chase. We were riveted.

And, after all that, the woman simply stopped her car and gave herself up.

Perhaps she just didn't realize the police were behind her for 90 minutes. She drove in a straight line at a reasonable pace the entire time. Maybe she was just thrilled to catch the biggest break ever in California transportation history and, realizing she had the whole highway to herself completely blanked out on the sirens and the lights behind her.

Until, finally, she glanced up: "Oh my, how embarrassing. Wonder how long they've been back there."

No. They tried the spin out on the driver, the PIT maneuver, but it was only moderately successful. She recovered and shortly drove on continuing the chase.

After that much time, and certainly after at least two of the networks had burned up this much satellite time and speculation on a woman driving her own car, people were looking for a different ending. But no one was hurt, and the networks basically had to admit they had no news. All's well that ends well, as they say.

It was a very long day, for a slow day. Seemed to take a while, but that is fine too. After driving home in the rain (rain!), I took a six minute nap and then returned to the gym. I didn't feel bad today, after yesterday's initial workout. Today the cardio didn't go on as long. Started developing leg cramps that I couldn't shake and after that adjusting my stride for them made my feet numb. There's too many moving parts for that to end well, so 20 minutes of cardio and discretion are the better part of valor.

Did some other lifting and came away a little disappointed. If I survive whatever I get in muscle soreness over the weekend I'll probably be back into a very regular workout schedule. After that I'm sure I'll only be making fun of the people I met rather than discussing how the machines are making fun of me.

There weren't a lot of people at the gym today. Even the buff take the day off every once in a while. Friday after the Fourth, on a weekend that's lasted 10 days for some, is as good a day for that as any. It truly is remarkable how relaxed and quiet things have been the past few days. This is post-Christmas without the return sales fury. This is Thanksgiving without the obligatory cooking tips story. This is my neighbors have been very conscientious and not launched fireworks into the wee hours of the morning the last two nights. I'm sure they'll rethink that with the weekend here, but at least they've played nice during the evenings where sleep truly matters. Perhaps they've heard of my secret firework stash and know of my retaliatory 4:30 a.m. plans. Regardless of the reason, it has been quiet, and we're all thankful.

I considered most of that above while straining with weights. I should think less there, because I clearly am not thinking more.

Pie Day tonight with our old friend Suzy. Ward was off for the evening, but Suzy and I go way back to a day when I walked in at closing time and she held up the whole kitchen for me and even found me a piece of pie thereafter. It is hard to not appreciate service like that. She even brought extra rolls when the first ones were a little too cooked, found an extra large slice of pie and brought out the tea cups to go.

If we could somehow land a table between Suzy and Ward's sections no one would ever want for anything and no other restaurant or waiter would ever be able to measure up. Thus is their dedication and our adoration for their efforts.

On the television during dinner I watched the Under-20 USA soccer team take an early lead over Brazil. They held the lead at the half and I wonder if any Brazilian team of any age group had ever trailed to the Americans at the half. At first I thought this was the Copa America, but this was the U-20 World Cup, where this U.S. team is actually a serious contender. The circumstance doesn't really matter, the Americans beat the Brazilians 2-1. If it had been any match short of adult Americans beating the toddlers of Brazil it would have been a stunning victory. Group play ends this weekend and the quarterfinals start soon thereafter, so you know where I'll be.

Big box store stop after dinner. Everyone seemed on their best behavior, which was both odd and disappointing in a way. During prime hours the place is primed with entertaining characters. As the evenings at the end of the week drag on even those folks are ready for a little rest, I suppose.

Picked up some golf balls to send off as a small joke and gift, some superglue and thank you cards. I will not be performing any MacGyver experiments with any of these purchases. Though I do have an idea with the extra golf balls and the glue that is tempting.

Fun links: just to be useful. First, have some high quality digital photography tips. Second, you can find up to 90 percent off at Amazon through this page from The Consumerist. Finally, if you like the poker, and I know you do, you'll enjoy this poker podcast I did at work this week.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Back to work once again. Thursday: The New Monday!

Quiet in the office. Seemed like most of the building was empty. The parking lot was barren. The streets were thinly populated. The interstates only lightly sprinkled with cars. It was a slow day. Everyone that'd find there way into a news story took today off. They're all lounging at the pool together, having a good laugh.

"Working on the fifth? Suckers."

This state takes July off. Look long enough and a "See you in August!" is liable to be found in any window.

Hit the gym in the first time in forever. Finally both my mind is willing and my body feels able to do something at the same time, so naturally I'll go torture it for a while. The goal is to lose roughly 20 pounds by next week.

The more realistic goal is to do that by whenever it happens. Don't worry: this will not turn into a workout or diet blog. Those things have their place, they just aren't here. I'll just say that I sweat a lot today. And I'm impressed by how poor the cardio feels in real life, but how long I can make the elliptical machine do my bidding.

There were two of those real big muscle guys in the free weights room. There was a spinning class taking place in the cardio room. Of all the people that could have taught that class, the teacher was the one you would have guessed last among the assembled group. But she had pep. They all had pep. They were cycling from one Starbucks to another. This will not be a program for me. I'm more of the grim determination type rather than the "Let's go out and sell some stuff!" type at the gym.

This is why I might have done just a little too much today with one muscle group or another. And probably why I'm a little sore getting off the floor tonight. But only a little. I'd expected much worse.

The trick now is to keep going back.

I've been watching a lot of the first season of 24 this week. Should be finished sometime this weekend. It is a lot better than the sixth, and most recent, season. Even the stuff they rehashed for this last run was better in the original effort. There's no reason to say this, because everyone who cares has seen this already.

Except for a friend and his family. We learned this before fireworks last night. Got him that as a Christmas present two years ago, he loaned it out before he watched it and hasn't gotten it back yet. Guess there's a reason they didn't get season number two last Christmas. Funnier still was the line, "Tell him you want it back because your wife wants to see it!" Quickly the phone came out and a text message was (presumably) sent.

I've decided these shows weren't intended for gluttonous watching. Catching two or three episodes one night and one to four the next night makes for some repetitive dialogue. I'm sure that if you spread it out over 24 weeks the way the writers and the network intended you could never get enough inner-office intrigue and backstory non sequiturs. Jammed together it is boring and rather tiresome, just as in real life.

I'm looking for things to do this weekend, because it is true what they say: Everybody's working for the weekend. And after two full days of consecutive appearances at the office I'm sure to be wiped out. Doesn't seem like a lot is going on this weekend, except for some rain. That's fine, I'll sit inside and listen to it dancing on the rooftop. It'd be nice to remember that sound.

Right now, it is as slow around the house as it was around the office. There are only crickets. And some neighborhood dogs. And these clicking, clattering keys which, for lack of anything useful, will end right about ... now.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Slept in today, seemed appropriate. It is, after all, self-evident that there are certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Not to be a social studies geek, but that's pretty special. To be a social studies geek I wonder what they would think of us now. Maybe not in terms of any given particular policy, but just in our typical every day lifestyle. Wouldn't you like to see today through their eyes for a few minutes. They wouldn't recognize the place, even the places they were familiar with. And the people and their toys and preoccupations. And most of the jobs. It'd probably seem so magical and frivolous. But logically expected.

They'd probably be bummed we still don't have flying cars. We and the Framers would have that in common.

Pretty laid back day today. Woke up around 9, had a sandwich for lunch and did a few things around the house before generally spending the afternoon being as inert as possible.

This evening we went to Dreamland for the annual Fourth of Ribs. After that several folks gathered in unison on a seemingly random parking deck and looked simultaneously to the east as pyrotechnicians launced shells of gunpowder into the air for our enjoyment. This, we all agree, is what our forefathers left Great Britain, later bought land from France and took some more from Spain and Mexico for: high altitude explosives.

So I'll show you some fireworks.

First, here's Vulcan, which is the usual landmark for the local firework show. The good people at Vulcan have never been involved before, but they took a role in the finances this year. Don't laugh at that shot. That's the long lens sitting on a tripod from the ninth floor of a parking deck looking up the mountain at Vulcan, which is about a mile away as the crow flies.

Have you ever wondered how big fireworks get? Here's a quick measuring stick, using Vulcan as our scale:
Vulcan stands 56 feet tall, from toe to spear point, upon a 124-foot pedestal rising to a height of 180 feet and weighs 101,200 pounds. Vulcan is the largest cast iron statue in the world and the largest metal statue ever made in the United States.
Keep that in mind while looking through these photographs.

But, first, what's the Fourth without a sparkler?

OK, on to the big stuff then.

It was a very clear night for fireworks.

I took most of my pictures tonight on timed exposures which explains that neat effect.

They just dwarf the God of the Forge, don't they?

This one is more than just fireworks. That explosion on the top left is actually a time portal opening up. To the right there was an inter-dimensional gateway, you can even see the hands crawling out from the other side. It was quite a show our friends from other universes and the future put together.

See that little star back there? If anyone else in the galaxy is paying attention they've got a good grasp on our love of incendiaries tonight.

They were launching for three different heights here.

And they make smiley faces. They've been showing these off for a couple of years now. It is all a matter of luck which way the face opens up. Sometimes they're upside down, sometimes they're to the left or right, sometimes they're smiling up to the heavens, which is also a smile back down to the ground. Occasionally they turn out completely upside down. You'd frown too if you were doing a headstand hundreds of feet in the air.

I must have been doing something right through these sets of photographs. Look how crisp Vulcan is. Again, a mile away. If you look closely you can make out detail on his face, the spear point and his anvil. You'll also see that bulge in the stand, that's where you go and command a nice view of the city down in the valley below. They were launching fireworks from there tonight as well.

How high can they shoot those things anyway? Pretty high it turns out. That one at the top rained down for miles it seemed.

As impressive as those big soaring explosions are, there's something to be said for these somewhat more modest demonstrations.

There was nothing humble about the end of course. Finales are a spectacle of fiery glee.

Until you get to those last fading embers.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Day two of the two-day week. I've worked so hard I'll need a break. Not especially, but they're giving it to us anyway. So at the end of today -- when the boss basically ran me out of the office "Shouldn't you be home making ribs by now?" -- I was on my way to the mid-week break. I have a feeling I'll like this to much. If you read of a revolt where the working class demands a four day work week with a regular Wednesday break you'll know where it came from.

The guy down the hall is always trying to stir up a revolution. I tell you, you can't visit the mailroom without getting some sort of 30-hour work week literature stuffed into your hand.

A lot of people have tomorrow off, but some will be working. If it is true that there is no longer a holiday that we all get off, where everything is closed we should plan accordingly. Someone is working tomorrow and probably not happy about the patriotism, the pool and the grilling they are missing. Or they took off a day early already this week to comp themselves for the time they'll work. Or they'll comp themselves later in the weekend. Or they just asked for the whole week and skipped town for the beach or the mountains. Wherever you go, someone is not working, but someone will be open. That means you've got a B-teamer changing your oil, a disgruntled guy coming out to spray for bugs or someone who just doesn't care tending to your construction job.

I'm not going to shop for any services -- or products -- this week. Too risky.

I'm also not doing the newspapers tonight. Mostly because I know I won't do the Glomeratas tomorrow night. Too lazy. It just seems that they should go together and it is easy to see there's just too many fun outdoorsy keen with the midpoint of summer activities to take part in. We're flirting with the apogee of summer here. It could go on forever and you wouldn't notice. It could go on forever and you wouldn't be sure when it begin. It could last us through and, except for droughts and heatstroke and sunburns we couldn't be happier.

Spoken like a guy with no kids at home on break, no?

Had Mexican tonight, but no mariachi. I was hungry, it sounded good and there was a coupon. That's enough of a reason. The chips were fresh baked. I saw one of the kitchen staff pull them up off the blacktop parking lot on the way in. It was nice inside and perfectly uneventful.

The daylight seemed to last through the meal and all the way home. There should be fireflies on nights like this, clear, warm and fragrant, the setting that defined your childhood if you were lucky. There were no fireflies, unfortunately. Haven't seen any in some time. The drought might have dried up their glowjuice.

I found myself watching an episode of "America's Got Talent." Generally I disdain these shows, but I felt charitable and it wasn't half bad. Doubt I'll watch again, though. I know America has talent and don't need some vapid leisure suit game show to tell me so. David Hasselhoff is one of the judges and I think that's why I ended up watching. Turns out I like saying "The Hoff." It just sounds ridiculous enough to be that guy.

Disagree? Think again.

I sport a theory that MTV is to blame for many of society's ills, particularly when they stopped showing videos. Perhaps they just saw that one was coming down the line and decided to get out on the high notes that were Britney Spears and the Spice Girls. All three of those acts should go on tour together. Maybe they could promote it on one of those game shows. Talk about vapid. The heroes we celebrate tomorrow didn't do all the things they've done over the course of history for this sort of thing. But taste knows no political philosophy. And sometimes people of all stripes know nothing of taste. Enter Pat Boone.

We did a cold, realtime review of that entire album on my old morning show years ago. That might have been some of the best unintentional comedy of which I've ever been a part. And talk about emptying out a party. Just go listen to that why don't ya.

OK, this has become incoherent rambling theatre, best left to people more talented than I. So we'll just move on.

Photographs. A reader wrote last week about something I wrote last summer about an old five and dime store that share's his name. So I stopped back by there for him today.

He wanted a full shot of the original storefront. They opened their doors in 1942 according to the historical commission sign out front. There was a fair amount of development in Bessemer and Birmingham during the war actually. Steel and iron were the lifeblood of the area at that time of course, so it makes sense.

Around the corner is the store McLellan's would later occupy. Their last location in downtown Bessemer has been an agency for inner-city youths since 1994. That store sits on the first lot ever sold in Bessemer, dating back to 1887, when it officially became a city.

Downtown has been stagnant for years, with all the development on the southern reaches of the municipality, but there have been steps for some redevelopment that have some folks optimistic. The original McLellan'shas a new tenant that, from the looks of things through the window, has big plans.

That's enough disjointed rambling for one day. If you're shooting early fireworks be safe, and don't do it in my yard. I want to sleep.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Back to work today. It is an odd week, one that goes in fits and starts and sputters around with no real intention of being productive. Summer is here and there's an absence of news, effort and interest. The only goal is to stay out of the July heat whenever possible. I think I'll dance around some more in the sun.

It is interesting that we speak of dancing and sun here. All weekend long I was dragging, but when I got up for work this morning and after I enjoyed the ritualistic shower I realized how awake and alive and happy I was. Don't get me wrong, I was happy over the weekend, very much so, but I was barely awake, and rarely happy about it. I thought it was the heat, but who are we kidding? We're naming sun spots here this week. So the only answer left is an obvious one, and there's pre-existing data to back it up. Florida. Florida sucks the life out of me. I've no idea why, but there it is.

I did have a terrific weekend though.

Anyway, this week starts realy scheduling oddities, I'll only be at work all week once this month. Every other week there's a day off here, a comp day there, and so on. Usually this happens in most offices around Christmas and to some extent that's true in newsrooms, too. The even bigger culprit is the summer: no politics, no sports, criminals are inside having a slurpie, no news and so no news people. Last year there was almost a full month when I didn't see my cube-neighbor because of offsetting schedules. This year I'm chipping away at the 40 work week like a guy smuggling stone out of his prison cell, just removing a little at a time so as to go unnoticed.

I don't feel trapped or jailed at work, but otherwise it is an apt comparison.

Today I spent some time in an office waiting room. I settled in to read a book, only to be interrupted by a curly haired blond girl who wanted to play. I hid behind my book, she found me. I hid behind a magazine, no luck. I opened two magazines but she demonstrated her skill at the "'n' seek" part of Hide 'n' Seek. I spread out magazines like a hand of cards, but there was no escape.

We walked around with magazines on our heads like models. We toured the room, her mother said "How did you know he would be so fun?" Truly, I hadn't even made eye contact with her, she just walked over for my goofiness. I'm proud of this ability, though it was ironic that had I not been drafted into entertaining a five-year-old I would be reading about Lyndon Johnson. After the flight yesterday I've made it to his time as Vice President, and there's really not that much fun to go around, let alone goofy. The kid didn't care, she didn't know what book I'm reading. She's no concept of Texans and unpopular wars, in her generation or her grandparents.

We played at the kids table. She wrapped her gum up in her hair. She told me about school and then it was time for her to go. She gave me her Barbie sticker, saying I should wear it over the KARN call letters on the shirt I was wearing. She asked if I had brothers or sisters and then told me I should share the sticker with them. As she left I made a big production out of getting stuck and falling painfully over the little kiddie table.

We're all suckers for physical comedy at some point; some of us just don't grow out of it.

Pizza for dinner. I spent the evening doing stuff and it felt productive and the night seemed to last a long time though I'd be hard pressed to point to anything I've really done. Lots of small little things around the house, I guess, add up in the mind. Mostly this is probably because I have no television schedule for Mondays now. This is my first week sans-Enterprise, having completed the series last week, and I'm pretty happy with freeing up four hours of my week.

In fact there's not much on my television horizon. Eureka is coming back as a summer series in a few weeks, but that is all. I have one week of scheduled television viewing a week. That's great! I can do other things! I'll be so productive and efficient!

And then I made the mistake of scrolling through the upcoming movies that TiVo thought to list. I'll have to watch some of those, you know.

Photographs. It is a patriotic week, so I offer you the flag. This is on my drive in each morning, looking east, obviously. Very rarely is the flag waving in the morning. That time of day even the breeze is still groggy. I'd love the banners yet waving and the sun yet shining and me not yet crashing into anything while I fire a snapshot off from the hip ... but this will do from now.

On the other side of the road I almost caught the skyline with the sun reflection just like I've mentioned a few times recently. Perhaps another 90 seconds, or four minutes and it would have been just right. It is hard to coordinate such a small thing with the sun. It isn't as if I have Stonehenge around to help me out with that. People staring at the sun for guidance were generally more concerned with things like crops and weather than something as silly as a reflection. What will archeologists and anthropologists think of us and our buildings and monuments, one day? What will that say about where they are in their society? No matter what, solar reflection off the (AmSouth) Regions building will probably be well down the list.

These are easy pictures, and I'm sorry about that, but I didn't have that camera when I met that little girl, so these'll just have to do in their place. Cute kid, pretty sunrise, it all works out on the Ahh Scale somewhere.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Back home now after a delightful weekend. Hit the beach this morning for a bit. Found some sea turtle nests. You can get serious fines and imprisonment for even looking at these things hard. Makes you nervous even to take a picture of the sign.

But that's the part that makes it easier for turtle fans. Later this year those little guys will crack out of their eggs, dig up from the sand and follow the moon back to the ocean. Apparently the buildings around these beaches can't even have lights on because it confused the little guys. But, if you're wanting to cheer them on or take a picture of the first steps in their fight for survival, you'd seek out these yellow sticks. Doesn't say anything about that being against the law. Just don't offer them any food.

I got to swim for a few seconds alongside a huge sea turtle during a dive in Belize last summer. He was a beautiful, majestic creature. He look very soulful and very curious. That one stared at me for a bit, I wanted to reach out to pet the thing but I noticed how jagged the mouth is. Putting your finger anywhere around that would have been a career decision. I should have asked him for a ride; he was big enough to swim me anywhere.

We found horseshoes. I haven't thrown a horseshoe in years, but I'm still pretty good at it apparently. Being on the beach instead of in the yard changes the game, though. That big chunk of iron hits the sand and dies. No rolling or knocking other players out of the way here.

There was what looked to be a good volleyball game going on. Wisely I abstained, lest I embarrass myself.

After the beach we headed back to Henry and Dee's home for a little more nostalgia. They've been telling stories all weekend and none better than this afternoon. This was the day to use the digital recorder as the old photo albums came out and they talked and talked. Henry, mostly, but together they transported us back to the 1930s and 1940s.

I put some of the good memories on the Family Stories page. There, you can see a handsome young couple, and their wedding. Henry played in a band in the 1938 World's Fair. He saw one of the first televisions there and, as he says, rode all the rides. He was 16, rides mattered. He talks about his parents, recalls a neat story about the 1936 Roosevelt election and longs for his 1932 Plymouth. Go check out some of those stories, they're worth a visit.

After a quick sandwich we headed back to Tampa, where you can't find a gas station anywhere around the airport. Apparently they all drive electric cars down there. Tried three exits and much side-road driving before finding a Chevron. There, asking the attendant how to get back to the airport I started a fight between the two clerks on the best route. They might be a bit overstressed.

Made the airport with little trouble. I was on the C passenger list for this flight, clearly a clerical error on Southwest's part.

Fortunately I didn't have to share the row with anyone like the lady on the departure flight. You know the type, a bit overly large for a bad leopard print shirt. Hogged the armrests. Far too interested in her Cosmopolitan. Didn't like Southwest because she wanted to be on a flight where they told her where to sit. Too much pressure for her to figure it out on her own. Can't think it through for herself. I drew too many political allusions from that statement.

Anyway, we've landed safely, obviously. Had a quick Pie Day that was largely uneventful. Ward did serve The Yankee her tea while she sat in her car. He's setting the bar to new heights! And then he made jokes on me for the rest of the night.

Which is just about the perfect way to wind up a perfect weekend. Lots of fun, sun, no sunburn, no worries and a heart full of memories. I'm a lucky boy.