Kenny Smith | blog

Friday, August 31, 2007

Friday. September. Football.


Finally made the oil change stop today. It is about a week overdue, but I'm sneaking it in all the same. The experience was rather steamy. It had just rained. It was raining. It was going to rain some more. Things were humid. Sitting in my car and marinating I mentally canceled plans for a hair cut because asking someone to give you a trim in a full on sweat would be a bit rude.

We're all out in this garage and the oil change guys are doing everything but living up to their name. Express it ain't, and the mugginess is helping no one. I don't fault the guys, because every three seconds they're having to wipe their brows. It looks like a movie set in the South by some guy who's never been to the South to realize that we have actual air conditioning here. We were all extras in A Time to Kill.

And so this is the end of August, a damp 100 degrees. Or thereabouts. All month we've had the driest heat anyone would care to remember in this region. The last few days there have been evening thunderstorms. And now the weather of May and August, rolled together, intent on sneaking in just under the wire before we all leave town to enjoy Labor Day and leave the summer behind.

Oh it'll still be warm of course. Flowers and pretty Southern girls will melt and men will break their backs under several more days of oppressive heat before anything cool blows in off the mid-western plains. But soon the angles of the light will begin their subtle shift, the breeze will be refreshing rather than tormenting. Leaves will skitter across fields and parking lots and someone might opt for pants over shorts simply because they want to, rather than out of necessity.

That day's coming. It isn't today.

The guy asked for my mileage. And it got a chuckle: 243,243. Such numbers are worth celebrating. As he walked away to sweat and work, I muttered a singsong "and many more." Because it never hurts to be optimistic. Bees and dogs can smell fear and cars can hear you. I'm pretty sure I read that somewhere.

Finally the oil change was completed. In fairness it only took about 25 minutes from pulling in to leaving, but if I'd been carrying a potato in the car it would have been baked in the interim.

Home, then, and quickly a few errands. A second bank stop of the day. This one at the drive-thru -- do banks spell it properly, implying their spelling is important because they hold your money, or do they just go the easy route a la McDonalds? The drive-thru was no problem. Even on a Friday, pay day for most people, the service was in and out. Got a complete football schedule for my troubles in that little Jetsons banking tube. Not sure why it is important that I know who the 8th grade team at Fairview Heights (Wisconsin) will be playing on October 11th, but I know now.

It is amazing they can get all that information in one booklet, but then you realize this is the bank, they're good at the fine print.

The first banking experience of the day was less pleasant. They'd apparently understaffed for this, pay day, and were making up for it with a television in the lobby. They were keeping the natives calm with Finding Nemo. And it worked too. The colors were beautiful, the volume was loud. I was standing in line near the dramatic finish with the net and the "Swim Down!" and --



"Next please!"


They should keep the television out there. It felt like those days in high school when the teacher rolled in the VCR because she had nothing left to teach, or nothing left to prove, or no more reason to care because we'd robbed her of her will to educate. On those days Free Willy or something equally sappy would be put before the class. I can't tell you how many times we watched that first hour of Free Willy.

But today the aquatic theme carried over. An electrician, a carpenter, a husky sounding horticulturist and I were transfixed. We could have been peeved with the short staffing, But hey, it is Friday. And they're swimming!

Made a stop at Bed, Bath and Beyond. Did not find the hoped for shelves. That search will continue. Stopped by Best Buy to look at USB adaptors and felt confident that, yes, I can buy an entire Best Buy store at a better buy online. I did not pick up the adaptor, because my hasty math suggested that the $30 they wanted might have been a bit more than the $12 that Amazon was asking. I abstained.

Dinner, then. Ribs on the porch with Ward. Some of us drink too much tea.

Those ribs, by the way, were delicious. They're going to make excellent leftovers. And I even managed to take them home with me this week. As opposed to last week when they were boxed up, ready to go and promptly left on the table.

The heat of the day passed, the ground had sucked up much of the humidity. Parched as everything is, the suggestion of moisture in the air seems fulfilling. It settled into a nice quiet evening temperature. A nice time for the porch, where Ward had us seated while completely bypassing the hostess stand. He delivered my tea while I was standing in the parking lot. There should be songs sung in his honor.

There's less noise out there. The dining is drawn out longer. No one really wants you to leave and no one seems to mind staying. You can generally make a few temporary friends there, brethern of the barbeque.

And you get interesting views you won't see indoors.

Stopped by a sporting goods store after dinner. Finding not the desired shoes, but much info about them, a stop at a second sporting goods store was necessary.

I'm a big kid in stores. I must play with everything. At the first store, though, I could not putt on their putting greens. Imagine that: a sporting goods store with no golf balls. At the second store I tried on shoes, cruised the clearance racks, and then played soccer. I made the mistake of trying on a pair of Sambas and, after that resigned myself to spending the next 10 minutes juggling a soccer ball on a cramped aisle. I was never that good of a juggler, really. It always amazes me that in the noise, bumped goods and not-quite-running-over-other-shoppers that no one ever asks me to stop.

Sometimes I do draw a crowd. A small crowd, but they're there. Oh they pretend to look at items on the shelves, but I catch them stealing glances.

And ducking.

Just before midnight on a Friday and I'm turning in. Big day tomorrow. Long day tomorrow. Football day.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Football! Or, as Ed Orgeron says Footbaw!

In reading Every Day Should Be Saturday it is easy to see a section of the nation that's been waiting for their fix for more than eight months. Tonight our long national nightmare was over: College football has returned.

And that's my day, in full. This afternoon I did a high school football podcast with Mike Herndon from the Press-Register. If you're interested in bay-area high school football he's the guy to call. His prediction? More of the same. And you'll love it.

Wrapped that up right at quitting time and then ran home to get ready for the kickoff to the season. There was only going to be about two-and-a-half hours between getting home and football which meant that if there was anything that needed to get done between now and January, this was the time.

Need is such an interesting word.

I surveyed the estate and noted that, save a good and thorough day on the grounds, everything else could wait. Through the day at least. Nothing pressing, except for a load of laundry but everything else will be there when I get to it. And that'll be sometime after the last late hit because it is time for football!

Tulsa and Louisiana-Monroe were the start of the local feeds. Tulsa isn't too bad, featuring the mad offensive skills of the guy who wasn't allowed to run Arkansas' offense last year. After an hour of this game no one cared anymore, it was the bridge that got us through that last long hour of an empty August until the SEC kicked off with a thorough and decisive drubbing of Mississippi State at the hands of LSU. And LSU didn't even look that good offensively, everything came from their defense and an ineffective Bulldogs' offense.

And the first big hit of the year.


That is all.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

I developed The Headache at the Library today. That informed much of the rest of the afternoon.

Not just any headache. Not even the ice pick into the temple. Oh no, nothing so coy and playful as that. Rather I enjoyed the whimpering, throbbing, brain liquifying and sloshing from one side of the cranium to the other pain. It starts in the front and moves to the back of the head. This headache moves. And it comes back to the front. And then goes out to the sides.

Imagine your favorite wave pool. Replace the chlorine-filled water with gray matter. Turn on the turbines. That was my headache.

These are the headaches of my adolescence. They didn't happen frequently, but you by God remembered when they came along. The first was so bad that I couldn't see anything in the room, the color of the walls blurred and washed out everything else. For a while thereafter things were too bright and too loud. They'd occasionally come back for a "Hey, how ya doing?" visit. Now they show up about once a year. And for about 10 minutes -- or 20 years, I don't know, you lose the concept of fluid time -- you'd like to be any one else at any other time else. For the rest of the afternoon you contemplate the ice pick in the temple as a relief device.

It isn't pleasant.

But it passes, and you move on and eventually life is beautiful again. The birds tweet and the sun sets and you have a nice dinner and then settle in for the evening.

Tonight, in honor of tomorrow's opening of the college football season, I watched last year's LSU vs. Auburn game once again. Last year I heard the first half in the car on the way to a birthday party. I watched the third quarter tucked away in an upstairs bedroom.

Southern college football: So important you'll become a recluse in your friend's home during their kid's first birthday party.

That day I tried the don't-tell-me-the-end strategy, where I know others will know, but I don't want to know until I can go home and see the game for myself. If you're in a crowded room of strangers this technique never works, friends. Don't try it in 2007 or you'll have a finish spoiled for you.

I'd been saving this game on TiVo since last September, just to watch during the long, hot, dry summer before football returns. Tonight was that night. And watching the game, and for the first time this whole game, I'll agree the referees certainly weren't helpful to LSU in the Tigerbowl. A tremendous defensive football game though. Shame someone had to lose. Hopefully we can eek out another one in Baton Rouge this October. Time will tell.

It is late in the evening. The lightning is moving in again. The last two or three days we've seen a return to typical summer weather. It had become so unusual that we were all a bit curious about this thunder thing the first few times we heard it. There'll be a little more rain in a bit and tomorrow I might see that most unusual meteorological phenomenon: dew. Humidity, where have you been? Never mind, never mind. Welcome back!

There's a few new photographs from the 1976 Glomerata to enjoy. In our generational comparison we've now reached the point where these books are so much larger and have so many more random things than they did in the 1950s ... in honor of that tonight's addition is the section they've labeled Hassles.It is not my favorite part of the book, because the gripes seem, well, gripey. Many of their problems haven't changed, never will and don't really serve to harm anyone, but they make good grouse fodder, which is approximately one-eighth of the function of any scholastic institution anyway.

One of their complaints I dismissed outright. The writing tipped their hand that even the author realized he was reaching. The others are typical, standing in lines, intimidating new place, parking and so on.

From this section I added my own complaint. Their hassles were much cheaper.

But then I didn't have to wear plaid pants in college, so it balances out.

Photographs: Beautiful day. That's a lot of traffic, though, and it is all heading in the direction in which I'm heading. The reason? Five car wreck. A large fender bender, but enough to clog us all up. Notice the other direction? No traffic there. There was an accident on the opposite side of the freeway at almost the same spot.

Tomorrow: live football, football and possibly some football.

There'll be some other things too, but one must prioritize.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

This morning, sleepily getting ready to face the day, my mind wandered to the calendar. It came away from that bit of introspection with a certainty that certainly couldn't be right. No way, no how, was my brain this correct, this early in the morning and without extra consultation.

Alas, it was only Tuesday.

This was a particularly cruel joke this morning, one that will be forgotten tomorrow when there's a sense of progress in the air. Thursday it will be a gentle bit of humor. Tuesday. Ha. Remember that?

Not really, no.

And that's why I write some of these things down here.

We had the Heap Big Meeting at the office today. Once a quarter we gather together and sit in the semi-darkness for slide shows and bullet points and monologues and advertisements. These numbers are up, those numbers are up, these things are coming. Incredibly, even the setbacks aren't setbacks. It isn't mistaken disillusionment, they just know what they're talking about around here.

Usually there's a lunch or a function surrounding the big meeting, since we've brought the out-of-towners up for the experience. This time the function was a social call at a watering hole last night. They did this at 6 or so, I leave at 3 and have no desire to return downtown. Previously on those days when my schedule conspired against me I'd merely linger for three hours rather than spend an extra 40 minutes in the car listening to top-notch local radio. These days I'm just ready to go home. There's an awful lot more to do there, after all.

I blame the TiVo.

Today the EvIl eye let me watch an interview show on UPS. Given that my step-father is a senior pilot for the company I thought I'd learn a bit more about the place. They have a rich 100 year old history and a CEO who tells the story in a soft spoken way. That is, if you can get past the distracting hand movements. UPS: delivering your stuff and making you ask the question "Why brown?" for 100 years.

They grew down the west coast in the roaring twenties and went to the east coast in the 1930s. One other cool thing I learned from the show: UPS is the nation's third largest employer. A cooler thing I just learned from Wikipedia:
Because drivers idle at intersections while waiting to make left hand turns, UPS developed software that finds the route to deliver the day's packages with the most right hand turns possible ... Since UPS operates a fleet of over 88,000 ground vehicles, the fuel savings are considerable. In 2005 UPS eliminated 464,000 miles from its routes and saved 51,000 gallons of fuel.
UPS' obsession with obsession is incredible.

While this was going on I burned Monday night's leftover pizza. The crust and the part just below it were a nice charcoal flavor. The house smelled off coffee. Coffee is never made in my palatial estates, I've no idea how this smell creeps up on things. The pointy parts of the pizza, and three or so bites inward, were cooked just right, so I chopped off the offending portions and had a much smaller snack.

It occurs to me that I'm past due on trying out my new miniature audio recorder. I bought batteries for it Monday after insuring that every adapter I own -- and I seem to collect them -- will not power the thing. So I put some batteries in the Micro Boss BR. And, since it provided me with at least an hour's worth of entertainment, I will go into meticulous detail about my observations on a product that's far more steroid-laden than I needed.

So it is small and thin and shiny. It feels too light, but it is amazing the credibility that comes with the weight of two AA batteries. Also, the controls don't seem intuitive right away, though I'm sure I'll laugh at that in a month or so and wonder why everyone can't pick this up right away. I'm doing it after all!

First I give the open-air microphone a try, running through some simple tests with headphones for live capture and playback. This is the best open-air microphone I've ever experienced.

Plug in my Realistic microphone with the gold-plated adapter, change the recording input (the menu changes will be my forgetful downfall) and ... nothing. Try again, realizing that there's a different input selection for microphones. It isn't MIC, but is rather EXT, for external. Makes enough sense. Try the microphone again. Nothing.

OK, then. There are other options. Out to the car, in the rain to grab my monaural microphone.

As I hang my head in shame I must confess that, yes, I have more than one microphone within easy reach. One in my car even.

Plug in this little old microphone that's possibly as old as I am (it certainly looks it) and ... it works!

The volume and the speakers and the microphone make this incredibly rich sound. There's a graphic that pops up to warn of over-modulation. And there's a wicked reverb. No problem. This recorder, a portable studio really, has an effects button. Push the effects button, flip through the owner's manual and find out how to turn the echo off.

I make a few more microphone tests after flipping through the book once again to remember how to record. While learning how to play my test tracks I've become overwhelmed Flip back in the book to the Recording for Idiots section, make a few more microphone tests. Figure out how to play them all back, become overwhelmed by the multi-tracking that I don't yet know how to control and learn to delete my test files.

After a short time playing with I know it will become incredibly useful, I might not even carry around a microphone because of the great internal mic. I know this recorder has far more capability than I'll ever need, or probably explore. It is meant for musicians, where I just want to record conversations. Having struggled to find something a little less powerful I settled on this one hoping I'd get my money's worth. I expect, once I learn how to move from function to function, that I'll get a lot of use from it.

Which really only means there'll be more things I'll make you listen to. But not tonight. I need a new USB cable to download tracks first.

Salmon for dinner and a few consultations of the library. It pleases me so that I can think of a book and walk into another room filled with books to consult said book that I did it two more times. Once even for old college text books. The other two times I was comparing and contrasting Ricky Bragg and Willie Morris.

That's a cool summer night in the South: listening to katydids and considering people who revere sandy mountains and Rowan Oak, momma and Oxford.

Now I'm here on the computer with this and four new front pages to share from The Birmingham News' World War II coverage. If you're just getting started with some of their historical front pages try the section front. If you've been following along you'll want to see Soviets invading Finland, the sinking of the Hood and Bismarck, the U.S. joining the war and Italy surrendering.

The papers don't do it justice, of course, lumping them together as if they happened one after the other. Those four pages cover a tough four years, you'll skim them here in less than four minutes. Ahh, the diluting power of time and history.

Speaking of dilute, this thing is watering down to almost nothing, a sure sign that there must be an end in sight.

Oh. Here it comes now.

Tomorrow: football goodness, Glomerata updates and more.

Monday, August 27, 2007

When I said the TiVo had been hyperactive lately when it came to the suggested recordings I didn't realize the thing was hacking into my blog. And looking for praise. There were 11 recorded programs on the EvIl when I made it home today. I watched part of one and will later watch another. Two or three of the documentaries I already felt sufficiently informed. The rest were outright misses. Sometimes enthusiasm can get away from you.

Around 5 p.m. there was a storm of mythical or Biblical proportions. Possibly the parts of myth that parallel Bible tellings got together and forced this rain. It wasn't buckets, but rather dump trucks. The sky, it would seem, was suddenly aware of how deprived we've been. And it was intent to make up for it as much as possible at one time.

In a word: monsoonish

When the rain finally let up there was steak to grill. And some computer work. There was also more of the third season of 24. Now Jack Bauer is a bad guy, only he's a good guy working against the bad guys. Again. These would be the same bad guys that he's worked against before, only now he's trying to get in their good graces. it is an interesting story arc, but they wrote a swerve in here just to get people angsty over the week between episodes. Watching two or three at a time thankfully eliminates that and before the DVD recycled itself for the next hour I'd all but figured it out. He wasn't helping for the drugs, or to bring down the whole cabal -- though I initially thought that Jack or one of the bad guys had to die, and we knew it wouldn't be Jack -- but he's rather trying to sieze this bioweapon.

The problem is they left the audience wondering why he'd turned into a bad guy all of a sudden. Or, at least, he left the portions of the audience that had never watched more than a week of wrestling wondering about this. In the next episode -- seen a week later by all the people that watched this in 2003 and about 15 minutes later by me, tonight -- Jack explains via videotape to the president that he had to do this, it was the only way, it kept the president removed, etc. The President, being a man of honor and absolutes, does not like this. He is not fond of people taking the decisions out of his hands.

I'd have to say I agree. And the reasoning behind keeping the president out of the loop is thin in reality, even if it is long on television cliffhanger.

Where I left off tonight, though, things aren't going well for Jack. Do things ever go well with Jack? He just got his daughter back and then tried to off her boyfriend just to keep his cover. Things never go right for this man. He is the anti-hero's hero.

Went to the box store just after 9 p.m., wondering how one actually undertakes the process of getting old. Once, not to long ago, this wouldn't have been an unusual site, but something was distinctly odd about getting in the car and going somewhere at 9:30. It just felt too late for this. I've become what I've previously laughed at. This is a humbling thing.

Had to return the Coco gate, it having done its job of separating the animalus domesticus during my mother's recent visit. The redeeming part of the big box store is their ease of processing a returned product. They don't even haggle or sigh or feel frustrated about a lack of acceptance. I'm always prepared with a polite "It isn't you, it's me" answer, just in case, but tonight the woman merely asked if the gate worked.


And that's all it took. Oh, I was ready with all number of answers to follow up questions, but she was ready to close the customer service desk and go home. She gave me my money, I pocketed the change and set out seeking beauty and cleaning products, cards and various other home staples.

Twenty minutes later I'm almost done and realizing that there's nothing more depressing in the modern commercial world than this place after hours. Even the fluorescent lights are in a down mood.

And "Speedy Checkout" is something of a euphemism. Say this for the nice lady, she was working hard, but not at the rate one would associate with "Speed." But, she got the change right, only had to make two detours to figure out the right code for t-shirt for one of the customers in front of me. And that guy, I'm certain, would have told her to just forget about ringing the shirt. He opened his mouth, glanced down at his kid and predicted a meltdown, and apologetically glanced at the line behind him for this delay. The next guy endured the opening of a new roll of coins. The gentleman after that managed to exit the store without all of his belongings. He'd even asked about it, seeing as how this bag seemed unlikely to hold the 10 items for which he'd so painstakingly prepared for this register.

I was intent to help the gentleman out by chasing him down in the parking lot and suggesting he go back in and look for his thermometer and 12-volt battery. Mostly I wanted to ask what he planned to do with his products. The whole stash looked like a bad scene from McGyver, but it was not to be. The register lady, you see, felt it necessary to explain to me that double bagging my cards would help protect them, fumble with my receipt and then explain her system for spinning the bag turnstile that insured that each customer actually got all of their new belongings. Only this time, you see, it failed.

When I finally made it to the parking lot the guy was gone. He's going to be mad when he gets home.

That's pretty much the day. You'll notice, with the beginning of the football season this week, that the On Notice board has made a triumphant return at the top of the page. I removed this after the bowl games last season because I realized that, without football, there weren't that many targets to point mock scorn at. Even now I have to manufacture a few just to round out the graphic. If only I had waited until after my shopping trip "Speedy Checkout" would have made the list for false nomenclature.

Tomorrow: Football fun, newspapers and more!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

"How do you do this every day?"

The air conditioner in my car is not so good. It blows like a fiend, but the freon is low. I've never thought about it, but I just get in the car and drive. Roll down the windows on every road that doesn't start with Interstate and I make do beyond that.

Also, I'm from the Deep South, and my blood isn't all yankeefied, but that's probably splitting hairs. Truly, and despite that, I'm tired of the heat. It has been just hot enough, just long enough, to wear you down a bit. I suppose it is that most human of thoughts, the one about how your neighbor's grass always has just a bit more nitrogen than yours ... and I was ready for a shirt with full sleeves and a rustling breeze and maybe even a night that required a windbreaker. I'm ready for fall. Twenty more degrees and we would have been there today. It was only in the nineties, and so I thought jeans would ward off the chill during my afternoon chores.

After standing outside and pumping gas at 1:30 at 91 degrees I really wanted to call for a wardrobe change. Seriously, a quick stop in at the office, the library and the grocery don't require jeans. In August. In Alabama. With a limping air conditioner.

So to the office for a quick and purposeful errand. And then to the library to pick up the third season of 24 on DVD. The Homewood library now has automated check out systems, rendering the front desk librarians an obsolete feature. The first scanner didn't work -- it has never liked my card -- but the second one bleeped of compliance and then booped at the check out process.

I pressed the gigantic red button that completes my transaction with my robotic librarian overlord and see that my receipt has the purple margins. So the roll is running low. I inform the young and obsolete front desk librarian of the situation, expressing the urgency with which this roll must be replaced before someone truly important comes to this scanner for bleeps and bloops. The guy shot me a "Go to the reference section" look.

Clearly I'd touched a nerve. This guy had figured out that his job was now solely to replace the rolls of receipt paper. After this, if he were lucky, he could catch on in the library book store, but stocking the shelves was a pipe dream and he knew it. This might have been all that he had, the knowledge of it crushed his spirit and here's some guy -- some guy in jeans and loafers in August for the Library of Congress' sake -- telling him how to do his job.

He was not pleased.

But I began to think, my county tax money helps maintain that building. Gives him the air conditioning. Perhaps they acquired these DVDs. They give him a job!

Funny how far we can stretch our tax dollars. Particularly when indignant. And especially in faux indignance.

But, having done my civic duty, I pressed on, stopping at the grocery store for a lot of groceries and some things I didn't need. I made that mistake you often hear about, going to the grocery store while hungery. Shopping at Publix is a pleasure at almost any time, unless you're stuffed, that's probably asking for too much. Shopping when the one bowl of cereal from early in the morning is long gone is another thing. You're in trouble, incidentally, when the hot dogs begin to gain some appeal.

The next problem became how to get all these highly perishable items home in a low bake oven. The first person that sells an air conditioned trunk will no doubt be scorned by the environmentalist, but the grocery store mothers who live in the sub-tropics will rush right out and buy that car.

With the groceries stored -- and the cookies only slightly cooked -- it was time to settle in for an evening of the third season of 24. Jack is on heroin and, contrary to the beliefs of some, he isn't showing a weakness. Rather, he's just proving that you can kick the stuff the hard way while saving the country.

It does give him the disadvantage of being just moments away from solving the crisis several times, which would have freed him up for a nice dinner, but drugs slow you down, kids. Take it from Jack Bauer. If he's doubled over from the addiction and its demands on the body, you'd long be dead.

And since that's the opposite of what I want to be tomorrow I'm going to hit the pillows at a reasonable hour.

Tomorrow then.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Signs your ready for fall: The heat (the heat, the ever-lovin' heat) has broken. The mercury only climbed to 95 today. And even then it felt apologetic about it. You felt like celebrating. We've had dozens of days in the triple digits.

Hey! you think to yourself, this 90s stuff isn't so bad!

You've never been sure why you think to yourself using so many exclamation points, but it hasn't driven you crazy just yet, and so it is best not to examine the issue too much. Introspection can be dangerous when grammar and punctuation come into play.

So it is 95 and, like any right-thinking person, you stay inside all day. For this reason, if for no other (and there are others) you know you're prepared to thank the summer for its service, and swiftly move on to something more reasonable.

So I slept in a bit. Watched television a lot, cleaning off the TiVo in preparation for many days of accumulated goodness from the EvIl eye. The suggested recordings feature has lately been on a crazy streak of filling my days with documentaries on all sorts of things. I feel obliged to watch the good ones. In the interest of cleaning off the TiVo completely, and in preparation for the upcoming football season, I'll be watching and removing two games that have been on the machine since last fall. LSU at Auburn and Auburn at Alabama. With kickoff coming next Thursday we'll call this my pre-season.

That's next week. This evening, however, the second season of 24 was finally completed. Jack Bauer saved the day. Or did he. The president was on the ground gasping as the season went to credits. A terrific cliff-hanger. Much better than the staring off into the ocean that the most recent season took. Also, in the final hours there were more things that six obviously stole from two. I'm retroactively upset and bored about that, too.

Started the first few hours of the third season of 24. The EvIl eye didn't record them all properly, so I jumped on the computer, surfed to the public library database and discovered which branch currently has the series on the shelves and learned, in the middle of the night, that I can get the discs tomorrow afternoon. What a world. I'll pick them up tomorrow and watch the full season at a leisurely pace over the next few weeks.

And that's pretty much been the day. There were a few other smallish things here and there, but I delighted in the rhetorical question "What's on tap for today?" and the answer "Nothing at all."

Every once in a while you take those. Perhaps I like them more than most.

Friday, August 24, 2007

I worked a half-day today. Our corporate bosses, pleased with some sales and budget figures produced earlier this summer, were kind enough to give us all a half day in July and August. We take them with eager thanks. It isn't that we're oppressed and never get time off, far from it, but most people in this office, I think, realize that, Hey, they didn't have to give us this time off.

But they did. And we're taking the time. It is a gratifying feeling, really: working for a company who rewards you for doing your job. It is expected, but it is appreciated at the same time. A lot of you work at places like this, and I'm glad. This is my first job that really did this, and even though I've been with the company for more than three years it is still an unexpected nicety. Some days I dislike waking up so early (who doesn't?) but you never feel like a gear in a machine here. If you've been in places where that isn't the case, you're appreciative of all the half days you get.

Then, of course, you want more, but that's the human condition.

So The Yankee and I met for a chicken salad lunch and then hit the links. We drove through a huge rainstorm, where the temperature fell 30 degrees, from 101 to 73, in about 20 minutes. Happily the skies cleared just before we reached the course. The temperature returned to its prickly high as well.

I have a coupon, two it turns out, for the Montevallo Golf Course. They are, they say, Shelby County's best kept golf secret. We shall see about that. I was immediately impressed by their ability to charge for the cart as they do, but we're playing 18, it was hotter than, well, a lot of things out here and it was determined that there would be no walking today. I intended to drive up to every ball not on the green.

So, on the first two holes, I could have done better. Truly I could have, but the first hole, one of those up-and-over-a-hill types, let me use the recovery wood and that made things better. The second hole had a nice dogleg to the right and I played it well early, but the irons quickly hurt me. By the end of the round I'd like to take two or three strokes off of these holes.

The third hole was a par three down. Well down. It reminded me of a course I played in Tennessee once. That one, if you didn't fly it from your mountain perch onto the green it was lost in the woods for forever. Here you are on the top of a rolling hill, looking down onto a green that was supposed to be surrounded on at least two sides by water. Being in the drought, this saves a lot of lost balls. I thought I flew the green just to the left of the pin, but it fell just shy, and I quickly recovered to make it a manageable experience.

The fourth hole went up and to the left. Having never played there you just had to imagine what happened around the bend. I cared little for this hole or the fifth. The sixth, I believe it was, was a par four in which I came with a few feet of driving the green. I then managed to two-putt for par when I should have been celebrating a birdie. But still, the swing was working well and things progressed smoothly through the turn. I wasn't keeping a close watch on my overall score, but it felt like a good round.

And then things fell apart on the back nine. There was a three hole stretch where the game came unglued and I went into the water. Not the ball. Me.

By now the ridiculous heat has lessened. We ducked lightning early in the round, dodged raindrops on the back nine and were facing an early sunset because of the clouds. I was alternate a little upset about walking around in wet socks and laughing hysterically at the most awesome thing I'd ever done on a golf course. \

On the fifth hole I drove a ball squarely into a tree from about 60 yards. The ball came directly back to where I was. I hit the ball as well and as solidly as you could possibly hope and the net distance was about 30 inches. It was several minutes before I could compose myself to try again, where I then lashed the ball almost onto the green. Later I ran a ball up a tree. It hit the bottom with so much front spin that the ball ran up the bark about six or eight feet.

Around the 14th hole another golfer we'd kept bumping into offered us some water since he was done for the day. the light was leaving quickly and leaves on the ground started to look like golf balls, so we had to hurry to finish. At 17 we found another hole much like the third one, instead of an iron I took out the old 17-degree loft and played it just under the green. I should have used the five-wood.

On 18 my foot was hurting and my form had just died for the day. The last half of the hole was just an exercise in getting up a hill. And there I repeated my earlier feet, sending a ball off of a pitching wedge into a root that actually returned the ball six inches behind me. And that typifies my golf game. There are moments when it is close to being good, but those moments are far outnumbered by the bad and the bizarre. In parts this was one of my better rounds, but in other places it seemed like the typically bad. The final score was a small improvement over where I usually end up (and I'm nicely terrible at his) but I left thinking If I could only eliminate a few shots here and there ... If I could get a few of those back, I'd be proud to tell you my score.

But I can't.

So I won't.

There's an old golf joke, when some duffer starts to give you his swing-by-swing description of the round, about how you avoid that. When he's on the third hole in his tale, ask him what he used on his approach at 17. It cuts story time right down. But you didn't know that joke, did you? So you got stuck with the whole hit-or-miss recounting. Just think: I'd considered doing this with the scorecard by my side. How long this description would have been then.

Slightly sweaty -- and blue, because the flags bled onto your skin -- we made our way to Pie Day. Melissa joined us today. She works at the store de pie, and took her break to dine with us on the patio. It is a hip group and a cool place like that. Melissa is a lot of fun, so we're now arranging it so that she works on Fridays to visit with us. We have some pull, having certainly paid the mortgage on the joint a few times over the years. In fact, Ward now introduces us to other customers. I expect headshots on the wall soon. Possibly something named after us on the menu within the year. A pie, no doubt.

We were given the patio largely because Ward was out there and because, well, we'd been golfing all afternoon in three-digit heat.

Had the ribs. Got a box for the leftovers. Promptly left the box on the table. I hate, hate, hate when I do that. Hopefully Ward, with whom we're all so familiar that he now just occasionally takes things from our plate, took them home to enjoy them himself, because they were delicious.

So no leftovers tomorrow, unfortunately. I'm sure I'll make do somehow.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

There was no internet at home, and that was the worst part of the day.

Ordinarily you'd read that to think that as a sign of how wonderful the day is going if the internet connection was the only concern. Ordinarily, you'd be right about that sort of thing. But we're talking about the internet here! How am I supposed to survive!?

The cable people were coming Sunday. And then there was a cancellation of someone else's work order, meaning my internet will be repaired tomorrow. That'd put golf on hold, but the internet is important. Golf is realizing just how much value it has in my world. The internet would thumb its nose at golf right now. If it could. It can't. There's no internet.

I must rely on the cable to be my link to the outside world. Oddly enough the cable is just fine. So the cable internet is down, but the cable-cable is OK. Apparently there's about one-third of the required signal seeping its way into the house. The signal powers the television, but is not the go juice which the modem, router and computer needs.

What's that? A big white truck? With a cherry picker on the back. And he's ... he's climbing up the pole. What's the truck say? It is the cable guy!

Internet addiction? Nope. Just took the quiz, it says I'm the very picture of the average internet user.

Of course I had to have the internet come back online before I could find that test, but still.

The man fixed the problem, climbed down from his truck and drove off. Didn't stop in or leave a flier or anything. An hour later the company called to check on the service: it works. What a world.

Before all that I had to visit the post office to return the bum camera and a letter of official officialdom. The camera was boxed, the address label addressed. Mis-addressed. And then corrected. The postal worker found her patience stretched thin. Being the only customer in the joint I didn't have enough assembled brain power to figure out why she found this so annoying. Perhaps, if there'd been more people, a line even, we could have figured it out. It was getting close to her quitting time, and as we've discussed, they close at 3;59, maybe that's why she was antsy.

BUt the postal work was delivered. There was some TiVo to work through -- The Company wrapped up. Apparently the KGB had their hand in the stock market crash of 1987. A great joke, really, but it took six hours to get there. The official word on Black Monday, at least, disagrees. At least that's what we're told, but you never know about that Chris O'Donnell. He's a shifty one.

I actually watched a few minutes of the mid-90s Three Musketeers, starring a pre-CIA O'Donnell. But only because Oliver Platt was involved.

Not much else, having been limited by the internet this afternoon, but you can enjoy the Black & White section. You can see the latest here.

Tomorrow: Pie Day, and lots of golf.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Stopped by the YMCA to fix a meddlesome little accounting problem that has led to two phone calls, two letters and one personal appearance at the bank. This has prompted two phone calls to the YMCA. They've both gone unreturned. So I decided to make it happen in person. I was prepared to be righteously indignant, but there's really no point in turning the dial to 11 if you can get what you need from people with the old sweeter than honey approach.

And that approach, of course, worked today. I sat in a woman's office bereft of any decoration, no photographs, inspirational posters, official documentation or anything else. Someone is moving offices soon, or this woman has managed to remove every piece of debris from her life. She quickly looked my account up, saw that the troublesome correction had been made as corrected, bringing that whole issue to a close. Why I can't get them to return a phone call escapes me. I've been going to the place for decades and can safely say: the office people aren't that busy.


My stop to the bank was today, where I had a letter notarized and we played "Type Impotently While the Server Keeps You From Your Online Banking." As games go this one isn't the best. But it is nice to know that when the system locks you out after too many unsuccessful log in attempts that you are logged out. Thou Shalt Not Press Enter. Thou Shalt Not Download Money. Even the IT people are apparently powerless. Which is good.

Later, at the grocery store, my debit card stopped working. Which is bad.

Fortunately I had case. Which is rare. And I paid thusly.

At the store the mid-week staples were picked up. Bread, some frozen things for lunch and breakfast. Milk, cereal, grapes. I tried to pick up some Resolve to Shop Better, but they were out. I could not find the orange juice either, so perhaps Publix -- where shopping is a pleasure! -- is in between delivery trucks.

Also during all of this time I made arrangements to attend some football games this fall. That makes everyone very happy.

I'm suddenly exhausted, having roughly hit the wall on the way to the grocery store. So I'm going to wrap up the day early and hit the bed. Early.

But I'm not leaving you empty handed. Feel free to surf on over to the Glomerata section. There you'll see the latest addition from the 1976 Glomerata, which are a big audience favorite: the beauty queens.

So I'm hanging this up early for the day, but on the other hand there will be plenty of fun tomorrow in a post office adventure. Plus there'll be some TiVo, maybe a picture or two and a new addition to the Black and White section. And who knows what else we'll stumble into along the way.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

This is going to be one of those To Do list sort of weeks. There'll be a scrap of paper where I'm writing down everything that should get done. There will be notes plotting out how and when these things will take place. There will be further mental notes dedicated to how to put off those things until the last possible moment.

Paperwork is such a pleasant task.

One of the things that will be done is the return of a video camera. I bought one off of e-bay for a great price, figuring it would handle the chore of online quality videos, allowing me to add to the glut of things on youtube, but the video camera's quality is more reflective of "cheap" than "inexpensive." It is positively dark in low light. The LCD screen is, shall we say, flawed. The software has an annoying tendency to hang up.

I've turned it on twice.

To be fair, the people from whom I bought the camera are fairly obliging. It is just that the camera stinks. So back in a box it will go.

There's also some banking issues to resolve. Some forms that must be signed and mailed. Some other accounts which must endure some meddling. It is just merely a small handful of non-life-altering, yet tedious things that must be undertaken from time to time. They happen rarely enough, so one mustn't complain. I've been enjoying a fairly good string of individuals happy to be of service in making all these things happen. I'm left even less room to complain.

After you get past complaining about the scourge of automated phone answering services, but I'll be breaking no new ground there complaining about that, leaving me with truly nothing to complain about.

Otherwise today I picked up a barely held together box from the post office. The bottom was hanging up. I jokingly pointed this out to the staff there, and they were unfazed. That's the quality of work we expect, no doubt. At least the box still held its innards, baby shower gifts for a child soon to be innundated with Winnie the Pooh things. I feel for the kid already.

I've yet to play with my digital audio recorder. Perhaps tomorrow. I'm eager to put it through the paces, though, and will of course be simultaneously thrilled and intimidated by its many command functions. It isn't that the instruction book is difficult, but that there will be many buttons to push. Almost as if the designers reasoned, "Well we put this many buttons on here, we may as well see to it that they get used."

It multi-tracks, it adds effects and rhythm patterns and is only slightly larger than an ipod. It is shiny in the Isaac Asimov vein of futuristic. All of this, and it makes toast, too.

So perhaps that will be tomorrow.

Tonight I watched the new episode of Eureka. The show has ceased being about fake science or cool gadgets or special effects. Rather I'm enthralled by the dynamic of the dimwitted Sheriff (the guy who's always saving the town of geniuses) and the genius former boss of the place. See this at 4:30 for a very subtle example.

Mom left for home today. I have a Coco gate that can be returned to the big box store. There's baked chicken for dinner and not much else going on to tell you about just now.

There are, however, newspapers to check out. Hitler steals the show in Europe as the meetings that led to the Munich Agreement are held. And then he invades Poland. From this hingepoint the world turned, and you can see the copies of the front page coverage from The Birmingham News here. If you haven't been following along, you can begin here.

That's it for the day. Tomorrow you'll have more tales of tedious chores (and possibly paperwork!), groceries and the Glomerata. Feel the excitement!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Hot today. Hot every day. Actually it wasn't all that bad today, and by "not that bad" I mean a high of 98.

I didn't spend all day in the heat, not by any means, but the short time I was outside it didn't seem so bad in comparison. It is amazing the different five or seven degrees will make, that this seems warmish, but not demonically hot.

Spoken like a true air conditioner hog.

Beautiful day though. The haze was gone by the mid-afternoon and the sun shined down with a warm and inviting hope. It also reassured us that the rain we enjoyed this weekend will be the last we'll see for some time. Exceptional drought they call it. A few weeks ago we were making a slight dent in the rain deficit. After that two week stretch of triple-digit hear, and the few brief afternoons merely reaching the upper 90s, we've now been downgraded. In early August the data pointed to a once-in-50-years event. Now the meteorologists say it looks more like a once-a-century event.

It is dry. Worst conditions in the country. The grass actually cheers up a bit when the dog goes outside.

Got a new digital recorder today. It is going to be a little more powerful than I'll need, originally intended for musicians, but sometimes you must buy more than you bargained for to get the two features you require. At the end of the day I still got a nice deal on e-bay, paying about a third of the list price. Later this week I'll put the thing through a few tests and see how outclassed I am by the technology. Also it is shiny. This will illicit many oohs and ahhs. Until I scratch it the first time at least, which will prompt a few more sounds, no doubt.

Took care of some paperwork with Mom. This involved signatures and notes and the ever-present worry that none of this will ever stay straight in your head. Ever. And here's a sticky note with a phone number which you should keep close at hand at all times.

Having caught up with last week I'm getting ahead of this week. And the rest of the week may allow me to stay that way. I say may because there is already a medium-sized list of real world errands to run. A few of those will be addressed tomorrow. There's also some TiVo viewing to account for. There might be some TiVo deleting considering the backlog that is surely in place by now.

Mexican for dinner tonight. Enchiladas and chips with cheese dip. I didn't even eat all of the rice and beans, which I usually treat as the best part of the meal. We gossiped about family news. That pretty much rounded out the evening. Mom is leaving tomorrow and I helped her load some things in the car this evening. We wedged an antique mirror into the trunk of her car. Put it on top of her garment bag after wrapping it in bubble wrap. Jammed the mirror in diagonally and proclaimed it safe to ride.

For my part I got that space back from a closet. Of course it is a mirror, and was being stored vertically against a wall, so basically I earned about 20 square inches of storage space. Every little bit I suppose.

I'm going to continue my college football season preparation by reading about old dead coaches courtesy of Tony Barnhart. There should be a good quote in here somewhere. Who knows what it will ultimately lead to ...

If you fall asleep dreaming about the Single Wing ... you might be ready for football.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

I spent the day catching up on all my computer hobbies. Now I can fall behind in the daily aspects of those hobbies with a clear conscience.

It somehow takes over after a while. These activities that you plug in to fill your freetime. It goes from hobby to activity to something you need to get online to do until, finally, you've got so many things you'd like to do that you don't know where to start.

These are hobbies. Could be worse, they could be chores.

I've been reading this great book, Ballparks Then and Now by Eric Enders. The book treats the major league parks in alphabetical order by city. Right now I'm up to Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. The notes are only occasionally dry, but there is plenty of great trivia about the older parks in here. The photographs are what you came to this book for. That's why it sits on your coffee table. Or, in my case, the reading table in the library.

This was a gift from The Yankee's parents. They pick great gifts, get on their good side.

Got a bit of TiVo in this afternoon as well. Breezed through We Were Soldiers again, skipping the napalm and the phosophorous grenade scenes. General Moore, played by Mel Gibson in the movie, ultimately retired to Auburn. There were a few soldiers from Alabama who died in Ia Drang. Here's a rather detached recounting of the battle.

I watched something else ... something that obviously didn't leave much of an impression. And played with Coco until it was time for dinner. Mom and I met The Yankee for a belated and delicious Pie Day. Where Ward almost gave himself a concussion walking full-on into a door. That boy's got to stop opening doors with his face.

A quick trip to the grocery store for some breakfast staples and now it is threatening to get late.

And since I'd like to start the week off with some sleep, I'll close by breaking one of my longstanding rules: No food pictures. Ordinarily I wouldn't, because the subject so rarely translates well from something tasty on your plate to delicious to your mind when you read about it the next day.

Cheese biscuits, however, will always win the day.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

And now, a Caturday feature ...

Cats, being curious creatures, are fascinated by the bubbles of air in their water tank. You fill the thing up, flip it over and the water trickles out from the bottom and is replaced by bubbles floating up. Simple physics. Cats never take physics classes, though, so this intrigues them.

One cat has learned that by tipping the water tank she can create bubbles of her own. Exhibit A.

Shame she doesn't have a more marketable skill.

Slept in today, making up for the hours I spent wide awake last night. There designs to go shopping, in that most American style of crossing your arms, peering at things, frowning a bit, smiling a bit and then saying, "OK, thanks. We'll be back!"

But we decided it was too warm for that. Indeed, the heat index climbed to 105 today.

So we stayed in. Mom and I looked through an old scrap book, figuring out who was who. There are some newspaper reprints from turn-of-the-century north Alabama. When the place was about a week removed from being the frontier. I wonder what those great-great-great relatives would say if they could see us now.

Right about then the monsoon came. We need that, but it is the last minute storm of the deadline driven procrastinator. It seems too little to late. The thunder was impressive, though, so I spent the next hour or so distracting Coco before she could pant herself into a frenzy.

After that, dinner. Steaks at Don Shula's!

It is an odd mix, Shula's. The cuisine is approaching high end, but the decor is decidedly class sports bar. Nice to see the guy is still able to trade on that undefeated team some three decades ago. The whole restaurant is an homage to that effort. Indeed, throughout dinner I was having a conversation with Mom while watching Larry Csonka plow through the New York Jets.

The appetizers were great, including shrimp that demand a new name. Had they sat up and chanted in unison for a new name you wouldn't have been terribly surprised. They were as large as your hand, wrapped in bacon and covered in barbeque sauce. Three of my arteries favorite things, brought together in one ... OK, four, delicious bites. I also heard good things about the Oysters Rockefeller.

Think about how some restaurants tempt you with the dessert tray. Shula's does that with the steaks.

I had the cowboy steak, which was a 22-ounce monster served bone-in. Medium rare and delicious. They say that only the top one percent of the Angus selection is suitable for Shula's, putting it far above USDA standards. Mom and I agreed that it was a delicious dish.

They should probably think about putting some restrooms inside though. You have to walk back out through the Wynfrey Hotel lobby, making one think they're just stealing services from the landlord.

They had a $15 chocolate lava cake dessert, but we did not partake. The steaks were huge and, after such high class fare we were on our way to reduce our sudden high standing at the movies.

The Simpsons:
They're funnier than they have been on the small screen in ages.
My theory was that the television show had suffered because the movie was in production. If my theory is correct the show should be improving soon. Either way, there were some clever gags in the movie, reminiscent of the way the show exists in our mind.

Reason number 142, though, to stay away from Patton Creek on a Saturday night: I had to park the length of the entire development from the movie theatre. The Rave sits on one end, and the only Patton Creek store between me and the woods on the other end was the Italian joint. For those unfamiliar with the place, that's what we call a Long Way. There can't be that many good movies out just now.

Other than the parking, it was another nicely tidy and near-perfect weekend day. My cup, it runneth over. Much like a water tank.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Friday. Best day ever. I actually like Friday afternoons at the office. Most people, in most places, are probably mentally gathering up their belongings long before quitting time, already on the road over the last hour of their work week and have their feet kicked back in their favorite chair before the put down the week's work.

I enjoy that time. It is quiet in our office because the sales people are out selling things and the rest of us are intently pouring over our computers. Much like every day, really, except that this is The End Of It.

The promise of, not finality, but the respite of the weekend, is still a powerful motivator, but it is almost tangible on Friday afternoons. I'm not dreading waking up early, I'm not wondering about what errands must be accomplished before the day is truly mine. I can just enjoy the effort. For some reason it seems that I get a fair amount of work done then.

I think I even had an extra hour I could have left early today, owing to that long meeting this week, but I stayed in the office a little longer than normal, typing away on this and that. It is just a nice, quiet place that time of the week.

So Friday sunk in just as I parked the car for lunch. Brian and I met my mother for the traditional "Mom is in town, we're meeting for Thai" lunch. After work I came home and shot a video. We'll call it Cat boxing.

A little dark, but it is a new camera. I was just goofing off and learning the controls when the cats put on a show. I'll figure it out soon enough if you'll give me a few days.

After that was a big barbeque dinner with Brian's family. I avoided teaching Taylor the magic of helium balloons. Judging by the general crowd reaction no one in Gardendale uses helium in this way. I sang some Elvis, The Letterman's Put Your Head on My Shoulder and a few other tunes.

As we all know, you should never use more than two helium balloons. At three you run the risk of depriving your body of oxygen. At four you're almost freezing your lungs.

One other thing before we slow this rainy, hazy hot summer day down to a halt. I interviewed The Birmingham News' Ron Ingram for a podcast on the upcoming high school football season. Ron is one of the greats, he knows everything about everyone and, most amazingly, his mind doesn't dump out the old information in favor of the new. That mind is a repository of high school athletics. And it doesn't talking with him long before you, too, are ready for game time. Get the podcast here.

That's all for now. Tomorrow there could be some shopping. There'll be a big steak dinner and a movie. Already we're into another laid back, calm and fun weekend. Hope yours is too!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Got the frame for my UAB diploma today. I put off ordering one for a long time. Actually I was going to make one, because the one lithograph that the University bookstore had was rather tacky. So I figured I'd make one; take a picture, blow it up and try to copy the design of my undergrad lithograph. They'd make a handsome pair, I thought.

Looking around the UAB campus I realized there's not a lot of picturesque scenery there.

So I ordered a $12 matted frame from Target instead. The picture above doesn't do the Auburn lithograph justice (I was rushing) and the UAB frame, nor the diploma, isn't nearly as attractive, but it carries the appropriate amount of impact for the degree.

Yes, I waited a full year before doing anything with the diploma. I have a big To Do stack.

This evening we had dinner with the old volleyball crew. They'd played for years and, when I was finally old enough, they let me play too. I moved away for a while and shortly after I moved back the business of conducting life slowly pulled everyone in different directions. With my mother in town -- they're really more her friends than mine -- there was a get-together dinner tonight.

So there we were, at Red Lobster. And there was dinner. And much laughter. I've known some of these people almost my entire life. There's a lady there who used to babysit me. There's a guy, one of the finest gentlemen you'd ever know, who took me to football practice in the second grade. Probably he took me hunting and fishing before that. They are, collectively, the type of people you'd handpick as family if you had the choice.

To recount stories would take too much of your day and too much time typing the backstory. Best to leave it to my mother, who wondered aloud after leaving, about how you can find such a large group of such fine people. It is a rarity, and a blessing.

On the site: There's a new black and white photograph to take a glance at. I have only a small number of these just now, so I'm only trotting out one at a time to stretch it out. But, if you're just joining that particular foray into the past, start here or, if you're all caught up, see the latest.

Tomorrow, a podcast and adventures in food. That's a Friday to me.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Something, somewhere in our neighborhood, something has died. It is elusive, possibly moving. You can smell it, but never in the same place for very long. It comes and goes, it is very odd. We'll probably be haunted by a rodent for not properly resolving the situation, but the thing won't stay still.

Nothing worse than rodents. Except for undead rodents.

On the subject of other animal fun, which I promised yesterday: the Coco gate is working very well, thanks for asking. It splits the house almost in two, allowing sanctuary for dog and cat alike. The cat is doing much better, says the vet. Thanks again for asking. She'd been sick a few weeks ago, but has been recovering the past two weeks. Still a little on the light side, but now you can't move around without her showing off her hungry eyes. At this point that's a very good sign. We're both tired of medicine, however.

Cats do not like riding in cars, I've learned. And they aren't shy about it. Phones, music, singing, talk radio, nothing quiets them or drowns them out. But they're cute when they poke their head out of the carrier though. That's almost worth it right there.

I spent a good hour or so with the scanner tonight, somehow suddenly behind on the Glomerata in terms of the "do it in advance" plan. I'm not really sure how that happened. I scanned the cover on Tuesday, and struggled with the first image after that for a while and then Mom arrived. So I'm no longer early. I'm not late, but I am even.

And she's making pasta as I scan more. I sat in the kitchen and chatted with her until the onion and the garlic drove me out. Delicious, but overpowering. If anyone ever genetically breeds an onion-garlic combo the U.N. weapons committee will descend upon their lab and write stinging letters of rebuke. It will not be enough, of course, but they do try. Some times. Who would this fall under? Looking at an organizational chart of the United Nations we'll just laughingly say the World Food Programme, which is presently ran by an American, Josette Sheeran. Think she's a good cook?

Interestingly enough -- no, I didn't plan this -- but the WFP deals with Auburn in a grassroots effort:
:In 2004, the WFP tasked Auburn University with heading the first student-led War on Hunger effort. Auburn founded the Committee of 19, which has not only led campus and community hunger awareness events but also developed a War on Hunger model for use on campuses across the country.
I love this one line about the Committee of 19, "The number 19 in the title is symbolic of the 19 cents per day that it takes the World Food Programme to feed a hungry child in the developing world. There are currently 22 members on the Committee of 19."

For more on the Committee of 19, err, 22, no, 19. Yes, 19, see their official site. They have some stark statistics, particularly when you read them just before a nice helping of pasta ...


... Which was delicious.

We've just been chatting away, OK, Mom's been chatting away. I've been listening. Later, I showed her the 1976 Glomerata which I'm scanning and sharing with you tonight. That would have been her freshman yearbook, had she attended Auburn.

On the surface she thinks it is cool, but is quick to point out, "I would have attended Alabama."

Perhaps, but there's no Corolla directory on this site.

Ahh, you can tell football season is almost here when you playfully disagree over college yearbooks.

Indeed, tomorrow we'll be one week out from the first game of the year. Now if it wouldn't only cool off, just a bit, so people don't die in the stands. Tomorrow will be the 10th straight day of 100plus temperatures here. I move that we move September into the middle of August, just to speed things up a smidge.

On the site: Glomerata updates return. Today we're kicking off the study of the 1976 Glomerata, which would have been my mother's freshman yearbook if she'd attended Auburn University.

As you might expect, this book is very 1970s, for good and for bad.

And all this is very late because Brighthouse, my lovely internet provider, has been battling a bum signal all evening. I could tell you about the customer service and tech support phone calls, but you know how those go. To summarize: "You have a crappy signal! Someone will be out, but I don't know when."

It took 60 minutes and three people to come to this conclusion. Could have told you that at 9 p.m., that was sort of the reason I called.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Several years back there was a very high profile road rage case one winter night here in town. One car cut off another car, the second car tailgated and followed the first car. They got off at the same exit. The woman in the front car (I believe it was) stepped out of her car at the red light on the exit ramp and stormed back to the car behind her. The woman in that car, either out of fear or anger, pulled out her gun and shot the other driver.

Everyone was stunned. Female road rage. How can that be so? I was, and remain surprised by each case. How do otherwise normal people get to this point?

Today I understood.

Apparently, just before rush hour, the city or state exercised great judgement and narrowed one stretch of interstate from three lanes to one. I caught the backup seven miles away at 4 p.m. At 5 p.m. I'd had enough and exited the interstate, having still not reached the construction after seven miles of fun. And then I caught most every red light the next 12 miles of my journey on what might be one of the most traffic light covered road this side of southeast Asia.

There was a time crunch, initially, but that was already long since forgotten. But, still, I needed to make it to the big box store and just barely made it there. By the time I arrived I'd had enough. It had taken 90 minutes to cover the distance I could normally do in 15. Waiting on the driver of the truck in the parking to come to a conclusion on the weightiest issue of modern times -- left? or right? -- I suddenly understood road rage.

I've no desire to convert my car and his truck into bumper cars, but I understand a little bit better how people do that. I'll be less shocked by it.

You have to understand: our city is big and sprawling, and all the commuting is done by car, but you go everywhere here on the interstate. Even when it is congested you can still make some progress, and the congestion lasts a few miles at most, accidents notwithstanding. On top of all that, I do the commute two hours earlier than everyone else. There's no one on the road in the morning when I'm on time, and in the afternoon the weaker members of the heard are in the rearview within about four minutes of interstate.

Today, however, is a sign that it is a good thing I didn't take a job in Atlanta or Dallas or anywhere that two hours to get down the block is met with a sort of benign resignation. I have things to do. They aren't important, usually, but they are present and they must be accomplished, lest I start twitching.

And that's where road rage comes from.

Would you please make up your mind and turn!?!?

Yeah, he took about that long.

So I had to buy a baby gate for the dog, which is more of a happy buddah baby than a dog. The gate, of course, is every bit as smart as I am, plus one. Dried wood, plastic wire and a few hinges were threatening to get the better of me. At least I didn't get a splinter.

That's just been the way of the day. A three hour meeting that kept me at the office an hour longer than normal. Informative though it was, it was a meeting, all agreed, that should have been condensed by half. He did The Thing Thou Shall Not Do, lecturing directly from his Powerpoint.

I'm convinced this was one of the Commandements on the third tablet given to Moses on Mount Sinai.

So I was ready to go home. Had to cancel an appointment, got stuck in traffic. Made tedious progress down something we used to call the Super Highway, before Information was so keen on travelling in that fashion. It is less Super now. Stellar might be overselling it. I'd go with "Bessemer Meh Highway."

Into the box store I went for the Coco gate. Self checkout was a blessed breeze. Home, finally.

And then cleaning. I composed an Ode to Dusting, but then wiped it away with the Endust. I would tell you of the joys of vacuuming, but that's one of those words I spell incorrectly half the time, and I probably shouldn't tempt fate.

Watched a third of Roy Orbison's Black and White Night. Just genius. How genius? I was listening passively while cleaning and it still transcends. I'll finish it in the next few days perhaps, also passively, but before it gets deleted I want to go back and see it again just to take it all in. This was recorded in 1988, when I knew nothing about music, but I remember seeing it previously. Now I'm seeing it again, for the first time, with awed eyes and ears.

I've been cleaning because Mom is coming for a visit. When she got here tonight we went straight out for food. We caught up and dined on chicken at a steakhouse and by the time we got back home it was almost time for sleep. The day is behind us. I'm a bit relieved. All downhill from here, and so on, as they say.

Whenever I use that expression I think of what plumbers have to say about downhill. A very metaphysical lot, plumbers.

On the site: Newspapers. Just two new ones today, but yesterday's planning ahead certainly sped up the process. I'm optimistic that I soon might get four of them a day. I know! Wild man! Anyway, start at the previous link if you're just now trying out the historic front pages of The Birmingham News. If you're up to speed join us in the mid-1930s.

And come back tomorrow, of course, to join us for a Glomerata update, animal fun (bet I'll regret that after Google gets hold of it) dinner at home and more hanging out with Mom. She's in town for visiting and business, but won't say when she's leaving. A lot of that has to do with getting all of her errands accomplished, of course, but it could go on for many days ... or until I drive her crazy, whichever comes first.

I'm guessing crazy.

Monday, August 13, 2007

You'll have to pardon me, but I've felt a bit off all day. Sluggish at work, dragging at home, I'm not sick, but probably didn't sleep well last night. It is trickling down throughout today in ways that are unusual for me.

Which is an involved way of saying I didn't do too much today. There was the slightest straightening up of home, but most of that fell under the "If I don't do it today it'll still be here tomorrow" technique of avoidance.

I rested a bit, watched the second installment of The Company, courtesy of the EvIl eye. Apparently this one character was at the heart of Berlin, Budapest and the Bay of Pigs failure. You'd think they'd pick up on that and give the next big assignment to someone else. But, there's still two more hours to go, so he'll likely be in Vietnam and then Berlin again, looking to redeem his career. Or he could be in a few more failures. That's the whole show "Haha, the CIA always messes things up. Stupid G-men."

I suppose no one ever thinks about how they'd prefer to keep their successes quiet. Almost as much as they'd like to silence those failures, from which mini series like this are born. Chris O'Donnell thanks you for the work, however.

The supporting cast, Michael Keaton and Alfred Molina in particular, are great, but I must agree with FilmStew's Shelley Gabert, last week's first installment is the stronger of the pair, and may better next week's conclusion as well.

On the subject of TiVo, maybe the one thing as good as the piece of equipment is their phone support. There's at least one company, for today at the very least, who actually makes it easy, fast and pleasant to conduct business with. I needed to chance one piece of account information, found I couldn't do it through their site and gave them a call. It rang three times, I got the usual menu options, pressed two buttons and before it could finish the first ring there was a guy on the other end of the phone.

We spoke the same language, too. Always a plus.

Quickly he verified the old and replaced it with the new. I was so impressed that I happily volunteered to take their phone survey addressing customer service. This company's been beautiful, from the ordering the box to the installation instructions and now down to updating my billing information a year later I can't think of the first complaint.

Their product is crack, of course, but otherwise I must be very pleased.

Until, that is, my EvIl eye somehow reads this and decides on melting this weekend.

Ultimately, it puts me in mind of something a customer service guy in my second job told me. "A happy customer will tell one of their friends about their experience, but an unhappy customer will tell 10 people."

I think that's flipped. We're so accustomed to shoddy service at so many turns that we have become to accept it as the norm. When you find something that makes sense, is easy to apply and ultimately beneficial to your needs, you're now stunned by it. And so here I am telling the 10 people that will read this far down the page. As Phil Hartman's Frankenstein would say, "TiVo Gooooooood."

Speaking of good I picked up J. Michael Vernon's The Greatest Player Who Never Lived. This one's been languishing in my library for a while after I picked it up at a thrift store forever ago. I thought it might be a nice buffer book, something to break up heavier reads. And after reading the psychoanalysis of Lyndon Johnson I was read for a brief respite.

And this is that. It reads quickly, even if it is in the first person. Normally that's something I avoid in books, but the subject was intriguing and the story hasn't disappointed. It is a fictional account of a law student who uncovers golfing legend Bobby Jones' records of a disciple who was forced underground amidst a murder charge.

The tragedy of the tale is, as the title says, that the guy is a terrific golfer. The book details the exploits of the character, who's golfing against the game's best in the middle of the century under assumed names. There are some really cleverly written and touching moments and there are some paint-by-numbers passages too, but it is a nice read. Where it goes, I'm not sure, but we'll find out soon. The book moves quickly, and I'll probably be through it before the end of the week.

On the site:Spent part of the evening prepping things for the site later in the week. This is becoming a more involved chore, but don't think I dislike it. I'm just trying to appreciate being in front of the task at hand for a chance. I've never been one to get things done early, so this is almost like turning a new leaf.

Yeah, I don't expect it to last long either.

Anyway, there are now three daily features on the site, with at least two more to (hopefully) follow in the near future. Meanwhile, I found a new photo feature I want to incorporate into the site, which will mean a lot of retroactive work. And that means I'll put it off for a while, fuss with it for a few weeks and subject you to laborious descriptions of what I'm doing just so you can enjoy pictures you've already seen -- or didn't care about in the first place -- in a slightly different presentation.

If you skim those portions I'll understand, but at the end of it all, the pictures should look snazzy. Just to pull a date out of the air at random we'll say that should be up by the first of October. Having not even started the project, nor possessing a grasp of how much recoding it will take, I've no idea if that's realistic or not. I'll let you know after I get started.

And, finally, I keep forgetting to mention this, but I placed second in another caption contest on Outside the Beltway.

That's it for today. Tomorrow: The week picks up steam as I'm getting company, and so more tales of cleaning. There will also be new newspapers and more adventures which we can't yet name. See you then.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

It is the middle of the night. I'm four pages off the map from nowhere. Nowhere would get turned around. Nowhere would call somewhere and ask for directions. Somewhere would have no idea, because somewhere was also in some identifiable place, when nowhere was out in the middle of nothing in the middle of the night.

I can see the Milky Way. That's the one true guidepost at this point. I'm nowhere and in the Milky Way. Everything else is as good as anyone else's guess.

Saturday night and Sunday night are the peak time to see the Perseid asteroids. The key is to get out of the city, out from under the light pollution and find somewhere that allows you to look to the east. I had no plan, but a lot of free time, so I started early, confident that I would find some place.

Getting out of the city is, of course, easy, finding a dark place outside of the city is slightly more challenging. Just as it begins to get dark enough and you find an interstate exit you find a truck stop or some ridiculous configuration of tungsten lamps. After that there's another city, and more lights.

Finally I get off on an exit I've never taken before. I run across development that, in the dark at least, looks new. My internal compass is all confused already, but there should be no town here, my mind is telling me.

I see something called Buffet City, which is at once delicious and repugnant. The imagination runs rampant. A buffet so big they incorporated. The yeast roll ran for mayor. The dessert bar handles emergencies. Kids and grandmothers run wild. The beverage stand can't police the scene. It is chaos, the national guard may have to be called out to protect the salad bar.

Buffet City, it turns out, is on the side of Tuscaloosa that I rarely visit. I finally reach an intersection I recognize. I turn left, knowing the city stops just over the hill. I grab the map -- should have done that 20 minutes ago -- and head down state road 69 to Moundville.

The largest city in North America 800 years ago, Moundville is now a historic and archeological hot spot, and a sleepy little community in western Alabama.

When I hit the main intersection I turned left again onto county road 50.

Moundville was a planned community with mounds surrounding the village or plaza. The site is spread over three hundred acres of land. None of it is down this little road, which might not have been paved since the Wallace administration. Late at night the color of the road is so washed out it blends in with the rain-starved weeds. Navigating curves on a dark and unfamiliar road takes close attention.

About 10 or 15 minutes, the pavement runs out. This is Bob's Road. Gravel and bumpy. There are no homes or churches or anything. There are only the trees and the dust. I'm now in the Talladega National Forest. Another 15 minutes down the gravel road I've found a spot where I should be able to see the meteors.

Grab the camera, flashlight and tripod and step out into a world of complete silence. There are no road noises. There is no wind. There is only the crunch of my shoes. After a short eternity I hear owls and katydids. It is the loudest insect symphony I've ever heard.

I'm playing with the camera and finally decide that this camera will be difficult, if not impossible, to shoot the type of picture I want for meteors. It is the one design shortcoming of the Canon XT. Also, I found it difficult to try and focus on the stars through the viewfinder. The night is dark enough, my eyes adjust. I put my eye to the viewfinder and then the LED readout in there ruins my vision.

Finally I give up on the camera, having taken just a few pictures that aren't worth showing. I could put some dust on the lens and shoot that and give you the same images.

But the sky, oh the sky, was much better. The asteroids leaked out of the sky, making their suicidal little run as they skipped across the atmosphere. The asteroid displays never do much for me. It is so hyped up by the time the event arrives that I always expect 15 or 20 of these things every minute. Never happens, at least when I'm watching. Singularly, however, it makes a nice show.

And that makes you sleepy. It is dark. It is warm. It is almost 3 a.m.


Figured out how to manage two movies at the dollar theater today. Grabbed a bite to eat: fried chicken, and then headed to see the big screen.

First, Live Free or Die Hard:
I'm not sure where you go with action blockbusters after this one.
Bruce Willis, as always, is great. Even if they did water this one down for the rating, there's still plenty of blowing up and action. Kevin Smith has a nice little appearance too. Sure, the story is thin, sure the F-35 isn't flying yet. Sure it isn't realistic. It isn't supposed to be. As far as summer action movies go this one transcends in terms of how things develop while devolving. Pure pyrotechnic bliss.

After that there was Rise of the Silver Surfer:
This comic book came up short. Unfortunately the Fantastics just don't translate
I like the FF, and want this series to work out well, but it just doesn't. As spinoffs go, they're going to cheat the Surfer too, but that's a risk in taking established characters to the big screen. And they cheated me on Galactus, too, but still, this is the sort of film for which the dollar theater exists. As it was, Die Hard was the better comic book type movie of the two.

Hopping week coming up. Company's coming, lots of stuff to do around the house. All of the regular features on the site should return and there'll surely be some kind of adventure to experience. Hope your new week is as promising as mine!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

I set the alarm for this morning, just so I wouldn't sleep the day away. Somewhere around 8 a.m. seemed good. I did not need the alarm because the phone woke me up.

Before the cobwebs would disappear the answering machine stepped in and took over. Dial tone. If you call someone on a weekend morning at least have the decency to leave a message?

Spent most of the morning lulling the day away. My do nothing approach of Friday was so successful and popular that the program saw an extension into today. Had a late lunch at Cracker Barrel because the chicken and rice seemed a good idea. Finished up the latest edition of the Smithsonian Magazine. A rather unevetful effort on the magazine's part, I felt. Normally there's far more to it, but this one just passed quickly with more photographs than anything, and a large spread on trout fishing.

So, in the span of a meal I learned far more about trout, breeding and importation practices than I ever thought I would need to know. There's always an education in here somewhere, though the pictorial on Elvis artists (apparently we can no longer call them Elvis impersonators) left several burning questions unanswered. The essay on Prague and revisiting Hemmingway's Cuba were both good though.

Later in the evening I found myself shopping for baby gates at the big box store. I need a baby gate, but no babies, thanks. I'm trying to figure out a way to segment the house the next time I have visitors of the pet variety. Only I forgot to measure the hall where the gate will go. No matter, because I couldn't figure out the gates anyway.

So I'm standing there in the baby section, giggling like mad and fussing with this gate. I'm doing this because I recall hearing a story that, as a toddler when other kids were learning to climb over these gates I was learning to unlatch them. And now, as an adult of the overly educated type, six pieces of wood and a few square feet of rubberized wire have me stumped.

I didn't look for a label, but it probably had something to do with the country of origin. Why, back in my day ... when parents wanted to lock kids into a room they trusted good old fashioned American ingenuity! But now this stuff is from Malaysia or someplace. Flimsy and filled with the potential to pinch little fingers!

They are highly inexpensive though, and since I'm more worried about four-legged walking rather than 10-tot-finger pinching, I'm fine with that.

I end up looking at the video cameras, where I meet a man who asks about those little web cams. Brian is a truck driver. Tattoo of a small heart on his cheek, sleeveless t-shirt and a steak in hand. He wants to tape things he sees happen in front of his cab, and thinks he can sell them. But he doesn't want to invest in a camera. We talk over the finer points of video cameras for a bit. I know a small amount, which is to say I know two or three things more than Brian does.

The problem is that you can only say the same things about frame rate, USB and focal length so many times. Finally that steak bailed me out of the conversation. After he told me about the wreck he saw that very morning he was off.

And I should get a commission for all this retail work I'm doing.

But I'm not the only guy without the cool store vest on pretending to work there. I wind up killing time playing some bad videogame on the Playstation display, where I'm a giant robot beating up some other giant robot in the next generation of post-apocalyptic distopian futuristic fighting sequences. I've learned the buttons and the hand-eye coordination is in fine form -- must be having a good night -- when a guy walks by and blurts out "Better on the 360!"

No greeting, no salutation, just the thesis of his statement. He has mistaken me for someone with an emotional or financial investment in this console. He has mistaken me for someone who would immediately fall to the ground, converted, on this stranger's opinion. He has mistaken himself for someone who would somehow benefit from my having seen the 1080i light. He made a lot of mistakes, this guy.

But then I'm the one wandering around the store trying to figure out when Wal-Mart became the happening place to go on Saturday nights. Granted, the oddly scattered and partially effective lights in the parking lot and the flattening flourescent lights inside made it look like a methodone convention, but there they all were. I just wanted to see the baby gate. And to kill some time before the meteors.

(Editor's time lapsed note: Since that technically happened on Sunday morning, you'll just have to check in for that, where I explain how I ended up down Bob's Road in the middle of some place that nowhere doesn't recognize. And then I turned left and travelled down a gravel road for 15 minutes. Come back for that one, won't you?)

Friday, August 10, 2007

The week, she's over.

And now there's nothing on the horizon. I got home today resolving to do nothing, and that's what I've done. Or, rather, that's what I would have done if I'd been awake. Took a nice long nap on the sofa, waking up around 10 just before the phone started ringing. Now I'm deep in post-nap insomnia.

No Pie Day tonight, nor this weekend at all. This is one of the few weeks in more than two-and-a-half years when there hasn't been a Pie Day on one night, at one place or another. We counted this once, I think this would put it at about seven times.

Yes, I've fallen in league with a group of people who enjoy pie just a little too much. It is a lot of fun, but can contribute to the waistline if you're not careful.

Pie Day returns next weekend, though, so that's fine. Just means I'll want it a little bit more.

Tomorrow I may do a few things, but we won't be surprised if I can't show anything for it. Sunday afternoon is looking more promising as an opportunity to straighten up a bit, get a little work and hobby type stuff accomplished. I'm enjoying this nothing so much tonight that it might carry over into Saturday, from previous experience, though, that'll be about the end of that. Halfway through Saturday night I'll start fidgeting.

That could be good timing, in fact, there are a few quality movies to see at the dollar theater and we'll see the Perseids on Saturday and Sunday night and right now I'm weighing ideal viewing locations and considering an all-nighter for Sunday's peak.

Considering all-nights. Remember when those just happened without even trying? You turned around and it was 3 or 4 in the morning. Oh. Well. May as well stay up then.

Once I could do several, three or four, in a row. Now I must think of the day after. How will I feel Monday? What will I be overlooking if I'm dragging halfway through the day? Does that mean I'll be sleeping all Monday afternoon and wide away Monday night?

Kind of like tonight. Clearly, being completely and totally wide awake with no signs of stopping just before midnight is contributing to this all-nighter talk. Sometimes I forget these things, for some unfortunate reason, aren't as easy as they once were. Staying up all week? No problem, I can still function on a high level four or five days into it.

Now, if I sleep less than four hours any given night I start to feel it the next day. I know that's still a very small amount in comparison, but there's something to be said for using all 24 hours in a day.

Yep, those were the days.

Someone will no doubt write that this is what happens as you get old, but I know I'm not old. This actually goes to the "Once you stop you'll never get that back again" theory. I knew I shouldn't have started sleeping in my mid-twenties.

On the other hand, I'm certainly not sleeping just now. Think I'll go stare at a wall or something, in the hopes of not skewing my days and nights too much. That's the Perseids' job.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

For some reason I skipped lunch today. Breakfast was yesterday's leftovers and that was filling. To a point. About six minutes after my lunch window closed -- after about 11:30 it is an exercise in patience to get parked, sat and served anywhere close by -- my mind began receiving the early signs of hunger. Hate when the body tricks me like that.

So I decided to wait it out. And around 2:30 I was ready for food. Normally I'm not a clock watcher, but when food is involved ... well, that's different. And, of course, watching the minutes roll away only makes it last longer, makes you hungrier, and so on.

It was either start off writing about being hungry or begin, again, with being hot.

It is hot. The heat index was 109 when I left the office. Hot enough that the body doesn't even notice it anymore. The internal thermometer just shuts off. "Fairly warm, thanks. Have a nice go at it" it says. When it gets back down to the upper 90s the body starts to truly feel it again.

I think my body's wired a bit odd.

The 109, as a novelty, I don't mind so much. A few more days, a week or so, perhaps two at the most, and this will be gone. What I especially don't care for is the morning time. At 6 a.m. it was 80 degrees. That's just pure base evil.

But, as we say, it is August.

There. I've started off talking about both food and the weather. All of my small talk is done.

Had a late lunch, early dinner at Zaxby's with my late Smithsonian Magazine. I suddenly found myself two issues behind, but I quickly breezed through the July edition during the trip to Indiana a few weeks ago. Now I'm trying to break even with the August issue and, you know, read it in August.

Over my chicken fingers I got the news that The Yankee had been granted an assistantship. I believe she was previously anticipating that approval in the spring, but this just fell into place. Since assistantships allow students to teach and do research while they're in school for themselves she's effectively being paid to pursue her PhD. Pretty cool stuff. Hooray for academics!

After my late lunch/early dinner I dropped off the paperwork for my account change at the YMCA. Since I didn't have the right strand of numbers with me yesterday I took home the form, found the right digits, filled out the form and put it in the car for today. A thoroughly disinterested young lady took the piece of paper, ending the 24 hour odyssey that actually took about 45 seconds.

The rest of the day I've been goofing off with my website. Spent a while physically organizing some things that will are destined to become a part of the site and then actually began building one of those sections.

It seemed to take forever, especially since I ended up going with some very easy code which I ripped off from myself anyway. Still, it was a small time sink. I expect this from my scanner, and it did not disappoint this evening, but after creating the HTML I spent a while scanning, cropping, resizing and saving individual images. Some people find this therapeutic. I find myself thinking there has to be a faster way.

But, alas. As hobbies go this one is cheap, keeps me out of trouble and occuppied a big portion of the evening.

And then I started researching what I was writing. That's the fun part. That and the making up ridiculous and fictional backstories for some of these images.

So go check them out, you'll now find a new link around the site, pointing to the Black & Whites. These are just photographs I pick up for dirt cheap at antique stores and a few that have been given or loan to me here and there. Some of them have stories, some of them are inferred and some are purely made up. Some are family snapshots and some actually hold a bit of historic merit.

There are five up just now, and I'll probably add one or two a week, regularly, until I run out of photographs and have to stock up again. The first two you'll see are me, but after that everything else that is published on the site (and now in the queue for the coming weeks) are of strangers. Should be fun.

And, on the odd chance that you'd ever like to contribute to that portion of the site, scan some old photographs of happenings big and small and send them along.

That's pretty much the day. Tomorrow is the end of my six day work week, so I'll try and get a few minutes more of rest to meet the day. So pardon me if I go read and veg out for the rest of the night.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Here's a day of somewhat frustated expectations.

By the way, it is hot, and this afternoon that didn't help.

Got home, wrote out a thank you card. This is the second time I've written this card, which adds to even further procrastination. Already a few weeks overdue, this card was written in beautiful flowing script last weekend amid a stack of other cards. And then this particular card was lost. Gone. Houdinied. Couldn't find it anywhere.

So, a whole batch of stuff that was slated to go to the post office last Saturday was held up because I'd written this one particular card -- already late -- and then promptly lost it. Emphasis on promptly. Wrote it first, started a stack on the floor, wrote three more cards and then couldn't find the first card. Since last Friday I've been looking for that card. Last night I finally called off the search and resigned myself to writing another card, hoping to recapture the thrilling magic of the genuinely touched text from the first draft.

But first I had to recovery the address for this box that was being shipped elsewhere in the mail. I had this address. It was in my Email. Now it is gone. And the last name is ... I'm just typing guesses into and finally I hit on something that seems close. I pull up that address in Google Earth, just to see if the actual physical layout seems familiar. It does. Safe bet, print that address out for shipping.

Write the first card. Gather up the handful of cards and the box and sprint to the post office.

My post office is open for an hour on Saturdays. Why they even bother, I don't understand. Also, during the week, like today, they close promptly at 3:59. As I'm opening the exterior door they're closing the blinds to the inside office. I've been trained to not even bother trying to appeal to their sense of service or duty. There's a party going on in the back of the sorting room and I haven't been invited.

So that's a bust, but there's another post office on this very same street about 10 miles away. And my next stop is also on the same street, so there's that at least.

My next stop is at the YMCA, where it isn't fun to stay, but the workouts aren't half bad. I had to change some account information with the good people at the Y. This is the errand that, I figured, should take less than 10 minutes, so naturally it would take 45. The nice lady at the front desk deciphers what I'm trying to say, reaches into a cubbyhole and pulls out a form.

"Fill out you name at the top and the bottom section," she says, smiling.

I fill it out. And realize that one strand of numbers this form is asking for is a strand of numbers I don't have with me today. I must take the form home and return with it tomorrow. It will now take longer than 45 minutes.

Now I must spring to the next post office, because I'm suddenly filled with self-doubt. Do they really stay open until 5? Is that a novel approach? Have they realized they could pay less if they open at 9 a.m. and close at 9:13?

At the post office, and turning left, because of thoughts like those, was pure agony. In my mind I can already imagine them closing up shop for the night, and this particular post office would be even less sympathetic to my problems. The first would smile apologetically, the people in this post office would sneer. Its a dog eat dog postal world.

This post office is open though. And there's not even a line.

I need four stamps for these envelopes and ship this box to this address.

"Is it going priority?"

No, that's OK, thanks.

"Well if it isn't going priority you have to supply your own tape, and after you buy your own tape and all it will cost as much as --"

Fine. Fine. Alright. Enough. Priority it is.

After sounding more sarcastic than bemused I had to make certain she got the overly sincere Have a great day! She was just trying to help me out.

And with that, my errands were done. Except for the YMCA thing. I had no desire to drive back home, get the strand of numbers and then double back to drop off this piece of paper. It'll wait until tomorrow.

Besides, I had stuff to do. Like ... watch television. I had to finish the last hour of the first installment of The Company. And there was the feel good sci-fi disaster of the week in Eureka.

Also, there were pictures to take. One of them turned into the new photograph on the front pages of the site. What do you think? I walked a fair distance to take that picture. It wouldn't have been difficult and I wouldn't even make mention of it here, except I'm fairly certain I passed through the sun's corona. Heat index at that precise moment: 106.

I think there'll be a lot more tomorrow. I'm planning on finally making good with a recurring threat around here and unleasing a new section of the site. Should be fun, but you'll have to come back to find out more.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Today was warm. August in Alabama. The heat index made 109.

On the other hand, the air conditioner still works. At home at least. The one in the car seems to have realized its age. Oh it still pushes air through, complaining only slightly, but it is slightly above cool. Still, slightly above cool is preferrable to 109, it just takes a long time to cool the passenger compartment. The house, meanwhile, a comfortable 76 all day long.

For the most part the humidity has been blessedly low. Today was the first of those days where you just don't mind the heat. Somewhere around 80 you're aware it is warm. At 85 you think about scaling back a bit. When the mercury finds 90 you proclaim it hot. At 95 you become a minimalist. From there up to about 105 is just as miserable as you can be -- short of the surface of the sun.

At around 110 or 115 the body ceases to register the problem. The oppressive heat has overloaded the central nervous system, no doubt, and you grow accustomed to your new reality: there is lava in my veins. Unless you're near the equator, or standing barefoot you just don't notice it the same way

Which is why, over about 94 degrees I'd just like a 15-degree hike, please.

Of course I spent zero time outside today, but I do believe I saw asphalt melting.

Tomorrow will be warmer.

Couldn't even take a suitable nap today, that's how productive I've been. Cleaned off the TiVo. As quickly as I brag about the EvIl eye's suggestions it loads me up almost a dozen offerings of krep en toto. There's two hours of a TNT miniseries to watch. The Company. I'm about an hour into it now and I'm still undecided. It could be bad. It could be great.

It looks like F. Scott Fitzgerald meets film noir, which I doubt was hardly representative of the early 1950s. Everything in Washington D.C. is closed off and claustrophic. Berlin still a mess, and a decade before the wall. The Russian characters live in a world with kids on see-saws, comrades laugh around open air tables and no one ever discusses the commoners, because these are the movers and shakers. Russia, we learn, is a place where summer is too short for the beautiful female lead, but where the sun is always going down with that golden shade of youth.

Apparently the forecast for D.C. in 1951 was overcast. Also, Michael Keaton is a mad genius.

I always had that idea about him.

Tomorrow, since I've been useless today, I have a huge list of things to accomplish. Today just wasn't happening. Must have gotten up in the wrong part of the sleep cycle because everything has dragged. Fortunately those days are few and far between and I'll be much more productive when we try this again. There's presents to buy, cards to deliver, bills to deal with, an hour of a miniseries to watch and more.

About these presents ... baby gifts. This is fascinating stuff, really. It has lead to several discussions about what one should put and what one should not put on a registry. If there is an etiquette for these things I'm not aware, but there should be. Stephen and Brooke did just fine with their registry, though there was a technical mishap on the online version, but people's opinions on what is acceptable and unacceptable vary wildly.

Plus, it allowed for great reactions to the question, "I need to ask your fatherly advice."

For the record, I think diapers are a great registry gift. I'm not buying them diapers, preferring to have something long term to the toddler cause, but diapers are good as an economic consideration. If it were me I'd register for nothing but diapers. Just think of how you could hold that over the kid when they were annoying and 16. "Oh yeah? Well, if it weren't for me your daddy wouldn't have had anything with which to catch your dirty work!"

All of my friends, it should be said, who will one day patronize my imaginery children never end sentences with a proposition. It is a lovely world, my imagination.

About these cards ... Saturday I wrote four cards, including one in a little box as a gift. When I got ready to put them all together I could only find three cards. I've procrastinated on sending the rest, thinking that fourth thank you card would show up, but it has performed a terrific Houdini act. So tomorrow I'll write it out again. I was amazed at the disappearance, but I'm not upset about the card as far as it goes. It isn't every day that you get to be grateful twice.

About these bills ... one bill actually. There's just an account change being made to something. I'm betting that it'll take 45 minutes, when it should take four. If it comes in under 10 I'll be pleasantly surprised. I'll take good notes to share.

On the site there are new newspapers for your examination. We're now squarely into the 1930s. The Depression, FDR is in office, public enemy number one is killed, Hitler rises to power, and America loses an icon. Four papers to go over, and you can see them here if you've been following along. Or start here, if you're behind.

Thanks for stopping by, be sure to come back tomorrow for more fun.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Oh how I long for long Mondays. The afternoon into evening part that is. The work day moved along at the normal clip, first maddeningly fast and then at the pace between medium and average. I finished Doris Kearns Goodwin's Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream. At the end she laconically noted that he died as the Great Society was killed off by Richard Nixon. Much as LBJ himself had prophesied.

Forty years from now, when they make the movie of Johnson's life -- played by Matthew Mcconaughey no doubt -- they'll write that tidy ending and people won't believe it.

There'll be no mention of the Daisy ad.

This afternoon I wrapped up The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
James Stewart, John Wayne, Lee Marvin. Great.
Occasionally you can sum up a movie in half of the space usually allowed for a review. The first time the two heavyweights met. This movie is now 45 years old, but still worth watching. Some of the internal logic doesn't hold up to the modern eye, but the comedy is terrific.

That was one of those TiVo suggestions, a feature which has lately not disappointed. The next movie on the list was The Shootist:
John Wayne's final film, too depressing to watch after his character's cancer.
I wonder how ironic John Wayne found this, having had a lung removed and convinced he'd beaten cancer. Two years later he was retired, but ill again, and died shortly thereafter. Stewart was in here, with three more movies in his storied career. There was the occasional television appearance after that, last appearing in the 90s in cartoon voice work. Also there's Ron Howard, who hadn't yet decided that his best work would be off camera.

But, as I said, the EvIl eye's suggestions have been strong lately. Over the weekend I watched a documentary on the U.S.S. Indianapolis, the heavy cruiser that delivered the first atomic bomb for use over Japan. Just after completing that machine the ship was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine and her crew compliment of 1,196 became notorious as the worst disaster in the U.S. Navy's history. Some 300 were killed in the attack, and after four days in the ocean (they were discovered purely by accident) only 316 were saved.

You're probably most familiar with the Indianapolis' demise from Jaws. The first time I saw the movie I was far too young to appreciate the story. A few years ago, having read a small bit about the Indianapolis, I saw Jaws again and it had a different impact.

I remembered, suddenly, that as a child I met one of the sailors from the Indianapolis. He was talking to a group of kids about ... something ... doing your work and staying in school probably. I'm sure it was a great presentation, but he was a little over the heads of 7-12-year-olds in the mid-80s. All I remember is hearing him discuss the floating in the water. And how he and his shipmates had enough time, and practice, to learn how to kick when the sharks came around. Through trial and error they taught themselves how to not draw the sharks' attention.

Enjoy the rest of your day kids!

The final days of the Indianapolis, and the subsequent hearings make for controversials moment in military history. For its part, the telling from Jaws is mostly in keeping with the official record, but survivors would later say that the sharks weren't the primary worry they had while bobbing in the Pacific Ocean. Exposure, insanity and salt water consumption were the big fears. To hear their account is still powerful and painful. That 316 survived is impressive, what followed for those men and their skipper was unfortunate. And there are still quite a few people that have something to say about what transpired, if you read through the ship's website. TiVo the U.S.S. Indianapolis Resurfaced the next time it comes on, it is gripping. Not bad for a TiVo suggestion.

Reading Barnhart's Southern Fried Football this evening. It is good, but is something of an historical compendium rather than answer to why we value football this way in the South. The book asks those questions and touches on the answers, but then moves on to players and dates and scores.

I may be impossible to please on the subject, but I was hoping for sociologists, wayward Southern writers and game day anecdotes both on the field and off the field. There's an explanation to be had, so that we can point to it and say to the rest of the country, "See? This is why we get all out of whack about this. We sort of understand that it is out of proportion, but by then it is August, our brains are fried in this cosmically strong heat and then it is time for football again."

This book doesn't have that. Barnhart being the author it is unquestionably great, and there are some good stories in it, it just doesn't have the thesis I'd anticipated. If you moved to the South and had the crazed experience you would understand it, perhaps, on some visceral level. After that this would be a great book to use as a primer. No one in Piscataway, N.J. is going to pick this up and think to themselves, "Oh. Now I see."

Setting the sites regionally, the book is a great nod to the storied history of game, but doesn't explain it to us other. We all know about it, get caught up in it and even understand the fervor, but we all have difficulty verbalizing it, I think.

Personally I think there's Reconstructionist, Scotch-Irish attitudes, the need for tribal recognition and psuedo combat coupled with a lack of other cultural outlets to blame. I can expound on any of these any time you'd like, but I've found that any explanation that needs to fall back to the mid- and late-19th Century for the answers might be overshooting the objective a bit.

Just three more weeks to wait, and then we'll start to find all the football answers we need.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Worked today. This morning the first in a long series of wake ups. The unrequested aspect of last weekend's three days off. It happens. Flex-scheduling is corporate kharma.

After I got to work I didn't mind so much. There are two people in the office on Sundays. It is quiet. It is more work, but generally the days are a little slower. You can think about things a bit more. But not too much: that just gets you into trouble.

The day, as all broiling three-digit August days should be, was largely uneventful. Just that waking up part. More to the point, just knowing there's five more days in a row of that.

Some days I don't mind, every day I appreciate the lack of traffic and, when the haze and timing cooperate, I get to enjoy beautiful sunrise scenes. On balance, though, waking up before the sun isn't that fun. Guess that's why they pay me.

Had lunch with LBJ at Jason's Deli. I've finished that book, all but the epilogue and the afterword, of which there is plenty. The book ends rather abruptly. Johnson announces he won't run again, there's maybe two pages given to the last days of his administration and it ends. Maybe that's how America felt in 1968. People leaning over their pot roast, wondering how long this guy was going to ramble on -- he talked about Vietnam in that speech for half an hour and there was a game or a show on that somebody wanted to see. Chopping a potato in half with the side of your fork and you see history unfolding.

Truly no one knew that was coming. Sure it was a scripted speech, but he'd had that written out before and didn't include it into a few speeches. Even he and his family weren't sure what he'd do. It isn't in this video, but just before he started this section of the speech he glanced off camera to Lady Bird. And there it was. Robert Kennedy, Hubert Humphrey and Eugene McCarthy were suddenly in the race. Soon after RFK was killed, allowing Richard Nixon to watch a huge lead evaporate to the thinnest of margins. Then there was more of Vietnam, Watergate, the general malaise and so on ... it all started over that pot roast. I read it again eating a chicken wrap.

Home for a while, watched the third Harry Potter:
What happened to Dumbledore's voice? Oh ... Why is the werewolf so CGI-tastic?
Granted I'm not peering into these movies very closely, but Michael Gambon held his own in the physical appearance. If they'd just ask him to whisper I would have likely never noticed the absence of Richard Harris. Also, I'll admit it, though it pains me so, I'm bored with Alan Rickman in this series. And finally: I really want that time traveling watch that Hermione has.

This movie was better than the second, but the first might still be my favorite. I've now invested far more time into the Harry Potter franchise than I ever imagined, but it has at least been mostly enjoyable thus far.

Of course I'll have forgotten all the players by the time I see the fourth movie, but that's magic for you.

Anyway. By evening time I was looking for something to do, which turned into a photographic expedition. Not so exotic, but considering it was about 9 p.m. and didn't stray far so these will have to do. So we'll breeze through a few pics then.

I call this one Curve in the Road.

Found this store downtown, hard to miss with all the neon. And Mr. Seymour really wants you to know his name. He's told it to you twice already.

The best neon downtown. Food's pretty good too.

This used to be a Food Giant, but they've apparently changed their business plan. Not sure how O.D. Giant is working though there's surely a market. Are there enough customers for a store that sized? Time will tell. Shame about that big green guy though. He didn't have to do it, but I guess Sprout couldn't get the intervention organized quickly enough. Ho, ho, ho.

There's lately a new addition to the local hospital. Business offices I believe. It is pretty, and I still want to see it at sunset, but you still don't want to go there for treatment. You'd go downtown for anything more than stitches if you could help it.

I made a self-portrait. Looks like I'm still growing.

Kudzu is useful for erosion, but not much else. It has a haunting beauty at night though.

And here's two pictures from the interstate. Here's eastbound. And this is westbound.

When I came off the overpass, at 10 p.m., the heat index was about 92. The rest of the week it'll feel like 105 to 110. Ahh, August.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Four years ago today I started blogging. Eleven years ago this summer I created my first web page. It was on the back of Auburn University's site, as they gave us an awful lot of server space in those days, 20 MB, and it became the place to put ramblings, pictures and portfolio type work. Not much has changed.

Except for the quality. That site, 11 years ago, was so bad and inconsequential that even The Wayback Machine wouldn't capture it.

Time flies when you're writing code.

So I figured that if I got up early today my weekend would last longer. Oh sure, sleeping until 10 sounds great, but having handled the morning chores and caught up some other household tasks by 10 is even better.

And so here is the stock of my day: I've eliminated all but one movie from the TiVo. And the EvIl eye will see me again on that subject tomorrow. I'm on the downhill side of catching up to the computer and all of the many little tasks with which I busy myself. It is my goal to catch up entirely tomorrow, get ahead on Monday and stay at that pace throughout August. I'm exausted just thinking about it, so we'll see.

I did two loads of laundry!

I enjoyed a great big barbeque sandwich for dinner, a bowl of cereal for lunch and chicken for breakfast. That may seem confusing to you, but worked out well for me, thanks. Dinner was at Pike's, where I always seem to dine alone, or there is one other booth occuppied. Granted I eat a lot of off-hour meals given to the schedules of life, but I haven't seen the place busy in forever. They've been there forever and though I don't know how they stay open I hope they're there forever.

I started a plan of attack for what will get cleaned next in the house. I'm deliberately putting off assigning a date and time to the yard. I have my reasons.

I picked out a new book from the in-home library for nighttime reading. I figure since we're only four weeks from football season I'll read one more football book. This time the always excellent Tony Barnhart's compendium Southern Fried Football. All I can tell you right now is that the cover is great and Barnhart is a fine writer, so it should be a good book. See what I've done there? I've judged the book both on cover and author. I can't go wrong.

Speaking of books, I finished reading Feinstein's A Civil War Thursday night. It was also night reading, which stretched the thing out, but in many ways I wanted the book to never end. And, now, for your reviewing pleasure, I will tell you who should read this book:
Fans of Army.
Fans of Navy.
Fans of the Army-Navy game.
People who've watched it and understood.
People who've watched the game and wonder why it is a big deal.
Football fans.
Those curious about either West Point or Annapolis.
The book had an epilogue and an afterword, clearly the author didn't want to go either. The reason he didn't want to be finished with it are the same reasons you will want it to continue as well. He's discussing students and leaders at some of our finest institutions. They'll put their lives on the line for us, and so on, but Feinstein is examining the players and individuals and people. You can cheer for a team, be proud of a mascot or color scheme, but he's taking off the helmets and introducing you to people of character whom you can't help but to cheer for.

All football, and all of sport, should be this way really, but as fans we're caught up in our localized desires. There's a great quote, as one fan summed up several years ago that thing that sports writers and sociologists have each vainly labored to explain about football in the South, "It is our way of life against theirs."

Great quote, but rubbish. Your way of life and mine aren't all that different, particularly if you celebrate the team just across the state. If you support USC or Notre Dame, perhaps, but regionally there isn't much variance between the players or the fanbase. They've played against one another all their lives and we've launched spittle at one another in Friday and Saturday arguments all of ours, but we have the same homes and churches and desires.

And this book illustrates that among the players as well. It makes it all but impossible, in an already difficult situation, to want to cheer for one of these two teams over the other. Provided, of course, that you don't have a military allegiance.

We can sum this up, oddly enough, in the case of the Navy kickers. Football is about redemption in many respects, and placekicker Ryan Bucchianeri personified that on this Naval Academy team. As a plebe he'd been both hero and villian for his successes and shortcomings on the field. By the time of this book, as a junior, he was an outcast on the team and on campus. Feinstein spends so much time with the guy, detailing the tough breaks and the innappropriate reception he gets, that you expect he'll trot on in this game of grandeur to kick the winning field goal. You want to be able to cheer for his vindication. But he never sees the field, Navy's coaches instead go with plebe kicker Tommy Vanderhorst. Heartbreaking for Bucchianeri, but to read Vanderhorst's story you can't help but to cheer for him too.

That's the way this book is, that's the way the game should always be.

Ryan Bucchianeri? He never got the chance to kick again, but he's doing just fine:
Upon his commission as a naval officer, Ryan was stationed in Japan and Saudi Arabia for military tours; most notably as the navigator of an Aegis destroyer in the North Arabian Sea for Operation Enduring Freedom. Upon completion of his military service, Ryan enrolled at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. At Harvard, he focused on international security, human rights, and political economy - receiving a Master’s Degree in Public Policy upon graduation in 2005.
Good for him.

Of course, in four weeks that's not how it will be. My guys will be in blue and the other guys will be in white and silver and purple and thereby inferior, despite their hopes and dreams and efforts. I'll likely never really know their stories and, if they don't have a breakout star, I won't even really know any of their names. I'm fine with that too. It would bring too much of a conflict into play as we cheered for our way of life over theirs.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Friday, the actual calendar day, started at the usual 4:30 this morning. Friday, the concept, began around 1:35 this afternoon. I'm still trying to figure out why that took so long, but it finally happened when I stepped outside.

Our office is fairly small, it is open and breezy and a few dozen people are around on a normal day if the sales staff aren't out on calls. Routinely you'll see us out in the halls or in the always dark conference room fielding cell phone calls about something or another. When I walked outside for one of those chats today I noticed this window down the hall.

That's one of the windows of FitzMartin, which has been in the Biscuit Building since the rennovations began. As I've mentioned here before there was once a radio station in this beautiful old building once, and I worked there for a short time. It was right across the hall from FitzMartin and I had no idea what they did in there, only that it looked cool through the door. But everything in this building is very attractive, so that didn't stand out. Now I know they're a B-2-B marketing firm. Classy website too.

They have always had things up in those windows. There will sometimes be things descending from above, or tacked onto the other side. Sometimes they're writing on the windows, figures and words and football plays will be scribbled up there, but you never see the person doing it. The cleaning crew must feel the need to flex their creative muscle. Today, though, there are books or folders or display boards for spec pieces on the inside window sill. Maybe it means they've got a big pitch coming. Hopefully it will turn out well.

After work I made a stop by the bank. They've thrown up some sudden changes inside. I'm afraid they'll hurt themselves after their re-launch and the many database issues they're overcoming. But, now there's two-inch glass over everything. Presumably it would stop a bullet. I considered asking the off duty police officer if he felt threatened by the insinuation that his presence wasn't enough protection, but didn't want to interrupt his reading.

So, now we've got the 1960s stuccoed faux ceiling with two-tone wood panel trim descending over the tellers inside the 1980s Robocop futuristy glass vibe. It is a clash of icons, loser: you, because you still have to stop and stare at it for so long. Once again, line to the door, two tellers working, and we are all compelled to make glass jokes. I'm curious about the stuff, but don't want to poke at it too much for fear that the guys watching the security tape will flag me for something.

Also, they apparently have a new optical scanner to get back inside the teller section. Last week you just walked back there. This week we're inside the third ring of the Pentagon. Makes me want to find another branch to see if they've all gone overboard.

But I can't, because I'm card shopping. There can be no details here, of course, because the birthday recipient may read the blog, but I doubt it. There's this oddly trendy place in the entertainment district where the cards are political, off color and worse. These aren't Hallmark cards, but they have something a little different for the people a little different in your life. My problem was that there's no middle ground on their selection. Everything was too overboard, implying too much familiarity between the giver and receiver. But still, it is a lot of fun going through the old photograph cards. They dig up old embarrassing prints and then inside the card write something even more humiliating loosely tied to the context of the picture. Wish I'd thought of that.

The second problem was I sat there and read through every one of them. They are entertaining and time consuming, but I needed to get back to my side of town to drop off a bill and make it home. Paying the bill was bad. Three customers, one teller and she was intent on telling the charming story of some adorable little girl that was important in some way to this business transaction and how you pay for the insurance and get the receipt. They call the girl, "Our little angel," whomever she is. Maybe she brings toner for the printer, which is all I want, a few distinctive ink markings that note that this bill was paid.

Finally a second guy wanders in from somewhere out back -- and the first teller broke off her conversation to go find him -- and takes care of customer number two. I'm number three with an exasperated bullet. My life would have been passing before my eyes if I hadn't distracted them by reading the full industry magazine sitting on the end table. During my wait I more or less skimmed a full magazine, and I read slow.

So I finally made it home to open one piece of mail and then realize it was time to leave again. Doesn't this sound more like a Monday than a Friday? But the destination was for more fun than anything a Monday can give you.

Sing along with us, won't you? I'm sure you're familiar with the words by now. If not, give it a listen and then join in on the chorus. Pie Day Theme.

Apparently the Pie Day Place is hopping at 6 in the evening. The new and confused hostesses sat us outside with Ward, first at a table too small and finally at a table the size of western Montana. I'd had the passing thought earlier in the day that we may be outside this evening, it is a nice diversion. A little less noisy, more atmospheric and, at least if you have Ward, the service still holds up. Plus, there's Christmas lights in August!

Half the table got there late because of weather, but that gave me plenty of time to goof off with the little ham that was sitting inside the big picture window. Oh that kid was adorable, and he had pretty much everybody on the patio in his hand. He had a great shirt too. Wonder if I can get one of those in Adult XL. Finally he gives us his mean face.

Taylor walked up and promptly got stung on the finger by a bee. Apparently this is her first bee sting, and so the first for her parents as well. Grandma is allergic and so that was the first concern. Ward, because he is Ward, apologizes for not having his benadryl in a bag nearby, quickly recalls that the chemical composition of pineapple juice helps reduce swelling. I think he's alternately full of it and brilliant, but there we are.

The kid gets a pineapple juice can from the kitchen and a big wad of ice. She spends the rest of the night forgetting about it and then alternately remembering that the bee sting hurts, so let's use ice, but the ice hurts too. Sometimes there is just no fair solution. I shared with her my sting-on-the-ear experience I had a few weeks ago and then made her make faces for the camera. Perhaps nothing can bother a child of the digital camera generation if you can distract them into mugging for the photographer.

See what I mean?

By the time the sun disappeared and darkness took over the pie finally arrived. Somehow the group of us managed to spend almost three hours on the patio tonight. We usually linger as long as the sleepiest among us will allow, but this one stretched out a bit because it'll be a few weeks before we all get back together.

The pie itself was big. A decisively cut piece. There was nothing questionable about the cut, it was sure and firm and very straight. I don't know why I noticed this, or felt the need to remember it and point it out, but there it is. Someone who desires action above words cut that pie. I wish someone who desired sugar over bleach and made the topping. Funny how the absence of sugar does that to the stuff. Scrape it off, though, and the lemon part retains its tart deliciousness.

Of course Ward was his usual blurry in business self.

That's it for tonight. I'm sure you've noticed the new background for the blog. What are your thoughts? I like it, but it will probably be one of those that disappears quickly. It is a sign off the interstate in Louisville, Ky. I made my mother take two trips that direction to see the sign last weekend. Once at night, but it does not light up, and then on the way to the airport for the departure flight. I thought, That'd be a great block background! Now here it is.

Elsewhere, I've promised this before, but this time I mean it: new stuff coming to the site in the next two weeks. I'm looking forward to it, and hope you do to.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

The plan was to go play golf this afternoon, but by the time I made it home I felt exhausted. So, after an eight minute nap I decided to go play golf. Good decision.

We walked nine at Frank House, where everyone thought it crazy to walk the course. It was my first time there and I didn't understand until about halfway through. Every hole is down a hill, up a hill and back down again. If you're striking the ball well you wouldn't know where it went on most of these holes.

Fortunately for me I was hitting the ball horribly bad.

Seemed like I topped everything, but as I counted later I think I hit three balls fairly well. That's far too low a percentage, even for me.

Two guys in a cart played through, and after that one of the groundskeepers was following along behind us, turning on the watering system as we finished each hole. On the fifth hole he jumped the gun, so we played the green under an artificially torrential rainstorm. I saw two rainbows, the sun came down at just the right angle to silhoutte everything. It was beautiful. It was cold. I only two putted.

Twice today I four putted. But that was the least of it, if I could have kept my shoulders in the right place I'd have likely taken 10 strokes off my soul crushing game for the day. As it was I did beat The Yankee, but only barely (she beat me last week). She made her first par on the first hole of the course, declaring it an excellent place to play and an excellent day to do it.

Later the place had us reduced to almost throwing clubs.

Lot of fun, but exhausting. We're in the 100-degree heat index days and it almost felt it today. Perhaps the humidity was a little low, and that saved us some grief, as it was, I drank three bottles of water, which is an unusually high amount for my camel-like self.

As I explained to the starter my game-within-a-game of keeping inventory on lost and found golf balls, I believe we finished even today. That, and the delicious and life-restoring Powerade is about all you can ask.

After that, a shower, because it was hot out, and a quick trip to the grocery store, where I searched in vain for a fair amount of time for one item. It is surprisingly difficult to find chicken stock these days. It is surprising because I rarely shop for it.

Later, dinner was a delicious chicken parmigiana and an episode of the second season of Boston Legal that I don't recall from the original airing. Alan Shore was helping an elderly lady and his speech was far less, but his solution and action far darker, than you would have expected. Paul Lewiston left the firm to care for his granddaughter, and I'm forced again to see how they wasted the brilliance that is Rene Auberjonois. Shirley Schmidt is confronted again by Tom Selleck's character while she represents Ed Begley Jr. in a quality guest spot. Denny Crane is, well, Denny Crane!

OK, various parts of me hurt from the hills and the lugging of the clubs and their subsequent poor usage. I'm going to retire for the evening and finish A Civil War. Don't worry, there will be a book report whether you want one or not.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Managed to miss the breaking news today. I went to work, leaving there just before the Minneapolis bridge fell, and isolated myself in the offerings from the TiVo.

And here is the biggest difference in my current position and my previous line of work. In the radio daze odds are good that I would have somehow still managed to be involved in Bridge Collapse '07, even from home. Today I didn't know about it until hours later.

Once in a while a story comes along that makes me wish I was still reporting. More and more often I find myself enjoying the removal I have from it. Sure, I'll post some code and video in the next few days about the horrible accident, but that is far more passive, even than the secondary reporting I would be doing riding a desk hundreds of miles away from the scene.

It is always the big local story that makes me long for the days of being a working journalist, but we don't have a lot of those here. Our controversies are always on low boil, stretching out for weeks or months or years and the public generally won't stay attuned to it, let alone the journalists. Summer is even worse, when even bad things don't happen in this heat. Breaking news, though, that's what journalists enjoy the most; it is immediate, honest and present.

The days of big breaking news nearby are the days I miss. This evening I can see footage of that bridge and be awed by the images. There are words to use for such a catastrophic scene in a journalistic sense, but it isn't really my job to do it just now. Sometimes breaking news doesn't trouble the inner-journalist, because the distance is good, but sometimes I still miss being involved at the margins. On days like this, slow summer days where one story will clearly captivate the media for the rest of the week, I think of that. And no matter which cap I seem to be wearing that day, spectator or non-working journalist, I'm always glad to know major media outlets are in my cell phone, just in case.

I've covered a few bridge collapse stories, so let's speculate on what is to come. No doubt this is the day when the reporting is best, before it gets speculative and accusatory. This evening's coverage of the event is the truest reporting. Within the next few days will be the speculative "Are our bridges safe?" pieces. Tomorrow there'll be a few more survival and hero tales, but then the punching bag comes out and fingers will be pointed, the part of the process that I find myself tiring of a bit these days.

I'm not overly boastful about much of anything really, but that's one thing I'm good at. Once, after reporting from a suicide-by-cop story I was told "You described the scene better than television, and they had cameras." The man that said that had been in the business longer than I'd been alive and knew what he was talking about. It was at once humbling and the finest compliment I could ever receive professionally. I've always enjoyed the breaking stuff, but since then I knew the part of the business where I excelled.

My apologies if I've bored you with that anecdote here before, but that is one of those things that comes to mind on the big breaking news days. It might be a bit morbid, but I use a critical ear for journalists on big breaking news days, just to learn and critique and wonder what I'd do.

So, six-figure sleep test subject or reporter. I'm confident I'd be good at either job.

Anyway, I finally finished watching the second Harry Potter movie, Chamber of Secrets:
Longer, too long, and not as good as the first. Branagh's terrific.
In the formatted for television version this movie is four hours long. I've watched it over the course of a couple of weeks and it still wore on me. I understand we're following a book, but a little more judicious editing might be good. Indeed, because the movie was so long the most dramatic part was the bathroom giving way to the Chamber of Secrets. Again I found the ultimately confrontation to be something of a letdown, though the 50-year-old memory as bad guy was cool. Ultimately I'm left wondering: Giant spiders and snakes? Shouldn't they have a pest control wizard?

And that's pretty much my day. I have one more Harry Potter movie to watch thanks to the EvIl eye, and I'm an episode behind in Eureka just now. I'm actually about to clean the whole thing with some preseason viewing of a few Auburn games from last year -- I only saved the good ones -- and a huge Battlestar Galactica marathon too. Whenever that happens in the next few weeks you can go ahead and assume there'll be thin blogposts. I'm guessing:
Tied to television. Stupid Cylons.
But not for a few days. Coming up soon you'll have to hear me blather on about finishing a few books, some housework (the kind with tools, always an adventure) and a handful of other things to keep us both busy.

Until then, may all of our bridges be safe, and may the numbers from Minneapolis stay low.