Kenny Smith | blog

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween. It has just been a creepy day all the way around. Our toys at the office chased Lil' Kel' all morning long.

The black skull Pez dispenser was a gift last year. The skeleton pin was a gift this year. Not pictured is a keychain funny Frankenstein, also a gift.

Yeah, we've progressed to thematically appropriate toys. Help may be needed.

Perhaps most frightening is a Weeble backing up the Pez skull.

The boxing frog was a novelty Christmas present a few years back. You press the button on his back and he starts boxing. Write with his pen and he lights up. I originally thought that he was a happy frog, but from this angle he looks terrified. Or manic. He needs to get his gloves up a bit as well.

The skeleton also lights up. Press the button on his back and his head tilts back and a blinding red LED comes on inside his mouth. He also holds both blue and black ink.

Lil' Kel' is undisturbed. Maybe we all need a little bit of what she's drinking.

Fairly normal day beyond that. That isn't enough for you? There was a lot of candy in the office. And chips and dip and crackers and cheese. There was also cupcakes. After staring at that all day we individually went home to our big bowls of kid crack. The season is upon us; much discipline is required.

Beautiful day today. Not especially fall-like, but we'll take an eternity of 72 and sunny. We'd take it with the implication that we would also be removed from the drought of a century conditions, but you take what you can get. You'd take this until you finally got around to saying, "Fine! I'm bored with 72 and"

Hints of autumn are sneaking in. The pictures never hold the scene accountable do they? You can get the angle of the sun, you can get a few trees and leaves, but you can't get the breeze and the smell and the degree of slow that comes with fall.

You see that scene and you can turn around and try and capture it forever, but, now, you've just captured a nice reddish leaf. Oh, pretty, but not the feeling of fall.

Kids are much easier. And tonight's the night. Not a lot of trick-or-treaters this year, sadly enough. Most were young, and prevented complaining about a 10-year-old maximum age limit. Most dressed up, only one or two seemed out for just the candy. Too many did not say "Thank you." So few did, in fact, that it was refreshing when they got the words out.

This was the quietest, and cutest girl of them all. She didn't know what to think of all this, dressed up in a hot outfit, having just been told to keep her hand out of the cookie jar, having recently started to learn the candy from strangers lesson, but here she was with her mom, ringing doorbells and staring into unending bowls of candy.

After a lot of encouragement she finally reached in and took one piece, a Hershey's bar. Then her mother picked her up, spun her around and you could see her bloomers, made in the same fashion as the frilly headpiece. She was adorable, didn't say a word and reinforced that a hundred teenagers could grace your yard, but she was worth staying home to see.

Most of the kids were from just around the neighborhood. Usually we have a lot of strangers. One kid from across the street startled me as I got home, and then tried again later in the afternoon. By the time the evening came he'd worn out the surprise, but he did win scariest costume of the night.

Watched an old episode of Boston Legal, one we've discussed here before, no doubt, over a delicious pork loin dinner. Straightened up a bit more, made my way through half of the laundry and have now started reading a paper on the spiral of silence for The Yankee. I'm a party animal.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I should be cleaning, but I'm pecking away at this thing. The last of the big distractions, typing words for your friends, strangers and the ultimate skimming that this will receive somewhere around the end of the year.

And, if I'm lucky, 30 or 40 years from now.

Oh, how I'll grimace at some of the things I've written by then. At least I hope. The grimace would imply maturation, of course, if not improvement in the craft of writing. Hopefully I'll still be amazed at getting a few dozen words from nothing. Or I'll chuckle at the limitation of being able to only get a few words from nothing.

So far: 108 words. What do you think, future self?

I didn't answer myself, so you needn't worry about my sanity. A future self didn't step from the shadows with a wise-cracking answer, so I suppose we can disprove the existence of time machines in our near future.

Ever wonder what the future you would say? Besides telling you to laugh off the junk food around the holidays, the later you would surely have great advice. Stocks, long shot bets, selfish wants and needs about something or someone. It'd all be very insightful once you got over the shock of it all: I have a time machine at my future disposal. Oh the scheming you'd do until some scientist at MIT invented that and an entrepreneur figured out how to get one in your price range.

Do the Cubs ever win one?

"Oh you don't want to know about the Cubs."

If he came back to tell me about the bets to make and the stocks to buy he'd certainly have a reason to stay quiet about the Cubs. You'd have to take him on his word. He looks a bit like your grandfather, after all, sounds vaguely familiar and is a bit impatient, all the classic science fiction time travel clues: the guy is legit. You'd be wise to listen up.

Ehh, my future self would probably just tell me to get back to work straightening things up around here.

We're now at 343 words on nothing. I think the future me will be proud of that accomplishment.

So not much to today, cleaned a bit, after avoiding it as much as possible. The folks are coming for a weekend of frivolity and entertainment, so the place has to look somewhat presentable. Fortunately it didn't have far to go to get to that point -- the magic elves do a good job, generally -- but there are some things that require an actual hands on effort. Clearly I need to see about getting more magic elves. I wonder if there's an Elf Union rule against that.

So on my own I did the routine cleaning of some of the floors this evening. I'm in the middle of negotiating with my clothes to either never get dirty or take care of themselves from hamper and through the cleaning process back to their ideal condition in the closet. The talks aren't going so well.

Straightened up the office a bit, pushed shoes into some out of the way hiding place. Realized I'm running out of out of the way hiding places. Vowed to make a new donation trip in the very near future.

There's also been progress in making the extra room a bit more presentable. This is problematic because I've been considering the extra rooms to which this room should be compared. The best example I can think of happens to be at the folks' house. They're the company and that's the paradox. They're going to judge this room by their extra room. My mother closed a Pier One and a Kirkland's decorating. Seriously, you should have invested a few years back, your stocks would have split in one summer.

Their extra room feels like a well-maintained bed and breakfast. My extra room is not so ornate. My extra room feels like a room that, in the absence of company, is the staging area for all the items in life that are in flux. Also it is the ironing room. And there's still no ceiling fan. See yesterday.

So there's been progress, and a bunch of words about nothing.

Oh we're all about the words today, but here are some that are actually worth something. Alabama hosts LSU this weekend and this is big doings for the Tide. We have a nice podcast on the subject. Todd predicted an Alabama win, but I notice that he qualifies it as "Well, I'm a Bama fan so I have to pick them ... " It almost sounded sad in that Eeyore "I'm about to get it handed to me" sort of way. At any rate, this game has been over-hyped to the point of ridiculousness. They should call it the Suspension Bowl for all that's happened with each team the last two weeks. Nevertheless it'll surely be a spirited contest. Tigers by 16.

Or less.

Just a few more words for you now: the newspapers are up. You can return to the 1950s with the latest two installments. If you're new to the project you can see historic front pages from a century of The Birmingham News starting here.

Tomorrow: Halloween!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Black cats walking in your path are bad luck. Walking under a ladder is bad luck. What about a black cat that walks in your path and under the ladder?

And it was there, considering that, how I'd almost already fell, how I kept dropping screws, encountering unexpected little and time-consuming problems that I stopped.

I installed a ceiling fan in the extra bedroom today. Or I tried. Approximately one-third of the way through the process -- after both fixing the ceiling fan itself and making three phone calls for advice on a truly wierd wiring configuration -- I grew worried about whether the light box would hold the 15 pound weight of the fan.

One of my phone-a-friends made me consider the way the box itself was installed. He was correct and the box has a structural flaw or two itself. I'm putting my folks in this room this weekend and giving them the "Try not to stand under the ceiling fan for too long" warning didn't seem a good idea.

We're going to revisit it later this weekend. At this point I wonder if a semi-professional should do this one, simply to absolve me of the responsibility of it landing on someone's head.

Because if a fan were to fall, that's when it'd go. The black cat and the ladder insured that.

I could tell you all the details of this, but what is there to say beyond wires, tools, paint flecks, making a mess and a ladder? You either know this special joy as something that's minutely frustrating while you complete the task and easily forgettable, or you've never tried to figure out just what, up there, could electrocute you.

So after a good long while I abandoned the fan for later, this weekend or next week perhaps. Instead I sat down, disgusted and with a little headache growing on me to watch the beginning of the football game. Dinner, a phone call, conversation and a slight headache all kept the game from really taking hold in my mind, but I decided You know what? I haven't watched any NFL all season. I'll see this one through to completion for no reason more than I want to and it looks like it could be a good finish.

This was my actual thought.

Somewhere late in the third quarter I fell asleep. After the game was off the air I woke up and wondered what the finish had been.

Turns out Brett Favre, the center of all of the night's tributes, dropped back and flicked a ball 50 yards down the field for an 82 yard touchdown in overtime.

Win some, sleep through others I suppose.

Didn't sleep through this: I got second place in another Outside the Beltway caption contest.

Andy Samberg deserves the credit for that line, though.

That's pretty much it for now. More tomorrow with the usual silliness, the newspapers and more.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

After a full day and a late night last night today is an easier day. Lunch at Jason's Deli, with a dab of ice cream on the go because there are places to go.

And the place to go is the final Birmingham showing of the Broadway touring cast of Phantom of the Opera. It was a beautiful day for it, that is to say it was gorgeous and a very large group of people chose to sit in a darkened room and listen and laugh and sing softly to ourselves.

We made it to our seats, fifth row center with the chandelier directly above us, just in time for the opening curtain. Turns out The Yankee knows one of the players. David Gaschen is an understudy for the Phantom, but today was performing the retiring opera house owner in the first act and the police chief later in the performance. We think he might have also have played a non-speaking cameo of the Phantom on the scaffolding. (At any rate, he's an extremely talented guy, you can find audio and video on his site.)

Which brings us to the set, the aspect of the opera that really makes the whole thing go. They have to adapt the performance on the touring production because each theatre will be a bit different. Overall it looks a bit different than the Broadway production, but it is still a terrific show.

Here we saw John Cudia, the only person to play both the Phantom and Jean Valjean from Les Miserables. He's really, really good.

I spent the intermission trying to fake Carlotta's soprano from Il Muto. I was laughed down.

There's a part in the second act where the music and the power of the performance is so emotionally stirring that you can feel goosebumps forming from across the hall. This emotionally charged moment is the orchestra's and the performers' alone. Andrew Lloyd Webber didn't help them out here at all. Consider the lyrics:
Too long you've wandered in winter . . .
Far from my far-reaching gaze . . .

Wildly my mind beats against you . . .

You resist . . .

Yet the soul obeys . . .

Angel of Music!
You denied me, turning from true beauty . . .
Angel of Music!
Do not shun me . . .
Come to your strange Angel . . .
Great show, but that's the most nonsensical song in the thing. Also, she's confused about whether the person she sees at the cemetery is her dead father or the Phantom. And then he shoots little fireballs from his cane at the heroic Raoul. Despite all that you get a little chill from the performance.

Singing in the clip above is not Cudia, but rather Howard McGillin -- who's portrayed the Phantom more than anyone -- and Jennifer Hope Wills as Christine. That photograph of the curtain call is also from a Broadway performance last year.

That was the bulk of the day, though. Went to the box store for shampoo, chocolate for the greedy, treat needing kids that will show up this week and similar items. Visited the grocery store for pleasurable shopping and the procurement of fruits and vegetables for the week. Unloaded the car, took my shoes off and wondered why my feet hurt.

Oh yes, the five miles yesterday.

Other than that, the perfect weekend. I'll take another, please. Right away if you can spare it.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

As advertised I slept in, until 8:30. And then I hit the snooze. Pure decadence, that.

Got up, cleaned out the car, decided to put off the other little tasks I considered completing. Watched exactly seven minutes of ESPN's Gameday. That's the first of the show I've watched this season, and it should be enough to get me through the rest of the year. I caught the very end, which was good, because I got to see Corso put the Buckeye's helmet on his head. All things are the same, even in entersportstainment. There's something comforting in that one supposes.

Brian got to the house about that time and before long we were all on the interstate and headed to Auburn. We took the new car, The Yankee brought her Sirius radio, I had the XM, Brian had his sports spreadsheet keeping track of all of the games, all we needed was someone from the Elias Sports Bureau riding shotgun, nodding his head at our plugged-in-edness of it all.

About half an hour out I got a text message from my old radio mentor, Chadd Scott. He was buying my extra ticket and we were to meet up for a few minutes before the game. His text message was basically, "Have arrived, am very disillusioned."

I had an idea what that was about, but had to find out the details in person. We got off the interstate, hit the slightest bit of traffic, parked in my top secret spot and started walking. It is so top secret that I can't even tell you. Brian had to take a blood oath to see the place and if I see any of you there next week we'll have words. Parking is finite.

So we found Chadd at this new little breakfast and bar place. Apparently there were only eggs on the menu, and the floor was designed with the 'hose it down and push it out' style of cleaning in mind. His disillusionment was with how things have changed. No one can disagree. We lamented some of the things that had closed, I didn't have the heart to mention The Grille, but did get to share the news that Momma Goldberg's is still alive and well.

Chadd was a year or two ahead of me in school and was catching up with his roommate, so we could all commiserate. Like me and everyone else beyond a certain age, they're stunned when I explain that the downtown Auburn we recall more resembles the Auburn of the 1950s than of the early 21st Century.

And the condos. Ye. Gods.

We walked by several of those developments on the way to Momma G's, where the line was out the door. The Yankee stole us a table, Brian and I patiently waited for our turn to order.

Maybe I've never explained Momma G's. There are four registers inside, each taking deli orders for a menu reduced for game day. The people are still waiting in the parking lot and almost into the road. The place is in high demand. The Yankee said a man offered her $20 for her outside table. She should have taken it.

Inside the place hasn't changed in decades, one of the few pieces of Auburn that can make that claim. In fact, a few years ago at a spring game a group of us stopped by Momma's and when I walked in the things I noticed were what hadn't changed since I'd tried it as a freshman. Same wall decorations, same slanted floor and busted up pool table. The same Dave Matthews song. That made a lot of sense in 1995, apparently the last time the jukebox was changed.

They also have nice televisions now, though no one complains about that on game day, as we watched bits of the Mississippi State, Kentucky game.

A girl standing in line in front of me was lamenting the eventual day the places closes. A sad day indeed. She said she ate here every day one year of college. I thought she was still a student. Actually, she said, she ate here every day one year, and every day at another place the next year and still another place every day in another year.

I don't know where two of those places are, so they post-date my time on the Plains. And, while I'm no old timer, her nostalgia seems a bit too early.

How she kept her figure eating at those places is also a mystery.

We decided to walk back through a few of the bookstores after lunch while The Yankee continued her search for the 87,451 friends shirt in the correct color and sleeve length. On this, her third attempt I think, she found it. Outside on the sales rack I found an awesome old faded orange hoodie for two-thirds off. That's also where we met this little cutie. While I was trying to decide whether or not to buy it the sales guy is just giving us things that he says won't sale. Now I feel as if I must buy the shirt.

I feel as if I owe him something. Despite the untold thousands of dollars I spent here buying textbooks.

So I buy the shirt. We have two bulging bags of things we don't want to carry the rest of the day. I take them back to the car. It was a good thing to do, for convenience sake. Brian and The Yankee said they'd go back to the car too, but there was no point. I know shortcuts and can be faster on my own. Time was now of the essence so we could get into the stadium and see the eagle fly. They went ahead to the stadium, I backtracked to the secret parking spot. My feet now regret the extra exercise. More on that later.

But I made it from the store, to the car and back to Jordan-Hare. Made it with 10 minutes to spare. Here's to five years of learning short cuts, just another one of those many things that you never forget. Except for when they put fences in places they clearly don't belong.

Today was a special pre-game flight because War Eagle VII, Nova, the golden eagle wasn't flying. He was taking the afternoon off because Spirit, the bald eagle was flying as a tribute to the wildlife officers' and Auburn Raptor Center's conservation efforts. The Raptor Center is one of those groups who played a significant role in helping to get the bald eagle removed from the endangered species list earlier this year.

So here's Spirit. Here's a lot of Spirit, actually. It isn't every day you see bald eagles outside of cages and it is a testament to their protectors that they're beginning to thrive again. It is amazing to me that they can get eagles to fly on command while surrounded by so much noise.

Go back and look at that one again. She looks simple majestic, even without all the symbolism.

After a big circle of the stadium she swoops towards her target. I'm probably 150 yards away from her for that photograph, which is also impressive if you think about it. Now she's 20 yards from her target and probably within 100 of our perch. Look at those talons. Such an awesome animal.

After the flight we made our way up to our seats, which seemed extra high this week considering all my extra walking. We got settled in a few minutes before the game started, introducing Brian to the family that sits around us. There's about 16 of them up there, an Auburn family within the Auburn family. Very nice people.

From the opening kickoff Auburn controlled the game. It was obvious early that someone was going to have to do something or Ole Miss' Seth Adams was going to get killed. The referee didn't give him any more help than his offensive line did against an aggressive and stubborn Auburn defense.

Brad Lester had another good day for the Tigers, finishing with 96 yards. I believe he got over 100 for the first time in his career, but had a negative play toward the end of the game. Ben Tate had a solid day gaining 74 yards on 15 carries. Lester scored the game's first points following the lead block of folk hero Carl Stewart.

Brandon Cox had another solid outing, throwing for 189 yards and a score late in the game. Rod Smith (though he turned the ball over on this play) led all receivers with 111 yards on eight catches. This was not one of them.

Quentin Groves had some big plays, but his school record sack alluded him once again. He needs one more for the record, and getting against Mississippi would have probably been a nice touch, given he's a native of the Magnolia State. He didn't get the sack, but Antonio Coleman collected two more, as he continues his team-leading totals for the season. That guy's a monster.

While The Yankee is now a veteran of the hoopla Brian was enjoying his first Auburn game. Our seats give you a great view of the game and part of the campus.

This guy, nine months old, sits behind us and is already brainwashed, a season ticket holder and witness to both good and bad Auburn football. The only thing left is to enroll the kid for classes.

What's he looking at in that picture? Perhaps the rising moon. And why not, look at it.

He was actually watching a cell phone.

Auburn pushed Ole Miss around offensively, but struggled to finish drives. The defense dominated -- the Rebels only crossed midfield three times -- but were kind enough to allow Ole Miss to score three, but were choked off after that as the Tigers wound down the clock to a 17-3 victory.

As we left the stadium the Auburn band struck a note, but Ole Miss' pep band blew From Dixie With Love.

The Auburn band stopped and Ole Miss' proud playing of those sorrowful old notes reached outside of the stadium, stretching out over the Plains, drifting over the fans walking up Thach and Roosevelt and into that storied old Pine Hill Cemetery just as it reached its enthusiastic crescendo. At least they did in our hearts.

There are a few better bands in the conference, but I do love hearing Ole Miss' group play.

On to Toomer's Corner, where Brian and The Yankee took in the scene of a more subdued effort, but littered a bit on their own. Ah, the rolling of Toomer's Corner, the only officially sanctioned littering in the free world. The city of Auburn, in response, is likely the only city with "toilet paper removal" listed in their itemized budget.

I'm bringing my folks down to next week's game and can't wait to do all these things with them.

Except for the walking. But more on that in a moment.

We ate, after a long wait, at Niffers. I asked the waitress if she'd just leave a pitcher of tea, thinking only of her and saving her many needless trips to the table. She couldn't leave a pitcher, but she did bring extra glasses. She said it was her new goal to not let those glasses fall empty. I love that in a waitress. And I tip accordingly, even if it did take about 45 minutes for the food to come out. That wasn't her fault, she was busy hydrating me. After a while she started talking smack about the tea. I was on my sixth glass and staring at a two hour drive. Also the food had just arrived. I'm told the cajun tater tots were excellent.

And then the long, sleepy drive home. And now, rest, after a perfect fall day with dear friends, the passions of thousands and delicious sandwiches.

And after walking, according to Google Maps, more than five miles on the day.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Ah sweet Friday. Distance relative of Monday, next door neighbor to Saturday, stranger to no one.

Maybe I should say this: I love the weekend for the ability to be able to sleep late. The weekdays are great too, but I walk into work far before the sun comes up. The clock change next week will help some, maybe, but that doesn't mean hearing an alarm clock at 4:30 is any fun.

Once, in what now seems a different life, I was at work at 4 a.m. How in the world did I do that for so long?

So the weekdays are just fine. They're great. They involve little sleep and, occasionally, I like to gorge on the stuff. Tomorrow morning I'm sleeping until 8:30.

This afternoon it was quickly home and quickly to the driving range where The Yankee introduced me to the local golf pro. She's been taking lessons and is about three weeks from making me look bad on the links. He wants to build a web site and she says I'd probably do it for cheap, or for free golf.

So we met. They practiced, he gave me a free bucket of balls, I picked up a quick tip from another guy that works the range and we figured that in a couple of weeks I'll have another web project to work on and the promise of a lot of free golf. So the question begins: How much free golf is a site worth? Send your input to the usual Email.

Made a new friend tonight before Pie Day. We all went to the cultural happening that is waiting in line at the Apple Store for the release of the new Mac OS. I don't run a Mac, so I had no really purpose in being there. It made the thing more enjoyable to me, as lines and trumped up enthusiasm and countdowns are generally uninteresting. Watching others stand in line, drink bad coffee, get excited about software and counting down the seconds? That's entertaining.

Why are we cheering? Is the last OS bad? I thought we all liked it? Is it possible that we've been enveloped by the coporate mantra and that's why we need to purchase this box of code right now? Shouldn't we listen a little harder when the Apple employee tries to reassure us "There's no Buy Juice in the coffee!"

Why would you need Buy Juice anyway? They closed the door at 4 p.m. for a 6 p.m. software launch. It was important enough to some of the Apple users that the store thought it a good idea to make a sign that says "No standing in line for Leopard prior to 6 a.m."

The sign was created on a PC.

So the seconds ticked down, we all cheered. The employees were cheering through the glass door. The guy at the front of the line, they said, had been there for hours. He'd heard rumors.

Leopard is apparently an improvement over the last OS that everyone was also eager to buy, but now recognizes its inherent flaws. After all it had been a few months since these people had purchased their iPhone. Leopard is such an improvement that they were also giving away free t-shirts (take that radio stations of America!) and free printers with a computer purchase. This perfect, high, holy software was surrounded in incentives and gimmicks.

This Apple store goes back into the building rather than sprawling left and right. The employees formed two lines, those purchasing just the software and the rest of us. I walked to the left, opened the web browser on the first computer in the store, fired off a Google image search and loaded the largest photograph of a leopard I could find. They needed the help publicizing the thing.

A few moments later an Apple employee, dressed as if he were from the future -- a future where they may or may not have showers -- walked over.

"Can I help you with anything?"

Yes. What do leopards eat?

"That's what wikipedia is for!"

Clearly he's from a future where they don't have the internet connected directly to their cerebral cortex. I'm thusly not interested and would like a different parallel dimension, please.

"They are opportunistic hunters."

We were each left to draw our own literary comparisons between the predator and the software.

My free Leopard shirt is an extra large. My Apple stayed in the store. Five of us walked in, the five of us left with six t-shirts, one laptop, one free printer and the experience of a cultural happening.

I'm not that impressed. With the cultural happening. Everyone raves about the software. Those that have been able to make it work so far, that is.

After that, there was Pie Day, where we added Cynthia to the list of people who've taken part in the experience. I think we're at an even two dozen now. It is possible that I'm counting low, too.

I'm sure there was more to the day -- or maybe it was slow and calm, being Friday that's probably the safest bet -- but I suppose I'm overlooking something for now.

Tomorrow's another big day on the road for a football game, so this is it for today. Come back for what will surely be more than a few pictures from a perfect day at the Loveliest Village.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The television put me to sleep again today. Got in from work, parked the new car, checked the mail, walked inside and had a snack. Turned on the television and sat down with a 30 minute documentary on the Battleship Wisconsin. Somewhere toward the end of the program I fell asleep. At some later point I must have rolled over on the sofa because I woke up facing the material of the sofa in a semi-dark and blurry room. Approximately two-and-a-half hours had passed.

Surprisingly this cuts into the number of good stories I can share. Not a lot happens when you're unconscious on the sofa for the second day of the week.

This has only served to keep me awake until well into the night. It was 11:30 before I realized going to sleep might be a good idea. It'll be later than that before it happens.

Mexican for dinner tonight. Nothing special, just the chicken enchiladas. I'm working my way through the various aspects of the menu. Earlier this week it was turkey tacos. Last night it was a shirmp and pasta thing that looked rice on steroids. Only the enhanced rice tasted like pasta. That was my snack today. Tomorrow is pie. I'm hungry already.

I've been eating a lot of fruit lately. That's been breakfast and lunch. Easy, self-contained, my hands smell of strawberries for hours. Fingernails have a little orange tint after the peels have been pulled away. My M key was sticky for the last several hours because of the orange juice.

I hadn't enjoyed any caffeine for a few days and developed a headache this afternoon. I decided to have some tea. Now I'll have to start the fast again. This one will last until dinner tomorrow. Its progressive.

Had enough time after dinner to sit and play around on the computer, doing a few things here, putting off some other things with some new video games and football. Matt Ryan, perhaps, won the Heisman Trophy tonight. I'm told the first 55 minutes or so of the game was a trainwreck, but the last two minutes were assuredly art. You can see all that in the link above.

At the following link you can see two new additions to the Black & Whites section. Start at the beginning if you like. We're still stuck in the 1940s with these two photographs, but pretty soon the pictures will stretch back even further. We'll be making fun of more than just our grandparent before you know it.

One other fun thing to make fun of is a caption contest, where I got second place as Outside the Beltway poked a little fun at Barack Obama and Ellen DeGeneres. Personally I think they picked the least funny of my submissions, but I'll take it. Obama and DeGeneres have both had a few gaffes the last few weeks of the dog and campaign variety, so the photograph at least was the obvious choice.

And, for me, the obvious choice is try for sleep or be awake until 3 a.m. No one needs that. So, until tomorrow then, when you'll hear about Pie Day and golf and all of the things that Fridays bring.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Cold. I've seen it. I've exeperienced it, remembered it, recalled with fondness the joys that it brings and with sadness that hides outside each little visible tendril of breath. I've had enough of the cold. I'd like April or May now, please. Thanks.

I received a text message from my mother this evening complaining of the weather at her home. It was 51, she was dressing in layers and shivering. I quickly consulted the handy dandy weather page that I've built -- it holds weather information for each city where I know people, just in case they wish to talk about the weather. It also has precipitation forecast maps and big national maps that often times looks like a neapolitan ice cream sandwich, but just now looks like a slurried birthday cake for someone enjoying green grass and blue sky as their primary colors. This is the national surface temperature map. Green and blue mean cold. Oh, how the browns, oranges and reds look inviting down in the Caribbean. That is the only time this combination of colors is acceptable outside of the 1970s.

So there's this text message about 51 degrees and cold. My weather page showed my current temperature was 50 degrees.

I have no sympathy!

I had sympathy, but that was the part that froze, broke off, fell to the floor and shattered when the mercury slipped past 50.8 degrees. Sympathy freezes quickly.

The weather has shifted so surprisingly and so quickly that even the house is protesting. Upstairs it is nice and warm and downstairs it is a walk-in cooler. I suppose this means more computer and less television in my future. But, after driving home in the rain, sitting on the computer for just a minute and then having a little snack I thought I'd try the TiVo. I'm not at the end of the tunnel on getting the thing emptied, but I can hear sounds coming from the other side. After finishing an installment of The War tonight I'm only about nine hours from being finished with the thing.

I believe the problem is that I've been trying to watch this at the wrong time of day, just as I'm trying to fight off a nap. The narration, the music and the pace are just the right rhythms to put me to sleep. Only you can't close your eyes and drift off to this stuff, because the photographs are the part you really need to see. Particularly of the homefront. So that's what life was like for my grandparents.

I have to keep to myself, for this week at least, what college life was like in the 1970s. I was all set to scan some more of the 1976 Glomerata tonight but my scanner is taking the evening off. Nothing can be done about that just now. I gave up because Stephen is coming over for a New Pops Debriefing. Little Melanie came into the world last night and so now there's all the amusing tales of the hospital to tell.

Later. Stephen just left, singing songs of his daughter and praise of his wife. Everyone is doing just fine and should come home tomorrow. He's already decided the kid has his hands and his nose and lots of hair. He thinks the girl has her mother's temperament. He hopes she does at least. There's no one of knowing this for sure, of course, but they have the child's first 27 years of life planned out, so a quick psychological profile isn't a problem here.

Given the over-protectiveness of first-time parents I might never get to see the child. Brooke is apparently concerned I'd take her to Vegas or, worse, Tupelo. Brooke shouldn't worry.

Oh, and dearest Melanie:
One day you'll be curious about your parents. Let me tell you about how they were when you were born. It was a cold night and, had your mother not been at the hospital she would have been at home sitting comfortably in her sweater. The cream-colored granny one. I bet she still has that thing by the time you read this. It was cold, but when your dad came to share the good news of you he was wearing shorts and a t-shirt. One of the most Southern men I know was ruined, temperature-wise, by his time in Pennsylvania.

That his internal thermostat doesn't work, or that your mother lounges in sweaters most likely meant for another generation doesn't mean much. They're good people who want the best for you. Sing those show tunes with them and make sitcom jokes for them. They'll like it.

You've got a bum deal though, kid, in the education department. Your parents have a lot of it and you're probably smart enough to breeze through most anything on the genetics alone. You and your friends are going to see incredible things in your lifetime. One of these days your parents' and your grandparents' and great-grandparents' may very possibly owe you an explanation for the way we've left everything. We're trying though. And it'll take people with your smarts to bail us all out of whatever trouble we've made.

We were talking about generational things the other day Melanie, about how everything ebbs and flows. Being fall one of the examples discussed was college football. Your father and I expect you'll see Auburn do some amazing things. (I expect we'll have you brainwashed by this weekend about school loyalties. As a child so surrounded by the South and the game you'll have no choice. Your parents, however, are discussing trading you away to gypsies for Iron Bowl tickets during this, your first season. Just thought you should know.)

Anyway, sometime in your young life you'll likely see Auburn do something that's been unthinkable since when your grandparents were kids: Auburn will take back the series against Alabama. It is possible that we'll have to explain away grown men crying some crisp autumn Saturday during your junior high years.

But that will be nothing compared to when you argue before the Supreme Court, or cure cancer, or build a new ion engine for cars on the moon. And we won't talk about what you'll build while curing cancer before the Supreme Court. We wouldn't want to be so boastful as to hurt the other kids' feelings.

They're good people, your folks. They'll make you laugh and make you roll your eyes, but they mean well. In truth, your dad wants you only to be happy and safe and to stay mostly out of trouble. So does your mother. The rest of us will try to live vicariously through you for one thing or another. Make smart decisions and laugh at the rest of us, it'll all work out.
I'm not sure how anyone sees anything in newborns, but people say that all the time. "Look, she's got your ambition!" Or "Oh, how sweet, he has your irritable bowel syndrome and irrational fear of clowns!" The hits just never stop coming after that.

Anyway, with no hippie yearbook photos to share (Quick quiz: What's funnier than hippies? Hippies eating ice cream!) I can only leave you with one extra distraction for the day. I promised an Auburn podcast yesterday and here it is. When we got through recording that one Jay and I thanked one another for staying positive about last week's game and how it fits into the season.

We had a long conversation about this sort of thing at work today too. Usually I'm left wondering how it is that those of us who never played the first down of college football are the ones that get hung up on this stuff so much. The athletes have already moved on; they have to, but they are the one with the true emotional investment.

We plunked down a few dollars for tickets, shirts and hats, and it becomes a little too real. There was a very important dialogue about this sort of thing on the Auburn blogs earlier this season when things were going bad. If you could travel back in time and tell those folks that this could grow into a 10-win team, in something of a rebuilding year, then they'd all stay positive too. Jay certainly is, so check out that podcast.

But all the positivity in the world won't keep us warm tonight. It is a little bit brrr.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

It is suddenly chilly here. Either the last bits of summer departed so gradually that no one noticed or we were cheated out of a few extra weeks of 72 and sunny. Today the sky was moody and by the evening time there was a brrrr in the breeze. Meteorological perceptions have become very confused. Tomorrow will be no better. The next several days, in fact, it won't break 70. Tomorrow it may not break 60.

We've been cheated.

Hopefully by the weekend the sun will reappear and warm the terra cota and the asphalt one last time. We aren't far away from winter anyway, having skipped the bulk of fall altogether. And, as The Yankee would say, we don't really have fall here, but rather three days that precede the traditional wet season. There's some question if we'll even get that. At 55 degrees, though, the primary question just now has to do with the disappearance of all that global warming.

For the record we're pretty close to seasonal averages.

Watched more of The War tonight, making it about halfway through the third installment. The industry and production was just immense. Everything turned to the war effort and it drove the whole economy. On some level you learn this early on when you start studying the situation, but when they start giving you the figures of the 24-hour-a-day production of nails and bullets and helmet liners they made. And then they tell you about rolling out a new bomber every 65 minutes or so from another factory the whole thing becomes staggering when you consider the bulk of a nation to turning into a war machine.

Back then the war was a very large portion of the gross domestic product. Now, as much as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan cost, they're but a fraction of the GDP. It is truly incredible, particularly when you began to imagine what we could produce today from the logistical standpoint, if we really put our collective efforts into it.

But these things always impress me. I'm the guy that goes to the grocery store and, despite a lifetime of that experience, am stunned by the variety and the number of things on the shelves. When was the last time you went to a store and they didn't have what you wanted? And if it wasn't on the shelf it would be replaced in the morning.

Consider that when you go to a country where the high-end touristy areas have stores equivalent to our gas station quickie marts. Or to even more remote areas where there's even less. Despite the overly sensitive perceptions of moral relativism by some folks there's no wonder why so many people would risk their lives to come here. They can buy Ding Dongs and angel food cakes and watch NPR and enjoy Playstation.

And then they can go to Publix for a nice evening of untroubled shopping. The world around us is pretty good. If you tune out the news cycle for a few minutes you can notice that, a few minutes more and you'll realize how good we've got it.

Except for this cold.

I appeared on Sports Tap again tonight. They called while I was on the way home from the store and asked for a last minute fill-in, so we talked about Auburn football for about three minutes. You can hear it here. Not sure why Auburn gets less time on the show than the other programs. Surely it isn't because I'm concise. If you're craving more, though, I'll have an Auburn podcast for you tomorrow.

Tonight you can also feast your eyes on a few new installments in the newspaper section. Start from the beginning or you can join the fun in progress where King George VI died, Eisenhower is elected, Stalin dies and the Rosenbergs were executed.

The early 1950s seem a bit grim in glimpses like this. Perception is funny that way.

Monday, October 22, 2007

I've been emailing with a person on E-bay today. She, we'll assume it is a she, posted a 1920s Glomerata I desired. I was watching it and preparing to bid when it disappeared. A bit too quickly, in fact. I wrote, apologizing that I'd missed it and saying that if it hadn't sold I was still interested.

That was yesterday. Today she wrote back and said that she was selling it for a third party. That the interest had been low and the lack of bidding had been disappointing so she yanked it 11 minutes before it expired. Felt like she could get a better price. I'd indicated that I would buy it at one price. She wanted twice that. After acknowledging that many people will not do business with those who pull auctions early.

And then she gives the song and dance about her own pottery sales, how E-bay has changed everything, warped the marketplace, ruined the value books and so on. She was going to go back to the third party for whom she is selling this book and ask if they would be interested in selling it in price range.

I'd informed her that I have many books of the era and the price that I'd offered was comparable to the most expensive ones of the set. She'd done some market research she said, consisting solely of looking at another comparable book and what it auctioned for. One book they'd looked up. I own half of the surrounding 20 years and, wholly, more than half of the entire collection. I've come to grips with a pretty good idea of market value.

Her later reply was that the third party would be willing to go do to a certain number. That certain number was the same number she'd previously given me, and she offered it as if it were a discount. And it was still twice what I wanted to pay. And four times over the starting price of the auction -- the auction for which interest was apparently limited.

I did not buy the book. It wasn't the price difference, it wasn't the no change in their price, it wasn't even pulling the auction early -- though the more I think of it the more troubling that becomes. Rather, it was the telling me about her, we'll assume it is a she, pottery business. Not apropos to the conversation or anything, but just a bit too whiny. If you don't want to sell on E-bay don't sell it on E-bay. People talk and all that.

While writing all of this I'm eyeing another auction. It will probably come to pass before I get down jotting down the notes of the day.

As such, the notes of the day are varied.

I'm a bit worried about the Intrepid. There seems to be a bum fuse or something. That will need looking into this week. But not today. Today's been a bit overcast and the rain will at some point stop threatening and deliver. There were a few very light sprinkles on the way to the dollar theater where I ended up watching Transformers:
No real plot, but no problem with honestly jaw-dropping visual effects.
There's a big plot hole in the movie. The transformers need an historic pair of glasses to see the coordinates of this secret power source. They find, via E-bay, the guy with the glasses. He has a picture of the glasses on the site, but they can't get the coordinates from that. They can glance at vehicles and assume their dimensions and specifications, but they can't pull what they need from a jpeg.

The only other problem I had was during the lengthy final confrontation scene. The jet fighters are screaming in and then the bad guy shows up to ruin the attack. Great! I thought, Now we've told our enemies how to defeat the F22s: Build transformers. Nice job Hollywood!

Otherwise, characters come and go and are vaguely useless. Some of the bad guy robots do a mid-movie disappearing act too. But this is a blockbuster action/comedy with giant robots. Who cares about internal logic or humans?

Had chicken fingers for dinner tonight. Sometimes you just get the craving, and that's fine because in the next day or so I'm going to have an All Fruit, All Day spread. No point in getting scurvy, especially since I don't plan on being a pirate this Halloween. The whole outfit has fallen out of fashion lately, so there's no need for the eye patches, the hooks and the peg legs. Not until next year's Talk Like a Pirate Day.

No such talking today, but there was an Alabama podcast. The Tide folks are pretty happy right now, and they should be after a big win against rival Tennessee. Listen to that crowd. And then listen to the podcast.

That's it for today, barren and scatter shot as it was. Come back tomorrow for a little more direction, perhaps adventures in grocery shopping, definitely some newspapers and maybe more.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

I thought, at one point last night that I was going to make the whole day going no farther than my driveway. Almost made it too. It was around dark thirty when I had to head out for charcoal. Today has been equally productive.

While it is poor etiquette to discuss one's dreams on a blog, I'll share this one with you. I woke up thinking I'd been on a call in talk show. I was the phone call, rather than the host or the guest. I've never called a show in my life, though I've worked behind the microphone on more than a few. But it felt natural. I was full of righteous indignation in this dream. I had all the best, cogent points. The target of my conversation was dumbstruck. In the silence, as he grasped for words to say, I heard the listening audience cheering me on. They knew I was right. In his gutteral stumbles I could hear something else; he knew I was right as well.

I have a vague impression what prompted the dream. Why I had it I've no idea. I very, very rarely remember any dreams -- probably because I don't sleep that much -- and when I do remember them they aren't that interesting. Like this one.

But I was right! And we all knew it. Problems were solved. Errors corrected. Wounds were healed. All because of a guy using a fake name and a fake hometown who fooled the phone screeners. He showed that radio guest what for!

Earlier this week I dreamt I found myself back in time. The details on how I arrived in the period or the place were never made clear to me. But there I was, in 18th Century Philadelphia, talking the finer points of constitutional ramification with James Madison, Gouverneur Morris and James Wilson.

They'd realized I knew a thing or two. Clearly I wasn't as smart as they were, but I had ideas. I could tut-tut on some suggestions, help play up some ideas and help smooth over some rough patches. I could tell them who won the first 20 Super Bowls. They respected my insight and came to ask me questions. I then realized, now that I was in 18th Century Philadelphia, that I had no business talking with these people.

So you tell me which dream was more useful.

Just taking it easy today. Doing a lot of nothing. I look to continue that trend.

Watched last week's E.R. and decided that they're writing great promos, but the show are a bit down just now. Maybe because, with few exceptions, everyone on the show likes everyone else. Maybe because all of the characters are likeable. Maybe because the major storyline is a bit recycled.

I haven't watched E.R. in several seasons, but I've seen the first offerings of this year. I'll give them one more episode, but the promo guy better pay off.

Also watched last week's Boston Legal. Yet another new attorney was introduced, we saw a few of the new characters fleshed out, while we've apparently forgotten about a few of the regulars. The storylines were full of the moral relativism of the day. I suppose the audience should feel won over, but I feel weary by it. It seems so tired and vapid somehow. Here, too, they're recycling a few jokes, one from a few seasons ago and one from last week. One, word salad, was funnier than the translating nun.

Otherwise Denny Crane and Alan Shore are still terrific together. Shirley Schmidt remains a lot of fun and the season has started out with promise. And next week, it appears they're backing off the "Boo America!" bit somewhat.

All of us that like the place will be appreciative.

That's pretty much the day. Had a big breakfast, a small dinner and I'm going to finish the feast by dining on dueling football. There's both a college and a professional game on just now, and each seems to be coming down to the wire.

I'm going to try to get to sleep under the wire, to try that starting the week of right theory once again.

I'll bet you a potato chip that I'm wide awake tonight and sleepy tomorrow afternoon.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

It is Football Saturday!

This is the first weekend of the season where I've been home, having been to Auburn for each game there and then visiting out of town last weekend. Today I've put two televisions together in the den, invited some friends and I'm settling in for a long day of fun on Football Saturday!

But first it is Mow the Lawn Saturday!

The neighbors came out and gave me encouragement. Cheering me on while happily noting that everyone in the neighborhood now has crisp, short, brown grass. I had 14 sprigs of weeds growing right by the driveway. On the side the grass had grown 1/4 of an inch. In the back things didn't look that much bigger. There were a few other longish blades of grass in the front, but I'm not sure where they've gotten off to. When the weeds stop growing you know the drought is serious.

So, there was the mowing of the lawn. I usually do this in the afternoon and evening, but this time it was late morning. The sun, the shadows and everything looks different. It is more difficult to see if you've skipped a slender row on the riding mower, or, as I now think of it, The Machine of Spinning Blades and Whirring Death.

I was sitting out there on the thing and wondering how I've been fortunate enough to not fall off the thing or otherwise hurt myself yet. It just seems so ... probable. And I was thinking this during one of the safer efforts. Didn't run over anything, didn't break anything on the lawn mower, didn't knock anything over. The weight did shift once a little too much while working on those sprigs of grass down by the driveway. The mower listed to starboard 1.5 degrees. I saw my life flash before my eyes and it was a windswept haze of grass clippings.

So, with that done it was time to go inside for a quick shower, and straightening up the command center for football viewing. Ran the vacuum, even rigged the attachments to the furniture, removed a few extra things and set the televisions to dual optical sensory pleasure. It was going to be a good day.

A beautiful day for it too. Look at that sky!

Saw that while making a few passes on the mower in the front yard. On the second pass I noticed something else, something hidden, but emerging in the center of that photograph. These are the first leaves turning. I realize I'm giving Thoreau heartburn in the afterlife, but find myself detailing the falling away of things.

We saw a sweetgum starting to let go on the golf course yesterday. Sweetgums are beautiful things, with that bright, vibrant yellow. You can rejoice in that. You could grab a handful and almost see your way at night with them. The maples will be the next to go. They're a bit more sobering, a bit more real. Already a few of the pointy little leaves have loosened their grib on the gray bark.

Now one of the Stoic Oaks is calling it a year. Given the summer's drought there will be a three day splash of color and then in a week all of that beauty will be on the ground. My ground.

There are something like 413 oaks on the property, to say nothing of the maple, three dogwoods, a hickory, a bay and a few other things that occasionally litters the ground. I love fall, but I hate cleaning up after the party.

Bringing us to football! Alabama started the day of a slate of games that matter and absolutely manhandled Tennessee. And then Florida beat Kentucky. There were other games on the extra television, most of them games from the Big 12 or the Big 10 and of little consequence. This was a day of heavy import, or, as Orson put it: Resign from your family to spend more time with the SEC.

We had pizza for lunch and the famous bratwursts for dinner. Had to make a quick trip to the store for more charcoal where I ran into Brooke and Stephen, still waiting on the any-day-now appearance of their child. Made it back to the house with charcoal in time for brats, potato salad, fruit and more football!

And then there was the Auburn, LSU game. Auburn, who went out and took command of the game early, struggled a bit in the second half, gave up the lead late, got the lead back and then gave up the game. Those kids played their hearts out against one of the best teams in the country and it came down to questionable coaching calls.

Our coach undercoached their wacky coach. He gave up excellent field position in the dying moments of the game and then sat on two timeouts while watching a national championship caliber team march down the field on their home turf and win a game they didn't really earn until the final moments. Even then they needed that little nudge to get the job done.

Give those boys this: Three weeks ago, if someone said Auburn would win two of the three upcoming road games the fans would have taken it. Didn't matter which two, they would have signed up. This has been an improbable month and, save for two separate stretches of some 30 total minutes tonight the coaches have down an outstanding job getting the players to such a remarkable level. Those guys in blue can play with anybody in the country.

Tonight, though, I hope Tommy Tuberville and the staff went into the locker room and apologized to the team. They deserve at least that. They deserve a lot more than they can take away from this game.

Elsewhere, the wireless network is repaired, and I'm happy with that -- thanks Brian! And I'm also happy with the company of wonderful friends, delicious bratwurst and great football.

But not squib kicks.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Ahh, the weekend. Et cetera, et cetera.

Assume the next four paragraphs are the traditional ode to Friday afternoons and the joy of expectation that comes with it.

It isn't that I don't feel that way, I do. I've just been too busy on the golf course to think up new ways to say the same things I say every week. I think that feeling can, today, be best described as "Fore!"

Actually I played well today. The Yankee challenged me to nine holes at one of the many beautiful local haunts. I had three bad holes, including one where everything fell apart on the green. On the first hole I pushed a ball far to the right and then topped the recovery swing. The three-wood, however, behaved very nicely today. And the one time it got off course a pine tree saved the hole.

The short game was there, except for when it wasn't. I've come to expect this as there will never be a hole where I enjoy excellent command of each club in my bag. It seems that there are parts of the technique I'm intuitive about, but can't put it all together regularly.

The Yankee, meanwhile, has been taking lessons. And I'm in trouble. She's hitting the ball about as far as I am now out of the tee box. When she puts it all together I'll have to work on my sore loser face. I held her off today only because I played a solid nine holes. OK, six holes, the other three were pretty bad.

Oddly enough, about half of the time before offering up a particularly bad shot I could feel it coming. Things just weren't working right or feeling naturally. I looked like a baseball player calling time and stepping out of the box. And then I would start the whole practice swing, practice swing, sneak up on the ball and waggle again. Then I would dribble the ball off to the right about 90 yards.

I'm sure it was all very amusing.

On the other hand no golf balls were lost. Though some were harmed in the making of this tale. I hit the three-wood well today, I'm telling you. And the eight-iron wasn't bad. The six-iron and I disagreed a bit, the pitching wedge was moody. And the 17-degree hybrid was, for the first time ever, not my friend. No problem, I switched to the 21-degree hybrid.

I even teed up a short par three for the hybrid, took a half swing and then watched it flutter and drop short of the green.

Should hit that harder next time.

And then I watched it roll onto the green.

Or maybe not.

And then I watched it roll off the back of the green.

Or maybe even less.

To watch me play golf is to demonstrate a willingness to join the bemusement.

Pie Day after that. We sat on the patio, where Ward was working the whole place. Ten tables. We ate. He brought us pie. It was badly nasty.

A few times the topping hasn't had the proper amount of sugar and it has tasted like bleach. While this begs the question of what else is in that stuff it also leaves a sore taste in your mouth. Tonight there was seemingly no sugar in the topping. And it tasted like pain. Or at least something painful. When Ward came back by we offered him a bite. He took his bit and took two steps off and then stopped, looking at the table oddly.

Wait for it, I said.

And then it hit him. Turning on his heel he removed the offending plate without word.

We settled on the pecan pie. And it was delicious and sugary. I found the missing sugar from the other pie!

And then no one cashed us out. Some 45 minutes later, after being far too amused with a balloon game we invented, the bill was finally delivered. The traditional helium balloon for singing was inflated and we were out the door.

That's pretty much been the day, along with a 10 minute stop for bratwursts and fruit for tomorrow. There's a lot of football to watch. A lot of football. And the day starts early so we'll end here for now. Happy weekend!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

We've been counting the days -- and they are beautiful days -- until the weekend for football, relaxation and football.

For the first time in I couldn't tell you how long I'm not leaving town. I'm bringing an extra television downstairs to sit alongside the big screen and there will be three or five people over for pizza, bratwurst and the finest full-contact sport we've ever invented. The good games start early, run late and it will be a beautiful thing. That's why we've been counting the days. And now the hours.

But that's getting ahead of ourselves. The mercury crept up to 84 and, while this is a massive drought, we'll take the thing as is. After a beautiful start it grew dark and ominous in the late afternoon. I'd intended to mow the lawn, but getting home at 3:30 with just about the ugliest sky you could imagine was a little much. Turned into nothing. After sprinkles on the drive home I got a breeze and an early end to daylight, but nothing more.

And a few traces of rain tonight. We could take some more. No one would mine. Rain on.

Since the sky was threatening to empty itself on the neighborhood I stayed inside. All I needed was the excuse, really. Just didn't seem like a yardwork afternoon. So I finished watching the second installment of The War, instead. Two down, five to go now and the differences in the 1940s and today are compelling.

They spent a lot of time in what I watched today on American industry and its contribution to the war effort. There was also a great piece of prose from a correspondent helping those back home understand the G.I.'s average day: the marching, carrying heavy weight, dropping to the ground every few minutes for cover, digging holes into the earth, sleeping in four inches of water and so on. Do these things for a month, the author wrote, and you'll understand why G.I.'s occasionally get out of breath. Now try to image, he says, how it feels when things get really bad.

It was a great piece of understated writing. Something subtle and overwhelming and all at once unspeakable. Even as the people back home at the time couldn't understand what was happening, even as we'll never be able to appreciate what any soldier at war will endure, they hinted at it mightily.

Less subtle, at times, was the reporting of the great Ernie Pyle. He wrote of intimate portraits of grunts, rather than the sweeping strategies of generals. He died by enemy fire, being a war correspondent is a dangerous business, but he wrote for optimistic and lonely families back home and he fought for soldiers (and got them more pay). He knew which side he was on, there's no mistaking his pronouns. If you've never read any of his work bookmark this page and spend a while (it is compelling and can be consuming) with one of the most celebrated journalists of a generation:
I love the infantry because they are the underdogs. They are the mud-rain-frost-and-wind boys. They have no comforts, and they even learn to live without the necessities. And in the end they are the guys that wars can't be won without.

I wish you could see just one of the ineradicable pictures I have in my mind today. In this particular picture I am sitting among clumps of sword-grass on a steep and rocky hillside that we have just taken. We are looking out over a vast rolling country to the rear.

There is an agony in your heart and you almost feel ashamed to look at them. They are just guys from Broadway and Main Street, but you wouldn't remember them. They are too far away now. They are too tired. Their world can never be known to you, but if you could see them just once, just for an instant, you would know that no matter how hard people work back home they are not keeping pace with these infantrymen in Tunisia.
At the most basic levels the philosophy of soldiering is unmovable, even if strategy and how young men and women are asked to fight is forever growing more highly technical. Journalistically? Feel free to make any modern comparisons you like, however you like.

Soldiers can of course do it themselves now, thanks to the many milblogs, but I'd also like to see more Ernie Pyles writing to the folks back home. There's more than a small part of me that would like to write those pieces myself. It seems a noble thing, to celebrate unglamorous yet and heroic undertakings. Sadly, today's narrative tenor is different. That's what The War shows.

Pyle is not alone. Close to us there's Michael Tomberlin, a writer with The Birmingham News who's in a National Guard unit that was called up to Afghanistan earlier this year. Because he's a journalist writing as a working artillery officer the tone is different than Pyle's roving correspondent work, but still insightful.

Football stuff:Did an Auburn podcast today where our friend Jay Coulter discussed how Auburn just might beat LSU this weekend. You can hear that here. Jay's great because he's always optimistic, but special because he can actually find the parts to be optimistic about, rather than just being an upbeat fan. He sees things in the Xs and Os that will break Auburn's way, not because he wants them to, but because they realistically can.

He picked the Florida victory, he's got a good feeling about this weekend too and that's good enough for me for now.

I'm watching the end of the Rutgers, South Florida game. There's no end to the mystery of this season, only that everyone has gotten good, and the voters have no idea how.

I asked Todd Jones about this earlier in the week during the Alabama podcast, though that portion didn't make it into the finished product. Truly there is parity, but we've been saying that for years. Has it now finally caught up? Todd thought it had something to do with the parity of coaching as well. Up-and-comers and all that.

College football has, for a long time now, been a big business, but more and more programs see it as such now. So they and the boosters are throwing more money into it. Television revenues don't hurt either. Games on every night of the week and 642 games on Saturday television help with recruiting too. These are probably all part of the reasons why 10 Top 10 teams have now been beaten by unranked squads this season.

That and the voters.

Elsewhere, I ran across this yesterday and wanted to share it:
(T)he five young men (four football players and one golfer) that comprised the homecoming court of Michgan's Lake Fenton High School got together and decided to honor their sick friend, Eli Florence, a sophomore at their high school, by announcing at the school's pep rally that the "king's court" had decided that nobody would be able to vote for them, and that they had all agreed that the homecoming king should and would be Eli.

According to the article, Eli was not at the pep rally, so he had no idea that he would be named homecoming king and nearly missed the half-time ceremony because he was receiving medical treatments. Thankfully, he was able to arrive just before the homecoming festivities began and was completely shocked when the PA announcer told the crowd that Eli would be this year's homecoming king.
Eli, a former football player, received the honor while hoping for a miracle from terminal leukemia. No matter what you will read, or what you may fear, there is goodness in our youth. Read that story.

One last thing for the site: there's another installment of the Black & Whites section. This one is from the mid-1940s, and is full of speculation. If you have no idea what this means you can start at the beginning of the Black & Whites. They're quick and harmless.

... As opposed to this post, which was a bit long, slanted and happy. I apologize for my sincerity. Come back for a little more of it tomorrow!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Staring up into a starless sky you can't be sure tonight if the wind is the autumn moving in or the summer rushing out.

I've been in Cullman this evening visiting with Kelly. It has been awhile since we met at the halfway mark for dinner and chatting. We meet at 5 p.m., so I leave directly from work, take my time making the 45 minute trip and get to the Cracker Barrel a few minutes early for extra chair rocking and old-time country music.

On the way up I noticed the first of the trees starting to let go. I stopped on the interstate and took a few photographs for you.

It won't be an overwhelmingly colorful leaf turn this year because of the drought, which has worsened in recent weeks in this part of the world. You'll at least be able to see some nice colors for two or three days. Here's some now. Some of these leaves are racing one another to see who can turn yellow first.

They never seem aware that after the color comes the long, fluttering fall to the ground. And then the stillness, until they're swept away by the wind. Leaves look so complacent in the summer, so excited for the next few weeks and then just so listless on the ground. Until it rains -- if it rains -- and then they're never the same.

I like the red ones, theirs is a passionate flare. The leaves in the middle of that photograph have already given up, the one on the left is fighting a vain battle to stick with it, and the one on the right is just starting to go. On one branch there's the whole season, and the better part of a metaphor on the cycle of things.

I tried to get artsy before Kelly got there. We have the rocking chair, the musty barrel, the newspaper boxes, the old sign ... remove any of those elements and it is a different era. Keep them all and it is a fun confusion.

Shooting from the hip.

When she got there we played checkers. She started out strong, double jumped me, put me in bad spots and then broke her concentration. I had to tell a good story to distract her, but it worked. I got a triple jump, earned the first king, and then the third and fourth. Then I moved them around like bishops and queens, finally sacrificing one for the greater good. Kelly stayed ahead of the game for some time, but I ultimately surrounded and trapped her last piece. She was stunned.

Showed her the new car, which she refused to drive to dinner. We visited All Steak again, mostly for the orange rolls. The dinner is pretty good, sitting on the elegant fourth floor of what might be one of the tallest buildings in town, looking out over the roofs of the peasantry below.

It tries to be a place of lofty standards, but at the end of the day it is a restaurant full of good, decent country people staffed by nice, quiet country people. Nothing too ostentatious. But do enjoy the orange rolls.

We had to wrap dinner up quickly, though, so our waitress could get home and make her bedtime. Nice girl, cute as could be, with the seeming appearance of looking forward to her upcoming 12th birthday. On the way out a nearby table asked me to take a picture of them. Just last weekend I asked a lady to do the same, so here's your karma from Kodak. Or Fuji, as the camera may be.

The woman then tried to palm me some money, which was silly of course. Until I realized it was silly money. Hillary Clinton on a $3 bill. The lady was dishing them out as if she'd just gotten a whole stack of them, eager to show off the joke to friends and strangers. "Here's one for your girlfriend too," she said, giving me two more by mistake. So, for two photographs we made nine fake dollars we can never use.

Stopped by the local K-Mart and Lowe's looking for violets. Or tulips. I was getting them confused. No dice, but have some Christmas ornamentation. We ended up chatting about this and that a bit more instead, she loaned me a book, gave me a big hug and then put the top on her car down and drove off into the night.

I stopped for a drink at the gas station nearby, where the woman asked if I was from around there. "No one's ever from around here,"she said, depressed from being in a brightly lit and big room all alone at 10:30 at night.

Drove home without problem, playing with the stereo and wondering at some of the buttons I haven't figured out yet.

And now, to sleep.

As soon as I figure out if it was summer or fall moving around with all of that restless energy.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Today was the day of the great insurance reckoning. Which means only that the car insurance must be paid.

I write exactly one check a month for the regular bills these days and then the quarterly insurance payment. It sticks out there. A sore thumb, this invoice, demanding a recollection of the date, the spelling of the insurance agency, numbers in the monetary fashion and then a further elaboration of the payment in detail. There is a flourish that goes on that line, the one part of check writing that is enjoyable. After that I consider it autograph practice: "Hey mister, can I have your autograph!?"


On the other monthly check I try to write clever or cute things in the "For" line, just in case a bank teller somewhere is feeling intrusive. Nosy Parker, eh? I've got something in the "For" line just for you.

If all of the above must be undertaken you may as well find some little bit of joy to derive from it. For many years, though, the act of writing a check has been painful. Not the parting of money; I've no problem separating myself from money for services rendered or products acquired, but just the writing of the check itself is a bit tedious. I blame writing $2.17 checks for Coke and a candy bar in college.

So I made it home safely and realized today was the due date of the insurance. I've stopped mailing them. They send the envelope that requires only the return address, but it also requests a stamp to work through the system. I could pay $.41 cents for the joy of the self-adhesive stamp or I could visit either of two insurance offices within eight miles of my home. The one that was closest realized, after a recent audit, that 4.4 miles away was too distant, and have recently moved. They are now 2.7 miles away. That's service.

The mileage is also accurate, I just looked it up.

At the insurance office I was made to wait a moment. "Have a seat," the lady said, but I to stand, having relaxed in the seated position for most of the day. So I stood there, doing the awkward looking around, as if to say that No, I'm not casing the place, but I similarly don't want you to think I'm disgruntled by the concept of waiting on you to finish your previous task.

This posture gives you long, studied looks of the sidewalk outside of the office. When the cement could hold my interest no more I walked over to one of the little tables with the insurance propaganda literature, where I found a nice hotel discount that can be placed at my disposal with only the number that corresponds to my insurance agent. They're saving me future money even as they take it from me presently, what a country.

I am given permission to approach the desk. I borrow a pen and go through the check writing process. The nice lady asks if my watch is a Rolex. Clearly she hasn't seen the car listed on this insurance policy. It is not a Rolex, but it puts her in mind of a story. Her son, a car dealership manager, was given a Rolex by his bosses. Her grandson wants to wear the watch, but has been told the classic parent escape "Maybe when you're older." The grandson decided that he would save his money so that he, too, could own a Rolex. Later he asked how much the Rolex cost. The father pointed to the first thing he saw, an expensive truck, and said "About as much as that."

The child is sufficiently awed, now has a 401K and is seeking money market solutions for high-risk CDs. He wants a Rolex today.

Walked next door to the Movie Gallery store. Curiously the same chain has a store mirroring the other insurance office. There is a Blockbuster within a good three-wood distance of the now closed insurance store. We are living in an abundant world. Except that, today, Movie Gallery applied for Chapter 11 protection. And you just know there's a big sale.

All the previously reviewed movies are half off. And I'm going through the $9.99 and under stacks. I find four movies, two of which I've seen and two with good reputations. For three to five bucks per disc how can you go wrong? The two I've seen: Shoot or Be Shot and Casino Royale.

Of Shoot or Be Shot I wrote:
I like these unintentionally bad comedies. Movies that were supposed to be uproarious but just don't make it there. If you like these, go rent Shoot or Be Shot. This movie is awesome for one reason: William Shatner.

Bill, as TJ Hooker and James T Kirk before that, you remain my hero.

Also the latino guy who's supposed to be the hero of the movie within the movie has some great lines.
Clearly that was before I began the dozen word movie reviews. How long ago was that? Three-plus years ago. Two days after I was accepted into graduate school.

Of Casino Royale I wrote:
Before the dozen word review I must say that I've always been take it or leave it about the James Bond franchise. It just seems that something with such staying power should have more story behind it, or maybe that's the secret. In any other role having half a dozen actors portray the lead character in different ways would not float. Here, so long as you ask for your martini and land the woman and use the gadgets you're fine. And the cars. We mustn't leave out the cars.

Those are all the ingredients for a guilty pleasure movie, so I've always approached Bond in a detached way:
I'll buy Daniel Craig. I hope they remake all the Bond classics.
It'll almost be as if I'm seeing them both again for the first time.

The two cheap movies that I picked up without having watched already: Rocky Balboa and Idiocracy. I paid $3 for Rocky. The unintentional humor, or pure cinematic genius, of the Sly Stallone commentary alone will be worth it.

History worth noting today. Kelly Ingram, of Birmingham, was the first enlisted serviceman killed in World War I. There is a park in his name and a statue in his honor on the north side of town. He died on this day in 1917.

Meanwhile Johnny "Mike" Spann from just up the road in Winfield was the first American officer killed in Afghanistan, an anniversary which will be remembered in just a few weeks.

There's more history found on the newspaper section of the site. It returns with four new additions to the collection, covering Truman's re-election, Miss America and the Korean War. The newspapers, you'll recall, are historic front pages from The Birmingham News. You can start from the beginning or you can pick up in the 1950s.

That's pretty much it for the day. Come back tomorrow for road trip tales, perhaps a few photographs and more.

Admit it: It is the "and more" part that keeps you coming back.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Back to work after a nice and extended weekend. The downside, for many, about taking that extra day is having to catch up on work.

Fortunately my workplace and my workload isn't structured like that. Also the staff is very helpful in covering one another so taking off on Friday is a worry-free proposition. Returning to work on Monday isn't bad either. I don't have a Friday to overcome, just the usual Monday to wade through.

So it begins that this week should be a nice and quiet stretch until next weekend. The Birmingham mayoral race is still somewhat up in the air and promises to come down to the wire as Larry Langford starts acting like a mayor and second place finisher Patrick Cooper tries to keep the dream alive. There's also football, and lots of it. Another big weekend of quality games coming up and both Alabama and Auburn will have high-profile rivalries.

The weather is beautiful, the office is quiet, cats and dogs continue to play separately: all is well.

Did an Alabama versus Tennessee podcast today. The Tide have played to their opponents several times this year, but so has Tennessee with one exception. Otherwise all these are pretty equal here, say the bookies. Who'll come out on top. We've no idea. You can listen to the podcast here.

Todd, incidentally, is a Bama grad and he of course thinks the Tide will win. He could be right. Or we could hear Rocky Top a lot. The rest of us are always torn about who to cheer on in this game, with a popular answer being "Stadium implosion." I'll be cheering for the bratwurst grilling on my back deck during the third quarter.

Not much else to the day, really. Spent a few minutes getting tomorrow organized, made a spaghetti dinner and tinkered with some of the weekend's photographs.

Watched two more hours of the fourth season of 24 tonight. At the conclusion of this season I'll have seen them all. Somewhere in the middle of the afternoon of chasing Turkish men around southern California I realized that during the life of this show up to this point there's now been a nuclear explosion on American soil, a biological pathogen released into the air, a political assasination attempt and now nuclear plants are in melt down mode.

If only people did what he said Jack Bauer might actually be good at his job.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

After the late night waking up was ... brisk. And briskly undertaken. There was fruit and cookies to comprise the day's breakfast of champions. There was apple pie last night. I'm told it had no sugar in it. I don't believe everything my mother tells me, but if I did -- and if I expanded the balanced diet ideal to its logical conclusion -- I've eaten healthy today. If today is actually the last three days.

I subsisted Saturday night on pork chop sandwiches, dripping corn and apple pie. My innards are sound!

So the canteloupe this morning, and the pineapple and the chocolate chip cookie were all very complimentary. They've also served to make it through the day.

Early in the afternoon we had to leave for the airport. First there was a photo shoot with Coco. I also have rolling over, sitting up, sitting still, eating and the always popular "Gimme five!"

At the airport I met a woman leaving town after her high school reunion. Her 50th. We should all be so; her face nor her eyes said 50th. I asked, out of force of habit, if it was terrible or great. As the question falls out it is obvious what the answer is. They are wonderful. They started having reunions at 30 years and gather together every half-decade to exchange grandchildren photographs.

And, now, she's heading to San Francisco for a vacation. She and her husband were both smiling. Twilight years, nothing. There are things these two must see.

These are the people for whom metal detectors and the whole TSA security nod are an inconvenience. White shirted people stand between them and a lifetime vacation. This is patently unfair, given their short sleeves, black tie ensemble.

Down by where the plane should be, but where it was not, a nice gentleman made room with his stuff to offer up the extra chair.

"If a seat is there you should be able to use it," he said.

I suppose it was the beautiful day, setting people at ease and putting them in a good mood. Even the ground crew announcement that the plane one gate over was being exchanged and those passengers would be delayed was pleasant. Even her customers weren't that perturbed. The lady was helpful, telling what she knew and was determined that the passengers knew there would be another announcement, complete with further details, in 47 seconds.

I looked at the guy that offered me the chair and thought If you have a sandwich sitting there with you I should be able to use that too.

Soon our plane arrived to whisk us away. The line formed. There was no breaking in the line. We were all trying very hard to be polite and let one another through. As a group we'd realized that we'd all get there together. If we could only just get on the plane. On the plane a teenager sat next to me, plugged in his mp3 player and sat quietly for the 45 minute flight. The drink orders were taken before we pushed away from the gate. The peanuts came out 100 miles out, the last garbage bag run was conducted by the flight attendants as the plane started its descent.

We left half-an-hour late, and arrived nine minutes behind schedule. The temperature in Birmingham was 88, so it has been beautiful weather in both places this weekend.

Stopped for Pie Day, belated though it may be. Late for the weekly event, but early during the day, which meant a different crowd, but the same helpful Ward. He sat with us twice and brought us drinks and biscuits without asking. He consulted the kitchen where a very loud man, who was serious about his meat was settling in to grill the night away.

Whenever that guy is working you want something off the grill. I had the hamburger steak which was, of course, delish.

Ward introduced us to the new manager of the place, as Ward is always compelled to introduce the Pie Day crew. He brought the pie without delay or the first suggestion. It was especially lemony.

Got home before dark. Rolled the weekend bag inside and have settled in after a long weekend with nothing to do.

Well, there's stuff to do, but none of it that has to be done.

And that's why we're here. That's why its the weekend. Best one yet.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Slept in this morning, waking up to the smell of bacon and a crease of sun that found its way through the window shade. The folks also let me sleep in -- each visit I wonder if this will be the time someone opens the door and tells me I'm sleeping the day away -- and today that lasted until about 10 a.m. Which, really, was 9 a.m. for me. A very nice luxury.

Had a late breakfast, helped straighten up the table and the kitchen a bit and then settled in for football. Alabama was playing Ole Miss in Oxford and it was a game worth watching as, once again, the Tide hang on to win by a curious last second play. Otherwise it wasn't an especially inspiring game, though the offense did look better. Granted Ole Miss has the worst defense in the league, but Bama fans will take the win.

After that we headed out to Harvest Homecoming. We'll start off with a few dusty old signs. I pointed out several last year and you can see them here. Before we get into today's sign I neglected to share this one from yesterday. OK Storage is apparently now owned by a hospital firm from Michigan. Once upon a time there was a beautiful neon sign on top of the building, but it is either gone or not visible from this part of the road.

That was across the river and in Louisville. Saw two new ones today in suburban Indiana. Both on the back of the same building. They both advertised Obelisk Baking Powder and Flour. There was a third ad, just to the right, but time has all but washed it away. Obelisk, though, was a product from the Ballard Mill in Louisville. There's a great poster at that link. It would become Ballard & Ballard and was eventually snatched up by Pillsbury in the 1950s.

I just traced the company from there, through a British firm and ultimately into either General Mills, International Multifoods or sweet oblivion. Corporate transactions and the Internet, working together for you!

We walked around at Harvest Homecoming a bit. The food is the purpose, but breakfast was filling. Besides, there's a great used book, movie and music store that wishes every day was Harvest Homecoming because they do ridiculous business. I didn't find any CDs that I needed, though it was hardly an exhaustive search. Rick, meanwhile, stocked up on the DVDs, buying a half-dozen for approximately $1.48. They have good deals there.

We bought our pins, which will set you back two bucks and allow you into some of the various events. Ours would go towards supporting the community program and watching a set of a cover band later in the night. After the pins, though, it was time for pork chop sandwiches and fresh corn on the cob. If you've read last year's post about the pork chop sandwiches and the fresh roasted, hand-dipped corn you have as reasonable understanding of the tasty bit of heaven that is sitting under a clear sky, chomping through fresh bread into an expertly grilled and seasoned piece of pork and the crispest, freshest, sweetest corn you could imagine.

So here's some pictures instead, designed to make you hungry. Here are the guys grilling the pork chops. They have wrought iron frames for flipping chops en masse, huge brushes for basting and there was even a shovel put to use I couldn't make out from my vantage point. There's another pork grilling operation going on elsewhere in the festival, but these guys have been around forever and have a prime location at one of the main entrances into the area. They told me last year they cook an actual ton of pork during the festival.

As darkness fell word began to circulate that Kentucky was not only playing well against top-ranked LSU, but they were threatening to win. We sat and listened with the pork guys on a crackly old AM radio. A half-dozen people stopped by for scoring updates as the game stretched into three overtimes.

And then. And the pork cookers, like many people, celebrated.

They were running through the streets. There was hugs and cheering and laughter. A moment later the P.A. was taking over by a second voice -- the first guy had been reading the same promos as if he were discovering works of literature. The second voice was almost sorrowful, "Your attention please, as much as it pains this Hooiser to admit, Kentucky has beaten LSU 46-37."

It was redemption for 2002's Bluegrass Miracle. It was Kentucky's biggest win since 1964 and perhaps their most important ever. We left the Wildcats celebrating. I love college football.

Walked down the street a bit to the fair portion of the festival. There's, of course, food everywhere. Those things have to be hot, steamy and smelly on the inside. The lights make your skin look wierd and after a few hours on your shift you begin to think your coworkers are starring in a Say No to Oxycontin campaign. But if you can't get enough vittles there you can always go for something a little more exotic. Elephant Ears? Why must every one of these booths look like Mountain Dew? And what are Elephant Ears? Does the oven that cook them create that atmospheric by-product? Does PETA know about all this?

Of course, after you -- or the high schooler in your life, judging by the audience on this side of things -- has crammed their face full of this stuff, it is time for the rides. We thought about it, but then we heard squeaking and that's never reassuring given the hastily erected and transitive nature of rides like these.

So, instead, I give you blurry pictures. Want to go spinning around in a big left circle? How about up and down? Those red things on the end of the light spokes are the people carriers. I love rides, and enjoy a good ferris wheel, and have an even better time on the ferris wheel on steroids, but this machine seemed a bit ridiculous. It was also only 23 feet high, which didn't seem like it would be worth the wait in line.

Saw The Rumors instead. Local cover band, playing all your parents favorite songs. And yours too. And the Beatles. And the Beach Boys (twice). They should really stay away from the Beach Boys. Nice background music though. So you're sitting there on aluminum benches watching kids dance in front of you, listening to this guy trying to sound like Bryan Wilson, looking out over the river on an absolutely gorgeous night and you think, "Yeah, I could do this regularly."

Too bad Harvest Homecoming is only one week a year. Guess that's why the folks buy extra pork chops for the freezer.

We decided to leave at the set break. There was Auburn football to watch. For once my mother would be outnumbered as I converted the Yankee a season or two ago and Rick playfully sided with me years ago just to keep me from being outnumbered. Right now I'm trying to convince them to come down for a gameday trip to Auburn in a few weeks but first we have to get through Arkansas.

More later.

Later. It is late at night, so we'll just briefly say that, after a last-second 9-7 victory these guys need to win earlier in games and to run a little more convincing offense. This is exhausting. This is exhilarating. I love college football.

Friday, October 12, 2007

See? They can get along.

And that should pretty much set the tone for this to be a picture dump entry.

Woke up this morning, finished packing, grabbed a bite to eat and headed to the airport. Made it just in time to find that the plane wasn't yet boarding.

Got on the plane, a friendly looking lady sat down next to us. I figured there would be conversation about her kids, how we're all pillars of the community and high powered people in general, but she promptly put on her sunglasses, put in her earbuds and said nothing for the duration of the flight.

I read. I've been using Decision in Philadelphia as my lunch book for a few weeks now. It lends great bigographical sketches of all of the main players and spends more time on the minor characters of the Constitutional Convention than anything else I've read so far. That's the part that's most interesting to me anyway: the characters. I've learned what they did and have a good grasp on most of what history records in how they got there, but the people are also more colorful, even than the policy and compromise.

I linked above to the latest edition which, apparently, was reprinted this year. It is good to know that I'm reading an historically valuable book worthy more copies. The version I have is 20 years old, is yellowed, smells only faintly of pulp and has worlds of quoted historians and tributes and peccadilloes of our Founding Fathers. All it needs is a bit more grit and texture, but it is excusable. While the book details the men, the details are only important to explain how we got the Constitution. That's where the grit of the book can be found.

So The Yankee and I get off the plane, a nice old guy gives us a ride on the motorized cart. I thought you had to be important or infirm, or some mixture, to get a ride, but apparently all you have to do is catch the guy's eye. He beep-beep-beeped us up the terminal and dropped us off past the metal detectors and into the waiting arms of ... no one.

My mother's invited me many times, I've visited many times, but twice she's not been at the airport. I won't take this personally; she will see to it that I'm well-fed over the long weekend.

Finally, eventually, at last they arrive. Here's your cast for the weekend: Rick, Mom, The Yankee and your humble correspondent who found the light under the atrium in the airport to be of a nice quality for photographs.

We grabbed a bite to eat at Lynn's Paradise Cafe. We've discussed Lynn's before (here and here) so I'll save you the repetitive descriptions. The store remains eclectic in the groovy and artistic way. The gift shop is ridiculous. We spent a good half-an-hour taking pictures of ourselves in silly hats, masks and glasses. None of these photographs are ever allowed to see the light of day, so no one is sure why we take them, but it does allow otherwise sane and normal people a moment to be silly, or at least let them think they're approaching hip.

Kitsch isn't hip, but it is silly.

And then our waitress sang to us. Also, she told us it was Friday so we could do whatever we wanted. Other days of the week you apparently aren't so lucky and this courtesy only went so far as the point where the check came -- very smart, this girl, but otherwise we had our way. Given that it was 3 p.m. and this was our large meal of the day I chose the omelette, thinking it would serve me well. Now I'm left wondering why omelettes are so filling in the morning, but not in the middle of the afternoon.

After that we drove down to Waterfront Park where Louisville shows itself to be one of those cities with a sense of humor.

I met a photography student there who was wondering "Why so many cameras?" She was out trying to shoot a day-in-the-life assignment for her class. I remember those days. I don't remember what I shot mine on, but I remember doing it. I suppose I could look through the archives and dig up those negatives, but it probably wasn't my best work. Also those archives would be in three different places when I got home and it isn't that important. The student chose well, shooting kids using the city's skateboard bowl for the afternoon.

She was looking for other things to do as well when we met, and she told me about the attempts to expand the interstate that parallels the Ohio River and the park. As you would expect, people that enjoy the park -- and remember the building and the cost of it -- don't want to see it go away.

Instead they're trying to organize against the interstate plans. I wouldn't have known about their organized efforts if not for a sticker plastered on one of the interstate pillars, but here's 8664. The interstate is I-64 and people against the expansion must all be waiters, given the cute URL. Odd that they're defacing both the interstate and the park with the stickers.

The park has very brave birds. The ducks were equally unswayed. That might be from brain damage caused by the toxic elements in the Ohio River, though. Or it might be an "I swim the Ohio, you don't intimidate me" vibe.

While that river is perpetually nasty, the day was beautiful. We caught the afternoon sun with just the slightest breeze. It was nice and warm even for a t-shirt and shorts in October. The sun was tilting toward the pay window and cars were busily taking people in and out of the city, all heading to errands and adventures more fun than you could imagine in your town. Visiting other places always gives you that feeling. It might be their grass, but it feels greener some how. Or bluer, in Kentucky's case.

We're standing in this nice park feeling perfectly at ease and the day should just stretch on forever. The lingering sun helps give you that feeling. Even though it started its slide away, it seems to want to stick around. None of that disappearing over the horizon while you glance away, it is as if all of the elements wish to conspire to extend the beautiful afternoon.

For reasons I can't explain this might be one of my favorite still life photographs I've ever taken. The green in the background seems to just fall away into an abyss of foreverness, the sun gives even the golden brown stalks a hint of the pink inflorescence. Maybe I like it because it is leaning toward you and the light seems to be pushing it this way or because you're never really know where the focus is; I'm not sure. The original actually shows more of the flowering, but it had to be cropped to fit the style of the page.

Once upon a time it seemed odd to do this, or see this. It probably embarrasses friends or family the first time you do it while with them in public. Now it seems so ordinary, how we suffer for pictures. Now it seems very natural. So much so that I'm not even sure what she's shooting here. I'll have to ask later.

And then we met Razz. Or Razzmatazz. Or the longer version of the name, which I didn't quite catch. It was a big name, fitting for a 160-pound Dane.

And very active, too, for the breed. Counting her owner there were five of us in that portion of the park and I was the only thing bigger than the dog.

But the sun was finally settling in for a long autumn nap and so after playing with Razz it was time to leave.

So we headed to the local comedy club because Uncle John saved us stage-side seats. And there we saw The Real John King. Sadly the Internet seems short on video of the guy, and that's cheating you, really, because the guy is good.

He was the featured act for Chad Daniels who has fantastic material, but gets bogged down by the hecklers. Or at least he did in this show. That's the reason, apparently, that Steve Martin won't do stand up any longer. Someone asked him why not he said "The 7 p.m. Friday show. Everyone just got off work, they're mad about the week and the alcohol hasn't kicked in yet."

A woman right under the comedian's feet was giving him a hard time tonight. Like the comedian cares, or cleans it up. He hit his last joke, turned to his left and thanked me for being a good sport -- we were at the suicide table -- and he wasn't seen again. Usually they wait by the door, but not this guy, not tonight. At the end of his set that woman threw her popcorn at him on stage, something he in no way deserved.

Maybe he should learn to play the harmonica. The Real John King pulled out his Special 20 and played for dollar bills. Extra money is probably the perfect way to end a set.

And it all made for a perfect day.

Tomorrow: Football! Harvest Homecoming! Football!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Last day of the week for me. Taking tomorrow off and taking a plane ride north for the weekend. So Thursday was tasked with finishing up the week -- a chore Thursday is equal to -- and accepting the most important the late afternoon and early evening of cruise control. Thursdays can also handle this, making it perhaps the most versatile of days.

Something to consider.

So today we pulled off the Auburn podcast, where Jay Coulter discusses the upcoming game against Arkansas. Should be a dandy. You'll find the podcast here.

Jay and Todd have been helping doing these podcasts all season and they get a little bit better each week. They are a lot of fun to do, they're both nice guys and they both know their stuff. Maybe if they're each at the Iron Bowl I'll buy them a cup of coffee. Todd would no doubt be wearing an Alabama shirt, which would surely cause headaches for people studying the scene. Headaches, that is, if it doesn't shift the polar axis. Civility before the Iron Bowl? Is this possible? Let you know in six weeks.

One election note from earlier in the week. The always excellent Birmingham Terminal by Andre Natta points out there was a bit of history in the Tuesday vote. Elsewhere the Birmingham mayoral race has yet to be formally resolved.

Golfing this afternoon. The Yankee and I played nine holes. Since the course owed me three holes from my last trip I got back two of those today. Meanwhile I played what might have been the single worst round I've ever participated in. Generally I don't care the outcome of any particular swing in golf; it is the one, single place where I'm not annoyingly competitive, but this afternoon had a few frustrating spots. Not sure why though.

At one point I played two or three holes with nothing but an iron. I'd shorten up the swing to get on the green and then hood the club face and putt without going back to the bag. Oddly my score was about the same as it ever is. So when I play well, when I play poorly, it changes nothing. Golf is an odd game. When you get out of your own way you can do a few things. When you get in the way you things badly. Then you get angry with it, forget about getting in the way and do something seemingly miraculous. At the end of the day your game gets down or comes back to your averages.

It brought about the moment of the day, though, when I looked up on the seventh or eighth hole and I saw this. It was just quiet enough and just bright enough that the view somehow brought the week to an end.

Sometimes you get a feeling of complete and snug comfort and then the breeze will blow just so and primal parts of your brain turn on with a few extra endorphins to let you know that, now, the weekend can begin. It also allowed what had otherwise been a fairly unpleasant golf experience to turn itself around.

That's why I like golf, why I'm not terribly competitive about it. Those moments away from the game are why I go out there.

The occasions where the course monster comes up and eats the ball -- I mean I hit it right there so where is!?!? -- are what I dislike. It always works out that I get the better part of the deal.

Brooke and Stephen stopped by for baby gifts this evening. There's been a great negligence on my part at delivering the gifts. Between this, that and the other thing Stephen and I both manage to be busy at simultaneous times so they've been sitting here waiting for delivery. Since the baby is almost here -- just a few more days the doctor says -- they'd probably like the bottle inserts and the crib sheets and whatnot.

The obvious joke there being don't call me when you start feeding the baby with these bottles at 2:30 in the morning. Stephen said he'd try not to. Previously he'd been under the assumption that he'd be allowed to sleep the night through. Sounds like everyone's on the same page now about those pre-dawn feedings.

They visited for an hour or so, where we discussed babies, of course, but also professors, football, lawyering and Mitch Hedberg of all people. I sometimes find myself doing a bad impersonation of Mitch and it invariably leads to someone saying "I miss that guy."

Speaking of links: Did you know that Darth Vader has the blues? Give that clip a few seconds, it grows on you. The editing has a certain hokey charm that's easily dismissed, but ultimately you realize that it has to be this way. And, at the risk of following into the youtube trap -- does the internet have a clever name for that yet? -- here's Darth being a juvenile jerk. This one's only 46 seconds, but the last nine seconds are worth the first 37.

There are mountains of Star Wars parody clips of course, they're really nothing new, having existed long before youtube, but we have other things to get through today as well.

If you like maps, or religion, or the religion of maps, this one's for you. Most probably if you've ever wanted to see a 60 second global representation of the major surviving religions of the world in a flash format -- and I know you do, you party animal -- this map's for you.

If you like statistical maps about doctors, then you're riding high today as well. Unless you're sitting in a waiting room hoping for a doctor. If that's the case, may you heal quickly.

And, finally, how about some six word stories? I occasionally do 12 word movie reviews, so this is right down my alley. We'll try an easy and obvious one now.

"Sleeping late on a busy weekend."

Hope yours is as good as that. Come by over the weekend for many photographs!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

There was a story today about the voting problems in some of the precincts yesterday. They seemed to be largely in the Crestwood area, which is apparently Patrick Cooper's voting base. So he's looking for some help there, in the provisionals and in the absentee ballots to force a runoff. Should be interesting, and don't expect a resolution by the end of the day.

That's all of the election talk for the day.

There is some other work talk though: did an Alabama podcast today. Todd Jones was a hard guy to catch this week, but after many phone calls and Emails we finally got our collective acts together to analyze another week of Alabama football. The consensus opinion is that it'll be another close game for the Tide. You can find the podcast here.

What else, what else. Wrote some letters, goofed off around the house, started doing laundry for a weekend trip. Got stood up by Stephen. He was supposed to stop by to pick up a baby gift, but these things are allowable when the wife is full-term. They'll be by tomorrow no doubt. Presents are difficult to resist.

I got two self-gifts today. Recently I ordered a few more of the CDs as a part of the Replace the Stolens World Tour. Got 10 discs for just a few bucks and over the last two days the last two have turned up in the mail. One of them came from Brazil, prompting another "I love the Internet" moment.

The CDs are both from Def Leppard, one being their greatest hits, Vault. I believe I've owned this in both cassette and disc format. By myself I'm keeping those guys fed.

The other is a tribute album, Yeah! , the band released last year. All of the tracks are glam rock covers. I'm buying it having heard exactly 30 seconds of one song, which was enough to convince me that at least two or three have to be good.

That's really it for the day. Seems there should be more, but it has been rather full. It was a beautiful day, with more tomorrow and a long weekend on the horizon. Put it all together and it makes another fine day in another fine week. More expected tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Election Day in Birmingham -- and a few other smaller towns around the state, but the big show is in the Magic City. The big race was for the mayor's office, where fully half the population was running for the job. Or at least 10 people. A few years back more than a dozen were campaigning, but ultimately it always comes down to a few serious contenders.

This year the polls point to longtime political player Larry Langford and newcomer Patrick Cooper. Langford is serving as a county commissioner, has been the mayor of one of the suburbs and ran for Birmingham's top office in the 1970s. Cooper, an attorney, is the fresh face, running that way and is getting a great deal of traction as many in the city are displeased with the incumbent, Bernard Kincaid. He's polling at around eight percent.

With so many candidates -- city councilors, other elected officials and a few vanity candidates -- a runoff is expected. That'd be later in the month and more great local theater.

Later. The polls seem accurate. A lot of folks seemed to doubt the validity of the latest numbers, but Larry Powell at UAB knows his business. He was my graduate advisor and I have a great respect for anything he says when it comes to politics or polls, they don't come much more talented.

Powell's research had Langford and Cooper in a runoff and as the final ballots are being counted it looks like his numbers are very, very close if not completely accurate. For example: Powell had Kincaid running at about eight or nine percent. Kincaid, and apparently some of the journalists in town, doubted those numbers but that's just where his vote totals sit.

Kincaid was just on television dancing at his campaign headquarters. That's one of the problems voters seem to have with the guy. That and the crime. A few weeks ago Kincaid, already aloof in the best of times, said that the crime rates in Birmingham were a matter of perception. It was at that moment when the second-term mayor lost his chance at a third administration.

Birmingham then went out and voted for Cooper and Langford, who's still under the microscope of federal investigators for government and personal dealings.

Later still: I love poll numbers and campaign watch parties, even on off election years. The reporters generally handle themselves very well and the candidates say all the things they must say, in victory and defeat. But the people standing behind the reporter and the candidate have a lot to say. There's always something very telling in the eyes of the people in the background.

At the end of the night it appears that Langford has narrowly avoided a runoff. Expect Cooper, ever the attorney, to keep the race alive with recounts, talk of voting problems at some of the precincts and provisional ballots. That'll be the bulk of the rest of the week.

For now, it seems to be Larry, who's campaign slogan was "Let's Do Something."


Monday, October 8, 2007

Ah, Columbus Day. That most underappreciated of holidays. There are no displays, no cards, no gifts. There's no slavery, vain searches for gold or smallpox either, so we'll call it even.

So we have this guy way back when, who convinced some people who sat in big chairs that he could find a way to China and, hence, good Chinese food. They said go, Columbus packed and stood in the bow of his boat for months before, accidentally, landing in the Caribbean. And this, kids, is why we call them the Americas.

Amerigo Vespucci clearly had the better publicist.

Had to work today -- and a beautiful day it has been. We get a set number of floating holidays from our very generous employer. We get to choose two of those floating holidays each year to celebrate our ties to things and their relative importance to me. I generally ignore the early ones because Columbus and I, well, we would have been friendly.

The conversation would have been adversarial, diverging personalities and all, and difficult to understand because of the language barrier and an honest 500 years of grammatical evolution, but we might have stopped for a sandwich somewhere sometime. He would say he "discovered" french fries, and I'd try to explain it, but there's just no convincing that guy.

Anyway, I normally take off for Columbus Day and the later Veterans Day -- as I do appreciate the Veterans -- but the day snuck up on me this year. Me and the indigenous Americans. Sneaky guy, that Christopher. So everyone thought to ask off for the day except for me. There was one sales guy, one of the artists, an intern, a sports guy, the entertainment guy and me, the news guy. It was a quiet office.

And that was pretty much the day. Worked, came home, thought about watching a little television, turned on the Ken Burns documentary but kept nodding off. It isn't enough to close your eyes and listen to the story, because the photographs are the real information. Oh, the things you can learn in the incidental background of a 60-year-old photograph.

That print could almost retire, but there it is, still on television and gamely giving up all of its secrets. Very workmanlike, these photographs.

Got some new CDs today as the Replace the Stolens World Tour continues. Actually one arrived Saturday, but I didn't mention it. Some people would be upset if I didn't discuss these things, so I will add it here now.

And, please, no jokes. There are a few good bluegrassy, folksy tunes on there worth the CD alone. And considering I paid about four bucks for it, that's a value. Also, I love the enterprising sellers on Amazon.

Today a few more arrived. Since I'm proud of them -- and trying to pad today's offering -- we'll now discuss them each briefly.

Memory Dean's Shake It Up: These guys are just a little party band from somewhere in Georgia that a college buddy turned me onto. Saw them once in concert and, before the big thievery of '06 I had all but one of their albums. Now I have two, with the most highly coveted disc almost impossible to find. They went electric on this album, added some percussionists and really reinvented themselves. For a time it looked like they would escape private parties and fraternity house shows. They deserved it too.

Duncan Sheik's Daylight: I'm listening to it right now. Great disc. For about a year it stayed in the CD player in the car and was the thing that drove my sleepy self to work at 3:45 in the morning. Seems like a different lifetime now. It seems like someone recently told me that they knew someone who knew Duncan's sister. So that means I have five degrees of separation from a reasonably successful -- and far more deserving -- singer/songwriter. That's kinda neat.

I expect backstage passes the next time we're in the same town. That is all.

Mr. Henry's 40 Watt Fade: The liner notes say 2000, but I think this must have been a followup pressing, because I'm fairly certain there was no URL on my original disc. If the memory holds up a bit more I believe this was one of those 10 buck buys because the local alt-rock station, back when it was still relevant and in existence, was actually playing good music. I didn't work for that company, but I knew a guy who knew a guy who swore the program director over there snapped and went crazy. I doubt that, but it would explain how his programming choices became so hairy. Maybe it was all the Krystal burgers he was shilling. The last time I checked Mr. Henry was defunct and, yep, the site is there but the band has walked into the ether.

Still going strong are the Indigo Girls, who's Become You also got replaced. Somehow managed to get an extra special, super duper deluxe disc along with it that includes three bonus tracks. My cup runneth over.

That's pretty much the day. More tomorrow, of course. Thanks for stopping by and, as always, go Columbus!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Nothing of importance happened today.

And I cleaned out the car. Took the vacuum to the floormats and the trunk.

Had sandwiches and ice cream for lunch; it was 90 degrees. So on this beautiful summer day in October there was ice cream and flip flops. At some point, probably sooner than later, fall will remember where it was supposed to have gone and rush in to shoulder summer away.

"Good," summer will say. "I've been here for forever and need to vacation in the southern hemisphere."

Fall will be grouchy about this, and be sure to tell winter about it when ol Jack Frost rolls in a few months from now. We'll pay for summer's indignance, no doubt.

Presuming, of course, that the seasons talk to one another. I don't think they communicate very well at all. How else can you explain the mercurial period where spring is trying to move in, but most every season is fighting for stage time? Fall's never in that fight, of course. Autumn's too laid back, but not above complaining about the whole thing to winter.

Bought meat at Sam's Club. Chicken and pork. They have many items at Sam's, but would it kill them to give me bags? Are they really cutting into the profit margins that much? Can I bring my own?

I only ask because Publix has figured out a way to not be terribly impacted by the grocery bags when it comes to their bottom line. There can be no other explanation for the 15 bags I'll receive for 13 items. That'd leave me for one each for my meat selections du jour.

Of course this would touch off a panic at the cash register. There'd be packaging envy. And then some young guy running a register would think "Hey! We could sell plastic bags!"

He'd quickly rise through the ranks with the Walton family, become the vice president of packaging and distribution, get on all the right Christmas card lists, send his kids to the best schools and make appearances on Oprah and the lecture circuit.

And all because my hands got cold today and I decided to pack grocery bags for my next trip.

He should send me a Christmas card too.

Speaking of which, the Christmas stuff was out at Sam's, but you ran into the Halloween items first. The days of Columbus and Veterans, along with Thanksgiving, were all unrepresented.

Belated Pie Day and apparently all the food, many of the glasses and most of the plates couldn't be found. That's why this is normally a Friday event. Sat on the porch, though, and realized dining indoors is a bit better, if only because it is faster. Two-and-a-half hours for a baked potato and pie.

Granted it is a big baked potato, but still. Alas, the company of good friends is a delightful way to spend the time.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Something about the new car, and the atmosphere surrounding it, prevents me from getting to places on time, in an uneventful manner or with any fun nod at speed and performance. I don't pretend to understand it, but must take it as the indirect little nudges and proddings of the gods of traffic keeping me from larger problems. That's how I choose to take it. It is either that, or the gods of yellow lights and 50 mile per hour left lane drivers conspiring against me.

And so it was that I woke early enough this morning to make it to Auburn in time to meet with members of the 1957 national championship team and ask them all to sign my 1958 Glomerata which had a lengthy section on their undefeated season.

That was the plan. The reality became something different as I negotiated through about 15 miles of people impeding traffic in the left lane, all convinced, no doubt, that they were doing us a favor. Perhaps they were, we'll never know, thank goodness, but they could be a little less frustrating about it.

About 20 miles outside of Auburn we ran into a dead-stop of traffic. I figured this was the football crowd and I watched the last few moments to meet with the 1957s fade away. Only it wasn't football traffic, but a nasty little motorcycle accident. Everyone, thankfully, seemed OK and once again there but for the grace of God -- and people driving like your grandmother on the interstate while applying makeup and talking on their phone -- go I.

This does not ease, at all, the frustration of missing the once-in-a-lifetime tiny piece of silly history.

Speaking of which ... remember earlier this week when I wrote about the kid who's mother wanted to buy my extra tickets to take her four-year-old to see his first big game? We got nostalgic and sentimental and excited about helping a mother and her son on an important date of Auburn history. He apparently came down with chickenpox on Wednesday, so I had to sell the tickets again.

Well, they sold again. And I'd made plans to meet with a nice guy from Dothan who was bringing his wife up for the game. Only he inadvertantly managed to buy some other tickets without realizing it before contacting me. Serves him right: he paid twice as much for inferior seats.

None of this helps me, as I need to offload two tickets. Had a few nibbles around the stadium and then, at just about the give-up point two international students bought the tickets. For less than I'd hoped, but at least they're sold. I might, just barely, make my money back out of my extra season tickets. (I bought them at face value.) Remind me not to do this next year.

Anyway. Those moments had passed, we're in the stadium and there's people and clouds and football players and a nice breeze and we've all got our relative health and a day of watching talented young men hurl themselves at one another to create violent collisions for our viewing pleasure.

Anthropologists are going to have a field day with this in a few hundred years.

I got a question about how they get the eagle to fly around the field. So I'll mix in my very lay-person tutorial with a few photographs. The eagles are cared for at the Raptor Center on campus, it is the only such facility in the Southeast and the eagles, and many other birds of the predator variety are cared for there. They work with the show birds, namely now Nova, a golden eagle, and Spirit, a bald eagle, on flying to targets.

Spirit has flown at Auburn games before, but Nova gets the nod in becoming the permanent successor to Tiger, War Eagle VI, who retired last year. Nova is War Eagle VII on the basis of also being a golden eagle. So the Tigers have a golden eagle mascot. Got it? Don't try bending your head around this if your unfamiliar with the whole story -- if you need to catch up go here.

How do they make him circle the stadium and attack the logo at midfield?

Anyway, on game day they change Nova's feeding schedule just a slight bit. They release him from above the northeast end zone and there's a trainer standing at midfield. The eagle flies over the crowd in search of a treat. A trainer is standing on the logo in the middle of the field, hiding the lure if the eagle needs to continue its flight, lowering the target when they want Nova to attack.

As those movements get smaller he's ready to capture the prey.

Roy Crowe, or one of the other trainers, then gives him a treat and he'll then spend much of the game on the sidelines posing for photographs and television shots. Later he'll get a police escort back to the Raptor Center.

And that's how they pull off one of the game's most unique pre-game traditions. When I was still in college a service fraternity handled the day-to-day care of War Eagle VI. They flew her daily on a running leash set up that kept her mindful of what she was attacking, building a bridge they called it. You could go out mid-week and watch, or go out on game day and pay a few bucks for a nice picture of you or your kids standing with a bird of prey. But you didn't put your hand up near her face. She looks great and makes cute noises, but nature and perception are different things.

Which led to this great quote in The Birmingham News: "People say, 'Oh, he loves you,'" Crowe says. "But he doesn't. He's a predator. If he was able, he'd eat me."

So leave your toy poodles at home. Small kids, however, are probably safe. Nova has a six-foot wingspan, but he only weighs eight pounds.

Which brings us to the football game itself. Auburn kicked off, looking a bit different, more on that in a bit.

Vanderbilt brought a hot shot quarterback and one of the best wide receivers in conference history into this game. But Chris Nickson had one of the worst performances of his career at the hands of Michael Goggans and a stingy Auburn defense. He was yanked at halftime.

Brandon Cox, meanwhile, had another solid day, throwing a touchdown and making only one ill-advised throw. Ben Tate had 99 yards on nine carries and a touchdown. Brad Lester returned, having completed his six game academic suspension. He brought fresh legs, added depth to the backfield and carried the ball 13 times for 77 yards and two scores. Freshman running back also had a score and ... well, this game was just dominated from the early moments by Auburn in a very workmanlike way. Vandy couldn't make anything happen and the inevitable quickly sped toward the Commodores and, ultimately, Tiger fans are feeling pretty good about themselves again.

Also, opposing teams' helmets fear Kodi Burns. He and I are friends on facebook, and he told me secretly that he knew this would happen.

Vanderbilt got a score back in garbage time, but the game was well in hand early in the first quarter. Final score: 35-7.

So, about the white jerseys at home and the absence of helmet logos. The University was honoring the 1957 championship team, as mentioned above. They had a banquet last night, gave them all big rings, tours of the museum, had an autograph session this morning and honored them at halftime. There are a handful of All-Americans standing on the field in that photograph. Leaders of teams and industry and commerce, revered names in the lore of a proud college tradition and it was an emotional visit for guys that just might like to play one more game. Too bad we couldn't get any of them suited up today.

Two of their flags still fly over the stadium, but there were quite a few happy flags on such a fine Auburn day.

After the game, you know how you can tell if someone is a Yankee? They take pictures of cotton. I took some too, but purely from an historical perspective; The Old Rotation is the oldest continguous cotton experiment in the world and the third oldest crop experiment in the country.

People see different things out there: a miniature area for growing various green things; a tractor that appears to be as old as the experiment itself; cotton, corn or legumes up close and personal -- sometimes for the first time. Others see long hot days continuing an experiment well into its second century, research that helped shape rural economies in a powerful way, record breaking yields and machinery that seems as old as the experiment itself.

Every time I walk out there I think about the time I walked in front of the cotton picking machine's path and kneeled down to take a picture of it driving right at me. The guy looked at me with the universal sign language for "What gives?" and I replied with the universal symbol for "No, seriously. Come run over me."

I escaped just in time -- the thing does maybe four miles an hour -- and got a great photograph for a class. That's my personal memory, mostly because I never spent time working on that project. I do have miniature bales from the centennial crop though. You won't be seeing those on ebay anytime soon.

Anyway after a brief amount of tailgating, and showing off the new car -- it handles beautifully, looks great and gets lots of looks from the ladies, heh -- we headed for dinner and then returned to Birmingham early enough to catch the late games, making this day, and this post, full of football. So probably I should spare you things you're either not interested in or, watched on television yourself.

But USC, ouch. You knew they were due, but didn't expect it to happen like that. It sounded much like an explosion at Death Valley, when they announced the USC defeat. At one point, safely home and watching the Florida-LSU game, the crowd erupted and the smell of bourbon made its way through the camera, into the uplink truck, over microwave signals, through a satellite uplink, into the local cable hub and into and through my television.

I love college football.

Friday, October 5, 2007

I'm beginning to feel better. Not that I'd felt bad, but ... off. Just off enough to be annoying in that "Breathing would be nice, and not coughing could be pleasant" sort of way. This year it seems the medicine that works is the Claritin 24-hour pill and the Advil Cold and Sinus. Next year it will be something different. One day I'll run out of FDA approved drugs and be forced to move on to twigs and roots I can scrounge up the hill.

I plan on seeing a very holisitic medicine man about this, just to make sure I get it right, but that's several seasons of almost-illness away.

The weekend, she is here, and she's going to be a beaut. Today arrived, tarried and departed in the appropriate fashion with a big bright sun, high skies and warm temperatures. It is more late spring than early autumn, really. Even the sun, which had shifted in the sky to a more seasonally appropriate reflective angle, seems to have pulled back up to May and June locations.

Maybe there isn't global warming. Maybe we've somehow messed up the rotation of the earth and now everything is confused. I blame bling. And MTV.

A good search engine hit today. Someone came in through with the very reasonable question: How much of our life do we spend tieing our shoes?.

Thanks for stopping by. How much time do you spend tying your shoes? Forty-two hours.

I read it on the internet somewhere (here), so it must be true.

How long have you been wondering about this?

Now. Just imagine how much time you'd save if you used velcro.

Nothing of major importance happening tonight. The plan is to turn in early and wake up early for way-too-early day trip. Subsequently there's been the usual around the house, which constitutes laundry and other uninteresting things, dinner and calling it a night.

Dinner was at Cracker Barrel, where the snowman are still out, though now it is October, but still pushing 90 degrees. They seem to be compensating by offering apple cider in a frozen mug. seasonal carrot cake is also being offered. But it isn't fall yet for us. Not even supposed to be, when you look at the historical averages. Granted we're a little over the average high temps, but today's high of 88 was closer to the average than the record -- set in 1927.

I bet they didn't have their snowman decorations out just yet.

And now, in a transparent attempt to pad the content, we'll look at the most interesting things that the top 100 Google hits have to say about what happened on that record setting day 80 years ago.

The Yankees beat the Pirates at Forbes Field on their way to sweeping the World Series in four games. Zane Grey and Grantland Rice were each in the latest edition of Collier's. Artist Al Hansen was born.

Charles Lindbergh made stops in Tennessee and Alabama on his Guggenheim tour. The enigmatic Henry Thomas was writing Bob McKinney. That page makes the claim that Thomas was one of the original progenitors of the Texas Blues guitar.

Baseball, football, westerns, artists, Lucky Lindy and ragtime blues neither of us have heard of? Seems like a busy day, October 5, 1927.

Modern football with a throwback nod tomorrow. See you on the Plains!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Where the previous two weeks have felt oddly hectic and this week has felt oddly sick, I'm looking into my crystal ball and seeing the confluence of events that will make it a peaceful and slow string of days. Until the weekend, that is. The week will be such that I've already planned out what will happen at the beginning and the end and have a pretty good grasp on the portions that will go in the middle. I could tell you about them, but then I'd have to scramble for something to write next week.

Replaced three old CDs today, ordered from Amazon, rounding out the final bits of the Stolen Series that I wanted to recover. Of those that had not been replaced I culled a list of 23 I would like to have again. From there I made a list of 10 that I'd like to have back now, thanks, since I have a new CD player and new loud speakers in the new car. Three of those arrived today, mostly guilty pleasures, things I could have moved on from, in fact haven't had in a year, but every once in a while you want to hear track eight from an album. The other seven are in the mail and due any day now.

Those arriving today can be seen here, here and here.

Didn't pay more than five dollars for any of the discs, helping the economy one penny at a time. Need to pick up a few CD books, though. While the number of people still buying CDs has dwindled, I have a short stack standing by my desk, making me perhaps the only person in America still housing them in jewel boxes

Ah, the short stack. Somewhere, about five years ago that was a running feature on this site. It became too intensive to hand-code each CD change and book, though. That was before widgets and Twitter and Facebook, all words that really didn't mean a lot five years ago. Wonder what they'll mean in the next decade.

The internet will be pumped directly into our brains by then of course. And, saving for that headache that you're currently sporting it will be the best/worst thing humanity has ever given itself. Imagine: the ability to look up minutia as it occurs to you to wonder "Why?" rather than having to wait until you get home or to the office. Or, pulling your phone out of your pocket and having to log on from there. How barbarian.

Think it won't happen? There's a guy in England -- or Eastern Europe -- working on it right now. The baud rate won't quite come together and the animals and political prisoners aren't happy, but the guy is making progress. "Ve haff ways of making you download."

Don't know why, but these things are always in England. Or Eastern Europe. And the mad scientist is always a bit more substantially bizarre with the stereotypical German accent. Peter George taught us that. He wrote Dr. Strangelove and Fail-Safe, the former everyone highly recommend and the latter comes highly recommended. George, incidentally, was from England.

Someone will download this into their cerebral cortex in 2023 and think, "Duh!" before moving on to their next video on

(That's the thing that connects the two hemispheres of the brain, and apparetly an available URL.)

Here's a URL you should check out, the return of the Glomerata photographs. We've taken a month off from this feature, too, but they're back now. Remember: we're examining the look Auburn would have had in our parents and grandparents day. There's tons of great history here, and if you're new to the section you should start here. If you're caught up to us in 1976 and wondering where the updates have been, this is your link.

The 14 minute nap I took earlier today is wearing off, so tired and sniffly, I'll shuffle off to bed early.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

We have this phrase, sick of being sick, perhaps you've heard of it?

I'm not even sick, but already I'm weary of it. The sinuses, seasonal allergies, the scratchy throat that was swollen to the diameter of a straw, the whole thing. I've been going to work, physically feel fine from the shoulders down, but the head is troublesome in a not-quite-ready-to-incapacitate you way. This started on Saturday or Sunday night. I started taking pills on Monday evening, seeking and receiving minor reprieves.

My body has adjusted to the sick and pill method. Each year with each sinus annoyance it is a different drug that will work. If I bought something last fall or spring I may as well have used it all then or given the leftovers to a needy soul, because that stuff, it is for certain, won't work this time.

Right now I'm taking some 24-hour nondrowsy Claritin Clear and have so far been well served.

For at least 18 hours at a time.

So that's been a big part of the last few days. Today has been no different, except for an additional trip to the DMV. Got in the DMV line -- after the security guy told me the trick of the metal detectors and I think, once again, that for a courthouse the security here never seems too ... secure -- and quickly worked through to the coveted "NEXT!" position. The next time you have to make a visit, try early in the month, middle of the day and not around payday. It works better.

If you can lean over the poor woman who is giving you stickers and things and cough on her a few times that seems to expedite the process as well.

Which brings us back to the non-sick, but sick issue. The coughing started today; biohazard suits for everyone.

I had to replace the sticker on the Intrepid, but a tag and stickers for the jet fighter-inspired Altima and run through all of this paperwork to make her day, my chores and the credit card bill complete. I was in and out in 20 minutes. There are at least two other branches of the DMV in this county, please don't tell any of those folks standing in hours-long lines that we're down here. We'd appreciate it.

And now we go back to being un-sick: After that I made it home and all I wanted to do was lie very still. The total of my exertion had been standing in a slowly moving line. That and put on the new stickers and tag. Eventually I got up and vaccumed, ate and put the dishes away.

In between all that I watched, and was disappointed with, the season finale of Eureka. Cute little show that's just petered out in the last handful of episodes, but I hope they bring it back for a third run.

Also watched the second episode of the season of Boston Legal. They're busily introducing the new characters so it has been a slow run so far, but next week's installment looks promising.

And when the space-padding television reviews are that abbreviated you can safely assume I've really got nothing.

Also, yesterday, there was another Auburn football podcast. You can find that here.

There's other stuff floating around here as well. The September photographs are now up on the pictures page and the newspapers make their overdue return. If you've started visiting the site since they went on their mini-hiatus the newspaper section is examining a bit of the news coverage and layout from historic front pages of The Birmingham News. You can see the latest here or start from the beginning, here.

Thanks for stopping by. Be sure to come back tomorrow to see how we can top being half-sick and a visit to the DMV. Surely it can't be. You won't want to miss the excitement!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Monday, October 1, 2007

Found the tickets. It took an exhaustive search, going over many places twice and some clever hiding places that I'd never thought of before. At each turn I suspected: This is where I'll find them.

In the printer desk! Behind the dresser! In the clothes hamper! Under a stack of envelopes! In a filing cabinet! In the basement!

You know how good guys get their homes or offices tossed by bad guys in the movies? That was my afternoon. This is hot, sweaty work. And there I am, broad daylight outside, going through closets with a flashlight in my own home like a jerk. No? Well then, under the bed.

And that wasn't a suggestion, but rather my mind insisting "Then they must be under the bed!"

No? No. How about between the bed and the wall!

Finally I remembered it was on Sunday of last week rather than the day before that I'd misplaced them.

The trunk of the car! One hundred percent certain or your money back!

The brain will sometimes go to advertising mode when desperate to find misplaced things.


In the car!

Already looked there, but it goes to the Sunday use rather than the Saturday morning theory, so look again.


And then yes!

They were under the miniature garbage can.

So that was about three hours.

Also finished the first installment of The War. I'm now two-and-a-half hours into a 16-and-a-half hour project. We'll draw our metaphors and positions later. For now you just enjoy the serenity of 1940s Americana still photography, cringe at some of the brutal stories of war and wonder how all these men and women still look so good.

They've got to be in their 80s, but they all seem full of vigor in their interviews. It is as if remembering the parts and places of their lives that some would like to forget have revitalized them somehow.

Hope I look that good into my 60s.

Got an Email from a nice lady who wants to buy the extra tickets to this weekend's game. Hence the rush to find them. It would be bad form to promise them and then have to disappoint. Particularly when she wants to take her four-year-old to the game.

She said he's been watching them all on television and she wants to take him to his first big game. I'd consider a discounted rate just for offering that sentiment and my first big game football memory.

In 1982 my mother's boss gave us tickets to an Alabama game at Legion Field. It was Paul Bryant's last year at Alabama and, though no one knew it at the time, the last win he'd enjoy in Birmingham.

The Tide beat Penn State and I have vague memories of seeing Bryant walking toward us to reach the tunnel into the locker room. Joe Namath was prowling the sidelines, in a ridiculous fur coat I believe. Walter Lewis, Alabama's first black quarterback scored the game's first points. Joe Paterno got beat in the last meeting of the two coaching greats. All of this was lost on the five-year-old, but holding a fuzzy memory of pieces of arcane history is a nice experience.

So I have to help out this mother of a four-year-old. I close the deal telling her that, while it won't mean anything to him now, he'll also see the 1957 National Championship team during a special ceremony on the field on which they once performed.

Things look a bit different now: Auburn wasn't yet integrated in 1957, student enrollment was a fraction of the modern numbers. Football was a past time more so than a money-making machine. The game, of course, is different: speed, strength, platoon players and all of that. Cliff Hare Stadium held 34,000 when the '57s took the field, modern Jordan-Hare invites more than 87,000 fans these days.

Also, some of the larger players on the 1957 Auburn team were listed at 210 pounds, but that was generous according to one of the team leaders who remembers weighing 190 and being one of the biggest guys on the practice field. The modern roster has only 15 players beneath that weight. Five guys tip the scales over 300 pounds and nine are listed just a meal or two shy of that. The game's changed a bit.

They were fun to watch though. They're wearing the dark jerseys in that video, in a 40-0 romp over Alabama. Despite that score the '57s earned their keep on defense. I bet a few of them would still be willing to lower their shoulder and make a hit or two.

One day, in a quarter of a century when those guys' great-grandchildren are trying to play for Auburn this four-year-old kid will be able to tell people about when he saw them on the field. In a half century he could be one of the few remaining bridges to that yesteryear.

How could you not sell a ticket to that kid?