Kenny Smith | blog

Friday, February 29, 2008

Happy Arbitrarily Created So That Our Calendar, Upon Reflection, Is Almost As Efficient As the Aztecs' Calendar Day.

Do you remember what you were doing the last time we enjoyed leap year? I didn't on my own, but consulted my blog -- in its earlier format, and boy wasn't that attractive? -- to remember where I was.

As best I can tell I was on the beach, or headed that way. There's no entry for February 29, 2004. On February 26th I posted a verse from Hebrews:
Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. ... By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

Hebrews 11:1,3 (New International Version)
The next post after that was in March and from my home, regarding my trip to the beach. I uploaded one ridiculous picture and then promised the rest of the trip later in the week.

At the last leap year I'd just left radio and was waiting for the internet job to become official. It was a good, scary time. Where will we be four years from now?

Where are we today? Far better off, for my part, thanks for asking. I hope the same can be said of you as well.

Today was a quiet one at the office. The last of the basketball tournament is winding down and people are coming and going as the promotions we're running are taking place. Every aspect of our involvement in the Final Four tournament seems to beyond our initial expectations in terms of audience, audience response and output of content. These are exciting times.

Otherwise it was a quiet day. There was news, just after the markets closed, that Mobile won one of the largest military contracts ever. In a stunning upset Northrup/Grumman and EADS has been awarded the new $40 billion refueling tanker contract over Boeing. Because of this other industry will be coming to Mobile as well in an if/when scenario.

You would argue with some certainty that this is a big development for south Alabama and the coastal region, but there's not been too many examples on par with this to use as a basis of comparison. It is an exciting time to be in Mobile as well.

Right after getting that news I saw a car rollover on the interstate, which will sober you right up. The driver was OK.

After that a trip to the cell phone store, which could threaten anyone's happy Friday afternoon mood I believe.

Remember when cell phone companies were easy to deal with? There was one lady working, one customer ahead of me and, by the sound of it, things weren't going well for that lady. I'm just window shopping for phones here, but there are things I'd like to do with my day, so it was with some relief when the employee finally acknowledged the presence of others, saying "I'll be right with you."

And then she began talking on her phone to someone else about their various dog training trips. At which point leaving seemed the best option. Pulling her away from the riveting talk of fences and Yorkies wouldn't have served any larger purpose.

Down to Tuscaloosa we went, then, to have dinner before the gymnastics meet. The Yankee picked Buffalo Wild Wings, which was fine. I picked the Caribbean Jerk Chicken, which was spicy. The waitress gave me the "Not already, not this early in the night" look when we were trying to get the order straight. She promptly cut me off at three glasses of sweet tea, which was troubling because I had a spicy sandwich.

Alabama's gymnasts hosted Florida this evening in another meeting of top five teams.

Florida, ranked slightly higher, got out early, but both teams struggled on bars. Florida won the vault and the bars rotation. Alabama was behind by about a full point at the halfway mark, won the beam and then stormed back with an excellent turn on the floor, winning by the narrowest margin. It was a good meet.

For fear of burning you out on gymnastics pictures, there are just a few to work through tonight, and they are now on the February 2008 photo gallery page, which is open for business, but officially closed for updates. There are 109 pictures for the month, not bad, even if we did have to add another day.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Working most of yesterday has left me dragging all of today. Remember when that didn't happen?

I drove home last night at about 11:15 wondering how to get that back. There was a time after college when I worked from 5:40 a.m. until midnight at various jobs -- truly leaving one place for another place to finish there and go to another job -- and then be up the next morning to open a radio station. It wore me out. I loved it so.

Except for 11 to midnight. That was usually the "let's be too punchy hour."

Last night, though, I was just ready to rest. And the day wasn't much different than normal when you consider the hours, just the hours worked. Nevertheless, today has been a long, sleepy one.

It led to interesting dreams: I was in north Alabama with The Yankee visiting my grandfather who passed away several years ago. The Yankee never had the chance to meet him in real life, but she should have -- an opinion I've come to apply to everyone over the years.

So in the dream we were visiting. And then we stopped by my other grandfather's home. This is where the dream grows even more difficult to follow. This grandfather is still with us in real life, but in the dream he'd just had something medical to deal with. So this side-visit was a chance to check on him and, improbably, the fence which I'd learned dogs had been escaping.

Dreams, right?

The fence was fixed, replaced even. We went inside and there's my grandmother and my grandfather and -- in the dream my grandfather is in better shape than he is in real life, even after his recent (dream) medical difficulties. My grandmother then asks me to run to the store to get ... something. She wasn't very clear, and in the dream I kept asking for clarification, but she seemed very coy about it all.

Meanwhile, this little puppy decided to adopt me. And he was very playful, and animate and the type you assign a lot of human emotions and thoughts to rather quickly. Somehow in the dream world this inspired me to write a few characters, one based on the puppy, and a story that later became a movie, starring Tom Hanks and an actor as yet undiscovered who played the part brought on by the dog's antics.

And then I woke up.

I rarely remember my dreams, and when I do they have some root in my reality which makes them even more strange to contemplate when they veer off into the dream world.

On the other hand, I did see the first scene of the movie in my dream and Tom Hanks was his usual brilliant self.

Otherwise the day was spent in a concentrated fashion trying to stay awake, tell tales of my basketball adventure and then coming home to straighten up around here just a tiny bit. There will be much more of that in the coming days, I'm sure.

Given the length of my yesterday and the fitful sleep last night I hope you won't mind if I call it an evening early tonight.

And I'm keeping the details of the Tom Hanks movie to myself, just in case tonight's dreams reveal the rest of the plot and the dream-me discovers I have a huge hit on my hands.

Keep to your dreams, friends. They'll get you through the night.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The flow of the day sometimes insists it has better plans than your own. You can circle the day, hovering over your meetings, plans and To Do Lists, but some days just won't fit into your perfect little mold. You could swim against that and wear yourself out against the relentless demands of the day's fate or you could just move with the current. This is where we get the saying "Go with the flow."

That or a plumber investigating a bad leak. One of the two.

Anyway, I had a few plans for the day but those got changed because a colleague was ill and he was needed at the state basketball tournament. I was asked to go work the games, having followed only one season of high school basketball in all my years, I agreed in a good-natured fashion. There's really no saying "No" to that sort of thing. It was work, sure, but it was out of the office. There was free entertainment, perhaps some free food and the promise of a long night.

So we'll keep this brief.

But before the basketball, here's that SEC Swimming and Diving Championships video I've been talking about for days without end. You can also find that on the Audio/Video page and here as well.

Making the videos are fun, and any day now I'll become more proficient at the post-production process. Any day now. I'll really begin to enjoy it then. Any day now.

Work today involved going in at the regular time of 6 a.m. I found out at 8:30 that I was going to become a basketball photographer, blogger and scorekeeper. I found out at 8:45 that this would involve me staying at the coliseum until 10 p.m.

That's the sort of news you want to get in two installments.

So I went home at 9, tidied up, had a bite to eat and then made my way back into town in the afternoon. I found our guys, learned the process and started taking pictures, using software I've never touched before and sending them to the really cool new high school sports section of

Others were shooting and editing video and keeping the scoring updates moving. I shot photographs, treated pictures, wrote blogs and generally watched time fly on scorers row.

So, in the interests of time, here's what the rest of this entry is going to look like: You'll find a few photographs here, and then a link to more on the work site. You'll then find one more link to follow for more basketball photos.

Your cup runneth over.

Keep in mind, as we work through these, that I've never shot a basketball game before, I was learning on the fly ... much like the first time I ever broadcast a basketball game. None of these photographs, by the way, have careful captions here, but you'll be able to find that information at the links below if you're truly curious.

In the meantime, this Eufaula defender is so crossed up he's going three directions at one time. Eufaula met Russellville in the 5A semifinal game. The forearm roller isn't one of those high percentage shots. Russellville beat Eufaula 79-69 to advance to the championship game.

The girls 1A state championship was after that, featuring two undefeated teams. Good game, good pictures, but only one here, my favorite of the night as Spring Garden beat McIntosh 61-44 to win the title.

Caught our logo in this one. That kid had a monster game. Remember his name: JaMychal Green. If you follow basketball on the collegiate level you might learn a great deal about him in the next few years.

He finished the night with 39 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 steals, (the following numbers are unofficial) 5 blocks and 5 dunks, including two alley-oops. One was two-handed and the last was a nasty one-handed point of emphatic disagreement with the offense of the opposing team. Don't believe me? See the video here.

Green was honored as the 1A tournament MVP as St. Jude beat Sulligent 72-59 to win the 1A state championship.

After that game the ugliest, most exciting game of basketball you could ever hope to see. Full of hustle and physical play, these two schools gave the audience a tremendous nightcap, and at one point in the fourth quarter it is entirely possible that the BJCC has never heard a louder sports crowd.

Two small schools, Barbour County and R.C. Hatch met to determine the 2A championship. Barbour got out to an early lead and, at the half, held a 16-point advantage. I wrote that, given the flow of the game, if R.C. Hatch could get a little run going early when the game started again this could become interesting. Something about the movement of the game, the way the calls were coming in and the shots were bouncing out, it just didn't seem like a 16-point deficit.

I wrote that on the work blog and just as I typed in those lines R.C. Hatch came back out onto the court with a look of fierce and grim determination. The run didn't start early, but R.C. Hatch would run a full-court press, forcing turnovers and outscoring Barbour 54-27 in the second half, including an incredible 36-point fourth quarter.

Here's a nice dunk. But R.C. Hatch was led by Frankie Sullivan, a young man overflowing with smooth speed, composure and leadership ability on the court.

Sullivan finished the night breaking a four-decade old scoring record. He had 51 points in the game on his way to becoming the 2A tournament MVP and R.C. Hatch defeated Barbour County 81-69.

After finishing up the blogging and the photo editing -- laptops are fun! -- it was later than even my expectations. At 10:45 we finally made our way out of the building.

And there's always tomorrow!

Go to this month's photo gallery to see more basketball photographs. There are about 20 in all. If you follow those links above you can see several dozen more.

Oh, and watch the movie!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Lightning struck nearby at 3 a.m. this morning. Had it not been for the thunder I would have slept through the show. As it was I sat up with the thunder, which was quickly followed by the tornado warning siren (always rare to hear that at home, given the logistics) and the hail on the windows.

Had to be hail on the windows. It made no sense that someone would be standing out in that mess throwing rocks at me. The rain was coming down hard, the winds were swirly and the lightning was impressive. We were under a tornado warning in the middle of the night, which is always the most dangerous time for obvious, sleepy reasons.

I couldn't find the remote to check the radar, so I stumbled into another room to see who was broadcasting and how. You can always understand the gravity of the situation in this market by whether James Spann, the region's top meteorologist and Knower of All Road Names, still has his suit jacket on. When the jacket comes off he's beginning to grow concerned. If the sleeves get rolled up and you can see suspenders you really you shouldn't be watching television, but rather considering whether your insurance policies are in order. And if the hands are waving and he's kneeling down to tell you about John Doe Fairy Mill Road you know there's deadly trouble lurking in the clouds.

Only Spann wasn't on the air. I flipped through the local stations in order of their weather prominence. The last station in the list was on the air, showing us the storm. One other station staggered to the radar a few moments later; the other two decided their weather bug was enough.

But the CBS affiliate, WIAT was on top of things. Their morning crew must have gotten ready early, just like the storms. What I saw did not look good. There was evidence of rotating winds just north of my home. Two miles to the south and I would have been in the basement. A long, strong line was blowing through, pushed by a cold front and breathing anger and revenge over some perceived slight.

We got word later in the morning that someone just to the north of Birmingham was killed in the storm. A tree fell on the home. We should know by tomorrow whether there was a tornado anywhere in this line of storms.

If so Alabama will have broken the state record for tornadoes in February. We've already surpassed or tied the record, depending on the interpretation of the data. It is that time of year, make sure the weather radio is up to par.

Not much more of the day worth telling about. I did not get the haircut. That is explained in the week's
, which turned into an essay on barbershop quartets. You can also find on the recordings page.

I had to record that twice. The first time I went for the soft monotone of NPR, because the uninflected inflection seemed the ideal tone for a conversation about barbershop quartets. There is a reason, though, that my time in radio was spent on the commercial side of things. The first take just sounded quiet and sleepy. The second one is slightly better.

Still looking for the right tone for these little things, but at least I haven't devolved to the FM classic rock jock voice yet.

And the multiple takes didn't stop there. I did the voiceover for tomorrow's video this evening, which took a bit longer than I had anticipated.

So. Rather than give you a tedious look at the exciting world of voiceovers, I'll humbly offer this episode of The Simpsons, guest starring Jack Black, featuring Comic Book Guy and entrepreneurial Marge.

Tomorrow: the much-discussed video, a Glomerata update and more.

Monday, February 25, 2008

It was noticed today that the office felt like a floating holiday. Most of the people weren't there. The news crew was there of course. The sports guys are off covering playoff basketball. The ad designers were under-represented. The majority of the sales staff were off in that magical place of Somewhere Else.

It was a quiet day in the office. Busy, expectant, but quiet.

The basketball playoffs are the high school state championships. These are growing into a bigger deal every year, surprising in a football state, but the passion can be found. If we must suffer without football we should channel our energy somewhere. seems to be the prevailing opinion. We're doing our best to facilitate that. Now the championships are being streamed live online with realtime scoring updates, blogs, photographs and -- if you promise to make a few hundred of your friends watch we'll do your white walls too.

Check it out here.

This is a system of coverage heretofore unprecedented as far as anyone can tell. The sports guys rolled out some elements of this project during the football championships and then added a bit more to it for the cheerleading and wrestling tournaments. Now the advertising begins to kick in, and the viewership is increasing accordingly. It is a nice success, particularly for the sports guys because they've put a lot of work into the thing.

Sports fan? You need to see it.

There. I've done my public service announcement for the week, I can feel better about these things. Stayed at work late today -- timing my departure precisely with the rest of the western capitalist society for a change in a move of singular brilliance

I was editing a video, hence my two extra hours in the office. I could do this at home, but the two hours at work would take 36 at home given the deliberate plodding that my computer is presently enjoying. The computer is four years old; I shouldn't complain and I don't. I do plot for my next upgrade. I learned last week that my computer and my antiquated looking Movie Maker software were not up to the task. I made that assumption on the software having never even used it before.

Today that perception was validated. My work computer has a newer version of Movie Maker. It must have come along in one of those many Windows Automatic Updates that can't be delivered overnight, but most emphatically "must be downloaded during your peak work hours, bub, and you can't have the system back until you reboot, because you Really Need This Patch to correct some error we may, or may not have made, in designing the software. Not that we'll tell. And by the way, we'd like to collect a little more data on you, mmmkay?"

So I trimmed the video I shot last Friday. It seems long in total length. The cuts are long by television standards, but I also don't have that same advantage the television camera man has: A closeup from several angles of some banal thing like rust on a street sign.

This video is more interesting than that. It is about the swimming and diving championships. Any boredom you might experience should be squarely blamed on the narrator and his production crew, which is himself. That guy should get all of the blame.

I've found music by way of an accidental discovery -- one song idea led to bad editing which led to another tune which finally led to the composition of choice. No one will get the joke, for it is French, no?

So you'll see that video in this space on Wednesday if all goes to plan. I've made some cuts and mashed the thing together. Now I must add some voiceover work and put the music to it and see if we can stretch a two minute feature into a four minute valentine to people who do amazing things with water as their medium of choice.

By comparison I must dig out a commercial spot a professor gave me in graduate school. He'd shot a promo video for Auburn's swimming and diving team and played it way over the top. "Madame Butterfly" was what you heard and avante garde swimming was what you saw; it was a masterpiece of confusion. I loved it instantly.

Perhaps I can put it online. I never saw the thing anywhere else, so I'm not sure what the intended audience was. Surely it wasn't a television spot, and it would be difficult to imagine seeing the ad on the jumbotron at football or basketball games.

Come to think of it I believe that was the professor that took a stab at teaching a course on audience analysis. It was a classroom of professionals, working journalists and marketing managers, mostly, and we found that we had different opinions than he did, but we all loved the guy. He was an artist in a professor's argyle, but a personable man who made great commercials we never understood. Someone got the guy, he'd apparently won two Oscars and once you dug past the accent was as unassuming a guy as you'd ever meet.

I must find that video, I believe I have a copy on a disk somewhere in the entertainment center.

Site stuff: With so much time given to video editing (And I'm actually getting a better faster at it -- can't wait until I'm fast ... ) there's not a lot else to offer you today, so we'll get straight to the site. There are two new campaign button pages. One is for Adlai Stevenson, the other for Thomas Dewey.

These are both fascinating men who are largely being forgotten as history repaves itself. Stevenson, when he's remembered at all, probably is thought of in his United Nations context.

Dewey will forever be the old newspaper headline "Dewey defeats Truman," but Dewey had a full career as a three-term governor and a prominent member of the mid-20th Century Republican leadership. As time marches on the man who ran and failed, but successfully urged Dwight Eisenhower to run for office is a footnote. History compresses upon itself, of course, even the greatest leaders one generation removed are not immune.

There are also two updates to the pictures page. All of the photographs have been brought into the new display style, now only the captions remain. We're well on our way there, having completed the March 2007 and April 2007 galleries today. Just 10 months to go to catch up today. By then today will be yesterday and tomorrow will be uploaded and that'll be another month to complete. No wonder history compresses itself. Now is fast and sudden.

So I'm glad for the photo gallery update project; it is a terrific chance to see and remember the things and places and people I've seen and enjoyed. I'd say the photo gallery should be upgraded each year or so, simply for nostalgic purposes, but there's too much work involved. Since the first photographs on the site now date back almost eight years maybe that should be the benchmark for redesigning the look. Eight years from now, I think I can be denial about writing the extra code until then.

Hope your week is off to a great start. Come back tomorrow for fixating details on a haircut and a podcast. The video will be up on Wednesday. Should be another big week around here, and I'm glad you're here to share in it. Thanks for visiting!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Last night we asked ourselves the responsible question: Are you old? After returning home in the wee hours and trying to sleep it off today the answer must be: Yes.

There was a time that being on the interstate and heading home at 2 a.m. wasn't a daunting idea. That time wasn't long ago. Last night I found myself doing the math in my head while being invited to stay a while and watch a movie. Now plus runtime plus the drive home equals probably very late. Getting into the car and I did the revised math problem. Fairly late plus drive home equals, yes, late.

And I'm old, just like that.

At least I had the road to myself. Though by next week I'll be frightened of driving after dark at this rate.

I'm glad I stayed to visit longer, it was worth the drive and the late hour.

Today, a blueberry muffin for breakfast. Photo galleries for lunch, check out the January 2007 and February 2007 galleries, and all the earlier ones on the pictures page. There's now only 12 months of updates to go, and catching up quickly.

Early Pie Day this evening. Got hungry early, figured we could beat the rush. Ward wasn't working so we got our old friend Kathleen, who kept us entertained will silly faces and even better stories of her customers. She's cute as can be and gets phone numbers and propositions all the time. Tonight, she said, some guy left her a hotel key and a fake $10,000 bill. Charming.

It is pretty bad when you feel you must tip for customers at other tables.

Tonight has been slow. I've ignored the Oscars, as is my habit, but did catch one award and can say that Transformers got robbed for the award for best visual effects. That was seeing enough.

Instead I watched the new Knight Rider movie. TiVo caught the replay for it last night. This was pretty bad, perhaps even for a television movie.

Brian noted that it was about what he expected, meaning one long Ford commercial. I must disagree. If an artificial intelligence driving a high performance Shelby Mustang can't outrun a minivan on a curvy mountainous road that isn't much of an endorsement for your car. It took real-time satellite imagery, GPS and thermal imaging just to shake those guys. And they were in a minivan.

After that there are, of course, the inevitable plot holes. I've come to realize two things about movies and television. There will always be a plot hole, somewhere, that someone will figure out. If I find them then you've got trouble because, at that point, I'm just looking for reasons to not enjoy your product.

The reworked theme music was cool. Everything else left me lukewarm. I'm not sure I'd watch the show if it survives the transition and a series is made. It isn't that the original Knight Rider was art, but audiences are a lot smarter and more demanding these days. An extra spoiler, doing 212 miles an hour and closeups of bullets bouncing off the car will only get you so far.

And denying physics with that crash at the end? Could have done without that. If you're going to deny physics, let's see the turbo boost.

After that I watched the second episode of Dexter on CBS. They've just purchased the rights from Showtime to run it in syndication on Sunday nights. Parts of it are OK, but it might not survive another episode if next week's doesn't give me more. CBS is airing this as a coping mechanism to fill time because of the writer's strike. I can't imagine them keeping this on the air after they are back up to speed.

But then again. Metacritic scored the show very highly when it came out in 2006. That was probably a function of a lack of quality programming to compete against. What were you watching in 2006 anyway? Something on HBO and reality shows. Anything different would have been welcome, and Dexter is different. Especially the narratives. That clip is not for the squeamish.

The outer character is different than the inner monologue, and that makes for some funny, but otherwise the show fits the regular formula. The promo says it all, mixing a Leave it to Beaver vibe cross-pollinated with a cold, cunning monster. If this grows old, though, where do you go after that?

See, the writers weren't striking, they were trying to avoid corners. No matter. Dexter probably won't survive long on CBS, so I won't get overly involved in the story.

This explanation, though, has gotten too involved. And it is getting on into the night. The weekend was busy, full and rewarding. I hope yours was the same.

See you tomorrow as we negotiate Monday and start looking ahead to the week's fun.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Had dinner tonight with old friends Justin and RaDonna. Just when you get to know some people, and know the inherent goodness of them, life picks them up and moves them off. So now, whenever we have the rare opportunity to visit I feel like a recruiter. I'll promise anything and everything, but you guys have to come back to Birmingham.

And it might be possible. It might happen. Fingers are crossed. I've volunteered to help with the house, help with this, help with that. I've volunteered the services of others, whereby I'll be calling in many favors, as an incentive. I've offered to babysit they're awesome little guy. And all of this might happen.

That'd be a great thing; as many wonderful friends as you have you can always use two more dependable souls in your world. There's always time for earnest people with sincere laughs and seemingly mutual tastes. They go out and have fun, and I want to be out and have fun. They like cheesy movies, I like cheesy movies. They appreciate soccer and family and good food, those are always good choices. They like to know every little detail about every little subject, and so do I.

Actually I'm trying to surround myself with this type person. The goal is to get them all in one room so that we might celebrate the accumulated wisdom and knowledge of a generation. You could probably do this with a half-dozen prolific mavens.

After that we're going to the sports bar nearby that has the trivia game and we're going to wipe the floor with everyone there.

Anyway, The Yankee and I visited Justin and Radonna this evening and we all went out for pasta. Their son, Atticus, gave me some of his pear to help against the spicy cajun taste of my dish.

We walked around the mall for a bit after that, catching up on tales, sharing tips on upcoming trips -- me offering incentives for a return to Birmingham -- and finally we found our way to one of these bungee jumping contraptions. I didn't catch a name for the thing, but if you've ever noticed a kid suddenly 25 feet in the air you've probably encountered one.

This one is just filling an empty spot in the walkway part of the mall. It is sectioned off by metal crowd control barriers and two teen-aged girls are running the place. There are two trampolines, with poles rising into the sky from either side. The girls strap the kid into the bungees and then fling them into the air.

Atticus usually loves all of this, but didn't feel up to it tonight You can't blame the little guy, he's been sick the past few days. He entertained with smiles though.

The Yankee, of course, took a turn. She oohed and aahed all the little girls waiting for their turn by pulling double-backs.

You can't take gymnasts anywhere.

After that we got ice cream. Or, rather, everyone else got ice cream. I learned a trick a year or so ago. When ordering ice cream with kids don't get any yourself: You're liable to get their leftovers. Atticus changed his mind and I was introduced to the yummy world of cranberry sorbet. Thanks Atticus!

(This works well; I give him toys, he gives me fruit.)

We watched Knocked Up:
Obscure pop culture in the movie you'd make if given the chance.
I missed a few punchlines while listening to the beads in the bean bag, but the thing is worth seeing if you can handle the blue humor. I mean, really, look at the premise. There is, perhaps, one of the funniest monologues of modern film in this movie as well, and it is spoken by a character without a name.

You're old when: 2 a.m. seems awfully late.


Friday, February 22, 2008

Spent part of the day at work going through some of my old photos -- the marketing people wanted an iconic image of Birmingham to use as the backdrop for a conference they're putting together. This took a few minutes. I have photographs dating back over seven years of various buildings and statues and sunrises and sunsets to surf through.

I ended up submitting a few dozen photographs, realizing along the way that the new photo gallery layout for this site is far better than the old one. I started at the beginning of the images that I have online and that means using the new galleries. I made my way from 2001 through 2006, where the new galleries ended and realized at February 2007 that the old galleries are incredibly clunky.

For having never noticed this before I apologize. And I can make it up to you by saying that all of the galleries now have the fresher look. Though there are no notes or captions to any of the photos from January 2007 on just yet. In the next few days I'll add those and then the photo gallery redesign project will be completed.

After that there's another photo project that will appear on this page. As soon as I can write the code for it.

So that was lunch. After work there was a trip to the library and then on down to Tuscaloosa where the SEC swimming and diving championships are underway.

Auburn, as you might expect, is dominating after the first three days of competition. Tonight Alexei Puninski set new pool, SEC and Auburn records in the 100 butterfly. Auburn's Jordan Anderson and Tyler McGill finished second and third in the event for the sweep. Puninski, a senior, is an eight-time All American who's an SEC champion six times over.

The men had been dominating and continued to thrash the opposition, but the women began Friday down 42 points and surged to the lead on strong performances from Emily Kukors who won the 200 freestyle, breaking her own school record, and then took part in winning the 400 medley relay. Kukors is a 19-time All-American and six time SEC champion.

At the end of the night Auburn was on top of the leaderboard on both sides, right where they should be. Auburn, as usual, just shows up and wins.

This kid, incidentally, thinks the other teams are a bit smelly.

After winning eight SEC titles tonight Auburn holds a commanding lead on the men's side and the women are in front in their team competitions, with another huge day expected tomorrow.

Which brings us to the diving well, where the men's platform divers were on display. Auburn's Dan Mazzaferro won the night, making that six platform titles in the past seven years for the team. Here's another great dive. You can see more of them in the February photo gallery.

Auburn's entire team, like their divers, seems young so everyone expects more orange and blue domination at the pool in the years to come. There is video of all this coming up, and I plan to share it with you next week. Technology permitting.

After watching other people swim and dive and twist and flip we were hungry, so The Yankee and I headed to Dreamland for a late rib snack. That was empty as I've ever seen the place, but it just meant more attention from the servers and even quicker rib delivery. And, of course, banana pudding. That's pretty much been the day, and whenever you can end it with banana pudding as a treat you've done something right.

So, we'll close now with a look at a few student newspaper opinion pieces, as is our custom. First, since we were at the University of Alabama today, we'll look to the Crimson White where Amanda Peterson challenges her fellow students on helping the homeless:
On Wednesday night, a group of students slept on the Quad for the Grate American Sleep-out, hosted by the Community Service Center as a part of the 13th annual Hunger and Homelessness Week.

Last year after the event, The Crimson White ran a photo on the front page of a student at the sleep-out playing guitar with some of his friends. This year the photo from the event showed three people with their pillows and sleeping bags sitting against a tree.

This event still confuses me. Students say they want to do something good and be able to relate to the homeless of Tuscaloosa, so they bring pillows and entertainment with them to the Quad for a night.

Is there no better way for students to help the homeless than to hang out for a night?
The Chanticleer at Jacksonville State is arguing against proposed state legislation that might allow students and professors to be armed on campus:
(State Sen. Hank) Erwin's words are eerily similar: "My thinking is if we had extra guns on campus, that would send a deterrent to any potential madman who might want to try [an NIU-style attack] in this state," he told The Anniston Star last week.

Yes. Clearly, what we need instead of one guy shooting is 30 guys shooting. Certainly no harm could result from such heroic actions!


What we need are similar pragmatic solutions. JSU President Bill Meehan said he disagrees with Erwin's legislation. Even trained professionals, he pointed out in the Star, occasionally have accidents that cause injury or death.
And finally, The Auburn Plainsman is once again discussing Auburn's trustees as one member's term will soon expire. David Ingram is endorsing Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Cynthia Tucker, to fill the spot:
If Auburn is to be a University others look to for guidance, we need Ms. Tucker’s voice. We need to fix the diversity disparity that has been a caesura for Auburn and fix it so fundamentally that we can never go back to these failed policies of the past.

The Board needs more "courageous and clear-headed" trustees. "A strong sense of morality” couldn’t hurt either.

The kind of obdurate attitude toward minorities by Alabamians is the reason no one takes this state seriously.

When prospective students and their families visit Auburn they realize this is a valuable institution. Of course Auburn has been valuable to students and faculty for more than a century, but now is a chance for Auburn to show it can be valuable to the nation.
Tucker is from Monroeville, Ala., has two degrees from Auburn and an amazing career, including the Pulitzer. She could be a wonderful choice.

Time will tell on who gets the governor's nomination.

Big weekend plans? Hope yours is a full one.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

There's a little short order cafe I visit once a week or so for lunch. It is close, they actually have a little parking, they have four rooms to dine in, so you can choose the volume of activity around you. The food is OK, but the staff there is great. Even when they're angry with one another they're happy. And you'll never see a staffer with anything but a smile on their face when they are interacting with the customers. The place is planned out so that you order, pay and and later you get your food.

There was previously an older gentleman who bellowed out your name and he brought the tray to you, but he died a while back and they decided it wouldn't be the same to have someone else do it. Now they call your name for you to fetch your food.

So the place is close and convenient and I go there enough that I've been added to the rarified air of the regulars and people know my name. I always try to go to one particular older gentleman to take my order. He's brisk and pretends to give people a hard time, but that's for show to those within earshot. When he leans in close for a private conversation he takes on the most genuine tone that you've ever known.

He'd be a great salesman, and perhaps he was in his previous career. I'd long thought he was at the end of his career, but lately I've come to think of this as his post-retirement job. Today he was wearing a snap cap, perfect for a man of his vintage. The cap though, even from across the room, had a look of permance. It wasn't ratty, it just looked more authentic and considered, rather than a modern affectation on an old style.

I complimented him on his cap, and he quietly thanked.

"It was my father's, so its probably 60 or 70 years old."

It suits you.

Then he told me about a phone call from his brother that morning. He's the middle brother, he said, so he hears about family problems going up and going down.

After that he mentioned that he lost his youngest son 10 years ago, "He'd be 34 now."

And that was the first time I've ever seen the guy at any speed less than jovial. It took half a beat to recover and think of the appropriate things to say. Maybe he was confiding in me because this was the time of year that it hurt the most, but it was a touching little conversation in its simplicity, earnestness and anonymity.

I enjoyed my sandwich while finishing Al McIntosh's Selected Chaff. As a book that served as an occasional-lunchtime-only read it took a while, but a more dedicated read will get you through it fairly quickly. If you've missed previous mentions of the book here it is a selection of columns (funny, touching and archival) from the famous community newspaper editor. If you like the 1940s, war on the homefront, small town news or community journalism this is a great book to pick up.

The last thing in the book is McIntosh's obit, which is a long and powerful read. (The final perk of being a newspaperman is the guarantee of a fine send off.) There are several references in the obit to a famous column he wrote in the 1960s, "A Tired American." That was when the world stood up and noticed the work of the small town Minnesota writer. Every promotional piece on last year's release of his book mentions this column. There's been some speculation that "A Tired American" is one of the most reprinted columns ever.

You can't find it online. I'd like to read it though. From the hints I've gathered it would seem to be a piece that still applies a generation later.

Moving on, the new lunch book is Alcatraz Screw, which is the memoir of a guard who served during much of the island's time as a prison. The foreword was particularly insightful, and the first three chapters have been full of the anecdotes of George Gregory's arrival on the island. If he recalled that much detail of his first days I'm curious to see what he remembers from his last moments of service.

He generally seems intent on correcting the perceptions the general public has about Alcatraz, and you get a rudimentary introduction into being a prison guard -- or a corrections officer, as they like to be called now. Just three chapters in and you'll have already met George "Machine Gun" Kelly and Robert Stroud, The Birdman of Alcatraz, so the color and character of the book should continue to grow.

An Email conversation with my friend, and defunct blogger Terry Oglesby about voting habits of particular segments of the population took us on a weird turn the likes of which can only be brought about on the internet. We were discussing some of the truisms of political science and how some of them, though you can appreciate them intellectually, can still stagger the mind.

To colorfully illustrate my point I thought I'd use a particular clip from "O Brother, Where Art Thou." YouTube failed me in the search (Why isn't everything, ever uploaded somewhere by now?) but I did find the real Pappy O'Daniel and his old radio broadcasts.

That sort of thing makes you want to go around recording everything, because you never know what will be an important cultural artifact in 70 years.

From there I also found Bob Dylan who was, apparently, a young man of constant sorrow back in 1964.

This whole entry has been a lot of looking back hasn't it? Well, a bit more won't hurt.

Site stuff: There are two new black and white photos to check out from the 1920s. You can find the entire collection of black and whites here or go directly to the latest, starting here. They are quick reads, minimal investment of time is required.

That's pretty much it for the day. I'm going to celebrate my day -- including a previously unmentioned and brief run to the local grocery store of inferiority, and the car parts store of surprising pleasantness plus the recent visit to the chicken restaurant of closing time apathy -- with a dip in the hot tub and then settle in for the night.

Hope you're day has been worth celebrating!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

There is a new video. There's also a 30 point spike in the blood pressure, but I'm told that will slip back to their regular healthy levels soon enough.

Here's the short version of today's video adventure: That was a ridiculous affair waisting three hours.

Here's the long version: Got three hours?

I went out Monday and Tuesday and shot some simple, basic, amateurish video. I trimmed them down in Windows Movie Maker, as noted here yesterday. Today I combined the four segments for 2:30 of footage. I recorded a 2:30 narration in Cool Edit and then started importing everything into Movie Maker. After that comes the real frustration.

Every time I ask Movie Maker to do something the software folds and crashes. It was a miraculous, exasperated, last ditch effort that actually got the audio and video mixed. I wanted to tweak one more thing, but couldn't risk it. My monitor, fearing being the target of baseless reprisals, thought this was a good move.

There were two points to this particular video. I wanted to see how arduous Movie Maker might be. I also wanted to streamline the process, as there's always a learning curve and the post-production can only get more efficient with experience and streamlining. Right? The end result is very hackish, which is fine for now.

So I'm looking for software, because this isn't cutting it.
If everyone struggled like this there wouldn't be many people making video for online posting.

Basically I'm left with my original thought: I want cuts, the ability to wipe or fade to black, the ability to put an opening and a closing graphic in there and the ability to, occasionally, mute the camera's sound and replace it with a narrative. These are basic things and shouldn't be that difficult in the scheme of things. This basic software, frustratingly, struggles to do it.

So anyway, you can see the video on the audio/video page. You can also see it here without moving away from this page. New commercial construction is the subject. We're thrilled at the prospect. There are basically two jokes in the thing, two punchlines which might get lost in the obviously contrived mock-confusion. Future performances and subject matter will be better. This was more of a technical run than anything.

I considered, after all of this, to go out and play with the lunar eclipse, but the clouds are jealous and got in the way of everything. I understand that they cooperated further to the south and just to the north, but not in our area. Just as well. Passersby might be confused by a guy in socks and short sleeves staring into the dark with a little camera.

Makes you wonder if the neighbors have figured out you're online. Probably not, else they'd always be sure to find themselves on the opposite side of the street.

Since there's only one little video I'll give you a bonus podcast from work. I was fortunate enough to spend a few minutes with Dr. Steven Taylor, who has populated the left of this page for years. He's a professor at Troy University and an expert on Latin American politics, which makes me the go-to-guy to discuss Fidel Castro's retirement.

Retirement is an odd word to use here, but I've been struggling all day with what to call it, "Fidel's stepping down"? The "self abdication of a vicious dictator"? What do these guys do when they retire? Usually they die in power, or are overthrown in exile. Not the bearded one, he's got plenty of track suits to enjoy, probably some murals to oversee and he'll surely stop by the office to see how his brother, Raul is doing with the job.

Yes, the podcast is over-modulated. We've just installed a new phone system at the office. The phone being the conduit of choice to get sound into the computer. Further experimentation will tell us whether the levels can be improved. It works for now, and, I figure, you want to hear Taylor more than me, which is good, since I talk little and listen much.

In those podcasts at least.

So I've given you 17:30 of material for the evening. Hopefully you'll forgive me for the absence of the Glomerata this week. We'll blame Windows Movie Maker for being an unstable piece of software that became the big drain in the bottom of the basin of my day.

For now, I'm going to go have dinner -- impossibly late -- and check on the moon one more time. I expect clouds.


Yep. All clouds. No moon. No matter. There will be another total lunar eclipse in 2010. Remember when something randomly listed as two years ago seemed an interminable period? Yeah, me too.

Good night friends, and good night moon. We'll all talk again soon.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

This is the high speed version of my day.

After work, I shot video. You may see it tomorrow. I parked the car, walked around, shot a few things, walked around some more, trying to look noncommittal and inconspicuous when important looking vehicles drove by.

The video was so good I drove to the other side and shot some more. All the time I was ready for some burly guy to come ask me what I was doing, and then try to explain that I wasn't stealing secrets, but that I'm making this for you, my friends, and for the fun of it.

Very few people understand these sorts of things. Ask me again tomorrow, though, how I feel about the "for the fun of it" part.

I thought I'd experiment with the first part of the video, went into an editing stupor and before I realized it I had a rough, choppy set of clips ready. Tomorrow: Narration!

Tonight, I recorded you a podcast. You can hear it on the recordings page, where all of these things go to haunt me. I also re-wrote the code on that page, just so everything feels symmetrical. You can also hear the podcast here, and never leave this page.

This podcast is a harmless little use of four minutes, where I basically backed myself into two corners and offer two little jokes to get out of the whole thing. There's a fair amount of sound in it. And it was fun to make. Not a bad use of however long it took. Probably too long.

It is coming to my attention that I should streamline my software use. And also figure out ways to make this computer go faster. It goes s.l.o.w. just now.

Somehow, in doing this handful of things the night has gotten away from me. We'll blame the machine; told you it was slow.

I took part in one of life's little ironies by eating fried chicken while watching a show about weight loss. I only had a bit of chicken, and it is rare that I enjoy it in the fried style, but just as I was separating meat from bone a guy on the scream discussed how much chicken he eats ... and then I remember what he weighed and suddenly I was a lot less hungry.

Several laps up and down the stairs later I felt a bit better about myself. Just to be sure I'll wear a baggy shirt tomorrow.

After that I watched Jericho, this being the second episode of the second season. This show is fantastic. It is running into your ears and your eyes and your conscious mind on several different levels. Tonight's episode was a frightening civics episode in how a government for the people can change itself without the consent of the people. This entire story arc, wherever it is going, was predicated on the nuclear destruction of two dozen major cities, so the concept is out there a smidge, but the ramifications of it are more than a little thought provoking.

If they can't find this show a better time slot and a better audience it will go away again. But that will be OK, so long as they allow for all of the major points to come together. It is hard to overlook the greater sense of what they're driving at. It might not be historical television, and it might be forgotten by all who come across these archives in a few years, but the show holds a certain captivation now.

Which is why I'm up too late, still playing with sound, still writing here, still wondering why I'm up so late.

Tomorrow: You may get video. Or I may get frustrated with it, this could go either way.

Hope your Tuesday's cheeriness is surpassed only by the promise of your Wednesday.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Having performed my patriotic President's Day duties yesterday I was left with a loss today.

So I slept in, this being a day off. Sadly there were no presidential movies on TNT or FX to watch, as there will be war movies on Memorial Day. Instead I had leftover pizza and began the comprehensive goofing off of a day which the off can afford to be goofed.

With that in mind let's not examine what did and didn't get done. Oh, I could have held the most noble intentions, even thought about doing so, but then realized that none of those things would be done, so best not to make the list. One never wants to disappoint a list.

In the early afternoon a grocery store visit was made. We intrepid pioneers -- traveling 13 miles to a grocery store of merit, eschewing the inferior store three miles away and the glut at the Blue Box Store Concern five miles away -- on just such a journey are often reminded of the times of our forefathers, and the fores they fathered, or at least the journeys they made with any regularity. I've mentioned this here before, but there's a Revolutionary War veteran buried in a quiet church cemetery near my home. According to the genealogists the man fought with the North Carolinians during the war and later John Lawley settled what was then the Mississippi territory, now Alabama:
The land was productive and required but little labor to produce the necessaries of life. The woods were a hunters paradise a paradise abounding in deer, turkey, with some panther and bear. The winters were not so cold then as now. Cattle and horses were raised in the woods and afforded all the butter beef and milk that was needed. Not with- the glowing description given to prospective settlers, these early men and women and children knew the meaning of hard work and sacrifice, but knew, too, the delight of living in a new land.
He died an old man in 1832 and lived with Presidents George Washington through Andrew Jackson. I wonder what he would think if he saw us today.

At the grocery store there was little joy. They did not have the proper bagels. The store is kind enough to store bagels in three sections, lest your desire for bagels grow or mutate in your journey. In the early going there are bagels at the bakery. Later you will find them on the bread aisle, but these are brand name bagels and not made in-store. Two aisles over there are more in the freezer section. By their very nature they are inferior: frozen, ill-named and of poor font.

Clearly the fresh baked and local bagels would be the optimum choice, but the much desired wheat variety was much desired, and therefore not in the baker's rack. White bagels were chosen. Grudgingly. For the first time an inferior, bleached bread will drop crumbs into the new toaster. There will be no joy in Kitchenville.

Dinner inspirations for the week were hard to come by. Few people, it seemed, wanted to be in the store just then, and they were all facing similar problems, crowding up the meat coolers that line the back of the store. Finally a command decision must be made, and in fine fashion stop-gap choices were made and schedules reworked so that one choice, now the most important one, would be delayed: What to eat Thursday night.

The rest of the week is accounted for, tonight being spaghetti, which was delicious even if I am biased having made it. The secret is ... this is spaghetti, and more than hard to mess up.

On the way home from the grocery store I shot some video that I hope to share later this week. When I got home there was no avoiding the wildlife; after putting the groceries away I went outside to tape them. That should be on the site tomorrow.

While I was outside one of the neighborhood kids offered to sell me some doughnuts for his church. Inflation is even hitting the baked sugar business, as they're now going for $5 a box. I would have agreed, but he was bringing the doughnuts by Friday night. Meaning they would have been baked Friday morning, and no longer Hot, Fresh and Now. Also, I won't be home until late, and don't really need the excuse to gorge on something over the course of the weekend. I could not, in good conscience, offer to stiff the kid, and his church, out of five bucks when he came around and I wasn't home. Instead I offered to buy any off his hands if he found that he had extras.

He won't have extras, which is fine with me and the ol' waistline.

Site stuff: Two new campaign buttons have been added to the series. A little out of sequence, but now you can see some 40-year-old George Wallace buttons and a button from a largely forgotten run by Oklahoman Robert Kerr. That button is more than a half-century old, but still looks nice and comforting.

One new photo gallery update for the day, as January 2007 takes on the new look. You can find all the prior photo galleries modernized on the pictures page.

Two buttons, a photo gallery and setting up the rest of the week, not bad for a slow Monday. Hope your day has been fulfilling, peaceful and carefree.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Storms rolled in this morning waking up the neighborhood. We're all fine here, thanks, but about an hour south they had some heavy damage and a few dozen injuries. We got rain and lightning.

Cleared up by noon, though, and the sun came out to dry everything up. It was Spring by the afternoon and cool when darkness fell over everything. That time of year, dress for all occasions.

Did my patriotic duty and went out for President's Day sales this evening. I did not find anything to buy because I've done my patriotic duty in previous years so much that the closets are overflowing. First there must be some cleaning, but there'll be another holiday co-opted soon enough. There'll always be a reason stores need to clean their inventory and offer it to me at substantially discounted prices.

Late this evening I found myself watching Letters from Iwo Jima:
Giving Clint Eastwood, as director, a chance is always a good idea.
Eastwood will please more than disappoint. For every "Heartbreak Ridge" and "Firefox" he'll give you "Unforgiven" and "The Outlaw Josey Wales." Here he treads new ground, giving "Letters" that slow, soft sell here, trying to be full of regret about the subject matter. Everything is overdone with moral equivalence, but there's no getting around the context.

This is a better film than its companion piece, "Flags of Our Fathers," but once again Hollywood turns the narrative on its ear to Make You Think and Question Your Beliefs. Don't give in. Ken Watanabe is a fantastic actor with another fine performance, and the characters largely want to be portrayed as romantic, touching souls. There's just enough Imperial Japan in here, though, to tinge the thing gray. But there's plenty of gray in the sand and in the caves, by this point in the war there was black and white, victory and defeat.

Somewhere around the 90 minute mark you're reminded that war is a horrible, pointless thing. The movie never offers, from either perspective, a why war is sometimes a necessary thing, or what precipitated this action. Given that the Imperial Japanese propaganda behind the war didn't make the film should make you question your need to love the abstract cultural ideals for which the movies heroes are fighting, dying and committing suicide.

Ultimately there were 6,800 Marines killed and more than 17,000 wounded at Iwo Jima. Only 216 of the 21,000 Japanese defenders survived. There can be little equivalency in something so resolute.

As James Lileks said last year:
The text on the back of "Flags of Our Fathers" describes the "complicated nature of heroism, courage and patriotism." "Letters from Iwo Jima" simply describes the acts of the Japanese defenders as "heroic." Make of it what you wish.
If you can escape context you'll find this to be an impressive movie. If you find it your patriotic duty to support the economy by shopping in President's Day sales, your mileage might vary.

Site stuff: knocked out several more of the old photo galleries today. Still having fun remembering all this fun, and you can too. Check out the new look for the Belize 2006 trip, July 2006, August 2006, September 2006, October 2006, November 2006 and December 2006 photo galleries.

You'll also find much more on the pictures page.

Tomorrow I might sleep in a bit. I'll go grocery shopping, offer you some campaign buttons and find another project or two to distract us all. Until then, have a great time.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Slept in, played at lazy after that. Somewhere before noon I began moving around, noting how wonderful life is that allows such pursuit of slacking on an off day.

Read a bit, wrote a tiny bit more and had an idle television on in the background.

Today, by the way, is brought to you by the letters D and B. And by the actor D.B. Sweeney. First he was on in the background in his starring role in The Cutting Edge. Over a late lunch I saw him in Memphis Belle, which remains a remarkable movie with a fine cast of prospering actors.

Tonight I thought I saw D.B. Sweeney in Jericho, but turns out I was wrong. However, IMDB tells us he did have a small part in two episodes in the first season of the series, so he's still top-of-mind.

And Jericho, the season premiere of which aired Tuesday, does not disappoint. The show gets a bit darker in logical ways right out of the gate. And it does seem odd to think of post-apocalyptic middle America as getting dark, but now its personal. And the lead actors need to shave, and get haircuts, so you know its real and gritty.

There's one scene in the episode, in a kitchen no less, that reminds the viewer that this is a drama of basic, human proportions. It need be no larger than that. They tell a great tale on the basis of that alone, and the characters by and large flourish because of it.

CBS canceled the show after one season, saying they loved it but they couldn't find the ratings. Viewers kept the show alive in a support campaign that is probably compared only to the original Save Star Trek campaign. So CBS brought it back. The show might not last more than two seasons -- and maybe that's a good length for the show, in truth -- but only because CBS won't help the program find viewers. They bring it back and put it in the same slot, opposite American Idol, expecting to get a new audience from ... where exactly?

But that's why they're in television. That's how strikes happen. That's why viewers sent the network tons of peanuts (as an ode to Gen. Anthony McAuliffe at Bastogne and to one of the primary characters) as a plea to see the thing through. As noted in this space earlier the first season ended with a fade to black and gunfire as a big skirmish between two rival towns broke out. That's an abrupt ending or a genius cliffhanger, and at least the show survived for a few more days in the golden light and handsome smiles of the good people of Kansas.

If Gen. McAuliffe's actual comment was more widely remembered, that mail-in campaign to CBS would have been messier.

Site stuff: Several new updates on the pictures page. Still having fun with recalling these adventures and bringing everything into the new look. It'll be wrapped up soon and I'll have to find another project of memories. There'll always be something to tweak and jog the mind.

For now, you can check out the December 2005, January 2006, February 2006, March 2006, April 2006, May 2006 and the June 2006 galleries. See 'em again for the first time.

And I'll see you tomorrow. If D.B. Sweeney doesn't see us first.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Fridays come and Fridays go, they're impermanent with the spinning of the earth, but the concept is always there, always on our minds. Today that feeling arrived around lunch. Usually it comes much earlier, but it has been a busy week, and today there was the normal routine and the spectacle of a new phone system in the office.

Now we have caller ID. And multiple ringtones and teleconferencing and a paging system and who knows what other unnecessary toys are in the new system.

It doesn't take much to amuse the people in our office, just give us a new technology and we're set for the week.

An unadventurous trip to the bank after work and then it was on the way home. I considered a nap, but got sidetracked and goofed off on a video experiment for an hour or so. After that it was Pie Day, where we did not get Ward, or even with our friend Susie, but instead Adam who actually remembered his first day there and he was on the floor with Ward and we christened him Ward Jr.

"I was about 17 then ... so young."

That was last year.

So, now feeling old, infirm and mock-disgusted with the youth of our waiter we all limped off to our respective homes, certain it was time for bed.

It was 8:30.

And here we are, pointed out a few opinion pieces from the student newspapers, as is now our Friday custom.

First we read the editorial position of the economic stimulus package in the University of Alabama's Crimson White:
The main premise of this package is that, when Americans get their checks, they will run out to the local Best Buy, Target, Wal-Mart, etc. and spend it as fast as they can, thereby jumpstarting the economy. But the economy is an unwieldy and unpredictable beast.


This is fiscal irresponsibility from Washington and Wall Street that hopes to breed fiscal irresponsibility on Main Street.
To the north Zach Aaron uses his upcoming graduation from UNA to challenge local leaders to prevent a brain drain in the Flor-Ala:

I think there is so much potential for the Florence area that has not been effectively developed. We have an excellent four-year university, and a smaller two-year college. Why can't the councils for the local cities get together and come up with a way to retain more of these graduates?

Instead, all Florence seems interested in doing is recruiting more retail shopping and obnoxious restaurants that the economy doesn't seem to be able to support.
There's also a light-hearted opinion piece from Kevin Jeffers who wrote a Valentine to himself in Jacksonville State's Chanticleer:
(J)ust noticed you were single this year. Again. That's cool, though. This day isn't meant to make you aware of the blatantly obvious.

This is a day for love. And those who are in love. Which, unless you count your increasingly unhealthy obsession with Natalie Portman, doesn't include you.
He ends the column with the traditional XOXO, which is a nice touch for a column about being single on the day of love. That guy must be a softie.

Finished that video. It is nothing, but if you're the painfully curious sort that won't regret losing 30 seconds of your life you can find it here. Fair warning: I made the thing and I wouldn't invest the time in watching it.

Really I just wanted to test the quality of the Flip Video camera. I figure moving at high speeds through varying lighting conditions would be about as much as I could ask a simple little camera to do. It turns out OK given all of that. Afterwards I figured I'd see how the proprietary software works -- I'm using it wrong or it seems buggy. Ended up pulling it off the camera and importing it into the slag of software that is Windows' Movie Maker. Editing there is simple enough, but like carving a filet with a machete. I added some music to it in a series of steps that can only be described as an ordeal convoluted enough to trick the editing software.

I have some old software from a previous camera that I tried and returned. It might do something, but just looks frustratingly out of 1994. So, basically, I'll be looking for something cheap and effective with which to edit. I just want to trim, mix and match clips, add the occasional sound, save it to the hard drive and do all that quickly and easily.

This software is out there; I just need your help in finding it.

And that's where we'll leave it for tonight. Happy weekend!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Fooled again by the weather. It was so bone-achingly cold yesterday, and the forecast called for the prelude to Spring today, but this morning, this.

So almost all of yesterday and part of this morning below freezing. I'll tell anyone who'll listen -- and myself over and over again -- that the warm stuff is coming right up behind this cold front, surely the last one of the season. I've had my fill of sticks, I'm ready to see leaves, and the impossibility of weeks of blooms on trees and plants and even the weeds.

And while tonight is far warmer than this morning, standing outside and looking up at the stars isn't as nice without the symphony of crickets, the torches of the fireflies and the soothing fragrance of honeysuckle. Maybe I'm just a meteorological romantic, but May can't get here fast enough.

About the baseball testimony: Everyone looks bad as the Congressional committee wades beyond their depth.

I could throw in a baseball metaphor here, but Roger Clemens looked so guilty and the various Congressmen so ill-placed that I've lost a taste for it. And that from only watching about 10 minutes of testimony, but enough to see that Congressional investigators were accepting sworn affidavits of hearsay during their grandstanding.

So if you're feeling down about that, refresh yourself with this clip of a simpler notion of a once great game.

I might have to watch Field of Dreams tonight just to feel better about the sport. Or The Sandlot. Right now, it feels more like an Eight Men Out mood, complete with the "Say it ain't so Rog, say it ain't anabolic!"

Eight Men Out is the booked of quality modern baseball films. The Natural came before it, but is not recognized in my survey. And Bull Durham was released a few months earlier, but the trivia at IMDB says Eight Men Out had been in the works for a decade in one phase of production or another, so it wins here.

Also the movie just feels like it was created in a different era somehow. Someone took a stab at the 1918 era and almost pulled it off. If John Cusack and one of the bookies were cast differently the movie could belong to a different time from when Field of Dreams was produced, to say nothing of
Major League.

All of those movies were released within about a year of one another if you can believe it. And then it falls off quickly with Rookie of the Year, the movie about the kid that pitches for the Cubs.

Kevin Costner wanted to be the other bookend with his perfect game movie, For Love of the Game I believe it was, but I have rules about the quality of movie bookends. Mr. Baseball is from 1992, but not on my list because 95 percent of the movie takes place in Japan.

So the other baseball bookend be the Simpsons episode where Mr. Burns hires the ringers to play Homer and his Wonderbat. Not a movie, but it should have been a dramatic opera.

Cobb, from 1994, would be the other natural bookend, but is disqualified here because Rogers Clemens has a cameo. Hear that Rocket? You're now ruining baseball movies, too! Great ones! Even Tommy Lee Jones can't carry your injected weight.

This will trouble us all through the long summer portion of the season and, if baseball is lucky there'll be a dramatic and heartwarming run to the playoffs to make everyone forget.

Did you forget Valentines Day? I've heard stories of people who did. And stories of flowers freezing in trucks up north. The Yankee and I were going to have an anti-Valentine's Day gathering at the Olive Garden, courtesy of a gift card. But even arriving early was arriving too late. So it was Japanese instead, where being seated was the easy part. Catching shrimp from the cook was more of a challenge.

Thoroughly stuffed and ready to, once again, swear off food forever, I made it home in time to see I had company. My mother is driving through town and is crashing for the night. Truly crashing. There are no presents, no cooked meals, nothing of the sort we might come to think of a parental visit.

We've had a nice chat; she's ready for a well-deserved vacation, I'm ready for a long weekend. May we all receive that to which we aspire.

She's leaving tomorrow for her trip, and I'll be at work before she stumbles out of the guest bedroom. We'll have spent about two hours visiting. Later she'll be in the sand and I'll be jealous of her beach time.

Maybe it will at least warm up a bit here.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Went the long way home this afternoon so that I could stop at a specific store and get a specific item. This isn't the sort of change that sits well with your subconscious. Even if you're the easy going, laid back type, the body has been trained to expect this much travel time on the way home from where you spend your day. This much time and no more. When it takes that much time the mind and the body start communicating and decide to make you antsy as a way to let you know that something might be amiss.

My return trip takes about 25 minutes when the traffic behaves. Today's detour also takes about 25 minutes, because of a little more traffic and the general hesitancy of the drivers heading that direction. After those 25 minutes, though, I'm only just arriving at the store. And now I must shop, make my purchases and continue the trip home, another 15 minute journey.

We're clearly down to picking nits over life's problems when its down to a different group philosophy towards interstate traffic and a cumulative 20 minute difference in your arrival at home. I realize this, it isn't a problem, but we must start the blog each day somehow. I sit in the fine, new, handsome, luxurious, powerful car and am grateful for the car, the job to travel from and the ability to purchase cheap little baubles on a whim. And then -- and only then -- do I sigh aloud at the woman who hasn't figured out the "right on red" concept could work to our mutual advantage. The most trying portion of my day is an elderly lady on her cell phone exercising an abundance of caution while driving; life is good.

So I park at the store, pleased that I've missed the rain and duck inside for a few cards. A birthday card, a thinking of you card, a musical card: the normal token pieces of overpriced stationary denoting my love and affection for people deserving of more than I can offer.

All of that, somehow, gets us to today's little surprise that was hinted at here yesterday. I sat down this evening and jammed out a little podcast that is topical and timely. You can find it here. You'll laugh, you'll cry; you'll think. The topic, of course, is the beloved holiday card.

I'm terrible at cards. Most of the time I have to be reminded of them, or rush to get them in on the day of an event, if not the following Tuesday. I'm still crafting holiday thank you notes. It is a cycle that can't be broken, I fear. If I've slighted you in the past, please accept my humble apologies, and know that I felt bad about it, still do, and am trying to get better about it.

And if that's the case, please accept that podcast as an extra apology, since I was feeling guilty about this during the entire production of the thing.

You can also find that podcast on the recordings page which got a serious overhaul this evening. I removed the radio links and downloaded backup copies of those old files before deleting them from the server. It was a little past the time to do that. I haven't worked in radio in four years and, while I loved it dearly, don't have a need to go back.

If something came up to do on the side I'd leap at the opportunity, but its a passion rather than a profession. And, just in case, there is a demo tucked away on the back porch of the site waiting for just such a use. So I removed some old clips, some of them now seem painfully old, and left only a few jokes from college radio on the page. I managed to create a lot of extra server space for the website, some of which was dedicated to a few work podcasts that are informative and long-standing, pieces like identity theft, the HPV virus and a church recovering from arson.

That's the sort of work I'd like to showcase, anyway, even if the audio quality is sometimes lacking. So go over to the recordings page and listen to some of that stuff. Hear it again for the first time!

While you've got that playing in the background you can also see the latest changes on the pictures page. The gallery for the 2005 Iron Bowl has adopted the new look.

I mentioned the other day that reworking the photo galleries is a wonderful run down memory lane. I might have to find new layout design every few years just to marvel at some of these things.

It was the 2005 Iron Bowl, you might recall, in which they dedicated the field to former coach Pat Dye. And when War Eagle VI did her pre-game flight she landed just a few feet from where I stood at midfield. As impressive a site as that is, it is entirely different when you're on the field. To say nothing of the game. The Yankee snagged sideline passes and we were there to watch the complete demolition of Alabama, sacking their quarterback 11 times on the way to an easy victory. We'd also witnessed War Eagle VI's final Iron Bowl flight and the last football game called by the legendary Carl Stephens' -- I interviewed him soon after he announced his retirement -- and without knowing those last two tidbits there was still no denying the heft of the experience. I got to dip my toe into that again tonight.

Oh yeah, the November 2005 gallery has adopted the new look as well. It seemed a letdown after the Iron Bowl gallery, but there was Thanksgiving, a trip to Houston and an octogenarian birthday. It was a good fall, certainly one to remember.

That's about it for the night. Soft tacos and The Biggest Loser, which is becoming more and more like a soap opera and almost off the watch list. There was a new Boston Legal that was just as coarse as you can be on network television. And largely unfunny. Denny Crane had two good lines, one subtle moment and the only other redeeming qualities were from guest star Scott Bakula, as they continue on their Star Trek franchise reunion. I hope the show is nearing its end. Otherwise it'll be a sad day when I decide to quit that show, but they'll have earned it the hard way.

Otherwise, I'm trying to figure out if spreading Miracle-Gro on my scanner will allow me to put bigger things on the scanning tray. Any ideas?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Perfectly normal Monday to start the week. We work a little, we laugh a lot. We feel informed and useful.

I fell asleep last night trying to remember all of the things to do today. There's this, there's that. There's a chore and a deadline and more. I intended to make a list, but normally decline such conventions. Lists aren't the most productive part of my day, given my preference for lining things up and knocking them down in order. If I make a list I have to then organize the order with a numerical system. Now my list is messy, randomly ordered and gives the impression that I'm still mastering the numerical system.

So I could rewrite the list. Now I've taken twice as long and at least two pieces of paper. Why? So I can scratch items off? The whole list concept is good for some, but doesn't serve me well. So I'd file it all away in my mind and proceed with the busyness of the list's business. Only composing that list as your last mental chore of the evening isn't conducive to memory retention.

So today I made a list. If you walked by my desk today you might have witnessed the head back, the eyes up -- a professor swore by elevating the eyes to a 45 degree angle for memory recall -- and the occasional finger snapping or "Oh! Yeah, that was the other thing!"

There are seven things on the list, four of them were accomplished today. One more will get etched off tomorrow, two more on Wednesday.

Other than that there's not a lot to take credit for today. There was brainstorming, playing with kitties, dinner, the smallest chunk of television with the meal -- there's three or four hours of programming to get lost in tomorrow, so I used the old time sink sparingly tonight.

The television writers are coming back this week, and new programs will be on the way, but my appointment viewing had already dipped to two (and sometimes three) programs and its doubtful that it'll grow from that. There are too many fun projects elsewhere and unfortunate chores to occupy one's time and, frankly I find you far more interesting. Except for Twitter, which still seems useless, but only slightly more than Facebook.

That's the ironic thing about the writer's strike. The whole thing was about online revenues: writers wanted some and the networks wanted to keep it. Before the blink today (and whatever deals the two sides are making) they were flirting with losing your attention. Well?

I learned one of two things when I began guessing all the punchlines before the characters uttered them. Either I was writing this stuff in my head just as well as the pros or, more frightening, I can now subconsciously recognize all the patterns. So its good I've grown increasingly selective of my viewing habits. I'll continue watching, just a lot less.

Jericho starts again tomorrow. There's a new Boston Legal too (and they're tottering on a short leash anyway). Battlestar Galactica's final season is heading this way. There'll eventually be a return of 24. Of course there will be baseball in the background in the spring and summer and we know where I'll be in the fall. Anything more than that and the computer, DVDs and the library would grow jealous.

Two new buttons this week, you can check out Goldwater and Eisenhower here, or start at the beginning and work back in time.

There's also a few new upgrades on the pictures page. I finished the Boston collection, left unfinished since last night -- which irritates like a splinter that is under the skin and irritating. But that is fixed, all the irritation is gone and is once again blemish-free. Unless you find a blemish, that is, at which point I hope you'll point out so that I can fix it with speed and efficiency.

Also updated is the New York City 2005 collection. Those images were still 400x300, but recreating a 640x480 gallery was easy enough from the raw images. Some point soon, I keep telling myself, I jumped in with both feet and started doing all the galleries at the larger size. That didn't happen during the time period covered in today's redesigning. Also in that batch: August 2005, September 2005 and October 2005.

It makes me laugh to see these months where I was publishing 40 photographs. I've pulled out my camera twice, basically, in February and have uploaded 66 pics. And just wait until the weather gets nice.

Maybe some day a generous and kind critic will come along and write something effusive.

I look forward to seeing that in the Inbox.

Tomorrow I must return to a store of dry and perishable goods to pick up a few items. And then I'll come home, scan a few things to show you at a later date, update another few photo galleries and clean a bit. Oh the stories I'll be able to tell.

There might also be a special surprise here tomorrow, so be sure you come back if like you being especially surprised. Or even moderately amused. You should be able to at least get that much out of it.

So thanks for stopping by today, and I hope to see you again tomorrow.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

If nothing else I've succeeded in one of the more rare feats of my life today. I went to the grocery store and didn't break or damage anything, nor otherwise cause a scene.

By the end of the grocery shopping experience I was buckling under the strain, but I managed to make it out of the store without any big adventures. I credit my not buying much, and immersing myself in text messaging a host of people who don't write me back.

You're on that list.

No, not you. You. Yes.

Hallmark, to my sorrow, has found the need to advertise their singing cards. To my glee they've expanded their musical card selection. So the simple act of looking at Valentine's Day cards -- an invention of Hallmark loathed by all savvy consumers, and even the musical cards will not redeem this excuse for a holiday.

So there I am, standing in the card section of the grocery store, thankful there's nothing in the cart that can melt because once you begin with the sound chip cards you must try them all. There was one that was either not recorded very well, or otherwise muffled, but you had to stand just right to listen to it. There's a thought that would have seemed silly just 10 or 15 years ago: leaning in to better hear to what a greeting card says. And it is a great day when you can find symphonic Wagner next to Leonard Nimoy.

With fruit, dinner things and breakfast items in hand there's the checkout experience, which today included a riotous 90-second bit on the cashier. I connect well with high school kids that'd much rather be somewhere else.

That's actually not true, because this was at Publix, where they spike the water cooler with happy juice. All the employees, particularly the younger ones are excited about being there. I didn't believe it when I heard those rumors before my first Publix experience several years ago and I'm still trying to figure out how they do it. Do they have a stamp in the hiring manager's office "Too Sullen" for all of those who can't make the cut?

We'll soon have a Publix open in my neighborhood, removing the inconvenience of an easy 10-minute interstate drive, so I'll be able to search even more frequently to answer the questions that vex us.

And then I dropped about half my sandwich from the deli onto the floor. Good thing I had the last bit of the week's chili or I might have dried up and blown away before this week's installment of Pie Day.

There's a new Sunday night hostess, but she understood the imperative of placing us in Ward's section. She was pretty snappy about it too, may they never change her.

The restaurant has this concept about the complimentary cheese biscuits that we've learned about recently. When we first started coming here the cheese biscuits were a paid appetizer, but after a while Ward began bringing his select customers complimentary biscuits. Before long that was a house standard. They'll fill the basket as long as you eat them, but now they've developed a formula, the likes of which an anti-establishment type might frown upon.

If four people are at a table they bring five biscuits. For two people they bring three biscuits. They apparently want customers to fight over the biscuits. I didn't believe this would happen, but Ward assures us it does. It seems you'd share, or at least realize they'll bring extras.

After that your food is there anyway. And they serve such ridiculous portions that you're buying dinner and tomorrow's lunch as well.

I was full before the pie got there and the last bite or two of that wasn't as fun as it should have been. But the week's dessert ration has been fulfilled.

There are new photo gallery upgrades on the pictures page. You can see March 2005, April 2005, May 2005, June 2005, July 2005, and Boston 2005.

All the preceding installments on the page are in the new style as well. What there is of February 2008 (mostly gymnastics) is also available.

I really love the new look. The code, once I spent a few minutes with it is very simply manipulated. And revisiting hundreds of great memories is the best part. When I started I thought bringing all the old photo galleries into line would be a chore, but the flood of memories make it hard to put the project down each day.

Some of the old images, though, are almost cringe-worthy. We'll blame the older, low performance cameras. They were great and made many beautiful pictures, but they just weren't built for high speed photography. There's some old gymnastics and soccer pictures that would never see the light of day if I shot them now, but they've been up for years, they can stay up for you to scoff at in a glossier display style.

So today's efforts there bring us through a day in Boston in August of 2005. As of this writing I haven't included any captions to the photos, but I will go back and do that tomorrow. Tonight was spent resizing the images. Previously I'd been using a 400x300 image size and the Boston trip happened before I started using 640x480. But, figuring you only tour Fenway and see a beautiful Boston day so many times in your life I reworked the gallery to show it off at 640x480.

This means that, tomorrow, when I get around to the next gallery, I'll have to consider rebuilding the images with a larger size for continuity. The next gallery was an August 2005 day in New York City, where it happened to be hotter than any place else in the country that afternoon. It looked as if they'd have a serious medical crisis on their hands at Yankee Stadium, but I hadn't even broken a sweat.

Then it rained.

And it was a great trip.

But you can relive that soon enough in the new photo gallery style. I know I'm looking forward to it.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Approximately five waking hours were spent on the site for the Saturday dose of things. All that being work with photographs. And, when I look at this small and humble stack as an accomplishment I can only note: this computer has become painfully, painfully slow.

So today was the computer, and a trip to the dollar theater to see Charlie Wilson's War:
Oversimplifications of history aside this is a fun, almost feelgood, war movie.
When did that happen last? John Wayne? That's probably not what the filmmakers wanted, but that's what you get with Aaron Sorkin beyond fast, smart conversation. Lots of humor to set up the dire moment, which is then forgotten because the guy can't help himself with clever conversation.

Also the thing is tortuously thin when it comes to historical accuracy and circumstance, but it is probably better to torture a few people than to point out the Carter Administration's hand in Afghanistan and the many furrowed brows over sending weapons hither and yon when Reagan came to office. The Reagan Administration being concerned about shipping weapons is funny, of course, but is true here. At the very start at least, no one really wanted to send Stingers into Afghanistan. Charlie Wilson, played humorously by Tom Hanks here, ultimately became an advocate, but not as quickly or as emphatically as he did in the movie.

There was a lot of drinking, Wilson had a liver transplant a few years ago, has seen the movie, watched our own war in Afghanistan from retirement and still has his own Stinger tube, as given to him at the end of the movie. It is a treat to see our recent history in film, even as a dramatized comedy. Seeing your own memories served as anachronisms is always entertaining. Using modern planes for 20-year-old scenes is forgivable. Many of the styles from the early 1980s is not.

Like so many things we gloss over in a 97-minute movie the contemporary history of people who want to hold an anger thousands of years old. Philip Seymour Hoffman's CIA character hits on this with a little lesson of unintended consequences at the end of the movie, which is all the audience was asked to consider when pondering how one thing begets another on a harsh battlefield.

After the movie The Yankee and I went out to eat at Cracker Barrel. The guy took our order and then came out a few moments later with his tray in hand and his bad news face screwed on tightly. A tall guy, he kneeled down at the table so you knew he was serious. The chicken would take 20 minutes. Normally at a Cracker Barrel this means the better part of your night, but time passes quickly when you have slightly undercooked biscuits.

There was a baby boy in a highchair next to our table and an elderly couple on the other side. Across the room a little girl was flinging around a lifelike doll in a way that caught everyone off guard the first few times until the brain finally rewired the brain to accept that quadrant of the room with non-alarmed responses. Behind our table was a guy from the kitchen singing tortured R&B versions of the birthday song to customers. A 45-second song had become a three minute study in expressionism.

If only he'd been around for the American Idol tryouts.

The food came. Mine was delivered with an extra side, curiously one of the two they'd 86ed. My orange cream beverage was not available in the ice cooler on the way out the door, a crushing blow to an otherwise fine day. The Andes mints were in their customary location on the counter. I picked up six, as my habit, to give three to The Yankee, leaving three for me.

We stood by the music demo display and spun the cart listening to classic Opry tunes until a kid came along the other side and fired up Small World, which can not be tolerated. That chorus, if heard more than twice in sequence, could threaten to begin a cult, and this not the sort of experience one needs in a Cracker Barrel gift store.

That mad dash from the restaurant was the last big move of the day, so we'll now get you on into the new stuff floating around the site.

For one, you've seen the new background here. The first mass of birds returned this week, squawking at everything that moved and generally giving the dogs fits. In the canine world this is payback for the late nights and early mornings of keeping me awake, and so once again the animal kingdom has served itself well.

None of the neighborhood cats were around when this was happening, which is a great shame. They might have stalked up the trees and tried to make an easy catch, but the birds are sharp. This photograph is taken from in front of my house and over the roof looking into the tree tops in the backyard. I took four steps in their direction and flailed my arm as if throwing something at the birds and they scattered. The birds are always watching.

There's a new photo on the front page of the site as well. That's a lamp in front of Farrah Hall on the Alabama campus. Built in 1927 for the law school and named after the dean of that program, Farrah Hall is now home to criminal justice, the cartographic laboratory, and the map library. I chose that particular photograph because of the bright light and the utter darkness in stark contrast beyond. There are also some nice lines in the lamp stand and the wall's decorative masonry.

I took a few nice photographs of Farrah, one of which is on the site in the now-active February photo gallery. This was a compromise I made Friday night in my desire to actually get some sleep. I threw a few photos on the blog and promised the rest today. They are now up, and you can see them here or by going through the pictures page, where you'll find all manner of eye goodies.

I don't plan on making the running photo gallery a routine feature. Adding the photos here and at the end of the month is sufficient, so we'll just call this a break with tradition and distract you with the quality of the photographs and the amazing skill of gymnasts.

That's pretty much been the day. Restive, with minor accomplishments of inconsequential nature and some nice distractions. The only drawback being the computer's lag times.


(The computer is not amused.)

Friday, February 8, 2008

This blog has a new slogan. It stems from a conversation with the last remaining Penn State refugee, Risé:
Risé: Your blogroll is broken.
Me: Really? Seems to be working for me.
Risé I thought it was funny because I was telling my mom I updated my blog and she said the only way she knows how to access mine is through yours!
"Reuniting mothers and daughters since 2007."

Is it just me or did Friday sneak up on us? Time bends in odd ways, especially at the end of the week. What seemed to take ages you might now recall as too rapid to be remembered. If only weekends went as slowly as those long weeks, but with so much fun and joy and relaxation that the two days flew by like five.

More time off for everybody. That's my campaign's platform.

Which gives us a perfectly organic way to talk about student newspapers. Since we're celebrating the hardworking student-journalists and the opinion pieces they craft around deadlines, classwork, social lifes and all the other things in their daily routine we may as well stay topical and have a political edition. Amanda Peterson, of the Crimson White at the University of Alabama gives us a tick-tock of her coverage of the Tuesday night results:
The activity and constant flow of news makes elections exciting, and the hovering threat of severe weather after the tornado damage in Tennessee kept my adrenaline pumping. Plan in place and charts in hand, I was ready for whatever happened.
Though usually you find out your wrong. In my first election coverage there was no weather problems to contend with. I was covering Alabama's third congressional district race. Rep. Glen Browder took a run at the U.S. Senate, vacating his spot in the House. State Sen. Ted Little, of Auburn ran against Bob Riley, who won the race. Both Little and Riley were nice guys, very approachable and accommodating. Little still serves in the state Senate, Riley is now a second-term governor of Alabama.

That same night also ended an era in the U.S. Senate as Howell Heflin was ready to step down. Democrat Roger Bedford lost to Jeff Sessions (who's full name, Jefferson Beauregard insisted he enter Southern politics). Late that night I spoke with Sessions' staff, who told me I asked too many questions as a reporter (my first professional compliment). If the paper's deadline wasn't looming so close I might have better appreciated the historical aspects of the moment. Riley became the first Republican congressman from the third district in 120 years. Sessions has to also trace his senate seat back to Reconstruction and a guy named Willard Warner to find a Republican.

But I digress.

David Ingram of The Auburn Plainsman gives some advice to Barack Obama, who won Alabama's popular vote in the primary:
Politicians, Democrats especially, need to start being less rational and stop paying such close attention to bar graphs, pie charts and figures and be more willing to break out the Kleenex.
Emotion is what people are looking for. It’s what they want.
People want politicians to be less like a robot and more like Joe Citizen. And apparently, Democrats don’t know how to do it. Republicans tend to be Emotional-in-Chiefs, they invoke emotion out of people.
Two hours north up U.S. 431 the editorial board of The Chanticleer, the Jacksonville State paper, took a stand against the winner of Alabama's Republican primary:
While (Mike) Huckabee, of all the candidates, might be the one best suited to sit around and play rummy with while talking about our nation's financial plight, he is not the man to help solve it.
Even as I worked at The Plainsman I was impressed by the fearlessness of student-journalists. You might say they don't know better, but it was our generation at The Plainsman that ran a blank front page as a political statement against the Board of Trustees. I had nothing to do with that, and would have argued against it if asked, but still found it courageous in the face of the Trustee's angry threat to pull the paper's charter.

You don't have to look far to find quality work from young journalists, which is the explanation for this little running feature.

Stopped by Comp USA on the way home from work. They're going out of business and everything must go, don't you know. There's a theory that the firm that acquired Comp USA habitually raises the prices on things 50 percent and then offers consumers a 30 percent discount. I can't confirm the accuracy of that thought, but either way the place is hoping with people stalking over stacks of storage media and clusters of computer cables. The fixtures are going in dribs and drabs. If you ever wanted to convert an all-glass computer display case into a coffee table now is the time.

As far as that price hike strategy goes, I can say this: I bought something for a third less than the maker's list price, so you can get a good deal on at least one product right now. More on which product that is at a later time, but it promises to be very entertaining for us all.

After that, there was the drive to Tuscaloosa. Had ribs and banana pudding with The Yankee and Eight and then went to the gymnastics meet. This was Alabama's annual Power of Pink meet, which apparently means mean with mustaches can wear pink slacks with no fear of public reprisal. I wasn't even aware they sold men's pants in that color. This is, of course, a breast cancer fund raiser and always draws a big crowd (something the Alabama gymnasts generally need little help in doing).

A few years ago they asked all of the women in the coliseum who had breast cancer or who were survivors to stand up before the meet began. About a third of the place stood. Granted it was a loaded sample, but still frightening in its implications.

Tonight, though, was for fun. The program recognized the 20th anniversary of their 1988 championship, honored the roughly 7,000 former All-Americans (or so it seemed) who were in attendance and then got about the business of beating Arkansas, which is a young program who should have suffered far more in the meet. The 10th-ranked Razorbacks (Lady Razorbacks? Ladybacks? Razorladies?) are scrappy, and Bama wasn't at their best this evening, so it was closer than it should have been.

In the interests of time -- and because it is very late -- I'll give you a few photographs here and tomorrow through the rest into a mid-month photo gallery.

And, now, since I know you're here for pictures of girls flipping in every direction, enjoy this photograph of a guy dancing.

Some young fans find the meets hair-raising.

Even more frightening was the mother of these kids, just out of the shot, who had the same hairstyle for the night.

The crowd cheered Alabama to a 196.775-195.950 victory. Those are season high scores for both teams, says the release. The University also says the meet was a sellout but, there were more than a few empty seats.

OK, here's four pictures for now, with more to follow later. Each team and apparatus is featured here, as I am an unbiased observer of both teams and play no favorites.

First, Arkansas on the bars.

Bama on the vault.

Arkansas is flexible on the beam.

And Alabama on the floor exercise.

One bonus, because happy floor routines are fun.

That's enough for now. Come back tomorrow to find out what I've done with those pictures, a new look to the blog, a new picture for the front page, a trip to the movies and more.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

A tiny trinket of some importance fell down the sink this morning. It fell free of human grasp and dropped straight down the drain and into the pipe system. My afternoon rescue stayed right at the top of my mind throughout the day. For one thing, I'm not a plumber. I'm not many things, but I at least try them all, figuring I shouldn't let stuff like this beat me without an effort. Second, I'm not a big fan of projects that eat up an entire evening and "remove the pipes under the bathroom sink" just sounds like its a full day's effort.

So this afternoon I cleaned out the cabinets. I stuck my head in the darkness of dark wood in a dimly lit room and called for more light. The ceiling lights were turned on, a small table lamp was employed. I examined the situation, finding that this section of the pipes, at least, was PVC. I counted this as a victory because, even if I had to saw it off in disgust at 9:30 at night PVC can be replaced.

The drain, like the one in your bathroom sink, drops straight down about halfway into the cabinet and then takes a dogwood left to make the U-shape and climbs vertically again. After that another joint that twists the pipe back into the wall and inside the mysteries of the house. Just before that last joint I noticed what appeared to be a threaded attachment. It unscrewed easily by hand and the important section of the pipe was separated on one end.

Easy enough. Except for the other end, which would free the section of the pipe from the house's plumbing and allow me to dump out the last of the water and retrieve the trinket of importance. There was no obvious answer to the problem. One joint seemed to be caulked together and was thus not to be disturbed. Another segment hinted that there might be threads just below the sink basin, allowing for a painful and messy removal and reattachment.

It was here that I suspected I'd invested the rest of my evening. Oh, and my pipe wrench has gone AWOL.

I fidget for a few minutes. The first half of this has gone so easily and now I'm stumped by something a plumber did 30 years ago on this house.

He probably had three houses to hit up that day. He forgot his lunch. He'd been fighting with the wife and the kids didn't respect him and there wasn't a fast food joint around for miles. Why anybody would want to live way out here he couldn't figure out. And this was just the perfect day. Perfect. And he really didn't care about this sink in a bathroom that looked out into a sea of oak trees and one neighbor in site. Whoever buys this house was just going to get the sink like he liked it.

So the concern about whether I would ever have to dissect his work was probably not really on his mind. His back ached, his knuckles were scratched up and he'd just had too many plumber's jokes that week.

Don't stay under pipes too long, friends, you'll start imagining what that guy was going through and wondering why he had it in for you.

And then, purely by accident, I bumped the pipe on that section that had been loosened and removed and noticed that it had a bit of wiggle and give.

If I can just ... yes! I can twist the drainage end of the pipe so I can get my hand over it and, most importantly, my fingers inside it.

All this time the standing water from the U-joint of the pipe is dripping onto this towel that is serving as my pillow and water catch. I get my fingers into the pipe and, gravity having caused this problem with the drop this morning, now served me well by keeping the trinket right there where it could be easily reached.

I spin the pipe back into place, reattach that threaded section of pipe and -- now comes the test -- run a lot of water through the pipes to make sure there's no inner-cabinet leaking. It seems that I'm now qualified to be a plumber's apprentice. (I'm learning a lot these days.) Restore all of the many useful items to the cabinet, close the doors and celebrate my good fortune and 25 minute projec

Later in the afternoon I returned my neighbor's voltmeter. I'd been holding onto it for a week or so after learning that I'm not, in fact, qualified to be an electrician's apprentice. This is a common problem: I remember to do a lot of things, and contact a lot of people at 11:30 at night. If you feel slighted in this respect it is because I figure you'd much rather sleep than talk to me.

Chatted with the neighbors, exchanging neighborhood tales, updating the mental roster of who lives where. I suggested, in jest, that we needed a neighborhood newsletter. I was relieved when they didn't nominate me for the job.

The joke goes like this: I'm not a lawyer and I don't own a pickup truck. These things are of a deliberate design so that my neighbors don't come over for legal advice, or ask me to help them move their appliances.

This is, of course, a joke, as I love being helpful, but I noticed a long time ago that people never knock on my door asking me to copy edit this, or draft a press release for that. I do occasionally get media questions, and I try to answer them in as sophisticated a manner as possible, hoping that will make up for the shortcoming of not owning a pickup truck.

No, I can't take this washer and dryer set across town to your sister for you. Wish I could. But let me tell you about some of the exciting new developments in agenda setting theory.

I did the neighborly thing and excused myself by asking if they needed anything from the store, as that was my next stop. I needed to visit the big box store of the blue color scheme to pick up a few toiletries. I parked on the grocery store side, since that was the parking lot entrance closest from my route. It is a bit easier to make that left in general, and so it works out well. The one downside being that I now must walk the length of the store -- some hardknock life, right? -- to get to the health and beauty section.

If you closed your eyes, and didn't understand the context the big box store is a chaotic symphony of distress. There's the beep-beep-beeping of the checkout lines, the rattle of the carts, the baby that won't stop crying with a piercing cry that would follow you over at least a third of the place. There's the endless weaving around people and the folks who just don't give you the opportunity to get around them.

There are far more trying situations in life, but you should always have a plan of attack in this situation. In and out, grab a handful and go.

Go directly to the self-checkout, which has taken on the appearance of a Western Sizzlin' buffet on shrimp night.

I strike up a friendship with a gentleman after we're waved to an empty register with a live person on duty. The man and I each stepped that way and almost trampled one another. Kindness won out until we realized we could politely argue over who should go first until someone else beat us bother there. I insisted, he finally relented and we stood at the register, having a discussion about the Temptations movie he was purchasing. "It is a collector's item," he said, "so I had to buy it again."

This man, who just stepped out of Earth Wind and Fire, was upgrading from VHS to DVD and suggested I catch the film sometime. I promised him I would. He grabbed his things and disappeared into the evening as my selections slid down the conveyor belt. The cashier scanned my items while I noticed the new design in the shampoo bottle. They're always reworking these things -- designers after my heart -- because every time you're back in the store the look of the bottle has changed.

I use Head and Shoulders because they've indicated in the name that they care about my shoulders, which seems to be above and beyond the call of duty for a shampoo, and I like that in a shower product. But the bottle was almost unrecognizable: I've grown so accustomed to seeing the old bottle on the shower rack -- white bottle, blue print and rounded corners -- and associated the shape and feel with clean hair.

Now the paradigm has shifted. The text is in green. The bottle is no longer a rectangle with rounded corners -- designed to bounce twice and bruise your toe! -- but looks like someone took a larger rectangle, broke it in half, sanded the outside line into a gentle curve and then rounded everything for good measure.

I suspected Proctor & Gamble was trying to pull a fast one on me. At home I examined the two bottles and, to my relief, noted the volume was the same. Should have seen this coming, I thought, the design on the old bottle was tipping their hand. There was a curved ribbon starting from the bottom right corner, bending to the left and then back across the top. Now the art follows form and function. The new bottle is a bit taller, a bit narrower and has a bit more depth, allowing for the equal volume.

Apparently there's been a big shampoo bottle manufacturer summit where a focus group pointed out that shower racks these days were getting longer with less width and protruding from the wall a bit more, freeing up new design. This was odd, considering I hadn't read anything about it in the trades, but you can't keep track of everything.

Chili for dinner. Have you ever seen a cat that liked chili? I know one.

Site stuff: No new photo galleries today, to your relief. I'll catch back up on them this weekend, perhaps. There are, however, two new black and whites. You can see the latest here or click here to start at the beginning.

That's it for today, general relief over the plumbing. If there's a greater contentment in your home I'm not sure right now what it might be.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon for the Friday installment, when we'll celebrate more student-journalists, have some new gymnastics photographs and continue one of the timeless traditions of this page: padding it out with fluff because we can.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Wednesdays, lovely Wednesdays, that day of possibility. The hill has been topped, the crest defeated and Thursday seems like a pittance. The Friday workday might as well be a non-entity, for you can see the weekend from here. And it is a lovely view.

Wednesdays at home are becoming the busiest day on the computer now. The newspaper project is done, the rest of the week's projects are much less ambitious. The Wednesday Glomerata work takes a bit more time and is somewhat arbitrary in length. Each day has a schedule: two campaign buttons on Monday. A handful -- between two and five newspapers previously -- of pages on Tuesday. Thursday features a black and white photo which take absolutely the smallest amount of time. Friday I'm now finding more student-journalist editorials to share, so that takes a few minutes.

Wednesday, though, I sit down at the computer, open the Glomerata and start scanning until it has become painfully obvious that I should stop. Get up and walk around for a bit and then open all those images in Photoshop. They must be rotated, tilted to the proper degree -- and we're using decimals to the tenths to make sure things are balanced -- and then cropped. The images have to be resized according to a rather random template I set up in haste the night I started putting that project together. Finally they can be saved and uploaded.

And then I must return to the top of the stack once again, to write four or five paragraphs on a subject. It must all fit, without the benefit of a scrollbar on my generously large monitor. It is best if I can create enough text to at least appear flush with the image.

Often I run across things I don't know, and must look up, and that's the truly fun part of the project. There's so much to learn; even when you think you've already taken in a world of inane facts, there's always more. You can daub it up with the spongiest mind and then meet someone else or read something else that alters the context just enough. It is little wonder that historians are twitchy, introspective souls.

We should put cameras on all of them before they reach their death beds, just to get the oral history summarizing a lifetime in the pursuit of things they couldn't experience for themselves.

Anyway, I'm now in a section of the 1976 yearbook that is full of names I know. Previously there have been all the important names and dates and key stories and a few oil paintings or dusty old photographs. These new faces, though, are not just names that have been assigned to buildings. There's a photograph in this section of the book that has at least three faculty members I would know personally two decades later.

That's what makes the whole thing intriguing, for me: the people will come and go, but their ideals shape the place, and you can see it in the pictures.

I could go on and on about this, because I've spent so much time with it this evening, but you can read it in the latest additions to the Glomerata section. Not quite sure what's going on here? Start at the beginning.

Did you see the Jon Stewart - Stephen Colbert - Conan O'Brien fight Monday night? I linked to the end of the bit yesterday, but today I watched the segment from each show. I'd hoped to present them all for your viewing pleasure, but apparently the Colbert segment hasn't been uploaded, which is a shame considering two or three great moments in it. Nevertheless, watch these in order for maximum silliness.

First Colbert and O'Brien appeared on The Daily Show. That led to more confrontations on Colbert Report and, finally the fisticuffs on Late Night in an eight minute clip of silliness.

If three men in suits ever got into a fight it would not look unlike this, which might have been some of the finer non-writers programming television has mustered since the strike. The catch to all this, of course, being that we've found it online. That's the gist of what the writers walked for, and they're simultaneously proving their point and hurting themselves in an odd paradox of time that even Hollywood would be hard pressed to imagine.

Elsewhere, just a few new photo gallery updates to point out. I knocked out three today, which has been great fun, seeing and remembering all of these things. You can see them again (for the first time, even) here, here and here. Respectively that's January 2005, February 2005 and a handful of old prints that I scanned that same month. They are a great tickler of the memory, and some of those are fairly nice photographs, so give it a look.

Also, if you're on the picture page the redesign is happening in reverse chronological order, so everything beneath January of 2005 will also be in the same style. At this pace I'll finish the entire thing in just a few weeks.

I discussed this yesterday, of course, but I'm driving traffic.

And since we're down to that I'll leave you to it. More tomorrow, when there's a shopping trip, visiting neighbors, black and white photographs and more on the To Do list. Like we said, Thursday is a pittance.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Sudden realizations during lunch can't be a good thing.

At noon I recalled a bill that needed to be placed in the post, post haste.

Or did it?

Yes it did.

No. I've written that check and dropped that in the mail already.

Or have I?

Yes I did.

No. No I didn't.

So that was my afternoon at work. We were swimming in primary election coverage and my right brain was trying to recall check sequences. Finally I decided that such a difficult memory to remember could only mean that I didn't remember it. After work I went home to flip through my working stack of paper and, yes, there it was, found the bill that needed paying.

I wrote out the check, scribbled the address on the envelope and found some change for a stamp before dashing to the post office, famous for closing at 3:58 without regard to your pressing needs. It is important to already be inside the inner-room before the clock strikes 3:59

A new note greets visitors to our fair post office. It seems that the automated stamp dispenser has been removed. Someone, the note says, in the national office decided it was not a cost effective investment for a post office of this sign. It was clear by the wording of the sign that this was not an opinion shared by the local postal officials. The reason was obvious, I had to go inside the inner-room and purchase a single stamp from one of the ladies inside. She had to punch buttons, collect coins and then dig through the pennies -- the pennies! -- to give me four back.

You can bet that certain someone who made that decision at the USPS got a sternly written note from the good people of this post office about their decision. The true irony being that they had to buy that stamp by hand because the old machine had been yanked out of the wall.

The post office here might not adjust to this well. They've recently consolidated the drop boxes. No longer is there an "In town" and "Out of town", but now just one slot for all your mail. They've also added a trailer annex -- with air conditioning and a privacy fence -- where they do untold government experiments on your stamp adhesive and take DNA samples from those licking envelopes. The removal of the automated stamp dispenser is just too much change, too soon. And who's ever heard of reverting to old technologies anyway? Monetary transactions by hand?

Got the stamp, got my pennies, dropped the mail after assurances that it would be marked appropriately and then went about my afternoon.

Which on any other day is a little more prosaic and routine, but today I had the chance to exercise both my civic duty and my civic pride and vote to nominate a person to run for president. And boy are my civics tired after all that extra exercising.

My polling place is in the entertainment section of a local church. It is the perfect place for just such a thing with the exception of faulty parking lot design. There are too many turns and twists you must negotiate before you can park and go about your day. Once that is done, though, it is a welcoming place. Every time I stop in to vote I see happy reunions of people from the greater neighborhood.

Occasionally you'll make eye contact with a neighbor, nod and wave. You're in this together. You can't help but notice the new guy down the street, the guy that really needs to re-seed his yard is nowhere to be seen. Figures. But you, the guy from up the street, you're both always there. His wife chairs the local homecoming committee for pete's sake, these are involved people.

It was a mild surprise that there were no active campaigners standing outside, but I'm not the first person that noted that. Inside the gym they've cut up the alphabet into six sections, with me squinting in the low light to find the last table with the R-Zs. There were two women in line in front of me. After they'd stated their name, showed their identification and signed a book declaring their party affiliation I did the same.

I voted quickly, as the first congressional district has only the presidential nominee and the respective delegates to consider. One area of the county is voting on another local position, but that's not out concern. I bubbled in the little circles completely and then headed to the ballot machine. The nice older gentleman there struggled to give me the "I voted" sticker I did not want -- but they get antsy if you decline -- and I decided to fill the time by passing along the knowledge that the vote sign out front had fallen to the wind. I'd tried to tell the ladies working the registration but they were easily distracted by the next people coming in to vote.

And hugging poll workers should be against the rules, but there doesn't seem to be any concern of that. Come to think of rules, it was a bit odd that there were no deputies on hand today. It seems that the good people of my voting distraction have established an upstanding reputation downtown. "No need to worry about that polling place," they'll say. "Everyone knows everyone and hugs one another. Except that guy that needs to re-seed his lawn, but he's not showing up anyway."

The elderly gentleman with the stickers said they had enjoyed a busy day, indeed. I explained the sign, he said the problem blame was on the set-up people, who did not bring the proper stand for the sign. It kept blowing over in the wind, they kept setting it back up, but the winds would come and they eventually got the better of the poll workers. Not that it matters, everyone knows where to vote around here. Everyone except the new guy with lawn problems, which is why he hasn't cast a shadow on the place.

There are three hours of voting left, I headed home to catch up on Email and the night's site work. In the middle of all of that I had a fantastic computer crash. All is well, no damage was done, but it certainly behaved oddly.

Chili for dinner, and for leftovers tomorrow. Watched The Biggest Loser live -- where commercial breaks seem interminable -- and remarked how this show has two constants. The rules always change, usually to spite someone in the game, and the promos are the best part of the show. There's something oddly captivating about the characters though, and sure the activities are contrived, but at least they stay out of the house, which makes this the antithetical reality-game show.

After that, and at times during that, there were the election returns. Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee won the state. The Democratic side of things wasn't even close, and at one point NBC presented a graphic that Obama had been drawing 43 percent of the white vote in the nationwide voting. You can feel the Clinton camp panicking from here on that news.

I'm not one for the raw data on election night. Many people are drawn into it, but at some point it is purely speculative and after that it generally becomes anti-climactic. The parts I really enjoy are the message construction of campaigns, the planning, plotting and behind-the-scenes strategy. Can't get much of anything like that tonight, but the weekly magazines will be overflowing. They'll have numbers, gossip and the post-plan scheming.

So the numbers aren't my favorite aspect of the election cycle, but that 43 percent could prove to be a huge part of the story.

We'll go to sleep tonight not having any definitive answers, other than our own wry observations on the networks of our choice. Tomorrow we'll wonder what the rest of the country could have been thinking. Some will wonder that about their own states. And then we'll all turn to the mid-Atlantic to see if those voters can establish an obvious nominee. This is now stirring into a race of high drama in both parties.

Site stuff: The newspapers are up. The last of the newspapers. That was a 100 page project that has spanned a full year. It was a lot of fun, but something of a relief to be there. You can see the last five here. After number 100 there's also one final page to sum things up. If none of this makes sense to you start at the beginning, but don't worry; it is a fast read.

The big question is what I'll do with my Tuesday evenings now? This had been the activity for much of the last year. Not to worry, another project is already waiting in the wings. I may celebrate by doing nothing next week though.

Another photo gallery has been converted to the new style. The October 2004 pictures are now updated for your approval. All of those galleries below it on the picture page also reflect the new style, as this upgrade is being done in reverse chronological order. Everything else should be brought up to speed in a few weeks.

Something to click: Who needs writers? This is comedy gold. Conan O'Brien, Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart do what they do best: achieve silliness. They might have struggled early after their on-air returns, but as this clip shows, they've each regained their chops. The fun continued last night on Stewart and Colbert's respective shows. I only learned about it this evening, but did manage to TiVo the replays to watch tomorrow.

If they measure up to that clip, they'll be worth the time.

Thank you for your time here. Come back tomorrow for more fun and games of an undetermined nature.

Monday, February 4, 2008

I became enthralled in my book about the Brooklyn Bridge last night and didn't find the need for sleep until well after midnight. McCullough's writing this amazing tale of the building of one of the iconic structures of the 19th Century. We think of bridges as tools, but the detailed description here is fascinating, the design is nothing short of functional art. They're just sinking the caissons, which, by all estimations, shouldn't be this interesting. I can barely put the book down. And this is just the beginning of the construction. The high drama of 140 years ago, my normal early hour of wakefulness and my general lean toward being a night owl don't mix well together. I learned as much, again, this morning.

I did make it to work in a timely fashion, but it was a painful experience and the day started dragging about in the last quarter of the afternoon. By the time I hit the car to return home I was ready to not look at a computer monitor, not look at a television, not look at a book or anything else. Except the road, of course.

My eyes hurt, which is the universal sign of general exhaustion. My shoulders might have stooped a bit. I decided this was far too tired for a Monday afternoon.

The sun was out, after all, it was deliciously warm. All you needed after that was honeysuckle, the smell of fresh cut grass and a river or lake to jump into. Only it is February. Tomorrow will be more niceness, followed by rain and then cold. There's no forecast for more exhaustion for the rest of the week. I've willed it so.

When I got home the tired part of my brain won out. Having decided nothing would be suitable to look at I opted for reclining in the darkness. Twenty minutes, I thought to myself, and then I'll pretend to be productive. I sprawled out on the bed, buried my face in the pillow, closed my eyes and dozed off.

And then woke up in response to something happening in a just-below-the-surface dream.

I fell away again.

And woke up to hear dogs outside.

I slipped into sleep again.

And woke up 9.3 seconds later wide awake.

Fine. I'd been still and quiet for 28 minutes anyway, which is more than enough. I went to the local big box store.

This particular building was built just 10 years ago or so, and is already showing age. I'm sure it has made a good accounting for itself, but I find more and more reasons to avoid the place. This will be even easier later this year when the box store of a competing interest opens in the community, and it will be closer still. For now, I must content myself with dodging people on my way to pick up detergent, garbage bags and thank you cards. I wandered over to the hardware section. I've been considering an ad-hoc camera stabilizer. I found this video a few days ago detailing how one could be made for the price of a bolt, washer, some cord, a match and an Eagle Scout.

So with my quarter-inch bolt and large washer in hand I was ready to make the thrifty $.94 purchase and then realized that fixing this problem is one of the many things that Photoshop is really good at. I replaced the hardware and then stood in line at the self checkout, where it struck me that the designers likely had very high hopes for handsome, smart people zipping through the line in a model of consumer efficiency, streamlining purchases to the point that spending money seemed benign and fun even. "If we can only make this fast, easy, painless and remove the cashiers people will buy even more!"

The designers were dreamers. Most people in that store couldn't quite follow the on-screen instructions. The four self checkout stands are monitored by one cashier, who must venture from one to the next to the next. She is, perhaps, the most pleasant person at the front of the giant store, and for that we are grateful. For the many delays and customer created problems we are frustrated. If there was six more inches of space on either side of each self checkout we'd have room to move with buggies in tow.

If there's an adventures in ergonomic design blog out there somewhere I'll submit that as a suggested post tomorrow.

Broiled steak dinner after that. Worked on the computer and watched an episode from the fifth season of 24. That was my first encounter with Jack Bauer, and remains one of the better seasons.

Consumerism: I mentioned last week the purchase, at a good price, some bookcases from Office Max. Here's the unfortunate follow-up to that. I received a little Email from someone there informing me that the item was no longer carried and my order was canceled. This is disappointing. I wrote back to thank her for the note and suggested she send notice to the website people because it would be a shame if their "future of online shopping" got a bad reputation because they don't know how to maintain their product databases.

That was a week ago. The item is still on their site. Good job, that.

There is some good news on another front. I ordered a toaster from the box store concern last week. Seems I want heated bread from time to time and putting it in the oven is a bit wasteful and inconsistent. So a toaster it is. That package arrived today in a box exactly three times too large. Now I have a kitchen trinket, sleek and silver and black. It is very shiny, being new and clean.

It has two launching buttons and separate Fisher-Price controls in case I get especially picky about the complexion of my heated bread. It is lighter than you would imagine, tin and plastic mostly. I think of my grandparents' toaster, with heft and seriousness included. It came equipped with a full compliment of 90-degree edges. If you touched the exterior walls in the wrong points you would get an especially warm remainder of the task at hand. The elements inside heated quickly, on the second or third pair of toast. It was impossible to time other breakfast items with the arrival of fresh toast. I have to think that toaster technology has improved in the years since, but inside it looks like the same basic appliance. And it is probably from farther away and overseas than those old models.

My new toaster sits right next to the breadbox, which has been converted into a secondary spice container. The appliance has room for four slices, just in case I'm really hungry for toast. I'll try it out this week and report back.

Site stuff: The slow process of converting the photo galleries to the new style continues. You can revisit some of the older pictures on the site in the latest redesigned gallery here. Scrolling to the bottom of the picture page and working up will show the first handful of redesigned galleries. Tomorrow we'll get into the monthly galleries, which means we're a little over three years behind right now. I've set an ambitious pace to finish the upgrade within the next month or so.

There are new campaign buttons as well, featuring Eugene McCarthy and John Kennedy.

I also redesigned the 404 page, which I hope you never stumble across. But ... if you do, please be so kind as to let me know where the busted link is.

Click on: I landed top honors in the latest Outside the Beltway caption contest. I was fond of that one, so it was a nice surprise to find this evening.

Also, did you need 100 more things to do with Google Maps? You know about six of these already, and will find about three dozen more useful.

And now, back to the Brooklyn Bridge ... and an earlier bedtime, because sleep seems pretty important just now.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Pretty slow day around the ponderosa. Had lunch in the rain -- a cold, hard rain -- and then straightened up around the house a bit. Goofed off with the web page and basically enjoyed a quiet Sunday afternoon.

All that led to a quiet Sunday evening watching the game. That included perhaps the greatest unscripted play in the history of the Super Bowl, if not the game itself given the context.

That was when the Patriots were leading and the Giants were on their game-winning drive of course. At the completion of that game you could just feel it. New York had to win, because the football gods would not squander their benevolence on a play like that. The Patriots had a similar chance earlier when a key penalty extended their drive, but they could not manufacture points, and that angered the football gods, no matter how perfect New England had been all year.

Which was the conversation of the week for most people when the topic turned to football. With no obvious rooting interest how do you feel about this game? Picking New England and perfection wouldn't be a bad choice. Picking New York to keep the Patriots from perfection was another good one. I chose a last minute morale destroying defeat and picked correctly.

I had pretty much the same thought in the final week of the season when New York gave the Patriots all they could handle. I had the thought, but I don't think I wrote it here.

Best ads? The Coke float and pinching the pigskin.

That's it for now I suppose. A light day around here, but I could tell you about the crowd at the chicken place at lunch. Or my current struggles trying to figure out php code.

Thought so. More tomorrow then? There should be something entertaining in my visit to the box store. And there'll be campaign buttons as well. After that you'll be through 20 percent of the week, and what's not to love about that?

Saturday, February 2, 2008

For the first time in a long time a valiant trip to the gym didn't end with hurting something badly enough to want to swear off the place. We'll see how I feel about that tomorrow, but right now we'll take it as encouragement to go back next week.

Of course I only ran .85 of a mile before the arch of my foot cramped. That's a particular thing that's never happened while running at least. Little things like that make it hard to imagine how much I ran on a daily basis once upon a time. I won't enter any marathons this year, but getting a couple of miles back wouldn't be bad.

So with my foot protesting a bit I decided to work on the arms, doing biceps and triceps while watching Jean Claude Van Damme on the gym's flat screen television in the awesomely comical Timecop. You know what's awesome about that movie? Besides Ron Silver, I mean. Even with a time travel premise and the technology to do so, no one could guess about the reaction to this movie, or the rapid decline of Van Damme's career.

The premise being that Congress, in 1994 decided time travel should be regulated. The movie is shot in 1994, set in 2004 and the technological leaps they assume is overly ambitious. Also there are plot holes. Of course, on the imdb site someone says those plot holes aren't the fault of the writers. One supposes he means it is someone coming back from future time and reworking the movie script.

This makes all the sense in the world on the leg press machine, where I made another goal. I'm going to be pressing 410-plus again. Soon. I did two sets at 390 and that was it, which is not enough.

This afternoon I played on the computer and cleaned up a bit around the homestead. Of such things are Saturdays made.

Pie Day was tonight instead of last night. When gymnastics or other events throw off the Friday schedule Sunday evening becomes the default. But there's the Super Bowl tomorrow, making tonight the night for pie. The hostesses told us of their parties. The staff told us of their week's happenings. The crowds came and went and we had barbecue -- I opted for the turkey potato again -- and then the lemon pie.

In the parking lot we sang songs fueled with helium and introduced one of the grill cooks to that surefire karaoke winner. It never ceases to amaze me how many people have never seen that.

So I sang bad songs from the 80s into the night air and then went to the grocery store. By then I was stuffed and tired and didn't really want to buy anything, so there wasn't much in the cart. They ran us out as the last customers of the night and I went home to put my things away, write this and think about reading myself to sleep.

Yep. I've thought about it, and that seems like a swell idea.

Oh, the groundhog saw his shadow. We'll have words with him this week.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Fans of old newsmen will appreciate this video. This is the 50th anniversary of NASA's arrival into space which, among other things, has meant days of celebration in Huntsville in honor of all those involved in that feat. They're even paying tribute to those not directly involved in the space race, and at a gala event last evening they celebrated Walter Cronkite.

Cronkite couldn't be there because of a lingering illness, but astronaut Jim Lovell read his acceptance speech in a touching moment.

A year or so ago my mother asked me if the moon had the same impact for our generation as it did hers. The answer, unfortunately is no. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin and all those heroes of Apollo had written their names in the heavens a few years before my birth. By the time I was old enough to look up in wonder it was already a part of history. But at this gala they put together a vignette of Cronkite clips from the period that captures the emotion of achieving the unobtainable.

I didn't have anything to do with producing those videos, I only enjoyed them, as you will. Those are just two of the new videos and we remain extremely excited about the functionality of the new tool. You'll soon be seeing all kinds of cool things on the video side of the site.

After work it was bank time. The nice lady with the 3:30 Friday bank attitude was kind enough to complete my transaction. She seemed to want to bring the attitude up to argument level, but there's a rule about disagreements with women who own four inch fingernails: don't.

She silently slid my paperwork back through the protective glass (which was not as impressive as the fingernails) and immediately forgot about me.

Have a nice weekend, I said in my Friday-optimist tone. She seemed surprised at the thoughtfulness. I blame the nails, which were peach, fake and miraculously did not get in the way of her typing onto a keyboard.

Drove across town to visit the insurance office. I expected paperwork, forms, signatures and perhaps an idle conversation that didn't involve anything about my day. Instead I waited for 45 seconds, sympathized with their wish that 4 p.m. could, in fact, be 5 p.m. and then announced myself as the last problem child of the day.

We looked up my account, I instructed them on the various changes and the nice lady -- who's known me by name, family and reputation for 16 years, but today had to ask my name -- made herself a note and that was that.

This is why I have a Friday-optimist tone. You might think the last few things standing between you and your weekend could involve lines, headaches and hassles, but more often than note they can be resolved quickly and easily and then you're on the weekend.

Read something today that has inspired a new Friday discussion topic here on the blog. I love them and you will too, referring of course, to editorials from some of the top college papers in the country. There's funny and serious, sassy and smart, silly and thought-provoking and we'll share some of those here in a small attempt to point out the work of young working journalists.

Remember: they're writing these under deadline, with their other paper assignments, schoolwork, jobs and social lives. I did this in school myself and have always been a fan of their work and dedication so, inspired by something from this week we've finally got a regular Friday item.

(I sat done today and jotted out each day's work on the site and realized that Friday's was blank. Just after that this idea came to mind and so here we are.)

First, from the Kaleidoscope, the student paper at UAB we have a discussion by Daniel Sims on society's need for father figures:
If we as a society don't convey the importance of being a father, and therefore the importance of having a father, then we are going to see more and more dysfunctional children who become dysfunctional adults. I'm reminded of a conversation I had with one of the youth I work with at the Youth Detention Center. He was 15 and had found out his 16-year-old girlfriend was pregnant. I asked him how he felt about this situation, what he was going to do about his girlfriend and the child. His response was to laugh it off and he gave me this troubling reply: "I didn't have no daddy, and I don't care about no baby. It's nothing I gotta worry about. I'm already talking to another girl anyway."
The The Auburn Plainsman, Auburn's student paper features Cliff McCollum and his case of gossip pneumonia:
Meddling is a gateway verb. It often leads to harder verbs like scheming, and, then, God forbid, you're on the way to the downward spiral of plotting.
By the end of the column McCollum has talked himself into retiring from the meddling game.

There's also Alex Jospin's advice on the Democratic primary in The Cavalier Daily, the student paper of the University of Virginia. Jospin has quite a few tips for "Senator Hil":
I understand that whole campaigns can be maligned by an expensive haircut, and Hil doesn't want to isolate the common man, but enough is enough. Plus, besides photo-ops with orphans, what do first ladies do besides get designer clothing for state balls and diplomatic visits? Exactly. Hillary had eight years to get her style down. She broke the norm because she was probably in the back room plotting her own election, but now is her chance to shop and shine. If Hillary would let me make her more Jackie O and less Ellen DeGeneres in an awkward stage, I think she might just have a shot at this Democratic nomination thing.
That whole column is fantastic. I really struggled with which part to put in the block quote.

All three are good, and I hope you'll check them each out.

Gymnastics tonight as top-ranked Georgia traveled to visit the fourth-ranked Alabama squad. These are the two perennial powerhouses in the sport and they didn't disappoint.

I've all but given up on taking notes at gym meets, but I still have lots of photographs. So, without further ado, on with the picture dump.

Georgia started on the bars, where they are good. Alabama was on the vault which remains the most difficult thing to photograph. I had a good night on shooting the bars though.

Taking pictures of the fans is always fun.

At the beginning of each meet they introduce every member of both teams. This is always very impressive because every one of those young women is either an incredibly accomplished athlete or an even more talented student, or both. Georgia, for example, has women of note in every position with the exception of this year's true freshmen. They'll no doubt soon have their own distinctions read, but every one of them is a scholar athlete this, All American that, 4.0 GPA, Olympic medalist and on and on.

Alabama is much the same way. I believe there's only one of the younger gymnasts without such a note yet. Meanwhile Morgan Dennis, an Alabama sophomore, is on track to have as many or more of those notes as anyone competing tonight. She's a graceful powerhouse, and is this close to turning a triple on the floor.

This seems backwards, but was actually one of the cooler moves of the night. I, of course, don't know the names of all of these things, but when the crowd gasps with you, you're doing something right.

I'm shooting the bars, by the way, from across the coliseum.

Another kid having fun with her father.

This would be, by far, my best vault photo ever. And of course her arms obscure the face.

One of the Bama gymnasts had a little rotational problem on the bars. And another doesn't let a cumbersome knee brace get in the way.

After two turns, though, Alabama was down to the highly touted GymDogs. And then came the beam for Bama, which was scored tightly all night. I moved closer to the apparatus because, despite the announced sellout there were open seats everywhere.

And this allowed me to take the obligatory artsy shot. You would think being eight feet away would help, but it didn't make the photographs that much better. I blame the lighting.

Nearby, Georgia was cleaning up on the floor. We saw this move on the beam a lot. And this one even more.

Georgia, by the way, is really good. They're chasing their fourth consecutive national championship and at the end of three rotations had a 1.6 point lead over an Alabama team that can dominate most anyone. That makes Georgia happy.

It would seem to me, though, that if I were trying this trick my eyes would be much wider in that "Oh my God, oh my God, where's the beam!?" way.

Careful! A GymDog is leaping out of your monitor!

Morgan Dennis asked to be in an artsy picture too.

I think this must hurt. Something. Somewhere. Around the collarbone perhaps. About that backflip on the beam: See? Her eyes are a bit wider.

Courtney Kupets dazzled on the beam. We only saw one Olympian tonight; Bama's Terin Humphrey sat with illness and back pain. The meet might have been closer had she competed, but this was Georgia's night.

Georgia coach Suzanne Yoculan was making her last trip to Tuscaloosa, so I took that picture of her looking on at one of her gymnasts.

Alabama came back on the floor a credit to the younger version of the team they had in the meet. They took a seemingly overwhelming deficit and made the final score closer, but the fans and floor routines weren't enough, as Alabama fell 196.625 to 196.

I'd link to the actual scoring summary, but Alabama and Georgia use the same service, which is down as of this writing.

And I'll take my cues from that. There's probably something interesting happening behind my eyelids just now that I should investigate.

Hope your weekend has gotten off to a great start!