Kenny Smith | blog

Monday, March 31, 2008

Long discussed and long avoided, today began the spring cleaning of the basement.

And if you stopped reading after that sentence you'll have still received all the information and entertainment about my day that I can provide. Except for the detailed description of the basement cleaning project.

That's what the rest of this post is about. This truly took over the day, which is not a surprise. It will be a multi-day task, also not a surprise. The unexpected part stems from how long the process is taking. And truly it is taking a long time. This description fills the afternoon from almost immediately at arrive home until about 11 p.m. tonight, with the exception of an hour break that surrounded a delicious spaghetti dinner.

So the basement has been mocking me for months. You can hear the laughter seeping through the cat door. Aside from the necessary appliances and the occasional need for a tool I've been shielding my eyes using the classic out-of-sight, out-of-mind defense.

Effective as that is, it hasn't moved boxes around in a manner that maximizes the space. If anything, the occasional foray for something in storage has led to something of a cardboard creep, where order previously ruled the day, but has lately led to scattered items hither and thither.

Fixing all of this, or starting to fix all of this, took up the day.

My basement is divided into four parts. One part is the garage, which has probably never been used for its intended purpose. The previous owners bought a pool table, one of those old coin operated jobs heavy enough to make Hercules wince. It takes four people to budge the thing even the slightest bit, but that's another tale. The previous owners, having somehow muscled the thing into place, wisely realized it wasn't moving anytime for the rest of this epoch and promptly removed the rails from the garage door, making it useless, but that is also another tale.

Also in that room is the spare refrigerator, some extra appliances, a few filing cabinets and many boxes.

The basement, when entered from upstairs, is divided in half by the staircase. The second part of the basement, to the right, is an area that has, to my knowledge, been used as a den, an office, a den and then an office again. It is now earmarked for storage. The other half of that room makes up the second area of the basement, and that's where all of the laundry action takes place.

The laundry area also has a door leading into the beneath-the-floor section of the basement. That room will not be cleaned at this time, as it is relatively empty and serves as my ultimate backup storage space. Within that room is another door, which leads to the crawlspace under the house.

So now you might see that this is the house of redundancies, what with the basement really having backups to the backups.

Anyway, the work started in that second area, because many of the things now spread across the garage will be stacked neatly in that corner room of the basement. This meant cleaning that corner room, which is storing furniture and an even more random collection of the historical trinkets of life. It also holds spare office supplies -- who knew I had three five staplers in reserve in the basement? I believe this makes seven throughout the house.

That was slow work, balancing pieces of things here, re-stacking boxes there, finding garbage to throw out (two bags worth) and a small brigade of empty boxes that may be called into service later. I discovered an extension cord to add to the tangled collection of orange cables, and more phone cords than anyone could need in a wireless world. It also seems that there's now more RCA cable at the ready than necessary to rewire the whole neighborhood.

The actual corner of that corner was the first thing that had to be cleaned, but it was equally trying to just reach it. Things moved here and there, things were put in temporary stacks or moved out of the room just altogether just for a temporary bit of space until, finally, it all came together. There was a tipping point where the floor space grew from just the circle I was standing in to become a room large enough to hold items that could be stacked in neatly along the walls.

By 11 p.m. that room was clean, the boxes piled high and flush, looking like the back of a moving truck, and the floor swept and vacuumed. Gallons of paint were slid into a corner, a temporary home no doubt, alongside the golf clubs and picnic coolers. There are several arm loads of things destined to soon earn a second or sometimes third life as donations.

And for all that progress the garage remains dirty and intimidating. But that's for tomorrow. There'll be mattresses to move, heavy things to slide down for more space, rarely used pieces to put in storage and boxes, always more boxes to put in the corner room. If anyone is able to walk into that area by the end of the week I'll be impressed.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Caught a movie this afternoon, the first of several in the next coming days. Or hopefully so. There are six or seven movies worth a buck at the 100 penny theater just now. Our cups runneth over with recently released films soon to debut on DVD.

Today, though was Definitely, Maybe:
A capable romantic comedy, but without enough physical comedy for Ryan Reynolds.
The romantic comedy part describes the whole tale. Boy meets girls, several of them thank you, and then proceeds to lose them all. In the end he gets the chance to make one stick, leaving you with the formulaic suspens of the final scene. This is more formulaic than suspenseful, of course, but that's a romantic comedy for you. That the whole narrative moves through a story taught to his daughter is cute. That his daughter is overly precocious is no big surprise.

All of this points to the wobbly legs of the genre of film, but Ryan Reynolds is a funny guy, and we'd all like to have his problems sometimes.

More company tonight. Justin's soccer team was playing up the road and after the game he stopped by to change clothes. He worked at when I started there four years ago and has since moved on to The Gadsden Times as web editor and, very recently been named multimedia director at The Anniston Star.

At Zaxby's we played at catching up and filling up. He talked of his new job and all the promise it held, about his old place and how they'd grown. There were details of his wife and son. In keeping with the catching up tradition old stories were re-told for more laughs and more details to those tales are either included or embellished. The Yankee joined us for chicken and discussed classes, we both argued for his family to move closer to town.

They're just about the nicest people you could ever meet. Clichés aside you couldn't ask for more kind, sweet people to know. They're enthusiasm is infectious and they are very classy, cosmopolitan people. Their collective sense of humor is wickedly sharp and alone or together they're just about the most pleasant people you could pick out of any given room. If you custom ordered your friends it would be hard to improve upon them.

No wonder they should move closer to town, this being across the state business isn't cutting it.

(And, guys? One of the homes in my neighborhood is even for rent. So you see I've thought of everything here ...)

They are the sort of people for whom you are thankful, the folks that you always feel blessed to have. The remarkable thing is how many people of which I could say the same things that are in my little corner of the world. More than a few come from even.

Justin and I went to a funeral home this evening -- my boss' mother died on Friday. Inside this stuffy, hot old little building in Bessemer a family was grieving and grateful. She was a beautiful lady in each phase of her life. The photos on display showed kind eyes and a warm, gentle smile. There was no mistaking how the boss favored her mother. Justin and I, along with one of the sales guys that was also there, saw it straight away.

And then we talked about the prices of obituaries in the newspaper. It is a mind-boggling "you feel compelled to run it and we're the only game in town and you'll pay whatever we demand" figure. Incidentally, The Birmingham News' online obits stay active for six months, as opposed to the two days the paper ran the piece.

So note to others: When my time comes decades hence, don't worry about submitting anything to whatever newspapers have survived that time. Online is just fine.

Anyway we sat around late into the night telling tales of people and places and things. This is, of course, always a lot of fun for people willing to find humor in the biggest and smallest things. Busy lives should let us all conspire to that more often; nothing makes your home happier than hearing the laughter of friends.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

I did sleep in today, just as planned. I made up for the springing forward and the red eye flight and used any other excuse possible to justify waking up after the sun had already passed overhead. On one hand this is a great treat, on the other you've willfully wasted half your day. On a third hand if you slept in for that long your body clearly needed it; on the fourth hand you could have gone without a 10-hour nap.

All of this has prompted me to do not a lot today. Worked on a paper a bit and that's been the bulk of my effort. Had dinner tonight at Logan's with The Yankee, where I dined on a steak and potato, a hearty meal considering I wasn't especially hungry. We'd originally thought Thai, but I decided I wasn't up for that. Instead I ate everything they put in front of my face at the steakhouse.

The young lady that found our booth was the daughter of a family friend. She gave me a knowing glance that I didn't figure out until much later. But then, she's a bit younger than I am. She got married on the beach last summer, and aside from a photograph from that event I hadn't seen her in a good long while.

Our families go back almost three decades. Her father celebrated an adult lifetime of silly games earlier this month at my mother's birthday party. I taught her older brother jokes when he was just learning to parrot the words of others.

I didn't realize all the whos and whys until after the fact, so I didn't get to say hello. My mind must have been elsewhere, a common problem should we bump into one another out and about. Recollection always seems to take too long.

Watching a little television tonight, just to get away from the computer. From one screen to another, I know, I know, but at least I sit across the room for the television.

And since it is a Saturday, how about a little light reading. Ever wonder about those underwater photographers? This one shoots races. Here's a great photograph of the Golden Gate Bridge in HDR. Didn't take this one, obviously. We didn't see that many clouds in a week of the city.

One last thing, this is the world's oldest recording, predating Edison even, supposedly going back to 1860. They've got a video so you can hear the words.

That's every little thing from this little village. There'll be a few more things tomorrow as we stagger headlong into a busy, busy week. Should be fun! Join us, won't you?

Friday, March 28, 2008

Friday sank in for some of us early this morning. I figured on the usual timing, around noon, would be my experience. Just after noon the barbecue came -- company buffet meal of the quarter -- and the weekend was mentally on the way.

It didn't quick in right away, that Friday feeling, but that's what dessert is for. The barbecue was from Full Moon, a local chain that's been around for almost 30 years now. The barbecue is fairly good, the chicken better than you'd expect, but the cookies from Full Moon are worth the price of admission. Fresh baked and half dipped in chocolate, worth every bite. That's when the Friday feeling arrived. Try some if you can. Full Moon, bringing Friday to your taste buds since 1981.

Or something.

And, if you're reading this in Baltimore, Ray Lewis has a Full Moon up there too.

Returning to the student newspaper opinion pieces today -- the first comes from The Kaleidoscope, where Janice S Lopez-Hardin asks who's responsible for the city's reputation:
We are copping out on the authentic for a counterfeit education of relativism. Simply put, our campus and our city is getting dirty and it’s time to take out the trash. It’s time to raise the standard. I’m sick and tired of being afraid to walk on the edge of campus. I won’t lose another student to a gunshot wound or suicide. If this is really our campus and our school, then let’s define it with our own standards.

We are smart. We are driven. We are set apart from the standards of the city of Birmingham. Wake up my beloved UAB. Our city is crashing and we are here to be a light among the darkness.

This is not a compliment. It’s a reality check. Wake up UAB. Take ownership of this city.
People usually don't think of it in those terms. Unfortunately she didn't have the answer ready-made in her column, but there's always the next issue.

The Chanticleer's Bethany Harbison discusses one of her projects:
The men and women who served in and lived through World War II can tell, as I discovered in my research for my story, the most fascinating of stories — stories filled with romance and terror and mystery. Yet because their tales' action occurred so many years ago, so many my age turn a deaf, disinterested ear.

Before losing my Granddaddy last May, I too failed to truly recognize the value of what the older generation has to say. Before that moment, I also did not quite comprehend how quickly time can slip away.


... I invite us all, myself included, to take note of the people who surround us. As I interviewed World War II veterans for my story, I found many who were eager to sit with me, reflect upon their life and tell me their story. And once we began, they were flooded with memories, quickly filling my recorder and my notebook with their tales.
She's right here. My grandfather experience is similar, but ambition to not miss out any further is something she arrived at far earlier than I did. Maybe we could all do more of this under the guise of a class project.

In our newsrooms we've been watching with a bemused interest those in the Midwest and the pacific northwest upset by the Air Force's tanker contract. Amanda Peterson from Crimson White tackles the angst:
If a company can build the tankers for the Air Force so that they are the most efficient and the best for the job, I would rather have that company building tankers that will be flown by American pilots instead of having to settle for second-best - no matter if it is a foreign company or not.

Besides, a foreign company that wants to come into the U.S. to build a factory, hire workers and pay taxes cannot be a bad thing. Yes, it is outsourcing. But now a foreign company is outsourcing into the U.S. instead of an American company outsourcing out of the U.S.
Aside from the paying taxes part -- there's a great deal of tax breaks given as an incentive in any new project these days -- her assessment is a strong one.

Made a new friend at Pie Day tonight. Friends who don't normally come along on the Friday experience were kind enough to loan out one of their friends. Turns out he went to college with one of the Pie Day gang and found himself fitting in rather quickly. We had a big corner circular table and if you were on that side of the building and we disturbed you with riotous laughter I apologize. It was the new guy's fault.

Ward became the psychic waiter tonight, guessing without any hints what I would order. There are four or five dishes I get at the restaurant, so he had a good chance with one of the usuals, but still, it was a bit impressive. Later he guessed that the table next to us would need boxes. He also instinctively brings out the pie and drinks -- we've long since had him trained in these areas -- so maybe we're expanding his consciousness.

The late night tonight has made for a long day. I hope the streak continues with a morning filled with sleeping late.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

A friend now living out west asked what things were like back home just now. Here's her answer.

Walking out of my office there's a 10 or 12-foot window to the outside world that longtime readers of the site have seen here several times before. It gets you a sliver of the sky just along the top of the glass, but mostly you see the old brick building from across the street. That build, in a previous life, was the home of the Dr. Pepper bottling plant, but now it holds artisans, antiques and an office or two.

Between that building and our window, lately, is scaffolding. The property owner is doing some restoration work on our own historic building, which will of course be beneficial, but for now just looks like immovable scaffolding. Between the scaffolding and the window there is a tree on either side of the window. I noticed today while walking toward the glass before turning to walk downstairs, that those trees are now also showing off their new greenery. When I arrived at the door to step outside I mentally braced for a chill. Habit. But it was 77 degrees outside. The new, better, habit.

We're in the undeniable rise of spring to summer now. The sweaters have been resting comfortably in their plastic home for several weeks and the coat closet was retired earlier this week for the last time until after Thanksgiving. The only thing that interrupts the new shades of green are the explosions of petals. And the fine coat of yellow that is quietly making its way onto everything.

You mustn't polish your shoes and then walk across the lawn to your car, for your black leather will be a two-tone when you arrive at your destination. Noses will soon flare, eyes will water and people will begin to complain about the allergies they must fight. And this, so cruel, after everyone is just now getting over a late blooming flu season.

But spring is here, and all of this will be tolerate for the beauty of the birdsong, the symphony of crickets and the joy in the air spread by children playing on the lawn. Soon we'll be at baseball games, enjoying grilled foods on a far more regular basis and the satisfied, slow easy glow of fireflies.

The tulips are up, before long the honeysuckle will fill our noses and we'll spend precious time reenacting one of youth's simplest pursuits: getting those three drops of juice out of every flower. The delicate tinkle of the ice cream truck's music will be our evening serenade.

The neighborhood kids have abandoned their basketballs, doomed to get dusty in the garage for the next nine months. Baseball is making a comeback in the side yards, and football is always an option. They're playing outside longer and longer, growing taller and taller, getting dirtier and dustier. But they all play well together, and if there's ever any controversy, the sort of thing that can dominate a child's day, it is rarely seen by us as outsider adults.

Old Ms. Miller, over the hill and around the curve is out and about again. She'd been ill for a while, and just couldn't shake that bug, but you'll see her now inspecting her trees and flowerbeds. She's got a late start to her lovely and colorful decorations, but is determined to make the most of it. Others are out in their yards, dealing with the last of the leaves, or the ambitious weeds already starting to appear in closely watched lawns.

Yep, a busy spring is upon us. The days will pass quietly, stretching out bits at a time, and after a few weeks we'll notice that it seems to take a little while longer for those late afternoon golden shades to appear and wrap the trees and dancing children in long shadows. By then we might be in the middle of our first real patch of heat, preparing summer vacations, buying graduation gifts and intent on good seats at the ballpark.

But for now every flower seems new and lovely and every strand of new growth worth mentioning.

So it is pretty much as you left it here. Pretty much the same as you would expect, the world full of hope and calm and beautiful light, tempered occasionally by massive clouds, light and ominous, offering beautiful days and reminding us all of the wilt of humidity that will soon come our way. It is the kind of spring that, if you stop for a few passing moments and breathe it in, makes you realize there's no better place to enjoy the season.

And I hope you're enjoying yours as well.

This afternoon curiosity got the best of me and I decided to try my Peeps idea anyway. Why wait a whole year, a length of time in which it would be easy to forget how you'd irreparably harm poor marshmallow creatures. I wrote earlier this week about the standard fates the Peeps can meet, but also mentioned my idea. Today I went shopping for Peeps, finding none at the local grocery store, but uncovering several boxes at the neighboring drug store. I bought three boxes, leaving three or four for the next person.

On the way home the idea came to life, and required rudimentary set design and comically bad costuming. It would seem as though the video that emerged should be started by the big voice over guy "In a world where Peeps weren't always full of marshmallow goodness..."

Nine Peeps were ruined, one eaten and one thumb was slightly burned in the making of this video, which can be found on the A/V page or you can see Waterboarding Peeps without leaving the blog.

It was fun to make, took no time to shoot and a little longer to produce. Also I played with a little fade technique here as well. More than anything it looks hasty and ragged, which was the idea considering the theme. Give it a try. It is just a little over a minute long and has at least two or three good chuckles in it.

And if that's funny you should have heard the running commentary during the live shoot. The peeps were really getting animated when they learned about their stage direction. Some marshmallows are just primadonnas.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Finally feel awake and normal at the appropriate time of day. It wasn't jet lag so much as an hour of sleep Saturday night on the red-eye flight. Remember when you could handle this? Remember when you could catch up on sleep more quickly? I do.

This, naturally, means I'd nap for two hours on the sofa this evening.

It was a delicious nap as these things go. The sky was still blue when I nodded off and was going dark when I awoke from the slumber. So naturally I'll be wide awake all night long.

Since there's not much else I'll just pad today out with a reminder of the extras that will be in the pipeline from the big vacation.

First there's a video coming from the trip to Muir Woods. I have no illusions that a little 640 480 video will display the majesty of the old forest any more than a series of 640 x 480 photographs would, but that's no reason we can't have fun with it. Through in some music, add a few natural sounds and (what passes for a) profound vocal tract and we might have just a hint of what the place is.

There will also be a video from Lombard Street. I had two cameras recording while driving down the curvy old hill, one one the driver's side and one hanging out the passenger window. Splicing and syncing could make a 60 second drive the longest two minutes of 180 degree switchbacks ever.

And if I can figure out how to make Movie Maker run in slow-mo we'll really have an epic on our hands.

There'll be a little video on wine country, too. We toured two places, one with a very friendly guy and nice scenery and the other with a nice and highly educational lady and more nice scenery. How row upon row of 300-gallon barrels makes a good shot I don't know, but it works, so we'll have that here eventually.

There will also be a slide show of the sea lions. I recorded some sound and have been holding back on the photographs, so you'll see more playful fighting and more tender, gentle moments with a barking accompaniment.

I just realized the bulk of my vacation was spent trying to think of things to entertain you, dear reader. That cinches it: I need another vacation, this time just for me.

Oh, the lengths we'll go to for time off, no?

Padding with links, because I have nothing else with which to pad just now. You'll enjoy these pictures though.

First, researchers managed to mount a camera on an elephant tusk, providing some incredible insight to animals in the wild. Simply amazing stuff there.

Like the wildlife, do you? National Geographic has some great new images of lions versus pretty much every animal on the ground.

Do you wonder about the Pope's interior decorating tastes? You will now.

Springtime for many means paying close attention to the weather. You don't want to be caught unaware of one of these tornadoes spinning to life in your backyard.

Ever been to a memorable and non-traditional wedding? Some of these look horrible, and some look fun.

Know what the internet has been missing for some time now? An interactive solar system from National Geographic.

That should hold everyone over until tomorrow. Come back riveting tales of prosaic housework and, possibly, a special sugary surprise treat as well.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Stayed late at work. Too late as it turns out. I left at 5 p.m. as did everyone else. My error was in leaving at 5 p.m. Leaving closer to the actual quitting time of 3 p.m. would have been far more to my advantage. As it was, though, the 20 minute trip turned into 40 minutes.

I only gripe about this because I can. I've always been blessed with an off-schedule schedule, meaning I don't contend with traffic in either direction. Since I finished college I've probably been stuck in downtown traffic less than a dozen times. I'd be happy to keep that at something approaching a once-a-year pace in the years to come.

Finally at home just before 6 p.m. I caught the yard in the perfect light. I looked up for the first time since returning from the airport and saw that my own trees had leaped back to life. I'd noticed this of their peers along the interstate corridor Sunday morning and had forgotten, in my mental fugue, to examine mine until this evening.

That's where the new background for the blog comes from, as we watch the Stoic Oaks leap back into the active part of their life cycle and the photographs of natural things should grow plentiful.

Trying to overcome the last cloudy strains of mental fatigue I turned to the television to wear me down for the evening. The Biggest Loser was doing a makeover show, so I skipped out on much of that, returning only for the last two segments to see the weight loss payoffs. They'd do well to condense this show at this point, two hours of repetition and convoluted made-up-as-we-go rules and NBC synergy has long since grown old.

The young guy, who'd grown annoying, was voted off the show. That's fine, but points back to my original problem with the program at this point. Only two of the remaining five feel likable at all. We should be cheering for all of them, having such great success at this rare chance to change and invigorate their lives, but most of these people are just tired personalities after two hours a week. The guy from south Alabama is funny and destined to win the grand prize, and the girl that was voted off, but earned a chance to return (thank you capricious plot twists) seems like a pleasant person. The rest of them could quietly lose weight at home, thanks.

After a delicious salmon dinner I turned to the TiVo. And the EvIl eye has failed me here. It recorded one of the 9,112 criminal justice programs on CBS instead of Dexter, the one criminal justice program I'm watching. Dexter, you see, is a police investigator with a heart of darkness. He's a sociopath hisownself. The show has an intriguing basis, but feels a bit tepid. Maybe that's the CBS edit of a Showtime show, or just the product of it being a Showtime show.

Others have raved about Dexter, and as I mentioned a few weeks ago I think they suffered from poor comparison shopping when it debuted. I've watched six episodes and after four threatened to bail. Sunday night I watched the fifth episode from the previous week and would have abandoned the show, but the promo for the next episode was terribly intriguing. That show aired this last Sunday night, but things didn't go right with the EvIl eye.

Basketball is to blame. I advanced through 53 minutes of a show I've never watched and six minutes of the program I came to see. As I did this morning when realizing that Counting Crows had played Letterman the night before I sighed and thought This is what the internet is for. Later this week I'll try to find them both.

Tonight was also the Jericho series finale. They've canceled the show yet again, but already the rumors are springing up of a cable deal or possibly even a movie. We discussed this in the office for a while today -- there are at least four fans of post-apocalyptic programming within earshot of one another -- and I've become convinced that the show could have ended better, but it ended well enough.

They got the bomb out, the bad guys were on their way to being exposed, the characters of morality finally waffled onto the right side of things. Oh, and something about the beginning of the second American Civil War.

While that might be an intriguing program it isn't this program. The name of the show is Jericho, which is the town in which all the action has centered. Odds are good that a modern military engagement would not happen there, so the characters have really done their part for the larger now imagined plot.

The story they left untold, of course, was the resolution of that conflict. Would the good upstanding government of the American east win, or does the shadowy, corporate government of the west prevail. The characters conclude, on the basis of not a lot of tactical facts that at least the good guys, the easterners, now have a chance.

After watching the finally piece of drama in the air conclude with the Iron Eagle Ending I think the good guys have to win. Clearly the bad guys' F-14s don't have radar unlike the good guys (Texans) F-16s. This whole paragraph makes sense if you click that link.

I do still hope to see that cliffhanger version of the finale leaked to the public in the future.

Give it a few weeks and someone will upload it somewhere. I'm not waiting up for it tonight. I'll take the sleep, thanks.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Much like the second day of soreness after a big physical effort there is the second day of exhaustion after a big trip. The red eye has been hanging over my shoulder all day long, and I can only hope that the thing will leave me alone by tomorrow.

Today's been a day of catching up on things. Vacation: where things you want to leave inevitably pile up to await your eventual return. As I' ve said here before my job isn't the kind where the work really piles up, as news is a cyclical business. Someone else takes care of things while I'm gone, as do I when those someones leave themselves. The big accumulator in my world is Email, which was very bountiful. Many times today I wrote to apologize for the delayed Email reply -- we pride ourselves on immediacy. I should have just written a macro.

First thing this morning at the office I discovered the mystery of the missing car key. There was a voicemail from the mechanic explaining that my key fob was smarter than he is. It won't allow itself to be locked in the car, which is a reassuring feature. When he called Friday to leave that message on Friday he was, he said, trying to lock the keys in the trunk. I could hear the car's trill little incessant beep in protest.

My car doesn't have turbo boost, but even Michael Knight had to use a coat hanger now and again. Not me. Not this car.

So the dealership's service center still has my key. I have their paperwork, we'll make a trade in the coming days, possibly over an oil change. I hope it doesn't take two hours as it did last time.

Had to catch up on the blog reading this afternoon. That's a lot of reading to accumulate over the course of a week. The big dilemma was whether to read the news blogs closely and skim the personal blogs or vice versa. I compromised and skimmed everything. My apologies, you were both funny, informative and poignant, in all of the proper places.

Also the reviews are coming in from the San Francisco photographs. You're too kind, and I appreciate your generous words, but you'd take the same photographs if you were there. The weather was just perfect, the scenery largely beautiful and all of it new to me. Of course there were good photographs to be had.

There are, I think, about 140 pictures now on the site from the trip. I could have put a few more, but feared I was being redundant enough already. So say there's another 200 of quality scenery and family-type snapshots. What you aren't seeing are the 680 or so pictures that won't ever be included.

Meanwhile there are signs of spring popping up here at home. The dogwood tree that was planted about 20 years ago is ready to shine again. I may never see that tree grow large, but I can see it shine beautifully.

A trip to the grocery store this afternoon found me prowling through the two buggies of now heavily discounted Easter candy. So fickle are we, that yesterday's value is now half off because the traditional mixture of chocolate and caramel are now in thematic shapes that seem to be clinging for too long. For a child the day after Easter means a return to school, but also arriving home to a basket that still holds candy. To an adult the day after Easter means the candy aspect of that seasonal holiday has overstayed its welcome.

So I naturally bought a few Cadbury Eggs, but could find no Peeps on which to experiment new techniques. The microwave jousting has run its course, and is a chore to clean from what I understand. Someone out there has completely cornered and closed the market on Peep storylines. Lileks, on Friday, blew up Peeps with fireworks.

I was thinking of waterboarding the little marshmellowy characters. I figured they would cave under a brief hot water session and would tell me everything I need to know. But alas, there were no Peeps at Publix. The experiment must wait until next year.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

That was my first and, God help me, my last red eye flight.

On one hand, you can go across the country, San Francisco to Atlanta, in just over four hours. On the other hand it takes you almost five hours to get from A to B. On still a third hand, that kid that sat in the row in front of me the whole flight really needs to learn to shut up.

Oh, if I had on my person any business card that was not my own and not necessary to keep I would have given it to the mother of that child once we arrived in Atlanta. I would have sweetly asked her to send me an Email whenever she planned to fly somewhere else so that I could make sure to not be on that plane.

Who flies two kids across the country in the middle of the night anyway? This is probably demoralizing for everyone on the plane. And everyone heard him for almost five cholicy hours. Only the kid was fine. He was healthy. He ate a cookie. The mother just had no discipline. Her little girl was a doll, her boy a tyrant.

At one point just before we left San Francisco he looked through the seats back at me. Already he was beginning to annoy, but I tried the polite and suggestive "Hey wouldn't it be fun if we shhhed?" big smile. He cocked his head at me sideways, like a dog, like the concept of quiet had never been offered to him before.

After almost five hours of constant yelling, when we landed safely in Atlanta he looked back again and he put his finger over his mouth, making the cute shhh expression. Somehow it reminded me of Chris Rock.

The whole thing would have been demoralizing, if your spirit is easily demoralized. I was more upset that the 40s channel on the plane's XM radio wasn't playing. I dozed for a few minutes listening to the 50s and rockabilly country instead.

And then I started to hurt. My backpack was stuffed under the forward seat and my feet, my poor giant feet, were left in this tiny little space that would make mites feel claustrophobic.

The real problem, though, was in my knees. They were sitting at such an uncomfortable and locked position that they ached like never before. After 20 minutes of agony I decided to break all of the FAA rules and pulled the bag out from under the seat. My feet got cozy under that seat, allowing the knees to bend. The bag was left out in the open with little concern about FAA flight regulations.

I'm such a rebel.

In the San Francisco airport the guy that was in the security line just in front of me with a bag stuffed with two mini-katanas. I was certain that the fine TSA staff would catch this, but he walked past the petite lady checking boarding passes, the inattentive guy checking IDs, the woman shepherding bags through the scanner and he made it through. So the swords must have been something other than swords, because sure they would have noticed this, right?

What I saw were two handles like these sticking out of the bag. I was tired, sure, but there's no mistaking that for a tennis racket. He didn't get on our plane, so I couldn't ask him what they were. I figured I'd ask after security because, surely they'd stop him if they were weapons. I didn't want to ask before in case they were weapons. Who knew who he wanted to fight? It wasn't me, I felt pretty certain about that.

We arrived safely, though, on our oversold flight. I almost took the option of staying an extra night. The guy was offering hotel, travel, a meal and two round trip tickets anywhere that AirTran goes. The only problem was that my next opportunity to make it home would be on the following night's red eye. After enduring that kid across the entire continent I realized I should have chosen to stay.

We landed in Atlanta before the sun came up, took an hour MARTA ride to the north side of town for the car. Yes, four hours and change gets you gate-to-gate across the country, an hour by train gets you from the south side of a city to the north side. I sense an incongruity.

Drove back to Birmingham, making good time against an empty interstate. We stopped by the car dealership to pick up my car. My new ride had an oil leak, they called this week to say it was a faulty intake valve. Fortunately everything is under warranty and they fixed the car.

I couldn't find the original key this morning in my drowsiness, but was content to take the car home and sleep off my concern. Nothing a three hour nap can't cure after you've been traipsing across the country all night long. I'll find out about the key tomorrow.

I started the laundry, worked through some mail, petted the cats (They sat in a rare harmony for 20 minutes, such was their desire for attention.) and caught up with the TiVo. There were only two programs to watch over the course of the week that I've been gone, and I'm happy about that. I've stuck with Dexter, despite my threats to abandon the program. This week's was a slight bit better, but the teaser for next week looks like it will be worth the price of admission.

Jericho was also on the EvIl eye. Have I mentioned I love this show. We're getting bittersweet at this point, though, because the season is coming to an end and the series likely with it.

This is the next to last episode and it was again so tightly written and dramatic that I just find enthralling. I feel a bit of moral equivalence coming on, but for once I don't mind it so much. It is important to the story and the storyline will likely wrap up apologizing for all of that anyway.

This is smoothed over by the return of Pamela Reed, whom I love, but she seemed an improbable deus ex machina. Nevertheless her appearance was great, but it just makes you miss Gerald McRaney all the more. The show lost its morality chorus with his character's death and it was a role none of the other characters could take on. That made the thing a bit grittier, which was fine, but there are rules about which characters can be offed in a story, and the man who played one of the Simons and Major Dad isn't one of those guys.

I understand they have two stories to choose from when it comes to this coming week's finale, one that's a cliffhanger and one that's conclusive. I love the show, but if they have a conclusion that makes sense and threads up the remaining story lines nicely I'll be content to see it go.

Fanatical demand in ridiculous proportion brought this seven-episode second season, but the numbers probably just aren't there to go -- the show is opposite Idol after all. Some of the family dynamics and romance was removed this season in favor of more shadowy government themes and a Tom Clancy meets Next of Kin vibe, but the show held up pretty well. Now we'll just wait and see what they offer next Tuesday.

Dear Jericho producers and CBS, keep the Jericho site up, the opportunity to see the episodes and commentaries are wonderful. Second, post the cliffhanger version online if you ultimately cancel the show. I'm content with it ending well, like I said, but there's nothing wrong with stretching the imagination a bit more.

Two things overlooked in the last 24 hours: Here's Mom and I at Caffe Macaroni. Also, there's something magical about the Rocky Mountains. The sky was clear enough, the moon was bright enough, they were high enough and we were low enough to see the snow covered peaks. I tried to take pictures first and video second, but sadly it was too dark. I'd keep that moment forever,because it was beautiful, but I'm content with those several minutes of majesty.

Tonight was Pie Day. It was very subdued and quiet and wow I'm a bit tired. Maybe my proposed legislation of a day of downtime after a week long vacation should be expanded. I now support a mandatory two day recovery if you're traveling cross country. Captains of industry might see this as a loss of manpower hours, but just think of how rested employees will be after a week off and then two days to overcome the journey itself. Their first day finally back in the office was be incredibly productive.

I wonder how my boss would feel about this. I'll ask, but I'll have to do it from the office tomorrow.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

This is the last photo dump of the week as the vacation is drawing to a close.

This morning we headed down to the Fisherman's Wharf again. Everyone seems drawn to the place for reasons I don't understand. Today the family wanted clam chowder. That's fine, but not for me. Everyone got their clam chowder in a fresh sourdough bread bowl and enjoyed it. I had a sandwich from the Boudin Bakery store and it was good as well. I've had my fill of $8 sandwiches, but I'm an old fashioned cheapie like that.

Also, when I hear the word Boudin I'm put in mind of creole delights. If I have to have an LSU cheer run through my head then I want Cajun sausage. Maybe that's just me. Boudin, the bakery, has been around since the mid-19th Century and any place willing to market themselves to customers as "taste a bite of history" deserves a try, however tongue-in-cheek the good faith effort.

It was during lunch that I realized, for certain, that I'm the only person on this trip with any interest in old neon signs. The Yankee helps me find ghost ads on the side of buildings, but neon is my own adventure, which is fine. Neon rarely needs extra help earning your attention. This, then, is today's Best Neon Ever award winner. There are two of these up on the wharf, and at least one of them still runs, though I don't have a nighttime shot. Even still, it is a think of beauty.

Rick and mom enjoyed the sea lions for a while and then it was time to head back to the conference.

Let's see, last day of the conference, a beautiful, stunningly gorgeous San Francisco Saturday and the day before Easter. Yeah, almost no one was there.

One of the panelists was from Georgia State and one of the audience members was from UNA, so the homecooking was in place for a talk of politics. The Yankee delivered an outstanding presentation on the use of MySpace by presidential candidates. The Georgia State professor discussed Al Gore's 2004 book for reasons that went unexplained.

We all then sat around and had a good conversation, generally taking the media to task, blaming candidates for talking in empty rhetoric and the electorate for somehow failing to make sense of what they were offered. Nothing was resolved, except that more study was needed. Academic endeavors, thusly justified we dismissed the group. It was a good talk.

We checked out of the Adante, which, again, should be bragged upon. It is small (Ask for a corner room, something in the _01 series, trust me.) clean and inexpensive. They bend over backwards to accommodate. If I return to San Francisco the Adante will get the nod.

We loaded up the rental and then set out to meet Danielle Steele. My mother found her address and the GPS put us at her doorstep. Mom recreated her private investigator days, by finding a tree perch and taking pictures. There's a neighborhood fire alarm just across the street, which seemed odd, but they've planned for any eventuality it seems. Or maybe this is just for the Steele home. It is gorgeous, could you blame them?

Then it was time for the farewell to our vacation, another trip to the delightful and delicious Caffe Macaroni to see the charming and sweet Marina and her family and friends once more.

Early in the week I tried the cannelloni and the rigatoni. Tonight I just had the lasagna. All three are delicious dishes, and all of the samples I had during the two visits makes me think you can't go wrong here. The next time I'm in town you can find me having dinner there, and you should too.

The airport then. And the red eye flight home.

That sounded a lot more fun when the ticket was purchased than it does right now. We'll see.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Today was a leisurely day, something we should all have on vacation. The trip has been full of waking early and walking often to see the sights. A more relaxed day today is a welcome change of pace. Slept in a bit and then loaded up the rental car to head to wine country north of San Francisco.

First we stopped at the Robert Mondavi Winery where we got our bearings for the day. It is a beautifully cared for place in rural northern California. Look to your right and there are mountains. Look to your left and there are mountains. It's a different feel from home. Look down and you'll come to the same conclusion that we have: they can grow anything here. Just stick it in the ground and watch it prosper. This is a pastoral and beautiful country.

This sat on the bottom of the Mediterranean Ocean for an unknown length of time, but it is a 1st Century B.C. wine container. This is a 19th Century wine thermos for French vineyard workers. Here you'll see an 18th Century wooden grape bowl, also from France. All of these are found at the Mondavi Winery. We're coming back here for a tour later in the day.

First we're off to Peju, which is a highly regarded family winery. Russ is a friendly and enthusiastic wine steward. He knows all about the wine and loves telling others all the best tidbits of information. Truly everyone here is very friendly. One of the ladies at Mondavi suggested some places we should try, as did Russ. They compete, but they all seem to get along. How could they not, one supposes, surrounded by this much wine.

Also we asked Russ, almost as a greeting, if we could take pictures. "Sure" he said, "art is always encouraged in Napa Valley." He sounded so genuine you wanted to be friends with him immediately. Russ also looks like Fin, so when you're ready for your new career dude, I know where you need to be.

We had a delicious deli lunch at V. Sattui on Russ's suggestion. See? They're all telling their customers to see their friends.

Back at Mondavi's for our big tour we learned an extreme amount of information about the local wine producing regions, the process, the storage in 300 gallon barrels and more. The guide knew what she was talking about. As is required, you could only exit through the gift shop.

A very educational trip, take one if you can. There'll be a video in the next week or so, make sure you look for that.

We also visited Sonoma Valley, just to say we'd been there. We saw the historic Sebastiani Theater, walked the sleepy square as the shops were closing up and watched the teenagers goof off in the quiet little downtown. On the way out I saw the studio for the local station found at 91.3 on the dial. Knowing nothing about it I suspected it was NPR or community radio and KSVY is ... community radio. I'll give that a listen next week.

Back in San Francisco, don't, DO NOT, try Alioto's for dinner. This is an upscale seafood joint with a lot of proud history in the area. They're so certain of their clientele that they'll charge you $3.25 for a smallish tea that they'll only refill once. That's your first high sign of the fun to come.

After an acceptable 20 minute wait we were shown to a table. After 20 more minutes the waiter finally stopped by. He was brisk, brusque and altogether uninspiring. Ninety minutes later we began to complain about the fishing techniques used to catch our seafood which had still not arrived at our table.

The waiter was clueless. We asked for the manager. A manager's representative came out. She pled ignorance and disagreed with the waiter's excuse for the cause of the delay. Just as bad: the bread guy completely and totally disappeared. We initially didn't blame the waiter, who blamed the kitchen. Upon learning the waiter had three whole tables and was disappearing for big chunks of time, the angst shifted.

The non-manager checked back in with the kitchen and our food came out. It was ... acceptable. Not 90-minutes of delayed deliciousness, but OK.

Then the check came. The whole check, for five people, which was about $160. We doth protesteth that the now two hour-plus experience was hardly worth it. We doth protesteth that the manager come out to see us. The manager's representative returned and said she'd see the manager. I requested to see the manager.

And this is where the story became laughable.

She came back to tell us that the manager, in his benevolence, knocked off four soft drinks and an entree. I asked the Rhetorical Question of Quality "If you came to my business and got substandard and inferior service, would you be willing to pay the full tab?" High-minded rhetorical questions not being her forté, her answer was a blank stare.

I demanded to see the manager. The real one. She said the manager would make the decision on whether to come out. And now I'm insulted.

The insult became overwhelming enough to begin crunching numbers. The math said that our time there had been about 2.5 cents a minute, or about half a cent per minute for each of us. None of us thought the place was worth that kind of effort, particularly as we watched our neighboring tables enjoy three course meals, pay and leave while we waited for the entree.

The manager, the real manager, was then pursued aggressively using guerrilla tactics and near-paramilitary techniques. We got up and sought him out.

After another non-manager was tossed aside the actual owner-manager was found. Our meal was ultimately made free, which isn't enough to change the opinion that his back is spineless and his staff is poor. Alioto's, you get the dreaded Non-Link of Contempt!

Yelp has some scathing reviews of the place too. This was one of the nicer comments: "Overpriced and lousy is no way to go through life son!" Another reviewer summed it up succinctly: "Denny's with a view...and a heavy price tag...and a staff that ignores you."

Avoid the place. You can do far better.

About Thursday: Dinner was better last night. We went to Pearl's Deluxe Burgers, a greasy spoon not far from the hotel. It features five tables and a two-seater window bar. The tables are aluminum and the chairs are too. The menu is on the wall and everything is fresh and custom made. I went with the cheeseburger, because why have a hamburger when you've got a choice of five cheeses? Figuring I'd walked a great bit that day I splurged and got the bacon too, expecting the usual size strips. The bacon, though, was checkbook thick. The burger had to be cut to be eaten.

The shakes were delicious, and came with a special high gauge straw so you could actually enjoy the things. Good thing Pearl doesn't have a store in my town or I'd be there each Monday.

Also yesterday we had breakfast at the Olympic Flame Cafe, who proved yet again that nothing beats a fresh omelet. We went up Telegraph Hill to take in the view of the bay and the city from the base of Coit Tower. You can see Lombard Street, about .8 mile away from Telegraph Hill. We also drove Lombard, I did it twice, recording the whole adventure. There'll be a video coming in your future.

We also saw the sea lions again yesterday. There will likely be a slideshow about them on the site in the coming weeks as well.

We visited Postcard Row, the scene of most any movie that takes place in San Francisco, where a Victorian home will set you back a cool $2 million just to see the paperwork. We drove around the Golden Gate Recreation Area a bit, saw Haight Ashbury and, of course, the bridge at both sunrise and sunset. Thursday was packed full, and Friday was more restive, dinner notwithstanding.

Tomorrow I'll return to the conference and get ready to head for home, ready for a rest from a hyper vacation. After that it'll be catching up on everything after a week off, and trying to put all of these things I've promised you -- three videos and a slideshow so far -- on the site.

I need a vacation after my vacation!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Today was an early day, and a long day, filled with fun activities. But the hour is long, and your humble correspondent is tired. More on the rest of today later -- in the blog, the photo gallery and, eventually, elsewhere on the site -- but for now I want to show you the reason behind the early morning.

This is an early morning moonset behind the Golden Gate Bridge. If you must be up in the wee hours you may as well do something exciting.

We got up about 5 a.m., left the hotel before 6 and waited for the sunrise at 7:12 a.m. Somewhere in between, in the cold and quiet came this series of pictures.

Totally, entirely, utterly, absolutely and completely worth it.

Someone has taken this photograph on a previous day, or they will replicate it later. It is inevitable. Sometimes though you capture a moment unique to yourself. You think about things like that in the quiet of morning when even the water is still and reverent.

And there it goes, leaving us with a day that would include more sea lions, Telegraph Hill, Lombard Street, Postcard Row and more. We'll get to all of that in due time though.

The Yankee, my mom and I all went out and shivered in the early morning air, but Rick, here shooting Alcatraz in the first rays of sun, made it happen.

He never hesitated at the thought of going, got up early, drove us out there, stayed enthusiastic about the whole adventure (This was my idea, for better or worse. Try suggesting something were 5 a.m. is the negative if everything doesn't cooperate. No pressure.) More importantly he had a great time as always. Had he not wanted to go it would have been discussed, but never acted upon. He helped deliver one of those experiences you always welcome back as a memory. He's a generous spirit like that.

The following photo was snapped by The Yankee of Rick and I on Baker Beach this evening during a sunset session. I include The Yankee's shot here because it is my favorite of the trip thus far.

Rick's the man.

More to come in tomorrow's entry.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Only a few photographs today as the week's schedule begins to interfere with the fun and games. There's a communication conference going on this week in San Francisco, thus the whole trip. The Yankee has three papers to present, and I'm a humble co-author on one of them.

There's no need for me to be here, other than that I was due a vacation and I've never seen San Francisco. I took advantage, it became a family vacation and, huzzah, much fun is being had by all.

They couldn't have chosen a better week for the conference. With the exception of an overcast morning yesterday and some early gray skies today the weather has been positively glorious. We're talking Chamber of Commerce perfect. The forecast for the rest of the week remains the same. Even the fog forecast -- and being from a place devoid of a lot of fog I did not know such a thing existed until this evening -- as you can see in the animated models. These San Franciscans think of everything.

So this morning we visited Fisherman's Wharf and the famous Ghirardelli Square. Why this is such an important culture place escapes me. There are stores and restaurants. San Francisco has plenty of both, and yet this is one of those places people ask about when you mention the town. One of the restaurants, closed early this morning, but their menu on the door. The menu also listed from where each dish originated. The Yankee laughed at scallops from New England. I chortled for hours at the idea of $19 catfish from tiny Greensboro, Ala.

The fish did make a 2,300 mile journey. We were probably on the same plane, which might explain part of the cost, but still. I could only think of all the folks from small river towns all over the South laughing at the gullible Californians and their many tourists, dropping 20 bucks on the venerable old mud sucker.

On the wharf itself, a few of the piers are dedicated to tours and historical vessels and the shipbuilding craft. For example, you can visit the steam tug, Hercules. The tug is something of an icon in the area. Built in 1907, she served diligently until 1962 and landed in the hands of historians and preservationists in the 1970s.

She's fully operational again, and yet ... when you take a closer look at that sign ... I'm not sure what that guy has, but it isn't the romance of the open seas that are leaving those marks on his face. There's some dormant open sores there instead, maybe from too much time tending the engines, and I'll pass it by quickly, thank you, holding my breath along the way.

These young sailors are already delirious from the affliction. In the water boys, in the water.

The internet doesn't readily say how old this View Alcatraz sign is, but a quick search shows it is a popular attention getter on the wharf. Judging, with an unpracticed eye, solely on the age and feel of the sign I'd say this sign has been around since the jail closed. View Alcatraz: Come for the sandy beaches, stay for a full sentence.

I'd like to think that sea lions are smarter than lolcats, but they are hard to resist. So here's a few. "I is turning up my nose at ewe."

"I sez no bukket!"

"Oh Danny Booooy!"

The cable car is going nowhere in particular but I love the old design, even if it does scream Volkswagen. It has a great three-tone paint job too, but being new to the cable car experience I must admit it looks naked without tires.

Deviating from the photographs we must discuss this conference. The panel I saw today was a discussion on television. This was not the panel that had the paper to which I'm loosely tied, a good thing since this wasn't the most entertaining experience of the day.

I don't mean to disparage the work of others here, but I have ... questions about the import of a study on a decade-past television show. This is a conference on Pop and American Cultures (I'd heretofore thought they were the same thing), but still. "My So Called Life"? This is relevant to what, now, exactly?

Can't say much about another presentation, which discussed a show I've never heard of that aims at an early teen, female audience; a third presenter has now simply been erased from my memory, not because it was bad, but because it was unmemorable.

Not to be prejudicial, but they were offering book reports. You could go to a slumber party and learn as much. I could read a blog (hey hey, blog snark!) and find out more about the cultural impact of these shows. These are very qualitative researchers. Granted I wrote my master's thesis as one-half ethnography, but at least it turned into a quantitative content analysis before it was all said and done. One person here, the chair of the panel, couldn't help herself from offering opinion as research.

All of this to say that The Yankee, who did a quantitative study on a contemporary television program offered this panel's top presentation. And I'm not biased here; that's just the nature of the program she's in at Alabama. She left, though, thinking she wouldn't submit any more television studies. I'm waiting to see the politics, news and journalism issues of course.

I mean I give her all of the really great ideas ... but I digress.

On the way back from the afternoon conference I found this Hotel Shawmut ghost sign downtown. There's an ad for something underneath it, but even the locals are having a difficult time remembering what it said. The Shawmut's URL is being used by a squatter, there don't seem to be any customer reviews online and one Google cache says rooms ranged from $39 to $79 a night, which just makes your Pay For What You Get Alarm scream out loud, doesn't it.

There's a Shawmut Inn across the continent in Boston, and it is the name of an Native American Indian tribe that originated in that region. Perhaps that explains the silhouette in the logo, but not the octagon. Clearly the Native American has been encased and we should blame, oh, I don't know, The Pilgrims. The natives met the Europeans when they first arrived, so there's probably something to that shot in the dark.

There have been several great vessels named Shawmut, a 19th Century steamer, a World War I mine layer and perhaps more. How this reference came to become a part of San Francisco remains a mystery.

Dinner tonight was at a Mexican joint above a Bloomingdales in a mall. That's your first hint. Originally we set out for a place near the hotel, but there was a half-hour wait fo moderately upscale Mexican. So they refer us to their sister store, which is four blocks down there, two blocks down there and then two blocks over there. In those last two blocks we met a man who simultaneously asked for change and showed us the way to where we wanted to be. The people in San Francisco are awesome.

Zazil describes itself as coastal Mexican food, which most would describe as pretentious. Tasted great, a little pricey and the presentation matter a little too much. Presentation shouldn't matter at a Mexican restaurant. Tortillas, frijoles and beans matter here. Odelay!

After the walk back we made plans for tomorrow, which involve an early morning. Can't wait.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Another busy day, another big photo dump. On with it then ...

A foggy Golden Gate Bridge. We rode on the bridge this morning, heading over the bay and north of San Francisco.

Muir Woods, home of the giant redwood trees, was the destination. This tree was tall, and slender by comparison. You could wrap your arms a third of the way around the trunk if you tried really hard.

For Rick the woods are a special place. I pretty much feel that way too. We all walked along the trails separately, and as random groups, getting separated and then catching back up. The last of the trail Rick and I walked together, taking pictures, taking it all in, saying little. It was very quiet. Except for the tourists. Woods are interesting like that; if you enjoy a connection with them they are yours and others are interlopers. But you, you belong there.

Or maybe that's just me and the camera talking. Some people won't get out of shots, others won't stay in them, this is sometimes an exercise in patience.

Rick posed Mom on this bridge and I'm a big stealer and improviser of photographs. That is all.

I love the obligatory river creeks. Or steams, as the local nomenclature suggests.

The Yankee says "Someone has to keep these trees apart!"

Looking up those same two trees. It seems unnatural to see so much tree before you see the crown. That's a lot of lumber, but a better tree. A ranger I overheard explained to a group that this forest was saved at just the right time. It was purchased in 1905 and later given to the government. In 1906, of course, was the great earthquake and fire in San Francisco. The easy speculation is that if this land had been open to production in 1906 this would all be gone.

This is an out of focus, two photo story: In the first pic Rick is getting ready to pose for a photograph. But you see that on the left, there? In the second pic Cynthia leaps from between two trees to scare him. Rick keeps his jet pilot cool, and never flinches.

I love this place.

And here you see almost a millennium of history.

Lunch with a view before heading back over the bridge.

The TransAmerica building, as seen from in front of Caffe Macaroni. The Yankee's mom picked this restaurant and you should too. For her efforts here, and in choosing the deli with a view for lunch, she earned the restaurant picking duties for the remainder of the week. TransAmerica at night.

San Francisco is a city of neon. Today's Best Sign Ever winner is a bar down the block from our hotel. They moved my room because a bad internet. They are giving away free data cables when the policy is to charge. They valet your car. The rooms are cleaned daily and aside from a skimpy continental breakfast and the paper consistency of the sheets, a common hotel affliction, this is a terrific hotel. I'd stay here again.

Conversely, the place down the street that had been under consideration saw a man get arrested in the doorway on my first night here. The Motel 6 up the street that was also considered was a visceral "No." upon a cursory glance. But this place has character, nice people and quiet rooms. Who cares if I can only see six channels on the television? I'm going to sleep so I can head to the Fisherman's Wharf so I can enjoy the main drag of the local tourist apparatus in all of its splendor.

About Muir Woods: I went sparingly here because you just can't show this in a photograph. You just can't. So, midway through I decided to show it in a movie. Expect to see that in the coming days.

Monday, March 17, 2008

This is my first day in San Francisco and I'm a fully involved tourist today, so this is another famous photo dump. These are just the best of my humble offerings for the day, with more sprinkled onto the March collection which can be found, as always, on the pictures page.

So now, on with the photos.

San Francisco offers serious hills for serious walkers.

These are the boots of fallen soldiers at a memorial service marking the upcoming fifth anniversary of the war in Iraq. This is in the indoor prayer labyrinth at the beautiful Grace Cathedral. Lance Cpl. Sergio Escobar was killed in October of 2005. He was 18.

I have never been more moved by the work of man in a house of God than this moment.

The Yankee goes native in Chinatown. While there I saw the Little Red Book, which is always a bit unsettling, but now you can buy the quotations of a man responsible for the deaths of millions in a free enterprise system, so there's that I suppose.

The Bank of America and, I suppose, the Bank of America in Mandarin.

Terrific neon sign.

First view of the Golden Gate Bridge.


Tree lovers everywhere agree, this guy has personality.

A now colorful guard tower on Alcatraz. I tried to imagine standing post on cold San Francisco nights looking for lurking figures bent on escape. Mostly I just shivered, and we had great weather.

Looking down Broadway in Alcatraz. The cells are narrow enough that you could touch both side walls simultaneously.

The Golden Gate Bridge seen from Alcatraz.

This tunnel dates back to the original American use of the island as a military installation.

The sunset backlights the Golden Gate Bridge, providing a dramatic scene, but washes out the bridge for another more than a silhouette.

This was a full, great day. And remember, there's more already in the March collection which can be found, as always, on the pictures page.

Dinner at Nonna Rose's on the wharf. Fine service, good food. Give it a try if you ever find yourself down that way. Our server gave the entire table free drinks, tried to offer us more and then made a valiant effort to help escape the high parking rates at a nearby parking deck.

He was just a nice guy, as everyone has been thus far. A guy with four cups of coffee stopped to offer help while our group consulted a map. Another gentleman saw all the cameras (such tourists!) and spoke up from his truck to tell us about other parts of Chinatown we might overlook. The trolleymaster gave us a free ride. Feels like a great town. Can't wait for tomorrow.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Up early this morning, a task which I've come to realize should never be required on a weekend morning. Even if you can only sleep in until 7 or 8 in the morning, when the sun is barely through with its own calisthenics in the low sky, then at least you've slept in a bit.

But some mornings, even on weekends, you must get up early. This is excused, but only grudgingly, if you're going on vacation. Which I am. So this early business is OK for once, but no one should get ideas that this will become a habit.

Instead I busily repacked a suitcase to get the last of a week's essentials stuffed into a stretched canvas frame bulging at the busted plastic corners.

(At this point the blogger auto-save's draft function fails me.)

So to sum up:

There was a paragraph on Meehans, the best Irish pub in Atlanta (try the bangers or turkey burger).

I got on a plane in Atlanta, but not before seeing these buttons near the super secret AirTran check-in counter. Among the buttons are these slogans:
Vote U.A.W. - C.I.O.
Stars and Stripes Forever
100% American (The flag I love)
I Am Helping (Defense Saving Stamps and Bonds for Victory)
War Chest Giver
10% War Payroll Plan
I Will Do My Best (Puget Sound Navy Yard)
V for Victory (Bundles for Britain)
Pack up Hitler, the Yanks are coming
V (War Finance Worker)
Victory Boys (I am enrolled)
V (Production for Victory)
Committee to Defend America
General MacArthur
Victory Shifter (Pacific Mills Worster Division)
National I.B. of E.W. for Defense
V (Worth fighting for)
V (Keep 'em flying)
GM (I'm buying bonds, save, serve)
United Campaign (I gave)
Uncle Sam (Let's beat the promise)
I then wrote a two or three paragraph valentine further describing the brevity of the buttons and the appreciation that creates among collectors. This is one of the reasons I have a modest collection in the works as well.

There were three paragraphs on George Gregory's Alcatraz Screw. Finally finished the book which offers incredible tales from the notorious prison with a shaky writing style (this is overlooked for a career federal prison officer, Marine and World War II veteran).

The part of the blogpost now lost to the more spacey parts of cyberspace included four or five paragraphs on Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals. In those paragraphs previous claims of plagiarism were discussed, as was her book on Lyndon Johnson, which I read last year.

Two or three paragraphs talked about this book, which offers a study of the Abraham Lincoln administration through the eyes, correspondence and journals of his political opponents who would go on to become his most trusted advisers. In summary, I'm only 30 pages into the book, but it promises to be a good read. And a long one, at 700-plus pages this may take more than a few days.

There was a discussion of my room, which is downtown, cozy, cheap and clean. The Adante Hotel is a great place to sleep and store your things while you're out exploring. Each room comes with a theme. Mine is under the sea.

Also, Nemo and I are hanging out.

Then I waxed poetic about the bubbles all of the fish are making. That was the sign of delirium after a long flight that was the signal that sleep was needed. With that I pressed the publish button, and the entry was eaten.

In all it was a fairly good post, given it was something that said little. Now I've spared you a few words.

Also this vacation is somewhere I've never been before, so expect lots of photographs and touristy things this week. I'm in San Francisco.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Slept in this morning, but then got busy with the chores of life. These are doubled this weekend as I'm catching up for the week now finished and advancing the week to come. I won't be at home, but rather on vacation.

So today there was a trip to Kohl's. Apparently when they have new store openings they run grand opening sales at all of their old stores too. Or at least that's what I semi-overheard. Everyone needs new jeans from time to time and Kohl's has a clearance rack, so they were a good candidate.

But you couldn't normal jeans on clearance at Kohl's today. Someone beat me to them, I wear a common size and only these overwrought, tortured denim things that really should have stayed out of fashion after their last trip through pop culture. So Kohl's was a bust, if not an entertaining one.

I watched two grandmothers meet. They didn't know one another, but the conversation seemed to start in mid-sentence. They talked for about 15 minutes, the small talk that goes beyond weather, until the two daughters of one of the ladies finished their checkout. When the shopping was done the conversation ended just as abruptly, as if it would be finished the next time the two met at the clothesline.

I studied the face of the grandmother that was left in the store. She didn't seem empty from the loss. She wasn't lonely or needy, but just carried the expression of someone who knew another conversation would come along soon enough, and she seemed content with that thought.

Also watched kids play with the automatic doors. Put a button at the eye-level of an eight-year-old and it can't be resisted, it seems.

And, yes, I pushed the button once as well.

There was a thought of stopping by one of the large box store concerns, but then the realization that the competing box store establishment was, for a change, just a block away. So I shopped red instead of blue, one of the few times I've recently had that choice since they've thus far missed the commercial Target: my front door.

The company plans to fix that soon, with the new store opening this summer -- we discussed that in a video here, if you'll recall -- and at that point the Waltons will tremble with the spacious aisles and the abstract superiority that one store seems to hold over the other.

I walked into the grocery side of the box store, a new experience since I always enter through the door closest to the clothes and electronics. Having never used this door I was overwhelmed by the colors. "Oh, Kenny" you will say, "they know about more than red."

You said it brother. For a moment it seemed I'd stumbled into a Terry Gilliam movie, but really it was just the modern interpretation of Easter. After adjusting my brain to pastel mode I got the requisite items -- candy, birthday cards, toiletries and so on. Nothing else of great excitement would happen here, as this box store concern is absent the people-watching adventure. At least today.

Pie Day (theme) after that. The Yankee, Brian, Elizabeth and Pie Day soloist Taylor all took part. We brought in the first Pie Day of the spring with a return to the porch seating. It felt great, until the sun went down and a chill passed through us. Ward was absent from the festivities, but a very nice lady, Meaghan I believe, was very attentive and took close care.

Until the pie part, where she brought us boxes for leftovers and then our tickets. Without even asking about the pie. Clearly she's not been briefed. A full investigation will be launched to determine the genesis of this oversight, but in the time being the problem was quickly resolved. Pie was delivered, a good time was had by all.

So it has been a perfectly easy Saturday afternoon that melted seamlessly into the evening. It seems we've found the slow, steady, perfect speed of spring and summer already. It is a beautiful thing. And now it is an early night, for it is an early day tomorrow.

Oh, the vacation? That's all next week. We'll get to that.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Put my car in the shop today. There is an oil leak. This is all a slight inconvenience because you find your life thrown to the whimsy and availability of other people. No one likes to impose, but suddenly there you are: Imposing. And it also seems as if the chores that must be addressed when you are without your own transportation are critically important, or of no use at all. There's no middle ground. This must be done now! or Ehh, it can wait I guess.

So it is with life's errands.

I don't mind the repair this time because the car is under warranty. The difficulty is in explaining to a mechanic my really weird schedule. I like my daily routine because of the way it frees up the afternoon, but the downside is that no one commutes into town at 6 a.m. that I might carpool with. I'm also the only person in my office driving in from my side of things. This makes car maintenance logistics a challenge, not the least of which is explaining the situation and coming up with Plans A, B and C for how long the repair work will take.

And these are the great difficulties of my life. I stood in a breezy garage -- the cleanest one you've ever seen by the way -- and tried to walk through all of this with a guy who, really, just wanted to stop the oil leak because it was already beginning to drip on his floor. It seemed like he could hear it. You could see him wince, and it was killing him.

Nice guy though, by the time we'd finished the conversation he felt comfortable enough to make jokes, saying the paperwork I was signing allowed him to take joyrides. I had a witty retort that hinted at revenge and threatened to make a mess on the floor of the place. All was well.

After that it was time for barbecue at Dreamland and then gymnastics. Penn State traveled to Tuscaloosa to renew an old rivalry with Alabama and the Nittany Lions, who've apparently struggled all year got an education tonight.

I started out taking pictures of both teams but it became obvious in the early going what would happen here. Alabama went on to win by almost three full points, a complete and honest deconstruction as the Tide had a superlative night and PSU struggled throughout much of the evening.

Here's my artistic shot of the evening. You can find the rest on the pictures page.

Also shot a little video there, which might make it onto the site one of these days. It was one of those moments that will be forever adorable and the kids, children, not the collegiate student-athletes, will find worth every minute of work they've invested.

Ordinarily in this spot we'd see some quotes from student-journalist opinion pieces. Given the recent events at Auburn that spot will be devoted to The Auburn Plainsman's David Ingram:
"This has been one of the saddest weeks in the history of Auburn University," our President Jay Gogue said Monday.

A little more than a week has passed since we lost one of our own to a senseless act of unimaginable violence.

While covering the story around the clock since last Wednesday, I have been amazed at the reaction and steadfastness of this University.

When something like this happens, it shows the kindness of Auburn University.

When I came for my campus tour as a high school senior, someone tried to explain the concept of the "Auburn family."

There are now more than 24,000 of us, and if this tragic event has shown me anything, it is that we are exactly like a family.

Like a family, we are not perfect.

We all make mistakes.

We don't all get along, but when something happens to one of us, it happens to all of us.

I never knew Lauren Burk, but I knew she was a member of the same family that welcomed me with open arms nearly four years ago.

I never knew her favorite song or what she liked to eat, but I know we both believe tremendously in this University.

We both see Auburn as an institution constantly striving to move forward in academics and diversity.

At Lauren's memorial service Monday, Dean Green said, "All of you Auburn men and women have conducted yourself with an incredible amount of compassion and kindness."

While there were opportunities for us to lash out because of anger or frustration, we showed the world that Auburn is more than a University.

We have to realize, this situation is greater than any of us.

There is a reason why we are here. And that reason is greater than any degree, it is greater than any paycheck and it is greater than anything anyone can tell you you're suppose to do.

Our real job is to find out what the reason is and get about the business of doing it.

The eyes of the nation were on this University for a considerable amount of time last week and Auburn refused buckle under pressure.

There will be questions of security and safety on campus the administration will answer.

President Gogue hasn't even been here a year and his leadership through the calamity has proved, not only to me, but to the country that we have a president of the students, by the students and for the students.

We walked arm-in-arm together through an ordeal no one could have foreseen and an ordeal unaccustomed to Auburn.

Our minds still reel from the violence and our hearts still ache, but our spirit, that Tiger spirit, that has captured the admiration of millions remains strong, and our resolve is strong.

War Eagle.
Well done by Ingram. Elsewhere Jacksonville State's Chanticleer featured Brandon Hollingsworth discussing media consolidation and Alabama's Crimson White had Amanda Peterson discussing the poor state of liberal arts in high school education.

That seems plenty for today, a long one, though it continues on as I watch more storms move into the area. My neighborhood looks safe, though, and I hope yours does as well.

Happy weekend!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Where the last few days have been a bit quiet and unproductive I made up for that today.

The first item on the list was to have a tire looked at. Some tires, when they catch a nail or a screw, can be repaired. This particular tire had the hole right on that it can/it can't location. So I stopped by the mechanic's shop. It was as slow and quiet as I've ever seen the place, with one guy peacefully working on the fuel injector of someone else's car.

I got his attention and asked if he'd take a look. We walked to my trunk and he said "We can plug it."

In one clean motion he pulled the tire out of the trunk and was on his way back to his spot in the workbay. He yanked the screw, retrieved the spike-like device that threads the plug, spread some adhesive on the rubber, punched the spike in place, pulled it out and trimmed the edges. He filled up the tire and it was air tight. It took longer to pay the few bucks for the work.

With the tire repaired and thanks all around I took the surface streets home. Getting on the interstate from that location can be a chore, but this time of day there's little traffic on the U.S. Highway. I caught ever light and was home in no time. Changed the tire, rotating the original tire back into place in lieu of the spare. As far as I can recall this is the first tire I've ever changed in pleasant weather -- and today has been phenomenally gorgeous -- and the process went quickly.

This was far better than previous experiences which include rain, mud, rain, slipped jacks and sliding into a ditch when a tire goes bad.

Had a shrimp appetizer while I contemplated my next move. I received two bookshelves this week and I've been putting off building them because of a fear of incomplete parts and badly translated instructions. Finally decided to open one up and, with the tape cut and the seal broken I was assaulted by the most obnoxious smell of wood varnish that my first thought was to check if this bookcase was made in China.

No such information was forthcoming. The instructions were delightfully vague, the blueprint reasonably helpful and all the parts were there. After 45 minutes, most of that breathing in heavy fumes, I had a bookshelf. One of the pre-bored holes wasn't deep enough, so I earned a spare screw in the process. If the second bookshelf, which did not get assembled this evening, is short a screw, or an Allen wrench, I have the problem solved.

Victory takes on a whole new meaning when you've been inadvertently huffing cherry stain, that's really all there is to say about that.

Mexican for dinner, soft tacos thanks, and then home to work on the website. Perhaps this weekend I'll build that other bookshelf and stack them both with books, realizing: Perhaps I should have ordered three ... That shouldn't be a problem for a while and by then the style will be extinct, meaning the mismatched library will grow ever quirkier.

Site stuff: Two new photo galleries up today as I try to wrap this upgrade project before the weekend is over. Today's additions are

October 2007 and November 2007. Those were two great months full of football and family and holidays and travel and football. It is difficult to believe that much fun can fit into 61 days.

The photo galleries, if you're only now paying attention, are being upgraded in chronological order. Today's galleries and everything prior now reflect the new style courtesy of Simpleviewer.

It is a little more work, particularly when you're catching up in bulk, but that's no real chore. This is the first time I've ever added captions to the photographs on the site, so that's both fun and challenging. What to say about obvious things? Should I just keep my mouth shut? The answer to that question is "Yes" far too infrequently. The few extra pieces of code, copy-and-pasting and captions are worth it though because the new version is easier to navigate and very pretty. I'm a little disappointed I waited this long in making the change.

Also if you have a scroll wheel on your mouse you can see the whole month at ludicrous speed, that's an interesting experience.

We're also slipping back in time with the Black and White section of the site. There are just three more installments from the 1920s Anniston series to go after today's latest. You get the sense that there should be a world of information in some of these, but the simple cameras and unobtrusive style of the photographer keep us from learning too much.

That's OK too, we'll just use our imaginations. Yours is a good one, so I try not to get in the way too much here, but the pictures are quiet and nice. Just the way we'd like to think of our great-grandparents, not as teenagers that wore their parents out, but as young men and women already getting ready to discipline their own kids and spoil the grandchildren. And certainly not at the local swimming hole. Casual hour comes to the black and white section. See it for yourself at the links above.

There's also a podcast for you to check out today. I interviewed one of the more popular bloggers on about how to scrimp and save. She has some nice ideas, makes a few good points and you'd never really guess at how nervous she was. Wendy McCormick, the Frugal Mom, did a fine job though and runs a really nice blog too.

Use Firefox? Here are a few new extensions to consider. The comments at the bottom are interesting as readers speak up for and against each little tool. People are attached to extensions in the same way they are their mechanics and real estate agents. It makes no sense for you to argue about the quality of one over another because you're not getting a kickback here, yet people do it anyway. While I haven't tried any of these yet I'm eager to give PicLens, Snap Links and Foxmarks a whirl.

And I'm ready for the whirl of the weekend to rush by my ears. In just a few hours we'll all be celebrating together. Hope you're due a light Friday that eases you into a weekend of big plans!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Yes, I took another nap this afternoon. That's two for the week, now threatening to become a dangerous luxury. We can still blame the springing forward of the time change as the culprit. That excuse is good for eight days, I looked it up once in the Farmer's Almanac. After next Monday, though, you're on your own for an excuse.

Once in a while you must have the rationale "Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow?" If you have it more than once in a week there's no real worry there. Three times, though, and you're pushing it.

So today I put off the bank. I can go later in the week. I've figured out the car service schedule, also destined for later in the week. I did pay a bill, because putting off some things is off putting. I even had a bowl of cereal for dinner, so dedicated was I to not being very productive.

So I had a nap. It was quiet, peaceful, I darkened the side of the house that was to be my cozy place of slumber. Everything was just so and Zzzzz.

That's about how long that took. And it lasted about two hours. So naturally I won't be able to sleep tonight. Thanks time change.

See how that works?

Site stuff: A few new things on the site today. The Glomerata section has returned. My scanner has decided to cooperate on a limited basis so we can bring you new pictures from the past. If you've no idea what we're talking about start here. If you've been following along you can pick up where we last left off in 1976.

We're rapidly working our way through that book, now down to just the usual head shots. There's one more installment here, the always popular advertising section, and then we'll be on to 1996, which I'm both looking forward to and dreading for stylistic and volume purposes.

Speaking of style and amount of content brings us to the other site news of the day. There are two more photo galleries now updated with minimal text observations. Check out July 2007 and August 2007.

Those were two good months, and now I'm close enough to completing the update that there is some eagerness there. The light at the end of the tunnel is a powerful motivator.

No motivation needed tomorrow. There will be a lot to do and accomplishment will be its own reward. There's a podcast coming your way tomorrow, some light mechanical work and I just might build something. The black and white section will have new offerings and there'll hopefully be more photo galleries updated for your viewing pleasure as well.

So that's all due here Thursday. Let the downhill run into a gorgeous weekend begin! The forecast calls for 74 and gorgeous tomorrow, 68 with the chance of rain on Friday and 74 on Saturday. Today it was clear, beautiful and 72. The Chamber of Commerce days have begun. Come enjoy them with us.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Made an uneventful trip to the grocery store this afternoon. I grabbed four items, just enough to make the cashier speculate to herself about my plans. That poor cashier, policer of my purchase, judger of my tastes, taker of my money, what must she think of me?

"What does one do with grapes, asparagus, charcoal and a bottle of tea anyway?"

A guy was supposed to be stopping by the house to check out my long-running wiring project in the extra bedroom. He stopped by earlier in the day before I arrived home, but did not drop back by again. I have a feeling he will visit when I'm there, but until then I'm just bemused by the desire of electricians to not do electrical work. This is the third guy I've been put in touch with, and I'd be happy to give him the job, seeing as one hasn't even stopped by and the other simply stopped returning phone calls.

Have you ever sworn off some unhealthy food item, found yourself to be very successful at defeating the old urge, moved on with your life and then one day been confronted by that same item? Assuming it hasn't molded from sitting on your counter for all of that time you've been ignoring it you might try the item, let's say chocolate dipped in chocolate covered in caramelized chocolate, once again.

After all of that time passed, your tastes have changed and your body has adapted trying that old favorite can have consequences that leave you sick to your stomach. Have you had this experience?

I had this experience today, but not with food. A few weeks ago I noticed I'd all but stopped watching television and even made mention of it here. I was down to about one program a night and then only a few nights a week. Tonight I gorged.

I finished watching Troy, which is a generous three-and-a-half hour event in the televised version. Over the last few nights I've been watching the good parts and skipping over the parts that were too demanding of Brad Pitt's rigid method acting. I first watched this movie three years ago and I'm perhaps more impressed by it this time. Though I did skip over the less interesting parts this time through, which helps every reviewer become more apologetic.

I like this movie for all the sweeping shots that the director used to try and make this an epic film. I liked this movie for its silence. The score isn't bad, and they resisted the urge to use it in some obvious places, to the finished film's credit. I also like the parts where the movie patterns itself after the classics, the long slow scenes of quiet stage action, the ancient looking fonts, and the opening sequence of narrative text over a map.

Things like that can transport you back in time. At least until Brad Pitt comes back on the screen. Helen was portrayed by Diane Kruger, a relative unknown at the time who does a fine job being in the movie for all of about 17 minutes, which is interesting considering she precipitates the entire tale. She's a very attractive lady, but I wonder: If this is the face that could launch a thousand ships, it begs the question how many ships some of the other actresses might have inspired.

I skimmed through Monday's episode of The Daily Show where we learned once again that the good people of Berkley, Calif. don't appreciate irony.

I watched the syndicated episode of Dexter that CBS aired Sunday. This show is getting one more week from me because the bad still outweighs the good.

I also caught tonight's two-hour episode of The Biggest Loser, which should really have a different verb in the name.

And finally I watched tonight's episode of Jericho which simply continues bringing outstanding programming. There are two hours left in the unfortunately brief second season, and the show is so good that I'm torn between the "I can't wait" and the "I don't want it to be over" attitudes. This is probably the last run of the series, which is OK because they can wrap up most every storyline unlike their previous first season cancellation. The characters and the storyline are solid enough that it will be a shame to see it go.

Tonight's episode, for example, doesn't loosen its grip until the credits roll.

The writing has grown much tighter in this second season as a lot of the tertiary relationships have been forgotten and the big task at hand is the focus of 90 percent of the airtime. That and the dense place and time of the setting are what makes you think the show is finite. Enjoy it while you can, it won't be here forever.

I can't say much more without spoiling things for some readers that'll be coming to the episode later, but to those friends I say don't turn away in the last four minutes. After the last 15 seconds you'll find yourself in a rush for next week's installment.

After all of that, and with a grilled steak in between, I feel a little queasy. It wasn't the steak, which was well-cooked and delicious, but rather it was all of that television beamed into my eyes and mushing up my brain. Tomorrow I'll have to do something more constructive than staring at a television, like staring at a computer instead.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Not much going into the day. I almost overslept this morning -- never a good sign when that happens on a Monday. I'm the 90-minute snooze guy, and normally I drag myself out of bed on the strength of a bad song in plenty of time to get up and at 'em. This morning, though, I stumbled down the hall at the last moment that possibly allowed an on-time day at the office.

Also I forget my leftovers last night, so there was no breakfast this morning. Instead I had a bit of cake later in the day and a chicken sandwich to hold me over. It wasn't hamburger steak left to marinate overnight, but it did just fine.

Why am I telling you this? Because I took a long nap on the sofa and I need to pad with something.

I sat down to watch a bit more of Troy but got sidetracked by some Weird Wacky Weapons program on the History Channel. Space bombers, intercontinental missiles, rifles that shoot around corners, why the Germans had it all in the 1940s. Except for those first two. And the last one had a nasty habit of destroying the bullet. There were other weapons discussed later in the program, but I was slipping away. My last semi-conscious decision was to turn off the television and enjoy the quiet.

Two hours later I woke up to see that it was still daylight outside. And here is where the springing forward of the many clocks pays off. Falling back robs you of the day, but gives you the promise of long autumn nights. Unfortunately those turn into long winter nights and everyone can see those coming.

We've also been peering ahead to see the long, slow evenings of spring and summer and now they are here. Come back lightning bugs! Bring out the lemonade! We have no worries that the smell of jasmine, jonquil and honeysuckle can not fix.

Michael Totten is back, this time in Iraq's Anbar Province:
"Kids aren't running up to us in this town," I said to Major Laughlin. Everywhere else I've been in Iraq – including Baghdad – kids mob us on the street, ask American troops for candy, and demand I take their picture. But not in Saqlawiya. "What's that about?" I said. "They're impossible to shake off in Fallujah."

"Good question," Major Laughlin said.

He did not know the answer, and apparently hadn't even thought of the question. This was one of those times where my experience in different parts of Iraq was perhaps more valuable than a Marine officer's deeper and more prolonged experience in a single location.

Be wary of any "expert" who says they know what’s going on everywhere in Iraq. It’s impossible to have both a general and a granular understanding of that country in real time. You can know one area well, or you can know several areas superficially, but you cannot have an intimate understanding of the entire country while it's in upheaval and flux. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve been there or how how many articles and languages you read.
Totten is carrying the legacy of generations of war reporters and he's making them proud. If he isn't in your blogroll he should be.

Speaking of war reporters, last month the final photograph of Ernie Pyle was uncovered. Killed by a Japanese machine gun in 1945 the beloved reporter's picture had only been published once in the last six decades. The negative is gone and not even the experts had seen the image.

And something happier, for some at least, is noting that today marks Alexander Graham Bell's telephone breakthrough. Opinions vary on whether he invented the thing and this is a happy moment in history for say, all the teen-aged sisters in your life. For the rest of you, you're probably wondering why Bell didn't go ahead and invent the chip that could implant the phone into the user's head so that you wouldn't be disturbed.

The answer is simple, really. Have a look at that link. Can you imagine people in the late 19th Century roaming around with that contraption sticking out of their heads? Hats would never lose their importance, but consumer headaches would only increase. Aspirin would be the primary economic driver of the nation. Aspirin and AT&T, that is, so not much different than today, really.

Two new campaign buttons on the site today. There's Alfred E. Smith and Theodore Roosevelt. Both men seem poorly served by basic history, really. Smith because he came along at the exact right time to be overlooked, Roosevelt because to fully tell his tale invites disbelief. "A man did all of those things, and then became president? By 42?" Doesn't seem likely.

Both have clips on YouTube. Both have comments high up on the page lamenting there aren't men of their caliber currently running for office. You may wonder at your own leisure what that suggests.

But, with those buttons I've exhausted my supply of presidential pinbacks. We've moved through those quickly, so that section of the site will be on hiatus until a new supply might be found. What will we do in the meantime? Concentrate on the neglected Glomerata and Black and White sections for two things. They'll each make their triumphant re-return this week.

Tomorrow, there'll be groceries, talk of electricity, the rare second viewing movie review and more. Don't miss a thing, make plans now to surf back by!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The search for one killer, in Auburn, is over and the search continues in North Carolina. This has not been a good week for the parents of college-aged children, anxious as everyone is on the heels on two heinous crimes. The North Carolina story is no less tragic, of course, but the one I've been concentrating on, of course, is the slaying of a freshman co-ed at Auburn.

Lauren Burk was killed Tuesday night, found bleeding on a main road just off campus, dying later in the evening at a nearby hospital. Twenty minutes after they found the young woman a car was reported burning in a parking lot on campus. On Wednesday University and local authorities tried to reassure everyone that they were safe on campus. Confused and heartbroken, perhaps, but few likely felt safe.

This is a secondary thing to the loss of life of one so young who shined so brightly, but now kids in a beautiful, idyllic environment are wary of everything. They are wise to do so, but the "That's the world we live in" lament seems too great a concession to a place and time that means so much to so many. At the place where so many learn to become there own individual selves they must now weave a strand of suspicion into their lives. And for parents, who send their children off to learn and grow and thrive, there might now be a hesitancy that will linger a bit more each time the child departs from home to their other home orbiting their campus lives.

We've discussed this story at length in the newsroom. We'd come to the petty discussion that asked, now with a beautiful and important face gone, about the best possible outcome for the perception of a place so many people love and cherish. We asked these questions but in truth the idea that Courtney Lockhart, a profoundly troubled young man from a nearby town, is the suspected murderer is no better than any other resolution. Seeing his mother's tearful apology and plea to the victim's family humanizes this horrible tale on all sides but his.

This brutal attack will give pause to the current generation of students at Auburn, and resonate with similar stories from around the country.And if the University says there's nothing to worry about, that this wasn't exactly random and that you're safe on campus , remember: You're in college, be smart, read between the lines. You too parents; your kids are invincible, but you know better.

Your heart breaks a little more each time you wonder what Mr. Burk might say to his daughter if he had another few minutes. No wonder parents squeeze so tight.


Moving on.

My TiVo recorded Troy this weekend. Initially I had no idea why the EvIl eye would do such a thing. Surely by now we've grown accustomed to one another's tastes and it has figured out how I feel about Brad Pitt in his "serious" roles. I have watched the movie and it isn't bad. We stretch the myth here, but the myth has long been a stretch at any rate, so no real harm there. But, umm ... who are we cheering for here again?

Oh, yes. The EvIl eye recorded the movie because Brian Regan, the comedian, is one of my key word searches. Was he in this movie somewhere? Was there a jester doing stupid humor and wry observations in a director's cut scene that I overlooked on the DVD?

And thus begins a new, irregular feature on the site, we'll call it Three Minutes With Google. The rules are simple, start with something random and spend no more than three minutes on the subject to see if you can make it all make sense. Mostly because three minutes with Google could make your head explode with the many tangents jutting through the optic nerve.

First, the actor in Troy is Vincent Reagan. Innocent mistake by the EvIl one, or a big plan to make me watch the movie again. Vincent Regan played Eudorus, who was captain of the Myrmidones, one of five leaders of the group under Achilles.

The Myrmidones, meanwhile, are a group in Greek mythology that stem Eurymedua, who was reportedly wooed by Zeus in the form of an ant. All the celebrity mags of the day were taken with the story. The other big rumor is that their lands were repopulated after a plaque by ants turned into men, once again, at the hands of Zeus. Personally this sounds like the god up on Olympus didn't want to accept responsibility for his actions.

Also, the Myrmidones to denote a subordinate who carries out the orders of his superior without mercy or consideration of others. So they're a good fit for Achilles, since that's how he rolls. Perhaps you can see that best within this terrific 15 minute review of Troy.

Regan, Vincent that is, also played the Captain to King Leonidas in 300. Both characters are tough guys, and would have likely gotten along well under the mutual respect argument if not for that whole Sparta, Troy, Greek thing.

Also the two characters would have been centuries apart, with The Battle of Thermopylae taking place in 480 BC and The Trojan War supposedly set around 1200 BC.

I knew that last part.

Both films, of course, bring fantasy into stories both real, imagined and dramatized. And I believe Reagan's character dies in each. Brian Reagan, to my extremely limited knowledge, has made no jokes about either film or historical character. And that's what Google can teach you in three minutes.

More time on that birthday video, just to give it that old home movie glow. And now I'm going to catch a few scenes from Troy. Watching Brad Pitt barely act might be entertaining, but then there's also Helen of Troy.

The face that launched a thousand ships, and convinced would-be publishers that there was a future in celebrity magazines. If kings (kings!) would start a war over a woman, imagine what normal people will buy with the woman of the moment on the cover! You can hear the pre-historic cash machines from here.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Slept in this morning. Beautiful, delirious, sun high-in-the-sky sleep. There was snow on the ground. It covered some of the leaves. I could see it on the roof and the car. A few moments later it was all gone. There was no one-and-a-half inches of snow (now called heavy snow in these parts) as had been predicted for the overnight hours. I stepped outside at 2 a.m. to record the flurries, but you could get the same image with a guy on the roof jostling a bag of potato flakes.

Breakfast with the folks this morning at Cracker Barrel. The wait was short, the waitress was accommodating, the food was acceptable. I've nothing to complain about, which is good. I'm just tired of the place, which is bad.

We lingered at the table until it was past time to go. There was another surprise part for my mother in the works upstate and they would have to quickly pack and get on the road. It seems the dining time was bumped up -- or signals had been crossed -- and they didn't have as much time with me as my step-father thought. My mother, for the record, was happy to announce that she suspected there was something up. My grandmother, it seems, hadn't called and offered to cook, and that was her tipoff. That was also what I said last evening to my step-father. The absence of chicken stew makes an already suspicious woman certain. And that's your lesson for the day kids.

Cracker Barrel has a chocolate display just off the cash registers right now where you can buy a five pound block of chocolate stamped in the shape of a Hershey's bar. It is about the size of a kindergartner and costs a whopping 10 bucks a pound. Amazingly it hasn't sold.

We're getting a lot of use out of the over sized syrup bottle however.

Back at the homestead a stare down was underway. If you stare at that image for a while and let your eyes glaze over you can almost see the tumbleweed bouncing through the room and you'll be able to hear the faintest strains from "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly."

Except there is no ugly in that picture. Except for the cat hissing and taking a warning swipe. No animals were harmed. Coco, fresh from her long vacation at the beach, has since departed and life returns to normal.

After the folks pack and depart I get ready to leave myself. Gas up the car, hit the freeway and race up the interstate for the non-surprise surprise dinner. I make it there only moments before the guest of honor who yelled "Surprise!" and "I told you I'd see you tonight!"

We had catfish. Truly, I just wanted catfish and there's no good place between here and there and I had no idea they'd be gathering for a big family meal. Alas, here we all are enjoying fish and hush puppies. It is a shame I must drive for two hours for a proud Southern delicacy, but on the upside I had dinner with about 30 relatives.

Mom got her gifts, including a bag which seemed both practical and gag, including a pill organizer, ginkgo biloba and new reading glasses. She doesn't need the glasses, but they are a cute look on her.

My mother and her aunt laugh at old photographs. I took a photograph of my great-grandmother and her youngest great-grandchild tonight. The photograph spans 89 years and two months. Four generations, locked in the ones and zeros of my camera. It occurred to me that I'm now annoying picture guy. I take pictures of people looking at pictures. I take posed pictures and dozens of candid photographs. I took a picture of a picture tonight. I took 93 photographs during the dinner. These and hundreds more are hibernating on my computer, but must be shared some day.

I am the annoying picture guy in my family, but there are a few people in the family who find these pictures important. Some recognize the value of a half-century-old photograph and all that it contains, and all that we've lost.

One day, perhaps, these photographs will be important to the little guy in tonight's picture. In 30 years or so, if he begins to think about his place in the world and someone runs across this photograph in a dusty old collection of mine and shares it he might find himself staring blankly and thinking "Four generations."

Hopefully he'll have the chance to build a few memories with his great-grandmother beyond photographs. Hopefully he'll remember the smiling, cheery woman who loved to give out hugs and cookies. Then he'll look back at these pictures and realize that the woman there was born more than 100 years before the day he found that photograph. Maybe he'll stare at it awhile and consider the stories she could tell him and the wisdom she might offer amid the wonders of his world.

I have a lot of organizing to do.

After dinner I had a long, good talk with a cousin from the other side of my family. The non-surprise surprise dinner was at a restaurant her immediate family owns. We only see each other a few times a year if we're lucky, so there are always important gaps to fill in the narrative of our families. This person is doing well, that person is struggling, there's progress here, grim news there; a conversation that happens in every family. She got back to work, I got back on the road and started pondering family photographs.

Two hours of nighttime driving is a long time to ponder.

Already this seems a busy, full, satisfying weekend. It has felt long, but hectic and compressed at the same time. And there's still tomorrow to go. I hope your weekend is equally rewarding.

Friday, March 7, 2008

The actual birthday was Wednesday, but the big party was tonight. We'd been scheming for some time, but my mother is a playfully suspicious person. The surprise went very well, though she knew something was up.

She didn't know the details, but you can always guess that your core group of friends will be involved. There were great and pleasant surprises among all of the guests. We'd been sending Email reminders in the commercial magazine styles of the day for several weeks, so who could say no?

The Yankee captured the "Surprise!" reaction. We had dinner in the private room at Rojo's and cake from Savage's Bakery courtesy of my almost-sister Elisabeth and a chance to visit, compliments of a lifetime of wonderful friends. That's what she wanted; since she moved away six years ago she hasn't been able to visit with lifelong friends nearly enough, so we made it happen tonight. She got to tell stories on them and listen to them refuse to tell stories on her. Watching the video it was obvious she had a great time.

I've pulled together some highlights, which you can see here, or on the audio/video page.

That's been the preoccupation of the afternoon -- making sure they got into town, making sure I could get them downtown on time -- and the delight of the evening, watching everyone have a great time. I did nothing and I'm exhausted. Now 21 hours into my day I can say my parents very possibly out-partied me.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Welcome back. Or is it you that should welcome me back? Quiet a bit has happened in the past two days since we spoke last, making it seem like a much longer time than I've been here. We'll try to make up for that now.

So, Wednesday: It was my mother's birthday, as you might have inferred in the post below. She is insisting that it be read into the public record that she isn't a day over 20. Meanwhile a friend's husband glanced at that photograph below and thought there was no way that could be my mother. It does look like something you might see in the announcements and society section of the weekend paper, but it is a good picture from a happy trip and that's why I included it here.

Also because I look very young. But mostly because that was a weekend of perfect hair for all involved.

That weekend I flew to Louisville and the whole large family drove to North Carolina. Or Virginia. Or West Virginia. I don't really recall the state. I got in the car and went to sleep, something I never do, and felt like a confused rock star for the entire trip: "Hello Detroit! Are you ready to rock! Oh? Right. San Antonio! Are you ready to rock?"

We'll say one of the Virginias, since I flew out of North Carolina at the end of the trip. It was one of those rustic mountain type family getaways, clean air, empty spaces, putt-putt golf. Good time.

Anyway, I found that picture, and the one where I am impossibly young -- but the only thing about my mother that's changed is her hairstyle -- while straightening up one of the closets the other day. There is a stack of photo albums with a box of still more photographs perched on top. That little shelf holds most of the 1970s in a tidy and pre-arranged archival style. It is a remarkable experience, one that most everyone has, but that makes it no less impressive.

So happy birthday to her. I sent Hoops and Yoyo cards from Hallmark because they're the best and most ridiculous free e-card characters around. I also have presents and real cards for later. She's supposed to swing through town this weekend I believe.

Also today I stopped by the car dealership and began making plans for some unexpected maintenance. I've noticed a drip in the driveway at home and, just as distressing, a drab in my spot at the office. Occasionally I can catch the smell when I park, or when I turn on the air conditioner. This afternoon the sun was at just the right angle and I could see a bit of smoke coming out from the car.

"What can I do for you?" asked the manager who really was pleased to see me.

I have an oil leak.

He sniffs. "Yeah you do."

Glad my powers of perception aren't diminishing ...

"Well it could be that in a solipsistic sense I'm not here, you're not here and this car is not here but that this scene is made up for the entertainment of your brain."

We can discount this concept right away, because if my mind were the only thing that existed this would be much closer to a utopian vision, the car would not have an oil leak and the mechanic would not be discussing philosophy with me. Instead he'd magic wand this problem, which, again, wouldn't exist.

Admitting that I had him on that point he took a look, once again confirming that I had an oil leak. But it was too late in the afternoon to fix today. The rest of the week is too harried and accounted for. Next week, sometime, there will be more repair shop tales.

I, like you, can hardly wait.

So I consoled myself with a trip to the dollar theater to see I Am Legend:
Powerful setting, fine dramatic moments, a strong lead character and cheesy antagonists.
I must preface all that I say about the movie so that you understand I generally don't watch movies of the horror or scary drama variety. I like to laugh at movies, or think or be marginally inspired or whisped away on some visual trick, but I find no reason to pay money for you attempt to scare me. With that being said the dramatic moments of the movie were very tense.

Mostly I wanted to see the movie because of the concept of an abandoned city. That's an intriguing idea, particularly when you realize they actually shot this film in New York City. For these reasons I wanted to watch the movie, and they did not disappoint. And every moment prior to seeing the bad guys was a study in mounting tension. Silence, as master storytellers know, can be scary, and that's an easy emotion to paint when your lead character has a dog as is only companion.

And the dog is great. IMDB tells us Will Smith wanted to adopt the dog at the end of production, and you can see why, and also why the trainer said no. This only leaves me with one question: Why is it that you can do anything in a movie to a person and we, as viewers, will forgive that. "This is acting. That's an actor and he's fine." When you start to do it to an animal, particular a dog, even the smallest slight is a heinous act that will instantly turn the crowd. His dog in this movie had two such scenes.

The bad guys, once you see them, are a bit cheesy. I suspect that after "Spider-Man 3," "Transformers" and "Lord of the Rings" that I was expecting something that looked a bit more realistic. As soon as you show me a close up of these guys you ruin the drama. The unknown is even more terrifying than silence, which is a trick movies long on special effects sometimes forget.

I've now seen both endings and I'm OK with both the theater version and the one found on YouTube -- look it up, I give no spoilers -- and I'm OK with both, though I prefer the theater version. It has more potential for the mental sequel at least.

After the movie I stopped by the post office to drop off some mail, swung through the parking lot of the now closed and boarded up Comp USA and then went home for pictures and a delicious cereal dinner. Which brings us today, which has been filled mostly with laundry -- oh the details we could share here: lights from darks, folded and hanging up, towels and baskets! -- and general house cleaning. The Yankee and I had a quick chicken dinner and otherwise I've been moving things around, making sure the stacks of books and boxes and things are all at right angles and that the floors look halfway clean. It has been an adventurous day.

Here's my first recognized, and thus official, sign of spring. That's from yesterday. Today we find the birds ready to claim their roost for the season.

It was positively cold yesterday morning and chilly later in the day. It was 70 and beautiful today. There are a few models calling for snow late Friday night. March is always willing to show off all of its personalities.

So we've hit the high points of the past two days. We'll discuss more of this week over the weekend. But for now, I bid you adieu.

Have a great start to your Friday!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

That's one of my mother's favorite songs, and that particular version was a hit the year she was born.

Graceful and beautiful as ever: Happy Birthday Mom!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

When we got right down to it today was a slow news day. There were the impending votes in Ohio and Texas of course, but those have little direct impact here. There was a horrible shooting in Memphis, but we almost overlook those as news consumers these days it seems.

Remember when that was the premium story of the day, no matter where the senseless tragedy took place? Sometimes it now barely registers on people's minds. This wasn't at a school or a college, but in a house in a blue collar part of Memphis. Perhaps that's part of the reason. Six were killed, including two children. Three other kids were badly hurt according to the last report, which also brought the promising news that police had no leads.

Even still that was out of the state, out of our coverage area, really. It should always alarm us, though, and so I played the story big. Otherwise, not much. And, secretly, I think we were all fairly happy with that for a change. Everyone in the office is sick, recovering from being sick, or recovering from working a huge schedule last week. A day or two of relative quiet feels like a welcome thing.

During the day the temperatures fell, disappointing us all in the early start to March. In like a lion? A chilly, breezy, I wore short sleeves and no jacket today lion. By lunchtime the trick was complete, and I shivered on my way to a bite with a few of the guys from the office. We talked of phones and computers. Everyone around them got an education, and so did I.

Later, at home, I got around to trimming the hedges. I'd intended for today to be an inside day with the chill and the high chances of rain -- after last night's storms, though, there's only be an overcast sky and no more wet stuff -- I decided to make quick work of the shrubs. Tomorrow is the lawn and the leaves, tonight the dishes and a bit of laundry and this.

Oh I could give you three paragraphs on trimming the bushes. There are all those extension cords to untangle, the symmetry of the foliage and the overall aesthetic, the need for a few new green things to be installed this spring, the joys of cutting the perfect shapes. I could give you a few sentences on the storms, most of them having to do with my sleeping through them, but otherwise detailing light damage and no reported injuries in the region. There's probably something funny in the laundry somewhere. No ... the laundry is never funny ...

So that's the day, really. Nothing spectacular, just nice and steady. A lamb of March indeed.

Hope your day was quiet, productive and held only the events for which you were looking. Tomorrow will be deliberately light around here, but we'll make up for it going forward from Thursday.

Thanks for stopping by, come back again real soon.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Much better, thanks. Rare is the day when you find yourself longing for the week, so that it might be a fresh beginning from the weekend. If there was a Reset Button next to the Easy Button I would have considered jabbing it Sunday afternoon. A bit later the thought of Monday was a nice idea. Today it is here and it was, in fact, a nice day.

Storms are coming in, the clouds grew darker and ominous as I arrived home. I intended to trim the hedges this afternoon, but given the wind I decided against it. Yes, high winds kept me indoors from meticulously reshaping shrubbery.

The winds were very high.

Instead I finished the project that vexed us one and all throughout the weekend. Now comes the easy part I thought just running it through some software. My first try was a bit too involved. My second try was ridiculously simple. But. The save file as revealed a proprietary software for which I do not care. Back to the drawing board. Someone at work will know something.

And that, again, was a big part of my evening. Perhaps it is well that there was no trimming of the hedges. As it is this thing has dragged on well into the night. All told there are about three days invested in the thing, and I'm ready for an easy solution to complete the project. All will be revealed in the coming days.

Finally got that haircut. I walked in about two weeks overdue and found to my relief that everyone working had normal, boring, uninteresting haircuts themselves. This would be the exception to the rule. I read a few pages of my Gregory's memoir on Alcatraz before they called me back. The woman that cut my hair quietly did her work, complaining only of being cold and then telling me she felt as if she were getting sick.

Not surprising. It has been going around laying low large swaths of people with the whims of a weary wheeze. Everyone has seemingly come to the conclusion that their various flu vaccines are worthless this year, and they'll have to rethink some of those traditional medicines they've been using as treatment as well. It is a potent bug, and seemingly everyone has been introduced to it. And they all want to tell you about it.

They all want to tell me about it at least. Perhaps the sickly know I'm a target. Through the mucus they can tell, "He is one who has not been accosted by the germies."

Surely as I right this the virus is holding a cocktail party in my respiratory system, but thus far I've been fortunate. And I'd like to stay that way.

If you're sick, don't cut hair. Go home! There will always be another hair man or woman with clean scissors. Do not bring the bacteria laden utensils to this chair. In fact, I shouldn't be in this chair at all!

And thus the active mind wanders through a quiet haircut.

Have a look at some of the iconic images in the history of photography. Originally I waded through taking in the photographs, looking for little tips that might help my own compositions. I nodded along to all of the pictures that I know, those that are common enough that we can all recognize their context in history.

And then I began reading the text underneath, which is a fascinating tidbit of history and photojournalism. Back to the beginning, then, to learn more about all of them. It is an engrossing collection.

Site stuff: Just a small installment here tonight. There are two new campaign buttons as we dive back to the 1930s. Alf Landon, who had the misfortune of running against President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936 and then a button from FDR himself.

On the Landon page there's some terrific newsreel footage from the '36 campaign. Landon seemed a bit stiff and coached, odd for a man who more or less liked Roosevelt and wouldn't campaign for himself. The President was charming, a terrific orator and had the heart and imagination of the American people. Landon never stood a chance.

Storms late tonight. I'll stay up late and watch them, just to make sure the roof stays on the house. I'm generally very attentive of these late night storms, as if the weather grew dicey and I could go up onto the roof and thwart the winds, or save some shingles.

Better than sleeping through the tornado alarms I guess.

I'll be here tomorrow, no weather can keep me away. Until then...

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Computer on fritz. Time-sensitive funtime project hangs in balance. Brain melting. Articles (and various other parts of speech) optional.

My scanner has decided to revolt. Or, rather, the software has issued this decree. During a two-hour stretch this afternoon I succeeded in making one fun graphic and sending one Email, balanced against three complete and total crashes of my computer and a total loss of bookmarks twice.

This is what I get for making the "I remember when Firefox almost crashed on me once" joke two weeks ago.

Firefox, the docs say, backs up your bookmarks five times a day. You only have to go find them in the profile, the helpful help pages say.

They lie. They lie. They lie.

So I'm using two old versions of my bookmarks. One dating to early February, but seemingly woefully out of date, and another dating back to November. The new rule around here is to manually save your bookmarks each time you add a link to it.

I've mentioned recently that my computer is aging. We're almost at four years to the day now and it has been an awesome machine, but it is staggering down the homestretch. Some improvement or an upgrade will be due soon.

So there's that. There was also an easy trip to the grocery store, where I succeeded in proving that one shouldn't shop while hungry. Much of my week is already planned out meal-wise, and yet I still left with more food in the buggy than is normal. The fruit will be delicious and healthy, and the sandwich for lunch was a nice treat.

For dinner The Yankee and I decided we would try Pie Day again, rounding out in a weekend the two single-most disappointing experiences I've had with the place in more than three years of regular dining. I called over the manager, which I never do. I almost apologetically explained the last two evenings.

The upside is the downside because the guy knows me, and had heard about last night already. I told him the whole story, leaving it with "You're working hard, and you should know what's going on here. You know how frequently I'm here. I'm a regular and all this caused me to leave last night and ask to speak to you tonight."

Dinner was comped by the manager; I should have ordered the ribs.

My love for the place is such that, for whatever reason, they get leeway on this. And of course we'll all be back next week. But if things don't get better, someone will be writing letters!

I dropped my phone under the driver's seat in the car. The chair is fully motorized, meaning you can't reach underneath it from the front and you can't reach underneath it from the back because of all the machinery and moving parts. After four or five minutes I discovered there's a motor that lifts the entire seat. This was a victory.

And then I visited a dying video store. I made a joke to the four employees sitting blanking by the door, but absolutely no one got it. The selection was thin, having come late to the carrion party there wasn't a lot to pick over. You could almost hear the faint beeping of life support in the entire business model. Even the shelves hawking new releases seem old somehow. I did not buy anyhing, but came close to picking up a few television series. Even the sale prices here, I finally decided, could be bested online. Just for grins will experiment with that tomorrow.

After that more fun with the computer, which is working slightly better. I haven't asked the scanner to do anything, which suggests the problem resides somewhere in that delightful hunk of HP code. Tomorrow we'll try that again see what might be learned. As it is things are moving a bit better, and for that I am grateful.

My apologies for a weekend that has seemed less enthusiastic than normal. The weather has been glorious and the problems have been pitifully trivial. Computer angst is the largest of small complaints, but we've all learned over the years how a computer can really change your day.

Tomorrow though, is March 3rd. We'll have long since shaken off the impact of leap year and be moving steadily toward another beautiful spring. (Leap. Spring. We're so active just about now, aren't we?) Tomorrow there will be campaign buttons, a visit to the store where they attempt to cut your hair symmetrically, fail and leave you with the ramifications and adventures in hedge trimming.

The first real outdoor work of the season begins this week. Call HG TV, they won't want to miss it! And neither will you. See you soon.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Oy. This is a foul mood, and for that I apologize. The feeling has lingered, and so if I don't do the same here you'll know why, it isn't right to trouble you with nonsense.

And that's been much of the day. On the angst-o-meter this would be about a three, a departure from my normal .5. At six you can be emphatic about your feelings, but only when you pick your spots. A three also makes you aware of with whom you are, and are not, in a disagreeable fashion. At four you mustn't be randomly voice indiscriminate displeasure, but you must rather target it precisely, because three is not six, and at three you can't strafe the room with vitriol.

Oh yes, there are many rules.

The odd thing is there's no real object of displeasure, but rather a long series of minor annoyances for the day which, ultimately, would prompt you to conclude that the completion of the day will result in a better day tomorrow. That's pretty much where I am now. Nothing horrible has happened, no one has wronged me greatly or harmed myself or my psyche. I'm just in a slight mood. A three, which means little will please the critical eye.

I dislike this mood almost as much as silly numbering systems created to make you chuckle. I do not have them often, and do not care for them when they are present. Nevertheless, here we are.

Slept in this morning -- perhaps that has something to do with it -- cleaned up a bit downstairs, had a delicious and nutritious bowl of cereal for lunch. Decided on an afternoon movie. The Yankee and I saw Michael Clayton:
Only paid a dollar, can I have my two hours back please.
This is an odd movie in that all of the acting was fine, but the larger movie was boring. It wasn't about Michael Clayton's work at a big law firm, or his restaurant trouble, or his family trouble, it was about the character. That's fine, being that the title is "Michael Clayton." A better title would be "Michael Clayton has a Bad Week."

The problem here is that, despite George Clooney's usual solid performance, Michael Clayton, for whatever reason, isn't an interesting character. I was much more intrigued by everyone else in the film. Even the elevator button-pusher.

This film won an Oscar -- the only way I know this is because it happened in the one segment of the show that I watched. That's fine, the individual performances were strong. How you could take that and create a void of a movie is a mystery. The nomination for motion picture of the year can only say more about the other releases, because this is a weak and forgettable film.

As if to validate this point, IMDB notes that "Michael Clayton" was the only movie at the Oscars 2008 to receive more than one acting nomination. Weak field, weak movie.

After the film we decided on an impromptu Pie Day. This was not a good idea. Some 90 minutes later I left, having watch tables be sat, eat, pay and leave the parking lot while I sat in the foyer. There was no joy in that, and the three from the angst-o-meter mentioned above almost became a four.

Leaving was a good idea at that point, but there was still the question of food. Mexican instead. We were sat immediately and had our food six minutes later. Tacos rule.

I found myself on the sofa just as Saturday Night Live came on the air. Why not? I abandoned the show years ago when they abandoned the funny, but I'll check it out once a season, usually grimace through a few painful sketches and realize there are a lot more interesting things to do. But this is a political season, I've heard a few good things, it deserves a look.

So I caught the opening skit, which was almost droll, and the appearance by Sen. Hillary Clinton which didn't quite reach up to droll. I turned it off during the credits and think I'll go try my luck reading a bit more about the 19th Century.

Nothing I figured, could go wrong in the 19th Century.

So I'll read a few more pages of the McCullough's book on the Brooklyn Bridge, and then fall asleep. Tomorrow shouldn't be a three and we'll just blame all of this on the ripples of leap year.

Thanks for stopping by, come back tomorrow when we'll have 79 percent less grousing and more beautiful pre-spring fun than we can throw a cliche at.