Kenny Smith | blog

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Before we get started, there's a new video on the A/V page. This is a 2:40 tour of Napa Valley, in northern California's Wine Country.

We broke news all over the place today. News broke, we fixed it. All of those things you'll come to expect from close observation of a news and information outlet, we had them in fine form today.

Twitter helped us do this. Since I subscribed to the service a week or two ago I've run across two stories on how journalists might use Twitter, today we saw that in action. There was an apartment fire by The Summit, one of the high profile shopping areas in town. It quickly became a three alarm blaze and we heard about it almost simultaneously from newsroom scanners and one of the community's local Twitter mavens.

For the rest of the day we boasted coverage like this. The video on that page is from a cell phone. Thinking of going from rotary phones to video cameras in phones in a generation will never cease to amaze.

There was other big news as well. Birmingham was going to offer free bus rides throughout the summer. Only they weren't, because the transit department wanted to get paid for this and the city's current administration lives with a high interest rate credit card mentality.

The mayor was also previously the head of the County Commission. This is a big part of why the county government is steps away from bankruptcy. It is little wonder that the mayor has a history of personal financial problems as well.

Anyway, the transit department today wanted to get paid for these free bus rides that start tomorrow. The mayor was going to make it happen some undetermined day in the future. (There's a theme there.) So the transit people said no. The City Council met hastily to decide yes. And then they decided maybe not, and certainly not within the next few weeks.

The Council has previously been Mayor Larry Langford's best friend, since they'll nod their heads in agreement with the popular guy and Langford, fresh off his election, has been very popular with citizens.

Until today. Today the honeymoon ended. The Securities and Exchange Commission named Langford in a civil suit recording malfeasance from his time on the County Commission. Langford says it is politics, which is code for "Long, hot awesome summer of litigious news coverage." The City Council will soon be sneaking around behind him, dagger in hand.

Also today state lawmakers declined to give the mayor a raise. The one good thing for the mayor today was the unveiling of his XO computer platform. He wanted to put the machines into the hands of all the city school's students. These are the little laptops going into Third World countries, so we're right on par on this one. Only you can get them in Africa for $100 per, but Birmingham created a $3 million program to buy 15,000 of the machines, doubling the price.

The mayor was elected on a campaign of "Let's do something." The other part of that sign read "... that spends an awful lot of money."

If you're wondering how he got elected, join the line of blank stares.

So about these buses, a few coworkers were figuring up their would-be bus routes this morning. I say would-be because one of the routes involved turning a typical 11-minute commute into a 90 minute process that included a three mile walk. But it is a free bus ride! Another found that his route would involve driving in 80 percent of his regular commute and then 75 minutes on the bus. But for free!

Sadly the bus routes don't come anywhere close to the suburbs or exurbs in my direction, I declined to figure out how atrocious my free bus route would be in comparison to my 25 minute commute.

A video offered to me this morning makes one fear for the future of today's youth and their grandmothers.

We don't often quote seven-year-olds, but this deserves attention. "I took my grandma's car because I got mad at my mom."

The kid drove the SUV several miles, hitting two parked cars, two mailboxes and hit two moving cars, "I wanted to do hoodrat stuff for my friend."

The custodial grandmother's comment screams that this community's reset button needs to be found, cleared of debris and pressed, stat. "I want to whip his behind. That's what I want to do right now. If I thought they wouldn't take me to jail I'd whip his behind right now."

The reporter got to ask the kid if he should be punished, earning the reply "Just a little bit. No video games for a whole weekend."

He's going to face some juvenile grand theft charges, but even still there's nothing you can say or do to improve on what that poet/philosopher Chris Rock said.

Across the spectrum of character and uplifting tales, there's this story from our sister site Oregon Live. In a collegiate softball game with playoff implications one batter hit a home run, her career first, but blew out her knee in the process. Her team couldn't help, by rule, but there was nothing that said the opponents couldn't lend a hand:
The teammates walked over and picked up Tucholsky and resumed the home-run walk, pausing at each base to allow Tucholsky to touch the bag with her uninjured leg.

"We started laughing when we touched second base," Holtman said. "I said, 'I wonder what this must look like to other people.' "

Holtman got her answer when they arrived at home plate. She looked up and saw the entire Western Oregon team in tears.

"My whole team was crying," Tucholsky said. "Everybody in the stands was crying. My coach was crying. It touched a lot of people."
Sara Tucholsky's three-run home run ultimately won the game for Western Oregon, but it was her opponents assist that put them into the playoffs.

Don't forget the video!

Tomorrow, we'll tweak a few pages on the site, have an essay about journalism, note a piece of minute historical trivia and have more riveting television reviews.

Kinda nice when the next day is planned out. Hope yours is wonderful as well!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

When I left home this morning one of the neighborhood kids' skateboard was in my yard.

If that is still here when I get home I'll take up a new skating hobby.

This is hardly fair on my part. I leave work at 3 p.m., and usually beat the bus through the neighborhood. Yet, when I got home, the skateboard was gone. What do these kids do all day? Shouldn't they be in school?

Faced with a few of the more routine household chores I spent part of the evening working on a video. I shot a great deal of video from our day in Wine Country in San Francisco last month and wanted to put together the some clips for yet another video from the trip. I'm working my way through that trip, in video, and have this series and one more for next week.

In Wine Country I shot something like an hour of video and an untold number of photographs. Tonight I culled the video footage down to about 10 minutes. Tomorrow I'll make the hard decisions and trim the rest. Somewhere between here and there the storyline will come to mind. Hopefully it'll be entertaining, but check back tomorrow.

This afternoon I worked on those household chores, but only a little. There's still plenty of laundry and other things to deal with as the week continues.

We're finding more and more excuses to use Tweeter in the office. I'm currently following, being followed by and having conversations with prominent members of the local online community and the larger world, people like Jason Calacanis and Jeff Jarvis.

Calacanis I've only briefly exchanged a few Emails with in the past, Jarvis was previously our boss at Advance Internet;now I'm part of their idle chats and random brainstorming. The internet never ceases to stagger.

And, as cool as it is to follow their tweets, I ran across Hillary Clinton's today. Her most recent update was about an endorsement fromNorth Carolina. As these things go that's a pretty cool Tweet.

So, it looks like we'll have to redo some of that Facebook and MySpace research and now address the Tweeter aspect of social media. What does it all mean? Aside from someone having the job of writing for presidential candidates in the first person.

We can only assume that senators running for president have more important things to do than tweet all afternoon.

You know they weren't writing these speeches themselves.

I ran across the John McCain speech in that video somewhere today and it was so bad I felt compelled to seek out the entire clip. And it was Democracy is weeping bad. My TiVo recorded this episode of the wrestling program, I presume for the political content in the episode description. And while I haven't watched it yet, I know now that it can be deleted with disdain.

Lincoln-Douglas they ain't. Pandering to an audience via a wrestling program isn't the problem by any stretch -- that crowd and the viewers at home will go out and vote in roughly the same percentage as the rest of the nation -- but the clumsy way in which they went about it is distressing.

Clinton is after Sen. Barack Obama to join her in a Lincoln-Douglas style debate. Ninety minutes, no moderators and the issues. He rightly pointed out they've faced off 21 times and, in doing so, came off looking like the candidate in the lead. It is always the person playing from behind that wants to debate, the leader never has anything to gain in the exercise, especially if you've done it almost two dozen times already.

But let's just substitute that little video for any further debate. Let's just move up the conventions to the weekend after next and the general election to the following Tuesday. We're ready at this point. Even the most non-discriminating wrestling fan understands that gas prices are now high. And they're going to vote on that. Ask Jimmy Carter. In fact, today we read that gas prices are now at all time highs -- besting the 1981 mark earlier this week -- and budget cuts are being discussed by local governments to help cope.

Food prices are up, but there's no shortages here in the States, as James Lileks notes, but as in all things where the economy is concerned, perception dictates reality.

And the reality that three people who'd like your support in becoming the most powerful person in the world are making ham-handed puns to the wrestling audience could be a stark one indeed.

More of the chipper, ignorance is bliss mentality tomorrow. Thanks for stopping by, make sure you come back for that video and more!

Monday, April 28, 2008

I've noticed the last two days that my blog is enjoying a slight uptick in traffic. Today the search words formed up and I realized why. The other Kenny Smith did a funny bit on TNT the other night and I'm benefiting from the slapstick. Since they're inadvertently sending me a little traffic, and since this is a pretty cute gag, I give you Kenny Smith hit by a car. Skip the first 30 seconds. The video drags a bit in the early going, but it is worth the payoff.

No, that isn't me. I'm shorter and not as talented a basketball player.

I started to watch a documentary on the western battles of the American Civil War this afternoon, but the piece was narrated by Kenny Rogers, and while he does many things very well, I'd say narration isn't his best role. So I fell asleep. After an hour or so the phone decided I should be awake. I agreed, and that was fine. I'd had a nap, removed something from the TiVo on the justification that it put me to sleep, got a nice phone chat and the sun was still above the trees.

Before dinner I tinkered with my new desk design a bit more. Presently the desk sits at an angle facing a corner. There's a window to the left and the office television is off to the right. In between there's the printer stand, which faces away from the TV and perpendicular to the wall. There's a narrow little gap between the desk and printer stand with an area behind them that is, for now, empty, but surely destined to become the spot where things get hidden from myself for months on end.

My desk is the cheap model held over from college. I believe it was purchased at Wal-Mart and I recall putting it together freshman year. It is your basic particle board, faux-woodgrain number. There's a bottom and a top section, and the former has always been held with a mild claustrophobic contempt.

Currently it is installed, but it may disappear again soon. The only redeeming attributes it offers are the top shelf and a little cabinet on the right at monitor height.

Beneath that door in the bottom section of the desk is another little cabinet. There's a shelf, somewhere, but it has been removed to create one super storage area. That's the section that was addressed this evening.

A few items of clutter were removed, organized and stowed away. My mixing board was put in that open space. I broke out an old microphone stand -- donated to my cause during a station renovation -- and plugged up an old Sennheiser I'd been holding for a special occasion. I put it all together, plugged it into the computer and ...

Three paragraphs of conversation about software and mixing channels and tinkering with sound should go here, but I'm sparing you. Instead we'll say this set up sounds much better than the old $20 Radio Shack microphone.

... which was helped greatly by 10 minutes spent tinkering with getting speakers set at just the right angle.

So now I just need something to talk about. I'm just playing with sound tonight, you see, trying to make sure everything works how I'd like, trying to find the bugs in the system. So I google around for podcast ideas, just to give me something to talk to the wall about. This is one of the first hits, read tip number six.

"Decide on a topic for your podcast." That's your role here, eHow. The blogpost's title was "How to decide on a podcast topic" and that was your tip? Really.

Chris Brogan, meanwhile, brings the brain work, if you're looking for a social media podcast yourself. Those are some great ideas there, some of them should probably be academic research, but I prefer my conversation to be largely about other things than media.

So I'm going to go think those up, and get back to you. The check is in the mail, etc.

For now, I'm going to go read about the 19th Century.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Don't get me wrong, we need the rain. We just didn't need it today.

It was cloudy and muggy for most of the day, except for a few moments when the sun broke through and it was sunny and muggy. There's no more strange combination of meteorological conditions. Sunny and hot, we can handle all day. Muggy and overcast, that's springtime, friend. Sunny and muggy? May as well go back inside.

We're not discussing typical springtime weather here, where it was 68 degrees, sunny and mild to low humidity -- say around 30 or 40 percent. No sir. We're talking the sensory assaulting 70 degrees, beach-sun UV warning level of light and 83 percent humidity.

At least that was the baseball game. Auburn traveled to Alabama for a three-game series this weekend. It was an important one for both teams as they try to get into the conference tournament. Auburn is talented, but young. Alabama is reasonably talented, but well coached. Auburn won Friday, gave away the Saturday game and so today's game was a must-win.

So we're at the game, courtesy of free tickets from work. Freshman pitcher Bradley Hendrix walked out to the mound in the bottom of the first with a one run lead, but the Tide overwhelmed him and got four runs off four hits in one inning of work.

This young fan celebrated the early lead by telling us all the blue snow cone was delicious.

In the second inning Bama broke the game open with five runs off the bullpen. The only highlight for the Tigers was Josh Rutledge being thrown out by Ryan Jenkins at the plate.

Auburn got back two runs in the fifth, gave up three more in the sixth, making the score 12-3. And then the rain rolled in. In the top of the seventh the Tigers scored two runs, so a miracle was being considered with the bullpen holding and 12-5 being displayed on the scoreboard.

And then the bottom fell out of the sky.

We were asked to put our umbrella down. There were three of us huddled underneath it, using the thing for its intended purpose, and in no danger to anyone else since the section was, by then, completely barren. So Brian vowed to stow the umbrella when the rain stopped. Alabama kept scoring more runs and in the midst of being clucked at by the umbrella police and heckling everyone in an Alabama shirt not asked to put their umbrella away we decided to make an exit. A witty observation of Alabama athletics' always following the rules followed.

It was here that I got called a bum, which was funny given the hasty, sputtering tone with which the insult was hurled. Joke was on that guy; I was going home, he was standing in the rain.

Soaked to the bone and laughing all the way, we left the game just before they called a rain delay. When action resumed 24 minutes later Alabama delivered back-to-back-to-back home runs to put it away. Final score, 17-7.

Rule-following jokes notwithstanding I was full of good lines today. At the grocery store one of the nice young ladies that lent a hand was named Tienelle. I wondered, for a long time afterward, if she knew The Captain. Or perhaps she has a younger brother.

I'd never ask of course, because she was a few years to young for the joke. And what if there was something to it? Where does the joke go after that?

Oh. You do have a brother named Captain. ... Ahem.

This, to me, is one of the selling points of Twitter. I typed all of that into the phone and sent it out into the series of tubes for you and a few friends to laugh at. By the time I was done with the message she was finished making my sandwich. And it was delicious.

Tonight, after the game, the grill was pressed into service. The last of the bad charcoal was used. The last of the old starter fluid was brought into play as well. It took roughly half a can to light the grill three times on that useless bag of coal. Someone replaced the good high burning stuff with rocks. Someone left the bag opened.

No. In fact someone thought they'd save $1.30 on non-lighter fluid fused coals, forgetting the machinations required a generation ago to bring the grill to a crowd pleasing temperature.

At one point I dripped some of the precious starter fluid onto the plastic handle of the grill. I was too busy admiring the can -- The thing is so old there's no URL anywhere on it, hasn't every product post-1997 had a URL printed on it? -- to note the spillage, but there was another reason for my haste, more rain was coming.

The steak got off the grill during the first few, hesitant drops. The meat, potato and asparagus was eaten before the real rains came. They arrived just as I made a mental note to move the grill under the covered portion of the deck when it cooled.

Given the ferocity of the rain at that moment the grill seemed suddenly cool enough. I rolled it under a corner, being sure to note there were no dangerous surfaces nearby and, in doing so, enjoyed my second drenching of the day.

So now I have a chill, the photographs are cropped and uploaded and there's one more desk chore that I'll do tomorrow. I think I'll go listen to the raindrops. They're a nice serenade for the evening, particularly when the forecast looks so beautiful as far as the weatherman's eye can see.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

There was rain this morning, but I slept through it. Slept right through to the point of not even realizing the condition was upon the community until I woke up much later to find all of the evidence in the street and yard. Often my mind will at least acknowledge the presence of rain, even while sleeping, but not today.

And so it was with that gentle, pattering soundtrack that I slept in today, which was delightful. After that it took a full hour to work my way up to a respectable speed. By then it was lunchtime, which featured last night's leftovers.

It was during this time that I watched the previous night's Battlestar Galactica. Perhaps it was my brain that was firing only on three cylinders, perhaps it was the episode, but this one struck me as either a big miss or setting up something vastly important later. That you could have either option is a credit to the depth and breadth of the storyline or the curiosity of the viewing audience.

Either way I found myself re-watching scenes looking for some obvious little thing that I missed, but if it exists that thing stayed hidden to my tired little eyes. It'd be unfortunate to call this one of the lesser episodes of the entire series, but failing some ad-hoc importance this episode falls into that shallow pool.

Later that very same afternoon I'm watching the NFL Draft. Mostly because it is a made for television event and because it has become a drab, dreary looking day outside. Also I was curious to see who would be drafted where. After the second round your odds of knowing any of the names diminishes greatly, but I play a little game on how few of the first rounders I'm not familiar with as well. The answer: Quite a few, actually.

Happily the draft moves a bit quicker these days with less time between picks. Sadly, there didn't seem to be a lot of moments where the teevee analysts berated teams on their choices. That's always a secondary joy.

While the draft was going on -- one player from Troy went in the first round and two Auburn guys were selected in the second round -- I set about the long overdue task of cleaning my desk. And then I decided to move the desk in a burst of spontaneity.

Previously it sat along an exterior wall, sort of facing a window. Now I've angled the thing in the corner, which gives better window access, better television access, more space for the monitor and brings desk and printer station a bit closer together.

Somehow this all turned into a good move, and the cleaning helped. I carefully boxed a box of things that needed to be boxed and resisted the urge to unbox other things. I'm left with a space that just might become a permanent home for my mixing board, but we'll see about that another time.

With all of that done it was dinner time and pizza sounded good so Mellow Mushroom was in order. The Yankee and I shared a large pizza, tomatoes, sausage and cheese for her, the special for me. We discovered that, without the pretzel appetizer, a large pizza can go quickly. And now I'm going to go run laps somewhere.

Actually, I think I'll work on my web page. I quickly moved some code around yesterday and realized it had been a long time since I tinkered in the guts of the code on my own site. And I enjoy doing that. None of this explains the flotsam and jetsam of code you could find on these many pages, so perhaps I'll clean some of the behind-the-scenes clutter away.

Later, still. I've trimmed down the blogroll, removing the sites that are defunct or no longer online. I worked on that Twitter box a bit more. In the last day I've moved it from the left rail over to the right. For 15 minutes somewhere along the way I had an Twitter up there as well, but that was just a placeholder.

In that space I hope to put a photo feature, but I'm struggling with code that I'm happy with. Also I'd love to find a trick that helps reduce the size of that archives box to the left, but I don't know if it exists. I'd like to just have the years display when you entered this page, but when you clicked a specific year the menu dropped down to show the months. There's a floating menu feature out there, I just need to find it.

And that's what I've done with myself until these now late hours, tinkering with code to no resolution, but a fair amount of small satisfaction. It isn't an unpleasant way to spend an evening.

I hope yours has been grand. Come back tomorrow for baseball and cookout adventures.

Friday, April 25, 2008

There was a moment, on the first hole, during this afternoon's round of golf that I thought I'd have a good showing.

Oh I pushed the drive a bit to the right, and I snuck two more strokes up to the green and I lipped the hole from the fringe before offering up two lag puts, but all of this is correctable. My golf game is erratic at best. Every club in my bag can offer me a good shot somewhere on the course, but I'm nowhere near being able to put it all together for one hole, let alone a side. There's inconsistency to be found, but today might have been a good showing. After all, this was the first hole of the season for me.

And then, standing in the second tee box, I hit a house. I'd like to apologize to the Miller family for the disturbance.

Thereafter I made three greens in regulation, often with respectably long shots from irons and found myself holing a long putt for par. Everything else was pedestrian or outright forgettable.

Nice day to be out on the course, though. It was quiet, there were two carts in front on the first hole, but my walking pace let them pull away easily. On the ninth hole another cart caught up from behind, so I had to put quickly to get off the green and the putt was a good one, so I finished nine holes right around my average, unprintable score. It'd look dynamite if I'd played 18 holes, but it is a bit on the high side for nine.

Nevertheless, we are talking about a Friday afternoon playing golf as the sun was falling behind the trees and the heat of the day was giving way to a pleasant evening. On those days there's no such thing as a bad putt.

Since we've abandoned the pretense of chronology for the day we'll back up into the morning and note that another item from the Spring Cleaning Project of '08 has been removed from the list.

Ever wonder where queen bees live? This is her part of the hive.

He dismantled, carefully removed, cleaned, restored and then covered entrances. He also told stories about removing hives elsewhere that had combs as big as a grown man. This will make you feel better about your little infestation.

I'd told him over the phone last week about the problem, describing it as best I could. This was not an uncommon site, so he gave me some tips on how I might handle the bees, but, he said, if they were too much for me to handle he'd be happy to come out. He just wanted to save me the money. But then seeing the work, I know it was money well spent. And a job well done. If you need a bee guy in the area, I know just who you should call.

Pie Day was delicious, as usual. Ward was nowhere to be found, but we kept a new girl on her toes with demands for more bread and more drinks and more this and more that. This is the second time she's worked our happy little group, but she hasn't figured out the Friday=Pie Day connection yet.

Our presence demands pie. And special treatment. We've built up goodwill over these past three years to earn extra balloons for helium signing, to get our pick of the staff and a continuous wave of cheese biscuits, if we should so desire them.

Also, there will be pie.

And, if on the way out the door, I try to take the whole baskets of mints, the hostesses just let me take them. Though I learned tonight they are fond of the wicker. They don't care if you dump a far-too-larger portion of peppermints in your take out bag. That's good to know.

We also got out of there in just under two hours for a change, which is nice.

Just one student editorial to highlight this week, and this is a staff piece from The Auburn Plainsman. Truer words about a kind, giving, funny man were never spoken on a bittersweet day:
Every "who he," "who she" or "who they" reminds us reporting is about telling people’s stories, and to properly do that, we need to get their names.

Ed Williams is why this office gets classified as a learning laboratory. He is a walking, talking journalistic tome.


Ed Williams cares. He genuinely wants to know and love people.

Such people are few and far between on this earth.

Ed Williams is truly one of God's good people in this world, and we have been lucky to get to work with him.

We wish him happiness in his semi-retirement.
A fine teacher and journalist and an even better man, Ed Williams will be missed. Read the whole thing.

Elsewhere, I'm just fussing with the computer, but that's going to be a riveting tale for tomorrow. So be sure you stop by to visit again soon for stories of fear, fright and anticlimax!

Or possibly television viewing and code tweaking anecdotes.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Oh the things that broke this morning. Many of the story files from the papers revolted, were turned away at the border or just got lost. This made for some anxious moments, but the technical folks are top-notch and the issues were all quickly resolved and the day moved on apace.

The silver lining of the problems was a few phone calls from one of our primary newspaper liasons, with whom I do the old radio shtick: "The stacks of wax and the platters that matter!" Ever wonder why early rock 'n' roll DJs felt the need to rhyme? It just sounds cool.

That's the legendary Rock Robinson of Orlando. There's plenty more of his old air checks on that page, which is hosted by Robinson's son.

So we rhymed a lot, staying away from the Wolfman Jack stuff, as that material is too easy, but certainly going guttural with the back-of-the-throat sound. This amuses, or bemuses, the colleagues within earshot. They don't have to hear it every day, which is probably the saving grace, but it is fun.

I never did the golden age shtick, the time was long since passed and I don't know that many rhymes. I always preferred the news anyway, learning in the early going that my talents as a disc jockey were somewhat limited, but I did have the smooth, non-threatening voice which was a big hit at stations striving for that key 24-49-year-old demographic.

So I'm thinking about some of the best jocks that I've ever heard and I'll have to settle on Ray Lincoln for now. He died a few years ago, but was working until late in his life. While his best work might have been behind him -- and he was the stuff of honest legend -- he could still craft magical moments. Lincoln was the guy that did every voice in the booth himself. And he did it flawlessly. Famous for "Ram and Ray," a duo featuring a fractious cowboy and himself, he could create characters on a whim. And he'd leave you no choice; you'd buy every second of the sound and the back story and interactions all those people shared.

I worked with his Sport Jackson character while he was in semi-radio retirement. Sport was a soulful horse handicapper and the character was ridiculous; brash, crass, loud and fearless. But Sport was unforgettable as well. And he knew the ponies, offering up tips and hints on every race of the evening in 60 second increments and he never missed hitting a post.

The people that knew him as a radio personality talk about his spirit. He was important enough to them that, even years later, that they remembered poems he read on the air, cherished business cards he'd given them and wrote down his one-liners. The man created devotion from his earnest appeal and his unpredictability.

Around the time of his retirement Lincoln received the heart of a much younger man because, some might say, he'd given so much of his own to others. There doesn't seem to be any air checks of Lincoln's online, but plenty of people make the claim that Lincoln was the proto-Robin Williams. Consider that for a while.

After work there was the library, and then dinner at Zaxby's. There was a trip to Wal-Mart to buy cards and household sundries. Nothing happened in the big box store worth retelling or even embellishing, as I noted only that they are very, very keen on including surveys in your receipt now.

Late in the evening there was an episode of ER, which is only marginally holding my interest at this point. The main players have little conflict and what they bring in as plot devices all feel like recycled material. Fourteen seasons is a long run, but sadly the most entertainment from the program is now playing "Who's been on the show the longest?"

Also, I can't believe they showed that. PBS, sure. Cable, why not, but on network primetime television? That? Oh my.

And finally, there's an honorable mention worth mentioning, this in the latest Outside the Beltway caption contest.

Tomorrow there's golf, pie day and a little tinkering here and there. It should be worth your while, so come back and visit. Until then, have a nice time, and keep that dial right here.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

If yesterday felt like a day of productivity, today was a big bag of delicious chocolate covered progress.

A guy came out to the house today and assessed the bee situation and he'll return Friday to remove the bee threat. It appears that there are four or 11,236 bees living, working and playing in my little corner of paradise. One of us must go and since I can speak in words and they must rely on a sophisticated dance just to tell one another where the pollen is, then I win.

Also I have opposable thumbs and can look up a bee guy.

Actually this is the second bee guy. The first bee guy contributed to the recent frustrations of getting little accomplished.

But this bee guy, the second bee guy, will be out to do the job Friday. He seems very confident, very competent and he's going to do everything in a single day and with a guarantee. I like this already.

Moments after sealing up those arrangements -- and you have to act fast to get a bee guy these days, that's a booming business apparently -- the new lawn mower guy came, backed his pickup into the driveway, attached a winch to the mower and pulled it on board. In several weeks I'll get the grass monster back and will be able to have a nice neat yard.

So, neighbors, can I borrow yours in the interim? Just to keep everything looking nice and clean. you understand.

For those keeping score that's two items on the Spring Cleaning Project of '08 that are now being marked off the list. Today's random, and likely inaccurate count leaves the official tally of things left on the list at three. After the struggles to get today's two items handled and then, finally, have them addressed within an hour of one another is cause for celebration.

So to celebrate I watched a Champions League semifinal between Manchester United and Barcelona. Ninety minutes of ball control and not much else on the way to an unsatisfying 0-0 draw. If there'd been something more to the game I could accept the final, but that Barcelona dominated the touches and provided nothing in the net, or that Man U. badly botched an early penalty kick points to the bulk of the problems American audiences have with the game.

Now if it had drama like the Liverpool-Chelsea game ...

The deucing will continue until morale improves.

I once interviewed with CNN and was less impressed with the interviewers than they were with me. Every so often I see something that makes me glad things didn't work out there. Chez Pazienza's experience is one of those things:
When I asked, just out of curiosity, who came across my blog and/or the columns in the Huffington Post, the woman from HR answered, "We have people within the company whose job is specifically to research this kind of thing in regard to employees."

Jesus, we have a Gestapo?

A few minutes later, I was off the phone and out of a job. No severance. No warning (which would've been a much smarter proposition for CNN as it would've put the ball effectively in my court and forced me to decide between my job or the blog). No nothing. Just, go away.


CNN fired me, and did it without even a thought to the power that I might wield as an average person with a brain, a computer, and an audience. The mainstream media doesn't believe that new media can embarrass them, hurt them or generally hold them accountable in any way, and they've never been more wrong.
Read the whole thing.

I'm fortunate to work for a company with an entirely progressive view on blogging and social networking -- they encourage it; and that very pleasant policy is why we're all drowning in connectivity today.

New Glomeratas are up. This completes the look back into the Auburn of 1976. That would have been my mother's freshmen year on the Plains. You can go to the Glomerata section and see what life was like on and around campus during the 50s, at the time my grandparents were teens. Starting next week we'll all poke fun at my freshman book.

As for tomorrow ... well, you'll just have to come back around to see what will be in the offerings there.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Happy Earth Day! I cut down a tree.

Otherwise we're going to enter today into the official memory as a day of productivity. This isn't so much because of what was accomplished today, but rather a perception comparative to the last few efforts to get things done.

We'll get to the tree in a moment.

Lunch at Momma G's, where the initial crowds of a few months ago have seemingly dipped into something more manageable for the staff. Or it could be that we arrived at 11:30 and ate quickly to deliver the table to those folks with sandwiches and sunken eyes, looking for a place to dine.

There are a few readers who are fans of Momma G's that aren't able to regularly partake in the Homewood store, so there are a few updates to note. the writing on the ceiling is going well. It is very colorful and very artistic. Also, they've taken another step away from quirky counter-culture to The Man: they are now selling t-shirts. A few of them are fun, and, for a time, they are reasonably priced, so there's a bit of redemption there.

Also, it was learned today that you can change the chips offered in the nacho dish. Try the Cool Ranch.

At home this afternoon I set out to tackle a few small housecleaning tasks in a neat and orderly fashion. But first I noticed the light was landing on the Stoic Oaks in a soothing fashion. I was standing upstairs, looking out and down when I realized that I should take a ladder out and shoot the leaves from a higher perspective. Usually the background on this page is looking up into the sky, but there's no hard rule for that.

So I went out thinking I could stand on the very highest point of the aluminum ladder, pray it didn't collapse and shoot the golden rays from above the leaves. When I got outside and set up I noticed this ladybug crawling around in one of the trees, so I followed him around for a few minutes, forgetting my original plan of standing in a precarious position. By the time I recalled that the sun had passed, the moment was gone.

But there's always next time. You only have to be patient for the sun, even though it is so rarely patient for you.

After snapping a few shots of the ladybug I cut down a tree. None of the oaks, but a smaller one that was growing too near the corner of the house's foundation. It wasn't until later in the evening that I realized the irony, but the little tree should have found its way onto a burn pile some time back, keeping my ecological conscience clear as the blue sky above.

I rolled the lawn mower back outside this evening, since the new lawn mower guy promised he'd stop by tomorrow to pick it up. You'll recall from earlier in the week that I fired the old lawn mower guy. I called this guy shortly thereafter and will pay a little more, at least for the pickup and return service, but the lawn mower will at least be in the hands of those who can fix it.

I've yet to hear back from the other lawn mower guy and, given that he's from Hueytown, don't really expect anything else on his part. It is in the face of a series of such nonsense that today felt productive. I took a few pictures, cut down a small tree, rolled out the lawn mower and vacuumed the basement. That's a productive afternoon all of a sudden.

Of course that only took an hour or so, leaving plenty of time for other things. So I'll share my favorite news story of the day, because there will come a day when bionic eyes will be commonplace and, on that day, I would like it if you recalled having heard about them from. Modern technology is just simply amazing; and in our lifetimes all of this will seem primitive in retrospect. We live in incredible times.

For your enjoyment: here's the stuff I listened to this afternoon. This group is from up the road in Oxford and they've got a big tour and a new album out and just the sweetest, catchiest music you're liable to find on a spring day. So please go meet The Bridges. They call themselves Third Wave and while no one is yet sure what all that entails, there's no escaping they've got sublime lyrics and a poppy sound.

If you're in more of a California Country mood, give The Low Stars a try.

There. That's two significantly different styles of music. You're welcome.

If you'd like to hear something altogether different you can take in the sea lion soundtrack. There's a new slide show up on the A/V page from the San Francisco tour. There are several dozen nice photographs of the sea lions complete with their barking, for ambiance.

With that two of the San Francisco videos are completed and two more remain. We'll get to both of them in the next two weeks.

Tomorrow we'll have a the long overdue return of the Glomerata section. They'll return just in time to finally end the look back through 1976. I'm scanning the last of the book now, we'll take a quick look at a handful of ads and wrap up the book. The installment after that will be of my own freshman book from 1996. That should be worth a few grimaces.

Right now, though, I'm just grimacing at my computer, which is old, tired and slow. The last few attempted uses of the scanner has been giving my poor computer fits, but the "let it rest" concept seems to be applicable when it comes to that particular piece of software. Without thinking I went through the normal scanning software procedure and not the halfway effective workaround I'd adopted out of procedure. For the first time in six weeks or more the software didn't crash.

That, too, is productive.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Monday. A beautiful spring day. The regular day at the office with a few extra technical snags to spice things up a bit.

It wasn't bad, just a bit of extra work. And that extra work was a little on the tedious side of finding and replacing code. Nothing that can't be fixed, but it kept me in the office for an extra hour, postponing a day on the links.

So instead of a day on the links, I worked on the web, with links. It was a trade off, to be sure, only one was more climate controlled, the other more beautiful.

More non-progress to report on the Spring Cleaning Project of '08. A phone call here, a missed call there. We'll all touch base eventually, I'm sure.

Fired the lawn mower guy. Here's the summary of his failures: Called him the week before last and arranged a pick up last week. I asked the guy to call me the day before so that I could leave the lawn mower out for him.

"No problem," he said, which was the first problem.

On Wednesday of last week while I'm in Tuscaloosa he called and asked if I would be home so that he could come get the thing. I could not be home and he could not get to it.

On the other hand, he could come get it Thursday instead. So I left it out Wednesday night so he could get it the next morning.

Thursday afternoon when I returned home the lawn mower was still there. I called Friday and asked if they were stopping by that day. No. And I was also told they'd called Thursday to receive no answer.

They had not, but I am willing to believe a wrong number was dialed. This doesn't get into the issue of just coming to pick up the thing, which has now been arranged twice. Never mind all that. He'll be out on Monday.

By this afternoon there'd been no communication. There'd been no visit to the house. There had been one lawn mower repair guy fired.

This is three different people that had agreed to do three separate jobs in the last three weeks. None of those jobs were even approached (so you get a sense of my frustration) and so there have been three terminations.

No one is getting up front money this spring.

Also, given this most recent set of non-activity there is now a new personal policy about business transactions from the neighboring village. Local merchants there are oh-for-three in recent memory and will be rewarded accordingly.

I'm drunk with the power of firing people.

So the library instead, and it was a very nice trip. Sometime later in the evening the soreness from yesterday's visit to the driving range really kicked in. Someone should invent a cure for soreness. Oh the money you'd make.

More Jack Bauer tonight, as the three episodes from last night remain gripping. The show holds up well -- with this season now at the ripe old age of three years old -- with the exception of the president defending himself by speculating abouw how Americans will live if oil ever goes over $100 a barrel. That was worth a laugh. I don't know President Logan, how will we cope?

Oil will be near $120 a barrel tomorrow.

Fill up your tanks now, prices will only go up.

In the meantime, enjoy Good Cop, Baby Cop. (Caution, there's language mixed in with the funny.)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

It is resolved: At least one item from the Spring Cleaning Project of '08 will be completed this coming week. Perhaps two or more items. Also one item has been added to the list, because it sounds more impressive at an even dozen.

As we start the week there are now five items on the list. Somehow the count seems to be going in the wrong direction. Last week I seem to recall being down to just two or three, but given the frustrating nature of checking things off this list it only stands to reason.

One of those, I thought, might be accomplished today. But Wednesday seems to be the magic day at this point. There will be several phone calls made in the next few days to help push things along toward completion before I have to rename the silly thing the Summer Cleaning Project of '08.

None of the remaining items are cleaning related. As it happens those things were excised from the list in short order. What remains are chores beyond my own abilities, requiring a handyman or a specialist for a little maintenance around the sprawling grounds.

I could go on, again, about the difficulties of finding satisfactory conclusions to these items, but suffice it to say that if the lawnmower guy doesn't show his face tomorrow he'll be fired too, making the third such termination -- albeit in my mind -- in recent weeks.

So, instead of being productive this afternoon as I'd hoped there was recreation instead. It was a beautiful day, gorgeous blue skies with friendly, puffy white clouds and a nice warm feel to the whole affair. It was the perfect day to hit golf balls and marvel at the biological mechanics that are suddenly pushing every ball to the right.

Typically my driver and woods go very straight. I correct for lateral movement in the initial stance. Today, however, everything was slicing. This was the first time I'd held a club since last fall, so that could be part of it. The good news was that the first ball I hit went 200 yards in a straight line. Also, the last ball went about 220 yards in a straight line. Everything else would take a high school trigonometry teacher to calculate.

My driving range is situated just off the interstate. It is above the freeway, with only a chain link fence and a small stand of trees and shrubs protecting the cars. This isn't ordinarily a concern given the layout of the tee boxes, but I was hitting golf balls with such force and erratic control that two or three went to the fence. They flew through the air like a rook on a chess board: two up and three over. Big dramatic curves that probably confused even the balls and certainly didn't sit well with the guy that has to drive around and collect the things.

At some point form and function gave in to muscle and I just started hitting the things as hard as I could, to see where they would go. Pretty much to the interstate. Also I topped a ball that commenced a 150 yard roll down-range.

It is going to be a great year of golf.

Mexican for dinner, with the mariachi playing full of joy and life. This little girl could barely contain herself. All the surrounding tables were also filled with adorable children, but she was the only one who wanted to dance.

The band worked from table to table playing almost the entire downstairs portion of the restaurant without playing the first American song. In this place the downstairs is non-smoking and the upstairs is the smoking section. For whatever reason Sunday nights see a lot more of the Hispanic clientèle in the smoking section and you'll never hear a cover of an American song coming from upstairs. Downstairs, usually a more American audience, will feature a mixture of music.

Tonight they were on the last table downstairs when they struck up Marty Robbins' El Paso. You wonder if they begin to hope against hope of having to play "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" Or "We Don't Need No Education." That next to the last table promises a sigh of relief, they didn't come to this country to play this stuff, but here they are, every week, dying a little inside when they have to strike up "Sweet Home Alabama." Maybe they have side bets. "We're going to make it tonight! Give me that 20 bucks!"

And then at El Paso. Well, there's probably a technicality in the bet for a song like that.

Stopped for ice cream, but they were out of cookies and cream. The nerve. The young ice cream servers didn't know how to take the rhetorical joke of walking over to the grocery store and resolving the situation. There's just something about an ice cream shop that saps employees of their senses of humor.

It was the same at the old ice cream place. ColdStone is now closed; how this came to pass no one is sure. There was always a line out the door and then, suddenly, they'd disappeared. At that store none of the employees seemed to know what time the place closed, which became my running joke: Order a cone and ask for their hours. Perhaps they forgot when they opened as well.

The new place -- new to me -- has been serving ice cream, coffee, pretzels, bagels, hot dogs and who knows for two years or so. It is across the street from a school and down the hill from a new cluster community. If the place doesn't get swallowed by competition coming this summer they'll be in it for the long haul.

The guy featured as the music on their MySpace page was a high school classmate. I keep bumping into him at the most unexpected places in life -- a bookstore here, a baseball game there -- but, really, any place is unusual when you aren't expecting to see someone. Nice guy. He dabbles in art, design, photography and, now, music.

On the way out the door the service offered the routine "Come back soon!" If they have cookies and cream next time I'll have to. Everyone around seems to like the place.

Tonight I'm retiring early, I'm going to watch a few hours of the fifth season of 24 once again, just because it is on the upstairs TiVo and it is a good show. Fortunately you'll be spared any thoughts on the show here, but if you're just hungry for that sort of thing you're welcome to look back in the 2006 archives at the appropriate dates.

Instead, you should stare at the sunset a bit longer.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

After dragging myself out of bed -- a bit tougher than usual -- on a beautiful Saturday morning it was time to get in the car and drive.

In north Alabama for the day The Yankee and I spent the afternoon at my grandparents, just for a visit, and watched seven innings of a Braves game while picking a guitar and something called a manjo, which plays like a banjo or an Appalachian strum stick. It only has one string, though, so anyone can pick it up pretty quickly, hence the perfect instrument for me.

One of the elder aunts was there for a time, and then one of the uncles stopped by just as we were leaving. There was a dinner to get to just down the road.

And that dinner was the surprise birthday party for my grandmother. She's dancing there as we sang Happy Birthday to her as a faux surprise.

I have a bit of video of her neat little step, but she made me promise not to post it online. Something about her schedule being too full to hand out lessons.

I just hope I can dance in any fashion, too, should I make it to 75.

Dinner was had, company was visited, catfish was enjoyed. I've now eaten catfish twice in the past month, which is more than I usually have in a year. If they have another birthday party there I'm ordering something else.

The restaurant belongs to a family on the other side of my family. Great, sweet people. There's a stream running right behind the joint and, when I was little, I thought they pulled the catfish out of that water. Most anything is possible in my imagination.

They buy the catfish elsewhere, of course, but they pick it up from a place 10 miles away, so it is still fresh.

The town is so small it barely shows up on Google Maps. There's a single small cloud blowing in from the west in the satellite view and if the photograph had been taken 90 seconds later the entire downtown would have been obscured.

There are 350 people in town now. Three police officers were dining at a table nearby, constituting the entirety of the local police force. According to the 2002 data there was only one officer on full-time staff.

None of that is meant to belittle the town. All the people I know there, probably a quarter of the place, are decent and good folks. I just wonder when the last time there was a stranger in that restaurant.

None tonight, as we filled five or six small tables with two dozen people representing four generations of family.

Here's the grandparents with the kids.

Later, here's Coco. I've been informed that no visit with Coco shall pass without photographic documentation, so there we go.

Drove back after the party. Long drive, late night, and I'm done.

I bet my grandmother is still awake doing something productive ...

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Twitter box down to the left -- mostly useless, but sometimes fun and always concise -- paced out the work day.

At 7:25 the first real thoughts of Friday began to creep into the brain. At what point would the weekend become a reality? After a full morning of work we were distracted, for about a half hour, by an SUV chase on Fox News. It was so riveting even CNN picked up the feed. The woman led police on a chase in excess of 108 miles an hour. Why must one be so precise and still allow for excess?

She sped to exactly 108.4 miles an hour.

After precisely eight minutes Fox's Shep Smith, who's the master of car chase criticism, always siding with the cops and always taking pot shots at the fugitives, just in case they are listening to Fox News on the Sirius satellite feed, calls it like he sees it. He stole my line, however: "Car chase Friday!"

Nineteen minutes after that, with the front passenger wheel gone the woman pulled over. She'd apparently sideswiped a cruiser (we didn't see that) and narrowly avoided hitting several other drivers. She walked out of the car, laced her fingers behind her head and then gave herself up.

One hour and six minutes after that I pronounced it the weekend. I was still at work for 37 more minutes, but that didn't seem to matter at the time.

At Pie Day everyone seemed a bit tired and ready for the weekend. We had only 14 huge guffaws instead of the normal 38-61 chest expanding moments. We sat in the corner, on a big round table looking out into the world from two directions.

The dining patio wraps around that corner, so you look through the tables to see up into the evening sky. To the north the clouds were brewing and threatening a rain. To the east there is a stand of woods and a young woman who should have added a belt to the ensemble. Many laughs were had, and you could see everyone's eyes on our side of the room as they rolled back into their head. Brain was connecting with hips, asking about the status of jeans, shorts and slacks. All were holding up nicely, thanks, there would be no similar scenes.

One was enough.

On the way home I stopped off for gas, noting in the Twitter box that it was sad to be happy about finding a $3.25 per gallon of gas "deal."

I'm shopping for a horse next week.

Student editorials: The pope is in the U.S., as you might have heard, and The Chanticleer takes note:
As the Church begins its recovery from the clergy sex abuse scandal, for instance, the Pope has his work cut out for him. Already, there are rumblings in Boston - the epicenter of the abuse debacle - about Benedict's omission of the city from his itinerary.

Despite his statement of being "deeply ashamed" of the sex abuse scandal, victims are unhappy with what they see as Benedict's physical avoidance of the issue.

While Benedict is undoubtedly up to the intellectual challenge, long-term solutions will likely prove elusive, at least for now ...
More definitive action might have helped, but that opportunity was squandered. The editorial board knows there's no easy answers for the pontiff, but they also point out that the handling of the situation will mark his papacy. Indeed, Pope John Paul II is remembered by many as an apologist, his successor found himself behind that eight ball when he took the job.

The Crimson White's Amanda Peterson is a bit distressed by campaign coverage:
because of the length of the primary season and ongoing guess as to who will be the Democratic candidate, the media have not been sure how to react. By now, each candidate's stance on the issues has been covered again and again, so reporters have moved onto other stories - such as Obama's lack of bowling skills.


I do not support Obama, and I do not support Clinton. At this point though, I just want a candidate so the commentators on CNN and FOX News will go back to talking about the issues instead of the state of the Clinton marriage and how Obama holds a bowling ball.
I'm guessing she was no more pleased by the ABC debate, but she'll have to tough out the long road to November with the rest of us. This is nothing more than a popularity contest and a perception vote, same as always. Only the media players have changed, and they know that policy doesn't the audience like acerbic one-liners, aides who've lost their cool and gossip on the Clinton's marital status.

She notes that Reagan, Carter and Ford did not have to contend with the modern news cycle. You could ask a similar question of any previous president: How would they have held up against all these lights? Once upon a time candidates didn't even campaign for themselves. That probably seems like a good idea to all the modern hopefuls at some point or another.

Finally, Zachary Aaron gives the time honored goodbye to The Flor-Ala:
Remember the awards we won? We came a long way, baby. I want you to continue to strive for greatness. Don't let anyone cheapen you with clip art, poorly worded sentences or Helvetica-style fonts. You deserve better. Spread your wings and fly. Don't think of it as an ending, but rather, a beginning. I want and expect great things from you in the future. It will make me happy to know that you are doing well.

Remember all those late nights? There was a time when we spent so much time together and I couldn't imagine my life without you. I'll never forget how crazy it made me when you opened those QuarkXPress documents so slowly; I could barely stand the anticipation.
Variations on a theme, but that column never grows old.

Finally there's a musical introduction that must be made. On the way home this afternoon I was listening to Marty Stuart's show on XM and there was a call to play a Wanda Jackson song. Now, for people of a certain age, or perhaps of a certain part of the country, Wanda Jackson is no stranger. I knew some of her work, mostly from her country catalog, but was completely taken back by finally hearing her first single, I Gotta Know.

That's 1956, friends. Jackson would go on to play it all, country, rock, rockabilly in high style and defining fashion and then became a gospel artist in the 1970s.

But back to the rock and roll for a moment. What did this sound like seeping out of AM speakers in 1958? She rolled with the punches and did some Checkeresque rock in the 60s.

Town Hall Party featured a medley of Mean Mean Man and Queen for a Day. By now if you close your eyes and try just a little bit you can hear every woman that have approached a microphone in the last 50 years. Need a little more help with that? Try Hard Headed Woman.

Wikipedia notes that Wanda Jackson enjoyed a resurgence in the mid-90s. Seems like I knew that, but probably only because I worked at a radio station during that time that loved to be obscure.

And now for something really cool. I Gotta Know, 50 years later.

Her audience comes from all points in between here and there, but she was more than 70 years old when she belted out that sassy little "Yeeeeeeeah."

We should all be so lucky.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

There was sad news at the office early this morning. Helen Sellers Davis has died. She was the first woman registered as an architect in Alabama.

From Mobile and later Anniston, Davis graduated from Auburn in 1935 and has been a practicing architect ever since. Here's her senior portrait, from the 1934 Glomerata.

Considered the longest practicing female architect in the nation, Davis was honored with a proclamation from the governor in 2003, and a lifetime achievement award from the University that same year
: In his 1935 letter of recommendation to the architects’ registration board, Dean Frederic Biggin,
praised Davis, noting that she won the first Alabama Chapter Design Prize.

At age 91, she can point to projects under way or completed in Anniston, Birmingham, Decatur, Fayette, Guntersville, Jasper, Point Clear and Talladega and in Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee.


Following her graduation, the couple moved to Birmingham where they got jobs at the architectural firm of Miller, Martin & Lewis.

"I got paid $18 dollars a week, and my husband got paid $20 dollars a week," recalled Davis. "But we were in the middle of the Depression and were happy to have jobs when so many of our peers did not."


Age is not a deterrent to the job, she says. "Sometimes you think that a person gets too old to dream, but you know what? I am still a dreamer."
Indeed, the grand old lady was working on a project until her death last week.

I was fortunate to meet Mrs. Davis once, just briefly, but she was a charming character and left an indelible impression as a professional pioneer and an inspiration to generations. The Auburn family is lessened with her loss.


There are four things left on the Spring Cleaning Project of '08 list. Perhaps I miscounted earlier, but four shall be the official number. Not unto three, which is too few. Not unto five, which is too many.

One of those things was supposed to be taken care of today. Supposed to. My lawn mower died a week or so ago and I called around to find a place that could fix it and come pick it up.

I found a place and they assured me they could fix it, that they'd pick it up and so on. Only "it might be next week before we can even pick it up." This week was that week. That's fine I said, just do me the favor of calling the day before you come so I can leave the thing accessible to your pick up guy.

"Not a problem."

So I'm just waiting for a call. And yesterday morning I got one at 9 a.m. "Will there be someone there to get the lawnmower from?"

No. That's why I said call ahead.


But I offered, if your guy can come by tomorrow I'll be happy to drag it out tonight so it will be there in the morning when he arrives.

"OK. We'll be out to get it tomorrow."

That's today. So. When I got home there was my car in the driveway, my other car in the driveway and my lawnmower.

I called, but the number was busy.

I call again to hear the guy ask another guy about the order. The second guy told the first guy he called but got no answer. This being the age of cell phones, and cell phones possessing the wherewithal to inform me when I've missed a call, I obviously know better.

No matter. Perhaps he misdialed. The important thing is he tried. Right? After all, the purpose of me leaving the thing out was so that you might be able to pick it up without my presence which, we've established on multiple occasions now, would not be available on the front end of this transaction.

So that's on Monday now.

Is anyone else having this hard of a time getting work done? Is it just me? Am I expecting to much out of life on this issue?

One of the other items on the list moved along a bit today, but that's going to be a weekend or next week issue. Which, at this point, I'm wearily fine with. So long as someone can convincingly offer up a line about how it will get done.

The first two episodes from the final season of Battlestar Galactica rounded out the day. So now I'm all caught up and am ready to wonder aloud at what the folks in charge of the show might be doing.

I can hear several mice clicking the back button on their browsers already ...

It was apparent early on in the season premiere, if not in the last of the third season, that there are many corners and pitfalls the show's creators must avoid. A few minutes in it became apparent that I won't be able to read anything about the show online, because there's no way they'll satisfy everyone with the outcome.

So I'll sit back, watch the show, with parts of me hoping it never ends and parts of me hoping that I find the end to be satisfying.

At 21 minutes in I began to wonder: Are they going to make Gaius Baltar into Jesus Christ? He's got the anglicized beard, some of his narrative is beginning to change, people are fawning all over him, he's a bridge between polytheism and monotheism ... If this is where they take the guy there will be a lot of unhappiness.

And then they steer gently away from that, going into all of the many subplots of humanistic drama and Cylon subterfuge. I'll probably say this in the discussion of each episode, but the characters are just so wonderfully strong and vivid, that they are a joy to behold in all of their little running conflicts.

Then they gentle push their main protagonist out the door when Lee Adama takes a government job. It felt like he was leaving the show, but I wonder how he'll come back.

I have ideas, but again, this is the sort of thing that leads to viewer discontent.

I've decided two things over the course of the two newest episodes and re-watching the end of last season last night. First, the prequel series has great potential if all the principle storytellers stay on board. Second, and perhaps even more emphatically, I'd really love to learn a lot more about the Cylon backstory.

There's worlds of depth there, I think. How they evolved, what the purpose and the point was, why the rift and the formation of cliques and what it all is to mean. There was a glimpse of some of that in the most recent episode, and playing out that storyline should deliver a lot more. Certainly enough to make viewers look forward to watching the new one tomorrow night.

But that's tomorrow -- the start of the weekend. Lots of fun, big plans, many smiles and spring time. What's on your weekend slate?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Today I lectured at the University of Alabama. A few weeks back a journalism professor invited me down to take part in Editing Day, where they bring in crusty old professional to talk to the wide-eyed students about the wonders of editing.

There was a panel on landing a job in the field, another on the future of editing, another panel here and there and, finally, a panel on the adventures of online editing, which is the section where I was primarily asked to participate.

Since the panel was in the middle of the day I went to the office for the normal morning start, stuck around for a few hours doing normal morning things and then headed an hour to the southwest to talk about, basically, what I'd just been doing.

It involves a lot of editing, and you have to be of a certain ilk to find this particular conversation interesting, so we'll just gloss over it here. Joining me on the online panel, though, was my colleague and counterpart Paul Isom of The Birmingham News and Chris Rattey of The Tuscaloosa News.

Good talk. The theme evolved into the future of online editing as an adventure we're feeling our way through as we go. I like this explanation because it makes us all seem very important. Cronkite, Murrow, Edwards and Smith. Has a nice ring to it. Not quite the same heft, the game has changed and there are many powerful players, but we're all setting standards as we go "And you can to if you practice online journalism."

The other things we asked the students to take from all of this talk was for the need to be diversified, the importance of wearing many hats and the willingness to continually learn and teach yourself new techniques and new code.

Had a great time. Hope they invite me back again sometime soon. One panel can't hold nearly all of the expertise, wisdom and theory rolling around in a group of editors, journalists and producers.

After that panel I had lunch with a professor from my grad school days who's now on the faculty at Alabama. We had a nice long chat and then I listened in to other panels, read the Columbia Review and a few other trade publications and generally missed the quiet contemplative atmosphere of the academy.

I love newsrooms, but you rarely sit around chatting about the philosophy of this or the implications of that. People are too busy with deadlines and the many expectations of their day to fire off some of the more philosophical aspects of journalism. When you do have those conversations they tend to have consequences regarding actual stories that need an answer 15 minutes ago, and not a measured discussion of a hypothetical circumstance.

Odd as it may seem to some, this a great way to spend a sunny spring afternoon. The light streams in the windows and the ideas flow back out the other side. There are many fond memories wrapped up in such scenes, and returning to the moment was a special treat. Only now I'm on the other side of the conversation, which I find gratifying and exciting.

Back home again -- actually later than I would get home on a routine day -- and then watched last night's episode of Boston Legal. Turned into a strong episode, one of their best in some time.

Jerry Espensen was in trouble with his girlfriend who claimed he drugged her. Turns out he was using hormones for self confidence and, ultimately, he won her back over. Carl Sack had to argue for Nantucket to get a nuclear bomb. The residents argued they were isolated and on their own. They knew they couldn't win, but ultimately wanted nuclear proliferation to become a national issue once again. They lost, John Larroquette was good, but I maintain they are still wasting his potential.

Denny Crane, surprisingly, made no ill-advised jokes, which showed this was an important episode. Shirley Schmidt's father lay dying in a slow, painful manner. She wanted a morphine drip but the doctor refused, so this became the ultimate plot point. Everyone was acting here, and David Spader's Alan Shore character delivered one of his most moving monologues in the closing arguments.

After that I put a bookshelf together while re-watching the last three episodes of the third season of Battlestar Galactica. The fourth season has started and I'm behind, but I don't mind. They're on the TiVo and that's for tomorrow.

And in watching these I become more and more impressed with how strong the lead characters are. (Oh, and I know who the final Cylon is.*) This is how good the show is: Tonight, watching the last bit of the final episode of the third season I felt a bit sad because I know tomorrow I'll watch the first two episodes of the final season. The show is so good that, with 20 episodes to go I've already reached the point of "watch it slow so it doesn't have to end."

Apparently there's something of a prequel series in the making. It is supposed to have more to do with the families than the larger Battlestar storyline. A futuristic, alien world Dynasty. If these are the characters I could live with that.

So tomorrow I suppose we'll discuss that show tomorrow. But we'll throw in something extra for all you folks who just skip over that part.

*I heard it from a guy who knows a guy that's heard of a guy.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Happy National Creative Writing Day!

Did you get it all in? Everything crammed in forms and forms crammed in envelopes and you crammed in a line and the envelope crammed in a slot and then stuffed in a bag, a box, a trunk, a plane and finally some exhausted analyst's desk in some office outsourced by the IRS? If there's a glitch somewhere along the way after the thing has left your hands do you get to hold the postal service accountable? How does that work, do they write the penalty checks?

There goes another stamp hike.

I'd intended to go out and shoot some video of a long line at a post office somewhere. And if I couldn't find long lines I would have been content with video of no lines and people breezing in and out of the post office on their cheery way. That was my evening plan, but the last vestiges of this anathemic sinus/allergy thing made me think better of it. The video would no good with the sounds of sniffs in the background. The shots too erratic with the full body shake presently accompanying the coughing fits.

And anytime those are ready to leave I'd be fine with that.

But I feel much better. Truly I do. Tomorrow I should be able to completely breathe again. By Thursday I might sound normal -- except for the coughing -- and then I'll be on my way. I can plot this out to the day because of the many years of experience. Consequently, I hope to spend a spring in the Pacific Northwest one year, just to see what happens to my nose then.

Let today be proof that things one might be productive in both within the hard, humming plastic world of the computer and in real life as well.

Though not simultaneously. And, it should also be noted, the definition of productivity is sometimes a comparative thing.

Nevertheless, another of the items from the peskily persistent Spring Cleaning Project of '08 list was completed today. A second item was also addressed, and should be quickly dispatched within the next day or so.Should that happen the list would be whittled down to two items.

This is only rewarding in that the common theme of the many items has been the inability to get various people in various positions to help accomplish X, Y and Z. About five items from the original list required hiring someone to do something, but finding people willing to do the work has been a chore. That's perfectly understandable if you're swamped with work, and one firm admitted as much, but I've been stood three times by two different guys who've agreed to do two different jobs.

Using my patented "You shouldn't make it this hard for me to spend my money with you" philosophy my business quickly goes elsewhere. One must quickly on these things; it is the Spring Cleaning Project of '08 after all.

Online, I'm happy to report that all of the archived photo galleries are now both using the upgraded template and have accompanying cutlines. The February 2008 photos were finished today. The March 2008 photos were already finished. Finally, the April 2008 photo gallery was created and is now in progress.

I like these photo galleries a great deal. Surprisingly so after having spent so much time working on them over the last few months. Usually I'm bored with the look of something by the time I have everything situated in a way that I like the presentation and the coding, but this gallery design just looks nifty, so it'll stay around a good long while.

Finally, there's a new video online. This one is from the trip to Savannah. I've decided to get the silly ones out of the way first, which would be most of them. In all I expect to produce about four videos from that trip. I plan on one a week if everything works out. Today you can see our trip down Lombard.

Again, a really silly video. I was driving a rental minivan. The Yankee's mother was hanging out the passenger side window with one camera and I was holding another camera in the dash. So there we are, making 180-degree swithbacks, one-handed in a vehicle who's dimensions I didn't fully understand. Happily no one was hurt, and no historic or intrinsically interesting part of San Francisco was harmed in the effort.

When I looked at the video I decided I'd splice them together. After that I began thinking about Bullit. I don't recall that section of Lombard being in the movie, which would have been a huge oversight, but decided to create an homage to the classic movie in movie trailer fashion. So there are a few new things in this video that I haven't previously tried, resulting in sometimes good, sometimes accidental, and an entirely silly experience.

If you get seasick you should probably take your medicine before you watch.

That's about it for the day. Come back tomorrow, when I'll be lecturing to college students!

Monday, April 14, 2008

I'm feeling better, thanks for asking. Saturday night and into Sunday evening was the worst of it. Now the sludge comes and it goes. Some moments I'm stuffy, but otherwise fine. At other times I'm coughing like I have a lifelong Camel habit, but I can otherwise breathe, and so I feel fine then too.

If only the two symptoms will now disappear simultaneously. And for a really long time. A few decades would be nice.

All of this is much to do about sinuses and allergies, of course, and Sudafed (in the green box this year) seems to be doing the trick right now. Aside from not being able to breathe, and all of the fun and pleasantness that can be, life moves ahead with vigor and enthusiasm and I am happy to be among it. At the same time if cutting off my nose to spite my sinuses would do the trick, I'd start looking for specialists.

Tomorrow I'll be a bit better. Hopefully by Wednesday I won't even sound stuffy. Perhaps at some point in May or June I'll notice I haven't coughed on that particular day and the sun will shine just a bit brighter because of it.

This afternoon I finally spent a bit of time on the first of my videos from San Francisco. I decided to do the Lombard Street video first, just to see what it would look like. It seems a bit overly long, but was fun.

In this video I've incorporated a few new bells and whistles than the previous offerings, the point being that I'm still learning all of this on the fly. If you don't want to be a witness to that then you shouldn't watch it tomorrow. If you like train wrecks, I'm your guy (though there were no wrecks on Lombard).

But that's tomorrow. Today the January 2008 photos have been upgraded, meaning we're only a day or so from being completed up-to-date with that project. Turns out I've taken a lot of photographs in the last six or seven years, redesigning the galleries and trying to remember captions to put with all of the photographs has taken a fair share of time. Happily, I believe the entire project was completed in just under a year of my first mention of it here, and under six months from having actually started it.

Got another item off the Spring Cleaning Project of '08 today. If you're keeping count then you're doing better than I am, but we're now down to five items from the original 11. Two or four more should be removed from the list this week.

Dined tonight with an old family friend. He invited me and The Yankee out for the steak where he told us about his latest ventures and we helped with the brainstorming. Also the steak was delicious.

We stood in the parking lot and chatted for a few minutes after eating, but it had turned cold again, dipping into the mid-40s, which shouldn't really me a consideration at this time of year here. We were 11 degrees below the average low for the day, and 21 below the day's average high.

And also around noon there was a two minute show of sleet. I collected some off the car, where it gathered and stuck around for a while. It looked like Dippin' Dots (the ice cream of the future). Bizarre weather, but why not? Anytime a chill turns your way out of season there'll always be someone there to say "What happened to that global warming?" This was initially funny, but it turns out that irony has a limited shelf life as humor.

The implication of the rhetorical question would make me discard my major objections to global warming claims -- limited years of research comparative to the entirety of the planet's experience with meteorology, constrictive scientific dissemination, general alarmist reactions -- and discard those arguments for an even flimsier one. It is April. There is sleet.This is Alabama. There can be no global warming.

Which is fine. The name has been changed anyway, as you might have noticed. Global climate change is the new catch all phrase. This brings up a second objection: if you can't get your marketing research straight, this calls into question the rest of your work. And it also restores the viability of the 1970s theories about global cooling. Forgot that did ya?

As an earth science professor of mine was fond of saying "We are emerging from the last ice age." Are we? Couldn't tell you. Wasn't there. We know those sorts of things last a long time, longer than the compiled history of man.

Which brings to mind the dinosaurs. Didn't we all learn it was warmer when they ruled the earth? Maybe that's the way things are supposed to be here. Maybe the earth got what it wanted from us, perhaps Styrofoam as George Carlin suggested, and thought "Eh. I like the lizards better."

There's no doubt we're doing something, there's no escaping that we have an impact; we should be certain and measured in our responses. Ethanol? We've jumped into that shallow pool a bit too severely, consuming quantities and driving up food prices for, what, a less efficient fuel?

This is largely marketing, and seven or eight years ago (when post-election Al Gore got on board) I would have told anyone willing to listen that the first companies to get green things in their ads would win. Ad agencies should listen to me, or at least Steven Seagal movies from the mid-1990s or Iron Eyes Cody.

(As an aside, he was Italian-American.)

Granted, climate change is a better term, and an all-encompassing one. Climate change. Gotcha! Climates are always changing. They're always dynamical, as Will Ferrell might say.

Those darn jet streams. If we could somehow build a wall around the country and keep the El Ninos and the La Ninas out, the weather would always be perfect. This would be far better than shivering indoors. In April. In Alabama.

Someone get the heater.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

I'm no good today. The sinus/allergy issue has taken over things and I've put on a fairly convincing act of miserable and helpless all day. I could describe it colorfully, but this is the one set of descriptions you don't want. We can all relate to one another on this type of thing anyway. I'm coughing, sneezing, can't breathe and tire quickly. This is a day for the sofa.

And so it was, I spent most of the afternoon watching, or dozing off, Master's coverage. I kept waiting for someone to storm back into contention, or for the young leader to fall back to the crowd, but the top of the leaderboard stayed much as it began and, somehow, favored Tiger Woods played a poor round and still wound up in second place. It is always nice to see the pros three putting like me, I only wish that I could flub my irons as well as they do.

Elsewhere, I mentioned in the Twitter box my degrees of separation from the Pope. This came up from a conversation we had last week about a woman from Huntsville scheduled to sing for the Pope. Through the most tenuous connections I realized there might be four degrees of separation. She's from Huntsville, or passed through the town once, I'm not sure. So it is possible that she knows Bo Bice, he of American Idol and shampoo commercial fame. I know several people that know him, hence the connection.

Brian, however, pointed out that he sang for the Cardinals during a European tour with his college choir. So from the pope to the Cardinals to Brian, giving me three degrees of separation from Pope John Paul II.

This amused me for a few moments, until I realized most everyone has three degrees from the pope. But, I also have magazines with him on the cover, and that counts for something. Right?

Chili for dinner tonight, anything to open up the sinuses for a few brief moments. Very delicious, surprisingly filling and, for 3.4 minutes I could breathe again. It is a vastly underrated part of the biological process, and that occasional moment where everything clears up and you can do it once again is always a priceless moment.

After dinner there were donations to charity, and a trip to the pharmacy to purchase more Sudafed. This, and one load of laundry at home, was the extent of my effort today. Fatigue and a very slight fever have sapped all the energy from me as the body tries to recover.

So late into the night I watched Dexter, because despite feeling exhausted my mind was wide awake. That's not a good sign for later when I put the congested head on the pillow either. Dexter made sense. That's either a function of the writers having to pull in the show a bit or a side effect of the Chlorpheniramine maleate in the Sudafed. Even still, I'm back down to the last chance opportunity for the show to impress. If the next episode doesn't get it done CBS's syndicated version of the first season of the Showtime program will feel the sting of removal from my TiVo.

Do you think they pay attention to that data yet? If they don't they certainly should. There's no such thing as appointment viewing anymore, but there is an awful lot of appointment recording. That should mean something to the programmers.

Here's the best thing you'll see this weekend on the internet. Michael Tomberlin is a reporter for The Birmingham News and is presently serving in a guard unit in Afghanistan. Someone sent him a Flat Stanley and ... he's been everywhere.

How many Alabama cities are mentioned in that song? I count three.

And that's enough out of me on a slow, snuffly Sunday. Sorry for the brevity; maybe there will be more to discuss tomorrow, including breathing.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

I broke the major house rule regarding Saturdays; I set an alarm.

Woke up around 8, the alarm went off right on time at 8:30. I was soon moving things around because repairmen were coming to the house. They'd be there at 10 and things would Get Done.

At 11:45 I called the neighbor who introduced me to the handyman. He called me back with the news that the handyman was nowhere to be found.

So I fired the handyman in absentia. And then, after lunch, I screwed up the courage to do some of the work myself. So this afternoon I removed the old and installed a new toilet.

Don't be surprised: this was only a few bolts here and a few bolts there. It didn't even take as long as the directions suggested. And the sinuses, bulging from forehead to volmer, were actually a blessing through one stage of the process.

The new fixture matches the floor tile and the neighboring shower. There's a new sink installation in the future for aesthetic considerations, but some plumbing advice will need to be sought out before that happens.

Most importantly, one more of the items from the Spring Cleaning Project of '08 has been satisfied. Sadly, the bee guy is nowhere to be found. Doesn't return calls or answer his phone. Guess he doesn't want the job, which means I'll now have to track down someone from across town, offer them a tank of gas (there goes the 401K) and have them do the job.

The bee guy is from Hueytown, so this is explained by the running theory about getting services from the establishments in that fine town. I blame the Hueytown Hum. Long time readers might recall the refrigerator fiasco. (Happily I'm the first return from Google on that store.)

With this in mind there's a little concern about the impending lawnmower repair -- that store is also located in Hueytown. What if I can't get that off the list Spring Cleaning Project of '08? As it stands right now there are six of 11 items remaining on the list, with one of the tasks due to be marked off the list Monday.

Slow and steady I suppose.

This afternoon I wandered around the yard for a few minutes, because allergies and sinuses need more of what caused the problem. I read that somewhere, right? Hair of the dog and all that?

The dogwood blooms are beautiful, but they'll soon be going away. Early spring always trumps late spring in exterior decorating.

There's also a new background to the blog. The leaves on the oaks have rapidly reached their mature size, and the sun just happened to catch the greenery just right.

This evening The Yankee and I had Mexican for dinner. I had soft tacos, not that it mattered, because of the sinuses I can taste nothing right now. We also checked out the dollar theater for the late showing The Bucket List:
Morgan Freeman should narrate more; his voice's timbre creates perfectly golden nostalgia.
I liked the movie, there's some nice dialog, two fine actors and a cutesy premise. Everyone should create a bucket list, maybe two, one for adventures and one for things you should really be remembered for. Everyone should also have a fabulously wealthy person to help them mark things off the list. The line forms just to the left.

I tried to think of this list on the way home, but the sinuses, the non-prescribed and the hour are causing only a short list. But I'm curious, what's on your list?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Wednesday it was ticklish. Thursday it was a mild cheese grater. Today my throat feels like sandpaper.

At least I can still breathe; the sinuses will surely be the next thing to give way. But I feel fine. There's the occasional cough, but otherwise I've no complaints. Hurts to talk a bit, so everyone around me is also not complaining. "Ahh. Peace. Quiet."

Today was tax day, so I paid a visit to the woman who's done my taxes for most of my life. Only she's not in the office. In fact, only two of her staff are present. There's been a death in the family -- and this is a family business -- so it impacts everyone.

But still, the taxes must be done, for five or six families that come and go while I'm in the office. Finally we get to mine, itemize everything down and learn a few more tidbits about all the mysteries of tax time. This is always an education, but at least it is done for the year.

So moving from that not quite pleasant experience we go straight to Pie Day. Ward wasn't there, and we had some of the new staff tonight. Of the four orders three were messed up -- and it is hard to go wrong on a chicken finger order for kids. We got baskets upon baskets of cheese biscuits, though, so that was a bonus.

The pie was delicious too, but I hit that metaphorical wall of which we often speak before the ribs arrived. I'll blame lack of sleep and not feeling well, so we'll just hit the latest changes to the site and call it a day.

Notice that little box at the bottom of the left rail? I've been tinkering for a few days with pulling a Twitter feed into the page. This is keeping up with the Joneses, or rather, the McAlisters.

I'm not crazy about the size of the box on the left side, but that's the limitation of that side of the page. If it stays the Twitter box might find a home on the right side of the main content. Another picture box will be on that side of things one day soon anyway.

Speaking of pictures, the December 2007 photo galleries have recently been updated with harmless captions, leaving only two photo galleries to go before that part of the site is completely up to date.

Further on photos, there's a new picture on the main pages of the site, so be sure to check that out. This picture is from a hidden little hallway in Savannah. For more on all the photos that grace the front page of the site, you can check out the new photo section which chronicles their appearances.

And that's enough for today. Hope your week got started off right, and with no sore throat or sinus congestion.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Lucky enough to duck the flu when it passed through just before spring arrived, but the good luck can't hold out.

And it was a good run: everyone in the office was sick, everyone I knew personally was beaten down by the virus, even the lady that cut my hair last time complained of being sick. Then she sneezed, sniffled and started working on the side of my head once again.

Hey thanks lady, but could you not?

Today I was back in that same row of chairs for a nice trim. The sick lady wasn't there, hopefully she's recovered, but the guy that cut my hair the previous time was on duty, adding the first bit of continuity that I've ever seen in the place. I don't need a dedicated barber because my needs are simple enough. I like it if you don't hurt me and cut things in a more or less straight line. I'm forgiving enough to hold my head at an angle to preserve the illusion if necessary, just get me in and out of the place.

The guy that cut my hair today I've mentioned here once before. He's very meticulous, and does a nice job. He's a diminutive guy, smells of menthols, wears too much gold and always wears a hat. This overwhelms one of my other few requests about a person taking blades to my hair: have a sane example of a hairstyle yourself. I've no idea what this guy wears, but he's good with a shear and exacting with the clippers.

We talk briefly of allergies, growing up in the north and Lincoln. I'm tired, my throat hurts and fighting the urge to nod off, this is the extent of the conversation I can must. For whatever reason that I avoided the haircut yesterday I was rewarded in waiting until today. He had me out in 20 minutes. That's parking the car to backing out of the spot. And to think I wanted to drop by even less today, but that's one more thing off the list for the week.

Dropped off some CDs at the library and then visited the Home Depot. I'm replacing a sink and toilet this weekend for functionality and aesthetic purposes. The only requirements I had were that the pieces matched one another and came close to matching the prevailing color themes of the restroom.

It seems that you can shop for two colors of restroom ceramic at the big box stores, white and bone. I went with bone, which actually looks more like the point where antique white, beige and almond meet. The toilet I chose did not exist as a complete unit in the bone scheme. I confirmed as much with one of the helpful guys working at Home Depot (a place where hands on assistance seems a bit easier to come by than their rival store ... I'm just saying).

We then got into a semantic discussion about why a complete toilet kit in the preferred color scheme was not on the premises. I suggested that it was a popular choice, he argued that it was because they carried so few of them.

Be that as it may, you have sold the last of them, indicating it is a popular choice. Perhaps you carry more, so that you could sell more. To me, perhaps.

The conversation could have trended that way, but we instead set about assembling a complete toilet set from the mix and match plan. A tank here, a bowl there, a wax ring over this way and, finally, a seat. Everything matches, because one doesn't want an offending assault on the senses when entering a room of rest.

Then I made my way over to the electrical side of the store where I got advice on what sort of junction box I need.

The guy that helped me there -- and there were three employees on this aisle, holding a convention of household hardware it seemed -- sympathized with the age of my house and told me precisely what I needed.

"This is what I used ..." he explained, going on to describe the installation and the assurance that, when installed, "You could do chin-ups on this thing."

I wondered to myself if these guys moonlit as handymen when they aren't wearing the orange smocks and made a note to ask the next time I visited.

After dinner it was discovered that cats like steak. First they'll eat it out of the palm of your hand, proving they're carnivores. After they've got a taste for it they'll steal it from your fingertips. Now that you've got them good and desperate ... well ... see for yourself

in this video
which can be found on the A/V page.

So that's been the day. If you've been keeping count on the Spring Cleaning Project of '08 there are eight things left on the list as Thursday ends. Another item will be ticked off the list tomorrow, one Saturday and four phone calls will be made tomorrow (provided my voice still works at that point) to reinvigorate the process on a few of the chores.

And that's part of tomorrow, which will also include some storms, Pie Day and more. Not bad for a Friday. We'll see you then!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The oil change has become one of those little tasks that I'll willingly find a reason to put off for another day. You have chores like this too: the grocery store, thank you notes, taxes ... which reminds me ...

Today the oil change could be put off no longer. I scheduled the afternoon to be on the right side of town in concert with a few other errands and so there was no excuse.

Excuse for my last oil experience at the dealership. Two-plus hours of my right there that would never be recovered.

Normally I'm an Express Oil guy. Say what you will, but I've never had a problem with them; and those who have had difficulties seem to find fast remedies. For me, I like that they clean the windshield, poke around under the hood like they know what they're talking about, check the lights and horn and spray the hinges with WD-40. That last part's a nice touch, just enough nasal fragrance to let you know there's been work done here.

And, apart from the dealership, at an Express franchise I'm sitting in the car and can feel the guys working their mechanical magic. At the dealership I'm in a stale lounge in need of paint, wet naps on the table and a perpetually empty box from the neighboring Krispy Kreme. Also, Express works quickly. The last time I was at the dealership? See above.

After my last experience at the dealership, however, I called on a separate issue and learned in the hold messages that you got a free oil change if your last one took more than a half hour. Seems fair, and I certainly qualified. Though no one told me this. I figured I'd swing by today, hope for something that took substantially less time and see about recouping my free oil change.

Also one of their mechanics had an extra key fob, which would make gaining access to the car far easier should the primary unit be burned out or fused by a burst of tachyons.

So there was the oil change this afternoon. I spoke with a mechanic, got my extra fob and read a few pages from Goodwin's "Team of Rivals." I almost dozed off while watching a snippet of the par three tournament from Augusta and, suddenly, my car was ready to go. I gently asked the nice lady doing the paperwork about that apparent freebie. She brought out one of the floor managers, to whom I kindly discussed the story once more. He said the policy had been discontinued because of such and such (Code for: We were losing money). It all made perfect sense, but still he said he would seek out his manager.

After an appropriate amount of time went by he came back in and said that this oil change was gratis. So they canceled the transaction and I got those two-plus wasted hours of January back. Of course this is after the springing forward of daylight savings, so the next time I might mention this and see if I can get another freebie. Probably not, but we'll score it twice today, as that's one more thing off the Spring Cleaning Project of '08 and the price was just right.

At home I watched CBS' most recent offering from the first season of Dexter. The show has, for three or four weeks now been one bad show away from being dropped by my TiVo -- even the EvIl eye complained about the program a few episodes ago -- but this one brings the show back from the brink even if the major story arc grew suddenly predictable.

I found myself skimming through a show of survival tales from National Geographic that the EvIl eye recorded. Watching boats crash, gliders fail and cars burn was somewhat captivating, but I skipped over the animal segments because I have the schedule of Animal Planet for this sort of thing should I ever care to be transported to the struggle of life in the desert.

Besides, I was getting hungry, and opted for dinner at Milo's to read more about Lincoln. At the last moment I changed my mind and chose Zaxby's for chicken. I ordered, grabbed a drink and sat down to open the book. Three sentences into the story a large group of screaming kids came into the restaurant. Should have chosen Milo's. I'd only wanted a slow and quiet room to sit in and read for a while, but I was suddenly in a high school lunchroom.

Parked by my car was a van from a town about 90 minutes away. The kids weren't wearing sports uniforms or anything else that tied them altogether, but they seized on the place at once. This must have been their ride. Reading the side of the van you're left with only one conclusion: Baptists are loud.

Things to read: Here's a wonderfully, intimate look at the late William Buckley Jr. by his son, Christopher Buckley:
Some afternoons, my father might say, “Shall we have lobster tonight?” He’d steer for the nearest lobster pot. As a child, I found this thrilling beyond belief, for it was established lore that a Maine lobsterman could legally shoot you on sight if he caught you plundering his livelihood.

After laborious heavings on the line, the trap would come up, suddenly alive with frantic, jackknifing lobsters. The trick was getting them out without having them clamp down on your fingers. My father would then put two bottles of whisky into the lobster pot as payment. I always wondered what the lobsterman thought upon bringing up his trap to find two fifths of Johnnie Walker Black inside. Did he scratch his head and say, “Reckon Mr. Buckley’s back”?
Buckley was everywhere, with that Forrest Gumpability to show up in exciting moments of history. Buckley saw Churchill's peace in our lifetime speech, served in FDR's color guard, helped vanquish the mid-century's liberalism and became one of the voices that shaped late 20th Century conservatism.

Both he and his son sound like gentlemen with whom you could spend an adventure.

Meanwhile, Michael Totten profiles the few, the proud, builders of nations in Fallujah:
I visited a school in the city of Karmah, between Fallujah and Baghdad, with Lieutenant Schroeder and Corporal Gasperetti. They needed to speak to the chief administrator about school supplies.


The school had opened up again just recently after the insurgency was put down. Getting the place cleaned up and stocked was an on-going process that had barely begun. Corporal Gasperetti was in charge of the project. He barely outranks a private, but this was his job. Too much work needs to be done to leave it all to the high-ranking officers.


Gasperetti is "just" a corporal. And he's in charge of building a school. He's responsible for flipping a Baath Party functionary into the American column. And he's younger than I was when I finished college.

Winning over Iraqis is hard. It takes time, but it can be done.
Totten's out in the little towns and villages finding stories with optimism and silver linings. I wonder why he's in the minority here.

DARPA turns 50:

Small and secretive, DARPA has compiled a number of impressive achievements in the past 50 years. It pulled together researchers who created the blueprint for the Internet. It sponsored the inventor of the computer mouse (the first was carved from wood and had one button).

It developed the Saturn rocket engine program that allowed the nation to go to the moon. It came up with the technologies that have made possible stealth fighters and bombers, precision munitions and the pilot-less Predator planes used in Iraq and Afghanistan.
DARPA also made your toilet paper softer, your cola fizzier and kept you from getting in a fight in the third grade that would have ended very badly.

DARPA's also reading this website, so say "Hi!" everybody.

And now I'll say bye, until tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

We're trying to make this video famous.

It has a few things working for it: cute kid, funny in the vein approaching ridiculous and an enduring name, Baby Smacky Lips.

Today was a day of errands and chores. And a list. Ordinarily I'm not a list person, choosing instead to address concerns as they come up or are made convenient by larger circumstance. On the drive home yesterday I realized that several concerns have materialized at once and circumstance put them all out front simultaneously. So I have a list.

And on this list are 11 items. Four of the items on the list were addressed today. Or, as I wrote on the list "Started. Sorta." This is the worst sort of progress. It has begun, but not completed and it is there to read, even. And in your own hand!

Such are the frustrations of a Tuesday that's serving as your Monday. On the other hand: four day week!

So today I started calling around about fixing my riding lawn mower. Everything is priced and prepared and now only waits for the actual repair process. I made a call about selling a car. Almost simultaneously a neighbor asked about the same car. While this was going on I was talking to another neighbor about lawn work. I wanted to borrow his mower, but he had his handyman come over and mow my lawn.

All of this was going on while giving directions to a beekeeper who's coming out to handle a little nest. We started this process a week ago and he doesn't seem nearly as inspired as I am to be rid of this problem.

So the bee guy finally gets there, looks around, and decides this is a two-man job and he needs to call in a colleague. He'll be back "later this week. Perhaps Saturday. Maybe Sunday. No one knows. How do we know for certain we're moving the bees? Could it be that they're really moving us?"

Yes, I'll be making a follow-up phone call to make sure this gets done.

The handyman who's doing me the favor of addressing my now overdue lawn has paused on the backyard out of fear of bees. I don't blame him. I fear not the bees, feeling confident that they actually fear me, but I won't begrudge a man his concerns over painful whelps.

I'd just as soon do the lawn myself, this was a convenience done because the grass had the first enthusiastic growth of spring and the neighbors would soon notice if I disregarded the problem.

Quiet tonight, watching The Biggest Loser over dinner. The local guy has lost an incredible 144 pounds and may be kicked off the show before the finals, impossible as that sounds. You can't help but like the fella, he's lost his job back home in the athletics department at Jacksonville State while on the show and could no doubt use the prize money. And now America gets to vote ahead of next week's finale on whether he'll stay on the show. I think I've had my fill of the show this season, the only irony left is that I'm usually eating while the program airs. Tonight it was pork chops, so at least it was a healthy meal.

Boston Legal returned from their odd mid-season, post-writer's strike hiatus. Stephen Root guest starred, which are four words that don't get put together enough frankly. He was a down-on-his-luck war vet, poor and needy fisherman who had turned to hunting seals for food. The rest of that subplot turned into an indictment of veteran's services. They've gone down similar routes before with story arcs, making the audience wonder which writer has familial ties with the military.

Meanwhile the other storyline was one of a daytime talk show gone bad, ultimately ending in the death of a young woman at the hands of her scorned boyfriend. The father of the girl wanted to sue and this show put Maury Povich and Jerry Springer on notice! The jury awarded several million dollars, so watch out on the tough subject matter there Oprah.

Humorously Alan Shore's closing arguments called for a return to decency on the airwaves. This was unintentionally funny given the content of late on this program.

Denny Crane, meanwhile, walked around in his boxers, pantomimed boxing and then arranged an elaborate plot to try to win his long-lost-lawyer-love back. It backfired, with comedic results. The tubes under the eyes to spring forth the trickle of tears meant to impart compassion and vulnerability turned into a torrent that will certainly have environmentalists all atwitter. It was a fun scene.

Otherwise they're wasting John Larroquette, and none of the other title actors did anything.

The week is filled, with the rest of Spring Cleaning Project '08, with everything today standing at "Started. Sorta." If four things are halfway off the list of 11 does that mean I can say two down, nine to go?

Who cares? Baby Smacky Lips!

Monday, April 7, 2008

The day of going home. The day of lingering to avoid that activity. The destination is grand, but the journey is a bit tedious.

And so this morning there was the traditional Clary's Cafe breakfast. The last three visits over the last two years or so have been marked by the same lovely waitress. She brings us waffles, omelets and French toast and smiles and plenty of "Dears" and "Hons" like any good server should.

This place is now traditional enough that there are two waitresses here I recognize. If I came here any more frequently they'd probably set me up with the usual. Out-of-towners (because I feel like a native now apparently) always speak of Clary's as the scene in the movie where "the guy with the bugs" eats his breakfast. That's selling the place short, really, because the food is delicious, the place is bright, clean and worth stopping by. Also they have one of the only dedicated parking lots around.

Though it is small, and we wound up parking around the corner, in approximately the same spot as last time. Why do we remember things like this, parking spots and tabletops? These simple little uncategorized memories that don't belong to any important string of event, but they'll rush to the surface nonetheless.

Our table this morning was by the jukebox, marking the third table in the four or five visits I've made to this restaurant over the last few years. The first table I remember because chance sat me there on two separate occasions. The next table was important because it was the occurrence of my 30th birthday and I was given a This Is Your Life scrapbook before breakfast came.

If this morning's table will be remembered it will come with the wispy recollections of a quiet, lovely breakfast on a quiet, overcast and almost perfect day.

At the parking spot there was an old carriage step standing on the sidewalk. The gentlemen and ladies would come downstairs and enter the carriage by stepping on the cement block and into the carriage. A once common tool of life is now a curious piece of history and the modern bane of people exiting car doors from the passenger side. Ker-thunk! There's no telling how long that stone has been in place, or how many doors have been dinged on it over the years.

Just up from Clary's is Forsyth Park, which is empty in the late Monday morning hours except for a few guys tending the grounds. Walked around a bit, sat around a bit, took a few photographs (One which might end up in a new redesign of the page one day. Perhaps. Maybe.) and then sighed the long sigh of those who sigh when they must spend several hours in the car.

It was a six hour trip home, punctuated by lots of humorous text messaging. Even in rural Georgia you can't get away from the mobile amusements of the world. Not that anyone objects to this; a diversion from the 220 miles between Savannah and the Atlanta exurbs was a welcome thing in the form of fun with Elizabeth, who was sitting in a jury pool room somewhere in Birmingham. Justice, hard at work entertaining others. God Bless America!

At home now there's a long list of spring projects that must be addressed in the coming days. Hopefully they can all be knocked out this week and quickly forgotten. That's always the way it is, isn't it? You want to remember a table where you ate, and not the time you spent cleaning, this, or repairing that. If only memory could be just a little more selectively programmed.

One link: I got a third place nod in the Outside the Beltway caption contest.

Tomorrow: The list of 11 productive things to accomplish this week.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Low key day today, as the skies are overcast and people are either staying indoors or have started making their way back to their respective homes. Suckers. I'm here for another day, which means leisurely walking around the historic old squares all afternoon.

For you it means a photo dump.

The buiding on the left margin of this photograph would normally be a delight. It has the misfortune of standing next to a baroque masterpiece that SCAD now runs. The college buys up old buildings from the city, so the campus is everywhere, eclectic and beautifully done over the course of the city's full history.

And it was at this point where I realized my desire to have a wide angle lens.

Just think of the images you could catch of old Cotton Exchange, my favorite building in Savannah.

The town is famous for its high quality street performers. This guy seems new to me, but good nonetheless. Despite the Yeti suit he was carrying a very passable Love Me Do for a crowd of six.

Brunch was at Huey's. I go there for the beignets, and you should too. The Yankee said her po' boy was delicious, I had the red beans and rice and then we moved on and up into the city to look at buildings, take in more of the history and, finally, stop in Forsyth Park.

It was almost on the coolish side today, but doesn't the fountain make you want to splash around?

Saw a small wedding where the audience released butterflies. I walked around playing in the shade and shafts of light, enjoying, as always, the Spanish Moss.

And finally I worked back around to the fountain to watch the water splash. I took eight photographs there and when the random splashes started taking on shapes in my mind I knew I'd stumbled upon a new hobby.

This woman was teaching a little girl how to skateboard. There were no skinned knees, so it was an agreeable experience for all.

There was more Spanish Moss and we finally wandered through a few of the stories looking at the bric brac. We stumbled across the SCAD store today, where the local artists are offering up their wares. One lady was selling water color paintings that were set in an 8x10 frame, but the matte was cut 1x1 and you could see one little square of something that may or may not have been painted deliberately.

For this masterpiece you were asked to pay $85. There were few empty spaces on that wall.

We met Wendy for dinner at Boar's Head, which has now solidified itself as my favorite River Street restaurant. Any place who's menu unapologetically takes you back to 1733 is worth a visit.

The steak sandwiches are good, the salads are great, the tuna special looked fantastic. The rest of the River Street restaurants are interchangeable seafood joints -- most even owned by the same company -- but Boar's Head feels different, being a semi-casual dining experience in an 18th Century cotton facility, and the food never disappoints.

At one point during the meal I looked around to note that we were the youngest people in the room. Tonight we dine in affluence!

But for the next trip I've resolved to dine in the various holes in the wall around town. There's only so much tourism you can take, after all.

An early night tonight, since there's a good deal of driving to do tomorrow. We'll linger in the city, trying to find reasons not to start the six hour journey, it is only natural, but sometime just afternoon we'll start the trip in the hopes of missing two metropolitan rush hours.

You need rest for this type of mental calculation. Fortunately this vacation has offered some of that. Savannah, GA, charging your batteries three days at a time.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Slept in on a soggy, dreary looking Savannah morning. It says something about the town itself that the weather can be less than perfect, the sand gnats can be out in early-spring force and yet many people attending that conference I visited yesterday are willing to take up residence. Lovely town, really.

And today was just spent bumming around in it. There was a late lunch at The Crab Shack out on Tybee Island. We fed the alligators while waiting for our seat.

We did not feed the little girl to the alligators.

The Yankee, Wendy and I each ate a lot of fresh, drippy, juicy crab. Halfway through our respective plates a massive thunderstorm rolled through. We began eating slower to wait out the showers.

After lunch, and in light of a soggy city, everyone decided to be a bum. For my part I fell asleep watching Phantom Menace. I woke up just in time for dinner, which was at The Pirate House. This is supposed to be Georgia's oldest building, and it feels like what might have happened if John Hughes and somehow been called in to work on Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

There's a wandering pirate, doing his best to pull off a disinterested Jack Sparrow. There's also a heavily permed mechanical pirate that will tell tales of the high seas. There are 15 rambling rooms to dine in, most of which were closed on a spring break Saturday night. The men's room had an alarming leak around some of the lighting.

But the food was good. I had the shemale crab soup and a salad. The fried green tomatoes, I'm told, were also delicious. Eating late we just opted for the light meal of appetizerish food, which somehow wound up costing quite a bit. The piracy continues, arrr!

After dinner we were catching the late night haunted hearse tour. I was skeptical of this a bit at first, having taken two walking tours and enjoyed them both, I wondered what this tour could offer. Everyone speaks very highly of the hearse tour though, so it was worth the try for a late evening of entertainment.

We arrived at the appointed meeting spot and Wendy, who thinks the world is populated only by friends she hasn't seen in a while, recognizes the driver. What's more, he recognizes her. The guy's name is Bradley, and the last time Wendy was on the tour Bradley took his guests to one of the old yellow fever tunnels that was used as a morgue. Wendy says she cut her arm and then pretended for the rest of the evening to be coming down with the deadly disease.

And from such things hearse drivers will remember you.

The hearse itself is a pretty nice ride. You climb in the back through the old original door. It is just like sitting in a plastic chair in the back of a pickup truck. A pickup truck with a thin metal roof to provide shelter from the rain. A pickup truck that was a working hearse for 18 years, averaging about 200 bodies a year. Just like a pickup truck.

Bradley immediately tries to scare the nine of us -- it seats eight, but some people are cozy -- with the old screaming, slamming on the brakes trick. No one was frightened. Then he takes the hearse down River Street, telling a joke that they must now be politically correct hearse drivers.

It seems, the joke goes, that last year they frightened a group of Girl Scouts very badly and the city made them clean up the act. Now he must drive up to people and, through his microphone say "Excuse me ... Excuse me ... Excuse me sir ... Excuse me. Boo."

The boo is said in an absolutely dry deadpan, delivered two tenths of a second before he guns the motor and drives on. This cracks us up endlessly, and we spent the rest of the night doing it to pedestrians, each other and nothing in particular.

He drove us around the Pirate House, said to be the place where the world's most ruthless pirate died. We breezed by the Full Moon Brewery, where construction work on the second floor has never been finished, the last crew on the job being in 1996 before they were spooked away. We went past another home said to be haunted by a host of old spirits, noticing that that house is for sale.

Bradley said the owners were now publicly saying the house wasn't haunted, which goes against the tales all of the many ghost tours tell, so that answers the question of whether ghosts raise or lower your estimated value.

And then we went to the Kehoe House, a beautiful old building that's a staple on the ghost tour circuit. It was the home of a family that made their money in wrought iron. Later it would become a funeral home and finally a bed and breakfast.

We stopped and Bradley got out to discuss some of the stories that float about that house and in a few moments one of the employees came out to share some of his firsthand experiences. You can watch the video here.

The Kehoe House once upon a time welcomed ghost tours inside, but guests began complaining of the noise. Wendy, however, talked our new friend Sam into working us in. He showed us the basement and the room that goes up to Mr. Kehoe's old loft, but the door was locked. No amount of effort could get us inside. Even still, we caught what is now a rare glimpse into the beautiful old building.

After that we toured a mansion and then spent two more hours or so heckling people going from club-to-club and party-to-party.

"Excuse me ... Excuse me ... Boo."

Maybe you had to be there, but don't worry, you'll get your chance; we're all liable to be repeating this for weeks.

While driving we saw Corleone's, where one window threatened to make us a meal we couldn't refuse. The front windows, as you can see, boast of new owners, new managers and the same great food and atmosphere, begging the question of why the old crew had to go.

Here are a few of the people we heckled from the hearse. After about two hours -- and we rode around for more than three -- you begin to realize that this sort of haunted hearse heckling would work in very few towns. The people here are willing to take your jokes, play along, make jokes back, sing, dance and generally make fools of themselves.

You couldn't do that in just any town. Unless it had a nightlife that was at once compact enough for party goers to walk, and sprawling enough for your hearse to drive.

We saw a fistfight, three arguments, had a screaming match with a cabby and had the greatest time. We'll definitely be back, and you should try this too. Ask for Bradley, he's got the biggest hearse party in town.

Check out that video, which you can find on the A/V page. Go there now, because there's another 30 second video that I didn't discuss here that is absolutely worth your investment.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Savannah is overcast, misty, hazy and smells of the sea. Aside from this being April and Savannah, it is a nice combination. It isn't cold, and the initial look prompted the fear of wilting humidity, but the day was mild in the day's early going.

This was good as I parked some seven blocks from the primary destination. Seven blocks is nothing, of course, unless you're doing it in humidity. That would have laid low tourists from different climates, but everyone seemed to be in fine form. At the hotel hosting the Southern States Communication Association conference one presenter offered the disclaimer that he wasn't himself in this most punishing climate. He is, you see, from the west Texas desert and all of this moist stuff was hurting him.

I gathered he was staying in that hotel, along with most of the presenters, but was still having difficulties. The humidity dipped below 80 for the afternoon, but even when it surged into the 90 percentile range and up toward "Hey, you're standing in a pool and don't realize it" the heat was never truly oppressive. The evening had the decency to be clear and bright. The afternoon looked luxurious from inside.

At the conference I missed a few presentations I'd hoped to see due to parking difficulties, but found the pleasant surprise of still other presentations that had otherwise escaped my notice. And here is my review of the day spent in academia, followed, by a mention of lunch (featuring the best restaurant on River Street) and the evening's fun on said street. There'll be bold text to mark the next segment should you care to skip the politics, rhetoric and journalism research ...

I caught the end of the last presentation and Q&A from the first panel I'd hoped to see. A pair of doctoral students from the University of Alabama were examining politeness theory in political debates. They studied down ballot campaigns from Florida, Tennessee and Rhode Island during the last election cycle. Between those three races there was the bizarre Florida Senate race between Katherine Harris and Bill Nelson, the bitter race in Tennessee featuring Harold Ford Jr., Bob Corker and Johanna Goldsmith. The moment that ad aired that nasty race was over. The other race they considered was the vitriolic Lincoln Chafee-Sheldon Whitehouse contest from Rhode Island and the part of the presentation I heard only made me wish I'd caught the rest.

One of the other presentations was about new media bias. The presenter, a professor from Virginia Tech, had plenty of things to say about new media, but it was all fairly tired talking points and not surprising. It turns out that new media is biased where the old guard never has any prejudicial bias, institutional nor individual. Apparently he also just recently realized that photographs can be altered to reflect a story or perception (What? Bias?) and ... honestly, that tidbit was enough to make you not care; we're all human and biased, to some degree or another, about most everything. The more that bloggers, citizen journalists and professional journalists come to terms with that the better off we all are.

After that panel was lunch, at Boar's Head, which has become my favorite restaurant on Savannah's tourist trap River Street. Try the burger, or the veggie burger. Or anything else really. Seems like this is a regular stop now each trip and everything on the menu has been tasty. Some of the Alabama people were coming into the restaurant as The Yankee and I were filing out.

Back up the street at the conference I ran into a professor from my time in graduate school at UAB. She's teaching at Alabama now. You can't get away from the scholars around here these days.

The second panel I attended for the day featured the conference's top papers in political communication. My thesis advisor, Dr. Larry Powell, was the panel respondent, meaning he offered praise and constructive criticism to the presenters.

He had three good offerings to discuss. The first was from a professor at Hardin-Simmons University. who discussed the morality of video games in a post-Columbine world. He did a fine job, despite having to combat the humidity. There's an interesting point in there about how video games condition their players, but we all became enamored with Columbine as a watershed moment and the self-regulation of the video game industry.

A Mississippi State professor and an LSU student offered similar papers on religion and rhetoric in modern American campaigns. One focused on President Bush's second inaugural and the other on the last two presidential elections. One of those events talks to the electorate and the other, inaugural, talks to the contemporary but, just as importantly, the eventual audience.

The presenter made that point with an offhand comment about how people view inaugurals as "He's elected. OK, moving on," but inaugurals are just as importantly speaking to history.

I think it was just about the time that I jotted this note down that I decided I love conferences. And I'm not just saying that for the many fine booksellers out hawking their wares between conference rooms. There's three days of panels here and I'm only catching this one, crashing the party as we are during a vacation. Even still there's a full slate of conversations to listen to, and I'm sure there would be more tomorrow if I looked through the program with more than a passing glance.

The next session featured Powell in the roll of presenter, so I followed him over there to see a panel discussing local publisher influence over content, the rhetoric of the Virginia Tech murder (the research offered by two members of my thesis committee), a discussion of columnist Molly Ivins by an Auburn journalism professor and a uses and gratifications study on global news from local media.

Powell discussed the manifesto that came from the Virginia Tech killings as something that fell under the Rhetoric of Sacrifice theory found in "Holy Murder," book he and Dr. William Self published two years ago. Essentially the theory is simply stated as "I'm not going to, but I wish you would." More often than not this is steeped in some religious context, but in the Virginia Tech instance all of the justification came as a self validation, with the reward being the media coverage payoff.

If they get another book out of this we shouldn't be surprised.

The presentation on the importance of local publishers for newspapers was a study done on news content and coverage patterns of a Mississippi paper over the course of three publishers. The presenter made many interesting points, but didn't discuss the role of the editor in serving as a sometimes-facilitator and a sometimes-buffer between management and staff. More study is needed, as is always the course. And the circle of research continues.

A doctoral student from Taiwan discussed research on the amount and content of international news available on local channels and found it lacking. This surprises no one, for many reasons which also surprises no one. Local news in Texas, Alabama, Savannah or Minneapolis being local, it will more often than not be about those towns and neighborhoods, rather than her home country.

I understand her concerns, but then so does everyone in the news business. Outlets continue to go more and more local because they face less competition to cover issues and areas they know better. This focuses audiences on the hyperlocal. Follow this progression until, ultimately, this concedes the entirety of the news business to the online world as a medium and conduit for news. I suppose I could read wire copy from a south Texas television station about the latest news about China and Tibet, but I could also go to any of the Taiwan media outlets, or others, who have boots on the ground and can give me the gritty details. It has always been this way in terms of quantifying coverage, but now, of course, you can seek out the absolute best coverage with a mouse click.

Take that news at nine.

Syndicated columnist Molly Ivins was discussed in terms of how her tone changed from her mainstream articles to her alternative media outlet efforts. Jessica Armstrong, the Auburn instructor who presented the paper said that Ivins told her she'd never noticed a change in tone. Most would find that hard to believe. I've jotted down one quote, "Get people to listen to their own arguments." A good strategy for multiple circumstances always ends up scribbled in a notebook. Molly Ivins was passionate to the end it seems.

Lastly, I sat in on a panel reexamining the rhetoric in historical debates. The first topic was the Lincoln-Douglas debates and how they would later hurt the conciliatory tone of his first inaugural speech -- the part that was speaking to his contemporaries did not go over well with the South, of course. He discussed the famous Cooper Union speech, and brought up the slavery issue's external agitators in all their many forms. I'm currently reading about this moment in time in Goodwin's book, so the timing was perfect.

Also in that panel was a prominent speaker from the era immediately following the Civil War. South Carolina's Walter Hines Page was born in 1855, was raised during the war and educated during reconstruction. The presenter argued, "other than his Southern accent he is not what you'd call a Southern orator." He was, the argument followed, an American speaker.

I later picked up a copy of the paper -- the professor seemed taken back by my request -- for three quotes from Page:
Read for yourself the great speeches of Athens, then read Burke and Broughton and Erskine. Then read Calhoun and old Henry. It is the same fire they all have ... Calhoun and Henry are as immortal as Demosthenes himself!

It is a shame, by the way, that we of this generation are so ignorant of our great Southern orators. They made a literature for us which is among the richest treasures - whether you or I believe in their especial political tenets or not is a little question indeed.

Who are the stupid in every group? They who can neither speak nor write with grace.
Page said that in a commencement address to the Randolph-Macon Women's College. I'd quote some of Page's thoughts on writing, he was a powerful editor and later a diplomat, but lose the last bit of my audience.

Anybody still out there?

There was also a surprisingly entertaining account of 18th Century rhetoric regarding the war in the Philippines as a precursor to later limited wars. The professor delivering the paper noted, when quoting Augustus Octavius Bacon, a Georgia senator, "They don't name Southern politicians like they used to." Copy editors everywhere are grateful.

Discussion on Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's Sermon on the Mound and an overview of the Tallahassee Bus Boycott were also on the panel.

I picked up papers for three of these papers because they were offered and because I love rhetoric. It isn't something I'd ever want to study at great length, but historical rhetoric always just feels more charming and genial, even with the background information, than the modern version. It has probably always been as such. It is easy to look at the North Carolina/Vanderbilt argument over what the New South should look like and appreciate the way that Page felt as he did. Rhetoric over something in which you're emotionally invested in the nowness of an event always carries a different weight.

So I have papers to read.

But first, there's fun to be had.

Walking around downtown I caught the fading light on the newest aspect of Savannah to rise from the ground.

We had dinner at The Lady and Son's, because Friday night means low country boil on the buffet. Delicious as always, but not "Stand in line for two hours at 9:30 in the morning to get on the list for late that night" delicious. Need reservations to Paula Deen's place without the hassle? I know how to do it.

After dinner we walked back down toward River Street, snapping a few building photographs along the way.

The Yankee, Wendy and I walked down to River Street, where I met my new friend Creshema, who is also in the Ph.D. program at Alabama.

We watched the fireworks from across the river marking First Friday, a monthly Savannah tradition and sat and listened to the street performers for a long, long time on a beautiful, clear, crisp spring night.

See it for yourself, here are the fireworks. And there's also a little taste of the trumpet. Both videos are also found on the A/V page.

Tomorrow: More seafood, hoping the rain holds off and other spontaneous vacation adventures.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Took a road trip this afternoon, which was part of the week's frenzied efforts around the house, the entirety of last night's never ending tales of laundry, cleaning and stratified chores of diminishing importance.

You take a critical look at things at 2 a.m. when the alarm is going to sound in less than three hours. In those circumstances, you find, a lot of things around the house can wait. Sadly this was the tale of the early morning. Happily all of that late night/early morning work didn't result in my sleeping until 9:30 this morning, which is always a worry. On time I was and first in the office. And no matter how much sludge was slowly sloshing around in the brain pan with little rest, I wasn't talking the least bit like Yoda.

Once upon a time I could have a productive day on two hours of sleep and not even flinch. These days it takes a while to get up to speed. By 9 a.m., with caffiene and chocolate on board I was humming along at maximum efficiency. That can't last forever, but you can will it to sustain you for several hours. Particularly if you're leaving town for a mini-vacation.

And after work that's just what I did, ducking out of the office, swinging through the bank for a quick visit with a pleasant teller and then on to the library.

Later, somewhere between Birmingham and Atlanta, we'll say Talladega, traffic was passing two Maxx Pro armored personnel carriers. Between the two of them that's an even million dollars. Awfully nice of the contractors to round to nice, even numbers, no?

The Maxx Pro was built as an attempt to counter IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan. The machine suffered its first fatality earlier this year after an explosion and a rollover. The soldier that died was manning the top gun (not seen in my photograph) and it isn't clear whether he died from the explosion or the resulting crash.

It weighs 28 tons, can carry 10 and apparently the Marines, who are running this program for all the armed services, are pleased with the product, which has many variants from several vendors. This one being from International.

Stands higher than the Humvee, designed to deflect blasts from below, the soldiers seem enthused in the early going. You can even see video of the Maxx Pro rolling in Iraq, where the interior is downright roomy.

Later in the night after a brief stop at a suburban Atlanta Moes for a regrettably too filling dinner there was lots of empty highway, alternated with this dashboard view. I'm lately very interested in trying to catch a clean image of a nighttime drive, but happily Georgia's highways are no smoother than our own, making this the best of the night's selection.

Some time after 11 p.m. the car found its way to Savannah, which is good, because that last bit of interstate can be confusing to the bleary eyed. Remember, precious little sleep has been enjoyed the past few days. Twice, once around Statesboro and again around Macon, I tried to calculate the amount over three or four days, but the thick gravy of my brain wouldn't allow the computations to take place. Energy was diverted to more critical functions, like staying awake during the drive.

And tomorrow will be an early one (according to the vacation watch), so we'll see about enjoying a few hours of air mattress bliss.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

There were many things to do today and a few of them got done. The rest were postponed or just failed attempts at doing things. This is my story for Wednesday, April 2.

I was going to get the oil changed, get a haircut, stop by the library, mow the lawn, clean the basement and do the laundry. A full week -- or at least three days -- of chores were going to be crammed into an afternoon. Generally realism counters my ambition, but these were the things on the list for the day.

And so this morning I ticked the library off the list. Instead of returning a few items I simply renewed them online. Why return today what you can hold onto for another two weeks? I did not get the oil changed because this is too time intensive and is over by the library, which is now an unnecessary detour. Ditto the haircut. Funny how a swing through a library parking lot, or the absence thereof, can change your day.

But that was fine, because I decided to get a haircut after mowing the lawn.

So I roll the lawn mower out of the tool shed. The bright idea came to move four items from the basement into the shed. Two mattresses, a workout machine and a plant rack later I'm ready to attack the lawn. But first I must admire the rapid progress of the garage. This, coupled with the small amount accomplished yesterday, has made a big impact in the garage portion of the basement.

Filling up the gas tank on the lawn mower -- now I have two vehicles worth more in the gas tank than in the overall machine -- I prepare to mow the lawn.

If you're new to the blog (or if you're Kelly) we'll now review the inane start up procedure for the riding lawn mower at my sprawling estate. For the past five years now (and I can say this with accuracy, having just consulted the old blog) I've had to push the lawn mower out of the shed, down the ramp, across the back lawn and up to the car which is parked alongside the house. Then I go through all of the normal jump-starting steps because I have a lawn mower that has never been kind to batteries.

The first time I discovered this I hooked up the jumper cables to the car and the mower, and then delicately sat down on the mower's seat. I sat delicately because the batter is under the seat. Just as I turned the key on that sunny, spring day of half-a-decade ago I thought "what if I electrocute my butt?"

I wrote that in the old blog, and for some reason it has always given me a lot of hits, making me wonder what you people are searching for. Well?

I did not electrocute my butt on that faraway day. The next week I devised a method to crank the mower via the jumper cables without sitting down, happily keeping my butt safe for all these many years. Today, though I was greeted with "Churn churn, sputter click."

And that was pretty much that. An hour later and with three different cars put to the test I've decided that the starter/clutch assembly in the lawn mower is shot. In learning this I managed to give myself the heaviest dose of first degree burn possible, and this right on the web of my thumb. Turns out that jumper cables can transfer a great deal of heat. That's a lesson I would have just as soon learned in another way, but since you're here, grasp the jumper cables careful next time, because ouch.

There was no grass cut this evening, and a great deal of time was wasted. My narrow window for a hair cut was also shot, but at least some things were moved from the garage, a few leaves were raked and, suddenly, I was filthy.

So I took a shower, and then put on a second set of old shirt and shorts because instead of being dusty and sweaty from the yard it was now time to be dusty and sweaty in the basement.

The hand truck made the work go quickly and before I knew it the corner section of the basement was staked chest-high with boxes and the floor of the garage had nothing standing on it. After a delicious cheeseburger I pulled everything off the pool table, vacuumed up the debris and covered the felt. As midnight grew nearer I vacuumed the garage to reveal a nice, clean floor underneath.

I considered taking photographs of this, because the garage, to my knowledge, has never been this clean. There was once when it was a possibility, the floor was painted, but that seems a distant memory next to those large stacks of boxes. The other half of the basement now resembles a moving truck with everything tucked neatly against another box, as if that portion of the room would be driven off to a new destination.

All of the storage makes sense, with the more liable to be used decorations and accessories of life are stacked near the edges for ease of access. That should have been the plan, of course, but almost happened by accident. No real conscious thought went into the stacking of boxes, preoccupied as I was by how to move them all around in a real life version of Tetris that only threatens to drop heavy cardboard or breakable shards of glassware on your scalp. So the end result stacking is happily efficient, except for the last five boxes or so.

These would be the things that had been in a back corner in the old scheme and could only be reached at the end of the move. These are the boxes of random college things that should surely be thrown away, but I don't have the heart just yet. The sum total of things that were disposed of comes to three garbage bags of trash and one trunk full of donations. Otherwise I look through all of these boxes and think of throwing things away but realize they could be treasures in another 15 or 20 years, if only I could put up with them for that long.

And so that was the bulk of my day: frustration and progress. More of the one in lieu of the other would have been good, but at least the week's biggest project has been realized. The rest just means more chores for next week.

Links: We have them, and a strong lineup too. First, I'd like to show you the teaser trailer to the blockbuster of the year. If you see one movie about a Jewish Ninja this summer this, sadly, won't be it. But it should be. Kelly put that together. She conceptualized the character, gave him a great name and put the video together. She was also kind enough to let me write the copy, but she did the voice work, filtering it into something with a nice post-Bladerunner feel.

Just great stuff, but the awesome power of links doesn't stop there. Remember those classic fold-ins from Mad Magazine? The New York Times does, and they've compiled, well, possibly all of them, into a flash presentation that will surely eat into your productivity. Great stuff that.

And there's one sad note in local media. John Pruett, the venerable sportswriter from The Huntsville Times has called in his final copy. His final column ran Monday:
He left the News in September 1966 when Bill Easterling, the sports editor of The Times, offered him a job in a growing five-man sports department for a $15-a-week raise. "I'll do this for a year or two,'' he told himself, "then go find a real job and make a lot of money.''

He was only kidding himself. He never found a real job and never made a lot of money. But after more than four decades, he can truthfully say that as far as his newspaper career is concerned, he wouldn't change a thing.
I've linked to the cached version hoping to keep that last one alive. For the last several years Mr. Pruett's been working as a rememberer of fanciful sports stories, and they've all been a treasure of local, regional and national sports spanning five decades or so.

What he doesn't mention in that last column is his impressive Iron Bowl streak. He's been to all but two or three that have occurred in his lifetime. (I'm still looking to find the original source of this claim once again, but no matter the numbers, that's more than a significant chunk of sporting history for this part of the world.)

At his retirement party today many of the big names in media and sport were on hand to celebrate with a man who's covered it all over the last four decades. Auburn's Tommy Tuberville was there and was all to happy to needle a few Alabama fans.

Mr. Pruett is approachable on most any topic, as I learned two years ago when I stumbled across an old photograph of old Huntsville. A kind gentleman he'll be missed in the paper, but hopefully he'll still be lurking around the occasional press box to take in a good game.

There's still laundry to do, and it is very, very late. Will there be sleep tonight? Probably not, but if I can steal a few hours in the a.m. I'll be fine.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Pretty much lost a day of productivity today. I'm on the day-to-day disabled list -- so sad, this early in the baseball season -- with an odd shoulder pain.

It seems that one should not get the giggles while one is doing handstands. That much blood being pulled to the brain by gravity makes the chuckle turn into a guffaw and the snicker into a full body shake, which will only cause your arms to bend and you to land on your head. And shoulder.

It was Thursday night of last week when I learned that, despite my willingness to try, I have no business trying handstands at this point. Doing them along the wall for support isn't much better either. That might be how I hurt myself.

The odd thing is that my shoulder doesn't hurt continuously. Mostly when I'm being very animated or while laughing. I could move stuff up and down all day long, but as soon as something funny happens something painful reminds me of this weird non-injury. I have a full range of motion, but it seems to hurt more when I'm sitting still. This afternoon it was bad enough that I didn't want to try anything for fear of aggravating it.

Instead I sat around and waited for a guy to appear for a little housework who never showed up. This has become a recurring theme as of late, and growing tiresome quickly. There is much to do, and I wish to do it all quickly, but events will conspire, as they so often do.

Saw Spamalot again tonight. Got it last year in Atlanta and this year the tour made its way to Birmingham. There were two Alabama specific jokes, as the cast always tries to work in something for the home crowd. They played up the many local American Idol finalists when the grail was found and, of course, worked in an homage to Sweet Home Alabama in a way that was surprisingly good.

It remains a great show, and if you like the Flying Circus you'll enjoy the stage production. Even if you're not familiar with the movies there's loads of silly entertainment. I'll watch it every time I get a chance because of the absurdity of the show and joy the cast has in playing the parts. And the costuming is, as the Frenchman says "very, very, very niiiiiice."

Here are two older clips from the show, featuring that obnoxious taunting Frenchman and the Knights who say "Ni!"

Incidentally, the Sweet Home Alabama came in where the Knights who say "Ni!" changed their name. The actor really got into it, as if he'd been looking forward to his moment with that song for weeks. And maybe he had. As fine a set of stage performers as that cast is, it looks awfully hard to keep genuine enthusiasm masked during such a fun play.

(Here's last year's trip to Spamalot.)

See this today? Auburn is apparently blazing new trails in gender equity for athletics:
Though this particular prospect, a wide receiver, is only 5-foot-6 and weighs only about 135 pounds, the speed and elusiveness displayed on film was enough to intrigue offensive coordinator Tony Franklin. But he was in for a surprise.

The prospect's name is Billie Williford. She is a girl.


Auburn coaches weren't sure what to do, but this morning it was finally all settled. Billie has decided not to try to play college football after all, at least not at Auburn. Her parents, it seems, watched the A-Day game and decided they didn't want their daughter being hit that hard.

And if you believe this, I have some beachfront property in Opelika I'd like to sell you.
And, with April Fools jokes we begin the long, quiet march through the summer into football season.

There's fascinating news from the BBC about a rare specimen of penguin.

At what point did you realize what was going on there? Even to the end it remains a great promotional piece.

And, finally, to be more serious: Muppet bloopers.

I should really be cleaning the basement, but that's tomorrow, along with a whole host of other chores. Feel the excitement!