Kenny Smith | blog

Saturday, May 31, 2008

May ends today, and it would like a word or two with you about that.

"What's the big deal about June anyway? You want sun? I got that. Still air? No problem. Warm?"

Ninety will do it. And make you cringe at the thought of July. There's clearly a bit of acclimating to be done in the relatively benign low-90s of June. Being outdoors today was wonderful, but it took hold of you, shook you around a bit, ragdolled the sweat from the body and flung you to the ground.

And then you had to get up and hike back to the car.

This was all done in much fun, adventure and free. My shirt would still be damp hours later.

Ventured out to the Moss Rock Preserve because the pictures look cool, the name is cool and I've never been there. Found the parking place with little trouble, picked up the trail with relative ease, purely guessed at the final location.

I just wanted to take pictures. Here's The Yankee staring up at the big cracks in the rock roof. This little patch of shade was the coolest place in the county this afternoon, in much that same way that caves are always a bit chilled. This being above ground, and giving a serene view of the woods beyond was a nice bonus, but the temperature was the big selling point.

Trees and rocks grow together. Or the tree grows to the rock. The rock isn't so wild about this arrangement and finds the tree too clingy. "It was better, Tree, when we were just about fun. It was, you know, more fun. But now your bark is everywhere. You're using all my lichen and always asking for more room for your things and ... it's just time ..."

In a way photos like this made me a few dollars in school. Back in the good old print days -- purists will, of course, not pardon my turn to the digital format -- I shot black and white almost exclusively and was very taken with abandoned houses and barns. I'd go inside and shoot the view outside. I'd turn and shoot the light creeping into the rooms through the broken panes.

I'm sure this would have meant something if anyone bothered to consider it for long, but I thought the pictures were nice. A few people agreed and offered me some small contract work. I shot a series of covered bridges for a buyer who created well received paintings from the source material. There are a dozen covered bridges still in the state and I shot eight or nine of them, traipsing over the state through briers and creeks for a week. Those old inside-outside framed pictures helped land a deal that let me document a health clinic's renovations as well.

I'm nothing special as a photographer, of course. The work was neat, and fun and educational, but then as now I took it with the implied ad "College photographer, works cheap." How could they go wrong?

But I digress. I also hang from the side of rocks for pretty flower pictures.

The problem with me is that if there's a rock there I'm going to climb it. I'm not a rock climber, but I like picking my way up small little rock faces like this, just because they are there. This particular rock on which I sat soars 2,736 feet into the air. That tree is massive. The patch of green to the lower right is actually my base camp. And those hut rooftops down below.

Twenty or 30 feet ... half a mile, what's the difference, really?

Purple flowers.

I love the woods. I spent a lot of time exploring woods as a child, a great place for an imagination full of characters and stories to act out. The only thing better than woods are woods with a creek. I could stay there all day. I wanted to today. We followed a trail down from the big rocks on the preserve to this little stream to an excitable little waterfall that boasted something like an 18-inch drop.

No one cares, the water's cold. Douse yourself once to defeat the heat -- which today had the ability to overwhelm in a sudden and almost violent way while descending from my arduous rock climbing. Another round of water served to remind the body of what a nice cool temperature felt like.

I lingered. I took photographs of the water. I did reflective self-portraits. The Yankee spoofed her Walk Like an Egyptian pose.

And then she worked on her handstands. Gymnasts. Can't take 'em anywhere.

More flowers on the vine I've yet to learn to identify. I was always a tree man myself. Did you notice the quality sweetgum reflection in my self-portrait? Purely happenstance.

The sun slicing through the trees.

How about a nice yellow poplar specimen? Yellow poplars are one of my favorite trees -- narrowly beating out sweet gums which suffer in this all-important ranking because of the prickly gumballs. They were both in prominence at my grandparents, the sweetgums were ever-present and interesting to watch in the wind. The poplars, at my other grandparents were huge; tall, profound in circumference and shooting straight into the air, surely interfering with low orbit satellites.

They stood across a narrow drive from one another, giant sentries left when the land was cleared for my grandparents' home. They stood forever, shedding beautiful yellow leaves in the fall, glowing with a bright bark the year 'round. They were both damaged in the same storm, apparently by separately lightning strikes, and had to be removed. The yard and the drive has never looked right without them there.

Here's more flowers serving as a nostalgia break.

One more, why not?

Impulsively The Yankee and I stopped by the dollar theater. I think we thought the room might be a bit cooler. We made it just in time for the 4:30 showing of the one movie in 10 either of us had a passing interest in seeing, 21:
Smart kids stupid enough to hide winnings in the dorm. Kevin Spacey!
I have a great Kaiser Soze joke here -- perhaps you'll think of it too when you see the movie. Not bad for a dollar, even if they convinced be their card counting system was simple.

Also, the guys that actually did this from the late 1970s until around the turn of the century. Technology has caught up and if books are written, documentaries are produced and movies made on the subject, Las Vegas has figured this out, and you're just going to get a Laurence Fishburne beating if you try something silly.

So stick to online poker.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Today I slept in, and that was great.

And then I golfed. And that felt bad.

That felt bad from the first tee when I shanked a ball way off to the right, and then hit one way off to the left, just for spite. That continued through the last hole, when I was just too hot to care anymore.

The Yankee and I played in the middle of the day, which was fine. We had the course more or less to ourselves (Except for those guys I almost hit into on nine. Sorry!) which was also fine. Playing under a beautiful sun and no clouds in 90something degrees began to wear on me.

The worst of it was the bugs.

Here's a helpful tip for next time. If a golf club is ever offering something free -- in this case free bug spray "If you spray outside" TAKE ADVANTAGE of it.

I considered this while signing in, but then thought It can't be that bad. We're just emerging from the worst drought perhaps on record, it is the middle of the blistering hot day, how many bugs can there be?

This logic did not take into account the gnats which, God in heaven, apparently have no natural predator and find everything they need to prosper on a golf course. And they are massing at that Turkish prison camp of a place in profligate numbers. The golf isn't bad, the sun and heat could be tolerable if you are so acclimated. The bugs -- while fortunately not evil enough to desire bites -- know no other restraint.

And if that doesn't make you consider the many ways you might murder someone with a club with an open face and a graphite shaft then hitting a little white ball, badly, all over creation doesn't help.

Actually hitting it all over might be a good thing. The one respite to be found from the little demon bugs was in the cart. That would fool them for a few moments, but they'd soon be right back. They can cover a mile on a good wind, the literature says, even more if they're laughing at your golf game.

Four putting is possible with bugs in your eyes.

Somehow I still managed to approach 100. I'm not sure what it is about that particular course, but the few times I've been there I felt bad about the effort, but the scorecard told a different story. If I ever break 100 it might be at that course, but I'll carpet bomb the place with dioxin and DDT.

After golf, and a good rinsing, came dinner. There might not be a thirstier Pie Day on record. I had two full glasses of tea while waiting in the foyer for a table. By the time dinner came I was tired and full (of fluids) but somehow I struggled through another delicious meal. And another delicious slice of pie.

Seemed like the place was a bit slow for a Friday night, something that hasn't been lost on the staff. Economic uncertainties, it seems, have hit the barbecue industry. That seals the deal, when my economic stimulus check comes I'm burying it in a mayonnaise jar in the backyard.

After dinner there was a half-hearted attempt to the big blue box store concern for a few of those products of daily necessity. Fortunately nothing of interest happened during the experience, which is both a surprise and a relief. Friday nights seem calm in that place, though, despite there never being any tellers working up front.

The opening of the big red box store concern opening in my community later this summer can't happen quickly enough. You just know that, for the first few months at least, they'll be adequately staffed up front.

Maybe Chad Vader should get a job there. They were taking applications at the high school today.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

I want to take the half-full view of four-day weeks, but sometimes the mind is tricked and you finish the race mentally exhausted. What is it about four day weeks that makes them sometimes they fell as if they're 8.2 days long? This is a perception issue that gets annoying when your rational mind is finally clued into the conversation because it knows there has only been four days of work, but there's just no clearing that with the Department of Feels Like.

I say this recalling very easily how I woke up on Tuesday morning, a day like any other Tuesday, and thought This feels like a joke. Surely there can't be more to the week. I'd worked exactly one day, Monday and had then woken up twice -- though not completely because the full brain restart for Tuesday morning came a bit later -- and already I was calculating the end of the week.

All of this because some part of the mind, perhaps the locus ceruleus that determines fight-or-flight, is already calculating the weekend. That function of the brain is already figuring out the trajectory. That cluster of neurons is already gliding into a three-day weekend.

And that began this afternoon.

Around noon it rained, ever so briefly, but cold. After that the minutes ticked by quickly until it was time to go home, which was met with great celebration.

At which point I made my way home, watched videos (How not to publish a book.) and worked on my Twitter page. It now has a new background with a summer theme. No page of mine may be allowed to gather too much moss, so that one will be seasonal and attention will soon turn back to the home page here, which could use some tender love and attention.

In that time I found one of the nice ladies with whom I interned several years ago. I miss that bunch, good people all, and very tolerant of having me around. They taught me quiet a bit and that's been parlayed into a Three Day Weekend! Wooooo ...

My mind is on a loop of that thought right now. Still sinking in you understand.

Harvey Korman died today and the world just isn't nearly as funny as it was before that news.

I grew up watching the late night weekend replays of the Carol Burnett show and even when I was too young to understand the humor I knew Tim Conway and Korman were gold. I was young enough, perhaps, that much of the slapstick was beyond me still, but there was, and still is, something magical about watching those two giants crack each other up.

Hedley Lamar as Orson Swindle notes, is another thing altogether, but there still seems something so joyous and innocent in watching Conway and Korman. Far better than any script was the attempt to bottle that mirth at a moment when the human body was no longer a vessel equal to the task.

No one will make you laugh this hard without saying a word. Tim Conway is a genius, but together they were a timeless jewel, a precious joy of chuckles that could shake most any mood into simple glee.

I don't remember as much of childhood as a lot of people, for whatever reason, but I have great memories of those performances, and I'm glad to have them stowed away in dusty cobwebs, and the opportunity to see them just a click away at any time.

Another click down the information superhighway -- has anyone used that term in the past half-decade? -- and we see that Time is doing a reader-generated issue of "This Old House." That magazine has a circulation of 950,000. This was not a decision they reached lightly.

The times, as they say, they are a-

Three day weekend!

Random end-of-the-week thought: I wonder what Chad Vader is doing. Oh. Beets. Figures.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Last week I mentioned trying to take raindrop photographs. The day's effort wasn't bad , but I thought I could do better. This morning, in the same spot, I found many of those same branches covered with drops from last night's rain.

These drops, I think, look a bit better. Here's a closer view.

At 6 a.m. even raindrops make sense. Mostly because you aren't yet thinking so hard.

We've been talking a lot about the Eye-Fi cards at work. Some of the folks in the local Twitterverse make good use of them and now the boss has picked one up and it has proven worthy of all the wave reviews.

Here's how this works: if it can impress the tech wizards in the office then it is worth picking up. I don't always abide by this rule of thumb, not having the ability to buy each of the toys that wow that crowd, but the Eye-Fi will be worth picking up.

You plug this card into your camera and whenever it detects your computer or a WiFi signal it uploads your photographs, either to your machine or to one of a dozen photo sharing sites.

The boss said his son was taking photographs at home recently and it was uploading photographs instantly over his wireless network. He could sit at his computer and see every picture as he snapped it. As I sit here watching this machine slowly upload photos -- a chore it once did quickly, but now it stutters and stumbles -- I think the Eye-Fi would be a fantastic tool. If my machine can handle it.

The rain held off for a nice three-mile walk and stayed away long enough to fire up the grill again. Let there be steak, and it was good, etc.

There was a minor food emergency this evening. Suddenly the local stores no longer carry the required roasting rub for pork. This is a borderline travesty. The internet provided a few stores with some in stock. Purchases will be made. The only question being: If the company has truly stopped making this rub, how much should be stockpiled?

This is the biggest dilemma of my week. Life is good.

Two links you might enjoy. Remember a few years ago when Paramount released remastered versions of the original Star Trek? Here's a comparison video of original versus remastered. It is interesting what they changed, and amazing how much things were improved.

Somehow I stumbled upon the blog of one of the visual artists on the Battlestar series. He's as big a fanboy as anyone, you'd have to be, but it shines through and that's why his work is so good, and that's why the blog is of such quality. So go visit Darth Mojo.

Well, tomorrow is the last day of my week. True to form, the four-day weeks seem even more tiring than the normal week. No one knows why this is, but, again, these are the overwhelming troubles with which we cope. At any rate, I'm going to call it a night early, so I can call it a week early tomorrow afternoon.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

So the TiVos are networked. I ran the cable last evening -- something that was a little more difficult than I'd hoped for. This involved unwinding a big clump of cable, running it through the rafters in the basement, squirting it through a hole into the sub-basement and then feeding it into the sub-sub-basement.

This was the easy part. The next 23 minutes were spent muddy and sweaty trying to feed one end of the cable through the floor in a hole just wide enough to support the cable already in place. Finally made that happen -- and I'm still paying for it, the winning move required a contortion that has left me with an achy back today.

Anyway, the cable was in place on one end and needed to be run through the rafters and back up through the floor in the other direction. This was no problem and quickly finished, setting up the connection from the downstairs television/TiVo to the router. An extra bit of the cable was removed and used to connect the upstairs unit to the router.

After that Brian came by to put the connecting ends of the wires together. This took five minutes or so and then we had bratwurst from the grill. After dinner he fixed the tricky communication problem between the new cable box and TiVo, proving once again that you should make nice with the most technically handy person you know. Buy them a drink or a sandwich, whatever it takes; they can fix all of your ills.

So that was last night, of course there are some cable box problems, but that's not on cable company and not my handy friend. They'll be out this weekend and hopefully the solution will be as easy as replacing a defective box and the technician will be "Ah shucks" amiable.

Today we set out for lunch at Momma Goldberg's, found it too busy and went half a block down the street to the Oak Hill Bar & Grill. We walked in to an empty place that would never fill for lunch. The owner came out and said the day after Memorial Day was always one of his slowest of the year. By the time we left three other tables were in use. I had the gumbo, it was delicious and inexpensive. We'll be back.

Otherwise it was a quiet day in the office too. Not a lot of news, not a lot moving around in general, except for the weather. I ducked out just before the big clouds moved through.

Right now there's an interesting view on the regional radar. To see the dark red section, the really nasty weather, brings to mind cave hieroglyphics. It looks like a horse directly above the neighborhood and it is raining like a lazy day on an island getaway -- monsoon-like.

So here's a few links to get us through. The galaxy is a bit lighter than we thought:
The Milky Way galaxy weighs about 1 trillion times as much as our sun, according to a new estimate.

Previous estimates had ranged from 750 billion solar masses to up to 2 trillion. Lately, researchers have been leaning toward the higher figure. But now astronomers have used a more refined method to conclude that our galaxy's mass is slightly less than 1 trillion solar masses.
The Milky Way had been hearing about what so many others have been doing on that no carbs diet and, what do you know, it is working here too.

There's a new weight loss trend in the universe -- one day it may catch on here -- because of sexy new tools like Wiki Sky which allows you to cross through the heavens in much the same way you would with Google Maps. And as interesting as staring at your neighborhood and Kansas and San Francisco is through Google Maps Wiki Sky let's you see beautiful things usually reserved for scientists.

We're seeing fascinating things out of the newest mission to Mars as well. As the pictures are beamed back from Phoenix they land on this page. They're looking for ice and digging soil samples and you're as liable to see the frozen stuff on that website as quickly as you will anywhere else. Its a brave new world out there in the solar system.

Is this even registering in the news? I'm following the Phoenix through the Twitter account they're running out of the Arizona/JPL mission control and haven't noticed it anywhere else. If little green men show up in one of those pictures we'll at least know the lead story in the next news cycle. If you see one of them in one of those photos you should probably right someone. You never know, the analysts are sifting through a lot of information; they could overlook something important on the first glance.

And since there's nothing else of importance here we'll call it a day. If you're one of the 15 percent of America not takin a long vacation this week come back tomorrow for more of the same.

Monday, May 26, 2008

I put a day in at the office, so there wasn't much in the way of Memorial Day for me.

As such I'll commemorate the hallowed day here with a long-overdue slideshow covering the Parris Island graduation ceremony for India Company, 3rd RTBn. from December 2006.

The quiet maturity of these young men -- boys just a few weeks previous -- is overwhelming, and you can't meet one of these new Marines without earning a healthy dose of respect and humility. I hope they're all doing well today, and I'm confident they are serving with distinction.

Here's the slideshow.

And thanks for all the selfless things you and your armed services colleagues do. Bravo Zulu.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

After last night's unfortunate viewing of Sniper 2 I must report on the sequel's sequel, Sniper 3:
Direct to video. No one knows about the backstory, no one cares.
This must be said, the third movie is better than the second by just a bit. Here our hero must go back to Vietnam to kill the man who saved his life. His former friend has gone rogue, deals drugs and weapons and flirts with terrorists and so he must be snuffed out. Also the bad guy knows things that could cause a significantly bad afternoon for the people in Washington D.C.

As any of you who've ever been in a similar situation knows, when the government comes to ask you to kill your friend -- a guy who you thought has been dead for 30 years anyway -- it can give pause. This movie isn't bad where the second one was. This movie just ... exists.

Obviously no one has seen this film because there are only four errors listed both at IMDB and Movie Mistakes. That's a shame, because the factual errors are always a joy. One commenter who would have you think he was a sniper made some hasty calculations about the improbability of something from the first Sniper movie through a physics lesson, but he's since disappeared.

So I'll give it a go -- while admitting I'm no expert mistake catcher and obviously know little of weaponry and tactics. At one point in this film Tom Berenger refers to the bad guy by his own character's name. He's played the role of Tom Beckett three times now, but this slips through. And no one caught it in post production either.

And that's direct to video to me.

If you've watched these, or any movie featuring a sniper, you've come to understand the theme that they only get one shot, and so it must be a good one. And the sniper is good and this particular one is exceptional. "Million Dollar Shot" they call him. The last round he fires in the movie -- having missed his target twice earlier -- is a great one.

Otherwise, this is a reasonable movie to waste an afternoon around. But not good enough to waste two afternoons. This unofficial trailer makes the movie look very promising though.

The Yankee flew back into town today, so I picked her up at the airport after she spent a few weeks with family. I arrived at the airport early and watched people come and go in all the variations of those most common airport rituals -- too much luggage, too much kissing, too much security.

I read of Abraham Lincoln. He was preparing for his trip to Gettysburg, and biographer Doris Kearns Goodwin talks of Lincoln riding from the home where he stayed the night before and riding to the cemetery's dedication on a chestnut horse. His secretary of state, William H. Seward, rode alongside. An officer observed that Seward's pants leg had crept up, revealing homemade gray socks not fit for the moment.

That's a touching little detail, it plays in the text like a nod to a simpler time rather than pointing out the hosiery flaws of powerful men. This is a great book, and it is fitting to read of Edward Everett's oration and the concise poetry of Lincoln as Memorial Day comes upon us. I visited Gettysburg on Memorial Day two years ago and, as Everett says, it is a place of "eloquent silence of God and Nature."

If there is another place that can evoke such reverence you'd shudder to think what must have transpired at that spot to earn the mode.

There's a very brief slide show of that trip to Gettysburg, if you're so inclined.

The Yankee arrived on time, just as Lincoln wrapped up his remarks, as it happened, and we sought out dinner. So we had a small Pie Day, happy to note that the first manager that was there more than three years ago has returned.

We asked about the fire they had last month, jokingly wondering if anyone needed an alibi. Turned out a company that cleans the smoke pits and the chimney system was apparently to blame for the fire. As the manager said, "They don't work with us any longer."

The food was delicious, the pie was first rate and the day, and an easy, quiet, introspective weekend was done. I'm working tomorrow, so it is an early night for me. Have a safe and happy holiday. Hug a soldier twice.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Like every holiday, we seem intent on stretching Memorial Day as far as taste and crepe paper will allow. This is fine as far as it goes, but in the twisting and stretching we're in danger of fulfilling that other all-too American tradition of removing the original import of the day.

In our part of the world, an extremely patriotic place with military ties that run far, wide, deep and ancient, Memorial Day has come to mean a day (or weekend) on the water. There's also the sales, the barbecue and, of course, the obligatory war movies.

And with gas prices fixating our attention of late there might be more staying at home watching movies than hooking up the boat and going to the river.

Hollywood has historically treated war in the same we treat the holidays, creating narrow and often jingoist, xenophobic works designed to stir the spirit and convince us how brave a soldier John Wayne and his acting brethren are.

The better the movie, of course -- Saving Private Ryan and the like -- the easier it is to associate in some laughably small way the horrors that we ask our soldiers to sometimes endure. This also makes watching a classic like The Longest Day even more challenging.

But that's a movie for Monday, the actual Memorial Day. Stretching the holiday into a weekend is now hurting the television executives as well, because the list of quality films that will fit the theme is finite. When you consider the many channels each gobbling up broadcast rights the early part of the weekend can have some thin gruel in honor of Memorial Day.

That's why I'm TiVoing Sniper 2 and Sniper 3 tonight.

It couldn't be helped, really. I was working around the house, cleaning and doing laundry with Windtalkers on in the background. That's yet another Nicholas Cage movie I've never managed to watch in its entirety. Not being a Cage completest I'm oddly at peace with the concept. During the breaks, though, the promos kept coming on for the Sniper movies.

The first one, with Tom Berenger and Billy Zane wasn't horrible, but I'd never gotten around to the follow up. I didn't even realize there was a third installment. So, given the suffering sequel rule, 2 should be unfortunate and 3 should be blissfully bad.

That's in a bit, first there is the tale of procuring USB adapters.

I need two of them. The downside to the new digital phone is that, in a few weeks, the TiVo will no longer make like E.T. and phone home. In the next few days I'm networking the TiVos for optimal television hypnosis. This can be done wirelessly or the old fashioned way. The benefit of wireless being obvious, the negatives are cost and beaming more cartoon waves through the enclosed air of your home.

On the other hand I came across an attractive bundle of Cat-5 cable and need only to run it under the floor and purchase the adapters which will then connect TiVos to router.

Having researched the desired piece of equipment, coming to terms with the cost -- still cheaper than wireless! -- and researching a few places where they might be purchased (everywhere is within a buck or two) I set out this evening.

First stop, Best Buy, where the folks in the blue shirts didn't even bother me. Isn't that always the way? Half an hour to kill and you want to browse the high end toys or play video games and they're all over you. Looking for something in particular -- even had the model number! -- and they're nowhere to be found.

Finally I catch the eye of a guy who is lording over that section of the store. My request meets a blank look.

"We've got wireless stuff righ --"

Yes, I saw the wireless items. Very lovely. Congratulations on a truly handsome display. Where're the wired adapters?

"Why do you need those?"

Have you ever wanted to explain his business and the lack of it in yours? As if your plans need explanation or approval. He'll try to find a Better Way, because he's helpful, but that means spending another $100.

So I explain that I plan on bringing my work from the Agency home, figure I'd do a little spying on the subdivision. Or, failing that, just watch things I've recorded in the den upstairs on that unit.

"But we have wireless."

Yes. I know. But I want wired. I've got the cable and the routers and --

"But we have wireless."

This went on for a while, venturing just a short commute from absurd. He was very nice about the whole thing, but confused. Almost concerned that what I was proposing to do simply could not work.

It was when he said he didn't know if they even made those that I realized he's a shelf stocker and not a solution finder. That's fine. He does a terrific job guiding people through the easier problems -- I watched -- and his displays were lovely. His best guess for me was suggesting I stopped by the Geek Squad, to see if they knew where I could find such 19th Century technology.

Now you'll pardon me, but I've read The Consumerist too much over the years to really trust the Geek Squad with anything. Also, if these guys were truly geeks, they'd hang a webcam right over the corner so that they could see new customers while they were hiding in the back.

Since they hadn't, they couldn't see me so I left, venturing out to other stores in the hopes of better results.

Staples was closed. Circuit City, a bastion of know-how, was open. I had a similar conversation with a delightfully perky young woman there who really wanted to help, but just couldn't visualize what these "A. Dap. Tors?" might do. I found an extra cord in the store and illustrate the whole thing.

"Oh. Oh! No. We don't have those."

So I'll search some more tomorrow then.

Tonight, Sniper 2:
This movie was made for TV, but certainly not made for my TV.
In the first movie Berenger played the wise and aging sniper full of cunning and guile. Also he was taken prisoner and had his trigger finger violently removed from his person.

Sorta makes a sequel difficult to come by, wouldn't you say? We meet him again in the woods, in his gilley suit and ... he's leading yuppies on a deer hunt. Oh my. He's soon called back into military service because there's a bad guy in Serbia who must be offed, and the retired, nine-fingered Marine is the only Marine who can do it.

Marines everywhere changed the channel in disgust. Unless they shot their televisions, which would also be acceptable in this case.

Billy Zane has moved on, but he's afforded a new sidekick, a former soldier serving on death row for killing a dirty DEA agent. So the two best snipers the United States military can put their hands on are the retired guy and the jailbird? Who was this down on our military in 2002?

Granted, the IMDB page suggests that the movie was produced largely for international audiences, so maybe that's why.

"Take that America! A bitter old man and a bitter young black man are the best you can do! And your government betrays your heroes, people too stupid to see it coming, even if you, the dumb American audience smelled that twist coming since Rambo II!"

Also, IMDB tells us that the Serbs are actually speaking Hungarian. The missing finger reappears occasionally, but we won't quibble. There are gun problems, military logic problems and all sorts of things that movie mistake people love to seize upon.

Hard to blame them here.

In the opening credits I worried when noting that Tom Berenger's wife, Trish Berenger, was one of the film's producers. Had this become a vanity project? A strong character actor trying to eek out everything possible from a soulless, trained killer, alcoholic burn out? And if so, what will Sniper 3 be like?

I can't wait to find out, but that's tomorrow.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Got out of the car this morning and saw this hanging by my head. One day I'll learn how to take that raindrop photograph. It is on the short term Mental To Do List of fun projects.

Oh sweet, delicious Friday. Not that mattered. Seemingly everyone split town yesterday.

Our boss is a very generous person, and late yesterday the Email came down that we could, pending no pressing duties, skip out of the office a bit early today. The permission actually used the words "a few hours," which, I think we can all agree, is a term that should be used liberally in this context.

After long and interesting brainstorming meetings this morning I discovered that I could leave as the evening guy arrived. This is normally around 1 p.m., meaning two bonus hours for me. Around 2:30 we discovered that evening guy had the day off. Since the missive was worded "Take off when evening guy shows up" it originally seemed I was on the hook until Tuesday.

I left at my normal time, 3 p.m., having put in a quiet afternoon. I can not complain about this. Besides, who'd want to listen? Who'd be around? If you had to be in the office today you were gone by noon.

That being the case no one will hear about Sen. Hillary Clinton's latest faux pas for several days. By then the media swarm will have likely moved on to some other tasty morsel of the presidential campaign trail.

But there's always Keith Olbermann. Dear, sweet, foaming at the mouth Keith Olbermann. And while it hurts, just under the rib cage, to have to agree with the guy for too long, he makes a several worthwhile points here.

Watch the video. The first two minutes are Olbermann setting up his rile up, the next four minutes are a good contextual history lesson, but the last two minutes are the painful, bitter truth.

Though it wouldn't hurt the guy to dial it back down from 11 once in a while.

I watched Gods and Generals again last night. Saw it at the theater, found it in a discount bin not too long thereafter and hadn't even removed the wrapping. You have to have both the right audience and frame of mind to watch a movie like that, and this seemed to be a good time for an audience of one. The movie is still good, the dialogue still sounds as if it were lifted from letters -- and in large part it was -- some parts still play with the necessary light heartedness and many with the requisite sorrow.

I can see why it did poorly at the box office. I recall writing, somewhere, that the movie reviewers did little to help being movie reviewers and not historians. That this installment of the Shaara triology favors the Confederate Army probably didn't help either. Looking through the IMDB listing and the Wikipedia notes it is clear the poor box office showing didn't help either. The final movie seems improbable at this point.

Which is a shame. Memorial Day is coming up, I'm reading two books on the 19th Century, including the one on the Lincoln administration, and there's probably never going to be enough study, critical or from entertainment, of the period.

Two Twitter tidbits for the day. Are you following Mars Phoenix? You should be. The robot (or someone at Arizona or JPL) is blogging in the first person about the mission. Phoenix is due to land near the north pole of Mars and begin work this weekend. Very cool stuff.

I spent a bit of time today looking for interesting Twitter tools and came across at least one useful one. TwitDir lets you search by usernames, names, locations and more. This just brings to mind a handful of interesting applications the Twitterverse needs. Provided the software and hardware will play well together. They seem to be having some trouble with that of late.

Bonus Twitter tip: an odd assemblage of everyday uses for the social networking toy. (Good title on that article "Power-Tweeting" but a mileage-may-vary offering.)

Yes, I'm downgrading Twitter from tool to toy. What's the Twitterverse going to do, heave over and collapse on its side? It is useful and plenty of fun, but tools shouldn't breakdown quite so much. If you were paying for it you'd ask for your money back. Since it is free, you just grin and bear it. And call it a toy.

And now, one of the many asides for which this blog has become famous: I've been sitting here trying to compose a thought (I know, too late) and playing with one of the campaign buttons that arrived today. From the inside of one falls a tiny scrap of material. It is white with a blue diamond print and was hiding inside an Alf Landon button, free from the place where it has rested, perhaps, since 1936.

In a moment I'll toss it in the garbage, but not before wondering about who put that pin through the material, whether they ever realized it torn when they removed it, if it was an upsetting realization and how many boxes and attics the thing has been in since then. These little mementos are the pocket change of our lives, often destined to be stowed away for an eternity. Or at least until a relative with an understanding of e-bay comes along.

Here are the buttons hastily scanned for the sole purpose of inclusion here. Soon they'll be rescanned and included in the button section of the site. Ultimately the good ones will make their way into shadowboxes, content to spend the rest of their days surrounded by felt, frame and friends.

The "LBJ for the USA" button is a classic and in great condition. "I still like Ike" is aiming at the second-termer in all of us. "Betty Ford for President" was dreamed up by a wonderfully funny individual. My favorite, though, is that Eisenhower lapel button. It won't scan very well, but my eye just keeps drifting back to it.

That was an election official button, meant for someone monitoring a poll somewhere in the Midwest perhaps. It is punctured right in the center of the folding tab, perhaps used as a necklace for the day. Maybe it lived in a scrapbook or a jewelry box after that. Someone thought enough of the experience to hang onto the thing and show it to their grandchildren.

This year they're liable to live-blog the experience.

Happy Memorial Day weekend! May it be a safe, pleasant time with friends and family and the ever-important thoughts of those who've helped make it happen. If you're still around the computer, come back tomorrow for tales of housecleaning, hardware purchases and movie marathons.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A coworker is ordering one of these for his home. To look at the picture doesn't do much for you. It is a cube, it is The Borg, a replica toy of a ship carved out of plastic and rubber bits and resold because they are marketing geniuses and we are rubes.

But when you get past the no frills box and read on, when you see what is inside, you're head goes a little dizzy with the implications of it all. Our grandchildren will one day look back on this as a novelty item in a junk store. "Look how big it is! And it only streamed movies and the occasional television program from some company called Netflix."

"Oh yeah" they'll say "this must have been back when everything had to have an X in the title so the consumer thought it was edgy. But this box could only bring 10,000 movies into your home. And it had to be plugged into one of those televisions Grandpa always muttered about."

And then you realize that this box could change everything.

These are interesting times to be alive.

I watched, several months ago, a documentary on archivists working in the Library of Congress discussing their daily efforts to collect the antique recordings of our history for posterity. There are warehouses full of information -- big and small and all wonderous -- waiting to be processed, agonized over and even discover. They might have the greatest jobs in the world. One line from that documentary keeps bouncing around in my head, something about how the 20th Century was the time of recording things, and the 21st Century will be the time of preserving things.

I keep coming back to that because the implication would be that we'll overlook our own to capture and visit and hold forever the things that belonged to earlier times and places. This is a silly fear, of course, because capturing and documenting our history -- silly, novel and important -- is easier to create, more comprehensive, searchable and more readily available than ever before.

Take, I dunno, this guy for example. The folks over at Mental Floss stumbled upon the project of a man who took a photograph each day for for almost 20 years. The whole thing is an art show and is online. Floss picked up on it and it is spinning around the globe, having probably reached everyone by the time you read this. Hard to imagine that happening in Teddy Roosevelt's day.

Random and slightly disturbing ad campaigns from around the globe? Here are some of the Rubik's Cube materials from Australia. The odds on your great-great-grandfather discovering that were pretty slim.

Randomly collected basketball dunks? Who had time? There were fields to plow, cars to build, work to be done. Today we're fortunate to contemplate such a list and offer up the visual proof of our claims, such as wondering how that guy managed to leave off Chris Porter's description-defying dunk.

We are fortunate that people can devote themselves to traveling around correcting the typos of others:
Deck reached behind him for the clear plastic pencil case attached to his camera strap. He asked if he could add the apostrophe, and the clerks huddled, then shrugged. Inside his case were dry erasers for white boards and Sharpies and different colored markers and chalk and bottles of Wite-Out and a few pens and a handful of crayons, because you never know. Deck crouched down in the window and carefully painted a matching apostrophe on the glass with a Wite-Out brush; then he stepped back.

"Thank you for making our window a better place," one clerk said.

"Thank you for letting us."
If there's ever been a more transient, temporary, thankless and unending job (without pay) I can't imagine it. Take this blog for example.

(Aside: They have a blog -- of course. They want a book deal -- of course. And they've been through Alabama, calling Montgomery a formless wasteland.

Speaking of formless, how about those unisex hair salons? This guy has been reinvigorating the waning barber shop industry:
A barber is trained to cut with clippers, the main tool in cutting a man’s hair. Cosmetologists, on the other hand, are trained to use scissors. Their training is also geared towards catering to women’s hair. They become experts in styling, coloring, and perming- things a man has no need for. That’s why when you ask the cute stylist at SuperCuts to use the number 2 on the clippers, you walk away with a bad haircut. She’s probably not well versed in how to use them. But a barber can employ the clippers with finesse.

It’s a great place to chew the fat with other men. When I went to hair stylists, I hardly ever talked to the woman who cut my hair. I’d chat about my family and theirs and that’s about it. The woman who cut my hair usually ended up chatting it with the other women in the salon, while I sat there awkwardly.

Barbers, on the other hand, are interesting guys with interesting stories to tell.
I've been searching for a conveniently located barber shop for a while, they've vanished from my corner of paradise, but that essay inspires the search to continue.

Think I'll do that now. And sense that piece included a fair history of the barber shop, I'll continue the search the old fashioned way: with the Yellow Pages.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Today I came home, grabbed the mail out of the box, talked briefly with the neighborhood kids who were diligently setting up a Slip 'N' Slide -- ahh the good old days ... I'm buying one -- and then walked inside. I sat on the sofa to check the mail and then, improbably, fell asleep.

If I'd woken up to find my finger still in the proper position, straightened and prepared to rip through the spine of an envelope, I would not have been surprised. I would have suspected I'd been gassed, but not surprised.

I woke in a slightly less upright position, half-folded on the sofa and not sure of what roused me any more so than what put me in La La Land. So that was about two hours. As it often happens, the two hours used on nap days are the most important two hours of the day. The time when things Get Done and projects are addressed. Not when you're sleeping, of course. And certainly not immediately thereafter because the next 90 minutes of your life is dedicated to rebooting the brain, recalibrating the sensors and trying to figure out precisely what just happened there.

All the mail was opened and sitting on the table, though I only vaguely remember the process. We'll chalk that up to being more tired than previously understood, and going through the motions of one of the most going-through-the-motions chores of daily life.

I thought about illustrating this with a nice video joke of a narcoleptic dog, but there's nothing funny about the video and I wouldn't wish it upon you, compassionate animal lovers that you are. The rest of you, however, know how to use the many valuable search engines existing about the internet and are now no doubt surfing away on a new topic of fun.

Don't worry, we'll be here when you get back.


And here we are with links!

We have this theory about sensational athletes who, in their youth, are clearly playing above everyone on the same field on a consistent basis. Generally anyone who dominates at the collegiate level looks this way on high school film and so on. We call it the Men Among Boys paradigm. Kobe Bryant looks like that in the NBA here.

Rather fly over something other than the NBA hardwood? How about flying over Mars? That's compiled from photographs taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Javelins are not the sort of thing you want flying toward you, but it happens from time to time. This guy caught a javelin in the leg. And then he took his own javelin-pierced self-portrait that will guarantee his 15 minutes of internet fame. Do you like the surgery documentaries or are you more squeamish than I am? If so you probably don't want to click that link.

One day anthropologists will look back and begin the long academic struggle of trying to identify our cultural high and low water marks. Science will be represented well -- and take your pick of cured diseases and explorative achievements -- sport may make the list, perhaps a staggering symphonic arrangement will be a strong argument for a high water mark.

The sociological tongue-in-cheek observation of passive aggressive notes, however, might mark the moment when we had nothing better to do. That said, the site is fascinating.

In talking with a friend he noted the different weekend coverage of two of the fine papers in the state. One did a nice feature on the National African-American RVers Association. The neighboring paper interviewed former governor and convicted felon Don Siegelman who vows that uncovering the alleged cover up that led to his prosecution "will make Watergate look like child's play."

If only there was a city in between, the local paper could have interviewed the RVers for a reaction on the former governor's interview. If only.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Visited friends in the hospital today. Everyone is OK, do not be alarmed. Their son needed a small procedure -- one of those very common operations that is not common at all if it is Your Child.

But he's fine too. When I saw them he was exploring the kids' toy room. There was a computer, an old Nintendo, an aquarium and a few toys. Also there was lots of pacing from a little boy trying to understand yet another new room.

The doctors had left his telemetry kit on him. They were monitoring his vitals through those little patches, and that was relaying information to this piece of equipment that looked like an oversized cordless phone. From there, somehow, the important information was distributed back to the medical professionals. It was all very thoughtful, except they left the two-year-old on this machine with a leash of approximately 18 inches, so an adult was always just behind the kid, making sure the machine stayed on and data was being relayed. This cuts down on a kid's fun, but he's a big guy and takes it in stride.

In the hospital hallway we found one of those scooter cars. Working doors, red body, yellow roof. There's a steering wheel, four wheels and you push yourself around a la Fred Flintstone. He liked this because now there was no adult behind him. His new economy-sized plastic car had a little shelf in the back almost exactly the right size. He could drive and swerve and beep to the delight of everyone in the hallway.

Mom and Dad are holding up well. They are strong spirited people -- that's where the son gets it from -- but they'd just as soon get a positive medical report, of course. The hospital gave the kid a little stuffed bear. Dr. Teddy does surgical procedures, visits your room and, cursing HMOs the entire way, apparently goes home with you as well.

I brought Nurse Fraggle to go along with Dr. Teddy. He was green with orange and yellow hair, wearing a white Hawai'ian print shirt. I'd forgotten the Fraggles' tails, but am pleased to note that the old episodes have found their way onto DVD. If they make Doozer toys I might have to get one for everyone. You can probably tell a lot about a person by noting to which Fraggle Rock characters they gravitated. I preferred the trash heaps.

We sat on his bed and watched a few DVDs and ate sausage and squash. He was getting discharged, but with more frantic days to come. He's at the best facility in the region and is as tough as they come. His physician noted that the drive home would be more high-risk than the next visit. That's encouraging.

So now the only difficulty will be in finding more Fraggles.

A lot to link to, so let's get to it.

We've worn out the genre when this makes it down to the Pee Wee leagues, but even still the video is entertaining, and if watching a 10-year-old maul opponents in football isn't fun then you're probably not too upset that we're still three month away from kickoff.

For a more sobering video, here's a look at China moments after the devastating quake.

And now, for something a bit more silly, here's high speed footage of a water balloon exploding.

One more video, and I know this movie is probably going to be lousy, but the Tropical Thunder trailers are entertaining.

Tomorrow? More of the same, unless it is different. That's the sort of thing that keeps you coming back, isn't it?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Urgh. Dance recital music is now stuck in my head. And not one of the better songs -- these ranged from "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" and girlish version of "Stupid Cupid" and a kiddie re-work of "Shake Your Booty" to "Rhythm Nation 1814" (they clogged and pretended to hit trash cans a la Stomp), "Thriller" and "This Business of Love." One of the little girls' songs won't leave my head. I hear six words over and over. And over. And there it is again.

(Suddenly I feel for my friend, who must now create the DVDs from all of that footage. How he'll preserve his sanity is anyone's guess. Maybe he can do it with the sound muted.)

So, to get that out of my head, let's decide which is the best rendition of "You Really Got a Hold on Me"? There are many covers of the Smokey Robinson & The Miracles classic, even The Beatles did it, but which stands out?

You really got a hold on me:
Smokey Robinson & The Miracles - Their live performance is a bit slower than the studio version, but the power is still there. That chorus is overwhelming, the dance is classic and there's that plea "Tighter." that always hits the right spot.

The Supremes - They stay pretty faithful and there's nothing wrong with that in this song. A little more bubble gum, but we're talking The Supremes, so this, too, is forgivable.

The Beatles - They apparently loved this song because there are various covers throughout the band's career. The first version I found was where they were still trying to figure out, and it was dreadful. This one's better, and it's true to the early Beatles sound.

Barbara Dickson - Whatever happened to her anyway? She put out her first album in decades earlier this year. Her now aging cover of the classic feels like a lounge act.

Mike & The Mechanics - A synthesizer, drum machine ballad. This idea probably should have been discarded as quickly as it came to mind.

Michael Jackson - It is hard to think of a young Michael Jackson without considering later contexts, but if you can separate all of that this isn't a bad pop version. Still too much synthesizer.

She and Him - This band is an M. Ward project and this cover sounds like it should be played late at night on an AM station, which is both good and consistent with Ward's work.
I have to go with Smokey & The Miracles on this one. I approach this decision from how it should sound on a Friday night on a small stage in a small room, where it can be a besotted love song, an estranged blues song and so much more. Also, Smokey Robinson is timeless.

There, that should hold off the dance recital stuff for a while.

This morning I had to remove the Twitter box from the right column of the page. It was just crimping the loading time of an already heavy page. My tech guru offered me some ideas, but I'm doing them wrong or just don't like how it is all working out, so I axed the thing. You can follow it here or find yourself a nice Twitter client like Twhirl. You're not missing much, though, as most of the worthwhile things will find there way on this page. Twitter is great, despite their mysterious technical difficulties, and I still prefer it over Facebook. Maybe it is a generational thing.

Speaking of which, today's blog entry is going to appear largely in the form of a link dump -- laziness wins again -- taken mostly from the Twitter account. Shall we?

I read this morning that Robert Mondavi died last week. We visited his winery in California a few months ago. His name was still on the place, though he'd sold out to a big firm in the recent past. They honored his contribution to the industry and kept the Mondavi branding, though. I suppose people really like the man's offerings, and everyone recognized his contributions to bring California wines into the mainstream. So people are surely hoisting a glass in his name. Here's the
video of our visit

Researchers are trying to find a correlation between cell phones and expectant mothers. Some wonder at the phone radiation and biological impacts, others point at diminished parenting with mom's more attentive to the cell phone than the child. All agree more research is necessary, and it is just one more argument why I should throw my phone in the nearest lake.

Did you know that 20 percent of Americans have never sent an Email? That's most of my grandparents ... probably a few neighbors ... and maybe some other people you can't think of.

Age and education are where the lines are drawn, with another interesting statistic also emerging from the survey, fully one-third of Americans have never generated a document on a computer. This is both surprising (One-third? How can that be?) and impressive (Two-thirds on board in a generation! Amazing!). That's something to think about the next time a new media marketer trumpets up the latest greatest newest online technology and how it is going to change the world. Great communications tools and intriguing new platforms are wonderful for those in that circle, but they don't mean much to your grandparents.

How would they feel about lolcats? How would they feel about the world's largest lolcat?

They might find the humor in that. And then wonder if that's what we did all day. They'd be right to wonder.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

I slept in to the decidedly risky time of 9 a.m. this morning. The alarm went off and I knew right away that, no matter any better intentions, I was going nowhere.

At 10 a.m. I woke up to a cat staring at me with an "Are you dead? Can I eat your toes?" Expression. I suppose it was too warm and bright in the room for me to still be in bed and this causes much kitty consternation. So I got up. Took a shower, stared blankly at the wall for a while and finally decided I should keep my promise and eat something healthy. The last few days have left my body in a full scale junk food revolt. It has been a long time since I ate that many saturated trans burgers and fries in successive meals and vegetables were in order.

Fortunately there's this little place hidden in a strip mall four miles down the road in the middle of nowhere -- preciously where strip malls belong -- that no one knows about. Only, now, everyone knows about it. Granted it was 12:30, but the place was packed out. The standing room only was packed, too, with a crowd of elderly customers patiently waiting for their table. The food's pretty good, but the service is a bit slow, and I would never get in and eat.

So I start driving, running through the mental menus trying to come up with a restaurant that served quality vegetables. Cracker Barrel and I are on the outs, so that leaves nothing in that direction. All the meat-and-threes are closed today, leaving nothing downtown. And I was desperate enough for fibers and starches and whatever else are in grains and legumes that I would have taken the drive if it landed me a meal.

I wandered through Hoover, recalling a place of good repute in Vestavia. I made it there, parked, walked up and found that they, too, were closed today. Now I'm cruising every parking lot of every little commercial development and this has already passed sublime, frustrating and is tickling the nearest edges of absurd. Finally I find a place and at 2:00, fully realizing that I'd be the youngest person in the restaurant, I walked into the Piccadilly Cafeteria and ordered up a baked chicken, green beans, corn and black eyed peas.

I found the quietest booth in the quietest corner of the restaurant -- I think that section was actually closed, none of the staff stopped by at all -- and read more about 1862 and ate the best meal for which you could ever hope. The chicken was a touch on the dry side, but the vegetables were of close-your-eyes and don't-make-a-scene quality.

One of my grandmothers kept a big garden for many years and the crops were the bulk of each meal, much to my childhood disdain. Today was one of those days when I thought of that with a wan smile, wishing for some of her cooking and, while I was not in her kitchen to enjoy it, this meal was close enough.

Walking out to the car I noted that I could have eaten one bite less of each dish and been perfectly satisfied, but there's no taking away from this bliss. Shower, shave and a hot meal and I suddenly felt like a new man. The last two days have felt off kilter. I haven't been ill or sore or overly tired just ... out-of-sorts. This afternoon I felt content and it hasn't gone away all evening.

I've spent this evening trying to puzzle out a solution to the TiVo digital phone problem. Apparently the EvIl eye has problems dialing into the digital phone line, which is problem one of two. This is a biggie, though, because without dialing into the mothership the TiVo doesn't know what to record and this is filed under Unacceptable Inconveniences of Life. That can be resolved with an easy connection from the TiVo to the router, which is a project that will quickly be remedied.

With that resolved, at least in the mind's eye, the day can come to a close. It was nothing more than it needed to be, and that's everything.

About the dance recitals. I've impulsively decided that, if my one day Future-Child is a girl she'll not be taking dance classes. My fear is that she would like it, be successful and encouraged to continue on past the cute costume age groups to the more daringly inappropriate age groups.

The people that ran the recital were nice folks. It is a family business and the matriarch, at 75, is still running the show five decades in. She still has a little step she does on stage and it is obvious the kids love her and she loves working with the children. No one has a bad thing to say about the folks, though the organizational skills leave something to be desired.

At the end of the very long night all the teachers and parents come on stage though and do a big farcical number which serves to remind everyone that this is supposed to be fun. All the guys do a bit in that dance in drag and that's a joke that transcends generations. With the exception of a few scattered cases of sudden stage fright from the littlest dancers everyone enjoys themselves throughout the day.

The matriarch of the family comes on stage before each show and brags on the children, saying things she's said now for 53 years, but she means them all the same. And then she offers a prayer and she's a lady that when she prays, she's bringing a serious prayer to God's attention. And then the teenagers are out on the stage doing things that would mortify their parents in any other context.

That should get the video a few more clicks.

Hope your weekend has been restive and fulfilling, and I hope your upcoming week goes by quickly. You'd do the same for me.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

This three minute video of dance recitals represents my day. My apologies for the brevity, but it will suffice at this late hour.

Tomorrow, if I've recovered, I'll revisit some of the day's fun. For now, play this and imagine it stretching into a 19-hour day.

Very tired ...

Friday, May 16, 2008

A Friday unlike any other Friday in that it wasn't really a Friday.

But it was, except for the parts that weren't. These things are all very confusing on days that aren't adorned with their usual routines. The day did not end at 3 p.m., killing that bit of psychic compensation. There was more work to be done in the evening and a long day of work ahead tomorrow. Friday now felt like a Thursday or, worse, a Wednesday.

So after leaving the office at the normal time I headed north instead of south and spent a few minutes touring Trussville. Cute little town with a Main Street and everything. Of course on that side of town there don't seem to be many streets parallel to Main, so perhaps it earns the distinction by default. At least the city leaders were wise to put all the new growth off to the side and straddling the interstate, so that a few places here could remain quaint and a few others rustic.

Along the way a site brought about the instant thought: Don't buy fireworks from this man. Fifeworks, who's owner and proprietor might just be related to Barney, of Mayberry, and that's not from whom you'd purchase combustible.

There's a reason he never went into narcotics operations. No criminal would ever take a second look at a Barney Fife and think "His goods are safe to use." No one would have ever try to buy weapons from the guy and think they'd work, and you should stay away from the fireworks too.

Come to think of it, shouldn't there be a rule against fireworks stands in the proximity of gas stations?

Classic Barney.

Then there's this antique car with the contemporary upgrades. Car shops shouldn't agree to do work like that; just doesn't look right. It is for sale, and might have been there for a while. I'll blame the rims and the tint, you blame the hospital green.

The sun disappeared, bored with us and decided to go off to prepare for a sunny weekend. About that time my friend appeared, for whom I'll be doing a little work this weekend.

He's shooting a dance recital, or actually five dance recitals in one day, and needed an extra cameraman and some cheap labor tonight. So we gathered up all the hardware this evening, enough to fill an SUV, and took it to the auditorium where these triumphs of art and imagination will tomorrow take place. We brought everything in, unboxed it, unwrapped the wires, but a television there, a monitor hear and a table full of equipment there.

There are three cameras in this shoot, one up high in the light booth and one on each side of the stage. I'll be manning one of these cameras tomorrow, but tonight we're going about the incessant moving of the gear. First the cameras were to go up here. And then, no, maybe they will be better down there. Finally, at the end of a hot, sweaty evening of moving equipment around it was decided that we'll move them back up there in the morning.

Such is video work, a chaotic sense of sure thought and self-doubt. After which we loaded the highly important and highly valuable components of this very involved arranged and went out in search of dinner. I had a burger at 9 p.m. and then had to drive back across town to get home, to do this and to get up in the morning.

He almost seemed apologetic in asking me to arrive between 7:30 and 8 tomorrow morning, but that'll let me sleep a bit later than during the week, so this isn't a problem. The day will be longer. Much longer, but not as long as recitals past, we've been promised.

We saw a few of the rehearsals tonight and the kids will be cute; some of the older girls' routines might strike some as a bit questionable. A good time will surely be had by all, and I'll try to bring back a bit of video. Tomorrow I'll play the role of a videographer from morning until night. Better rest now.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Some days you want to rush right home. Some days you want to linger and do fun things in the city or take in a movie or window shop for irresponsible things. Some days you might like to run through a field of daisies, or let every intersection be decided by the flip of a coin. Heads for left, tails for right.

Probably no one is doing that these days. I'd guess leisure driving is quickly falling by the wayside. I'm trying to find ways to cut back on more driving, but I'm really not sure what else to eliminate. A singular trip for a movie or a meal is beginning to feel make one feel guilty about the fuel expenditure, but ...

Alas, that paragraph will never say anything new, so we'll move on.

Today, though, was one of those days requiring a rush home. The cable guy was coming to bring a few upgrades into the house. They called ahead, just as they promised. The installer was on my doorstep 30 minutes later as advertised. I showed him the situation.

The cable bundle is being upgraded with a new phone. We'll put the phone here and the digital cable box there. Having noted the cable outside the house he inspected the cable coming into. "I don't think they even make this cable anymore," he said. Not out of disdain, but rather in a way that made you think that if cable weren't the conversation piece you might just as well be discussing a fire hazard.

He ripped out the old cable with speed and alacrity. I explained that the original cable install was only to one room of the house, and many many years ago as he'd realized. I did this almost apologetically for some reason. The cable was installed before this company was even a company, and it surely wasn't this guy that did the install. But still I felt the need to explain as a courtesy to the guy. He understood, figured out where each line was going and upgraded all of the connections.

He installed a new modem and took the old one away. It wasn't faulty, but it was merely obsolete and that offends. He had to return to the office for the cable box. He appreciated the irony of the miscount, I laughed at the irony of a cable guy without cable.

(Sidebar: I just discovered, in verifying the age of the cable company, that their bosses are my bosses. We're all one big media family. Shouldn't we give one another discounts?)

He returned with the new piece of equipment, finished the install and we discussed his work day, in the rain -- and it rained hard and a lot. With shoes still wet he's wiring houses with cable and attaching things to power poles. But he's the professional, he knows what he's doing. He's working in haste, because it is 6 p.m. and I'm his last job of the day and home is across town -- I always get the across town guy.

So with the cable box in place he's ready to bolt out the door while I'm still asking questions about the TiVo's role in all of this. He doesn't know, and meatloaf or enchiladas or something are waiting for him at home because he doesn't care.

And so the next three hours were spent pouring over wiring diagrams, reading TiVo instructions and trying to figure out a way to make this work. Right now the television says it is on CBS -- remember the Channel 3 or Channel 4 switch on the back? -- even though I'm watching a movie on another station. This would be confusing and inconvenient, but one can cope. And then I realized that when the time comes for the EvIl eye to record the next scheduled program it is going to give me an hour of CBS instead of what I really want to see.

And that next program is tomorrow night's Battlestar Galactica. I don't know what comes on CBS in that slot, but it isn't as good. (Looking into that now ... No. Not as good.)

So I spend about 45 minutes going through the basement looking for connectors TiVo sent along with the original unit. The recently cleaned basement, as you might recall. One full section is stacked up with boxes much like a moving truck and it is a beautiful arrangement of art dedicated to the design of storage. The only problem is that I stored these things with storage in mind moreso than retrieval.

But the TiVo box is a distinctive orange and and horizontal shape. That shouldn't be hard to find. If it isn't here then it is over here. If not there then -- careful don't break that! - over there. And since it isn't there it must be ... in the very back corner.

I play basement box Tetris. And when I make it to the back wall I find a wealth of cables stacked neatly on a shelf, including the IR blasters that will make the TiVo and the cable box live in harmony.

After an hour of failure to frustratingly boring to describe here I've decided the IR blasters aren't yet willing to be the answer. This is unacceptable. Knowing that I won't have time to resolve the issue tomorrow I pulled the cable box out of the equation and restored the TiVo to its original parameters.

Now it is 9 p.m. I'm tired, frustrated and have missed my only-slightly ambiguous dinner goal. So it is a PB&J for me, much like the one I enjoyed when I got home this afternoon.

The beauty and the joy of the TiVo, of course, is the more ridiculous simplicity it brings into the simplest of routines. I've never had a problem with my TiVo, until trying to introduce a new cable set-up. And, also, I've gotten nothing else accomplished, save for a seven-minute nap on the floor while the cable guy was off getting his new cable box.

Also the cable box's remote looks like it has been dropped a few times, and the instruction booklet has been driven over by a truck, but I hope to never need either, so I'm will to let it slide.

Instead let's return to something I just wrote as our thought for the evening. "The beauty and the joy of the TiVo, of course, is the more ridiculous simplicity it brings into the simplest of routines." They're going to call us the TiVo generation one day, aren't they? And do it with scorn. "You needed television to be easier?"

I suppose I should add the ol' EvIl eye to the list of people to be blamed for most of life's frustrations to cover all things where we might say "But this is to tough! Why isn't it easier!?" Move over MTV et al., you've got company.

Tomorrow will be busy busy. And so will Saturday. I'll spend Sunday afternoon recovering. Just me and my TiVo -- but without the extra cable.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Wednesdays are busy days. There is a lot more content from the newspapers because it is community coverage day and someone has to go through all of those stories of quilting and school paintings and -- this time of year -- graduation honors. The Birmingham News sends a different supplemental version to each area on Wednesdays. We get a copy of all of them and, lately, I've been reading through them all.

The paper breaks up their coverage area into six sections and they are all of some interest. I find my own area's the most enlightening of course, catching me up on all the gossip, social activities and little league happenings.

Actually, about one sixth of the section is of interest, because the West section covers five cities and various unincorporated areas. The latest from the other towns don't really impact me on a personal level and so I hold them at a slight distance.

In this edition, however, the scholar athlete of the week is from my community's high school. "Woo! Go our school and its assemblage of smart athletes brought together by the happenstance of geography, reasonable housing markets and the home choices of their parents! Our school is better than yours! Yours is clearly the benefactor of lesser students because of an insufficient job market and poor interstate access!"

Perusing the various sections for work seems to take about half the day if there are few problems or interruptions. Four sections, as you might have ascertained, are named to honor the cardinal points of the compass. One is named after Hoover ("Not a suburb since the 2000 Census!") and Shelby County.

Each Wednesday I go through these extra sections and wonder how the people of Birmingham feel about this. Their hometown paper of record for more than a century is slowly moving out of the city itself, just like all the residents.

The people have actually been moving faster of course. The federal statistics folks noted this a few years back when Birmingham grew a hyphen and became the Birmingham-Hoover Metropolitan Statistical Area. Birmingham, a captain of industry and now a progressive health care community has to share the title with a place that wasn't even a city before the war. The nerve!

You can think of such things when you stare at stories of fifth graders touring city hall.

There's a lot of Jimmy Carter in the coastal news this week. The former president and his wife are building houses along the coast as a part of their annual high profile Habitat for Humanity program. You've never seen a more confident octagenarian running a skill saw.

People who would argue that contemporary politics is more divisive than ever before need read only their recent history to know better. There's not a lot of middle ground on the Carter Administration either, but all of the good he's helped bring into the world -- with Habitat, and huge projects in Africa -- since his 1980 defeat just might be worth those four years in office.

That needs a few Venn diagrams and spreadsheets to be sure, but it might be a theory. He could have hardly done all of those things in such a large scope without the words "Mr. President" running in such close proximity to his name.

I'm spending the evening writing letters, so here are a few links to entertain you. NASA today teased a press conference on a subject of something that "astronomers have been hunting for more than 50 years." We speculated for a few hours on the clue, and otherwise tight-lipped agency. Turned out to be a young supernova, which is cool. Better than quarks, but not quite a radio signal saying "'Sup Earth?"

Supernovas are worth seeing. I wonder if you can see them in WorldWide Telescope. Go there. You're going to love that site.

If terra firma is more your speed, Discovery has a new Planet Earth game where you're the director of the show. Lots of fun to be had there.

Going on a trip? Learn how to pack light.

And, finally, the May picture page is now underway. Completely blanked on closing out the April gallery and starting May, but now we're up to speed on that.

The rest of the week we'll be getting up to speed on a few other things. Some on the site, some in the world. Tomorrow is a prime example of that. The cable guy is coming out for upgrades. Should be a laugh a minute. Be sure to come back to find out how that adventure pans out. Until then ...

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Spent the afternoon across town today. Gardendale is just far enough away to visit only on a special occasion. There's no shopping or entertainment experience that can't be reproduced closer to home save important friends, and that's the reason I spent the afternoon driving around feeling confused about semi-familiar roads.

I drove up after work, took an exit earlier than the original plan because of the interstate daydream. I navigated a few red lights, turned left and stopped by another of those big antique super stores. My heart wasn't really in it though, and the '50s station they were playing throughout the building was offering "Who wrote the book of love?" Consequently that's been on a loop in my mind all evening. Just the chorus. It is maddening.

Don't antique stores recognize that they hold old items from other decades as well? Has focus grouping drilled down to realize that the average shopper at an antique store is 58? There are a few elderly people in there who'd like to hear something more their speed and a little less of that noise from the 1950s. Satellite radio can accommodate this demand and give us plenty of crooners from the '40s, but maybe that's just me.

Probably The Big Bopper and Mickey and Sylvia mean more sales than Perry Como, probably something about beats per minute no doubt.

So I walked around in the antique store for a few minutes and never felt good about it. I wanted to find one booth there again, but apparently it has been moved from the place, so the rest of the visit was filled " I wonder wonder who, be-do-do who ..."

The first 437 offerings aren't annoying, but sometimes the little radio station in the brain really needs to take the hint and find a new song.

I skipped lunch, so there was an early dinner, where I enjoyed a chicken sandwich and an hour with Abraham Lincoln. When I could stay there no longer I visited the neighboring library. The Gardendale library is the size of a comfortable little home, but one stuffed with books, tables at odd heights and mirthful librarians. I sat there and read for an hour, enjoying the comings and goings of parents and children discussing the day's library findings.

Soon after it was time to go a bit farther down the road to attend Taylor's graduation ceremony. There was entertainment, no stuffy speaker and performances by the new graduates.

I shot a little video of the ceremonies and uploaded a 30 second clip, which you can see here.

She'll matriculate to kindergarten in the fall.

There are a few lessons to be learned here: pre-schoolers are unabashedly cute when asked to perform among various pomp or circumstance. Also, pre-K graduation is the place to be. Of course there were only 11 graduates, but they showed of some of the skills they've learned this year and a cap and gown presentation.

We were in-and-out in under an hour. On the way in one of the organizers noticed my slow taking-it-all-in amble through the building and gave me a playful "Hurry up Dad" while pointing me in the right direction. An innocent enough mistake. There's parents and kids getting ready for a graduation ceremony and I had a camera. On the way out a few ladies were debating which child I was associated with in a very intense conversation. They guessed the right child, but the wrong affiliation. Never has a pre-school known so much scandal as an unfamiliar guy attending a family event.

I begged off the after party of shaved ice. It was 8 p.m., I had to get back across town and you know how those shaved ice parties can go on and on. Also I could come home and edit that video and put that on the site. If there was ever a tipping point for life versus site, we might have found it this evening.

Actually I've been fighting a headache all evening. Something had to be wrong when I didn't want to prowl through other people's dusty unwanted belongings. I thought at first it was a hunger headache, but that didn't prove to be the case, so I'm going to try to nurse the thing from a prone position for awhile.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Did anything get accomplished today? Did you get any work done? I did the workplace work, taught another intern work-type things and then worked a bit more. I left for home and then the rest of the day just fell away.

Sitting down in front of the television I was pleased to note there was nothing on the TiVo that needed my attention. Having bested the EvIl eye for the day I turned it off and stared out the window. Out there would be my past time for the day. In just a few minutes I'd go outside and watch the light as it made the delicate little dance along the leaves and trees and --


About three hours later I woke up. It was dark outside and a general sense of drifting filled the room. That momentary post-nap disorientation lasted a long while. And then I had a bite to eat, the rest of the weekend's leftover pizza.

I watched some Arena League Football, which should give an indication of the rest of the evening's merits. Now I just hope I won't be up all night.

There's not much else left here for the day, so I'll offer a few photographs.

Here are a few flowers from outside the office. I took this one morning last week. The light was interesting, because the bud in the foreground was peeking around a corner and catching the first real rays of the morning. His friends were stuck behind a big brick column and had to wait their turn.

See all that scaffolding? It has been up for weeks and, as well as anyone can tell, there's no work being done. The people in my office don't care, because one of the empty storefronts will soon become a coffee place. I'm politely ostracized for my lack of excitement on the endeavor, but am happy to see that my colleagues will be a little more wired each morning. As if we needed that around the office.

The honeysuckle is in full bloom and I'll spend an afternoon this weekend picking all the flowers off the vine for those delicious three drops of juice.

They smell wonderful even from a distance, though these are daily reminders of spring each time I step outside. I took that this morning and I'm now curious to see how a picture would turn out on a more humid morning. We'll find out later in the week perhaps.

This week we'll have at least one video, possibly two, more Glomerata section, more weather and who knows what else.

For now I'm going to try to close my eyes and convince the brain to fall asleep before it realizes the nap was long enough to mean "All-night party!"

This is the shortest blog entry in some time, my apologies and congratulations. Hope to see you again tomorrow! There'll be a graduation tale to tell!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

It could be put off no longer -- and believe me I tried.

All this week I operated under the rationale that I was helping to defeat global warming global climate change by not running an internal combustion engine over my lawn with the intent of spinning a whirring blade to decapitate green things.

But you can only do that so long. The neighbors start to talk.

I actually had to enlist one of my neighbors in the cause since my mower is in the shop for repairs. His needs work too, apparently. He lost a belt in the apparatus the day before mowing the lawn at his church. But, he said, he'd be happy to cut mine on Monday after he got his riding lawnmower fixed. Generosity aside it shouldn't be his job. Besides, the storms were coming in and the grass would only grow more and I had the afternoon to do it today and the neighbors really will start talking.

I'd resigned myself to asking to borrow from another neighbor when he realized he had a push mower.

And so there I was on a muggy day where the temperature and the humidity conspired to foreshadow the details of our summer taking a leisurely stroll around the grounds with a whirring blade chopping off the tops of my ambitious grass.

It was a pleasant experience for the most part. I've used a push mower exactly once in the past 13 years. Today wasn't nearly as difficult as I remember the chore as a kid. This lawnmower seemed lighter and smaller, so that difference is part of it. It was also not as difficult as the last time I pushed a mower, which was about three years ago in a yard so overgrown that it required three passes to get the grass to an acceptable level.

That was an all day proposition, never to be repeated. This only took an hour and 45 minutes, which is about an hour longer than the usual riding time.

I also cut my hand. Not badly, and it was on something sharp, so it didn't hurt, but I nicked a capillary or some such vein that sends or receives blood because it was gushing down my hand before I even realized the details of the injury. That was just at the end of the lawn mowing experience -- and no neighbors came out to cheer, but a few nodded their heads approvingly -- so I was able to quickly finish the last details of the cleaning and then go inside and clean the wound.

It looks like a paper cut, only a bit longer, below the pinkie finger in the palm of my hand. It didn't hurt but it was colorful.

After that extra bit of excitement I settled in with a late lunch and prepared for the storms to arrive.

And waited. Checked my watch, watched some television and waited some more.

They would finally show up after dinner, late into the night prompting a midnight viewing session of the radar. But the little bit of the storm we saw blew through extremely fast and the neighborhood was left with quiet. Others to the north weren't quite so lucky, but in all the storm could have been worse.

The Yankee and I tried a new-to-us pizza place for dinner. Tortuga's, home of the Opinions Vary Deep Dish. I thought it was fine, she not so much. I'll have plenty of leftovers to enjoy the next few days, which is basically the way I've come to evaluate pizza.

Later we stopped for ice cream at the local place that all the kids love. I ran into a guy from high school there, who introduced me to a guy who was currently in the high school who knew of me.

The young man knew me because of one of the groups that I participated in at the school. He's a member and they seldom forget their own. The conversation lasted forever, though, because they dip BIG cones of ice cream, and there's nothing wrong with that on a Saturday night.

Friday, May 9, 2008

I think my stereo is trying to tell me something. That's an old Tina Turner song, part of which you can see here. Not the biggest fan of Ms. Turner, but it is nice to know that she's still charming the audiences. (She announced a tour today in fact.) Some people just have the gift, and it is a lifelong preoccupation. Some people are gifted craftsmen, some are excellent listeners, Tina Turner can ignite a frenzy well into her -- whatever decade she's in now. Somehow it seems impolite to ask.

Really? Wow. I just looked it up. Couldn't help myself. Good for her I say.

I heard Tina Turner on Marty Stuart's XM show, which just illustrates why terrestrial radio is dead. In one segment I heard Turner, Tchaikovsky and the wonderful Victoria Williams all while getting an education on the mid-century music scene in Shreveport Louisiana.

Terrestrial radio should have been doing shows like this for years now, instead you get the same pap and pablum floated through the ether for a generation now. The thing has been watered down and consulted to death and there's no return to the good old days.

Meanwhile XM has Marty Stuart and Bob Dylan hosting weekly shows. They play Bill Anderson's hobnobbing with the stars, Tom Petty does an hour-long ode to music each week and there's an artist confidential program from which you can often times get excellent mileage. That's just the one station of musical education.

I wish I held the musical vocabulary to do a show like that, even if it was just an irregular internet hobby. But everything looks pale next to something like this: Marty Stuart discussed the Louisiana Hayride, giving yet another history lesson from the days when evening entertainment was dictated by the radio. Then he played Hank Williams, who spent some time on the Hayride after being dismissed by the Grand Ole Opry. And then he 19-year-old Elvis Presley, one of the many up-and-comers who took part in the Hayride performed.

That's good radio.

Golf this afternoon where we walked nine holes up and down the hilly terrain at one of the local municipal courses. They always give you funny looks there when you say you want to walk. One of them today said "Nice to be young."

I responded that I'd come to regret this decision by the third hole, and he shouldn't be surprised if he heard reports of a golfer prone on the fifth fairway. We all had a good chuckle, and then I went out to chase the little golf ball around.

On the first hole I offered to let a man and his son play ahead as they were riding, but they declined. I promptly hit my first drive down the fairway of the 9th hole, making good on my joke to play from the first tee box to the last green and celebrate that score. Later, when I finally found the ball I had to hit it across a fairway, through a line of trees and then to the appropriate hole.

Such was my day of golf. My game looked OK out of the tee box more often than not. The irons are on the verge of flirting with something that rhymes with consistency. I had a frustrating experience putting, but that's being blamed on my lousy wedge game. At points I wondered why I bothered to play this game, at other times I enjoyed it beyond the usual excuse to be outside.

On the eighth hole a group caught up to us, but not the father and son, as they were maximizing their money, hitting two balls each. The group that caught us hit balls onto the green as we were there, which just guarantees an intentional three-putt and long deliberation on reading the greens everytime.

At the end of it all I took eight strokes off from the last week's score, which just somehow proves how shaky a player I am. No more shall be spoken of this.

Did you see this? The storms we discussed yesterday produced a tornado in north Alabama and a security camera somewhere caught the footage of the twister passing through the parking lot. This is incredible video. Intellectually you've seen a tornado and the destruction it can bring, but you rarely see it so intimately. And the speed here is stunning. Even the meteorologists are agog at this clip.

So quick, and overwhelming. Your healthy respect for a tornado just became a bit more healthy.

The media goes overboard on the weather coverage sometimes, and takes a fair share of lumps. But every once in a while, when your car is upside down across the street, you realize why.

Pie Day was in Homewood this week. The usual joint is still digging out from their Wednesday fire. A phone call this morning led to a restaurant unsure if they would open tonight so we went up the road a bit. This store, actually was the original home of Pie Day, and has been a Jim N' Nicks for 20 years or so.

The manager recognized us from a previous visit a while back and gave our table of five a history lesson. Turns out the lady that makes the pies, they are named for her on the menu, works in his store. I'd always just assumed she was a half-created character, or someone's grandmother for whom they'd named their desserts, but she actually exists and makes the pies in that store.

And they are delicious.

He told us details about the other location -- now with extra smokey flavor! -- and how all the neighboring kitchens in the chain had been cooking food that morning to help them out. I asked the most impolite of questions -- because I'm a journalist and have more curiosity than discretion in these manners -- and it became clear why they wanted that store to be open for the night's rush.

And annualized those numbers ... well, I'm about ready to start asking for a kickback for all the free publicity I give them here each week.

We ended the evening thinking that we should perhaps visit this store a bit more often. The parking is better, there's more space inside and we've only waited for a table here once or twice. Also it is a more central location for all the regular Pie Day participants. Tonight we even had a terrific waitress, so if we can just land in her section each time we'll be on our way.

The things you must go through to get a good pie ...

Tomorrow, the storms are coming, my lawn is growing and something has to give. It will be a riveting Saturday.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Well that was some rain. We waited all day for it, made it the only thing worth noting and, for a few minutes at least the storms did not disappoint.

In our budget meeting this morning I simply said the one word, "Weather" when it came to what the news of the day would be. This afternoon made the meteologists look like geniuses. The measuring stations gathered almost an inch and a half of rain in less than three hours of precipitation. A few more days like that and we can speak of the two-year-plus drought in the past tense.

The drought monitor is a weekly device released by the National Weather Service, so there'll be a wait until Monday to see how much good the rain did the region with respect to the drought. As of last Monday 16 percent of the state, to the northeast, remained in an exceptional drought, which is defined as "Major crop/pasture losses; extreme fire danger; widespread water shortages or restrictions."

Some 47.9 percent, including our little area, was in a severe drought, with "Crop or pasture losses likely; fire risk very high; water shortages common; water restrictions imposed" listed as possible impacts.

Water restrictions for the Birmingham metro have been falling away for the last several weeks. Things should only get better with regards to our condition, which you can follow here if you're especially interested.

I'd also like you to watch this little video that I shot this afternoon. It will take exactly 60 seconds of your time, and describe the life of the onrushing storms in a span of under 10 minutes.

Elsewhere I've been working on a new section of the site. Next week we'll begin a look into my freshman yearbook from Auburn University. This time the Glomerata gets personal. And I plan on not embarrassing myself any more than necessary. Actually I'm only in there two or three times in boring group pictures and that's just as well. But it will be a powerful indicator of how much the place has changed over the 40-year span of my particular Glomerata project.

I could scan and upload parts of this years and it'd look drastically different, too, because college towns evolve quickly, much to the chagrin of people like me, who look back with a nostalgic view of the good old days.

In truth, as I've examined books from the 1950s and the 1976 book and, starting next week, 1996, the bulk of all of this change in the town started during my time on campus. The University itself is always growing, enjoying its biggest leaps after World War II of course, but there are things in the 1950s books that I recognize from my own memories recorded four decades later. And now many of those are gone. Odd and sad, that little tidbit.

So I've been working on the templates for that this evening, and also leafing through the 1918 Glomerata which just arrived on my doorstep today. That thing is a time capsule. One of the men in that book shares the namesake of my high school, which was still two years distant in 1918. The spring that this book was released the war was still raging in France. Each of the classes had lost students to the service, and more were wondering if they were destined for that fate.

I know I've shared this photograph before, but here are some of those 1918 students, during military drill that April. That print is in my library, and the thought of it gives a little chill. What were those young men thinking of? Were they scared of where the could be in a few short months? Remember, the armistice wasn't signed until that November; these were frightening times.

And now I have the book which they remembered their good old days.

Which would have been better, I'm sure, if they'd allowed more coeds. There were 11 on campus. Eleven. Two of them looked a fair bit older than the average college student.

I'm never scanning this one. I'm too afraid the 90-year-old book couldn't handle the wear. If you want to check it out, stop by and we'll don gloves like in all the fanciest museums. You can see a few of the pages the Auburn University Library digitized, but that's just a taste of the wonders that have been tucked away inside that book for 90 years.

One day I'm going to scan all of the covers, because there's a beautiful art there, but that's a project on done the road. As I mentioned yesterday, this is a good collection because it is finite, only growing in number once each year. Today there are 111 volumes, which, even if impossible, is at least something tangible for which to shoot.

Not sure that there's anything else tangible here, so we'll just call it a day, look forward to Friday, golf and Pie Day. The where remains up in the air after yesterday's fire, but we'll have that figured out before the barbecue is ordered.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Jim 'N Nicks caught on fire this morning. The Birmingham News reported it, I tweeted it, Mojo Denbow was in the area and answered that he could see the smoke, but it took him a while to work his way through the traffic.

While we waited to hear word about the restaurant I reflected on three years of dining there as base camp for Pie Day. I had a graduation party there and a surprise birthday party. That's the place I ate lunch the day I finished my master's thesis. I've been stalked there, made tons of friends and ... I really eat there too much.

Turns out to have been just a kitchen fire. We learned that fairly early. A bit later we learned that everyone made it out safely. Thankfully the fire was in the morning and the place wasn't full of people. The fire department said it was a grease fire that overwhelmed the smokestack's fire suppression system. The fire department had it out quickly, but there was some roof damage. And no word yet when they'll reopen.

One of The Birmingham News photographers got there in time to send this picture.

I messaged four people on Facebook who work, or worked there. The healing can now begin.

Somehow I stumbled on this cover bad called The Madison Square Gardeners covering Folsom Prison Blues. I was intrigued. On their MySpace page I found a colorful self-description:
... [O]ne of the premier acts to ever play a shed gig, The Madison Square Gardeners are without a doubt recklessly brilliant purveyors of Americana Rock 'N' Roll. In their relatively short career, the band has achieved a cult status following of other white people who play music that live in New York and/or Brooklyn. For this band, who spends more time drinking PBR and whiskey on stage than playing songs, music means one thing and one thing only: a chance to pass around the tip basket at Banjo Jim's.
Knowing nothing about this band, they can play a nice punkabilly. Just listen to the last half of this tune.

Here's Johnny Cash's standard version of the hit from Town Hall Party in 1959, about three years after it helped launched his career. Here's Cash playing it at San Quentin a decade later. Note how the song has evolved.

Here's your musical brain candy: What would that song sound like if Johnny Cash were 20 years old today and just now writing it?

I visited an antique store in Leeds today. It was one of those big retail centers that have been made over as a flea market of antiques. The sign promised over 400 booths, which means little areas broken up by lattice panelling and a cornucopia of various things, some actual antiques mixed in with a mostly flea market-type product. It was a good way to spend an hour or so, walking up and down the aisles, laughing at the idea that I'm likely the youngest person in the place of his own free will.

I was looking for campaign buttons, and found two, but can shop better on E-bay. I found one Glomerata, a 1978 which I already own. I bought nothing, but there were a few old console model radios sitting on the floor, and a beautifully restored Tom's vending machine. It is a good thing I collect neither of these things. I realized, while prowling up and down the aisles, that the things I collect are a good choice. Some folks pore over matchbooks and postcards and things, but there's an infinity out there to look through and acquire. That'd drive me crazy.

There are, as of this writing, 111 volumes of the Glomerata. That's a number to shoot for. Those cellophane pinback buttons are cheap and relatively new to campaigns, there's only so many presidential elections that have had the opportunity to use them, giving me a reasonable goal. If it just stretched on and on I'd spending waking nights wondering how I'm ever going to make a respectable collection.

Begin with the end in mind, as they say.

The true test of any antique store is whether or not you have an overwhelming desire to wash your hands as soon as you exit the building. This place failed that test, but it was worth the trip.

I spent the afternoon in the antique store because I spent the evening visiting with a friend who wanted to show off his all-new video gear. He's got a three camera hi-def setup, with a TriCaster production system.

You know those big trucks you see at sporting events that are producing the game to be broadcast to the world? They can put that in one box and put that box on the corner of a folding table. From there they can record, they can beam it out to a transmitter with a microwave feed for broadcast or they can stream it live to the internet.

It is a cool non-toy. These things aren't cheap, and he plans to do big projects, some of which I might be able to help out with from time to time. And then he made the mistake of asking if I had any ideas.

I always have ideas. A notebook full of 'em in fact. Maybe we'll get to make something neat from one of them one day.

All this puts me home late, and my early dinner has already left me hungry, so this is it for the day. Tomorrow we'll have video and, potentially, nasty weather. Should be a fun spring day, stop back by and make sure we all survive, won't you?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Some days one lingers, some days one rushes. This with respect to the office at quitting time. Today was one of the rush home days.

The pest control guy was stopping by for his annual inspection. He must signify on the presence or absence of termites and other leggy, chewy bugs so that the insurance or the mortgage or the mortgage on the insurance is kept in the proper order. Today is his day.

So busy is the inspector that I had to book him weeks out. The nice people in his office -- he works for a company, not the local government -- have never grasped this "I get home at 3:30 concept." They hear that and book him for 3:30 and the termite inspection guy is the one guy in the home services industry that is prompt.

Usually he is there when I arrive. A few years ago he was there, parked on the side of the road facing back down the hill as I pulled into the customary spot on the drive. I exited the car as he drove off. I called his office and kindly informed them that their man had not completed his task, or even give me the head nod. When he returned he apologized profusely, and it was that day that I learned you should always be sympathetic to a man whom you've asked to crawl under your floor.

And that's what the termite inspector does. He walks around the house, looks for signs of life. He peers around the basement and then we duck into the sub-basement. From there he must crawl into what we could call a sub-sub-basement. He does this with ease and cheer and never a complaint. Somehow he keeps his uniform in neat order.

After that we walk around the outbuilding. He gives it the good once over, we go inside and he peers into the rafters and into the corners.

This takes about 20 minutes and gives everyone peace of mind. He is friendly, gives advice and tips and tells you what to watch out for in the upcoming year. I sign here, he calls to his next appointment and our business is done.

It is one of the most pleasant service experiences in the life of the house, even if he needs to inspect the basement. This is a part of the house, even when cleaned and organized as it is right now, also seems important. What will this man think when he sees my many basements? Boxes are stacked neatly and stowed efficiently, there are no disturbances or problems, only the thinnest layer of dust -- I haven't cleaned in here in five weeks!

Who am I kidding? I'm just fortunate the basement is clean for a change. Because of that I'm trying an experiment: If I avoid that section of the house altogether, how long before it magically dirtifies itself?

One of life's random clicks brings us 75 skills men should have, courtesy of Esquire:
29. Understand quantum physics well enough that he can accept that a quarter might, at some point, pass straight through the table when dropped.

Sometimes the laws of physics aren't laws at all. Read The Quantum World: Quantum Physics for Everyone, by Kenneth W. Ford.

30. Feign interest.

Good place to start: quantum physics.
These things are silly on their surface, but fun. And sometimes educational. I picked up three new skills simply by reading along. Only a handful more before I meet the quota. With just a few more of these types of articles I should be able to make James Bond and Charles Bronson proud.

Watched Battlestar from last Friday this evening. The previous episode was either uninteresting or important after the fact. This episode was better, but they're obviously comfortable delivering the story on a slow burn. This makes me think that there are only two more story arcs in the series. That's probably enough for this final season, providing they manage to satisfy their rabid audience, but some of us would like a little more flash mixed in with the subtle.

Leoben returned and is wackier and more masochistic than ever. Starbuck is pure crazy, her command mutinies. Tyrol is enjoy a small run as a conflicted monster -- making it my guess that he'll ultimately save the day for the humans some how. Baltar is just a few tabs of acid away from having one of those cults you only learn about after it is too late to help any of them.

The Cylons, en masse, were machina non grata, and Admiral Adama had the week off as well, and those absences hurt the impact on a show where the rest of the characters are slowly going crazy. This is understandable in the expansive claustrophobia of space when your people are constantly at risk of being genocide victims. Makes for good television too; even the slower episodes are still some of the best programming on television.

Speaking of which, over dinner tonight I watched the first hour of The Incredibles. Cartoon comic superheroes in a period piece. How did I manage to avoid this movie for so long?

I'll watch the rest this weekend. Tomorrow there's a lot of video to discuss.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Happy Cinco de Mayo. This piñata was due for a big bash at the office. They hung it at 2:30, knowing some of us vamosed at 3 p.m. At 3:15 I called it a day and retired for my siesta. I'm sure they had a happy time beating the thing and leaping onto the candy.

And that, the non-piñata, is the extent of my Cinco de Mayo celebration.

Well, that and explaining where the day gets its celebratory origins, of course. Otherwise, just a normal day.

So, one last time, Cinco de Mayo is a day of celebration marking the creation of tourist cities in coastal Mexico allowing us all to go enjoy a vacation and spend mucho dinero. Or was it the original discovery of frijoles as a mealtime treat? I always confuse this one.

Of course the day is a sectional holiday in Mexico (and a reason for people to drink earlier than normal here) marking the triumph over the French forces marching through Mexico.

They were searching for Speedy Gonzalez and things got out of hand, quickly. The next thing you knew, every bad marketer in North America was ginning up Cinco de Sale-o ideas. "Every recliner must go!"

I'm of the view that you have to spend at least one day a week preventing the computer's radiation from seeping into your brain. Instead you should sit at a reasonably safe distance and allow the television to do the job, just so it doesn't feel left out. Silly, you say? You've no idea what the appliances and electronics are saying about you while you're on the go. I set up a digital recorder once, just to find out, but the thing ratted me out after four minutes. But it was a fascinating four minutes.

Anyway, I'm spending the evening with the television and a book. I have a feeling that much of the week will get the same treatment. If that's so then you can expect an extra special web site bonanza next week. But we're getting ahead of things here.

Wrapped up The Goblet of Fire today:
Cute enough. Or too cute by half. Hard to gauge the series.
What? The new character is somehow the bad guy out to get the teenagers? I'm shocked!

The largest part of my problem with this franchise stems from the fact that I'm watching them on television. The TiVo records them and I watch them, but I'm a nervous play button clicker. I like to follow both the storyline and the progress of the cursor in that play bar.

Except for the Harry Potter movies, after adding commercials, are all three hours long. (Making this a Saturday, Sunday and today proposition.) Each movie feels like it could be done in about an hour, 90 minutes tops. And yes there's the keeping with the books and that's all fine, but it plays to a non-Potter reader like the books could be a bit more concise as well. Indeed, IMDB tells me that they mercifully axed many of the book's subplots for this movie. The effects are still nice -- and I want that animated library, very cool -- but otherwise the best thing about this installment was finally seeing what the bad guy looks like. And that's not why I've watched 12 hours of these movies.

Also watched the final two hours of the first season of Dexter tonight. The twist was obvious. "Luke, I am your brother!"

Last week I wrote about the character's humanity:
The bad guy is a step closer to being uncovered and we learn a little bit more about the good guy's past, which helped dehumanize him. The revelation of that information, though, is making him more human in the audience's eyes.
Now that the good-bad guy and the bad-bad guy are brothers -- and this is very painful for a guy who prides himself in the mysteries of having shunted off the world for reasons he's only barely beginning to understand -- I'm less into the character. And my investment wasn't that great to begin with.

There were two great bits though, both in the final hour. One where the bad-bad guy wrestles with his own actions vis-a-vis his final victim (his fiancee and, wait for it, the good-bad guy's sister).

"I can keep going if it makes you feel better." You see he wasn't really at odds with his conscious, because he's a heartless serial killer.

Meanwhile the good-bad guy also has no conscious about what he does. He has A Code. And he stands by it, as it was read to him by his foster father. The Code makes him a good guy. This is the part of the show that, to me, holds up as interesting, how the writer and director attempt to make a professed serial killer the sympathetic guy. He follows A Code, and only the people that deserve it will be killed. And judgment is doled out by the self-same serial killer. Those that don't deserve it merely get an arm full of heroine and a ticket back to jail. Because he has A Code.

All of this doesn't hold up well. Then again I'm not a fan of theatrical vigilantism except under the most controlled circumstances -- personal revenge, getting those back "what done your family wrong" or ruining the day of those that would hurt dogs. Canine actors, after all, are one of our greatest natural resources.

Anyway, the last two scenes were pretty clever, one being where Dexter, the good-bad guy, imagines everyone Gets Him and Likes Him for all the Good Works he does. He has A Code, you know.

The other being the little cliffhanger about how his love interest suddenly has this seed of doubt about this man. It was an obvious plot device, but they played it quietly, so now she's wondering about this guy who's a big hit with her children -- and if the prospect of bringing a serial killer over to play Legos with your children doesn't frighten you then you're just a bad mom -- but I'm not sure if that alone is enough to bring me back for season two.

As we now, though, this was programming CBS brought over from Showtime to help fill a hole when the writer's strike was in full swing. Given what it probably cost to do that, it was worth the move. Though I'll be surprised if CBS has any interest in airing the second season.

And that's pretty much been the day. Tomorrow? Even better. One more thing from the Spring Cleaning Project of '08 will be removed from the list. We're (finally!) almost down to nothing.

This is why I don't make lists. They often take forever and that can ruin troop morale. Good thing we have a piñata!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Nine three-year-olds at lunch give us all a new phrase. The many of us within earshot -- a great distance, indeed -- disagreed a bit on what they said, but I'm making sure my version sticks.

So if anyone calls you a Panini head in the near future, you'll know why.

Jason's Deli was lunch, and the food took a while to get out, reshuffling the afternoon, but springtime afternoons are designed with flexibility in mind. Instead of going directly to the movies as planned there was time spent in a bookstore.

You can tell a lot about a society by the books it keeps. Today I was left wondering if there are any more cynical place than a retail bookstore. Granted my anecdotal sample is limited to one bookstore, and then only the sections I frequent, but there's no getting around the mood. The music is depressing and most of the books are geared to a skeptical, conspiracy hungry audience.

I spend a little too much time among the politics, contemporary events and history sections of the bookstore. This factors into it; where better to find fault than in our present and in our past. After 40 minutes, though, I had three books and enough bookstore to last for the year. The people aren't bothersome, the staff not unfriendly. The place radiated a dour smugness a bit out of proportion to its suburban lot in life.This is why I shop online.

Anyway, the books I picked up for the To Read stack -- that's actually incorrect, since the assembly of my newest addition I now have a To Read Bookcase in the library. I love the library.

New books include: The Worst Hard Time. This is about the Dust Bowl, a period on which I'm a bit ignorant. This book covers people that stayed behind and endured the dust in their teeth and bellies, rather than head west. It looks like a grim, gripping read. (Just now I noticed the detail in the cover of the book, that's pretty cool, eh?)

We were having a discussion in the office the other day about a seeming saturation of World War II information, there is a period just before the war that needs some attention from my puny mind too. So this is a start.

Right next to that book, though, I found Army at Dawn, which is about the war in north Africa, so I'm right back into World War II, but this is an often overlooked period, so it seemed important enough.

On more of a whim I picked up Ray Raphael's Founding Myths. This passed the thumb-through-it sniff test and cost $6 on the discount aisle, so why not?

After the bookstore there was the highly anticipated return trip to the pet store to return Item A for Item B. Item A was in hand, though I'm not sure they ever asked to see the receipt. Item B was procured, but found to be too expensive. Item C was appropriated and UPC codes were compared to verify the prices. Item C is a tad bit bigger, and there's nothing wrong with that and of a slightly different design. Item C is also $20 bucks cheaper. Everybody wins.

And now you should imagine that I've spent the last three paragraphs lamenting about the gas station. "Everyone's wallet is wilting, we're all there, Mac."

It is telling and sad where you find your little victories, but the sign said $3.45 a gallon and the pump was charging $3.43. Even still, $50 did not fill the tank.

Good thing I was going to the dollar theater, no? Caught Vantage Point:
Dramatic enough, fairly well-told dramatic adventure. The ending seemed somewhat abrupt.
This is one of those multiple perspectives movies. Who saw what about a terrorist attack and so on. What you get is the establishing scene, the individual stories and then the big bang.Rinse, lather, repeat, from the journalist perspective, the Secret Service, the bystander, the bad guy and so on.

They do a nice job of revealing a few things to the characters without tipping their hand to you. On the first viewing, at least, the thing remains a mystery for a bit, with only one character's actions seeming out of place.

And then there's the ending.

Let's get this straight. You, you evil movie character bad guy, will kidnap somone, force his brother to kill people, take shots at the President of the United States, kidnap the president and blow up a crowded plaza will then swerve to miss a five-year-old standing in the middle of the road?

I won't ruin the movie (any more) but the end seemed to pat. It felt as if the excellent chase scene took up the budget for the final act, so they just tacked the resolution onto the movie two-thirds of the way through.

Back at home now, I'm about to go out and play with mortar and cement patch material. The sun is going down, the neighborhood kids are outside playing and that seems a good a time as any to work on my masonry skills.

Hope I don't come off looking like a Panini head.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Rained all through the morning, which meant sleeping all through the morning. Almost until noon actually.

It is an interesting feeling, that first moment of sleeping in, the euphoria of having gotten away with something. And there's the too-quick-to-be-anything-but-instinctive look at the clock. The mind wants an update of where and when we are in life's stream. Upon seeing 11:30 the glee of sleeping in is diluted by the guilt of wasted time.

Weekends are precious, and they shouldn't be spent in bed, unconscious. They should be spent watching television.

Given the rain that would have been the plan, had I not been sleeping.

Delicious leftovers for lunch, and then an afternoon of adventure.

At the big box store of the blue variety I was playfully scolded by a four-year-old. I found a line moving faster than my own and rode my cart to the new line with determination. In doing so I passed a father and his little girl and he was jokingly trying to make her give me a wag of the finger, but she got shy. I was still in line when they were done conducting their own transaction, so she came over and gave me a big hug goodbye. Cutest girl ever.

At PetSmart pet things were bought. The cashier broke the system, and Wall Street took a 15-point dip on the news. More importantly, we were eating into the last of my buffer time before the start of the afternoon's movie. Finally the vexing checkout problem was resolved to the mirth and enjoyment of all. At home this evening it was realized that there will be a return to the pet store for a return and exchange. So there's more furry fun tomorrow.

This afternoon, though, there was a trip to the dollar theater to see National Treasure:
Historically wrong on many cases, but fun in the Indiana Jones mode.
The Queen of England wasn't a fan of the South during the American Civil War before sending her favors to the U.S. government after the war. The British were more likely sitting things out and waiting to chose a side, so they might emerge with the victors. They over-simplify all of this here, but it moves the plot along. They're also looking for the Olmec, who lived in Mexico and not the Dakotas. And no European made it to the Dakotas -- that'd rather take some of the thunder away from Lewis and Clark wouldn't you say? Also some of the script attributed to the ancient Indian culture seems more Asian than anything.

But I like to nitpick. Definitely worth a dollar. I'll watch it again when it lands on cable.

After the movie The Yankee and I went to DeVinci's to see a friend, who was not there. Before the food came I caught the giggles, but it is a festively quiet place, so no one minds. The lasagna is still delicious, though they could have offered me some more and I wouldn't have protested.

DeVinci's, I did not know, has been serving for 40 years. Aside from the small parking lot there's nothing but good things to say about the place. Italian snobs agree: for good pasta in Birmingham it can't be beat. I've had that opinion for ... wow ... seven years now.

I hear the pizzas are delicious as well. Must make a note of that for the next visit. Good thing the place isn't closer to home, I'd be a regular.

After dinner there was ice cream. A sweet high schooler scooped me out a generous cone of cookies and cream. I thought I was special, until the next customer got an even larger cone than mine. I no longer felt special.

I felt half-miserable from eating the thing. There was a lot of ice cream. There probably should have been leftovers, but that would go against the spirit of the ice cream cone.

Friday, May 2, 2008

The great thing about Friday: It is Friday. The sad part of Friday is ... well there really isn't one, is there?

I've moved around all day with the great unifying feeling of being behind. Nothing motivates you, weighs you down and prevents success more than feeling like you're fighting from behind.

So that was the entire morning, stretching from 6 a.m. until noon. Around noon it became Friday in the state-of-mind sense. In downtown Homewood we ran into one of the former co-workers.

He's opening an art gallery now. The big gala event will be in a month or so, and he and everyone are very excited. He'd left for greener pastures which dried up precisely three days later through no fault of his own. Today, though, he was shopping for shoes with his wife and looked rested and happy and it was nice to see.

At Momma G's we noticed that one of the flat screen televisions has a Wii attached. There must be evening or weekend parties. It was pointed out that, during a recent library trip someone noticed a Wii in the middle of the books. Libraries, we've decided, are evolving. You don't even have to be quiet in the library anymore. Good luck finding a quiet place outside of the reference section.

I buy my books because I like to own them, but I visit the library for DVDs and CDs. One of the local libraries has, for several years now, posted notice that minors had to be accompanied by an adult. "This" the librarian says in stern, but hushed tones, "is not a day care."

Though it seems to me that the library is going to survive as a community center with a lot of books.

In five or 10 years, when you are carrying around a Kindle or the next evolution of a digital book reader, you won't need a library for anything. But you'll go hoping to find people with similar tastes who can suggest a few good books in the genre of your choice.

And, Amazon, the sooner you put in direct transfer technology the sooner I'll buy a Kindle. If my Kindle can touch your Kindle to download a book directly at a slight discount I'm own board. Think of a used bookstore. Charge the first guy $15 for a book and $12 for every subsequent copy he sends to others and you'll really see subscriptions soar, and the return of investment for Kindle buyers becomes a much more palatable curve for consumers.

At that point you'll have put the bookstores out of business.

Closer to home, Jay Coulter continues his Friday nostalgia by recalling the 1993 Florida-Auburn game. If nothing else that clip makes you miss Jim Fyffe. That clip is worth two plays. Watch it once and listen to it once. The drama and joy in Fyffe's voice is still riveting, even though you know what is about to happen.

And he criticized the referees evenly as well.

I've mentioned this before, and it is no great secret because Jim Fyffe loved to tell the tale of how he came up with that simple signature call. He was on the golf course one day very early into his tenure as the radio voice of Auburn football and unexpectedly sank a long putt and all he could think to say was "Touchdown Auburn," drawing out four syllables into eight. In the next tee box, as the story goes, were a handful of Alabama fans, angry at his excitement.

Fyffe figured if it aggravated Bama fans it had to be worth repeating. That following season he gave it a try on the air and over the years it became one of those little things that helps endear a decent man to the point of near-reverence.

I thought about this on the golf course myself today, with a little smile, only there was no one else on the course to aggravate. The Yankee and I were playing, but the place was empty on a beautiful Friday afternoon. There was a nice stiff breeze, a portent of tomorrow's storms, but that was apparently enough to keep people from the course.

When we left the clubhouse guy was gone too. There was still at least half an hour of sunlight, we should have played a few more holes. But the first nine were enough. And my game was bad enough already, thanks. Recalling the Jim Fyffe story was the best part of the game itself.

I love being outside, love the quiet, like the walk and don't mind struggling through. A few redeeming shots, a few glimmers of hope would be nice. At one point today I killed a ball, just absolutely crushed it. I was sure it flew 250 yards, but it was far closer to the tee box than I hoped. Little frustrations like that are outweighed, though, by finding more golf balls than I lose. I was plus four or five today, and that's a good day on the course to me.

As for the actual score, it was the same as last week, though it felt far worse. Could be the four-putts.
Now, after Pie Day, I'm stuffed and tired and sore. I'm happy and content with all of this -- there was food, the end of a long week, the simple pleasures of playing a few holes of golf -- but dismayed to see that it is only 8:30.

So an early night then.

Hope your weekend is chocked full of festivities.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

A little over a week ago The New York Times printed a big story on the use of retired military brass who serve as television analysts for American military affairs. The story focused on these officers and how they're offering analysis to network audiences while also sometimes offering up the Pentagon line.

So that's one supposed scandal, and it has created debate from many quarters as Editor and Publisher notes the one strangely silent group:
Despite an avalanche of criticism throughout the blogosphere, and by a handful of journalism veterans and critics, the news chiefs and on-air hosts at CNN, FOX, ABC, NBC, and CBS, have had little reaction to the revelations concerning the "Media Generals."
Many are frustrated that the networks aren't answering to any of this, but the silence isn't surprising.

Television networks are hoping it blows over, but here we are. One thing they know is the Nixon doctrine: It ain't what you do, but what you do after what you did that gets you in trouble. They know that because it's a strategic misplay they've exploited in others ad nauseum. In that sense the silence is damning.

But there's another interesting aspect to that big question of quiet: addressing the issue, weathering the fallout would be another dent in the tarnished and worn-thin armor. Television networks, though, prove they've learned little by keeping with a vain hope that "It doesn't exist if we cease talking about it."

Those days are long over. In not offering up any damage control they're going to ding one of the last precious bits of their reputation, hits they can ill afford.

One network should come forward, candidly, in their most popular segment, explain the allegations and explain their actions. The network, represented by the top boss, should explain the heads that rolled, why and then explain the steps they've put in place to prevent this sort of thing from happening again in the future. Steps beyond adding to the ombudsman's staff.

At this point they're interest should be in cultivating trust, an intangible they're sorely lacking. Their actions would be an implicit challenge to their counterparts in the industry. It'd help in the imminent Congressional investigations too.

As for the government, there's no worry: the desire to keep a reputation there has long been abandoned.

For an interesting discussion on the potential illegality of all of this, visit Glenn Greenwald.

Something completely different: Today is the 100th anniversary of the song "Take Me Out To The Ball Game." The Smithsonian Magazine notes:
"Take Me Out to the Ball Game," by Albert Von Tilzer and Jack Norworth, is registered for copyright May 2, 1908. The song about a girl who'd rather go to a ballgame than a show gets more play that summer in theaters-illustrated by glass lantern slides-than in ballparks. But when the fall Cubs/Giants pennant race gives the nation baseball fever, three recordings of the song hit the top ten. Now a staple of the seventh-inning stretch, "Ball Game" will be the first song featured on a postage stamp, in June 2008.
And now, because of my exhaustive research and extension connections, I can present to you a snippet of the first performance of that song at a ballpark.

Or that's from last weekend. One of the two.

Yesterday I watched the latest offering of Dexter on CBS. The bad guy is a step closer to being uncovered and we learn a little bit more about the good guy's past, which helped dehumanize him. The revelation of that information, though, is making him more human in the audience's eyes.

This show is so weird. The title character isn't all that interesting, the parts of him that are worth watching are the more pedestrian aspects of his personality. The supporting cast is far more entertaining. Why am I watching this?

Next week is the two-hour season finale. Since I've invested in the show -- having only prepared to write it off about halfway in -- I may as well see it through. If CBS picks up the second season I'll likely stay away. I only picked it up out of morbid curiosity. CBS likely won't revisit the show either; they only picked it up because of the writer's strike.

A show that is better since the writer's strike is Boston Legal. I'm convinced the writers are reading this blog. The last three weeks have addressed all my concerns about the show.

I believe being quoted by the Los Angeles Times about the show has gone to my head.

Prior to their last break the show was in a flat spin, but they've straightened up over the last three shows, taking on the Supreme Court last week and the Democratic National Party and the FDA this week. John Larroquette, who's recently been wasted, had a nice part in this week's episode.

The main characters were once again on fine display. Denny Crane fell in love with another woman in the FDA case. Shirley Schmidt had Alan Shore thundering away at the DNC over superdelegates in a subplot that was determined to anger people about the party's nomination rules. Those rules have been in place for a generation, though, and no one has been upset until this most unique primary season. In the argument the writers inadvertantly displayed a flaw in the logic of the party's position.

Ultimately, as the judge said, "Everybody loses."

Meanwhile, in the FDA trial everybody won.

The LA Times piece was about the dissolution of the fourth wall that often happens in the show. They did this again in this episode about some scheduling changes this show will be suffering through the next few weeks. On one hand this is a shame -- the show always seems to get short shrift when it comes to preemption -- on the other hand, the TiVo will record it automatically, no matter the day of the week. Ain't technology grand?

Speaking of great technology ... want a cool new phone feature? Need direct phone-to-phone video? Try Qik.

Tomorrow? Well Fridays are always grand.