Kenny Smith | blog

Monday, June 30, 2008

And, with this, June comes to an end. The month would be remembered for poison ivy and bad cable service, if the month were remembered on a series of mild inconveniences that exist to otherwise prove the point that life has dealt you more than a fair hand.

On the former, the skin irritations are finally clearing up. Wednesday will be four weeks and there are just a spots left to worry over. The cable problem lasted longer, was discussed here and abroad in tedious detail and finally resolved itself six weeks into the journey of expanded service. This week I'm calling to inquire about how discounted my expanded service can be, because all agree six weeks is a bit tiresome.

I should send them a bill for the amount of time spent on the phone as well.

Maybe I could just get the cable company to call all the other people that routinely ask for checks and have them suggest, "All things being equal, we're going to take your bill off his hands for the month." That'd be grand.

My great banking idea leapt forward today after hearing about the customer service problems of others. My bank, now and likely forever fictional, will have a unique selling point. We'll have problem solvers on staff. If your bank account and another bank, credit card or financial institution find themselves at odds, all you have to do is call the First National Bank of Kenny.

You explain the issue to the problem solvers, answer a few tedious and obvious questions and then they say, "Yes sir, I'll call them right now and we'll get this worked out. I'll give you a call later this afternoon to let you know the problem is fixed."

Then you can go about your day, having only had to explain this silliness once, and content in the knowledge that the problems and difficulties will be resolved.

This came to mind realizing that the way you really see action is when you're able to have a teleconference with your bank and the third party. The name of your bank, in this case the First National Bank of Kenny, carries a lot more heft than your name alone. Problems are fixed.

Here's another telemarketer idea: The next time you're finally put through to a human and that person asks for your account number and address, try this "Hi, yes, I was just being transferred to a supervisor, but we got disconnected. So since we unfortunately couldn't get it resolved with your colleague I'd appreciate it if you bumped me up to the next level.'

Instant supervisor. Less banging of the head against the wall.

One more: Have a friend wait on hold and when the human comes on the line your friend says "Please hold for Mr. Smith." Suddenly you are very important. The person on the other end sits up a bit straighter. The more pompous you can sound after this, the more fun it'll be for everyone.

Got a handful of new buttons today. There are two different Nixon/Lodge buttons from 1960 one with their smiling faces and one without. There's a "Nixon Now" but from 1972. There's an Ike in 56 button, one that has the U.S. Capitol in the background with Ike and Nixon in the foreground and another that says "Let's back Ike & Dick" where Nixon looks impossibly young.

Those are only 50 years old. There's a Dewey-Bricker tab from 1944, two more of Dewey from that same era, a Hoover and Curtis pin from 1928 and a William Howard Taft pinback circa 1909.

Not a bad piece of cellophane and rusted tin.

There were a few extra pins that came with this set, things I'm not particularly interested and hope to one day pass along, but this week I'll get to track down someone from Homer, N.Y. and find a historian to say "I have a pin for Dedication Days dating to 1941, can I donate this to your museum?" And then get in touch with someone at Cornell and say "I've got a pinback here dating to Farm and Home Week, 1939, would you like this for the University's collection."

In this way I hope to one day spread small donations to museums across the land. If a few of them have a notation that says "On loan from the Kenny Smith collection" it'll be the height of history-buff vanity.

The rest of the collection will be on my wall. If I can find the rest of the button stash, which has yet to turn up. They didn't hop out of here on their own -- and if they did it would have been a clattering, clinking, noisy escape -- so they'll turn up, but the ways you can successfully hide things from yourself is always amusing.

I started watching WarGames tonight. The movie is now 25 years old, impossible as that seems and I decided to let it play until it annoyed me in some way. But it doesn't annoy. The movie is just cute and the technology is a big laugh. So I'm watching that in 45 minute increments over the next few nights and Twittering along the many jokes that come to mind.

Sure, I could have found something more productive to do with those 45 minutes, but it had already been a full day by that point. Meaning the day is even longer now, so we'll pause everything here.

Come back tomorrow to get the inside scoop on an upcoming video, writing my first-ever tutorial and putting together a plan to restore order to site updates. That's a fun Tuesday, one filled with structure and whimsy and the inadvertent attempt to count down to the holiday weekend.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Today the blissfully long stretch of off days ends. Four days in a row is an awful lot of free time, particularly when you fill it with nothing of too much importance.

This was a good choice. It cost less than going somewhere and provided a nice, quiet opportunity to catch up on sleep and ... well, sleep really. Life is good when you can already count your peace and quiet in abundance, when you have no really worries to worry over and the biggest debt you have is one of rest. I'll take it. And another nap, please.

Tonight, though, the big fear is whether I'll respect the alarm clock in the morning. I'll turn it up especially loud, promise myself tonight to sleep lightly and hope I can get moving before the screeching and music becomes a bother to the neighbors at 4:45. All in the name of remembering what waking up early is like. How quickly you forget, even more quickly than you recall the joys of waking up after the sun is in the sky.

Today all of the pictures and frames and historical odds and ends made their way to the library, where they were staged for eventual hanging on various walls. This has been the project that has been in the back of my mind forever, but never completed. It probably will never be completed either, because it involves ordering more prints and picking out more frames, but at least some of these cool things can be displayed.

In the den there is now a wall documenting the 2006 Belize trip. In one of the bedrooms there is a wall of cool art from Savannah, Ga. This is a terrific development since it took several years before I finally put my diplomas on the wall. I love decorating with frames, and the ability to do so with my own photographs, but the idea of punching holes in the walls can leave one queasy.

Still to come are more artistic photographs accumulated over the years, a few trinkets that were gifts, a huge portrait for the foyer, some old magazines and various epherma destined for wall space and more. At some point some of these campaign buttons will make it up there soon as well.

My inclination is to do it very sparsely, to give home that art museum feel. And then I look at all of the things waiting for a hammer and a nail and I think of all those old offices, homes and restaurants where the portraits and the memories are the wallpaper. That wouldn't be so bad.

This afternoon I watched the UEFA final, catching my first game of the tournament live. And, as I did yesterday, I will now sum up the contest in one sentence so that non-soccer fans won't be bored to tears. Told you so, Spain made the German defenders look silly, whittling them down on the ground and then held on for a satisfying 1-0 victory.

Given the way the rest of that tournament had played out everyone was stunned, and Spainards relieved, that it didn't go to 120 minutes plus penalty kicks. Now ... bring on the World Cup.

A week old, but have been holding it for just such an occasion. Weezer did a few shows on the west coast where they invited fans out with their instruments to do something of a collaborative show that they'll ultimately release to CD. There are a few videos of one of those recordings floating around, this being Weezer + friends covering Radiohead.

I'm neither a huge Weezer or Radiohead fan -- I don't miss either when they're gone, but enjoy them enough when they're on -- but this is a wonderful concept. Replace the particulars with your favorite act and imagine the opportunity to spend an hour or so strumming along. You know, just like every time that really good song comes along and you've got the car to yourself and a little open road in front of you. How several of the dozens of people in the room managed to not geek out over the campfire coolness of it is pretty impressive.

Early to rise means early to bed. I'm going to go read a bit more of David McCullough's book on Washington Roebling and the Brooklyn Bridge. Did you know that thing took his father, almost killed him, deprived him of the best years of his life and occupied almost his every thought for 14 years. At one point while the caissons were still being placed he grew so ill that he worked for years in isolation and intrigue from his home. All of this, and yet he never set foot on it. He came close, toward the end during one inspection, but didn't get out of the carriage.

Thomas Edison, says the book, shot some of his earliest videos on the last days of the bridge work. Here's one taken a few years after the bridge was finally opened. You take the train from Brooklyn to New York and see a dozen views that don't exist any longer.

We romanticize the past, and for good reason in most instances, but I can't imagine trading these last four days for four days in 1883 when the bridge opened or 1901 when that film was shot.

As captivating a thing as the construction of the bridge must have been, we've just watched footage that's more than a century old. Amazing.

Hope you have a good week coming up. Should be a short week for most, and that's always good. Stop back by tomorrow when we formally wrap up June and start the countdown to an explosive holiday.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The weekend of doing as little as possible is developing well. Science might suggest that I can't realize absolute zero in this quest, but I took a walk today and snapped a few photographs. I'd say I'm on a roll, but that would imply momentum.

And that'd be against the spirit of the lazy weekend.

I did put away two baskets of laundry, so that was productive. I did not start the cleaning cycle with another load in the washer, so the yen and yang of it balanced nicely.

The walk, just over two miles, was the highlight of the day. How could that not be the case with photos like this. These are the things you don't notice when you're driving by at road speed, but walk by it a few times and you grow really tempted to go up and ask the nice old lady why she's still using the gate to train her rose bushes.

Experience has taught her, though, to protect the mailbox, and she might grow suspicious, strangers knocking on her door asking about her flowers on the roadside. Maybe she just likes the mail carrier and wants to give her a pleasant scene. Maybe she's grown weary of seeing the overgrown barn in the field in front of her house and thought "A little splash of color would be nice. And I really need to get one of the boys to carry off this old fence ... but the gate ..."

One day I'll see her out and ask her.

Saw two butterflies and a dragonfly, this being the prettiest. The other butterfly was huge, but had some wing damage. With the eyes he had he could see you for blocks, and nothing got past those antennae. How anything managed to hurt him we'll never know, but the little guy had clearly done a great deal of pollinating in his day. Hopefully he can dodge the bats and keep up the good work.

Want some berries?

Friends and longtime readers may recall that I'm on the perpetual quest to find the lone tree in an empty field with an unbroken skyline. This ain't it, but I like the setting anyway. It is another one of those scenes you don't see while driving, but walking along the metaphors were plenty. Or that could have been the low 90s temperatures and the humidity talking.

Anyway, the field is easy to get into because the gate is leaning against a tree inside. Has been for some time from the looks of it. Also there is no wire between the posts. I've never understood this. For a brief time the pasture was nicely hemmed in, but over the years it has more often than not been a little field with plenty of posts and no fence. If you're going to go to the trouble of digging the holes you should follow through with it.

After making the halfway turn The Yankee and I visited a horse boarding operation. This one really liked The Yankee. This one, though was my favorite. Skewbald pintos are handsome creatures. There are two of them housed there, and a donkey. Almost all of them are friendly and ready to be fed. They'll pick your pockets looking for treats, but only after they've decided the camera isn't edible.

That, in a nutshell is a nice little photo walk. There are a few more pictures now up in the July photo gallery, so enjoy.

And now I will talk briefly about the UEFA soccer tournament, since I finally watched the last semifinal last night. How briefly? One sentence should do. Germany advances over Russia, but their defenders are not what they used to be; watching them get exposed must have Spain ready for tomorrow's final.

That's pretty much the day. Awesome, no? Jambalaya for dinner, finished those pictures for the big upload and now I'm going to call it an evening.

This sort of Saturday should be mandatory for everyone once in a while, and I hope you've managed to sneak one in recently. If not ... get it on the books, it'll be worth it, even if you have to plan for it.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Sleeping in, the guiltiest of guilty pleasures. We're talking 10, 10:30 in the morning here. In the words of our grandparents, "I've slept the day away."

I'm fine with it.

Low key morning and early afternoon. After a late light lunch and going through the mail -- Is this a first for the blog? Mail details? -- I found an envelope of campaign pinbacks waiting for me. There's a Wesley Clark, John Kerry and a Michael Dukakis in this bunch. Mondale and Muskie are there as well, alongside some of those tab clasps for McGovern and Kennedy. There's a great Lyndon Johnson that is a nice addition to the collection and a holographic pog-like thing for LBJ as well.

Earlier in the week I got a 1976 Milton Shapp (Does anyone remember him outside of Pennsylvania?), Wendell Willkie and Thomas Dewey in addition to some nice World War Two themed buttons. There was also an anti-FDR button which will be put back into circulation as an anti-John-McCain-is-W piece of rhetoric.

Guess I'll have to update the campaign button section of the site soon.

Now if I can just find the big bag of buttons floating around the house. Earlier this week I found a great site for inexpensive shadowboxes and now I've hidden all of the buttons from myself. If you've seen those sitting around somewhere let me know.

The Yankee and I chose an afternoon at the dollar theater, where you can sit in any seat for a buck, and if the chair is broken, that's a buck too.

There was nothing at the theater that demanded our attention, so we went for something truly out of the "Eh, its a dollar" category and chose Forgetting Sarah Marshall:
Funny and painful, what you'd expect from the previews. Worth a buck.
Also, not for the comically faint of heart; you've been warned.

After the movie came Pie Day, which was an abbreviated version on the news that our favorite Taylor is out with an injury. It seems she slipped and fell climbing the ladder to the diving board and busted up her arm. That is a bad break.

I called them today to check on the star diver, and when Brian answered the phone they were waiting for the orthopedist to do a Day Two check. Just as he answered someone bumped her arm and she was screaming out in pain. Which is probably better than you or I would do.

And now her parents are faced with the dilemma of how you keep a hyper five-year-old immobile for two days.

From what we understand the prognosis is good, hopefully she'll be out of the cast, a blue one, and back in the pool before summer is over.

Here? Just a trip to the grocery store to wind down the day. Fruit, veggies, bread and cheese. And, of course, the perpetual jokes on the cashiers. Those never get old.

They probably gather together in their department meetings and exchange notes on the last time any of the problem customers visited. "Five days? Terrific. I'm going to gt them all tonight in one shift. Just great."

Yes, the Friday night grocery store run wrapped up with antagonizing the guy who can't distinguish pineapple from asparagus when he's ringing up produce, the pinnacle of cool.

Tomorrow things will be a bit more lively since photographs are in the plans. Make sure you come back for that and more.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Set an alarm this morning, mostly just to laugh at it and go back to sleep. Even that much effort couldn't be made too early in the morning on a day off. So when it buzzed at 8 a.m. I smiled, slapped it and drifted away for another hour or so.

After dragging myself out of bed and, later, out of the house, I headed out for a handful of errands. First, there was an early lunch at Chick-fil-A where the employees are now wearing paper hats.

Perhaps the regional manager was due in that day, but you couldn't help feel sorry for the employees over this later development. The hats were really circular cardboard bands. On the front was the crown and eyes of a Holstein's head. Large ears grew off the sides of the piece of costume silliness. Remarkably the employees were acting as if they were in good spirits. If anyone left early in protest you could hardly blame them.

After lunch I stopped for gas, having been notified by the car that only 12 miles of fuel remained in the tank. The guy that had the pump just before me spent $99.99.

This is psychological pricing at its finest, tricking yourself into the desperate cognitive dissonance of "Well at least I didn't spend a hundred bucks!"

I say go for it! Toggle that trigger one more time. Ease it up to $100.01.

Of course he probably reached $99.45 and had the realization that this tank of gas was equal to a third of his SUV payment. Now he's had the weekend ruined, poor guy.

After I stopped at the gas station I certainly had to visit the bank to make sure there was enough money floating around for that transaction. After deposits and fixing an online banking feature I felt comfortable that the gas in my car was truly mine.

Then I paid a visit to the car dealership for a courtesy check and an oil change. In the waiting room sat a mother of three. She had an 11-year-old boy more interested in his video game than anything, a seven-year-old daughter who was enjoying cartoons and a three-year-old who was happily amusing himself. Soon their ride, a white minivan, was ready to go.

Across from them sat a very serious looking young woman in a power suit waiting to make it back to the office. But they hadn't yet started on her car. She left without getting the work done. I wanted to say that I knew how she felt, but about that time my car was ready. The oil was changed, 100 points were inspected and serviced and I had a mostly fuel tank of gas.

I was going to stop and pay a bill, but had the feeling of spending enough for the day. It was 2 p.m. on an off day, I'd finished three errands and read two chapters of Anne Edwards' The Reagans. More of a compendium of other's work, there isn't really anything new here beyond extra swipes at Nancy Reagan. Yes they had a largely dysfunctional family, we know all of that, but otherwise this is a rehash. Apparently toward the end there are some interesting details of their life after the White House, which would be interesting. For now, though, I'm only up to the governor's mansion in California and am thinking of skipping ahead.

Says the guy who finds it hard to not finish a book, no matter how bad, once he's started it.

This evening I had dinner in Tuscaloosa with The Yankee, one of her classmates in the PhD program and the executive editor of The Tuscaloosa News. They'll all be teaching a media ethics class in the next summer and fall terms and were discussing how they might approach the class. It was a very entertaining conversation since they all approach the idea from slightly different perspectives.

Later we visited with friends at a place that'll be closing at the end of the month. Some people have nostalgia for it, but mostly it was just hot. They'd apparently turned the air conditioning off a week early and everyone in the place was painfully aware of it.

But there I found myself, sitting at one of those tabletop video games surrounded by four doctoral students and a third-year law student. These are clever people. The Yankee, of course, worked in television before coming back to school, another was a newspaperman before heading back to class, and another guy was a national forensics champion. They were a fun bunch.

So it is late now, but tomorrow won't be particularly early. I might sleep in again. Off days are best. I hope yours is shaping up well, even if you do have to head into the office.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Last day of a long week. Ten days on equals four days off. I'll be sleeping in tomorrow.

I get to do this twice more during the summer, and think that'll be plenty, thanks. While I'll enjoy the long weekend I days six through eight dragged a bit. Nine was a very happy day and today, day 10, held the true relief and release of a Friday.

Others walked through the day with that slight, determined hunch of the mid-week, a regular reminder that I'm the lucky one the free time.

So, naturally, at the end of the day I came home and mowed the lawn.

There's news there: After the recent work that's been done to the lawn mower I can happily report that it cranks without effort.

That's the first time in, what, five years? Through all of that time I've been jumping the mower off the car; not the most ideal plan, I know, but it got the grass cut. After a nice little investment that gave the mower new life -- and a cleaning, who knew the thing was red? -- I hopped in the seat, turned the key and it sputtered to life with determination.

Sadly this will hurt me in Google searchs. I'm third for "electrocute my butt" and second for "electrocuting my butt" from 2003 when I first described the process. This is probably safer for me, less embarrassing should the unthinkable happen and the neighbors find me smoldering in the yard ("How did he go?") and makes the yard chores a bit more pleasant.

There's nothing like pushing the mower out of the tool shed, across the yard to the car and then connecting all the cables. Before I realized it today I'd already made two passes on the front lawn.

Kelly, sadly, will be disappointed as she's historically taken great interest in the description of my lawn tedium.

I discovered more poison ivy in the yard. Which was enough to give me an involuntary shudder. I'll find some other way to remove it that doesn't include tearing it down by hand.

As storms rolled in I set up the grill. Barbecue chicken and grilled zucchini made the menu for the evening. Watched the end of Turkey's incredible run in UEFA -- they almost did it again in the final seconds, but Germany was too persistent and killed the underdog's dream.

I discovered Animoto which is a beautiful little tool that asks you to upload a stack of images and pick a song or upload your own. The software puts it all together in a very flash show that will make you never want to build a normal slideshow again.

The free version only allows for a 30 second project, and the finished product is slick enough to make you really consider buying the complete version -- something I'll rarely do. The nice thing here is a really snappy video, with the slightest bit of effort and, if you don't like it, you can always have the images re-shuffled.

Let's see if this one works:

Pretty cool huh?

We've started compiling events for the 2020 Olympic Games, which, if the mayor has his way, will be held in Birmingham:
The Vulcan Vault
Professional football (Oh wait ...)
Kayaking the Cahaba
280 Frogger
Langford Long Jump, the leaps of logic one must take to be the Birmingham mayor (But not a resident. See?)
And so on.

Being an Olympic caliber city is a fan goal. One we'd all love to realize. It would take a lot of vision and more than a few shoulders put to the task. All of that, though, doesn't mean you'll get the Olympics, or that you should spend $500,000 on a fool's errand.

This is purely an academic exercise -- and a costly one -- as Chicago may likely get the 2016 games and if that happens North America need not apply for the 2020 effort. But that won't stop overly-ambitious dreams.

Speaking of Chicago, there's this terrific photo gallery from the photographers at the Chicago Tribune. This is purely B-roll, has some simple photographs and some astonishing work and suggests: You don't take enough photographs.

So look through those, there'll be something to inspire every shutterbug.

That's pretty much it for the day.

Stop back by tomorrow for adventures in errands and an evening visiting among friends. Sorry you have to work tomorrow, but I'll be thinking about you all, each and every one.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Fixed the blog problem. We're all relieved. It is still doing something odd in a subdirectory I've never pointed you to, but that's a problem for a different day. The important part is that the entry is being written to this page and to the archive as intended.

This is a big victory, but nothing compared to this news: Our long national cable nightmare is over!

To summarize: The president of the cable company returned my call, leaving me a voicemail late yesterday sounding very concerned about my problem. She sent out an Email to several people and said they would soon be calling as well. One of those peple called first thing this morning and we had a very nice conversation that ended like this:
"What time do you get home?"

Which day do you mean?


I'll be home around 3:45

"We'll call it 4, so you have time to get in and we'll have someone come out."
At 4:10 the doorbell rang. Two guys were there. I explained the problem, they announced this would be a quick fix.

To which I thought: Try six weeks!

It was quick, taking less than half an hour. No one could understand why the first cable guy didn't do his job completely. Nor why the second guy didn't. Nor why the next four technicians all did not show up on the appointed days.

So the lesson here is simple, keep the president's phone number in the Rolodex.

Does anyone use a Rolodex anymore? Given all of the online services for your contact information and the many applications in phones and the good old fashion scraps of paper, does the Rolodex company have a bustling business these days?

Or is that a proprietary eponym of a product that has fallen out of favor? Turns out they're doing fine. As the name has become ubiquitous the company has branched into organizing your life.

I remember my first Rolodex, the classic rotary with the U-shaped bar and the cards, most never filled out. And I recall my last, which was the same as the one from the company's Wikipedia entry and apparently dating from the 1970s. I inherited it from a newsroom, mostly for the the contacts and secrets that the little file cards held.

Most of those people were no longer in those positions even then. Quite a few were dead. And now that I know the era of its origin I'm really curious to go dig it out of storage and study the names a little closer.

But not tonight. Tonight I've enjoyed the return of consistently dependable television on the big screen. I watched it for about 40 minutes, over dinner. I've also been writing a few letters. Two more of those and four or so thank you notes left to go in that stack.

Maybe those will happen tomorrow which, happily, is my last day of work for the week. A four-day weekend begins at 3 p.m. I promise not to gloat; mostly I'll be occupied with chores anyway.

Some people might worry about how they could parlay that into interesting reading, but you and I know that's never a problem around here. So make sure you keep visiting as the off-days are really the best part of the adventure!

Monday, June 23, 2008

The blog broke. I broke it. No one else can be blamed for this one. While trying my WordPress experiment I had to change some of the properties and paths and in moving it back I erred.

This impacted the archives, which no one noticed this for two weeks, making this as good a time as any to repeat the common plea: When you see something wrong on the site drop me a quick Email and be prepared for my gratitude. The Email is found on every page of the site and in the blog specifically at the end of each post.

So tonight has been been trying to fix that, but easy fixes escape me. Also the tool itself is struggling. I am not responsible for damaging Blogger's servers.

I mentioned Saturday that I left a voicemail with the president of the cable company. She was kind enough to return my call this evening and voiced her concern about the problems.

She'd sent out Emails, she said, and I'd be hearing from others. And would I please call her back tomorrow? She'd like to get this problem solved right away.

I like her already.

I found a new favorite phrase: Committing journalism. This courtesy of the fine people at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication which puts on one of the more well-respected conferences in the industry. Reading the panel descriptions for their August meeting in Chicago there are a few things I'd like to see.

Mostly, though, I want to see how one commits journalism. There's been a popular prison book that used the term, you'll find the occasional mention elsewhere as well. The conference bends the words around the citizen journalist context. "When should a citizen commit journalism? Should a normal person commit journalism? Are you committing journalism right now?"

It sounds like a vague crime: committing journalism. Apparently it will get you thrown in jail on trumped up charges in Zimbabwe. Perhaps it is a social discomfort. "We would have stayed, but then that other gentleman committed journalism and the smell just hovered in the room. Odd fellow, that. And rude too."

I like going to these sessions because they are filled with serious minded folks who have great passion for the newspaper and are struggling to understand how the business is evolving -- sorry, committing evolution -- and want to explain to you how it is bad or limiting or odoriferous.

We have this conversation at work every so often. In academic circles these are fine discussions and from the theoretical standpoint they are compelling and a lot of fun as far as it goes. Beyond theory and research and academic discourse, however, the hows and whys and should they or shouldn't they don't really matter any more. That moment has long since passed.

The more beneficial conversation is a slightly more practical one. One of the true greats from whom I learned the news business had many important lessons, but this one above all else: It doesn't matter where you are, quality is quality, regardless of whether you're in market number four or 204.

Journalism academics have it tough right now because they know the best way to teach their students is to have them working. Class and theory are great, but the wisdom that comes with experience is what translates into jobs. The problem is that the business is evolving very quickly and academia struggles to keep up.

So naturally they should invest in young, working professionals like me who could teach classes on new media networking, convergence, SEO and community journalism in the 2.0 world and the mobile future. But make us keep working professionally to stay in the curve.

That was the strong selling point of the journalism program at Auburn, the whole faculty was still writing, still shooting for papers and leading critical workshops for newsrooms. There was a great hands-on context that helped professors give a good window into the newsroom.

We all prospered from that. And today, more than ever, that's a vital part of the process. Remember: this is the adolescence of the most powerful communications tool the planet has ever known. It is still growing and learning and might one day in our lifetimes be rendered obsolete by some other mysterious creation. The teachers of today are tasked with keeping pace in a swiftly moving world.

That's becoming an integral part in committing journalism.

Ask me, I have all the answers. Heh.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

More work today, day seven of a 10-day work week.

I don't mind working at all, but hearing the alarm go off at 4:30 in the morning gets old without a weekend to break up the experience. So yes, I'm counting. There's a four-day weekend coming up and I'm looking forward to sleeping to the unwholesome hour of 8 a.m. next Thursday.

Today though was another nice and quiet day in the office. Two interns spent the day there with me. At lunch I finished a book by David Gerrold on his creation of the famous Tribbles episode of Star Trek.

I've been skimming this a few pages at a time for a while and finally got ready to be done with the thing. His story is fairly interesting, a college student who sold a screenplay that would ultimately become one of the most memorable hours of television of the era. He's no one-trick writer, having made himself a career on his creativity.

The book, which hasn't aged well, but is worth a few Deforest Kelley stories and a touching anecdote about the power of those little balls of fur in the last chapter. You can read it online too, apparently, in the PDF format.

I tried for the second time this evening to start scanning in photographs from the 1995 Glomerata. Something about that first section makes me stop. Previously the Glomerata section has dealt with older generations of the Auburn campus and all of that has built to scanning my freshman book.

Maybe I just haven't been in the right frame of mind, but these pictures feel different, one supposes because I lived them. I'll get over it one day and we'll start that section of the site.

For today, instead, I'll leave you with a few cat pictures. Saturday, of course, is Caturday, the traditional cat blogging day. My days of the week are so confused this could in fact be Caturday.

So here are the kitties. Emma shows the mean face. Allie fills the frame.

Emma shows her doll face. And then she boxes the camera.

There are a few more in the June photo gallery, which is making its official debut today.

And now I'm going to go watch Croatia-Turkey in the UEFA Cup. This game was played Friday, I believe and said to be an incredible match. I recorded a replay, managed to miss all the highlights and my mind has been filled with misinformation about the outcome.

Later. That was one of the better games I've ever had the pleasure to watch. The two teams played 90 minutes of scoreless soccer. Regulation was good, but scoreless, which brings on two 15-minute overtime periods. This is not sudden soccer, so no matter what happened fans were going to be treated to 120 minutes of play.

And there it stood after two hours. There'd been many close calls and great, dramatic play, but no goals. The two teams were headed for penalty kicks.

Now. go to this site and watch the first video. That's Croatia scoring in the 120th minute and the Turkish goalkeeper Rustu, one of the best in the world actually, makes a horrible decision to leave his box and the Croatians score on his mistake.

Now watch the second video on that site. In injury time moments later a Turkish player delivered an improbable rocket, slicing through two defenders and melting the net in the back of the goal. Amazing. So at first we seemed destined for a scoreless game and PKs. And then Croatia was going to escape with a win. Then Turkey answered in improbable fashion. Turkey would win the penalty kicks to advance to the next round of the tournament.

You and I, meanwhile, will advance to a Monday. Hope your week starts off right!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The alarm went off and, cruelest of all jokes, I had to answer it. So I was up early and out the door on the way to work. Like a normal person. On a Saturday. Only this was 6 a.m.

On the other hand I had the freeway almost entirely to myself.

On still another hand that's probably good because I was tired.

This is day six of the 10-day-work week. I'll have two more of these this summer. On the whole they aren't bad. The day goes quickly. It is quiet in the office. Today there was just one other person there and we worked quietly through a slow summer Saturday.

I did have to wake someone up at 6:30 on their day off because of a problem, making that the only thing worse than having to wake him up at similar times during the week. These are the responsibilities one accepts when one wears the Pager of Doom. I do not wear a pager; please don't call me that early.

So let us have the seemingly daily cable complaint. I called them yesterday because, as I anticipated, no supervisor returned my message. Some poor unfortunate guy on the other end of the line had to deal with me yesterday and understood the situation was important enough to have someone come out today, rather than a week from now, which is the standard procedure. After having been stood up by three previous technicians I wasn't holding my breath.

The technician did not show up between the promised hours today so I once again called, explaining with diminishing patience my four dropped appointments, my almost-six-week problem and demanded to speak with the supervisor, calling him by name. This flustered the otherwise useless professional phone answerer on the other end of the line. The supervisor, though, was gone for the day. Call him at home. A bit later he came back and said he tried him twice, but there was no answer. I have no reason to believe anything they say at this point and laughed while he scheduled me a visit missed appointment for next Friday.

So I called the company's president. They don't make it easy to find this contact information. They don't make it especially easy to find out her name. My Googlefu is strong. She has a very nice voice mail waiting for her on Monday. I apologized for bothering her with this problem, acknowledging that this is not her job, but hinted at the many problems I've been having and explained that I would appreciate a call from her, or someone in her office, on Monday and movement toward, you know, a resolution.

There's really nowhere to go after that, except naming names and calling the competition.

There was somewhere to go this evening, though as The Yankee and I spent the afternoon at the pool with The McAlisters. Oh the fun we all had. Brian's parents are in town for the weekend and they're lovely people. If you could pick grandparents on the basis of coolness (What other criteria would you use?) they'd be hard to beat. Taylor's a lucky granddaughter.

She's actually very lucky, having the chance to swim in two pools this evening. First in the neighborhood pool and then in the pool at her grandparents' hotel. At the first pool she decided to jump off the side backwards like the big kids (us). She made the big show of it like divers do as they focus in on a big dive. I do this too, because it is funny to go through all that and then do a toothpick or act as if something went horribly, horribly wrong in my actual attempt.

Taylor's almost did. Facing away from the pool she jumped and then flattened her body, missing the wall with her forehead by four or five inches. I felt terrible for even remotely being an influence. The best thing I could think to say was "That would have hurt bad. And you'd have to get stitches. And if you had stitches you couldn't be in the pool for a long time."

She accepted that. Missing out on the pool was too big of a risk to try it again.

Oh, the awkward ways I'll let myself land on the water for the amusement of others. We were trying this modified dive that used physics and gravity to propel a rubberized ball high into the sky. I realized quickly that I'm not coordinated enough to pull that off. On each successive try I gave into the court jester syndrome, doing pratfalls (pratdives?) on my back, butt and head. I did surround all of this with a few decent attempts at normal dives and a flip, implying that there were a few things I was capable of doing, but leaving it all with a sense of anti-funny.

I'm going to feel some of those tomorrow though.

Speaking of anti-funny, I finished reading Steve Martin's autobiography, Born Standing Up today. If you liked the guy's humor you'll love the book. I missed his stand up by a few years, but the most redeeming quality about his work was that he just seemed a normal guy who gave us the funny. That is the compelling part of the Steve Martin persona, each time you see his work you're expecting to catch him sneak a glance at the camera as if to say "Can you believe this?"

Even in the parts of the book where he displayed the uniqueness of his life or circumstance that took him to the top there's this definitive next door quality about him. Maybe that's the best performance of them all, but his truth is there. And if you liked the man before the book, you'll like him at the end.

None of it feels overwrought. There's no glossing over missteps or setbacks or inevitability of his success as a comedian. If anything he looks back on that part of his career, he says for the first time, and comes off a bit humbled and surprised by some of his success even now.

Also, most of his punchlines are great in print. And the book reads fast too, so check it out.

Tomorrow, another day of work. But, sadly, no pool.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Today was the quarterly heap big meeting day at the office. We all gather together once a quarter and the many departments reveal the great growth and development that is being undertaken by the many hardworking people at the office.

Today's meeting was at Vulcan, where the company had acquired their cute, but chilly downstairs conference room and put all the neat slides and powerpoint presentations on a big wall while we sat around circular chairs, some drinking coffee for warmth and others periodically checking the phone line to make sure the satellite offices were still on the teleconference line.

As these things go they aren't bad. People in the company do impressive things. The sales folks make big sales, the art people make terrific ads and the editorial side works hard to bring in viewers. Today the meeting was in a bigger room with new things to look at, so the whole arrangement was a success.

We toured Vulcan for a bit. Some went out to try out the view. I've been on the mountain hundreds of times and up into the base of Vulcan a fair amount, though only once as an adult. Something in the museum though pulled me in, I've only visited it once since they restored the place a few years back and I wanted to read more of the signage. I saw Vulcan's foot. This is fiberglass, but the dimensions are accurate: six feet long and 10 feet high. The real foot -- all iron like the entire statue -- weighs six tons. Vulcan's total weight is reputed to be 100,000 pounds.

Vulcan, as has been mentioned here and countless times elsewhere, was built as a giant sculpture to sing the city's industrial praises at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis. After that no one knew what to do with the god of the forge. So he sat at the fairgrounds for 20 years until moving to his familiar Red Mountain home in 1936. Note the insult of the arm being attached backwards.

The museum whispered two good essay ideas, and I look forward to plotting out the time to write at least one of those in the near future.

The boss bought lunch, and that's a nice treat. A local cafe brought in catered food. I chose the turkey sandwich option to go along with everyone else. There was a nice pasta salad and sweet potato chips inside, along with a huge cookie and the freshest fruit you've ever not picked yourself.

About that time The Yankee and Chris Denbow stopped by. They'd been out taking pictures and crashed the party. Chris, or Mojo, is one of the technologically hip men-about-town and is cool beyond words. He's moving to Houston in a few weeks and I wish he could stay longer, or that I'd had the pleasure to meet him sooner.

We visited for a while until it was time to head back to the office where everyone spent the afternoon playing in a running Wii tournament. I'm not sure who won, except for Nintendo. Everyone that doesn't own a Wii was sold in an hour's worth of play. The Tiger Woods game does look great. I'll try to resist the urge to pick one up this weekend.

Later this evening Pie Day was held in Gardendale. Seven Pie Day members took part, the waitress had a hand in her sling. Apparently she tore the bicep from the bone while hauling plates and was soon due for surgery. To no one in particular I said And she's still here working. We should be sure to not give her a hard time. I was, of course, the most difficult person at the table. I blame the noisy room and being too far away to hear her questions.

After dinner, the sunset.

And then to the pool. A large group of young softball players and their parents and siblings were staying nearby and they took to the pool. Being the cool adults (or, as the parents called us: Free Entertainment) we took turns throwing strangers children across the length and width of the pool. I invented a game that will do well to not drown anyone one day. The kid swims up, I grab him under his arms and spin him all around, back and forth, as fast as possible. The kids loved it.

I'm going to be sore tomorrow.

I'll also be working. Tomorrow is day six of my 10-day-week. But at least I'm halfway done!

I hope you have big weekend plans to make up for my lack of scheduled funnery. Just remember: I could be living vicariously through you.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Finally British researchers have proven what we've long known on something more than an intuitive level, "(M)en who are narcissistic, thrill-seeking liars and all round "bad boys" tend to have the greatest success finding more sexual partners."

The Telegraph breathlessly reported the story, using the clever "So that's why James Bond always gets the chicks" hook.

Funny, I thought it was because the writers drew them up that way.
Scientists believe that the root of their good fortune is simply that they try it on with more women, therefore by the law of averages are likely to ensnare more.

They say these type of men adopt a more predatory, scatter gun approach to conquests and have more of a desire to try new things which helps when it comes to meeting women,


Another study ... suggested that the link between these characters traits and an increase in the number of sexual partners was true across different countries and different cultures.
Despite that, this is the most interestingly random story of the day, a profile on a gentleman who predicted the internet ... in the 1930s. The New York Times has the feature:
In 1934 (Belgium), (Paul) Otlet sketched out plans for a global network of computers (or "electric telescopes," as he called them) that would allow people to search and browse through millions of interlinked documents, images, audio and video files. He described how people would use the devices to send messages to one another, share files and even congregate in online social networks. He called the whole thing a "reseau," which might be translated as “network” — or arguably, "web."
Imagine the looks he must have received sitting around in coffee shops musing up that plan. His biographer is quoted in the story saying that Otlet would likely be lost in our modern internet. Other experts don't see how his idea would be able to grow given the top-down model. He'll be even farther off in a generation, of course, but there were a few years there, during Prodigy and AOL and the peak of Usenet when he might have been viewed as a prophet.

All of his work is going on display, there's mention of his efforts at the turn of the 20th Century to create "a master bibliography of all the world’s published knowledge." They poke fun at the technology of the day -- 3 x 5 cards being cutting edge -- and point out that the guy had a heck of a filing system. That'd be neat to see.

But not as interesting as Barack, Scissors, Paper! The guys at USARPS have apparently endorsed the Democratic candidate. In that game you're facing off against George Bush for the Oval Office. Bush is good though, beating me more than I beat him.

Even still that proved much of the afternoon's entertainment. It was suggested that if he wins we'll have four years of clever puns. "Barack the vote. Barack me Amadeus. Barack of Ages, cleft for me. Martini on the Baracks." And so on. You'd have to be Hussein to pass up this game. Hussein being the senator's middle name (just in case you haven't received that Email yet ...)

Late in the day a newspaper reporter called me for a few quotes. I was referred to by the subject of the feature story and was only happy to help. So I give as truthful and deservingly flattering comments as possible.

You should have no more than three main points when talking with the media. Talk of those and nothing else. Hopefully one will make the finished copy. Good things can come from rambling, but it is low percentage, so stick with the coachspeak and timeless metaphor. Make him write around your cliches.

And then offer to let him call you back. Being accessible is how you ingratiate yourself to the working media. And remember: If you're willing to enjoy the interview, be willing to weather the story.

Hopefully the reporter got something useful out of it. We'll find out next week.

After getting off the phone as the interviewee I made another phone call and resumed the usual role as interviewer. The guy I was talking with was another reporter who, no doubt, probably felt a bit out of place being the interviewee. It was great stuff though.

Mobile, Ala. has been looking forward to breaking ground this week on a facility that will bring a $40 billion tanker contract to the region. Yesterday, however, a government oversight group issued a report suggesting that the Air Force reconsider how they awarded the contract.

This is a big regional, political fight that is only going to get nastier. At the root, of course, is all that money and whether it ends up on the Gulf Coast or in Washington state and Kansas. George Talbot of the Press-Register has been covering the story for some time and gives great insight into the backstory and helped make sense of what is to come in a now confusing situation. You can hear the interview here.

Cable update: They were supposed to come Tuesday and fix the problem of their creation, but they rescheduled for yesterday. While pecking away at the computer yesterday I saw a work truck turn into my drive and then drive down the hill. They did not show up.

I called today. The poor, hapless lady on the other end of the line asked what they did Tuesday. They didn't show up. She asked what they did yesterday. They didn't show up, making the third time they've stood me up.


So now I have an appointment for Friday of next week. I asked to speak with a supervisor and was brushed off. I was reduced to leaving a message and waiting for that individual to call me back. That didn't happen today and I doubt it'll happen tomorrow.

This would be so much easier if they'd just finish the job. May 15th this started. As it is the patience grows thin and displeasure will soon be voiced. Loudly.

Otherwise the perfect world vibe continues uninterrupted. If the incompetence of a cable company is your biggest issue you're fortunate. And I am.

After all, you're here. And I hope you'll come back tomorrow for a workday fun day, Pie Day and an evening at the pool. That's a great Friday and it hasn't even gotten here yet. Hope yours is lining up just as well!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Normal run of the mill day, with all of the attendant victories and expected minor shortcomings. Days like these are a delight: You know exactly what you're getting into and what you're getting out of it.

And then there are the things that make you arch an eyebrow, like this promo video for Team Fortress 2. For whatever reason the misunderstood assassin character is always a winner, and it is no different in the cartoonish format. I watched that three times -- life kept interrupting -- and it got funnier with each try.

Of course the video game can't be any better than that video, but it is always nice to see the characters brought to life in unexpected ways.

Unexpectedly went out to lunch today. When someone says Momma G's, though, you go to Momma G's. And while there, between reading the sanctioned graffiti on the ceiling and discovering new things on the menu I decided that I should sample the whole place. I've been enjoying Momma Goldberg's for more than a decade, but only know about four of the items. So today, after resolving to try all the dishes I promptly ordered one of the same things I always select.

Next time then.

Across the street there's this great awning. That's Homewood Toy & Hobby, which has been there for a generation. Some of the kids that walk in with wonder today are sharing the experience their parents had years ago. Great store. I want to spend an hour there right now.

Back to the office instead, where I checked in on the former corporate boss. There's a dust up ongoing between the Associated Press and bloggers right now. Basically the AP is upset that bloggers do as they do when it comes to quoting others. Ironically the AP has done as much for years so this becomes one of those good for the goose, good for the gander sort of things and the AP is showing their tin ear in their approach.

Jeff Jarvis is one of those big thinkers who's always out in front on the big idea that's three turns up the pipe. He's got loud opinions on every subject and has a good bead on how much of the new media works. I surfed over expecting a big, angry show. Mostly though, he's upset about what the Associated Press is doing to themselves. You would expect righteous indignation and instead you get the rough draft of the corporate eulogy.

Later in the day I had the pleasure of putting one radio legend in touch with another radio legend. Each knows of the other. Each has an impressive rolodex, but I sit in the middle. Between them the great Grant Merrill and the all-knowing Chadd Scott probably know everyone east of the Rockies and in the national networks and I get to do the introductions, that was pretty neat.

And then I threatened the safety of the world, as I tweeted that I was facebooking and then noted in the Facebook status update that I was tweeting. And there I decided to integrate the two, which is unfortunate for my Facebook account since now I have even less reason to return.

I've been talking of Twitter a lot lately here, but only because it is so cool. I'm running a personal Twitter and the official office Twitter.

Searching through a site that tracks users by location I learned this evening that there are about 650 Twitter users in Alabama right now and a significant percentage of those are now following the work feed. These are the early adopters and it has been well-received. And, oh, the people you'll meet.

Like this guy: Mojodenbow's daughter is adorable and I'll get to meet him later this week.

Tonight? Everyone eats well. That cat thinks she's a dog.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

You might recall that I had the opportunity to give two speeches today, but had only been successful in writing one of them. The second speech was more elusive, coming to me on the ride home from work. Fortunately I had all of a few hours to write and prepare it.

Moments like these always make me recall with a smile a time when writing anything of length was an agony. No one could possibly do this! That's why they call it impossible! I polished up three pages, though, in about an hour, and recited a few paragraphs in the car on the way to the University.

This class I visited had to do an exercise on perception and I became an unwitting volunteer. Without saying a word the class was required to conclude the story of a strangers' life. Another volunteer took on an Irish accent, fooling the students until the very end when she confessed to being from Huntsville, Ala.

Meanwhile it was decided that my name must be either David or Jonah. Apparently I'm a 27-year-old business man who might make $80 a year, hold liberal political views, majored in history and enjoy yachting. I am none of those things, proving once again that assumptions will only make an ass out of you and umptions.

It was the white slacks that fooled them, I think.

I delivered two speeches, one an informative speech on the safety of tomatoes in the face of the current salmonella scare. I held up four recent stories to establish the news and then ate a really big slice of tomato.

Tempting fate, you say? Oh no.

That's where I brought in the science and research and the FDA and more tomato slices.

Later I gave the second speech, the one so fresh the paper still held the smell of printer toner. The topic was on speech outlines. I took the stance that they were important for the class, served a purpose to a point, but should be discarded immediately thereafter. The audience was a class of speech students, and I railed against the rules they must follow while following their rules. It was very post-modern, in a neoclassical sense.

There were no tomatoes in that speech, which is a shame. They were delicious.

Later The Yankee and Eight invited me out to dinner. We walked a few blocks and met their classmate, Andrew.

We had Mexican, at a place I've visited twice now, but I still don't recall the name. I enjoy it because it is full of the college vibe -- young ladies fabulously overdressed sitting next to women in baseball caps. The graffiti in the restroom is profound, as you might expect from philosophy majors and the waiters are snappy and very helpful.

I saw a white light from the corner of my eye throughout the evening's conversation -- it was witty and irreverent and it should happen more often -- it turned out to be a neon light, and not the sunset. Before anyone realized it the clock said 9:30 and I still had 30 miles to drive home.

As we sat down to eat the cable company called. They were ready to come out to the house, but it was 7:30 at night. So I've been stood up once again. Happily they've rescheduled for tomorrow. I have plenty of salt, and I'm ready to count the individual grains, so I'll believe it when they ring the bell.

Great day all the same. Hope yours was just as fulfilling.

Monday, June 16, 2008

I wrote a great deal about my weekend fun. Apparently I missed a big game of basketball in the NBA championships (don't care) and an incredible round of golf from the U.S. Open.

These aren't votes you get at the grandparent's house. My grandfather has the remote and you get a steady diet of Braves baseball, Hallmark channel, westerns, Nancy Grace or Little People, Big World.

There was a marathon of the latter, and so we watched a few hours of that as everyone sat around catnapping. I could have caught an amazing round of golf, but that wasn't too be. I watched the highlights this morning, which helped set the stage for this afternoon's 18-hole playoff.

We watched that at work, glancing up every few minutes to try and catch a score or a situation. It isn't the best way to follow golf -- Brian, meanwhile, caught the round via XM and he says their coverage was adequate -- but it will do. We all stood up and took notice on the 18th and then the 19th sudden death hole.

Most everyone in the office gathered around to watch, the sense of something special had long filled the room. On the 18th green it became an immortal round of golf and, after that, it was only a matter of time. He had a great day and a terrific tournament, but at the end of it all Rocco Mediate did something I can do all day: lose to Tiger Woods. They both played an inspired round and I was glad to see it.

This afternoon I stopped by the local discount hair place and did the ritual hair chopping. A nice lady walked me back and we decided to get risky with my hairstyle. She scissor cut the whole thing. It looks fine, but I'm still searching for a honest to goodness barber shop.

Picked up a few groceries this evening. It was a stock the shelves trip, and a little more traumatic at the check out because of it. Happily most everything in the cart was healthy, and it'll all be eaten eventually, so that's good news. The cashier was the same girl from a week or so ago who said I worked at "Al dot com." She didn't recognize me, which is fine.

The bagger was more than willing to chat about nonsensical things, which is both the blessing and the curse of the job. That person bags your groceries for eight hours and never has more than a silly joke or small talk or pleasantries to get them through the day.

I bet they go home and read great speeches.

Which is what I'm doing. I should be writing two, but instead I'm looking for inspiration in others. The Yankee has tasked me with delivering two speeches at the University of Alabama tomorrow and I've written one, but am drawing a blank on the other.

The finished one, which is only slightly contrived (my favorite) and relies on props (also fun) will discuss tomatoes and salmonella. This was an easy enough speech to write. Actually I've written it twice, as Open Office crashed just before the end, allowing me to learn that it does not have an autosave feature.

The second speech has been a bit more challenging. I'm not thrilled with the format and was told to write a nice persuasive speech. Generally I think of a motivational speech at that point, as my favorites have always been those I could aim at a crowd of teenagers. This isn't intended to be a motivational speech and it is for a room of college students. The difference isn't that great, I know, but differences on the margin can kill a speech dead.

So I'm reading some classic speeches. Inspired by a Barbara Bush address I've written something that resembles a commencement speech which plays on all the emotions, pulling on heart strings, flirting lightly with cliches, dancing with imagery and it even has a Jell-o joke. No one will ever hear it.

Even still, there's a speech to write. For now, though, I'm going to rest the creative side of the brain with the last episode of Battlestar for the year.

There's a hint of a spoiler in this paragraph. Skip down if you don't want to see it. As the series has gone for the last two seasons this has been another strong episode. At the 44th minute I began to have an odd feeling about the way things were turning. At the 56th minute I had an even worse feeling. I had no idea the 12th Cylon was going to be Charlton Heston. Give them this, though, that's a terrific tracking shot at the end. It gets better with every viewing.

The characters and some of the plot points are still victims of big leaps from time to time, but they're generally forgivable. I'm coming around to the conclusion, though, that the story might have been told better if they knew going in they had three seasons. Adam "Mojo" Lebowitz, one of the designers on the show writes a great blog and it is obvious that there's plenty of fans working on the show and there's been enough in every episode, to keep me from complaining.

Hope your Monday has left you with no complaints. Come back tomorrow to hear about speeches and -- Hey! Want to write one for me?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

As it happens I visited four stores last evening. My mother, also visiting the rest of the family for the Father's Day weekend, set out to look for a sofa table and I tagged along.

We stopped first at one of the dollar stores, failing to find anything of the right design. It was an uneventful stop, beyond learning what a sofa table would look like, if I ever saw one. "Like this, but without that."


We visited the big box store concern of the blue variety after that because it was the next store on the road. We're just looking for a small little thing for her lake house and you'd think this wouldn't be difficult. It needs to be about "Yay tall" and "So wide." It'll sit beneath a window, in an alcove between a dress and the closet, which was designed not to be recessed into the wall, but rather occupying a corner. She has a bench to put under it and she can happily put her makeup on.

If we can find the thing.

At the box store we found a possibilites, and ultimately purchased a small student desk one thinking that it might be the winner if nothing else presented itself. I purchased a sander for my home. Other things -- furniture tacks, cushions a card and nail polish for my grandmother -- were also selected. If I never revisit that particular store again I'll be happy. The experience and the sad expressions of others would suck your soul.

Saw a nice sunset on the way out though.

We stopped by Big Lots because, why not? They did not have a sofa table. They also did not have milk, which was needed for the neighborhood stray cat. They also did not have powdered milk. We looked. This took a while; they have a lot of groceries.

We got the cat some tuna, paid and then walked out, leaving the tuna on the counter. I walked back in, but on the perfected fake-embarrassed expression and made a self-deprecating joke. Aw shucks and all that. It probably never occurred to the cashier to note that her customers were leaving without their groceries.

So I get milk, by now we're both just beaten down by the adventure of it all so Mom stays in the car while I walk into the Foodland next door. The floor is that puke green-yellow with the irregular shapes of red and green tile that have sat in place for at least 40 years. The milk is in the back right corner as opposed to the far left wall. Apparently they did not attend the landmark dairy convention of 1982 where this all came under industry standard.

I picked up a half-gallon, around those parts it runs you $2.19, and nothing else. In the checkout line I read the WIC memo which put forth new reduced standards from the state trying to cope with an increased demand. The plan, apparently is to reduce the volume you can by, or put tighter limits on the brand items, so that they can make the money go farther for more families in need.

The memo was dated this past February, with the important parts under a highlighter. Last February the story was that not enough people were taking advantage of WIC even as more people were coming eligible.

The manager saw me reading the note at his cash register and came over to talk. There was a sadness in his eyes when he talked about the milk, my milk, and how everyone needs it. "Even if you can't afford it," he said. And I thought $2.19? It was a sobering moment.

I ended the night with a bit of silliness, starting Steve Martin's biography Born Standing Up. My boss loaned it to me after I mentioned reading an excerpt a few months ago in the Smithsonian Magazine. One of the other guys in the office writes comedy on the side -- I always try to make him laugh in the hopes that he'll use something I say -- raves about the book, and it is good.

And brisk, too. When I crawled onto the bed last night I was opening the book for the first time. When I fell asleep I was on page 60.

This morning was a McDonald's breakfast and a visit to one of the oldest churches in the area. The building doesn't feel old, they've renovated it in the last 15 years or so and have expanded out the back, but the congregation feels a bit weary. I'm related to every third person in the place, but don't know it. We give each other the vague look of recognition and small talk before and after the service and they are delightful people. But the service itself feels worn and paper-thin.

Today the song leader swapped verses halfway through a hymn without mentioning it to anyone else. I'm sure, in all my years of song leaders good and bad that has happened, but I can't recall when. The preacher, a warm man with a booming voice in the philosophical Southern style, spoke today on what kinds of fathers the world needs. An easy subject, he pulled fathers good and bad from the Biblical text to make his point, we all agreed it was a fine presentation.

And then he made "Fathers" into acrostic and, to me, that's just cheating on par with reading word-for-word from a Powerpoint presentation. Which they have in this church. I remember when the place had old gaudy brass chandeliers and an oddly compelling ceiling design (which was useful for children intent on not hearing the sermon) and a creaky old water fountain just outside the main hall, but now they put everything up on slides. It takes a while to adjust to things when you only see it two or three times a year.

After church my grandparents, my mother and I stopped by a local diner. It is a four star establishment according to Judy's Book. Apparently we're related to the owner somehow. There's a family reunion next weekend and she'll be there. But first have some chicken. And a plate full of vegetables. And red velvet cake on the house.

No one turns down the red velvet cake.

I've been in the place once before, and I recall a sports theme, but the place has gone strictly historical. We dined under a 19th Century photo of the town's namesake and I stared at a picture of the town's first postal carrier, who slogged muddy roads through the Roaring Twenties and the Depression. He has a locally famous last name and in some very distant way we'd be related too. But there are less than 1,200 people in this town even today. You're related to everybody, or your neighbors are.

Looking at the numbers on I am proud to note nothing more violent than assault has happened in the town in the 21st Century. Mr. Killen, the old man in the oldest picture, would be happy to hear that too. So would, perhaps, the children in the photographs of the local schools from 1928, 1943 and 1968. The diner is a time capsule -- some of those kids may have been in the restaurant at the same time, enjoying red velvet cake.

After lunch Coco modeled for the camera. She's such a cute dog. Until she turns evil.

She's really just about the sweetest shadow you've ever had. She's always underfoot. Except when there is work to be done, and then she disappears. She knows more than she lets on.

I was tasked with sanding door frames at my mother's lake house this afternoon. She is going to repaint and the old paint, a reluctant old latex, is starting to chip and peel. The white paint on the trim gave way to layers of paint underneath.

This is a house my great-grandfather, the man to the right holding a child, built more than 50 years ago as a rental property. Each time I walk into the place I think I will never create something that stands for half a century.

And suddenly I've found myself kneeling in the dust of the place, sanding smooth at least six layers of paint, peeling away the canvas of perhaps a dozen lives or more, letting that old lumber breathe again for the first time since the Eisenhower administration.

With the sanding done we put together the desk we purchased last night, where I decided the problem with assembling pressboard furniture is that they haven't figured out a way to make that more entertaining yet.

After that, I indulged in one more piece of family history. This stove was a wedding gift for my great-aunt and great-uncle in 1954.

It has been passed around the family in recent years until finally landing in the lake house, which is a relief. It was doomed to scrap before more sensible heads prevailed. How could you let that go? Have a look at the buttons. Each row corresponds to a different stove eye, and the buttons control the temperature.

Hotpoint made the appliance and they are still in business today, though the merchandise looks a bit different.

I'd love to see more of that font, and take another look at the decorative emblem. Was that not created by a disgruntled car designer? Surely he worked for Mercury before he moved to Hotpoint. And the indentations? That let you know it was a stove for a new era, where anything was possible and a woman knew the roast was going to be tender and succulent every time. Who knows how many meals that thing has made. It still cooks things perfectly, but you have to mind where you put things inside the oven.

Later in the evening on the way home I checked out the corn. Most of the farmers in this part of the world have abandoned cotton, at least for the year, and turned to soybeans and corn. Most of that will go to ethanol, absent what has been lost in the midwest corn is about to become a pricey purchase.

Mostly, though, it is odd to see the fields. You could drive through the region and predict that the commercial developments and the subdivisions would one day take over. But to see land that has held cotton and alfalfa for a century now hosting a new crop. That makes for an eerie drive home.

That's pretty much been the weekend. I'm back at my home now and ready for a 10-day-long week that will hopefully pass with ease. Here's to all you five-dayers, may your schedule stay so kind.

Come back tomorrow for a Monday of musings. There'll be less family history here, promise.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Some Saturdays the alarm must be set and this is called responsibility.

I find it overrated.

After sleeping past the alarm just a little bit I packed up and hit the road for north Alabama. I'd been charged with picking up some ribs from the Dreamland in Birmingham and decided to enjoy a sandwich while I was there. It was 10:30, barbecue sounded good, there was no breakfast and dinner was going to be late.

So I enjoyed the chicken sandwich -- they now offer a small, no one could tell me why -- with Abraham Lincoln. I finished the book today, Doris Kearns Goodwin's work just grows on through 700 pages. Before it is over you'll come to have a new respect for Lincoln. So much so that you don't want the inevitable to happen. I really don't think she wanted to discuss the inevitable either, the last chapter was brisk.

The part that really jumps out from the last section is the lament for the South. Thoughtful people, even in that heartbreaking moment, realized that perhaps the best hope for a region had just been extinguished. It is an interesting statement of a chaotic time.

Look for a big budget movie on Lincoln coming soon. Liam Neeson is playing the lead. There's a conversation going on at IMDB about who should play John Wilkes Booth. I'm more interested in who'll play Edwin Stanton (I vote for Sam Waterston.) But Booth has created a fair amount of conversation concerning a character who'll show up in the last 15 minutes. If they didn't show him at all that'd be fine; the better to not romanticize the man. Be subdued and poignant about that terrible moment. That way you don't end a promising young actor's career (or give it to Ben Affleck).

But I digress.

It is a good book. Pick it up. I'd loan you mine, but it was a gift and has a special place selected for it in the library when I return home.

On the road I saw this old gas station. The great thing about ghost stations is that the sign will often give you an idea of when the place closed. Seldom do they remember to take that last price down. "Who needs the numbers? Everything else is gone. They may as well stay as a reminder of what was. $1.38"

This place no longer had a sign, but the kudzu growing everywhere was arresting. It is reaching up the awning and will soon be on top of it. In a year the place will be a mound of the weed, and only the old-timers will recall the name of the place. On my next trip I hope to chart the progress.

On this trip, though, I got to see the newest addition to the extended family. He's a good kid, and we all hope he stays that way. Oh sure, he's sleeping now, but the boys in this family are prone to mischief, he said in a way that deflects all blame from himself.

We've wasted approximately four minutes on this site in recent days discussing water droplets. So have one more example. There'll be a small handful of other outdoors and nature shots from the day to appear in the photo gallery for the month. That'll happen just as soon as I build the thing.

Today we're busy. There's a very casual Father's Day dinner and the big announcement that my grandparents will be the recipient of a big anniversary party later this year. At first they protested the plan, but they grew excited about it pretty quickly. The idea is to give them the wedding reception they never had, so this will be a big and elaborate festivity, so we're all looking forward to December.

Now I'm being beckoned to town. We're looking for something called a sofa table. Also milk. And four or five other assorted things. It appears that an afternoon of projects will be my Sunday destiny.

Come back tomorrow then. There'll be more photographs, idle thoughts from an idle mind and whatever other adventures come to pass.

And may your adventures between now and then be filled with wonder.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Friday, the weekend and the near perfect day. Work breezed by with humor and an abundance of new friends on Twitter. We discussed new technology with voices of awe and considered how we'd use them, if only someone purchased the toys for us.

R. Kelly was found not guilty -- are his lawyers now the most sought after in America? "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, that is not my client on the videotape." -- and will surely have a video Tuesday documenting his side of the whole story.

That was destined to be the story of the news cycle until word of Tim Russert's death trickled out mid-afternoon. He was one of the good ones in the news business, everybody liked the guy and he'll be missed. Certainly 58 is a shocking age, but as we've unfortunately come to expect Russert's obit lead the news, even over the flooding and devastation in Iowa. I doubt he would care for that.

Despite the news of the day, despite the dark skies and the violent clap of thunder and threat of rain it was an afternoon of optimism: I got to see Atticus today.

You tell me: Does this look like a child who had heart surgery two days before?

They had to remove a portion of his aorta that was too narrow to allow for normal blood flow. That was on Wednesday. By Thursday afternoon he was running through the halls of his hospital floor. Today we could barely keep up with him.

He's got a scar under his left arm that will make you cringe, and he's still wearing two IV's -- we were there when they put one of them back in and it just about breaks your heart -- but he's as tough as they come and in incredible spirits. You and I would be lying in bed complaining about removing a portion of the largest artery in the body. He's flirting with all the ladies and exploring every place he can get into.

We met the surgeon, an ebullient South African who apparently wasn't quite himself this afternoon. There was some thought that a surgery earlier that day went bad; he'd been in the operating room far longer than anticipated and was late in visiting. It is a chilling thought in a children's cardiac ward. Atticus is feeling great and his parents are relieved, but someone else nearby can't have that same experience.

Everything you've ever watched on television or in a movie where a doctor loses a patient and reacts dramatically goes out the double doors at the end of the hall. You've no idea how this man reacts. Particularly after you just watched him kneel down next to Atticus and see the normally three-year-old give him a full body hug. You'd think there can't really be a way for the kid to understand how much this man has improved his life, but his parents do and the surgeon does too. Professional detachment will only take you so far when relieved smiling faces can melt your heart.

And tomorrow he'll get to go home.

After the hospital visit it was time for Pie Day. An interesting discussion on tomatoes broke out. The vegetable of the day is a stewed okra and tomato concotion and the servers have been coached to tell each table that the tomatoes are from a can so customers will feel confident about their salmonella intake. All of the food prepared at the restaurant, otherwise, are made fresh, so the canned variety is a big departure. The canned variety was being used so they could say they were preserved from last year's crop and not tainted, so you may eat without fear.

I'm told the taste was indistinguishable. Stewed tomatoes are icky, and okra shouldn't be soggy, so I demure on the offer. That doesn't mean I won't debate the issue.

In the salmonella scare you're urged to not eat raw tomatoes of certain varities grown in certain states. In the conversation we learned that they use family tomatoes shipped from California. and, as mentioned, they are cooked. Hence the tomatoes for this particular dish are fine, but we're overreacting to be seen as doing something.

Super Waiter Ward, to his credit, agreed with my argument, but he has to go along with the company line of course. I'm confident few other in the restaurant have given the issue any thought, and that's the disappointing part.

I have to give a few speeches next week, perhaps this would be a good topic.

Later in the evening The Yankee and I tried to take pictures of the moon. Maybe her's turned out better, but I struggled through mine. I always have a difficult time exposing the moon properly and the clouds were giving me a hard time as well.

The one I had any success with I managed to kick the tripod as I turned away, so there are two moons.

After that it was getting late and I was getting itchy. I have a long day tomorrow, so I'll call it a night tonight.

If you're still looking for something to read, go cheer on Atticus!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

I've become a verb in the office.

One of the coworkers brought her newborn for a visit today, so all of the ladies from the sales and support staff that were within earshot swarmed in for a closer view.

The boss heard the child crying and walked out from his office, said "I'll pull a Kenny" and produced a camera.

I was going to let the moment pass, but was so proud of the leap from proper noun to action verb that I had to take part.

So meet Ellis. Dad is an LSU fan, Mom is an Auburn Lady. They've had a long-running discussion about where their son will come down on the issue. If they ever try to do one of those split outfit things they'll burn up his retinas when the purple and yellow meet the orange and blue.

Dad named him Ellis, we learned today, because then it almost sounds like "L-S-U." Each time I've seen him, though, he's sporting an Auburn pacifier. I believe the mother will win out in the end.

Feeling much better today. Almost like myself again. A really itchy version of me, but gradual improvements are welcome too.

I apologize for all the whimpering, but it has helped flesh the place out when I've not felt like doing anything else. I'll say it again, the itchy, irritated skin is annoying, but the steroid pills they gave me did not please the system. I'm starting to see some of the irritated areas improving, so there is an end in sight. (You're thrilled. I can see it from here.) That's a big psychological boost.

Know what else is great for the spirit? Old Cheers reruns. The Yankee and I watched a few tonight -- we've been drifting through the Kirstie Alley lately -- and enjoying them terrifically. I don't recall enjoying the later episodes this much in their original run, her character always annoyed frankly, but they're growing on me.

I also enjoy remembering bits and pieces of these with The Yankee. I mentioned here a few years ago how we sat with friends and watched a few episodes from the very beginning of the show. It was a fascinating experience to consider. We were four people from three different places who were all between four and six when the show first aired, but we held this common experience over the show. We'd all come to the gags separately, but we're leaving with the suddenly remembered punchlines together. It was very comforting.

What is a little odd is to note the changes they made in the Fraiser character after his transition from a support character to his own show. And since you strike me as the type of person who'd expect a full report on the issue, I'll go devote the next hour to watching the two late-night episodes of Fraiser to satisfy your curiosity. I'm just that kind of guy.

Ready for Friday? Me too. Going to be a big one! Make sure you stop back by to see the latest. Thanks for visiting!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Oh the WordPress problem is solved. You may now continue your lives untroubled. After you imagined on Monday six paragraphs dense with the troubles and failures of migrating this blog to the kinder, gentler platform you may now imagine seven more paragraphs on the lessons learned between now and then.

This part must be said without editing, for it is indicative of the hard work you may still find in some corners of the customer support world. I've been Emailing with a guy named Nick at WordPress for three days. He's been handling some particularly boring conversation from my end until we were finally on the same page about the problem. When I wouldn't go away I think he realized he should put both hands into the project for his own peace of mind.

At any rate, he went above and beyond, did a few things I didn't ask about and made the thing happen. So congratulations WordPress tech support.

In the five years of this blog I've written 2,055 posts of things barely worth reading, to say nothing of remembering. WordPress has now imported 2,053 of them. I can live with that success rate.

Now, what to do with the thing.

An hour later I've just realized that the import did something wacky with the dates. June 7th, for example, shows up in the WordPress blog as June 8th. This persists backwards for several years of entry.

Also there are duplicates. So while there are 2,053 entries, they are not 2,053 unique. This will not do; these are the things that will keep one up nights and fretting in quiet moments in the checkout line. Still, my compliments to the WordPress help staff.

I'm at a loss over this setback though. Maybe I should pick some arbitrary point and kill off everything before that. I could save this particular address as an archive and start the WordPress in a new directory with a year or so of heft behind it. That'll mean re-dating a year or so by hand, but it can't take forever. Certainly that couldn't eat into as much time as the last three days of trying to make this work.

So when to do this? Perhaps in August. Allows for procrastination and is a good date for the site. I started blogging in August, picked up this URL in August and a big format change would seem apropos.

Is it possible I've spent the bulk of my day on this? Does anyone have any other hobby ideas?

On the poison ivy front -- I know, I know -- I'm feeling a bit better. No more pills, but a lot of itchy. It will be a happy day when I'm finally not aware of my skin again.

For now, though, I'll dive into the Brooklyn Bridge once again. They didn't have WordPress worries -- could you imagine an engineer of the late 19th Century laughing at that as a concern of life? Of course they also probably didn't have the topical relief of anti-itch cream either, so it is a trade off.

It is a good diversion, David McCullough's book. And immersing. About the only thing overlooked is the smell, and that's fine.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I feel a bit better today, thanks for asking. The last of the medication has just been swallowed and I intend to sleep it off so it can't bother me.

I only wish there was something worth telling you about. Having been under the weather for the better part of the week -- I come home and stare at the wall, will my fingernails to stay away from the itchy spots and fail miserable. This goes on for six minutes and then I'm fine for three.

After an hour or two of this I slather on the no-itch stuff. After a few minutes that kicks in, numbing whatever nerve endings necessary to make the itch go away. And who cares about the long term implications, I need relief now!

If a little itch is the worst of your problems, though, life is cake. Or better, oatmeal. I'm told oatmeal does wonders for this sort of thing. You imagine a tub full of the stuff, trying to get it to one tolerable temperature and then sinking inside, covered with glob and who knows what.

I'm also told that oatmeal doesn't work for everyone, so it isn't worth the effort. Besides, how would you get it out of the tub? And if it didn't work and I purchased an abundance of it what would I do then? I don't eat oatmeal so it would have just been wasted.

I'm sending it overseas instead, in the hopes that it might have some real use.

Pardon me while my foot is asleep ...

... Four minutes later, after almost falling out of the chair and stomping around with one good leg, I'm back.

Look, I can handle the itching, but itching and a foot with no feeling is just too much. Everyone's got a breaking point. Mine, apparently, is set at Hard Stare.

The Yankee and I went out to a steakhouse tonight and ordered chicken. I was down to one of two choices, having tried both before, thinking that I vaguely enjoyed one -- a playful homage to its regional betters -- and thought poorly of the other -- a taste reminiscent of "secret sauce". I could not remember one from the other.

Until the waitress, a kind older lady with a big smile and desire to impress, mentioned that one of the choices had tomatoes which have been evilinated and removed from the produce line.

Everyone by now knows of the tomato/salmonella scare of the year of our Lord 2008. Several dozen cases of salmonella have been traced back, in the usual methodical style, to a few tomato vines somewhere in middle America.

All of those unfortunate people had the delicious treat in common sometime within a month prior to getting sick and it truly is a horribly painful thing and a PR nightmare, so "just take the tomatoes of the prep table already!" More and more restaurants are following McDonald's in this, which is a scary enough concept of its own. When you take health cues from the guy in face paint ... maybe you should take the hallucinogenics off the line as well.

So I could not have the tomatoes on the one chicken dish this evening. I lodged a hearty protest of laced with petty condescension and bitter scoffing, established my bona fides, quoted the state health officials who'd just yesterday publicly announced our local produce safe and announced: Might I have the other dish then, please?

They'll never forget the scofflaws from Table 16.

The waitress was a sweetheart. She would have left the restaurant and gone into the neighboring big box store if I'd asked for something not on-hand. Except the tomatoes. Someone in the back said they'd heard of someone else who once stared at a firm red tomato once who faced such a revenge that they cower in terror anytime a salad is now mentioned.

Not to make light of the suffering of others, salmonella food poisoning is not fun unless you're into crash weight loss, but we're overreacting a bit. And everyone realizes it; restaurants and stores are almost winking when they give in to the pressure to follow the guys behind the curtains at the golden arches. "Can't have Ronald looking more conscientious than us" they seem to be saying.

So wash your food. Cook your food. Enjoy your dinner, quiet in the knowledge that yours is the safest food source in the world. We're at several dozen unfortunate salmonella cases versus how many millions of meals eaten in that same time period? I'll be struck by lightning while holding the winning lottery ticket before I catch another case. Let me take the risk.

And, out of deference to those who're tired of my itchy poison ivy complaints, if I get food poisoning from tomatoes I won't complain about it here.

You can follow along on the FDA's sleuthing and an interesting consumer angle from our friends at Extension.

What is truly remarkable as how much the food safety protection has grown. Just a decade ago it would have taken a few hundred more cases before the scientists could begin to pinpoint the answers, but now you already know the culprit, where the problems might have originated and even which types of the fruit to avoid. We're getting safer everyday.

No thanks to Ronald McDonald. He thinks he fooled us by pulling the tomatoes, but we've still got our eye on him.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Made it back to work today. It was a quiet day, which was just as well. If there'd been fun or excitement I would have probably ruined it. Some days are for the inner-grouse and that was today. Since I'm the perpetual happy-go-lucky personality I'll blame this, too, on the medication.

There is only one more pill in the steroid prescription after this. I've hit no home runs nor built any awesome muscles, but I've still had enough of them. Nothing feels quite right and that's turned today into one of frustration.

So today was, naturally, the perfect afternoon to consider rebuilding the entire structure of this blog. Little is as entertaining as repeatedly doing the same thing incorrectly and getting the same result.

Imagine, in this place, six paragraphs on the struggles of moving everything into a WordPress database. Apparently there was a moment in time about a year ago when doing this would have been ideal, but the people at Google got wise and programmed against it. There is a workaround, but it only works for sites of a certain volume. There's plenty of that here, too much you might say, and so the workaround doesn't work.

I'll try again tomorrow, because the six paragraphs omitted above represent about three hours of failure at what is purported to be a simple click and accomplish task. Such is often the way of things for me when it comes to making two separate software platforms work in harmony.

That was the evening at home, which was punctuated by a delicious grilled offering from The Yankee and an hour of old Cheers episodes designed to cheer up the dampened spirit.

The day at work was all about the iPhone, which was announced today to great cheers as if it were word from atop Mount Pisgah. I want to be enthused by this because it would mean an acceptance into the camaraderie of Apple brethren, but there's a very 20th Century lobe of my brain that wants my phone to be a phone and, really, not ask much more of the thing. I would surely enjoy all of the bells and whistles on the iPhone, but ultimately would find the phone and the text messaging to be the most frequently used features.

I have the internet everywhere I need it. I have a camera. I don't need 16GB in my pocket. I don't need an iPhone.

One day, when semiconductor is replaced by manufactured diamonds, they'll find a way to put everything you could need into your pocket. There'll be the Library of Congress, splitting time with a live feed of any number of open access cameras and satellites. You'll be able to dial up the oven to preheat for your TV dinner, a dish which will by then be enjoyed exclusively in front of your phone and its uplink to the home entertainment center and the Neighborhood Distraction Hub.

Nothing will be forgotten or overlooked. All will be remembered as you download a plugin that lets you recall old grocery store lists -- back when we had to visit the store -- written on scraps of paper and then discarded. Apple will have minions in landfills around the country scouring through the debris convinced that these things will be what we want to recall with nostalgia. "Ah, fondue. Weren't those pleasant evenings?"

When that day comes I'll get one, jumping from one great technological threshold into the next one without the fits and starts in between. The jolt will be startling. It would be like going back in time and visiting your grandparents as they marvelled at the Indian head logo on their brand new console television (First in the neighborhood!). It'd be like watching that with them in amusement, and then giving them a digital cable package with a TiVo and the new Netflix download box.

There'll be little excuse for anything anymore because your entire world will be filtered into the palm-sized device by your attentive focus and the spousal redundancy algorithms.

And you'll still lose the signal in the heart of downtown. But that's the way of it.

Speaking of cable: They were supposed to stop by the house on Friday. They did not. I had to call them today to reschedule. I was displeased. They'll be in my neighborhood next week, where they'll seek to resolve the problem a full month after they've created it. No wonder I'm grouchy.

And now, to take the next to last pill, will away the itchies and plot the worldwide eradication of poison ivy.

Now if the iPhone can do that ...

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Having a four day weekend would be grand. Spending all of that time in discomfort and various stages of itchery is not the joy they sell you on the brochure.

So this will be brief, and yet filling as it were, a complete accounting of my day which is once again dominated by the poison ivy and the drugs. If you're tired of hearing of it I understand. And believe me: I'm tired of talking about it.

The swelling has long since disappeared, the irritation persists and has started to itch in a few places. This can all be handled. The drugs, I'm convinced, have now added nausea to their side effects.

Fine for most of the day, getting in the car this evening, though, was not pleasant. Stationary I'm fine, and hungry. Had pasta tonight and that was delicious. Getting to and from food and the grocery store was just about the least desirable action in the world. Walking the aisles of the grocery store, which is usually fun or, at worst, an interesting diversion, was painful.

I breezed through in record time just so that I could be out of the place. A sense of duty made a few purchases necessary just so the whole experience wouldn't be in vain. There was fruit and a few breakfast things and a solemn promise to myself to get the rest later in the week.

In reading about poison ivy the other night I learned that previous immunity to the evil oils of the vine does not guarantee the same success at a later time. Having now gained first hand experience of this cruel and random twist of nature I'm only proud that it took this long to catch up with me. So much of my childhood was spent in the woods that I should have remained a pinkish dry patch for most of my days.

Right now I'm more than grateful it was not the case.

Any more familiarity with the drugs would not be welcome. The medicine is getting blamed for everything, deserving or not, and I'm counting the doses until the prescription is completed. Just two more days before the devil pills are finished, and then they can slowly work their way out of my system. Then, perhaps, I won't be tired all of the time, or have the shortness of breath, rapid heart rate or any of the other fun maladies of the last few days.

That'll teach me to work in the yard. I'm hiring the neighborhood kids next time.

Tomorrow I'm going back to work. If I'm going to feel bad I may as well be productive, there's no real reason to avoid it, you can be itchy anywhere.

Not that you want to be.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

My body seems to be winning out this battle of side effects over the poison ivy drugs. (And you think you're sick of hearing about it? Hah.)

The drugs are built on a descending structure. Thursday I got the shot in the hip and six pills. Friday there were five, today there were four. This evening was the first time since Thursday I could do more than walk a flight of stairs and not feel exhausted. Tomorrow, with only three pills on the schedule, and Monday facing two pills, I hope to be much better.

This works out well. It is one thing to be home, achy and bored, during the week, but another thing entirely to enjoy all those pleasantries on a weekend. Today, though, was much better.

I slept in, canceling one early morning appointment after staring at the ceiling until about 4 a.m. this morning. Had breakfast and the first of the evil pills, did a few things around the house and then The Yankee and I made our way out of town. We stopped for lunch, I took another pill, we got gas and hit the road to play with Justin and RaDonna and the swiftly growing Atticus.

His parents' anniversary will soon be here and we made them let us babysit for the night so they could enjoy a quiet evening. They went to see an Abba tribute band instead.

They're getting ready to sell their house, so we saw all of the maintenance work. Looks very nice guys! Then Atticus went to sleep and they went out to eat and watch the show. I watched the sunset, which gives them a nice show each evening. The front of their house faces west, and the sun sneaks in through the doors that walk out onto the big elevated patio porch.

For comparison's sake, here's a picture of Atticus in his swing from September 2006. He was in the swing this afternoon, too. Kid's gotten a lot of mileage out of that hunk of plastic.

With the little one asleep and our friends off on their anniversary date The Yankee and I were party animals. She worked on school stuff while I read more on Lincoln. When Justin and RaDonna brought us pet rocks in keeping with the Abba theme. Apparently the tribute band "neglected" to play "Dancing Queen."

This was lost on no one in the audience who, we're told, good-naturely demanded an encore. On general principle Justin and RaDonna wouldn't demand an encore from a tribute band, which is what makes them such great people to know, as their tastes fall perfectly into line, with the possible exception of seeing an Abba tribute band to start with.

(I wonder if this entry will now be Google bombed. Abba. Abba. Abba.)

And then we all sat around and told stories of our families. Their families are each from Tennessee, in the scheme of things not to very far from mine, and all of the stories would be as alarming or appropriate in my family as theirs. All of them silly, all worth re-telling. I've been convinced for years that we'll one day find out we're sixth or seventh cousins. It is inevitable.

So that was my day, which was perfect in every respect. I hope you can say the same of yours. And now, to take the last pill of the day and try for a bit more sleep.

These pills taste horrible.


Friday, June 6, 2008

Let us talk, briefly, of superstition.

As I rest up for the second day of a reasonably nasty poison ivy attack -- my spirits have remained high, even as the shade of my skin has grown alarming and, finally begun to settle a bit, mostly I'll complain of medicinal side effects -- I recalled a photograph I took Tuesday.

And here it is.

Black cat under a ladder. I would have opened an umbrella, but I'd already broken a mirror while spilling salt. The picture, really, tells me all I needed to know about the day. If only I'd paid attention.

Later on Tuesday, of course, was where the poison ivy stepped in to dominate the week.

I've spent today in a reclined position with a frozen cloth over my head to try to keep the swelling from progressing. The stuff got right up to my eyes and there's no doubt that I'm lucky about where it stopped. There are a few patches here and there on the wrist, inside the elbow, near the hip and so on. The skin is drying out and, particularly around the eyes is becoming a bit flaky and irritated. Think of it as an unfortunate sunburn requiring medicine with uncomfortable consequences.

Mostly I've just been bored. This afternoon I watched Karate Kid II, which still isn't a bad movie. Except for the parts where Ralph Macchio isn't asked to fight someone, which just makes for awkward cinema. And the parts where Machio is fighting the bad guy at the end, where his microphone is too sensitive and his panting gets in the way of everything.

It made me want to see Karate Kid III (because Macchio is "edgy" and Thomas Ian Griffith hungrily chews the scenery), but not The Next Karate Kid, for which I had no use when it premiered. Happily the venerable Pat Morita got several dozen more opportunities to restore his credentials before his death, sadly one of them was a project called Karate Dog.

He's tied to two projects dated for this year, despite having been dead for three.

See? Slow day at home. I'd much rather be productive.

I went out for a late dinner, bumping into an old family friend with whom I've not spoken with in many years. She's studying photography and we've arranged to take a camera safari somewhere in the near future.

She worked at the place, but did not wait on my table. I had a guy who saw my Abraham Lincoln book who began telling me things about the man not found, yet at least, in this text. He seemed very knowledgeable for a high schooler waiting tables. I left him a big tip, anyone familiar with the superstitions of people dead for 150 years -- or convincing enough to make them up on the spot -- deserves the attention.

Now back at home I'm watching the latest installment of Battlestar Galactica. Couldn't say the last time I watched the show on the evening it aired, usually I'm days, or weeks, behind. The last three episodes though, despite asking for some big leaps of faith to follow the character paths, have been incredibly entertaining.

In some respects they're determined to flesh out storylines as characters are given their motivations for what is coming. In other places the viewer is just asked to accept A plus B equals C somewhere in the last few installments, without being adequately demonstrated. This could cause headaches if big swerves are still to come. Still a few more have seemingly been abandoned as the last of the series grows near. These would be the slight negatives of rich narrative and compelling characters now drifting towards their tangible end.

Mostly I'm just bummed about having to wait another week, as the promo for the next episode was tantalizing.

What didn't happen today: A promised return visit by the cable company to fix a now three-week-old problem. Having had all day today to wait for them, I'm sure the conversation on Monday will be most pleasant.

I hope your weekend is most pleasant! Mine will be delightful, even if the skin is a bit dry and irritated. Silly black cat.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

I feel asleep last night with a cool cloth on my forehead and eyes and I woke up this morning with a very red face.

Take your pick, I look like I've had too much time on the beach, or like I've been on a three-day gin-bender, or nine rounds in a big boxing match.

Taking a shower this morning, that was pain on the level of hot-water-on-a-sunburn. I drove to work with a frozen rag on my face. Arriving at work just after 6 a.m. I found that our FTP servers were down. This is the software that allows me to send a file from my local machine to the remote host, and it is something you just take for granted until it is gone.

At 7 a.m. the boss walks in. I informed him of the FTP trouble and then said I might not last the day. He suggested I probably shouldn't, leaning back from the conversation just in case I had the plague. A poison ivy outbreak, fortunately, isn't contagious, but I was only starting the full bloom.

At 7:50 I left for a doc-in-the-box which opened at 8 a.m. Arriving I made the copay, filled out five pages of medical history and then read for 40 minutes. A nurse called my name and gave me the most perfunctory triage ever. Pulse-ox, temperature and blood pressure. None of these numbers alarmed her, though she did note a slight fever to be expected when fighting an infection.

Looking over my five pages of medical history she finally asked what I was in for. This was the first time she'd made eye contact, so I held her gaze long enough that she could see it as I said Poison ivy outbreak. I'm red, my eyelid is drooping and the skin on my face is suddenly half a size too big.

"Oh I see."

So she herded me back to an exam room where I read some more before a doctor came in. He was a nice guy, jolly old man who'd just as soon strike up a conversation as practice a lot of medicine. He quickly decided that my self-diagnosis (which is always a trick thing, friends) was accurate and told me about the shot and the prescription.

Then we talked about his poison ivy experience as a Cub Scout in the 1950s in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania and the oatmeal treatment he received. He told of patients he'd seen with their eyes completely swollen shut from the stuff. It was all very interesting, but by this time I hadn't had a compress in an hour and my face was swelling nicely again. I was ready for the shot, drugs and the road to recovery.

Fortunately the pain hasn't been that bad. If I could have only one or the other treated I'd opt for having the swelling reduced because the rest is only a mild discomfort at this point.

Another nurse came in and gave me a shot in the hip. The swelling could be diminishing as early as this evening. Great news. I go out to the in-clinic hospital and get the drugs and head for home.

The rest of the day is spent taking the drugs -- six pills today, five tomorrow and so on in descending order -- watching DVDs through a frozen washcloth and wondering why these steroids aren't making me hyper. If anything they're making me drowsy. Apparently I've been operating with a misconception about the stuff.

Later in the evening now and I'm up and moving around and feeling the side effects. Elevated heart rate, shortness of breath and the physical sensation you sometimes get with an anxious moment. I drove to a nearby drug store this evening -- wishing pretty quickly that I hadn't tried; if you feel this off you probably shouldn't be driving -- to investigate an over the counter drug the doctor suggested and to pick up some anti-itch cream. The drug didn't offer any advantages, but I walked out with some Caladryl.

Sitting and reclining have been the extent of my day, and I'm becoming one with the washcloth. In fact I've been typing mostly one-handed, so excuse any typos.

None of this is meant to complain, I made the ill-advised decision last to look for a few pictures online to see if my symptoms matched and apparently the internet delights in showing the Worst Cases Ever. By that scale I have a nice medium outbreak, the location of which being the biggest concern.

Fortunately I can rest comfortably, though the swelling hasn't declined yet. If anything I may still be in full bloom. As much as I hate it I might be at home convalescing tomorrow as well.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

After six long weeks the lawn mower was returned home. In the interim I've borrowed the neighbor's push mower to keep the weeds at bay, but it was due another trim and today was the day.

The guy called, got directions and arrived in such an astonishingly short amount of time I'm a little concerned about how fast he was driving with my machine in tow. He unloaded it and cranked it right up. They also fix the axle and bearings, tuned the thing even cleaned it. That, alone, was worth the maintenance.

And for the first time in my memory, the headlights on the thing work. Why you'd need them -- they seem too high to be effective -- I can't imagine, but if the neighbors have headlights you should too.

So I mowed the lawn, first the front, then the sides and finally the back. For the first time since, oh we'll call it the first time I ever mowed a lawn, it was actually fun. I don't expect that feeling to last, but such is the pride you can have with a neatly trimmed yard and approval from passersby.

Sadly, Kelly, there doesn't seem to be a need to jump the thing off the car any longer, so that bi-weekly adventure will hopefully be left off the blog from now on. I'll take a few hits on page count, as I still get the random search for electrocuting a butt.

You people, by the way, are twisted, but thanks for visiting.

On the site I got a few things updated before the lawn mower guy came out. I finished the May 2008 photo gallery and then went through all the main pages of the site and changed a few link names. You're riveted, I can tell. In the midst of considering the busy little projects for the site that I've been neglecting of late I'm also considering another wholesale relaunch of the layout. Anything to clutter the internet a bit.

I took a nap after mowing the lawn and woke up itching my eye. The right side of my face, from eye to temple to ear, are pretty red and inflamed. I've spent the evening with cold and frozen rags over my eyes, fearing that I've irritated the skin with a big glob of grease I found on the lawnmower.

Much later. It is after midnight, almost 1 a.m. and I'm in a mild bit of discomfort, but mostly I'm just wide awake. So I've been researching. Given yesterday's yard frolicking and what I'm reading now, I suspect poison ivy. The timing is about right, and it is possible I got into the stuff without realizing it. There were quiet a few different things growing in that clump. Terrific.

If I wake up with my eye swollen shut tomorrow I'm going directly to a doctor. Already I look like I've got a nice case of carpet burn across my face at eye level. The eyes being the one place on which all of the online literature agrees: Consult a physician immediately.

Here's to hoping that won't be necessary. And now I'll try, for the third time, to get to sleep.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

My gym has a sauna, but I no longer have a need for it. Today's chores took me into the attic where the outdoor temperature of 91 degrees had to be magnified by a factor of four.

My visit in the attic was brief, requiring a trip through basically half the width of the house. I stayed up there less than five minutes because the sixth minute might have been truly uncomfortable.

It is interesting, being in the corner there and realizing that just outside the wall it is 10 or 20 degrees less and just below your feet it is a good 30 or 40 degrees cooler. The next time I go up there I'll pick a better weather forecast.

Since I already had the ladder, and outdoors at 91 was markedly cooler than that experience, I climbed up to the roof to snake a gutter and drain. Sediment from the shingles runs off and collects and this has prevented the gutter from doing the desired job. I cleaned some crud out with a dismantling and a garden hose and marked that chore off the list.

Then I took out some vines that have been growing in an inappropriate place. Broke the hoe in doing so, but I have a garden spade that finished the job and kept me from getting poked by the thorns -- the devil's own home security system, no doubt.

This success leads me to one of two trees at Stoic Oaks that have seen an explosion of undergrowth this spring. They look a bit unsightly and must be cleared away. A flimsy tree saw and the spade did most of the work, some of it was removed more easily by hand. At this point I'd been outside for an hour and 91 degrees no longer felt like a refreshing novelty, so I came back indoors.

Still, up into the attic, cleaning gutters, removing brush and undergrowth, that's a semi-productive afternoon by my standards. The reward? More links, of course.

The New York Times ran a feature on 31 summer destinations:
the summer of 2008 is starting out like a cruel joke, with air travel increasingly a nightmare and with wildly escalating gas prices threatening to make the road trip all but obsolete.
The introduction takes on a nice tone, doesn't it? You come away from it thinking that you've already had your last great traveling adventure, but haven't yet realized it.

Sure they're being punky at the economy, the neocons and whomever else deserves the scorn of a newspaper these days, but it defeats the purpose. "Nope, can't afford it no more," he said from middle America with a wistful sigh. It doesn't really make you want to keep reading, though there are some fine suggestions.

By all means, if you're in the northeast, the west or the midwest -- pretty much anywhere but the southeast portion of the country, which is represented twice and the closest destination is 509 miles from here.

If you do go, though, you should make the journey using a motorcycle you can wear.

At first blush the concept is interesting, but put a little thought into it and it is obvious that this will be the Buck Rodgers mirth-inducer of our grandchildren's generation. "You thought you were bringing home groceries in that? Haha!"

If you like to make a To Do List into an adventure this might be something for you. This guy has compiled the list of the 10 oldest bars in America. A few are older than the declaration of independence. Most, as you would expect, are in the northeast, but there's also a trip to Virginia and New Orleans in your future on this historic pub crawl.

We actually dined at the Pirate's House in Savannah in April, so one down nine to go!

And now, your musical accompaniment. Springsteen covers Heartbreak Hotel and GroundStone, of whom you've likely never heard, doing a street corner a capella version of the Jackie Wilson classic Lonely Teardrops.

There aren't enough good covers of that song -- on YouTube at least -- I found a John Fogerty rendition but, at the risk of losing my Southern card I must confess to not being one of his biggest fans. I did, however, enjoy the chance to strum one of his guitars years ago. Otherwise I'm exhausted after two or three CCR songs.

Listening to Wilson himself -- and he had some moves too -- it is a shame that Elvis never covered the song. Feast on that brain candy for a while.

Monday, June 2, 2008

I made a list of the three people I had to call this afternoon, three errands that could be handled by phone and, hopefully, quickly scratched off the list. Of three phone calls to customer service reps I figured the odds of one of them getting out control might be a safe bet, but happily everything was solved quickly, competently and peacefully.

If you're not surprised by that you're not dealing with a lot of over-stressed, unintentional CSR targets in your life. The pay can't be good and half the time people are screaming at you and that would give anyone a short temper. Add in that they are phone answerers and data entry clerks and not technicians trained to solve your problem Right Now and you'll get someone who's not nearly equipped to solve yours, the most important problem in the world.

Or that's my general experience. People just sound weary of the job; who can blame them? When everything goes well you've set up another appointment for someone and you might get thanked, but probably not. And the customer certainly doesn't remember your name. And did you fill out the TPS reports?

I've never held a job in that line of work, but I admire those I've seen run through their routine with skill and patience. The rest of them, though, we as customers have no time for.

And given such a negative opinion -- let's be honest, it doesn't matter that you called them, in your eyes it is easiest and best to lump them all in one group with telemarketers, and loathe the entire profession -- there's little wonder we treat them with the same adversarial eye as politicians, lawyers, car salesmen and journalists.

So what are the odds that I get three great ones in one day? Pretty slim I'd think, but that's where I found myself, first scheduling a routine car maintenance. I'd hoped for middle of the week, but the times never worked out. Saturday it is. I dialed that number on the way out of the office and was hanging up within two blocks. The transfer from switchboard to service department was swift and after that hand off I had more questions than the person at the shop. See ya Saturday.

My lawnmower has been out of commission for some time -- apparently it takes a long time to work on these things -- and when the guy finished the maintenance on mine and prepared to ship it he noticed that the axle and bearings were about to give way. A few more mows and I would have a three wheeler.

So he called and told me about that just before Memorial Day, said the holiday would muck up part deliveries, but it'd be done soon. He said today it was finished on Saturday and he'd have it out this week, and when would I like that? Another quick call, another happy resolution.

Which brings us to the cable company. I've been writing about that here off and on for three weeks, so there's no need to rehash the problems. Today, though, I was expecting a call from them, but it never materialized, so I did the honors. I explained the problem to the nice lady on the other end, she peered into her magic appointment crystal ball and said that a visit had been scheduled for this Friday.

I explained that I wasn't sure how this could be, as I was the only person they're dealing with on the matter. I'm still not sure, in fact. But she recited my cell phone number, said that's where the appointment came from and so on. It didn't happen, but if I'm on the list I'm on the list. If that gets the cable fixed, then fine. If no one comes because the call wasn't ever really scheduled and everyone at the cable company is sipping the happy gas then I've placed that bet, too.

She also gave me a direct number for how to deal with prorating my account since, at best now, I'll have been enjoying an inferior product for three weeks if everything is fixed nice and neat on Friday.

At the bank I confused the teller. Gave her a stack of things to deposit and requested a few dollars back in cash from the transaction. I thought I'd broken the thing up into a nice, neat little package, Deposit these and cash these, please. Instead she was giving me the cash twice.

I noticed it when the change was wrong, actually. Then, leafing through the bills I realized I was suddenly loaded. We corrected the problem -- if, that is, we didn't accidentally fleece the bank of their funds -- and all was well. The banking people were satisfied, their explanation was satisfying, even if, sadly, I left the bank less than loaded.

Eh, I wouldn't know what to do with it all anyway.

Spent the better part of the afternoon doling out public relations campaign advice to the Armed Forces Tribute Foundation. They're in the fund raising process of building a memorial honoring all those who serve and have served. One of the more important functions of the place is to have a ready-made reunion site for veterans groups. Who can say no to that?

I have a friendly connection with some of the leadership and lots of ideas to offer. This is a dangerous cocktail leading to handful of Email and a few ad copy rewrites more than they expected. Most of my contributions, naturally, discussed accentuating more than just their television spot. At the end of the day they're now somehow convinced I've saved them lots of money. That'd be great.

I love groups like this; folks with a good idea of what they want, or what they want to accomplish, but out of ideas of how to accomplish those goals. I can parrot many of the great ideas sprouting on marketing sites and from the social networking crowds and customize a few thoughts to their cause. There's nothing mysterious to it, of course, but maybe one of those ideas will inspires a fine group like this one to try something they ultimately find to be productive. It'll have cost them a few Emails and given them a great day.

I've had a great day. Hope you have as well!

(This sneak-up-on-you ending is brought to you by the suddenly ringing phone. Yes, you've been saved by the bell.)

Sunday, June 1, 2008

So the cable guy comes out this morning. First thing. Bright and early. Sunday. He plugs up his diagnostic tool to the cable coming from the wall and the numbers show him signal degradation.

I briefly describe what his colleague had done two weeks before and this gentleman understood the problem immediately. The first guy ran new cable into the house and up to the splitter. He left the old cable in place between the splitter and the television with the now malfunctioning and still new cable box.

The problem, the guy said this morning, was that the old cable still in place wasn't hefty enough for a digital signal. The exact same reason the first cable guy took one look at the mass of wire in the basement rafters and said "This will have to come down."

Why he didn't feel the need to replace the cable between the splitter and the cable box is anyone's guess and, as the guy this morning said "He knows better than that."

He then proceeded to badmouth the company to his customer. That was pretty awesome.

And then he said, "They'll have to call you tomorrow to set up a time to send someone out to run new cable."

Apparently, the guy this morning doesn't do that sort of work. He just plugs in his tricorder and ascertains the problem. First thing. Early in the morning. On a weekend.

This whole thing happened in about the length of time it took you to read that.

So I'll wait for a phone call tomorrow.

Since that took no time at all there was a quick grocery store trip. The cashier found the only use for green eye shadow -- her work vest -- and applied it liberally. She noticed my shirt and said "You work at al dot com? My picture's on al dot com."

Sometimes you don't try to correct these mistakes. If they haven't figured out the branding 10 years into the site then our marketing has failed or they aren't that concerned about the site to begin with.

Besides, I was doing my celebrity gossip magazine shtick and she wasn't interested at all. Had she found that funny then maybe I would have crushed her dreams about ever meeting Al. There is no Al, but there's a lot of Alabama. Everything, in fact.

Her photograph is apparently somewhere on the site in a Rocky Horror Picture Show gallery, but unfortunately I didn't think to ask her shade of eye shadow on the glorious night her destiny tied her to Al.

That guy gets around.

I did not, having stumbled upon a marathon of Band of Brothers on History Channel, which set me up for about five hours. I cleaned a few things off the TiVo, mostly stuff the EvIl eye wanted to record for me, but couldn't do successfully because of the still not functioning cable box. Is it possible that I know have an EvIl eye and an EvIler eye?

Sauron is going to be very angry.

A small portion of the day was spent tinkering with the site. Just the monthly maintenance: adding a new archive link into the blog, updating the May 2008 photo gallery and changing the background here. This takes no time, really, but it felt like the tiniest of impositions on a weekend that didn't have a lot of online time.

Since the weekend is coming to a sad end I won't spend much more time here this evening. The three day weekend has served as a nice break from the many hours of constantly staring at a computer. Everyone needs the downtime. That only leads to more up time. It is inevitable.

But, for now, I'm going to dive back into 19th Century Brooklyn and spend a few moments with the East River Bridge. Hope your weekend has been relaxing, quiet and uncomplicated as mine. That can sometimes be a lot to ask for, but no one's watching. It's the weekend.

And since I've been on this kick for some inexplicable reason, here's the best clip of the series, Chad Vader sings Chocolate Rain.