Kenny Smith | blog

Thursday, July 31, 2008

I settled in to watch some military thing or another on one of the military channels ... we'll call it the physics of artillery ... and promptly fell asleep within the first 10 minutes.

Must not have been the best program on the angle of deflection and wind velocity.

Two hours later I woke up. Scared. The windows in my sightline face to the northwest and I could tell that the sun was in the wrong place. So I do what everyone does when they're not sure of the time of day after a nap: I panicked.

Why is it that you never wake up in this circumstance and realize you have several more hours of daylight. It is always I've overslept! Badly! I was supposed to be somewhere hours ago! I am a horrible person!

My actual first thought was Why did I wake up and then stretch out on the sofa to sleep the day away?

My mind counted this as Friday, but it was only 5 p.m. on Thursday. Nothing you can do for the rest of the day will overcome that feeling. If that's the case it might as well be Friday. Maybe sleeping through the next day is a good option.

I have to work this weekend, so there's no getting around it.

After dinner and a few phone calls and Emails I spent part of my night staring at newspapers. Old habit I picked up in college, one that is worth revisiting as frequently as possible. I look at the paper every day, but I'm not always offered the time to see the paper. Usually there isn't enough time, too many other small deadlines or details to attend too. This evening, though, I've considered even breaking out the pica ruler.

Here you'll be fortunate enough to avoid five paragraphs on newspaper minutiae and agate jokes.

You're welcome.

This lead me, somehow, to an intriguing Poynter discussion on bylines. It seems we are conflicted on the issue from an industry-wide standpoint. It is all very interesting, but only if you are interested in bylines and datelines.

Otherwise there's this: "If I tell my readers I came here to discuss datelines, they think I’m talking about 1-900 numbers."

The unintentional nap unfortunately ate into Glomerata time. I'll try to make up for it this weekend, but there's no guarantee of that either. Who knows, I might be drowsy and disoriented enough to think it is next Monday.

The nap also makes this a short entry, for that I'll apologize with the July 2008 photo gallery. Live it all again from the beginning.

Confusing work weeks and oddly placed naps aside tomorrow is the real Friday. Which is to say it is a fake, non-event for me. There is Pie Day of course, but beyond that it'll be just another week day. In the end it all balances out, so there's no worry or complaint. After the alarm clock business of course.

Hate that alarm clock.

Hope your Saturday brings you a more gentle awakening!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Much better, thank you. Today I'm back at it with verve and gusto.

Which means I'll be ready for a nap by tomorrow afternoon.

Beautiful day today. How can you not be pleased and inspired by a site like that?

Ran a few errands after work, dropping things off here and picking things up there. The car felt the hottest it had been all season, but checking the thermometer I was proven wrong. It was only 90, which is a chill next to the 103 of a week or so ago. But the leather seats were hot, and I have a nice pinkish color now. Flip me over in the broiler and let's call it medium rare.
More running, and a lot more sweating, at the gym.

Time Cop was on one of the cable channels, which has become one of those mid-afternoon at the gym guilty pleasures. This movie is bad in that special Jean-Claude Van Damme way. Shot in 1994, the centerpiece of the action takes place in 2004. Now I'm watching this on a flatscreen monitor attached to a treadmill at a fair sprint.

The problem with futuristic movies set in the near future is that they might be played again after their expiration date, just as a gag. "Hey, this movie about the future happened back then. Look at that technology! Har har!"

We always laugh at the things in the movies that are outmoded, but never wonder about the fancy guns, or actual time travel part itself. We just accept those as a part of the storytelling device. Except for flying cars. Every generation since The Jetsons began has felt cheated out of their God-given rights to flying cars. Odd the things we latch onto.

The cars in this movie, all automated and blocky and modular look laughably outmoded. They looked the same when the movie came out too. The idea that we'd drive through the countryside in a machine outfitted like an armored car with your only view coming from a pillbox gun slit was laughable even on those golden days of the mid '90s. Clearly the visual artists for this movie did not consider the impact of police officers on Segways. Had they done so the whole look of the movie would have been different.

Here, enjoy the trailer. If you've somehow ducked this movie in the past 14 years, my shocked congratulations, but feel confident that the trailer gives you the whole movie. For completeists, this fellow has found the absolute best quote of the movie.

So I ran. Not very successfully. I've hit a wall in the last week while trying to ramp up to a 5K run. It seems I can't get passed three-quarters of a mile of a continuous run just yet. My pride -- recalling younger days and unconvinced of mortality and the absence of invincibility -- finds this to be unacceptable. This metaphorical wall is purely mental, so my mind tells me, and I will force my way through if I have too. Maybe on Friday. Depending on how sore I am.

Which is the odd thing about the last few weeks. I haven't been sore on the day of running. I haven't been sore on the day after. But that special second-day of soreness always makes an admirable appearance. This isn't a complaint; I feel great on balance. I did get four miles under my feet today. Sadly these weren't all at a running speed, but it's progress.

Which all depends on how sore I am after today. That's the amazing thing about the last few weeks. I'm not sore after the gym. I'm not sore, at all, the next day. That second-day soreness, though, is marvelous.

I spent about 10 minutes feeling as if I've been neglecting my Facebook account. Most of that 10 minutes was spent waiting on the site to load and save and that sort of thing. The site and my creeky, crawling computer have conspired to make me not care so much. I've added the application that calls Twitter updates into Facebook and that just seemed enough.

Until tonight. I added flair, made flair, gifted flair. I've become that which I don't understand: a flair junkie.

There's no utility in the thing, but the designer of that application made it so easy to create new flair that you just can't resist. Upload an image, center it, resize it, you're done. And the people there are very creative.

Says the guy who refused to even add the application for the longest time, and then carefully policed the flair so it stayed at 17 pieces, in keeping with the Office Space joke. Now it is all out of hand.

At least my Facebook guilt has been satiated,

So now I'll turn my gaze to something that requires more attention, like silly fun science fiction on the Sci Fi Channel.

Eureka is back on the air. Last night was the premiere of the the third season and I'm watching it tonight. I've seen no spoilers, have no idea what will happen and no expectations for the episode and it is a wonderful feeling.

Back in an hour.

This time it involved a computer so smart it was evolving. They made a Battlestar Galactic reference, made audiences think of Wall-E and then, once again, the Average Joe sheriff saved the day in a town full of geniuses. Another character with suspect motives is introduced. She brought a mysterious purple liquid, ominous music and the most blatant advertising ever seen.

The writers wrote in Degree deodorant, one of their title sponsors, into the story as a sponsor for the whole facility. It was at once bold, brilliant, stupid, useful and done in such a way that the next show that imitates it will just be a ripoff artist. Masterfully done.

As I've said throughout the show's run, it is harmless fun. It is the science fiction equivalent of beach reading, and it does that perfectly. I'm sure next week's will be just as cute, only barely intellectual and bold enough to move the larger plot points along at the smallest increments.

Speaking of moving along, I should do that here.

Come back tomorrow for the usual, and the unusual. (This way you'll have no idea what to expect. This is good as I've no idea what to offer.)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Today's another link day. And a shorter one at that. My apologies for the former, your celebration for the latter is understood.

With all of society's shutterbug skills we've now seen the pinnacle of mindless entertainment: Darth Vader photo gallery. Not sure why the world needed one, but there you are.

Let's talk stories. Time is about two years behind me here. Longtime readers might recall that I've labeled this Generation Huh? My get rich scheme: Design stylish hearing aids for all those twentysomethings who've ruined their ears with too much iPod exposure.

There are great photos here, but it doesn't tell the whole story, which is the quadrennial feature on the sacrifices of Olympic athletes.

Remember that recent Knight Rider movie? Never mind that. Here's the new, new KITT:
To demonstrate a few of KITT's new tricks, the Knight Rider team screened a sizzle reel here on Thursday for gathered fans. The clip began with the kind of fancy driving that audiences might expect, but earned a collective "oooh" as soon as lead actors Justin Bruening and Deanna Russo jumped into the back of a black pickup truck, only to have the vehicle transform back into a Shelby around them. "We're trying to get that reaction on a weekly basis—multiple times during an episode," says Thompson.
Time will tell.

Ordinarily I'd link to this in Twitter, but maybe it'll spark a little Email here. The headline reads "It's Botox for You, Dear Bridesmaids." Simultaneously the story will sadden you, not surprise you and prepare you for the inevitable lawsuit. Because that day is certainly coming.

One link on my site today, the campaign button section has been updated to make sure the last several weeks of button additions have at least a little text about them. It just won't do, for example, to have the number of buttons on the Dewey page to mention Warren and Bricker, but leave Hanley unnoticed.

These are the things that'll keep me up at night, but eight or so page were given a cursory glance for this sort of continuity problem and we'll all be able to sleep peacefully. Next week we'll have altogether new pages for that section.

That's it for today. I've bounced back nicely, slept extra to catch up on that, had a lazy evening and am ready for the next big adventure so it'll be back to normal here tomorrow. Cheers!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Feeling a bit under the weather this evening. Or in it. Or surrounded by it. It is certainly warm enough to take on a more tangible form ... but I'm grousing because I can't shake a headache.

And because my stomach is doing flips and just any moment now, for good measure, I'll probably pop a mild fever.

Waiting ... still waiting ...

(No fever at least, so let's hear it for small victories.)

Anyway, to avoid a long essay on aches and pains -- and aren't you glad I'm generally the healthy sort? -- we'll just examine a handful of links that have been scattered about the last few days.

Here's Oliver Stone's long awaited project, lampooning, or hoisting conspiracy -- who can tell these days? -- on George W. Bush. You wonder if he's not losing sleep over his inability to get this movie out four years earlier.

James Cromwell is a nice addition as George H.W. Bush and maybe some of the other characters grow into their parts, but you just have to think, watching that trailer, that Stone is kicking himself for not making this about Dick Cheney. Richard Dreyfuss? Brilliant casting.

On the other hand Ari Fleischer is portrayed by Rob Corddry, which seems at odds with itself.

You want trailers? Here's the new Wolverine from Comic Con. Pay close attention as all the little fans in the viewing room squeal with delight. At once you wish movies were always received this way, and glad you're not in the theater where it happens.

Reading the comments though, the comic book movie fans have grown jaded quickly. Of course that won't stop everyone from packing the house on opening night, but that's a tough crowd to please.

More screaming fans from Comic Con, and I don't really care, but here's Tr2n about 15 years too late. By now we're all computer literate enough to know who's really inside our machines. Jeff Bridges it is not. On the other hand, dramatic chipmunks are harder to work with.

Clearly this was inspired by the movies of our youth. I've been calling for it for some time and scientists, happily, have now delivered. A few more steps down this discovery's path and we'll have Mr. Fusion for everyone. For now, they've discovered how to turn heat waste into energy:
Scientists have invented a new material that can efficiently convert heat waste in cars, power generators, and heat pumps into electricity. The new material is thermoelectric, and can turn heat into energy without any pollution.
The invention is called thallium-doped lead telluride, which just sounds like the ominous beginning of a scifi movie, but is a big step for science all the same.

Another bad movie joke: Nukes are not the best way to stop an asteroid says Apollo astronaut Rusty Schweickart. I thought Bruce Willis had already demonstrated this fact.

More space stuff: Battlestar Galactica stars in a non-spoiler panel discussion before the end of the series.

More flying for the pilot types: This guy pulled 9.6Gs. As always the YouTube comments are a fine secondary amusement.

One more about space: What is going through your mind at this exact moment?

Two sports articles, one on the ever-charming Buck O'Neil getting his due at Cooperstown. About time too. The other is to point out the kindness that is the lovably silly Charles Barkley:
Sir Charles told Abate he would like to help him with his tuition, and Abate wasn't sure how to respond. Barkley didn't give him much time, telling Abate that he had the length of Barkley's meal to decide. Abate wisely accepted.
Great stuff from the Round Mound.

And one final tale of derring-do: Tightrope walking the Twin Towers in Time. There's a documentary due out, and it looks very interesting.

Anyway, that should fulfill my required contribution to the internet for the day. Now I'm going to go pray for the relaxation of tummy muscles. How to say this politely ... You know that semi-nauseated anxious feeling? Yeah, try that four about four hours straight.

Come back tomorrow for better health, campaign buttons and more!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The proper time to go to the big blue box store is as early on a Sunday morning as possible. Wake up early or make a straight line out of church to avoid the long lines. It helps if there's another big shopping concern opening up nearby.

And if the moon is in the evening of the house of Mars.

(Does that make any astrological sense? No?)

The big blue concern -- now changing logos -- still had people in all the wrong places, which is to say in the way of your progress and easy shopping. Kids mostly. You'll excuse the children, because they're always moving anyway. Just passing through, content to be a bother only for a moment, because there is word of someone in housewares that should be troubled as well.

The person that really grinds the ragged joints of your shopping cart is the one in the middle of the aisle with no desire to move, or notice that you're there. Waiting. However so patiently.

This gives you plenty of time to examine that new logo. There are rays of sun, but no sun. That's how they get prices so low: buying in volume, state of the art shipping, Chinese manufacturers and charging you only for the solar flares.

Makes perfect sense. Leaving further examination of the font to the graphic designers I'll say that removing the star-hyphen, however, was a good move.

Ah. Finally. We can through the store unimpeded once again. We'll give the stock lady a pass, because she's providing a service, and some of the shelves in the pharmacy and personal hygiene section of the store need her attention. After acquiring goods there you make your way across the store, because what you need is always opposite of where you are.

You wonder if they have flow charts for this sort of thing. "The average consumer needs need cough drops and shampoo every 73.4 days, and they need laundry detergent every 90 loads, so when the moon is in the evening of the house of Mars they'll have to see each display as they walk the length of the place!"

Happily, and many of us measure happiness this way I've learned, the checkout lines are a breeze this time of day. This particular store has the self-checkout, so it moves even faster.

With my three items paid for it is now time to make a stop at the new Publix. It opened on Wednesday and this marks my first visit. I thought about smuggling in a video camera to provide a riding tour, but decided to do that next week. This first trip will be to gawk and wonder at all the conveniences now 10 miles closer to home.

The first thing you'll see is a small foyer holding the carts. This place is the narrow end of the hourglass and if there is ever a sale or natural calamity this will be the place to avoid. I don't think in Worst Case Scenario terms like this, but watching 150 shopping carts shoehorned into a place that the driver of a Cooper Mini would consider "cozy" puts you in that frame of mind.

Inside you'll see a delightful lady all dressed up like Strawberry Shortcake and apparently happy to be there. She's offering samples of strawberry shortcake, which will put the mind in a tizzy chasing down the ramifications of all this happening just four steps inside the store.

The initial impression of the store is: taller than the others, but smaller in every dimension important to a grocery store. The aisles are a bit more narrow. The shelves seem a bit lower. The produce section takes up one corner, but compared to the next Publix this one feels small. Of course, compared to the grocery store across the street this one is garden fresh and full of variety.

At customer service, the floral department and a few of the other island locations they've put false ceilings in place, aimed surely at buyer psychology. "The walls are closing in! I'm growing taller! We must buy petunias!"

By the front door there are the reprints of old Publix stores which, of course, I love. Inside the place turns into a mix of styles, complete with Rocky Mountain woodgrain, ultra moderne and minimalist styles.

The biggest difference of price noted was in the shredded cheese, the store brand saving about $1.50. Also the detergent is about two bucks more expensive than at the big blue box store, which proved to be a good first shopping stop.

And they don't have Bama Crunchy peanut butter. They have the creamy, but not the crunchy. The other Publix has this same problem, a complete lapse of carrying the superior brand extension of a product produced and distributed here in town. It defies description, and so the store brand is selected. Just as well; it is indistinguishable in taste, and a few pennies cheaper.

Paying was a breeze, moving so quickly that I didn't have time to make any jokes with the cashier. The gentleman that bagged the groceries insisted, insisted on walking them out to the car. This is a great service if you need it, but I'm fortunate enough to be a healthy guy. I chalked it up to the guy needing a break from inside the store.

This evening Absolute Power was on tap:
Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman and an ensemble cast. Nothing wrong with that.
If you don't mind a movie that feels gutted about a third of the way then this won't trouble you here. Otherwise just enjoy some of the individual performances which add up to parts of the movie. Turns out, according to IMDB, that the hero of the David Baldacci book doesn't even exist in the movie. One supposes because that would have gotten in Eastwood's way.

The goofs and mistakes pages have turned almost exclusively into continuity watchers. Here's the error I caught: On the White House tour we learn one of the rooms was designed for President Washington. Hardly so. The man never saw the building completed.

I felt suitably nerdy for noting this. The Yankee, bless her, saw the move for the remote and said "What did they mess up?" Watching movies with me can sometimes be a tedious thing one supposes.

That's pretty much the day, and the nice calm end to a wonderful weekend. Hope yours has been grand as well. So rested, we'll be ready to take on the new week.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

I toyed, ever so briefly last evening, with the idea of returning to the gym this morning.

And then when I woke up around 6 a.m., did the mental reboot and scrambled to recall the day of the week I realized there would be no gym for me today. And that is fine, for cloudy Saturdays are designed, in part, to be enjoyed with one's eyes closed. Staring at a cinderblock wall and sweating is a bit off the mark for a Saturday morning, so I closed my eyes and wondered if it would rain.

Not while I was asleep, for another three hours or so, but it would rain. Oh yes indeed.

As I remarked to no one in particular (and Twitter) after enduring the curvy road that leads to my home I haven't seen that road hold standing water that way in 20 years.

And it really hurts that I can now make comments about having done, or not done something in 20 years. This only gets worse I'm sure. I only thought it was bad, in college, to be able to craft the sentence "I haven't lived in an apartment in 15 years!" Now there are lots of things that are clumped together in larger units of time. This is distressing, but one mustn't take one's eye off the road, for you will hydroplane today.

This is not a complaint. We need the rain, having been in a drought for almost two years now.

But when this is what you see outside the front door you're getting some rain.

So I spent the afternoon at the library, reading old newspapers.

I met a nice lady in the periodicals section who took me to a basement storage area where I probably didn't belong, but it was a rainy Saturday and there were three other people within sight. We walked through those big storage shelves they move around with hand-cranks until we found old bound editions of interesting things. On the way we found research from the 1930s and photographs from everywhen.

"The problem" she said, "is that this stuff piles up faster than it can be processed."

Of course this leaves you with boxes full of discovery when you can wade into the stuff. You could probably write a book from the box of personal letters dating to the 1950s alone.

I read through old newspapers for hours. Papers from 1917 through 1919 specifically. I delighted in trying to put names I don't know with buildings and roads that I've passed on any given day.

You can't help but notice how the writing has changed. How, sometimes it seems less hopeful. For one example, the paper wrote of how one football team held the other team to a 0-49 score. A seven-touchdown shutout, these days, has no moral victories, but that writer found it.

There was war talk and, later, ads being redesigned to fit the war mode. No one seemed to blame anyone for the war, the biggest cases of dissent coming from whether young men should enlist in the hopes of picking an assignment, or risk the draft against the end of the war.

The biggest advertisers sold suits and hats and shoes and food. Subscriptions to the yellowed paper would have run you about a buck. And you could feel confident that none of the writers could imagine a day, 80 years later, when someone would be re-reading their copy. If so they might have set the type a bit differently.

I was reading a very local, small town paper. They mentioned the war, but only through how it was going to impact the young men of the area. They never wrote of the American entrance into the war or the end of the war. It was a weekly paper, so the dates didn't match up to their circulation. Perhaps they figured "A week later and everyone already knows."

It rained for three hours while I read through the papers; we got almost three-quarters of an inch. It seemed like more, ensuring that I'll never be a carnival barker willing to guess precipitation totals. Assuming that ever becomes a lucrative carnival sideshow.

Mexican for dinner. The Yankee and I visited the new place. I had the enchiladas, because they come with the rice and beans. I should have ordered the enchiladas with chicken, but it did not occur to me until the waiter ran away.

And thus it was a place of two-firsts. I've never seen a wait at a Mexican restaurant before -- they gave us a number. And I've never seen a waitstaff continuously sprint for 45 minutes.

Turns out I don't like beef enchiladas, but that one is on me. We watched a waiter bring out six plates on one arm with ease and grace. He'd loaded up with three oven mitts to keep from scalding himself, and the entire process looked dangerous. It would only take one kid making an unexpected move, or a sneeze or a muscle spasm to pour molten hot cheese and still-sizzling meat onto a customer. Aye carumba. The drink guy was amazing, refilling tea glasses roughly every 18 seconds. He seemed relieved the one time he stopped by that there was less than 16 millimeters of air at the top of my glass.

We stopped by the new sporting goods store in the new shopping center. The place has been opened for four days, but already it smelled like a sporting goods store: rubber, leather, inferior carpet adhesive and money.

We noted that the newest additions to the shopping will include a steakhouse, a Burger King, a Taco Bell and a Full Moon Barbecue. The last one is most unfortunate, because their competitors will likely see the marketplace as filled and not move in their own store. Which is a shame because, aside from the cookies Full Moon is not the best local choice.

As it is, there's now most everything at this exit that the neighborhood has previously had to drive 10 or 25 minutes to find. People that still want to live in the exurbs have put their homes on the market. People that are glad that civilization and commerce has caught up with them are shopping there.

Mostly the parking lots look to small to accomodate the crowds.

We'll find out tomorrow: There's a trip to the new Publix on the agenda.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Can't wait to see the Nick Saban video? There you go. Three and a half minutes of fans, media and, of course, the vaunted head coach of Alabama football.

The end of the video is the best part, so watch all the way through.

He's a nice enough guy. You still get the sense, even a year later, that he's not quite sure why the fans here are so rabid. You wish you could explain it to him, but the brick-through-the-window set are beyond comprehension.

This should be said of Media Days, before that particular conversation wraps up for the year: My favorite part are the fans. Sure they should probably be at work, but they are a nice bunch of people. These are the same folks who'll be gripped by the passion of bourbon, rage and Saturday nights in just a few weeks, but in the daylight, in the lobby of a four-star hotel they're very charming people.

The lady I spoke with in the video is a teacher, a high school coach and she came up from Dothan on her one week off from the year to sit in the lobby at Media Days. The mother of that boy at the end of the video drove up from Mobile and her kids were very well-mannered. All of the people were the kind, cordial people you'd expect in this part of the world. At least six days of the week.

Maybe that's what we're dealing with here. Wednesday through Friday at Media Days they have their normal, hospitable composure. No one who dares to wear a different color shirt on Saturday should go near them. This fall, for example, all those nice people will consider themselves my sworn enemy because of the school from which I graduated and the beautiful dark blue shirt I'll wear.

We considered doing those interviews in such a way that asked a lot of questions and then cut off an answer mid-sentence "Look! Coach Saban!" just to record their reactions. Someone suggested having a cohort tap them firmly on the shoulder if they wouldn't take the bait. In the end, though, it is better if the joke is on me, or some nameless, faceless media. There'll be plenty of time in the fall to poke fun at one another because of the arbitrary selection of schools and football programs. It is easy to get caught up in all of that.

So go watch the video and, if you aren't from this part of the world, try to figure out what would cause dozens of otherwise normal, sane people, to take a day off and stand in a lobby for six or eight hours just to catch a glimpse of a football coach.

And if you figure that out send me an Email to the address in the pound sign below.

At the gym this afternoon I did two and three-quarters, so the progression continues nicely in advance of the 5K run next month. I'm still waiting for that second wind to kick in.

Also I did two sets of 470-pounds on the leg press. The full rack is 490. I tried, but it won't be budged. Next week I'll start incorporating some other things into the routine, having considered the last several weeks moderation enough. Happily I'm not getting sore any longer. At the risk of setting myself up for some painful downfall next week: Perhaps I've worked through the worst of the routine.

A few photographs to work us through the evening: Here's the sun setting on another happy week. That can mean only one thing, Pie Day.

Just three of us this evening. Apparently there was, among other things a community theater production of Sound of Music keeping some people away. I hope that was a fantastic performance, because the ribs were great and the pie was delicious.

Also, this particular Jim 'N Nicks had no lines, no waiting and parking a plenty tonight. Though we did get shhshed by a group of teenagers. The room was thick with irony.

And also UFOs.

We're also plotting our fall festival of football fandom, but that's what everyone is doing 30 days out, right? Right?

Big Saturday plans? I'm sleeping in. And then I'm going to read a lot. It'll be tough, but I hope you can top that for your weekend fun.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Day two of SEC Media Days brings to town representatives from Ole Miss, Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama. Each team sends the head coach and two players and they circle through almost a dozen rooms of reporters repeating themselves over and over in the time honored tradition of sports cliche.

I went out to Media Days today, the only day I'll go this year, since the sports guys have the thing covered in thorough fashion. I was creating a tongue-in-cheek video for tomorrow, giving something of a slice of life from the fan and media-fanboy perspective.

Naturally, I followed Alabama's Nick Saban around all day. Everyone else was. Mark Richt of Georgia was walking around like he'd just realized he was one of the cool kids at school -- and you can't help but like that guy. Houston Nutt was there representing Ole Miss and he's as entertaining a fellow as you'll ever meet. Phillip Fulmer got served a subpoena when he arrived in a silly grandstanding sort of way. Fulmer, at this point, has become that caricature of a person who can't understand why he can't be cool like the Richt's and the Tommy Tuberville's and the Steve Spurrier's of the SEC.

No one has thought to tell the guy that he exists as their foil. Tuberville, meanwhile, has just been walking around in casual clothes and saying "Hello" to people. He's not due in the spotlight until tomorrow, but he mingles almost unrecognized, and that's why he's such a likable personality. He's just Tommy. He could be coaching a high profile football team, or he could be cooking you some catfish.

Nick Saban walks around, though, like a man unto himself. He's followed everywhere by fans and cameras and media types and media types who are following around the other media because they are following around the sainted Alabama football coach. (I think I've cornered the market on that on. Sure, next year everyone will be doing it, but I got there first.)

At one point they sequestered the man off into a quiet little room to do one of his many interviews of the day and when he emerged he was surrounded by SEC handlers who walked him to the men's room. They stood outside, all six men and women in power suits, not looking the least bit ironic or perturbed by their present location in life while Saban was checking his fly and washing his hands.

And then he emerged and all the cameramen found him again. It strikes you as a profoundly lonely thing, being surrounded by people who aren't yours, but who desperately want to be in that circle, if only for an autograph, or a few seconds of footage, or to tell their neighbors about it later. You could feel sorry for the guy; and then you realize he's making $4 million a year and he's laughing all the way to the bank at your perception of his loneliness.

So there's a video coming on Nick Saban tomorrow. It should be pretty fun.

Also today I ran into two of my former bosses. Media Days is a reunion for colleagues as much as anything else it seems. One works with the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and she was busily handing out cards to all the out-of-town reporters looking for a free meal.

The other was Rod Bramblett, the voice of Auburn football, perhaps the best baseball broadcaster in this part of the country and one of the kindest men in the radio business. I was doing a little work on the side for the Auburn Network at the end of college and would have begged him for a job. They had the nicest studios and the best jobs in the world and the people are wonderful, but there were no positions available.

Later in the day I found a Blackberry sitting on the floor. It didn't belong to anyone standing nearby and while I was trying to make it work to find a listing for "Mom" or something like that the phone rang. It was the guy's wife. He hadn't been answering, he'd lost his phone and he was in trouble.

I didn't the phone's owner -- a longshot with some 800 assembled media there -- and she didn't know what he was wearing that day. It took a while to find someone that did know the guy and, after about 20 minutes of mystery, phone and owner were reunited.

And it felt so good.

Back at the office I edited video. At home I'm about to record the narrative for the video. My personal studio sounds better than anything I can produce at work, but it'll be worth it in the end.

There's also a new installment of the Glomerata project this evening as well. We're well underway into the 1996 edition now, so go here for the latest, or, if you're new to the whole thing, start here.

Friday is coming, and with that the end of Media Days, and the accompanying video. After that will be a happy fun time workout at the gym, Pie Day and all the unexpected adventures of the weekend.

Hope yours is as promising as mine!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

SEC Media Days began today. Follow that link for the most comprehensive coverage within the conference. We don't just boast about that, our sports guys work hard to deliver, and they do.

So click that link. And just imagine we've talked about it for three days, because that pretty much sums up the rest of the week. I didn't go by there today, but did a little work on it from the office. That's somewhat less hectic than being there.

Tomorrow, though, I'll be visiting the media circus to shoot a video on fans and Alabama's coach. I've been threatening all week to interview children and cut them off mid-sentence "There's Coach Saban!" just to capture their reaction. Just can't bring myself to do it.

I met a guy last year at Media Days who recalled when they first started having the event. It was 60 guys in a room, he said. Now there is radio row, two television rooms, a giant print room, exclusive space for ESPN and Raycom and more. Several hundred sports reporters are in town for the only game in town.

Also there is free food. And golf.

So they break the event up over three days, four teams a day. Each head coach comes with two of his team's high profile leaders and they get asked a lot of questions, some of them repetitively and they try their best to answer them. Over the years the players have gotten very good at this. Once upon a time you'd see a kid who'd wilt under the lights and struggle to put a sentence together, but they may as well be ambassadors these days. It is a nice event, if you like media-manufactured non-events.

And the fans do. The lobby will be full of them, seeking autographs and souvenirs and a chance to mix and mingle. It is a signal to fans that the season is drawing near. Fall practice will soon be upon us, and kickoff will follow soon thereafter. They're generally a very calm, considerate bunch willing to stand, for hours, for a 15-second glance at a player and coach. This will wear off, and come that last weekend of August no one will be able to stand it any more, and the roar will be raucous. But, for now, they're a mild-mannered bunch.

So I'll be shooting a video there tomorrow. Look for that probably Friday.

Today at the gym I tried working out through the not-feeling-so-swell vibe. Probably shouldn't have done that. Today's just been one of those slightly off-kilter days, making running a slightly bigger challenge than normal. I did press 450-pounds, however, and I'm still trying to catch my breath from that.

Finally this new book must be mentioned. Egan's The Worst Hard Time is masterful. They should hand this book out in long-form prose classes. Quite a few of us might become better writers and storytellers by studying it.

It is homespun without being the slightest bit hokey or pretentious. It is earnest without apology. It tells one of our most captivating stories with just the right amount of sparse tone and gritty adjectives.

There are 172 reviews of this project and it rates 4.5 stars. Out of curiosity I checked the lowest reviews, which cited "journalistic sensationalism" if I might paraphrase, and a mapping inaccuracy. Egan is a national writer for The New York Times, and holds a Pulitzer. That and the National Book Award lend some credibility to his nonfiction work. If nothing else it might serve as an introduction to the subject matter.

It gets much bleaker, obviously, since we're talking about the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, but it is a period to which I need a better introduction, and Egan is happy to oblige. While it isn't beach reading for most it could be one of the best books you'll read this year. So go pick it up.

I say all of these things some 15 whole pages into the book, and can't wait for more. Think I'll go try that now.

Halfway through the week, and we're only getting better at it! Hope you've got a great Thursday lined up. Come back to catch up on Sabanmania a Glomerata update and maybe another item or two. Like we'll need more things to talk about ...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Once in a while a movie you don't know begins with great promise. Sometimes this pans out, sometimes the camera just pans.

Last Thursday I caught an airing of Hostage and recorded it to watch today:
Bruce Willis pays the bills, but the rest is an unfortunate struggle.
This is a psychological drama. Three kids kidnap a family and Bruce Willis, an emotionally scarred police chief has to answer the call. Only his family is kidnapped too because, you see, these anonymous and never explained bad guys are especially interested in the bootleg copy of "Heaven Can Wait," that Kevin Pollak's character makes for them. Really the DVD has some encrypted bad guy information on it, and the three kids have mucked up the bad guys' plans.

So the movie becomes a "would you sacrifice your family, Bruce Willis, for another family?"

These bad guys are far too interested in romance stories, because if they'd caught any of the Die Hard discs they'd know the answer to that question.

So the movie is supposed to be a psychological thriller. And then, at the end, it turns into a campy horror film. After that it turns into what an austere Robert Rodriguez might shoot.

Mostly though, I'm left with the same impression of the movie as this viewer:
I've built a lot of high end houses and have never seen the kind of dead space depicted in this movie. Houses are valued by the square footage, it makes no sense to have the kind of gaping, wide open spaces they showed behind the walls. One of an architect's objectives is to utilize every square inch where available. And the 3'x3' ducts? C'mon, in residential? And with hinges on the grates? This would be the first, and then last job this architect ever had.
He and I are both just extremely jealous we don't have these features in our respective homes.

Campaign buttons are up. Just added a few extras to already existing pages.

Up next I'll double-check all of the content and add whatever is needed to coexist with those buttons. After that there are eight new pages that will need to be debuted, so that's an exciting few weeks in the history of cellophane propaganda.

There are two new Barry Goldwater buttons. Both name Goldwater and his vice presidential nominee, Bill Miller, a war hero, district attorney and congressman.

One of the buttons calls for "Freedom for all" which is a slogan you don't here much in the 21st Century. Maybe we should, but it seems a bit alarmist without the big Red Menace. We have to remember that button is from the 1964 campaign.

Every four years or so someone wonders what Goldwater would think of the Republican party these days. He's usually upset in their hypothetical musings, mostly because no one is using those snazzy golden buttons like you'll see on that page now.

There are two news buttons on the Richard Nixon page as well. One has the frightening disembodied faces of Nixon and Ambassador Henry Lodge. They were "the winning team" according to the button, but this was 1960 and the nation disagreed. The 1972 race is also represented with a button that simply says "Nixon Now."

Sorta makes you wonder how the wearer felt as the administration crumbled to pieces.

Three new buttons made it to the Lyndon Johnson page. Not one of my favorite presidents as personality and style go, but the made had great buttons. "LBJ for the USA" is still marketing brilliance. It is on that page twice now, but only because one is scuffed. (I just noticed this error and will fix it soon, but now it is late ...)

That simple blue pin with the red field and the reverse type is gorgeous. And the "Viva LBJ" button has become one of the favorites of my collection.

I'm about to start The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan. This is the story of people who stayed behind and gutted it out during the Dust Bowl. This is a time and place and people I know very little about, and Egan has received terrific reviews.

I've read the first two pages so far and am already gripped by the thing. You'll excuse me, in the future, if I go on and on. When I do it is only because the work is impressive.

So I'm going to go do that.

Elsewhere we're just getting ready for SEC Media Days. I'm not going out for the first day, which is tomorrow, but the circus atmosphere will settle in Thursday morning, and I'll be there to document that. Should be a lot of fun.

Tomorrow, though, more gym, and maybe a trip to the brand new Publix set to open in the neighborhood. One must always keep fellow consumers informed.

Cheer up! The next time you turn around the week will be more than half over. Read a few of the things below this post and you'll stumble into Friday before you realize it.

See? Public service.

Monday, July 21, 2008

And now, for your irregular meta-Twitter conversation ...

I've been getting into the habit of following all the local folks because they're a wealth of information and a lot of fun. But I'm also trying to follow all of the corporate Twitter accounts of companies that I shop with. Not everyone is using the service, but they should be. Take last week for an example.

Last Monday the person writing The Home Depot twitter wrote "My 100th tweet. If I was in marketing we'd find some way to celebrate. How about if I celebrate when we help our 100th customer via Twitter."

A moment later I, rather sarcastically, replied "You can help me! I need to replace a sink, but the H20 valves in the cabinet below are frozen to the on position. Halp!?"

Sarah, The Home Depot's Twitterer sent me a few suggestions later that day. On Friday she checked back on the project and offered to put me in touch with an expert. Later that day one of their executives called.

We discussed the problem, I offered to send him a photograph. He gave me half a list of things to pick up, was going to send me some notes and then said, "You know what? I'll run down to the store and write down all the SKU numbers. You can just go pick them up."

This morning I found the list, How To notes and a diagram waiting in my Email. So Sarah, in Corporate Communications, and John Gordon, director of pro business operations, kudos to both of you. And congratulations for reaching out to the singular level.

This is why companies should be using Twitter and why you should follow your companies. It makes them a bit more proactive. They called me. They're experimenting with Twitter because they're trying, at the corporate level, to enhance the brand with individuals.

This dovetails nicely with the ancient maxim of customer satisfaction about how a happy customer tells one friend, but a dissatisfied customer tells 10.

Think about that for a moment. When was the last time you complained about a company -- airlines and cell phones don't count, as we're all in that low quality boat together and, what's more, nothing can seemingly be done. You've stopped complaining about substandard service because, in large part, that's become the norm.

So here we are considering a company that's doing it right.

I've told my officemates, I've told more than 100 people on Twitter and now (hopefully) several hundred on this site today about the delightful and unexpected effort from The Home Depot.

They didn't do the work. They didn't give me a great deal. They didn't pay me to say this. They just gave a little extra effort, and that'll make your day.

Think you'll get that from the guy across the street?

Think you can get that from other corporate entities online? Find out where they're touching the pulse of the people (not just sitting blankly at HQ) and you might. Twitter seems to be the place right now. Try it out. And follow The Home Depot while you're at it. They're working hard.

Now. Who wants to come see about a sink replacement next weekend?

As for today I woke up with a headache. Fought that off around mid-day. I spent a while adding friends to Facebook, added some corporate accounts to the Twitter feed, where everybody was talking about the weather.

Usually the conversation is a bit more entertaining, but today we pushed the mercury to 100 degrees. The notoriously unreliable car thermometers were displaying temperatures at 103, 104, 108 and someone measured a 111.

Which is when I realized I'm going to run a 5K race. In August. In Alabama.

Have I realized that before? Did it sink in yet? I wilted on the way from the car to the gym. And then I worked a little over two miles on the treadmill. The next-to-last eighth-of-a-mile featured this strain and that pain, but that last eighth was triumphant. The best part of the whole thing was my body remembering it could run through a little discomfort.

And then I did three sets of 430-pounds on the leg press.

After that I've walked around all evening feeling like I could run through a wall. The endorphins seem to be lasting a good long while.

The downside being that I had to make a trip to the grocery store on a one-ingredient run for dinner. Across the street Publix is opening this week and I thought the Food World would have an air of dread inside, but maybe they haven't yet realized what is about to happen.

Outside was a table for people preaching the word about D.A.R.E., but like Nancy Reagan taught me, I just say "No."

A few links to finish the day. I neglected to mention last week a caption contest at Outside the Beltway where I received my customary honorable mention.

Need some photography tutorials? I eat these things up. One day I'll make good use of them. You can too.

Come back tomorrow for updates to the campaign button section, the beginning of a new book, no Twitter anecdotes and another item or two just to keep things interesting.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Slow day today. Our Friend Dave stuck around until just after lunch, which was a comical affair. We decided on the new chicken finger place, but it is brand new and packed out.

So we ventured to the old chicken finger place, where the credit card machines were apparently broken.

Then we backtracked to Hoover to visit Jason's Deli. So basically we drove 20 miles and lost an hour of our respective lives for a sandwich.

After he left there was a visit to the library. Beyond that there hasn't been much to the day. I spent part of the afternoon working on photos and updating the month's photo gallery. The computer, as always, is slow and makes this a time intensive process.

I thought of a story or two to tell, but I'm saving those for next week just in case there's a slow day coming up.

So, check out the July photo gallery. It now includes the entire weekend, ranging from a Friday sunrise to a Saturday moon.

Elsewhere there's a new photograph on the front page. I love those stairs, but they've been there since April, so it was time for something new. The latest picture shows a side and sign for the City Federal building downtown.

Once a proud bank, now it is a proud condo/apartment development. Took that picture Friday night on the way to see the big art show.

Now, though, I have to see about more of those pictures, there's a letter to write and jokes to be written. There's a promising video on the horizon this week, now I just need to make sure there's enough material for the punchline.

That's it. An early evening to start a busy week. There'll be buttons, a Glomerata update, a video and SEC Media Days to attend, so it should be full of adventures. Hope your weekend has been as restful as mine, and your week as much fun!

Saturday, July 19, 2008


I enjoy golf. Very relaxing. Seldom do I get too upset about my play, which is generally poor to bad. I appreciate the opportunity to get outside, to play with a friend or two, to have some quiet time away from everything else.

And then, when the temperatures soar up around 100, when we're in a red ozone alert day, when we're in an orange alert particulate day ... well then you enjoy golf even more.

So The Yankee and Our Friend Dave teed up for 18 at Frank House, where the front nine rolls up and down maniacally and the back nine twists and turns and looks more normal, with a blessed one water hazard and five sand traps.

My first drive? Right down the middle. Most of them went that way, but the few that diverged from their flight plan veered badly. The short game was spotty as always, the putting was pretty ragged too.

I only lost one ball and found several more throughout the day, which alone makes it a great round of golf. I hit several trees, and a few of them solidly, but got nowhere near a personal best.

On two holes I decided to play through the trees and take shortcuts through the doglegs. This worked once, and was impressive, but a failure the first time.

On the 17th hole Our Friend Dave had a nice drive on the par three. See the little blurry ball off in the distance? The Yankee would not be outdone. My par threes were not my best offerings for the day.

And then there was the 18th hole, which will forever live in punchy, sun-stroke infamy.

We'll definitely do this again, and it'll be about 20 degrees cooler next time.

For lunch we stopped by the new shopping center in my neighborhood. They have a different name for the thing (Colonial Promenade Tannehill), and probably don't enjoy the shopping center reference with conjured images of old strip malls now 20 years past their prime and high traffic.

This place will do well. Actually I shot a video of the construction a few minutes ago. The video is long with slow boring cuts, but I was playing with the new cameras and struggling with a slow computer and Windows Movie Maker. I sarcastically sided against the development because of the traffic it'll bring -- many people in the immediately surrounding area agreed judging by the For Sale signs -- but I'm looking forward to the grand opening next week.

There are three or five places that'll save a lot of travel time and the roads they've messed up might actually be improved now. So I'm coming around.

A nice lunch at Habanero's, the new Mexican place helps the favorable opinion. So far it is as good or better than Guadalajara, a restaurant I've been visiting for almost 20 years. Such long relationships can't be severed, such things can't be judged by two soft tacos alone, but I'll have to go back; it is also 13 miles closer to home.

At home we watched Batman Begins on DVD, because we had tickets to watch The Dark Knight later in the evening. We wrapped that up just in time to eat again and then head to the theater.

This is the new theater in the new shopping center. This is the night after their opening night but things move smoothly.

I'll likely still spend most of my movie-going time at the dollar theater. But. But Our Friend Dave wanted to see Batman, as did the rest of us, and all of the co-workers will be talking about it next week. Some movies can't be put off until the dollar theater.

So we went to the Premiere Tannehill, which might be the only theater in the U.S. named after a Civil War-era war machine. The whole development is named after a state park eight miles away, where they could produce22 tons of iron a day before Union soldiers moved through.

The place isn't attractive. Outside the neon is bright yellow. One supposes they could pick another color, any would have been preferable, but you'll see yellow from the state park itself. Inside the carpet and the faux-murals are everything you've come to expect of a 1980s theater. There are really nice leather sofas sitting in the main area, and hopefully they'll hold up well. Translucent walls block off the game room, where an old Ms. Pac-Man machine has a prominent location.

There are at least three police officers and three security guards on the grounds this evening. The tickets they're giving out right now are strips of receipt paper. Call me sentimental, but I prefer the heavier, old ticket stock, and for $8 a ticket they could shell out for it. They are tearing the ... "tickets" ... beyond the concessions area, which is large, but time will tell if it is large enough.

It was at this point that I asked the young lady at the ticket stand where the restrooms were located. This is a two-and-a-half hour movie, we'd just had dinner and no one likes to miss a crucial scene. She pointed up front.

There aren't restrooms back here?

"Nope. Just that one up there."

How many theaters are in this building?


How many restrooms?


Does that seem like a smart design plan?

They hadn't trained her for this question.

I walked to the front hoping the restroom was overly large, but wasn't surprised when it was of your average theater size. So plan ahead I guess.

Granted they are into their second day of Batman, and they're launching a new reel every half hour for at least half the day, but there were a lot of empty seats in our theater. That's a plus for me, but it makes you wonder how the theater pros are reading their numbers.

And now since we've reviewed the restaurant and the theater, here's the traditional 12-word review on The Dark Knight:
Fine ensemble cast, and serves as both a great epilogue and prologue.
After that initial impression we customarily have a bit of navel gazing on the rest of the movie.

Heath Ledger, yeah he's good. Is he Oscar good? Do I care? Christian Bale turns in another strong performance, but like all of them I almost prefer him as Bruce Wayne. They did an excellent job bringing in both the overt and the subtle from Batman Begins. Nothing was too surprising here, but the performances were delivered with gusto.

Now, about Harvey Dent. That makeup job was a thumb in the eye at the Tommy Lee Jones Two-Face no doubt about it. Actually his entire run mocked the previous incarnation.

But they used and wasted him quickly. The movie was really about Harvey Dent, but his deeds and the resolution of his character came about awfully quickly. He's not a perfect villain for your caped crusader, because watching two hours of Bats chasing a guy with a grudge, a coin and a tendency to contract infections wouldn't be very interesting.

Which is why you have the Joker. He was at his best in the small things, wearing the Harvey Dent sticker, reacting to the hospital, mouthing the word "Six" and with all of the things going on while telling how he got his scars.

His speech to Dent, in the hospital, is where the movie is a fantastic prologue. Joker tells Dent that he introduces chaos. You could take that to mean all of the things that he's done so far in the movie. You should consider it, though, in the context of Joker unleashing Harvey Dent on Gotham.

What he does prompts what Batman does. (He said, trying to be descriptive without spoiling the movie, just in case they need those last few dollars this blog can drive to the box office). The chaos wasn't so much what Joker did throughout, or what Dent did in his rage, but what must now follow those actions after Batman's reaction.

And it is going to make for an even better third movie.

Finally, did anyone else notice that Wayne Towers has changed dramatically from one movie to the next? Discuss.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Friday! At last! He said, fully aware that you, too, have a Friday and you know the sensation just as well, or probably better, than he.

So we'll skip all that. Because it is Friday. And there was a lot to get into the day, and consequently a fair amount to put down here before the day falls to the uneven mists of history.

So I running again. I'm trying a program that ramps up to a 5K run in six weeks. Looking at the schedule the first three weeks seemed too kind, and I'm too stubborn. Also I have it in my head that I'm still 20, which is probably the last time I ran a fair distance.

I started this very week, on week four of the schedule, tacking on a bit more because that's the kind of guy I am. Monday was great. I also lifted a few things with my legs. I skipped Wednesday because of other busy things and then ran again yesterday, lifted a bit and felt pretty good about the whole thing.

So today was day three of the first week of running, which is really the fourth week of the schedule, which I've modified to add a bit of distance. Felt great the whole way through. Breathing isn't a problem, but I'm tender in the ankles. I'll run through that until they fall off though.

I ran about two miles. Indoors. On a treadmill. Somewhere in there I realized that I've committed to running a 5K. In August. In Alabama.

I have to get outside soon.

But not today. After my little jog -- and of course two miles isn't much, but I hope to be over three-and-change by the end of next week -- it was time to head home and get cleaned up. Company is in town, Our Friend Dave, who's over from Atlanta to spend the weekend.

Naturally we head out to an art show.

A friend -- a former classmate and co-worker -- has recently opened an art gallery. Didn't get to make the initial show because of last month's poison ivy, but he had a showcase tonight. So The Yankee, Our Friend Dave and I stopped by to see the festivities, which are very impressive, even to a non-art appreciating person like me.

If you go down to Dobbs Gallery in downtown Birmingham you can see contemporary mixed media and handsome oil on canvas and more.

This is Greg, the owner of Dobbs Gallery, who hasn't been on the site in a while. He's good people and runs a nice art gallery. Stop by when you get the chance, he'd love to see you.

Owner of an art gallery. I suppose he's arrived. But then all of the graduate school crowd seems to be doing well. One is getting a PhD, another runs a significant chunk of a golf resort, another roams around downtown in tennis shoes. The undergrad group is also doing well. One is in law school, another teaches college courses. One runs a distribution center for a Fortune 500 company, another is a missionary. There's a guy who runs a restaurant and and a park ranger too.

Begging the question: What happened to the rest of us?

Anyway, here are some of my favorites from the art show. Since I like the distressed luck the rusting, corroding tin was a natural winner. Art? If you say so. Can I afford it? No. But I could make my own.

There were a few of the paintings, something closer to the Victorian style that were also very nice pieces. So go check Dobbs Gallery and see a place that deserves your attention and their own share of success.

Sat at the bar for Pie Day. Just the three of us this week, and we were over the area where the servers prepare drinks and the food comes out of the kitchen.

Most importantly we saw how much sugar goes into the tea. It has forever been the sweetest in town, but even I'm a little disgusted now.

I'm not sure of the current measurements, but Ward said the previous ratio was four pounds per two-and-a-half gallons. For any northerners unschooled in the art of sweet tea that is a ridiculous amount.

I have to figure out an alternate beverage before next week.

Sat around and watched a bit of Anchorman this evening, but it is a reasonably early night because we have a tee time tomorrow morning. So come back for golf and Batman!

Hope you've got a great weekend lined up as well!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Changed things up in the gym today -- it is good, they say -- and I ran before moving any weight around. Conquered two miles of ferocious treadmill track, watching Terminator 2 on the little television screen, wondering how a chilly room suddenly became so hot and why the internal fans on the treadmill don't really fan the runner.

Then I did three sets of 430 on the leg press. Next time I'll do the weight and then run again, because at this point I was a bit woozy.

After a few arm things, which are about the most boring thing in the gym to me, I called it a day.

And then I came home and mowed the lawn. Found a little mechanical work I'll soon get to do on the mower, but happily it still cranks on the first try. In the twilight I destroyed a yellowjacket nest and then realized, Oh! I do have a wheelbarrow!

With that particular tool at my disposal I can now remove the poison ivy that burned me up last month. I've finally stopped itching, thankfully, but something must be done with the stuff because I was just throwing branches and vines in the burn pile that day. You do not, however, want to burn poison ivy. I've read descriptions and that's a foul devil's brew.

So the ivy had to come off. Today I took a big shovel and pulled as much of it as I could see from the pile, which is odd because the day I was killing it I never even noticed it being there. Later I'll haul it off into the woods under cover of darkness.

Even being around the stuff made me utterly self-conscious. You watch your hands, your feet, wonder why something is itching all of a sudden, even though that makes no sense. With all that picked out, though, it was time to come inside and scrub myself down. Just in case.

Stopped by Blockbuster's this evening to see what was on sale in the previously viewed section. There wasn't much of interest, but a lot of picking through dreck and Drew Barrymore movies finally found a few. I settled on PCU, because I haven't seen it in a few years, it has a certain timeless quality -- we all want to be somewhere between Jeremy Piven and Chris Lawrence -- and it rounds out the college-era movie collection. Everything that comes after that seems ridiculous and makes the old fogey nerve flare. But still: Animal House to PCU, there's some quality work between the two bookends.

Elsewhere ... well, that really should be enough for the day. There's a lot of time consuming stuff filling up today.

There are new updates to the Glomerata section. This is a short batch, but it brings us to a natural break in the book. So see the latest or, if you're new to this section of the site, start here and poke around a bit.

The weekend is almost upon us! Going to see Batman? I'm not. More on that tomorrow. There's also company coming and art gallery show to catch. Have you been to Dobbs Gallery yet? If you're in Birmingham there's no excuse. Good art on the walls, and the owners are friends, very nice people. So stop by and check them out.

And then come back here for more as well. Maybe we'll meet up somewhere in between.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

We're reading a lot about banks lately. IndyMac is sinking and customers are trying to pull their money out. Banks are generally big, safe stable things, until all the customers flee. Even if things go wrong, we're told, the FDIC is there to make sure you lose no money. We were told that again today.

Some people are hoping that's true. Other banks are seeing some cuts, but at the branch bank nearest my office everyone seemed very pleasant this afternoon. This in a week when they were on the front page of The Birmingham News:
... it has meant pink slips for employees, destruction of market value for stockholders, and headache after headache for the bankers who made many millions in bad loans that are going unpaid as the economy sours.

The company's Morgan Keegan & Co. investment arm is the target of lawsuits over its mutual funds, which held millions in risky subprime mortgages that left investors with losses of up to 53 percent.

It all adds up to a summer of discontent for the largest private-sector employer in metro Birmingham ...
That was enough to keep me away yesterday. The place would be crowded with payday business anyway, but the dire news might make everyone sour. Today? They were as happy as could be.

It looked rainy today, so I did not mow the lawn. Mowing before the rain is always a risk, and the grass prefers a dry cut, so I held off, waited for the rain ... and then watched the sky tease us all evening long.

Too sore for the gym today -- I'm doubling up the rest of the week, so it should all work out -- so instead I sat down here in front of the computer, wrote a letter, cleaned floors and finished the LBJ movie.

Also scanned the photos in for tomorrow's Glomerata update. This will be a short one since there's a natural pause in the book's layout and also because I expect to have a busy day tomorrow.

Something has to counter for the laziness of today.

One final note, tomato sandwiches from Atticus' garden are the best. I'd say you should go pick some, but I'll beat you to it. These have been dinner two nights in a row now and I couldn't be more pleased.

Anytime you have to rinse the dust and dirt off the fruit you know you've found a fresh one. Yum!

So we begin the downhill side of the week that will funnel us into the downhill side of July. Even though it has passed already, this always feels like the official peak of the calendar year. We've crossed the climb, now we've only to endure the heat of August, the make-it-stop heat of September and then there's the lovely fall, the run up to the holidays and we're done. But right here, today, is where you might sit still, very still, and feel the momentum shift just a bit ...

It's going to be a fine ride, don't worry.

Come back tomorrow for the Glomerata, more running, yardwork and more!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I'd supposed that I would be sore today, I did run about two miles yesterday and did a few sets of leg presses. But for most of the day I've been enjoying a good response from the muscles.

This afternoon a bit of stiffness kicked in. As the day progressed it got a bit more insistent. Mostly in my quadriceps, specifically the right one. So I figure, if I pressed 410 pounds, and I'm right-foot dominant and it is significantly more sore than the left thigh, I must have put the bulk of the weight on that leg.

Imagine, later this week, when I remember to use the left side too!

After all of that, a light dinner last night and no breakfast this morning I was ready for a significant lunch, so I drove around in search for the most substantial hamburger I could find. Got the job done.

Otherwise the day's been spent tinkering on the site, straightening up around the house and coming up with a handful of things to entertain you. So here we are.

First, if you like college football you need to check out the SEC podcast with Orson Swindle. He writes the best football content around over at Everyday Should be Saturday, knows his stuff and his an hysterical guy, so we've brought you 15 minutes of making fun of Media Days -- which happen next week -- and ridiculous July predictions.

Yes, yes, the sound quality leaves something to be desired. We're presently doing the best we can with what we have and are lobbying for some improvements. Time will tell.

Watching the LBJ movie starring Randy Quaid. There's a moment here, set in 1955, where actor and character positively merge. It is spooky, and I feel ashamed for having doubted Quaid could do it. Makes you think a bit differently about some of his other roles as well.

Speaking of Lyndon Johnson, I'll show you some more of his campaign buttons next week, but there are a few of his contemporaries for you to check out today in the buttons section.

First there are four new Thomas Dewey buttons. The Hanley button dates to the famous 1948 campaign, the Bricker to 1944. A few of those are nice and simple little buttons, suggesting the 1940s were one of the turning points of button design, as we'll see in future installments.

We're in the golden age of cellophane buttons after that, including the Dwight Eisenhower administrations. The simple "Ike 56," the permutations of the "Like Ike" buttons, that Ike-Nixon Capitol button is terrific. And does anyone remember Nixon looking that young?

The genre stays healthy even with slight changes brought on later by George McGovern. The "Labor United" pinback is the newest addition here. The pinbacks of his day are a bit larger, as if they have something more to say, or there's a collar-pin size ratio that must be maintained. Still, they are simple, clean and elegant.

There's also a new George Wallace button. It is simple white writing on a blue and red background, with the '72 in a different font. Someone might have been wearing this button the day he was shot. Were they in that confused Maryland crowd? We'll never know.

Shortly thereafter the buttons dip in quality. I blame Jimmy Carter, who's buttons are as garish as everything else of the period. There have been a few attempts at returning to previous styles, but nothing brings it home like some of those mid-century buttons I'll be sharing soon. Can't wait to show them to you.

Links for the day: Birmingham's Perfect Vision (that's my line) for the 2020 Olympic Games blurs as the City Council delayed a vote that would give the go ahead to develop an Olympic Plan.

Believers unite! Mayor Larry Langford needs your help in seeing the dream come true!

I've been doing an absurd Pro-Olympic spiel since the mayor suggested Random Idea #647 in Operation: Look! A Shiny Object! Some people get it, some people are mystified. No one seems to think the Olympics could come to Birmingham. Except the mayor. And it'll only cost $500,000 or so to prove him wrong.

Want to shop where Wile E. Coyote shops? You need the illustrated ACME catalog. While the fake rock seems to be a bad product the Atom Re-Arranger has a lot of promise.

Final note: As you've noticed the background has changed here again. The late afternoon sun caught that Stoic Oak just right. For a smaller version of the full picture, as always, click the background link in the top left corner.

That's a Tuesday. We're well on our way now. Hope the rest of your week is harmless and just setting up a great weekend for you. Come back tomorrow for adventures in housecleaning, lawn mowing and riveting details of the second-day-soreness!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Quiet day at the office, a nice way to move back into the week.

And then I pinched my finger to the bone. After that it got pretty loud. Or, rather, I got loud.

I was telling a story and midway through the thing -- which I don't even remember now, see how important the story was? -- I sat down in my chair from a brief walk. Hand on the armrest, knee in the seat and slide ... except my hand has grabbed the armrest and, as our ergonomics has instructed, that is level to the desk. So then I slide the chair into the desk, catching my ring finger about a half inch down from the top.

And now I have one of those little attractive bruises under the nail. And the tip of my finger is just throbbing, throbbing, throbbing.

But I recover quickly. And I won't type with that finger for a bit. So, if I miss anything up around the O-P-L keys here you'll know why.

I impulsively decided today to run a 5K next month. This is Justin's fault. He suggested it, I'm very much the type of person who'll do things in a spirit of solidarity -- indeed, when he still worked in our office I quit drinking soft drinks with him, cold turkey, three years ago.

Now, I haven't ran a competitive race of any length since, what, middle school? Somewhere late in college I got too busy and too tired to run regularly, so I haven't run a serious distance since undergrad.

But today I ran two miles at the gym. The Tour de France was on and for the last half mile or so I had to imagine the crowd was mine, and not the bike riders. Also, I could never get ahead of those last two bikes, but I'll get there. They're highly trained athletes; I'm hoping my lungs remember we used to do this all the time.

I've got a month to work up to 5K, or 3.1 miles without killing myself. Maybe it is possible. I've been promised ice cream at the end of the race. That's pretty good motivation, albeit counterproductive to the day.

While cooling off under a shade tree I could hear the drums from one of the high schools close to the gym. There are three (county, city and private) within five miles and, if the wind were right you could probably hear them all. Today it was coming from the north, the city school. The Purple Tigers are starting to growl.

I'm still waiting for the signal from the school closest to my home. If you walk out onto the deck in the right part of the evening you'll be able to hear the sting of their drums. When they start to play the football season will be upon us.

Stephen stopped by this evening to borrow the makeshift studio. A friend of his up north is starring in a production of To Kill a Mockingbird and wanted to hear the speech patterns of a southern lawyer. A southern law student from Tuskegee is a good substitute, so he had to read some of Prosecutor Gilmer's lines.

After that he got silly, and recorded some of Huey Long's fiery populism. And then there was the humility of the proud southern icon recited in another monologue. It was a good performance, he even clipped the right syllables.

We sat around and talked until the even wore itself out -- we don't do that enough these days -- and that's been a nice conclusion to the day.

Hope your week has started off just as well! Come back tomorrow for more campaign buttons and a sports podcast. It'll be Tuesdaytastic!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Since Mama Mia is coming out later this week we can go ahead and lay the ground work for the movie now.

It so happens that The Yankee is rather taken with ABBA. Happily enough for her, the band has taken over one of the stations on the Sirius network, so she can listen away. Yesterday, riding in her car, I heard the same six songs over and over, it seemed.

Anyway, we recently had a discussion on the relative merits of ABBA and it turned into something we decided to record. We each brought three snippets of music to support our arguments and ... well, listen for yourself.

She made the simple argument, "It makes you happy, and it makes you want to dance."

And so she won the debate. I'm not overly concerned about it; ABBA is fine in short bursts, but I won't be checking out the movie anytime soon. I hope you do, and I hope that you write in to tell me how good or bad it was.

If you hear anyone in the theater singing with a smile it is probably The Yankee. Say hi, but only after the movie -- it'd be uncomfortable for everyone if you interrupted the movie and had the wrong person. Such things will happen in a darkened theater, even during a musical.

Booked a speech today. In a few weeks I'll be talking to a room full of preachers. I wonder how critically they'll grade stage presence and room control.

If you need me for the next eight days or so I'll be over in the corner, making absolutely sure that I'm going to use the selected verses correctly. That, kids, goes directly to rule number one: Know your audience.

Because if you don't, you're not getting anywhere with a crowd like that.

I started watching LBJ The Early Years this evening. This was a made for television movie from 1987 of which I'd never heard. It stars, of all people, Randy Quaid.

At 150 minutes without commercials it'll take a while to watch, but half an hour in it is obvious that Quaid threw himself into the role. If he'll match Lyndon Johnson remains to be seen, but things are just now getting started.

A quick Google makes The New York Times recall their review of the NBC movie:
When Randy Quaid, as Mr. Johnson, gives a stump speech in Grassville, Schwertner or Dripping Springs, Tex., his shirt collar wilts. Mr. Quaid, who turns in a very juicy performance, looks like L.B.J. Indeed, he is L.B.J., or at least the L.B.J. we knew in public life.
The review is promising, so we'll keep with the movie this week.

Photos from the day: The sun was poking out from the clouds while I wilted my wallet at the gas pump. Concentrating on scenic views is the one escape from pump panic. More gas stations should be built with beautiful surroundings in mind.

Can someone send off a memo on that? Thanks.

After dinner the sun was in full retreat behind the ridge. Scared away by all the clouds swarming behind? Most likely. Otherwise you're left with that rotating earth story, and we've all heard that one before.

Have a mimosa, in silhouette.

This is the part of the Patton Creek experience that developers are happy to distract shoppers about. The whole place was built on a leveled hill and, in their rush to complete the project there were a few moving soil, erosion, dynamic earth issues that were neglected one way or another. This is the solution, behind the Circuit City and Johnny Carino's. Wish I had the specs on those things, their size, weight and what, precisely, they are tasked to do.

We do know this, if the fix ever fails Rooms To Go is the first thing gone. Fortunately, it all looks very sturdy.

That's pretty much it for the day. Tonight I'll read myself to sleep with the end of The Great Bridge. I'm to the epilogue, the saddest part of any well written book. They don't really have to end, they can just go on and on ... We'll keep reading, promise! That after 600 pages on a bridge, leaving me feeling as if I should be qualified as an engineer.

Hope your weekend was wonderful, and your upcoming week is uneventful and speedy. Come back tomorrow for the most promising of days, one with the details as yet unplanned.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Watched two movies today, isn't that what Saturdays are for?

The first was What Happens in Vegas:
A few laughs kept this from being really bad, leaving it in unfortunate.
Why is Cameron Diaz still making movies? Why can't Ashton Kutcher just punch himself in the face for 90 minutes? This is what we really want to see.

My entire logic for the movie was this, Well Cameron Diaz is pretty bad, but Ashton Kutcher does the broad physical comedy, for which I'm a sucker, and it only costs a buck ...

In the movie theater I texted back and forth with friends and that led to a spontaneous trip to the City of Rainbows for homemade ice cream and the second movie of the day with Team Atticus. How spontaneous was the trip? I didn't even have my camera. (I know, right?) If I did, I could have captured awesome pictures of Atticus jumping on his trampoline. He was tired, but wired, in that intensely three-year-old way.

Atticus, you'll recall, had heart surgery a month ago. To look at his scar today you'd think he'd ran through some thorns that left just a nasty scratch. It is remarkable, really.

Anyway, he went to sleep, we had the ice cream -- there was roasted banana and chocolate chip cookie dough and marshmellow flavors -- and watched Juno:
Too smart characters, but who knew teen pregnancy could be so funny?
I figured a movie about a 16-year-old pregnant girl wouldn't offer me much, being about as opposite from her as possible. Fortunately no one exists like these characters in the real world, and its cool that she's got the baby and is giving it up for adoption. There was no wailing, teeth gnashing, domestic abuse or threats to the dad-to-be, whom the grandparents-to-be didn't even tattle on. Instead they all just spouted one liners, which was fine so far as it goes.

We stayed late in the evening, Justin, RaDonna, the Yankee and I just chattering away about work and movies and music and soccer and food and health and family. I'm going to convince them they need to move a bit closer so this is more the rule than the exception. That's the next big scheme.

Getting home around midnight, I've gotten nothing accomplished today, and yet it was the best day ever and I wouldn't trade anything for it.

Except maybe an upgrade on that first movie.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Dear, sweet, overcast Friday.

Who cares, right? The biggest part of that sentence is the Friday tacked there neatly on the end. As if to say, that's the end of the week. Someone was really thinking when they brought all of that together.

I made an iPhone video for work that's getting some nice attention and pleasant reaction today,

I visited the Apple Store this morning. I did not purchase, but I did make nice with a few dozen people who were in line. The doors opened at 8 a.m. to the delight and squeals of the Apple fans. They walked in eagerly on the arms of Appleologists ready to take their money and break their hearts.

And break their hearts they did. This server went down. That server went down. The thing would stop hemorrhaging long enough to get one customer's phone working and then the next time zone would come active, repeating the process in another part of the country and melting the servers once again.

As one customer said, "The same thing happened last year with the first iPhone. Did AT&T think this wouldn't happen this time?"

It is interesting how no one there wanted to blame Apple. Apple does no wrong. Vendors mess things up, but if they'd only listen to Steve Jobs ... Of course each company blamed the other. No one knew this because their very new, very expensive phones couldn't be turned on to see the internet as God intended, from their belt loop. But the way the companies shifted blame it is a small wonder they're willing to work together.

I went to the store at 7:30, did a few interviews, heard a few jokes and stood patiently. By 10 a.m. four people had emerged with phones. Many others left empty-handed (this after standing in line all night) for a variety of account reasons. Another guy came to the front of the line and said he was in and out at an AT&T store in less than an hour. Apple had been telling people this would take between 5-20 minutes.

But that was a PR gaffe, surely. Steve Jobs never said that.

I've already been asked twice: The narration was done at home. I have a studio-quality microphone running through a six channel board, into the computer and into editing software. Nothing like that at the office. The text is regrettable, but it is a limitation of Windows Movie Maker, where I edited this thing, and while I'd hope for some better graphics none seem to be found on the software.

As for the walk, the long, long walk, that's with a flip camera attached to a monopod and carried just above the ground. We're calling that's first tracking shot.

Stopped by the post office, though, making it inside just before they closed to drop two envelopes in the mail. One carried a Cornell University button for a week-long festival from the 1930s and the other carried a button from Homer, NY boasting of something called "Dedication Days" in the spring of 1941.

Imagine that. Two buttons pressed into service up near the Finger Lakes, lived a short life and were then stashed in a drawer, later a box, finally the attic and, ultimately found their way to me through an online auction.

I held them for a few days and then reached an historian at Cornell who was excited about the button, and then another in Homer, with whom I spoke earlier this week. He'd just returned home from going through a barn full of epherma when he returned my call. An old man died and his family cashed out his property to a younger couple. They had no use for any of his things and were trying to move it so they could renovate and rent his properties.

He told me about the things they were discovering and I think he might have just about the best job in the world. Each new box and barrel was a discovery, some of those things hadn't been seen in a generation.

He asked me how I came across the button for his little town and I told him that I've been collecting presidential campaign pins. He said they'd just discovered one with Roosevelt "and some other guy" on it. I said I'd be willing to trade, and then I asked which Roosevelt. "Teddy."

I want that pin.

So we'll see. In the meantime I can now laughingly say I've contributed to the historical collections of three different museums. I should probably only say that while wearing a Cardigan and reading Chaucer.

For Pie Day we were sat at the loudest table in the place. Just around the corner they wash and break all the dishes. This is called Table 1 without humor.

I'll never sit there again. It just gets louder and louder.

The prices have gone up since our last visit, $.50 cents across the board. We sat there like the elderly, recalling the days when prices were two-thirds of what they are now.

Ward stopped by telling us "Just wait until the prices go up $2.50."

He always says things in such a way that implies he knows more than you, and in this case it is possible, but I know something he doesn't: If that happens, I'll make pie at home.

Our pie, now $.50 more expensive, was ridiculously small. We complained and got two extra slices. They didn't take the old slices, so we suddenly had four pieces of pie. Two got boxed up for home.

Most importantly Taylor's lost two teeth! Also, for Taylor fans, the cast may come off next week. Looks like she's going to get to the pool again this summer after all.

Big weekend plans? Mine are still coming together, but they'll no doubt be grand. Hope yours is well!

Watch the video? Watch the video.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Seems I hung around the office a bit longer today than normal. That or I drove through one of those time-displacement wormholes on the way back home. Those things are under reported and should be avoided at all costs.

Actually there was a company function today. I rarely stay for these since they're beyond my normal schedule, but they try to include us all, so I'll try to go when I can. The purpose was to celebrate a terrific month of sales by that department, which really deserves the recognition. The rest of us are also invited to honor their success with drinks and chips. So we sat around talking in the little Mexican restaurant beneath the office. I took a few pictures; a couple of them are now in the July 2008 photo gallery.

I talked with one of the sales guys and one of the graphic designers with whom I rarely have the chance to chat. We all sat around trying to place the right names with faces for the new people. It has been a successful spring and early summer for the company. These folks work hard and deserve the honor, so I felt bad eating the chips.

That and I'm not a big chips guy.

Read a bit this afternoon and then had dinner with The Yankee at Cracker Barrel. She likes the place, I've come to think of it as a restaurant I can enjoy in small doses. We haven't been in a while, so this was a good visit. After putting our name on the list we found the least busy corner of the gift shop, the clothes section and waited patiently for the signal to dine.

When the name was called the guy at the host stand gave us a blank look. Another young woman came to seat us, asking the name first, as if it determined which section of the place would be good enough for our dinner needs.

We had a nice young waitress who was far too eager to please, fast and helpful, sort of the antithesis of the experience at the restaurant the last few years.

I made some comment about the quality of her work to the lady at the cash register who could not be troubled to care. Ahh, the blank looks of life. Isn't it interesting how the antipathy weaves its way into your day.

At home now, obviously, and putting the finishing touches on the new addition to the site. When this paragraph is over I'll give you a link, but for now I'm stalling for time. First, a refresher. The Glomerata is the Auburn University yearbook and a section of the site that started late last year after I found some of the 1950s installments on E-bay. One had a picture with the book opened to a road I could not place -- it was mostly flat and the fields completely empty -- and I grew curious.

Those two volumes would have been the freshman yearbooks for my grandparents. I bought them, scanned all the interesting stuff and uploaded it to the site. Later I picked up the 1976 book, which would have been my mother's first year there (though she reminds all that she would have attended Alabama first) and I've repeated the process there. Now, finally, we're onto the 1996 volume, my freshman book.

So click through the Glomeratas and check out three generations of the culture of a city and campus which measures itself in four-year increments. Now with fresh entries for 1996!

Recorded a bit of audio, and then played around with a psuedo-podcast for the site that should appear this weekend. That's pretty much it. Now I'm going to make sure the TiVo is set for a long weekend of action and then call it a day.

Come back tomorrow, though, when we'll have Pie Day, and an iPhone video!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

This will be one of those occasional entries, and you're welcome. The excuse? The usual. After work I came home, dawdled on the computer for a bit and then decided to stretch out for a few minutes.

I chose to relax on the bed, which is the most comfortable surface known to man, and then, two hours later, I woke up just in time for dinner.

And I'd missed a few phone calls. If your's was one, I'm terribly sorry, and I'll get back to you soon.

That pretty much eats into the time that I might do something interesting. That's also known as the time that I might do something normal and boring and then convince myself it is interesting enough to share.

Fortunately I have a few links just sitting around that apparently haven't been used here. So enjoy, or accept my apologies if this seems familiar.

At some point in the last week or so there was an awful lot of Eddie Izzard on BBC America, one of the stations in my new cable plan. Izzard is great, but sometimes he's just making it up as he goes along, which is both brilliant and risky.

Also, Wil Wheaton will be one of the first people to watch the new Star Trek movie next year, but he's cautious and skeptical:
It means more to people than just being a TV show. If you look at the track record that Hollywood has making lifelong properties that really matter to people into movies you see a string of failures. Star Trek fans really want this to be good.
And it might be. It likely will be good. At least on its own merits.

Ultimately you're taking something that was very good, or at least redeemable in the first place, and asking people permission to change it without pre-condition. In this case you're asking that of three generations of viewers.

And imagine the ultimately rabid Star Trek fans who'll take great delight in using their futuristic microscope. They'll want this to be good, but they'll demand it keep canon, or it won't be what the fanbase wants, no matter how much smash up, bang up, beam up, alien seducing, bad guy killing, strange new world seeing, going boldly that is offered in the movie.

I'll skip all the online stuff, I'm old-fashioned enough about this sort of thing to watch the trailer, see the preview and go the theater on the merits of those sanctioned promotions. Everything else is genius marketing or good media coverage, but I want the experience in the theater, not on the monitor or on my television.

So here's to hoping they make a good movie, and we'll see it in ... May 2009? Are they pushing it back? More waiting?


You'll have to wait a bit more, but only until tomorrow, for the newest installments in the Glomerata section of the site. I'm scanning pictures tonight, and the rest will be done tomorrow, so make sure you come back for that and more!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Started working on the buttons section of the page straight away this afternoon, which is a good thing as that became a pleasant time-consuming task.

There are about five dozen pinbacks on display in the button section and it dawns on me, today, that I should have organized this differently. As it stands if I want to add a new button to a page I must scan it in, resize the original image on the site, copy and paste the new image to make sure everything plays nice with one another.

Today I added seven buttons to the section, figuring I'd get out of the way some of those campaigns that already have a small presence on the site. But it takes for a bit of deliberate effort. I'm sure there's a more efficient way, and I'll try and find it, but for now I enjoy the quiet little exercise.

Except for the buttons with a white border, which can return you to the first dilemma you ever encountered in Photoshop: How do I remove a background with a color similar to the foreground? Pixel by pixel, of course.

Without the joy of magnifying everything by 400 percent and cutting dots out in very small groups this section would move a bit more swiftly, but as it stands it takes a bit of time, and easy effort. I'm not displeased, so go check them out.

First there's a new addition to the Edmund Muskie page. The one with the black print is new. I discovered the red one at an antique store by chance one day. It had a little red ribbon attached, but I removed the flair thinking "Surely this will get in the way one day." But the man's campaign believed in straightforward words, apparently, and that's why we're left with the only slightly more emphatic "Believe Muskie" which either pertains to a campaign-specific thing lost in the last 36 years or was a mild attempt at mind control.

A generation earlier there was Alf Landon, the only Republican hope in a sparse part of the Roosevelt era. But Landon was as colorful as his yellow-on-brown buttons, and didn't campaign very much, or very well. Sunflowers got old pretty quickly too as many people couldn't relate to the metaphor in 1936.

Opposite Landon there was Franklin Roosevelt, and the first negative-campaign button on the site. You wouldn't be surprised to see "No Third Term" return as a little Bush-McCain jab this fall either.

There's a generic Gerald Ford addition, an anti-Ford button and one for his wife too. Once upon a time first ladies didn't get a lot of campaign buttons, and you'll see even less of them here, but after this article in Smithsonian Magazine, and especially the photo it discusses you can't help but like the lady. Maybe a campaign in her name wouldn't have been such a bad idea.

So the buttons took a bit. In between that there was a trip to the airport and then dinner with The Yankee and one of her classmates. We talked of the Olympics and Russia, very little of it serious and I was delighted to learn that you can get that many jokes out of such a narrow subject.

Big day tomorrow. There might potentially be a great deal of economic news wherein we discuss plants, jobs and building things. Come back for that and a whole lot more on the next installment of How the Blog Turns.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Did today really happen? This was a Monday? Or did the day just blur through your eyes and into your memory, the brain's attempt to mush the whole week into one brief pause before the next weekend?

My mind was doing its best to bring it along. Operating under the Santa Claus principle I fell asleep on the sofa listening to Charles Kuralt. He was going on and on about Benedict Arnold and my brain said, "The faster you go to sleep, the quicker Friday gets here."

With the hour -- Kuralt was still narrating -- I woke up refreshed and hungry.

I love the sofa nap, particularly the one that doesn't last three hours and waste your day, but sometimes the smaller once, anchored right in the middle, seem to do the same. It is hard for the mind to grab purchase on the evening.

So there isn't a lot here. Nothing really. I put two bills in the mail and played with videos in the afternoon. I goofed around with WordPress a bit, which only pushes me further into the Don't Need It camp. Dozed off during the latter part of the Revolutionary War, woke up for dinner and some early Cheers, including the excellent lucky bottle cap episode.

I watched a bit of Return of the Jedi. It is fourth in the triology in terms of quality, according to Rotten Tomatoes and I'm inclined to agree. And now I'll go on for five paragraphs about a 25-year-old movie repeating everything that's been said for the last quarter of a century.

Or, instead, I'll say just these three things: I'd be wise to never watch these movies again, time and age aren't treating them well. Harrison Ford is the sole saving grace of the franchise. The Darth Vader march still gets you right in the gut, every time. Usually in the frightened, child-like gut, making the score the one part of the series that stays redeemable.

So the acting and too many rubber suits have turned a casual fan into a cynic. Now bring on the Star Trek movie, so that we may love it or cast it asunder!

Next time, we're using a hand grenade.

That should take care of all of your explosive needs and neatly wrap up an interesting few days of produce.

So, we've discussed nothing, the Revolution, a time long, long ago and demolitions. Now I'm going to dive into bed and the 19th Century. I will finish McCullough's book on the Brooklyn Bridge. I think I can, I think I can!

Tomorrow, the airport, more campaign buttons and whatever else sneaks into the day. Hope yours is lovely!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Seeing as how it was so beautiful and quiet out today I decided to blow up another watermelon.

I'm not going on a spree, this was the last of them, but science and the internet demanded one more contribution to the 4,782 melon demolition videos currently online.

Besides, watermelons at Publix are more than twice as big and the same price than Food World. And it is delicious too. Glad I bought two. One to destroy and one to eat. See?

Sadly they're cutting back on employee hours at Publix. The cashier was only working 13 hours this week, the bagger only 14. The former was concerned about this, with a house payment and a car payment to make. The latter was a high school kid and saw it as the better part of a week off.

They're cutting back on hours as they prepare to open stores, including one closer to home. I didn't have the heart to ask if they knew the date that would happen. They were already having a tough day of it and didn't need the realization that I was one of the customers that would soon run to the closer place because it was, you know, closer.

And also because it is not Food World, which has just become an unfortunate experience. I've come to think of it as a really big convenience store. It will do in a pinch if you don't want to drive 20 more minutes round trip, or if you don't want to endure WalMart. Otherwise I try to avoid it like, well, convenience stores.

But you don't care about any of these things. You want to see a watermelon exploded!

As noted yesterday I picked up a few extra loud, slightly more violent explosives at the buy-one-get-one free sale on July 5th, that day on which our independence matters far less, and all the gunpowder must go!

The people that ran the place were ready to leave and I was ready to pay and so I made an even better deal, purchasing a bunch 0f M-150s and two bricks of a high end bottle rocket for six bucks. The last toys on her shelf, the closest thing to M-80 quality that you can now find had to be purchased as well. They were listed as $2.99 before the sale, but she ended up putting four in my bag for three dollars.

And so it was today that I made a small incision in the watermelon, ate the fruit in the middle and lit the fuse. Watch it here.

During the warm up pyrotechnic displays I almost hurt myself with firecrackers. The first one I lit exploded and then flew directly at my head. There was no serious danger there, but I later watched a Black Cat's fuse evaporate under the match and managed to get my head turned just as it blew up.

Happily, all the fingers, toes, hearing and eyeballs are accounted for. Don't try that at home.

If fireworks are more of a spectator sport for you then you can enjoy the finale of Friday night's Thunder on the Mountain. You can just see Vulcan there in the foreground. This video, again, was taken from about a mile away and with just a simple Flip camera.

The music was a part of the ill-chosen selections from the local Citadel stations who "simulcast" the soundtrack with the fireworks. Not especially patriotic, one tune was even a ballad, and I'm sure some went home rankled that an Irish band was part of the playlist. But if you just play "America The Beautiful" and the Armed Forces songs other people will be equally critical.

We call them petty, and think those people could listen to "Wild Blue Yonder," "the Marine Corps Hymn," "Anchors Aweigh" and "the Army Goes Rolling Along" once a year without hurting themselves. The disc jockeys at the radio station clearly wanted to spice things up this year, so you get U2.

None of this worries me, matching explosions to songs is obviously impossible. Play whatever you like, I'll tune it out. Give me 10 more minutes of fireworks and 10 less minutes of news anchors talking and we'll call it even.

And so with this the holiday weekend moves to a quiet and contented ending. Tomorrow we all go back to work, trying to convince ourselves that's not a cruel joke.

This is the week where we settle in for the stretch run of summer. It is beautiful and warm and our everyday reality. It could go on forever and you'd scarcely notice, so regular it has become. And it will, between here and October.

By then you'll be ready for fall, you'll wait out the holidays and then be ready, finally, for fireworks again.

Good thing they only come twice a year. If you had that smell in your nose for long you might do something crazy. Like blowing up a pineapple.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Since Friday night was a late one I just posted the one picture here from Thunder on the Mountain. Since today has been a quiet one, enjoying the slow crawling pace of my computer as I edit photos, I'll just talk about today here.

That's better than trying to think up something clever to say about five hours in front of the computer listening to the little fan whir.

The good news is that we got a little much-needed rain today. For a few minutes it rained hard, and after that it sprinkled a while. I watched it all from the window where, later in the night, I watched the neighbors break sound ordinances and neighborhood etiquette by shooting fireworks until 11 p.m. Their next-door neighbors are a nice elderly couple and I'm certain they were not amused, but at 10:55 I began to think of when a good rule of thumb to cease explosive operations might be.

Not that it bothered me, I was still awake and watching television, but the idle thoughts of retaliation drift to loud fireworks detonated near bedroom windows.

I'd never do this. My neighbors are all very nice people and I enjoy their company and their waves and hearing the laughter of their children. Even still, I decided tonight that it is always good to have several bricks of firecrackers stored away, just in case a playful dispute breaks out.

Here I think of Daffy Duck: Of course you know, this means war.

But they stopped at 11 p.m. I watched them remove some of the debris from the street and wonder what my car will look like in the morning. The highest, loudest, most retina-burning devices they had were launched and exploding directly overhead. With this I was not please.

Which brings us to my own fireworks tale of the day. The Yankee and I will blow up some fruit in the near future so we decided to visit a fireworks outlet today for the discounted products. I stopped by the neighborhood store and the lady that I interviewed earlier in the week was there.

She asked how the story went and told us how they were ready for the fireworks extravaganza to be completed so they might get their normal lives back. This is a family operation, her husband runs the place and their adult daughter was handling customers. We chatted about explosions past and fireworks injuries and accidental fires. She told me when the cherry bombs and M-80s were banned. Before my time, but she delighted in telling me again that an M-80 was one-fourth of a stick of dynamite.

And, since I'd shot a safety video and the holiday was passed and no kids were around and I struck her as sane and responsible she showed me a little trick. These particular airplane style fireworks say "Do not remove wings." But, she said, if you take the wings off that's as close as you can get to an M-80 for consumer use.

I bought a handful. So watch out neighbors!

How conscientious am I? Sure I'm going to blow up fruit. I'll probably video tape it. But I'm not doing it in the neighbor. The kids, who surely don't need the help thinking up crazy ideas, won't get an assist from me.

These things are best passed down through the families anyway. A mom and a dad were out this evening teaching the boys the right and wrong. The right mostly centering on lighting and getting away. The wrong focusing largely on aiming these things directly over cars.

But I digress.

There is a Friday to discuss. Went into town in the afternoon and walked around in the humidity and under gathering clouds to take a few pictures in the daylight.

Here's the garden at the Cathedral Church of the Advent.

In an alley nearby I saw a ghost sign upon a ghost sign. The original sign was for City Federal bank and the later sign was for Mary Belle Candies. This was likely a local concern rather than a chain. At least there isn't a lot to the place online. There is this great postcard that shows the interior of the old store. Candy shops with booths inside mean business.

Playing next weekend at The Alabama: "The Sound of Music." "The Shawshank Redemption" and "Raiders of the Lost Ark" are up the next two weeks. I'll be there.

Here's Elektra standing above the Alabama Power building. She seems to be bringing in the storms herself.

If you'll recall in your phone company history Southern Bell ruled the region from the 19th Century through the 1960s. In 1967 the company moved a few things around and formed South Central Bell. This company worked in five states until becoming a holding of BellSouth in 1984 and formally merged in 1992. That was the status quo until 2006, when AT&T finally pulled everything back together.

I tell you all of that to point out this sign which asks that you call South Central Bell prior to digging. This sign went up somewhere between the 60s and 80s and has never been updated.

Also, the AT&T headquarters is directly across the street.

These photographs, including a few of the AT&T building, tons on the fireworks and a few sparkler closeups, can all be found in the July photo gallery.

And now, with everything caught up for the night, I'll go laze around the television. Waiting for more fireworks to go off in the neighborhood. Take notes of who's been nice, and who needs a 4 a.m. wakeup pyrotechnic display.

I'd never do this, but a sign out front suggesting as much might go a long way to maintaining the peace. Tranquility, after all, being what the holiday weekend is about.

That and exploded fruit. Watch for that tomorrow.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Did anyone go to work today? Has everyone been on autopilot since Tuesday? That seems to be when it sinks in, "Hey, my Thursday is Friday! Let freedom ring!"

I believe everyone is already at the lake or beach. And if you haven't arrived then your on your way. I've seen quite a few notes from people saying "If you need me call my cell. But you really won't need me. Really. You won't." Or emails with pictures from the condo view of the gulf.

The parking lot was about half full today, and on a beautiful afternoon that's saying something since the patio dining of the two restaurants downstairs have become the destination in the district. The commute was easy, which is good since I spent the morning and the afternoon watching the gas gauge.

My car has the digital readout, which never ceases to fascinate. I've come to think of it as random numbers -- this cheers me in the financial sense, but is also a working theory considering how they slide up and down three or seven miles here and there. I had about 64 miles in the tank this morning, the car said. After the drive in and a group lunch I had 37 miles still on the tank.

With 35 miles remaining the readout starts to blink. Because you need the pressure. Somewhere around 25 miles it just stops showing you numbers, the digital equivalent of throwing one's hands in the air. Despite this the analog gas gauge, our old trusty F-E friend, still shows an eighth of a tank.

So I decide to head for Sam's for gas, because that's as cheap as it gets here. The nice folks at AAA have thrown caution to the wind and started advising people to get gas ahead of the holiday. They're now advocating the common knowledge that you've carried for years: It is about to get more expensive.

Not that there's any relative merit to this statement now. It is all expensive. But at Sam's I pumped a few gallons at $3.89. Yesterday the story was prices crossing the $4 mark in the metro, so I pumped with a feeling of success and dismay. I remember this same feeling -- sadness at paying "only" $2.67 like it was just yesterday.

And this begins a magical three-day weekend. God Bless America.

I'm working on the Glomerata section this evening. This news will make Jeremy Henderson proud.

The work this evening has been on the final touches to the behind the scenes portion of that section. The cover of the next book is a light black, which scans OK, but the writing is in a metallic silver which is giving the scanner fits.

Also my computer is protesting the whole venture and moving slowly tonight. So with that finished, but taking longer than I'd expected, we'll show it off next week.

Speaking of Henderson, though, he shows us this story from Lake Martin which is a classic tale spanning four or five directions and more than two decades. If you know the name Pat Dye you should read this story. It seems Coach Dye lost his pants. But fear not, they've been found again:
Not surprisingly, Coach Dye said he has no recollection of losing his wallet or his pants. This was the Reagan era, after all.

And it was more than 20 years ago.

And really, who would 'fess up to a question like that, especially after seeing those pants.

"Well, I had a place in Still Waters in the early 80s ... I don't remember losing it, but now listen, that was a long time ago," Dye said in a telephone interview.
Well played, Coach.

Maybe it was a Fourth of July weekend out on the water. How you'd lose a pair of pants, wallet and keys into the water will remain a mystery known only to Dye and whomever was there that day.

A few folks I know are spending a weekend at the lake not far from where this took place. Could you see about recreating the moment and letting us know what happens?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Finished shooting, producing and uploading the big fireworks video today. Turned out pretty well, receiving laughs and groans in the office. And plenty of fireworks advice, which is always good after you've blown up the intended target.

Hopefully this weekend there'll be the opportunity to make another poor melon suffer.

In total this probably took a bit under half an hour to shoot everything. I spoke with the fireworks people yesterday, a very nice lady from Children's Hospital today who said, "Don't light fireworks in dry areas. Or in wet areas." I asked how they felt about the in-between areas and that was when the real answer came, "We'd rather you not shoot them at all."

From the medical perspective this is perfectly reasonable. Explain that to the kids though.

After talking with her we loaded up our watermelon and set fire to the fuses. It was grandiose and underwhelming and beautiful and funny all at once. I probably spent a bit more editing video (ahh, camera tricks) and putting in the audio just how I liked it. Happily a few things fell together quite easily and the finished product turns into 1:45 of safety tips and stupid humor.

So watch us blow up a watermelon here or on the work site here.

I've been tasked with shooting off-beat, tongue-in-cheek stuff regularly now, so send in your ideas, we'll have a good time putting it all together and bringing you the scoops from the street.

After all that was done I stopped by the insurance agency to pay a bill. Last week I received a letter with an extremely large price on the invoice. Though I consulted notes and recalled paying them recently I made the stop to either write a check or help correct an error.

I've known the lady that works in this office since I began driving, she always asks about my mother and we always have a very casual small-talk. Today when I sat down saying "I think there's a problem," she knew instantly what it was.

The agency has changed their billing procedure. Instead of the old-fashioned paperwork allowing you to buy for three months or six months of coverage you now have the option of paying for six months or one month. The way the invoice is written, however, you'd naturally think you owe six months in arrears and are due another amount for this month.

So this was easily fixed, and I felt the best relief of a mid-afternoon Wednesday, paying half the amount I'd been mentally bracing against for a week. The rest of it? going toward gas.

A few weeks ago I had this idea and today it has proven a work-place theory correct. Whenever we think up something, it is only a few weeks away from becoming a reality. This means that it has been in research and development for a few years and, unfortunately, that my idea isn't unique and destined to make me a million dollars.

Some of the biggest ideas would include realtime weather and traffic map mashups, heads up displays in glasses and traveling TiVo. And now, today, I see another one of the brilliant ideas become reality.

You can now lock in gas prices online:
Since a soft launch in January, about 2,000 people representing a cross-section of regions across the U.S. have signed up with to be able to help them find ways to cope with the rapidly rising price of gasoline, Verona said.


Verona said that new customers generally begin by purchasing 25 to 50 gallons of gasoline.

"Once they are comfortable with how MyGallons work, they are buying 100 to 200 gallons at a time," Verona said.
I had this thought, predictably, at the pump. But more importantly, is this a service you jump at?

Maybe the good people running the government in Holly Springs, Ga. should consider it. In what is the best high gas price story thus far, the police there are now adding a fuel surcharge to speeding tickets:
He expects the ($12) fee increase, which applies to all moving violations and can be rescinded if gas prices fall below $3 a gallon, to generate $19,500 to $26,000 a year for the town of 7,700.

(Police Chief Ken) Ball says he was seeking ways to maintain patrols despite record high gas prices. "I was hearing that Delta (Air Lines), pizza deliverers, florists were adding fuel charges to their services, and I thought, why not police departments?" he says.
Delta being the optimal business model to pattern oneself after...

Finally, I received an education today courtesy of Josh White. Listen to him on Rhapsody and you might agree that he was perhaps the most brilliant musician of his era. Read about him and there'll surely be more Josh White in your future.

In our future tomorrow we'll enjoy the last day of the work week, a return of the Glomerata section and more.

Watch the video! And be careful when looking down the barrel of unexploded things.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

July comes in beautifully. In the history of monthly entrances this one goes high upon the Chamber of Commerce list.

We broke into the low 80s for the better part of the working day, but we had to strain to reach those temperatures. And the skies were picturesque.

Here's the Birmingham skyline to the southwest. Off in the northerly direction you'll see Sloss Furnace.

I hadn't been outside for about seven hours on this gorgeous day. The sun was still waking up the last time I had fresh city air, and I'd been listening to dozens of people remark on this atypical July and had to investigate. Those are taken from the roof of the office, and if I stood up there for two extra minutes to enjoy the gentle sun and soft breeze I won't feel the least bit guilty.

This was in the name of journalism anyway, where I reported on the aspect of this glorious day and noticed that eight hours of neon lights each day will leave the skin a nice shade of blank.

After work I shot a little video in the yard. This was the emergency backup B-roll, taped with the hope that it never had to see the light of day. After that I stopped by a fireworks stand, asked permission of the very nice ladies there if I could shoot some true and proper B-roll for a fireworks safety video.

The place is operated by a local family and their conversation suggests the culture has changed. Gone are the days of your youth where a guy with a gnarled hand and third-degree burn scars tries to convince your parents that the Super Ultra Exploder package really is the safest way to go. They even sell safety googles, which mystifies me a bit. If you don't have four or five pair around the house from all of the other projects that turn eyeballs into good targets then you probably don't have eyes to worry about.

They let me take video of some of the packages, because the names of the fireworks are hysterical and play right into this video's theme. I did a quick stand up interview with the lady in charge of the place, who was even sweeter off camera.

She's from the Brewers of Mississippi, which are a separate clan than the local Brewers. The maiden name of the matriarch of the family was Kennedy and during the JFK administration she was able to use this with much success, "Yes I'm his poor old grandmother." A nifty trick if you don't want to wait for a table at your favorite restaurant.

I learned all about her husband's name, who shares the identical name of a rather famous football coach, which is a different guy altogether from yet another guy here in town who's a baseball coach.

They might have talked for hours, delighted to talk about something beyond gunpowder for a bit, but I had to leave.

There was a watermelon to purchase. I picked up a seedless fruit about the size of a human head. We're going to blow it up tomorrow.

This evening I wrote my first tutorial. The subject was basic HTML and perhaps the biggest lesson learned was why I'm not a tutorial writer. I can make a great many messages sing, but trying to teach someone how and why I do particular HTML tricks in my own way is another thing. Doing it in person is easy enough, but "Copy and paste" and "Just because that's the way it works" might not do the trick in text though.

I've been running my friend Chadd Scott's site for a few years now, but I've had the growing fear that the day he needs something in a really timely fashion will be the one time this decade when I'm more than 20 minutes from checking E-mail.

And so, in writing this thing tonight I've at least twice found myself asking Why do I do it that way?

There's a rhyme. There's a reason. Even money, though, says we'll both come out of the other side of this little lesson more confused than when we began.

Oh. I already have two Emails waiting for me about the tutorial. One congratulating me for something working, one asks why something doesn't work. So I'm batting .500, which is of Hall of Fame caliber in baseball, so I'll take the percentages.

On the site I've recognized the need to get back into a schedule of things. Oh the projects are piling up. They need to be addressed, because they can't be moved from neat stacks near the computer into neat stacks away from the computer until they've been digitized and archived for historical purposes.

So on Thursday the Glomerata project will begin again. After that we'll make Tuesdays a day to look forward to additions to the political buttons section. Hopefully in the middle of each week I can return to a senseless podcast or a video to entertain the masses.

As they say, if you're going to find a hobby, find an inexpensive one that keeps you out of trouble and keeps you busy. If they don't say that they should. Somehow, though, stating it out loud here will help make all those pleasant computer diversions a reality. That's the hope anyway.

Tomorrow should be busy as we spend a small part of the afternoon finishing that fireworks video. It seems this sort of thing will become a regular feature at work, so when you have ideas, send them along. Some of you are creative, and this is one of the primary reasons you have my Email address.

Counting the hours to your three-day weekend? I'm just ready for barbecue. I'm getting a jump start on exploding things tomorrow.