Kenny Smith | blog

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I spent about half an hour outside today hanging out with this guy who was, no doubt, thinking he would eat me if he were only a bit bigger. You can see the rest of those pictures in the photo gallery.

Slept in a bit this morning -- I like Tuesdays as well -- because tonight is the night of undetermined termination on campus.

The students are putting the paper to bed and I'm hanging around just in case a question should arise, wherein someone will come into my office and ask the question and I will decree an answer, compiled from experience, wisdom or time. Sometimes I'll let them argue it out for themselves and watch a big question turn into an easy answer.

The last few weeks I've been here until the paper was finished. Tonight I start weening myself off. At 10 p.m. I'll start asking if anyone needs anything. When I leave I'll suggest someone call me should there be a problem. I'll hope that there will be no problem.

The biggest problem, of late, has been ad sales. But we're working to help that situation as much as possible in such uncertain economic times. For most, this is a perception economy. All of the bad news makes one queasy and less likely to spend money. Our ad sales folks will go around and try to explain "As counter-intuitive as it seems this is precisely the time you should advertise so that people come in and purchase your good or service."

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Ad sales are always difficult; people in the business have my respect for their craft, but this is probably as frustrating a time as anyone can recall.

The paper's lead story tonight is about the economic situation. One of the section editors wrote it and I was asked to look through it. She was uncertain at first, but I was impressed at how she'd wrestled a difficult story understood by few into something that was applicable to her audience and actually made a bit of sense. That's not an easy story to write, but her finished product is going to be a good one.

And the whole paper is turning into that this semester. I'll critique it tomorrow, but without having read the whole thing tonight my guess is that I'll find a few copy editing errors, and one or two stylistic problems and that'll be it.

That's to the students' credit. They work very hard on the paper and it shows.

The next big project that we'll be showing off will be a revamped web site for the newspaper. I've got two people who work really hard on it and one of them is maybe more excited than I am about what's coming. I'm about to put more time in that now with the newspaper on such solid footing.

Which reminds me that I've entirely neglected my regular Friday filler of student columns so far this semester. Look for those to return this week. I started quoting those last spring because they are usually funny or thoughtful or insightful, but mostly because it takes a fair amount of effort and dedication to handle your normal schedule and then throw in newspaper duties too.

I started doing that when I was still at, but now I get to work with students doing this every week. I'm a lucky guy.

And getting out of here just before 11 tonight, as opposed to 3 a.m. the last several weeks, makes me even luckier.

Monday, September 29, 2008

I have a small confession to make: I like Mondays. I work in a great place with nice people and smart students and they're all worth waking up, getting ready and driving to campus. Mondays are great, which makes Sunday evenings great and carries on throughout the week.

This particular Monday, however, started at my old job. I went back to for a meeting there this morning. I've only been gone for seven weeks, but I stopped by to begin talks for some exciting developments coming in the near future.

We'll talk more about that later, but now let's just focus on the oddity of returning to a place that was home for four years. Seven weeks have gone by since I packed up my desk, went over the mountain and returned to campus. That's just long enough for the routine to become memory.

So opening the interior building door was a little dizzying. I walked in like I owned the place, passed the lady that works at the front desk and just nodded. She probably wondered how I managed to take such a long vacation.

Three large steps in, turn to the left -- it is good to know the dimensions of the place haven't changed -- and I found the office manager in the solarium. We chatted for a minute and then spent a good long while catching up with my former boss. I made the rounds with the production folks and the ad guys and left as quietly as I'd arrived.

The building smelled of coffee. There's a new shop selling quality, or burnt and overpriced Jake, depending on how you feel. The familiar hallway smells returned with a blend of age, mortar and the day's offerings from the Italian restaurant. It was garnished with hip hop music sneaking through the kitchen of the Mexican restaurant. Usually they play something from south of the border.

It was nice to go back and visit, but even nicer to cut through Red Mountain and return to campus. The weather was perfect at mid-morning. I had to park farther away, but you don't mind that on days like today.

The day passed quality. I had a few small meetings, talked about web pages and cameras. Sent some emails, coached up the sales staff, counted my blessings and so on.

In the evening The Yankee and I visited Publix. We made fun of our favorite subjects: Ourselves. This usually leads to confused looks or high comedy, or something in between, which is a mix of disdain and embarrassment. If you can write high comedy on the cereal aisle, though, let me know. I'd love to take lessons.

As is sometimes the case at Publix the person bagging the goods insisted on escorting my new purchases to the car. I decline this kind small-town service by rule because I'm in fine shape and surely there are other groceries to bag or other customers to woo.

You never have luck saying no -- drug pushers, or Congress, should do training sessions there, every sale and vote would be a yes. And today was no different.

The person that brought out my groceries was a 17-year-old girl. She just wanted to go outside, she said. Who could blame her with weather like this? After the bags were transferred to the trunk her true motive was revealed: she wanted to ride the cart across the parking lot.

At home I watched the Steelers-Ravens game. Pittsburgh was wearing a retro uniform and both teams were playing an old-school type game. I flipped back and forth between football and a Rush concert. I managed to catch the Neil Peart solo, where he wowed the crowd with a new take on YYZ and even played Hot Dog on the cowbells.

Canadian prog rock fans would need little else in their day. So I'll leave you with the finest recreation of a parody site you'll see today. Play around with it, submit your own. My favorite: "I'm the 12th Cylon, and I'm a PC."

That's a Monday. Hope yours went at least half as well. Tomorrow the students will put the paper to bed, meaning another long night, but they're all worth it in the end. No doubt about that at all.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

How productive was your day?

Mine got down to cleaning cabinets under the bathroom sink. Some of these doors haven't been opened in a good while, meaning most of the stuff inside could go. A garbage bag full of it is gone.

I organized a light bulb cabinet.

No one need shop for the glass givers of illumination until the year 2014. And if you need nightlight bulbs let me know. I somehow have accumulated four packages of the bulbs, but don't burn any nightlights. I found appliance bulbs, which is good since I need a new bulb in both the oven and the microwave -- they were organizing a revolution, but I got wise and clamped down -- but the appliance bulb fits neither. The delicate little bulbs that are ornamental and intended for the chandeliers are also in good supply.

I started a new clothes donation pile. I put away some of the laundry. But not all of it -- let's not get crazy about the afternoon.

I cleaned the microwave.

I can't find the bulb or the socket for the microwave, but the glass plates, top and bottom, have been scrubbed.

Also watched a bit of football, rehashed the second half of yesterday's Auburn game and caught a bit of the NFL.

And I made videos. These are now a week old and several days overdue, but new to you nonetheless.

Here's Tiger Walk before the LSU game featuring both Aubie and Tommy Tuberville. Catching the coach on camera is something I rarely manage to do, so this was a successful video in that regard.

Before the game, but in the stadium now the student body sings along with Bon Jovi. Everyone has gotten into this and it has become a new tradition over the last eight home games or so. You'd think they'd play it at halftime given the chorus, but they'll figure that out one day.

It seems every marching band in the SEC now plays this song. Tennessee did it yesterday as well. Maybe all the band directors are of the Bon Jovi generation?

Finally, here's a touchdown by Auburn to take the lead against LSU. Unfortunately it couldn't last.

There will be a video or two, perhaps, from the Tennessee game. Right now I don't recall what I taped and I'm mostly trying to block the game from my memory.

Otherwise, that's a productive afternoon. And yours? How's your week shaping up? Mine will be dandy, hope yours is even better!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Not sure what it is about this Auburn team, but the offensive struggles are painful to watch and even more painful to apologize for or understand. Statistically they are right where last year's team was, but last year's team wasn't much to boast of at this point either.

The defense still sacrifices young children to continue their dominance. They are an impressive unit.

This play was a bad handoff by the UT quarterback. Jake Ricks (91) pounced on the ball in the end zone for Auburn's second and last score of the game as Auburn escaped with a 14-12 win. Somehow, some way, that would be enough to win. The second half Auburn crossed midfield once -- and immediately threw an interception -- while squeezing out six first downs -- one of those by penalty.

Despite the struggles and the criticism stemming from this particular game this is a 4-1, top 15 team. How you look so lost or overwhelmed against an inept Tennessee team is a mystery.

More from the game can be found in the photo gallery. Football-related video is coming soon as well.

War Eagle!

Friday, September 26, 2008

The first leaves are starting to betray the summer in the yard. It looks like the dogwood will beat the maple this year. They'll be red and yellow and beautiful. Then the Stoic Oaks might flare a bit, turn a rust color and fall and hang and hang and fall through the end of the year.

It'll be beautiful. For about three days and then be depressing for months. I find myself waiting on the seasonal shift to autumn with a bit of melancholy. Normally I can't wait. This year my mind's eye is already focusing on the sticks and twigs beyond the leaf fall.

Which is a shame, because in the meantime you've got gorgeous afternoons with views like this during just random glances during the sunroof.

A few days ago I wrote on Twitter that Goldilocks would love a day like that, because everything was just right. We keep having those and this is the thin sliver of the year when we're wise enough to appreciate it. Would that it could last all year long.

Would that the lighting did. I'm driving home during the time of early evening when the sun begins to lose its wattage and I'm watching how the golden rays are bouncing off leaves and through crevices and fences and people and branches and think: I will one day be the worst house shopper in the history of the world, because angle of sunlight and openness to the western sky will figure heavily into my next home.

Provided anyone can afford to move from one home to another in the remainder of our lifetimes. But you don't understand what is happening in Washington anymore than they do -- and make no mistake, even the best are curious as to the outcome of everything they're proposing. So we have a Friday evening instead of an evening of concern.

My Friday evening was spent on a beautiful two-floor colonial overlooking a pond in Tuscaloosa. The place was gorgeous, the conversation enriching -- 90 percent of the people there has, or was in pursuit of a PhD -- and the food delicious.

The party started to thin a bit as the debate came on. We stood and watched the first bit at that house and then considered the 1960 debate again as I listened to the rest on the radio. Debates have been proved many times over to be limited in accomplishing anything -- I've even done some of the rudimentary casuality research on that -- I decided this evening the entire thing is a wash on the radio.

Or maybe it is just Senators Obama and McCain. Neither is especially strong, but Obama sure seemed to agree with McCain a lot.

McCain flubbed a few lines, but he hit all the points he needed too. Obama came off sounding a bit "Me too! Me too!" and the KIA bracelet thing was tacky on both their parts, but I doubt the polls will show anyone swayed in any direction after the fact. If the polls don't move then it is a small victory for McCain. The soundbites tomorrow will influence all of that. During my radio portion of the debate I didn't find any especially tasty zingers for either candidate.

Ostensibly this was a foreign policy debate and for most people right now that means Iraq and, to a lesser degree, Afghanistan. Most people have their positions staked out nicely there. If there is to be any movement in the polls it will likely come in the later debates.

Here again, it is a Friday evening, and so I'll go enjoy it and not worry about any of that either. Hope you're enjoying yourself as well.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The photography workshop was a minor bust this morning, but if that's the worst of your day you've got it made brother.

One of the very nice photographers from University Relations stopped by and gave a very good pep talk. She has an impressive resume and, like so many other people who've excelled in their field, can point to a particular moment which started her down that path. A tornado had hit her college town and she went out to shoot photographs. A UPI reporter saw her, bought the art and she shot for them until the Associated Press came along several years later and hired her away.

"All because I got out of bed that morning instead of turning off the alarm and going back to sleep."

It is a good story, she tells it well, gives good advice and then returns the floor to me. I fire up the computer, plug it into the projection system, surf to the page of my choice and ... it half works.

For the handful of hours I spent yesterday digging through pictures and building this gallery we were able to look at about 20 percent of them. This afternoon I went back through the gallery, added notes to all the pictures and Emailed it out, just in case any of the photographers wanted to give it another chance.

Soon after I bumped into one of the photographers and she talked up the workshop, so hopefully even with its shortcomings they were able to get something out of the experience. And, again, they got out of the room earlier than anticipated. This is the part they like most.

Today I also spent chasing down obscure old photographs for the pre-lecture PowerPoint presentation tonight. There were something like 24 slides on board and I had to build about five more, including three with photographs. A few phone calls, a few emails, a trip over to the library's special collections and all the pictures were collected, the PowerPoint was finished at about 4 p.m. before its use at 7 p.m.

Also this afternoon I had the pleasure of meeting with Washington Post columnist and MSNBC contributor Eugene Robinson. He's the speaker at Samford's annual J. Roderick Davis-Timothy Sumner Robinson Lecture. Davis is a former Dean and current English professor here, Timothy Robinson was a Samford grad, and a noted reporter at The Post.

Eugene Robinson is a charming guy, he arrived last night and has divided his day making presentations to board groups and classrooms and the staff of The Samford Crimson. To the writers he talked of his beginnings -- he went to the San Francisco Chronicle after college and then to The Post. He says he kept "falling upwards" at the paper before he became an editor by the age of 30.

The rest of us are behind.

He talks of the web, and I asked him, just so the staff can hear it from yet another person, what tools they should be equipping themselves with now. He says that readership is higher than ever before at the paper because of the Internet, but there's "still no magic bullet" for online revenue "for the types of journalism we want to do."

Later I have dinner with Robinson and various faculty and donors at The Rotunda Club. Everyone loves the place and the food is delicious. Dinner tonight is a grilled and fried chicken over potatoes and green beans before a rich chocolate pie dessert.

I sit with one of The Crimson's sportswriters, a talented and tireless guy who introduced Eugene Robinson at the lecture because, in addition to his many duties here he also interned at The Post this summer. Also at the table was the dean of the liberal arts college and one of the primary fund raising officers. We talked of the NBA and the NFL throughout dinner.

The Yankee came to campus for the lecture. We sat near the front with the journalism chair. He'd put much of this program together and could finally relax before the next big project. The Yankee took notes for her own research and I shot photographs and video.

He talked of the Orangeburg massacre, Sen. Obama, Sen. McCain, the newspaper industry, the economy and wooed a fairly partisan crowd with a gentle humor and earnest tone.

Like I said, if a half-broken photo gallery is the worst part of your day then you've won.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Earlier this week I put together my first ever PowerPoint presentation. I haven't been especially negligent in giving the world yet another PowerPoint with flaming, twirling, sliding, blinking text. I haven't deprived anyone in a meeting the pleasure of still one more poor slide show from which I read the text on the screen.

I've wanted to do that for years, of course. Oh, how I've wanted to do that. Journalists and the folks they run with just don't use them that much.

For all these years, then, I've never had to make one. Never had to count the snores or watch the back of the room for notes or figured out ways to change my monotone because here's the really important slide with the morphing graph that tells us EVERYTHING!

I made my first this week. White background. Black text. Simple transitions. I wrote notes on a separate piece of paper to talk about all the things on the slides.

Today I was given another PowerPoint to edit the copy. I'm also trying not to change the copy too much as some of it was given to us by the family of a popular alum. The family is a generous donor to the university and their information on the slides is important. That's no problem. But I am changing the text color. Purple and yellow works for the Lakers and Mardi Gras; it seems odd for a big screen.

Later I've found myself adding slides. Indeed I'm still looking for a few photographs and if you know any of these gentlemen send the file to the familiar Email address.
Also I've been surfing through years of photographs to make another presentation. Tomorrow, in the midst of what is a really big day on campus, I'm also delivering a photography workshop. I've decided to simply pick photographs showing good and bad things, put them in my usual photo gallery tool and go from there.

I have a lot of really bad photographs. This part of the selection process won't be difficult.

So that's my day. My evening has featured skimming through photographs -- some of these should have never troubled your bandwidth, honestly -- and watching the last two episodes of Eureka.

They are apparently in a mid-season finale, which is a SciFi, NBC invention that further proves they hate their audience. This is a cute, mid-summer replacement type show that is charming, forgetful of subplots, whimsical and fun. Oh and you can see it next year.

Networks wonder where their audience went, but I have an idea.

How cute is Eureka? The ominous woman who's been the big mystery all season? You know the one -- spooky music, odd glances, enigmatic end scenes -- it turns out she was just trying to do right by her brother, dead lo these 80 years.

In Eureka's world everyone is motivated by the best of intentions. Science pumps out all the motivation for betterment and the occasional odd duck that is jealous or violently competitive is always bested by the dim-witted sheriff who happens to ask all the right questions that the rest of the combined brainiacs of the Western Hemisphere haven't thought to ask.

The mechanic is a rocket science who happens to know enough about biology to save everyone by the end of the day. Earlier this season he went to jail for creating a biohazard -- again with noble intentions. He was pardoned. Now he's the mayor. Whatever social programming this is escapes me. No one would compare the current crop of political hopefuls to the man that fixes hearts, cellular biology, rockets and carbureutors.

Also the food at the cafe is free. But, it'll be another nine months or so before the next 15 episodes which will end the season. Or the series. Who can tell anymore?

Good thing they make money off the DVD sells, because the networks do nothing but hurt themselves with their conventional product at this point.

Oh, look, more bad photographs to add to the "Don't do this" portion of the workshop. It'll be a fun day tomorrow. I'd normally say something like "I hope yours is better!" But I'm going to talk about photographs and spend part of the afternoon with Eugene Robinson, have dinner with him and then hear a lecture on the subject of elections ... If you can top that write in and let me know, I'd love to hear about it!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

It turns out that it is a bit difficult discussing for 50 minutes a 30-word concept.

The editor of the paper asked me last week to hold a little writer's workshop. She booked a room for 50 minutes this morning and in a moment of clarity I realized there are only so many things one can do in 50 minutes.

With a bit of valuable advice from Wade Kwon I decided this would be a workshop on lead paragraphs of stories. In the whole paper this is the one place we've been lacking. It is a delightful problem to have: they are doing everything else so well that I'm nitpicking and making a word count. So delayed leads being the difficulty, leads became the subject of this workshop.

So back to the original problem: How do you talk about a 30-word paragraph for most of an hour. I put together a PowerPoint, as discussed yesterday. That went over pretty well. Some of the students looked sleepy -- some of them had gotten out of bed for this session, remember those days? -- but otherwise they were into it.

A few questions were asked and, the best part, they announced that it was a useful conversation for them. They've agreed to take part in a few more sessions later. So we'll call that a win.

And it went for about 35 minutes.

I also had the chance to play with the A/V equipment, including the remote control that runs lights, projectors, movies, screens and more. It is about the thickness of a 700-page book, all black with four buttons and a touchscreen. It looks like some old video game you might have coveted in a science fiction show. I want one to power my house.

Today has been a busy day, otherwise. I experimented, for the first time, with an early morning workout. This has meant a long night for me since I woke up in time to make it to the gym, run through the usual experience and then get cleaned up and on campus for the morning's workshop.

Tonight I'm camped out on campus while the students put the week's paper to bed. This is proving to be a long night. I left for a little dinner and ran into Dennis Pillion at Panera. He's one of the sports guys at and running into him was pure chance. I'd originally set out to find a particular store, but came up short. Searching led to hunger which led to a soup and sandwich which led to Dennis making fun of my having a book.

While I might be very 20th Century, he was at a nearby table pecking away at a web page. I was trying to avoid a computer for the first moments of the day -- I've been trying to solve mysteries within Facebook and Wordpress code -- and decided to give my eyes a break by ... using them to read.

I am a Renaissance man.

Dennis is a nice guy and it was good to bump into him. He's very smart and armed with an extremely dry sense of humor. I miss the folks at, but I'm grateful every morning for the chance to come back to campus.

Anyway, I'm reading Rick Atkinson's Day of Battle as I've mentioned before. You'll recall this is the second installment of his triology, the first being the North Africa campaign and this one covering Italy.

Right now the Allies are invading Sicily. It'll only get worse before it gets better. Atkinson, who's a very even writer, spent a fair amount of time in the last few pages I read tonight on the hospitals and medics of the war. My great-grandfather was a medic somewhere in the European theater, but that's really all I know. He was one of those quiet gentlemen who never talked about his experience. The few things his children learned at his funeral were as much or more as they'd ever heard.

I can find his enlistment information online, but that's it. I don't even know what battalion or army he was in to try and guess about where he might have gone. But, I thought I'd look again tonight anyway, just to see what I could find. And what I found was a haystack: There were 258,000 medical personnel in WWII Europe. My great-grandfather was one of the 212,000 enlisted men.

From the rustling in the other room I can tell I'll soon have newspaper copy to edit, so I'll leave you with a few links. First, the Paulson Email scam.

Neighboring Bessemer is getting a new high school on choice real estate right by the freeway. And now word comes that city residents will vote for one of three names. The choices that didn't make the cut are far better. The comments are as disproving as one might expect.

William Shatner, with his daughter, reflects on his now legendary Rocketman performance.

Finally, he might not be endorsing Obama, but this is pretty close:
McCain's smear -- that Cox "betrayed the public's trust" -- is a harbinger of a McCain presidency. For McCain, politics is always operatic, pitting people who agree with him against those who are "corrupt" or "betray the public's trust," two categories that seem to be exhaustive -- there are no other people. McCain's Manichaean worldview drove him to his signature legislative achievement, the McCain-Feingold law's restrictions on campaigning.


It is arguable that, because of his inexperience, Obama is not ready for the presidency. It is arguable that McCain, because of his boiling moralism and bottomless reservoir of certitudes, is not suited to the presidency. Unreadiness can be corrected, although perhaps at great cost, by experience. Can a dismaying temperament be fixed?
When you've lost George Will ...

Monday, September 22, 2008

Busy week on campus. Really it started last week. Preparations are underway for a big lecture later in the week and folks are working toward that while they were also orchestrating last Thursday's high school journalism workshop.

I've dabbled in a bit of both while also preparing for two informal workshops of my own. Tomorrow I'm meeting with some of the paper's reporters to discuss writing leads. Today I'm putting together a PowerPoint on the matter.

I've been reading a lot of writing coaches lately, which is a nice habit I've fallen out of over the years. Now I'm pulling together some of their wisdom and some of my own observations to talk to a room of students for the better part of an hour.

This could go well -- in my imagination it is going brilliantly -- or it could go less than well. We'll know tomorrow morning.

I dropped off a computer for repair today. We have six iMacs in our little newsroom and since I've been here in mid-August this is the second one that had to get repaired. Not sure what the students are doing to them, but it is going on the list of things to investigate.

The machine now receiving attention is the Opinion section's computer. When the tech guys have it online again it will belch and spew forth plenty of 700-word columns on campus politeness, politics, sin and the like.

The first machine that needed attention was the Sports section computer. It had a bad power supply. When someone tried to boot it up this morning it would not respond. It was plugged in, the surge protector was plugged in and on. A lamp on the surge protector worked, but the computer would not compute.

I rebooted the surge protector -- who knew? -- and the machine came to life. So that's it, I'm one part journalistic theorist, one part motivator and one part tech support. In the spring I'll be faculty and adviser to the television station too. This is a great life.

When the computers work.

Back to this PowerPoint presentation. Care to guess how many of these I've had to give in my life? None. No one needs to hear a presentation from a journalist; we have our own methods of getting the word out. So while I was both proud and saddened by this little fact it left me with a question, how many slides should go in a good presentation.

Ten was the consensus. I had 15, so I edited and laughed at my irony. Someone suggested I do blinking, flaming, spinning animations. Another thought came in that I read the slides verbatim.

They will be black print on a white background and, hopefully, I'll think up more to say than just the words on the screen. I'll let you know tomorrow.

Tonight there's Dancing With the Stars, which is a show I do not watch, but I caught the segment with the 80-something year old actress who was just adorable. First she was cute and then bawdy and finally outrageous. The dance was perhaps limited by age, but she'll apparently be back on next week, which might be worth seeing.

So, teevee executive types, if you create a show with the elderly doing exceptional things I'll watch it. It would give us hope, and the Baby Boomers instruction.

Just don't put it on too late at night. I might be asleep. Or working on another PowerPoint.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Another beautiful day of warmth and sunshine and happiness. The temperature isn't oppressive and we've had enough high quality days in the past few weeks that sitting indoors doesn't feel like squandering it. There is no guilt, today, in being a blob.

And when you wake up tired you feel entitled.

Lunch helped, so maybe it wasn't exhaustion -- which is good as I'd done little to earn it -- but maybe just a need for fuel.

Sat just beneath the line at Jason's and watched a man with a greased pompadour take too long to order. Just before him was a woman having an argument on the phone while dragging her two daughters to lunch. After her was another woman with two daughters both in complete meltdown.

The oldest of the girls was being carried. She was about two years beyond that particular need. The youngest wanted to be carried. Really badly. Everyone knew it. The mother was at her wit's end and at one moment was no longer being a parent, but a person dealing with two much anger. She got it under control, but the kids did not.

What they were so upset about we'll never know. I like to think it was something small, like the loss of a goldfish.

There's a moral and a lesson in that, but there are also a lot of other goldfish. And Goldie is such a particularly agile name. Any fish can use it if the adjective applies.

A quick trip to the grocery store after lunch where it was discovered I don't need the grocery store a lot. I eat lunch on campus. I have no place to store or heat food, so the cafeteria serves me well. I've never been a big breakfast eater, a handful of grapes or something equally simple will do the trick if I'm hungry. So dinner meals it is.

And it is difficult to shop for a week's worth of dinner on a beautiful Sunday afternoon when you're full from some chicken wrap thing.

But at least it was a quiet store. The produce section had a bit of bustle, but otherwise the aisles were mostly empty. People were busy at home making lunch, or recovering from it and could not be bothered by just one more trip down the cereal aisle.

At home, with the few bags of groceries safely put away I retired to the sofa. And there I spent all afternoon, cleaning the TiVo of old Cheers episodes in 20 minute segments.

Unfortunately the EvIl eye recorded only a blank screen during the episode where Woody was introduced. The power went out that day and while every other appliance in my house has been trained to returned to its normal duties when the juice returns this is asking too much of the overwhelmed cable box. It just sits there, dumbly announcing the time in an ugly green color.

But there were about episodes to watch, including the few when Coach wasn't on the show, and the last few were he returned, but looked ashen and frail.

I'm still sick of Diane, but that's just one of the moral hazards of an otherwise excellent show.

All this wrapped up just in time to watch the ceremony from Yankee Stadium. Tonight's was the last game played there, and the big emotional farewell seemed too cheesy and overwrought by half.

They acknowledged the starting lineup of the first Yankee's team that played in the stadium, who all looked remarkably spry when they ran into center field some 85 years after the first game. There were video montages, by position, of some of the Yankee greats. The ones that were in attendance were dressed in vintage-style uniforms, introduced and trotted out to their position on the field.

Some of those legendary players who've passed on were represented by family members. Phil Rizzuto's wife was there, as was one of Roger Maris' sons, Billy Martin Jr. and Thurman Munson's boy. The ladies wore jerseys over black pants. The men wore full uniforms which struck me as a bit of bad taste. Except for Martin, who's the spitting image of his father.

I don't especially care one way or another about the Yankees, but the iconography is important here. This makes you realize that we're an interesting bunch of people: we are wildly cynical, but endlessly apologetic. We begrudge the destruction of Yankee Stadium in favor of a new facility that will inevitably be better suited "to take more money from the fans." We overlook that this place was built to pack in more people, having left out that part of the "House that Ruth built" phraseology because it was too wordy.

His daughter, the sweetest old lady you could imagine, threw out the first pitch in a fitting piece of symmetry. Bob Sheppard introduced the starting lineup in his beautiful, sparse way one last time. The Yankees won, I returned to the broadcast just in time to see the final outs, Derek Jeter's classy address to the audience and the players' walking tour around the field as Sinatra played on a loop. No one left; no one wanted it to end. Is it heaven? No, but plenty have worshiped there.

I'm proud of my home plate, third base, rain out experience at Yankee Stadium two years ago. I have a great photograph of the field in play. We pulled free two little flecks of paint from one of the handrails (the fate of the place had already been sealed) and mounted it with the picture for a nice frame. That was a great day, one that comes up in conversation occasionally and in memory often.

It is easy to forget that this is really a second stadium. Renovations in the 1970s extensively reworked the home of ghostly legends, putting this stadium more in the Three Rivers, Astrodome neighborhood. But the misty eyed nostalgia feels too warm to make a point of that for most. And now the rush to recreate that next door will do the same.

The best part of the change is that the old location will become parkland, including a baseball diamond. Imagine the thrill of telling your children that where they play, the greats once played.

And then they'll ask you who Mickey Mantle was and you'll realize you've cheated them somehow. We'll blame baseball cards, who's value should have never been more than a stick of gum, for depressing institutional history about great baseballers.

Ehh, the way that team looks this year the kids will probably be more interested in the Jets and Giants anyway.

There was a bit of laundry to do, but only the easy parts. Some items can be left in a heap in the basket. I'm busily taking it easy after a long Saturday and in anticipation for a busy week.

How's yours going to shape up?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Auburn fell to LSU 26-21 in a close-but-oh-so-frustrating heartbreaker. This touchdown catch could have been the game-winner, but Auburn came up just a bit short.

LSU is a profoundly talented team in every facet of the game. Auburn matches up well and played tough, but superior depth, a special teams mistake, poor coaching and an inability to kill more than two minutes of game clock proved too much to overcome.

See the photo gallery for more. Video coming next week.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Happy Birthday to The Yankee who turned just one year older, but many times more fabulous than the last birthday.

Last year she celebrated with a day at the spa. And so she did the same this year. I celebrated by wrapping up the last of my shopping, which meant an ice cream cake from Haagen Dazs, which may be the last place in town to buy one -- but they are delicious.

Later in the evening we went out for the traditional birthday dinner at the Japanese steakhouse. Also in keeping with tradition I did not point out it was her birthday. Some people don't mind causing a scene, she is not that person.

Though when she discovered that the restaurant is now putting birthday photos on their web site I think she considered changing her mind, if only a bit.

At dinner I was invited to bust an egg on the spatula. The first one worked OK, splitting open on the spatula but falling to the cook table. The second was less than great, glancing off the utensil and splattering on the grill. The guy next to me broke two on the spatula and had them both stick evenly on the blade, as the chefs do it. One of them landed on the smaller top portion of the egg, even the cook was impressed.

He then went on about how more rednecks would dine at the place if they put deer on the menu. He knew of whence he spoke.

So the food was delicious. We did not go to Chuck E. Cheese's afterward even though it is next door. Maybe on my birthday.

Not a lot was going on in town this evening -- it is as if the cultural events and festive celebrations pull back at the end of summer, content to let football take over the city for a few months. When the holidays come they'll compete again, but no organization dreams of putting on a big production on a Friday night in September.

So we went to another birthday party. We'd been invited to celebrate Brooke's 30th with a New Orleans themed celebration. We stopped by at about 9:30 as the party was winding down. A few couples left as we walked in and then the final couple left shortly thereafter.

We chatted until it was obviously getting late. We all make our living on various college campuses, but we were all ready for a nap by 10:30.

And now ice cream cake. Cookies and cream with a hard fudge shell. I'd invite you over to share, but some things must be endured alone.

Happy Birthday Mooch!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Today was the big high school journalism workshop. About a dozen schools brought students. Two more schools who'd earlier said they weren't coming then appeared out of the blue.

The folks running the workshop handled that easily. There were no delays, no shortages and still plenty of programs and Samford literature at the end of registration.

Samford President Andrew Westmoreland welcomed the students to campus and then introduced the keynote speaker, Rick Karle from the local Fox affiliate. He has at least four of every award possible sitting on his mantle at home. He's got 20-something years of anecdotes and tales.

He's a sports guy, and in his little speech was happy to drop names big and small, Michael Jordan on down to local coaches and role players. Most of the names and stories are too old for the high schoolers, but they were fun all the same.

Being in television for so long Karle has tons of funny stories -- The Yankee worked at Fox before returning to academia, so I've heard a few -- but he only told one. Not wanting to embarrass his colleagues and considering the audience he told about returning from a long vacation during which he'd not paid attention to any sports news:
My first day back on the air the New York Yankees fired their manager. So at the end of the show we were sitting at the desk talking and I said, "Maybe Billy Martin will come back."

In my earpiece I hear "HE'S DEAD."
Billy Martin died during his vacation, but he had no idea. The other anchors on the desk, of course, knew this and had mortified looks. Karle had to play it off like a bad joke and then field phone calls from viewers clucking at him for making fun of the dead.

After Karle fielded a few questions we sent the students to a nearby building for the individual sessions. I checked all the rooms to make sure students and presenters and technology were all present and playing nice.

Before lunch this wasn't a problem. In the second round of sessions none of the laptops and projection equipment seemed to work. Insert 40 minutes of frustration before finding the simplest of solutions.

Think: Thumb drives.

So that delayed one of the rooms. Which meant we had to find an extra room for the third and final session of the day. That was the group I was suddenly to lead since the invited presenter was still missing in action. Seven minutes into this conversation the sales executive that was scheduled, but who couldn't be tracked down by phone or email, finally showed up.

The first thing he said? Make a good impression.

With him safely in position and rambling on about haircuts and clean appearances I left to go back to my own session. I'd left the editor of the campus paper alone with the high school students. Poor girl. I told her to prepare as much as she could, do all she liked and I'd fill in the rest of the time. And now I'd abandoned her to cover the empty sales room.

But she was doing a great job. She filled 40 minutes of a 50-minute session and I talked for the last 10.

With the workshop concluded we collected evaluations and compliments from teachers. We cleaned the rooms and broke down equipment. I saved another professor's laptop from certain doom.

Her backpack did the slow flip from the counter and I lunged forward, grabbing the strap and breaking the fall inches from the ground.

Why are laptop bags engineered to be top-heavy?

And that was the day. A beautiful day on a beautiful campus. The sky was a light blue, the trees were a brilliant green, the buildings tall and stately, the fountains cool and inviting. Just under 300 high school students were here and the place makes a nice first impression. Hopefully the rest of us did as well.

Somehow it all feels like I worked hard today. That's my reason for not having anything else to share here, but in the next week or so I'll stop hiding behind that excuse.

But not tomorrow which is scheduled to be full of celebrating other people's birthdays. Hope you have something that fun to start your weekend!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Three a.m. That's when I left campus this morning.

Got home around 3:30, mostly because I tend to drive slower when I'm tired.

And then the cat, a cussedly nocturnal creature, wanted to play and stamp. You might understand that I was having none of that.

Guess who was having none of that?

I win this argument ever time. Gently stick a finger in the cat's ear and they remember who's boss. Oh, they'll plot suffocating you when you're in a REM cycle, but they'll leave you alone for a while.

The paper is out and it seems a nice, strong edition. I ran into the dean yesterday and he had nice things to say about the first few publications. No one has had to send off a flurry of Emails or phone calls today because it is an even, balanced paper.

I'm very proud of the work they do. Soon we'll move toward updating the online version of things. You can visit the Crimson's site today, of course, for the latest stories, but you'd agree with the rest of us that the design is a bit old and simple.

We had a teleconference about this last week and then the editor-in-chief and web editors sat down for a meeting about it last night. Nice changes are coming. They're very welcome and encouraging signs. Hopefully everyone will stay enthusiastic about them.

That'll be the key of course.

And getting people on the phone. I've gone through the last of my phone list for tomorrow's high school journalism workshop and am having a run of bad luck getting the right people on the phone. Hopefully they'll all make it to campus, find the right part of campus and be here in time for all the fun.

One of the presenters has become incommunicado, hopefully that individual will arrive without any difficulty too. If not, I've been tapped as the official backstop. So now I'm preparing two presentations instead of the one.

Also they are scheduled to run simultaneously.

So tomorrow will be fun. Last night was late, and this night will be early. If you'll excuse me ...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Another late night here on campus. We'll be going until early in the morning. A slightly smaller paper but apparently Rush is getting in the way of everything, keeping staffers out of the newsroom, pushing back deadlines and causing general havoc.

Havoc. In the newsroom. Just like we like it.

Except that, at 10:30 I was already dreaming dreamy thoughts about sleep.

I've read one page so far. One of six. It is good and the rest of the paper seems to be shaping up nicely as well. They all work hard top-to-bottom, the staff is solid through and through and the editor is top-notch. It makes my job easy.

Tomorrow is the editor's birthday, though, and she has wonderful friends. They've been down in the hallway lighting candles on a cake they just surprised her with and the sudden and impromptu party has begun.

We'll be here all night.

So. Good thing I slept in this morning. Still managed to make it here before lunch, but I delayed a few chores to do so. I spent the afternoon getting ready for a high school journalism workshop on Thursday.

I'll be presenting, along with the Crimson editor, on staff organization and motivation. (They give me all the really juicy topics.)

Today I've been calling all the speakers and a few of the schools to make sure everyone is on the same page. I've also been trying to figure out which page I'm on. I told the editor to cover as much as she likes because this will be a good experience for her and I'll just fill in the remainder of the 50 minute session with whatever she might not have addressed.

I got one brief, odd look with my volunteering to be the stopgap, but the issue wasn't pressed. Which is good. How can I effectively explain delivering leadership workshops for high school students even when I was still in high school?

So that's Thursday. Everyone in local media will be on campus. Or at least three of the four local television stations will be represented. The Birmingham News and one of the local weeklies will be here. Several individuals from the Southern Living monolith will talk about magazines and online writing. Sadly no one from will be here.

So that's the day: a mixture of the tiny little things that will come together later in the week to help make a few slightly larger things happen.

Tomorrow the paper will be printed of course, and there will be much rejoicing. But only after a significant amount of sleeping in. After that will be the last flurry of preparation for the workshop. Something like 220 students are showing up. This could very well set the pace for the next generation of journalists in the region. Or the next crop of journalism students to enter Samford.

Or at least give them a day out of school. Who can argue with that?

Monday, September 15, 2008

It turns out that my folks will be without power for the better part of the week. Speaking with Mom today she said she's been out for food, an extra cooler and drove all over Louisville looking for ice and, finally finding some she "bought three of the last five bags they had."

You're limited so much without power that it first becomes an inconvenience, a curse, then a blessing and finally, you wonder why it was inconvenient to start with.

Of course she's lost power under the best of conditions. The weather has cooled a bit in southern Indiana. It is mid-70s during the day so she's reading on her swing on the porch.

Apparently her area was in the worst wind corridor of Ike's remnants. After enjoying the breeze myself yesterday at the end of my weekend visit I believe it. Did you see the video?

Some 300,000 are without power in the Louisville area, according to The Courier-Journal. There's also no cell service at my parents' home right now so I spent a few minutes this afternoon writing emails to her friends telling them not to worry. Somehow, despite all of the agony on the coast, the midwest made national news too.

My day has been an easy one. The weather is just giving off the vibration that it is almost ready to downshift. The day moved slow and then fast until fast became slow and that became the end of the day.

A solid understanding of Monday after a weekend of travel isn't always the easiest thing to come by. Copy editing, emailing and preparing a few presentations, then, have been the bulk of my day.

Better go back and review my presentation work, just to be sure.

Tonight I've been watching a lot of Cheers. The TiVo has been recording them faithfully for me and that's become the dinnertime viewing. If you can have comfort food you should be able to find comfort programming and one of the best shows of your youth should fit the bill.

This is nearing the end of Ernie Pantuso's run on the show. He'll become a less and less frequent character soon, which will be too much sadness mixed within the funny, almost all of which still holds up.

In 1985 I probably laughed at these episodes as an 8-year-old because of an expression, the audience or the ever-popular physical comedy. I remember a lot of the plots, mostly from later syndication, but cruising through the run of the show -- only eight seasons left to go! -- I of course see the show differently.

One thing is constant, the only woman on the show that was ever any fun was Carla. Diane was worth suffering, but only because Shelley Long played the character so well.

Anyway, I'm just rambling. Soon the replay of the Daily Show will be on and, after that, I'll stay up for part of History of the World: Part 1 will be on. I'm staying up late in the hopes that sleeping in a bit tomorrow will help me get through the long Tuesday night on campus.

Life is tough. Except that it isn't at all. Quite perfect actually.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The day started out nicely enough. Bright and sunny, warm and picturesque. Enjoyed a big fruit breakfast with the folks and sat around chatting and sending off a few work Emails.

And then the wind picked up. And then the power went out. I was just seconds from sending the last Email, but it would have to wait. The wind was really picking up.

After a while we walked out on the deck. The patio umbrella had to be rolled up. It had dislodged itself, flipped and fallen on a stack of plants that were hiding in the early afternoon shade.

And then the wind became desperate for attention.

Before it was done the gusts at the airport were recorded at around 70 miles per hour. My folks live on the top of a mountain and so the winds were likely worse there. My step-father walked around in his yard and picked up sticks and branches, but realized that the wind was only growing stronger. Ike still had a few things to say.

A bit later he and I walked the long driveway, clearing off branches before my ride to the airport. When we got to the bottom of the hill we discovered that we'd need to cut our way out. A large hickory branch had fallen just outside the fence, just before the road.

Neighbors came by when we were starting to make headway. They were going through the subdivision seeing if anyone needed help in their fine midwestern way. One neighbor lost a deck to a large tree. Another neighbor had a truck demolished. My folks lost two trees, but that's all.

Two teens were hired on our way to the airport to pick up the debris. It turned out that they were the ones that lost the deck and truck.

Eventually we stopped counting how many trees we saw during the trip to the airport.

Here you can see a brief video from the windy day.

Down in the terminal were all of the people who couldn't catch the early flight back to Birmingham. There were hordes of people waiting to go to Tampa and beyond. The wind had held them all on the ground.

They had a good spirit about them, a docile resignation often found at airports when things are going badly.

The Louisville airport has plenty of windows, but you're so far removed from trees that you can't tell what is going on outside. They'd been in there for hours, but none of them knew that the winds had died down. They were relieved to hear me say it. But the winds were out of the south and headed toward Chicago, which is where every plane seemed to be stuck.

Southwest did a nice job of keeping everyone informed. Our flight was delayed more than an hour so I left the terminal and beyond the security station for one last meal with the folks. It was airport food, which is to say bland with a hint of flavor, small with a hint of proportion and slow with a hint of never arriving.

Eat and run then, back through security where I learned an interesting thing: Joking with one of the TSA employees she went to her standard semi-imposing line "You're bag is next" for a physical search.

You know what's really funny about that? I went through security here just an hour ago and no one blinked at my luggage.

She turned and walked away defeated.

Finally arrived back in Birmingham after 7 p.m., but safe and sound after an easy flight. No weather here, but a brief sprinkle on the drive home.

My parents aren't expected to regain power tonight and apparently also have no cell service at home. But other parts of town have power and the roads are passable. The weather is supposed to cool a bit there so it will be more inconvenient than anything else. Nothing like we've all watched on television over the weekend.

So no one will complain. This might be a typical trait of the region, I don't know; I've never lived there. It might be a sense of perspective. Right now it is easy to see that there are worse things than losing the items in your freezer.

One more video from the weekend, a very peaceful one. I shot this on the plane to Louisville. There is a man on your plane that thinks Sitting on the port side gives me the sunset and I am that man. So enjoy the sunset from 38,000 feet.

As always, you can see more videos on the A/V page.

Busy week coming up? I have some interesting things on the horizon, but you'll have to check back to see what they are.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Today is all about football, so in effect this post is all about football. I walked outside once, to escort the puppy on her puppy rituals.

Otherwise I slept in. We ate a big breakfast. A very large, but otherwise healthy breakfast. After that was Tennessee dismantling UAB.

I watched a dive video, and looked through dozens of photographs from the folks' recent trip to St. Croix.

There was pesky South Carolina fighting to the last against a Georgia team that looks vulnerable. And, finally, the evening games, Ohio State at USC, which I cared about only so far as the game would no longer be discussed once it had concluded.

The game I cared about was Auburn at Mississippi State which, of course, turned out to be a game no one should ever discuss, ever again, now that it has concluded.

Auburn's offense struggled again while facing what will likely range from an average to good defense. Next week's game is the ultimate proving ground. Until then much will be written about the offensive shortcomings, the turnovers, the confounding penalties, the inability to connect in the passing game and, most frustrating, the inability to punch the ball in from the seven yard line.

That looked a little too similar to the Tennessee game from 1998.

What is much improved, perhaps from any team in recent memory, is Auburn's defense. They played a Mississippi State team that couldn't gain 10 yards in practice, but Auburn dominated every facet of the game when the defensive 11 were on the field. Statistically they have to be near the best in the land, proving my previous point that they eat babies.

Add in two missed field goals, a safety that most everyone would question, more than a little offensive ineptitude and you get the 3-2 win that we're only remembering for trivia purposes.

Friday, September 12, 2008

A Friday, but aren't they all? Somewhere, in an alternate dimension, there is a week of Fridays. And those people, when they get around to work (because every day is a Friday) and consider the prospect of alternate dimensions and think: Poor schlubs. Or would they? Could the time be wasted on us alternate dimension types if they always had a party or a vacation or a happy hour?

A travel day, but aren't they all? He asked existentially. Spending the weekend in Indiana with the folks, intent to do nothing and more than content to see that plan through.

So I put in the day on campus, met a few folks, answered a few questions, sent a few emails, solved a few problems. There was a teleconference with the web site provider. Our two web producers have been feeling their way through, learning a bit more each day and doing a fine job, but a quick tutorial from the folks that created the tool might go a long way. And it did.

It turns out there is a lot more functionality in the tool than has been pushed into service. We hope to make use of that in the coming weeks. Today, in fact, the site hosted its first video. One of the students is in London and sent back a very nice dispatch from her experiences there.

We're going to have a lot more multimedia soon. We're behind the curve a bit, but excited to make up the ground.

The littlest things are filled with delight. Late this afternoon I strolled over two buildings to the library to pick up a book for the weekend. I bought a few from the public library several weeks ago, packed one for the weekend and then thought better of it.

It turns out, however, that the university library has Rick Atkinson's The Day of Battle was on the shelf. This is part two of Atkinson's triology on World War II. I finished the first installment only yesterday. If reading of North Africa was so engaging and chilling, I thought Sicily and Italy can only be more of the same.

The New York Times review agrees:
(H)e has been no less thorough in "The Day of Battle," the second part of a projected "liberation" trilogy. But while there is new material here — like information about the deaths of Allied servicemen from American mustard gas at Bari — it is his ability to ferret out astonishing amounts of detail and marshal it into a highly readable whole that gives Atkinson the edge over most writers in this field.

Anyone who devoured "An Army at Dawn" with relish will be delighted with his account of the Sicilian and Italian campaign. All the same ingredients are here, from sharp one-liners ("Camaraderie and good fun," he says of the resumption of negotiations at the Trident conference in Washington, "promptly popped like soap bubbles") to brilliantly observed character portraits.
Through the first 40 pages that seems to hold true. The best part of Atkinson's work remains his ability to humanize the now mythological and to personalize (with both charm and chagrin) the individual soldier.

And like all good books it will be a shame when this one ends in 500 pages or so. Unfortunately I only have a few weeks to read the book. The current interest listings at the campus library aren't subject to the same semester-long check out period as other titles.

I did learn today, however, that I'm able to check out 99 books at a time. Not that I ever will, but that's a lot of faculty reading power there.

And so it was that I found myself at the airport, early and reading (note the first paragraph on that page). Waiting on my plane, watching the children play on the ground with a little suction cup toy and hungry for dinner.

I always take photographs of my plane. Just in case it comes up later. Doesn't everyone?

The flight to Louisville was uneventful. It is always brief. I recorded several minutes of video from the window. I sat just behind the wing on the port side, watching the sun slide beneath the horizon probably somewhere out over Missouri.

Dinner was at a barbecue joint tonight. It was one of the nationwide chains, though I don't believe we have them in Birmingham. They brought us the barbecue on a big garbage can lid. There was chicken and ribs and delicious brisket and all the various sides one would suspect. The waitress had followed the company from Minnesota to North Dakota to Phoenix to Louisville. She sounded like Minnesota, scoffed at the local winters and continued the reputation of thoughtful, charming people from the North Star State.

There was no bad weather during my flight, all of that has been massing to the south which I can now see moving in on Texas and Louisiana from Indiana. We're watching CNN and Fox and considering placing bets on which network has a reporter place himself in the greatest position of risk, injury or death.

Geraldo is trying. He must have a commission written into his contract that he gets royalties from every replay they air of his embarrassment or physical pain. My mother, humorously, is cheering for the wind to blow away his mustache. Granted that would be funny -- and replayed on a loop -- but we should all just shake our head and move on.

It is late, and there is plenty of college football tomorrow, after all. Unless you are in a universe full of Fridays. Suddenly that doesn't seem like the best reality, does it?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

One of the many signs you're growing up a bit: You tend to iron more.

One of the few signs that you don't iron that much: You find something about it to enjoy.

And that's my morning, followed by the trip to work and a wonderful day on campus and then a bright, sunny drive home.

The timing worked out well. I wanted to mow the lawn, at least some of it, before the evening was up. The oaks at Stoic Oaks, however, are arranged in such a way as to protect my western flank from any offending rays of sun.

While you're still enjoying the last 90 minutes or so of sunlight I'm getting the beautifully bent golden rays of sunset through a stand of woods. The only shortcoming of this is a limited allotment of evening light for yardwork.

So this evening I hustled inside and hustled back outside in the lawn mowing uniform. Checked the gas in the machine ... Terrific. Now I'm racing the sun and the quarter-tank of fuel. OK, The front and two sides of the lawn it is.

I mow the front, and trim a common area shared with a neighbor. Usually he beats me to this chore, so now my highly organized, efficient by more than a decade of experimentation lawn mowing system is thrown out of whack.

And two areas, because of the rains from recent tropical storms, have prompted rapid growth in two areas. One of them is right on the road and so it simply must be done before daylight expires. Another is in a highly visible area and the height must be reduced before the fumes in the tank have evaporated.

While doing all of this two observations come to mind: It has been a few years, probably, since I've had to mow the lawn more than once every two weeks. Similarly it has been two years, minimum since a mushroom appeared.

Not coincidentally we've just emerged from an almost two-year drought. That we did this in August and September is remarkable for the months and says a lot about a comparatively wet summer. And that was how we've witnessed the end of a "drought of the century."

So the grass is now resting at a culturally acceptable height. The sun held out just long enough and the mower coasted back into the shed. All is well outside.

Inside the photo gallery received a few updates. There's a bee and a flower and a building and more. As you've no doubt noticed there's also a new background on this page. This is from one of the Stoic Oaks on the eastern edge of the property. They are seldom displayed here, and that's an oversight we'll have to correct. Usually you see the western stand of oaks or those growing to the north.

As always, you can see that photo without the words covering it by clicking the link in the top left corner box.

There's still more goodness on the site for today. On the A/V page and you'll see three new videos.

You'll see Spirit's pre-game flight from the Southern Miss game. They released Spirit from a new starting point during this game and it was a flight to be remembered. The bald eagle soared over the northern end of the stadium several times -- once we feared he was leaving -- and finally looped the bulk of Jordan-Hare before striking his target at midfield.

The video isn't nearly as impressive as seeing it live, but believe anyone that tells you there's a goosebump factor when the eagle flight takes place.

We were sitting in the northern end zone for a while, before moving upstairs to our traditional haunts and, ultimately, moving to the southern end zone when the rain came. But in the northern end zone we saw Tristan Davis break free for a touchdown.

I'm doing this with a tiny Flip camera with a 2X digital zoom and editing it in Movie Maker. Imagine if I had those really powerful, expensive tools.

The Flip excels here though, as I shot several clips from
Rolling Toomer's Corner and hurriedly squished them together to make a little montage. The fight song covers the audio because there was little continuity here, just lots of toilet paper. And, I realized tonight, I must have been worn out after the game, heat, rain, more heat and humidity. I did not realize that afternoon how sedate this particular rolling of the corner was.

There are always a lot of children there and it is very family-friendly -- one of the best parts of Auburn traditions -- but that was as subdued as I've ever seen the place. Importance of the victory is a direct contributor to the tradition. And the early departure of some of the crowd, and the rainy retreat of others, helped keep Toomer's a very casual place.

And I saw two sets of the slingshots on the corner. Never seen them there before. One family brought a gigantic box of toilet paper and was letting the children shoot them until the TP ran o-u-t. They were very nice people.

So I made all those videos, uploaded them to Blip, noticed a problem with one and then, finally discovered how I can make the resolution larger in Windows Movie Maker. With that happy discovery I had to recreate all of these videos again because inferior resolutions are not acceptable.

Earlier in the night I was searching for other video editors but every other free editor is similarly restrictive, full of bloatware or what have you. I tried an online editor but it was painful slow. Still uploading I think. Movie Maker, though, has now released that precious secret and I can happily edit away with my amateurish eye and standard transition.

Like I said, this is done in a basic way. One day I'll look back on it all and cringe. Today I'm just pleased: Eagle! Football! Toilet paper!

That's a full day in some cultures.

And enough of one for this one today. Hope your Friday is shaping up to be just that exciting and more.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The second edition of The Samford Crimson was delivered today. The paper looks good, we've heard no complaints and the students have received well-deserved compliments.

After coming to campus, checking the phone and e-mail to see if there are any early problems comes one of the fun parts of the job. I spend part of my afternoon writing a critique of the paper. For the second week in a row I was able to tell the staff this evening that I could only find small little nitpicky problems.

I asked them to improve on their first issue and, by and large, they did just that. They are a good staff putting out a nice paper. I'm curious and excited to see how far they can take it through the rest of the year.

And that's pretty much been my day. I slept in a bit, beat the rain to campus, picked up the paper, made a few rounds, had some lunch and settled in to find small little problems with the layout and the copy. They are small and few. As we've discussed, when I'm only left to gripe about skybox symmetry and an unfortunately delayed lead they've put together a good paper.

So the staff is doing good work. Later this week we'll turn a bit more attention to the website and, perhaps, advertising. In the next few weeks I'll lead workshops on writing and photography and, ultimately, feeding the site more and more information. Next week there's a high school workshop where I've been invited to speak about staff organization. It will be an exciting conversation, I'm sure.

All of it is fun to me, and I apology for belaboring that point on the blog. I'll try harder to entertain you with other material too.

For instance: tonight, after a library visit I found myself watching The Bridge on the River Kwai, which is still a fantastic movie. Having not watched it in several years, and only just now looking up the trivia on IMDB, I'm more riveted:
The actual Major Saito, unlike the character portrayed in the film by Sessue Hayakawa, was said by some to be one of the most reasonable and humane of all of the Japanese officers, usually willing to negotiate with the POWs in return for their labor. Such was the respect between Saito and the real-life Lieutenant-Colonel Toosey that Toosey spoke up on Saito's behalf at the war-crimes tribunal after the war, saving him from the gallows.


For the scene when Colonel Nicholson emerges from the oven after several days confined there, Alec Guinness based his faltering walk on that of his son Matthew when he was recovering from polio. Guinness regarded this one tiny scene as some of the finest work he did throughout his entire career.
I'd agree. With only two small problems. After that initial uncomfortable stagger from days of heat exposure he's far too well-composed. It does allow him that wonderful line "If I were you ... I suppose I'd have to kill myself." Also you just keep waiting for him to Jedi mind trick his antagonist.

There's also this:
When this film was first aired on commercial TV in the USA, on Sunday night, Sept. 25, 1966, ABC-TV pre-empted its entire evening's schedule so the film could be aired in one night, as opposed to two parts on consecutive nights. This was considered a bold move at the time. It was the longest single network telecast of a film up to then (three hours and 10 minutes with commercials; Ford Motor Co. was the lone sponsor).
The version my TiVo recorded from AMC was 3:45 long. This would be something to be upset about, but since TiVo saves me 20 minutes an hour, the joke's on AMC.

Or on me. Somehow it has gotten later in the evening than I expected. Tomorrow, then, for tonight is but a misty memory in the dreams of our hearts.

(That's better than another hump day metaphor ...)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

I'd hoped to produce some video for you tonight in the quiet waiting hours, but that idea, and the romantic title I've just given that portion of the day was thwarted by technology.

Nothing so smooth sounding as "the quiet waiting waiting hours" should be diminished because of something so technical, but here it is: iMovie doesn't like avi files. To do this at work I'd have to find a conversion program.

They exist, but I can also do this at home later in the week, which is what will happen now.

So I turned on my nice retro-looking lamp and cocked it just so over the office. I flipped over my chair to try and determine its origins. No guess was needed. There's a sticker there with two important pieces of information. The chair was built by Gunlocke, now a company in their second century of furniture production. And it is military surplus.

The sticker has a stamp noting it was inspected by the equipment management officer of Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery. This was done in 1979. To that individual, now likely a colonel or better I say congratulations: this is still a solid chair. It has a satisfying angle of recline, an authoritative creak and, when moved quickly, a big squeak that gives it office chair authenticity.

There is another chair in my office -- there are several actually, and a round table for holding meetings -- but it doesn't appear to be military surplus. And the office is the lesser for it.

My desk might possibly be a surplus acquisition. It is the K-car of desk furniture. It has the no frills faux wood top, beige color scheme and the determined 3-1-2 drawer arrangement with basic handles. Inside the lap drawer is graffiti dating to at least 1990.

On top of the desk sits an iMac. If iMacs understood irony it would sit there with irony. Since it can't understand avi files and has no appreciation for the quiet waiting hours, we won't ascribe too much personality to the machine.

The HP scanner, though, that little desktop addition has soul.

Next to that, the older Apple, looking so out of place with both a hard drive and monitor, to say nothing of the see-through keyboard ("How gauche. How 1993.") is mulling over a screen saver that looks like a squid with psychotic dysentery.

Phrases like that are why they pay me the big bucks.

Anyway, I'm sitting here waiting to look over tomorrow's paper. The staff seems to be on a slightly faster pace to put the thing to bed this week. Last week it was 3:15 a.m. when we left. I'm hoping for an improvement tonight.

It sounds like a solid paper. There was one news hole earlier that may or may not get filled. There are Plans B through E,F and G in place. The sports page is mostly completed. The Opinions editor has indicated his readiness to opine. When all the pages are ready for one last look they'll come to me, I'll add a few red marks for corrections and we'll call it a night. Or an early morning.

This is the second week of my hanging around while they put the paper to bed. I've been asked to look at the first few editions while the staff is getting comfortable with itself and their roles and duties. I'll do it for two or three more weeks, at which point I'll be happy to return to a normal schedule.

I enjoy visiting with the students; they are bright and funny. I don't mind the hours, but the touching the paper before it is published part is one of those gray areas of the job, as I've mentioned before. Typically and traditionally it shouldn't be done. I subscribe to that standard, which is why I'll be happy to step out of their way in a few weeks.

But that leaves me here tonight. Which allowed me to have a late start this morning. Which meant lunch off campus. Which meant a trip to the big blue box store for a few household items. Which meant a visit to the self checkout aisle. Which meant a delay because of the nice lady in front of me who had trouble grasping the fundamentals of reading directions and scanning UPC codes.

Maybe she was at the end of a long shift, at which point this is certainly excusable, but I'm left to wonder: If you have difficulty negotiating the self check out machine how did you become a nurse?

I chose the Spanish option on the machine and it uttered one sentence, gave up and silently let me complete my purchase. The grandmother in line behind me was suitably impressed, I could tell.

Stopped by the bank for bank stopping purposes and then headed to campus, which is where I still am, many hours later and for a few hours more. How the paper turns out will have to be a part of tomorrow's tale.

How's your weekly tale progressing? Good I hope. Let me know if I miss out on anything while recovering from my late night.

Monday, September 8, 2008

I filled part of my morning with research. And my afternoon included the complimentary research. This morning I had to find the withdrawal dates for the 14 presidential candidates in the 2008 primaries. Easy enough.

After lunch I found their entry dates. This information is going in a study on candidates use of MySpace. Before the fall is over I'll have taken part in three separate studies on the election.

In one of the efforts I'm angling for the inclusion of some of my campaign pinbacks so the pretentious cutline "Author's private collection" can be included below the art. It is all rather exciting stuff.

Last night my TiVo recorded Apollo 13, which I've probably seen almost that many times. I decided I'd watch the first act. The later drama, and reading Jim Lovell's book overwhelm the sweet charm of Tom Hanks playing Tom Hanks.

By the time they reached the launch pad I was sucked in by what was to come. I started making deals with myself "I'll watch until the IRS joke. I'll watch until the steely-eyed missile man. I'll watch until Ken Mattingly (an Auburn man) climbs into the simulator. I'll watch until the 'Are we on VOX!?" joke." Until, finally, "Fine. I'll watch until they return to the Pacific Ocean."

At which point I've watched the whole movie.

This is one that proves my point about real life drama needing no improvement. Aside from a few course corrections not portrayed in the film it is a fairly accurate portrayal. Right down to the rescue helicopter at the end which, IMDB tells us, is the actual helicopter used to pull the crew from the capsule. Jim Lovell is in the next scene, playing a captain on the carrier deck.

There are discrepancies, to be sure. The whole event being documented with authority as it happened there are bound to be some errors, deliberate or otherwise. For example, says IMDB, the actual explosion took place at MET (Mission Elapsed Time) 055:54:53, a full hour before the time shown.

As a moviegoer I can accept that error. The most egregious problem is the cinematic drama between Fred Haise and Jack Swigert because, apparently, the story of whether three men could be safely returned to earth had grown boring.

Other mistakes like keyboard colors and physics around the moon are less forgivable, and shame on Ron Howard for misleading the public.

For the first time I watched the movie without recalling the movie theater joke. Only now did it come to mind. But an anxious mother is swept up in the story and her young daughter was heard to say "Don't worry Mommy. They'll be fine. Forrest Gump is driving."

And in Winston Groom's novel Forrest Gump did go to space. (The movie was actually better.) Homer Simpson also went into space. Clearly we've had a few setbacks at the space agency.

We've also apparently had some setbacks on ESPN, where every third thing tonight is a commercial. Is this what I've missed by ignoring the NFL the past few years? This is painful. (And so are the Raiders.)

Hopeful your Monday has been more pleasurable than painful. Either way, just remember: the toughest part of the work week is over. It is a steady progression from here on in.

Tomorrow: I'll be at the paper all night. Hopefully I can post some video, technology permitting. Be sure to come back and see if it all went to plan.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Today was the great drying out. After the sudden, violent and prodigious rain late in yesterday's game I remained damp throughout the afternoon -- rolling Toomer's with a five-year-old, getting lemonade, wading through traffic, dinner at Niffer's and then the long ride home.

Getting in around 9 p.m. I removed the various items from their traditional pocket locations. I emptied the seat cushion/carryall (a handy thing I discovered quiet by accident several years ago, complete with team logo and many pockets good for hauling electronics, smuggling water and, apparently rain protection all for the ridiculous price of $5.99) of lens, batteries, video cameras and ponchos.

But last evening I was so damp, and tired, that I did not notice the dampness on some of the items relative to my own. My shoes were still damp. My feet had no idea how wet they were until the socks came off last night.

Fortunately all of the electronics are fine. And the cushion's big foam seat seems none the worse for the squall -- but the vinyl suddenly looks more purple than blue. The game ticket has been mutilated almost beyond recognition. The ponchos retained a fair amount of water. My wallet was more than moistened.

So today I aired out the bright yellow plastic. I removed all the paper items from the wallet. I tend to carry more cards and paper than money, so nothing was lost, but a lot of things were sticky inside.

All has been restored. Sleep was recovered. Pictures, as noted yesterday, have been uploaded. Video will be uploaded to the site in a few days.

For now we'll reflect on the football that was. Auburn was far from flawless, but they showed a certain level of play that suggested their approaching flawless might lead to an invincibility. There are still things to fix, but woe be unto those experiencing the fixedness of it all. They're liable to get beaten by 40 in every facet of the game.

Samford, it turns out, was busy mauling one of those opponents who has the unfortunate luck of being outclassed by their entire schedule. Samford won 61-0, collecting 510 yards of total offense to Faulkner's 37.

This might be the high watermark for the Bulldogs. According to some longtime observers they aren't expected to win many more games this season. Maybe they can surprise a few people though.

Here's a great note on that game from one of The Samford Crimson's sportswriters, Christopher Smith:
The Samford-Faulkner game wasn't supposed to happen. The Bulldogs were set to host Miles College tonight until the school called in March to tell Samford they’d forgotten about the date and had double-booked. Samford rescheduled against the Eagles.
Struggling UAB, meanwhile was visiting Florida Atlantic and let the Owls get ahead early. The Blazers battled back twice, but FAU pulled away in the fourth quarter to finish the day with a 49-34 victory.

Elsewhere, from the part of the game I heard on the radio Alabama was on their way to dominating hurricane-plagued Tulane. The Green Wave practiced at Samford all week and were a five score underdog, but apparently they hung around and Alabama couldn't help but struggle through a game they should have dominated.

They won 20-6, not that you'd notice that from the headlines, the fans and the statistics. Tulane tallied 318 total yards (including 232 through the air) next to Bama's 172.

And the number that must have Alabama's opponents salivating, the quarterback was sacked four times by overmatched Tulane. The Tide were missing two key linemen, but that's still a bizarre fact from the night.

Also bizarre are the college football pollsters, but I've found that the same arguments in life about the same deficiencies is exhausting, so I'll touch it not.

Even more bizarre was my inability to keep up with this game on the ride home from Auburn. There were four of us in the car and at one point the radio was switched from the Bama game to the Florida-Miami game. I didn't fall asleep, but have little recollection of what transpired in the last 50 minutes of the ride home. Good thing I wasn't driving.

We did play a less-than-fun game on the way home. These are the rules. A five-year-old decides it is fundamentally important to the world, conversation and the general scheme of things to know how old someone else is. This dominates her worldview -- meaning the conversation -- and the car until the question is resolved.

She starts with a number. A blessedly low number and I love this child's naivete and obvious shortcomings as a boardwalk height and weight barker.

So while she has guessed low she is determined. And she goes up in one-year increments. This game becomes more and more painful. Particularly, I'd imagine, if you have a three or five year stretch where you did not a lot in general.

Finally the game is over. I have announced how unfortunate it is. Then the child decides it important to know how old her father is. He is two years older than I am. His agony continues beyond mine.

"This game does suck," he says.

Yes. Yes it does.

All I wanted to do today, aside from drying everything out, was a big vat of boiling nothing. I've run some laundry and talked on the phone and that is close enough for a quiet Sunday summer evening.

Now I'm going to listen to bluegrass all night. At Cracker Barrel with The Yankee this evening I noticed a Ricky Skaggs CD of traditional hits. I was saddened that Skaggs, Bruce Hornsby and John Anderson's cover of Superfreak wasn't on the CD.

A discussion on fiddles, because of an Alabama tune, turned my mood more toward traditional bluegrass, which was a thought obliterated by the Superfreak cover. I found a live performance from earlier this year in Atlanta. The crowd turned out for bluegrass and they got Rick James on an upright bass and mandolin. They loved it.

Since I stated, probably a bit more snobbishly than I intended that a particular Everly Brothers tune was closer to bluegrass than the particular Alabama song I began to wonder: how far apart the Everly Brothers and the Clinch Mountain Boys? Change a few instruments for strings of a different sort and they'd flow together.

And that's how my Sunday has flown by. Hope your weekend was a fine one. And the upcoming week? Yours will be better than average, and a bit above expectation, I'm sure.

Mine? Goes without saying.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Ninth-ranked Auburn found their passing game and a starting quarterback in an early game dominating a salty Southern Miss 27-13 in a game that was never especially close.

Auburn took to the air with Chris Todd who was 21-of-31 for 248 yards in throwing the ball to 11 different receivers.

The Tigers committed four turnovers, including three frustrating fumbles (two inside USM's 20) in the ground game that kept the final score lower than it probably should have been.

There was no Power-I formation displayed at the goal line, a point sure to drive purists crazy.

Southern Miss has a talented young quarterback and a few big receivers and some nasty talent that will cause havoc in Conference USA, but they were for the most part shut down.

Southern could not produce with their all-world tailback and the offensive juggernaut they displayed last week was limited to garbage time yards today. The Tigers tired late defensively, and USM doesn't have any quit in them, which brought the score close at the end.

Auburn's defense eats babies.

We were sitting four miles from the sun on a day when the heat index was about 95 for the entire game. Except for a few brief moments in the fourth quarter when the clouds grew incontinent. It rained hard and hailed ever-so-briefly. Most everyone left sunburned, soaked, smelly and happy.

More pictures in the September photo gallery.

There'll be a few videos in the coming days as well.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Someone sent the happiest of messages: a computer has been fixed. It apparently had become the world's shiniest paperweight bearing the Apple logo because it would not power up. This set the newsroom back a bit.

There'd been no success getting it repaired, but finally we found the right people to take on the problem and they removed the machine with haste. The only problem that came with that computer's disappearance was another computer which is emotionally unstable could not be removed because the tech folks didn't want to leave us down two machines.

Which was thoughtful of them. Today I was able to pick up the first machine which will hopefully get the ball rolling on the second machine.

So I walked across campus to the technology folks' office, which is just a few buildings away. I walk inside, am mistaken for a student -- and bless you, sir -- and navigate my way to the proper office. I pick up the machine and note it gets heavier with each step I take.

Finally the iMac is back in the newsroom. I set about plugging it up. Mouse, hey! Keyboard, hiyo! Power cord ... power cord?

The very nice computer guy took it with him the other day didn't he? A quick call over there confirmed the memory. No matter, I'll walk back over and pick it up. It gave me the chance to grab a few photographs.

Here's A. Hamilton Reid Chapel. It is a beautiful building and I just missed the sun piercing through the stained glass by a matter of moments. It was bouncing off the brilliant colors on my last visit here. Mental note: come back here one day soon about 15 minutes before this time.

One of the great things about Samford's campus, for me, is the all of the new people, places, history and traditions to discover. I've been promised, by University Relations, a great walking tour when the season turns, until then I'm just learning a bit as I go -- which is the only way to go.

For example, Avery Hamilton Reid was executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Convention and a fixture throughout the mid-20th Century. Mostly Google finds all sorts of latitude-longitude and weather information for the chapel itself, but there are a few mentions in church histories of his sermons. The Internet also has several notations of his book, but the text itself is not online.

Shame, really. Dr. Wayne Flynt, among others, have cited him. That's a signal for the importance of the book.

I'm sure it is in one of the campus libraries.

This column can be found on Elinor Messer Brooks and Marion Thomas Brooks Hall. The internet doesn't know a lot about them, so I'll have to wait for my tour to find out a bit more. But consider this: That detailing is the back of the column, facing the building. It is only visible from one window, in a stairwell, and you must bend down low to see it. That's fine detail for something so rarely seen.

Here's the entrance to Brooks Hall. You walk in through one door and are immediately surrounded by great wood paneling suggesting the importance of the building you've just entered. The first two floors feel like a mid-century makeover took place. There is a lot of tile and and shiny metal and colors of the sea. The third floor was redecorated far more recently.

Quiet Pie Day this evening, everyone seemed tired. Or maybe I was projecting. When Super Waiters get weary, though, it usually signals the end of a season. And an early night for me.

Football is on the television. It is still very warm for evening dining on the patio. In a few weeks it will be just right. In a few weeks the leaves will turn and parents and children will be in the normal routine of classes.

For now, though, this feels like the apogee of summer. It could go on forever. For those looking for four seasons in a calendar year this is going on forever. But it is only September in the Southland. Give it a month and arms won't be so bare. Fall colors will be in bloom. There will be a new energy in the air. There will be no time for being tired. There will be too much seasonal decorating to be done.

Now we're all just considering both the joy of warm days and the trying times of such warm temperatures. It never fails; after Labor Day the mind shifts gears even when the weather does not. We'll soon want it to be fall. But only because tomorrow it will be 95 and we'll be out baking in the sun.

Big weekend plans? I'll be melting and cursing the concept of 11:30 kickoffs but otherwise having a terrific time. Hope yours is at least that promising.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

After the late night/early morning of Tuesday and the late evening last night today has been something of an adjustment day. I got home last night around 8 p.m. and today at very normal 5:30 or so.

It felt like it had been days. Which is more or less the truth; and I've loved every moment of it. I sat on the sofa for a few minutes last night to watch a bit of the Republican convention, but after that I retired early. This evening I moved around the house, being sure to visit the library, the extra room and the office. I read a bit.

I've been working my way through Rick Atkinson's An Army at Dawn. The Pulitzer Prize-winning book covers the 1942-1943 war in North Africa from generals to non-commissioned officers.

He mixes the brute numbers of massive warfare with a touching compassion for the troops in the field. It all comes together in a way to break the reader's heart to consider how ill-prepared or, at times, ill-led the men were. From the thin moments of success early in the campaign up to where I am in the book now -- conclusion of the Kasserine Pass fighting -- he is honest and at times critical of all parties, even our great national heroes.

There has been one underlying theme in the first 400 pages or so of the book. And, for Atkinson, it is the principle storyline of the American's first act in the war.

"A great sorting out was under way."

I love that sentence for all the promise it holds for a great people, all the retroactive optimism it holds in studying the war and all that it can imply at any given time one might wish to put it to use.
(British Gen. Harold) Alexander's mind lacked the subtlety to envision a day when this raw clay had grown tall or to apprehend the many differences between British and American men-at-arms, so easily masked by their common language. Having participated in several catastrophic retreats himself, he should have recognized that defeat sometimes carried annealing and even salutary properties. A great sorting out was under way: the competent from the incompetent, the courageous from the fearful, the lucky from the unlucky.
This is a great book about a little studied portion of the war. The European front has become the primary vision of the war in recent years, and the Pacific is now beginning to earn its due.

We'll probably never have a greater appreciation for the Soviet front than already possible, but here you can learn a great deal about the war in North Africa.

And this comes as no surprise to anyone who's read the book since its 2002 release, but I've only recently picked it up. This is part one of a trilogy and I'll sure track down the second installment soon.

There's a new video from last weekend's pre-game festivities at Auburn. I shot all of the footage unsure of what I would produce from it. There is the band, the eagle flight, Tiger Walk and a few other things I recorded surrounding the game.

I skipped Toomer's because it was awfully late at night and there was a long drive still to go. Most importantly it was not the big celebratory experience Toomer's should be. As the University has grown more publicly worried about the health of the trees I've become more of a proponent of restoring the tradition to its earlier incarnation of celebrating big victories, but that's an altogether different discussion.

In putting the video together this evening, though, I realized it should set the scene for the season and it should be a small window into the scenery for those who couldn't be there. Jeremy Henderson has recently moved away to Texas and is missing his first games in roughly ever perhaps. So, for Jeremy and any other poor souls who couldn't be surrounded by orange and blue as their hearts desired, enjoy you're welcome to enjoy a humble little video.

For more you can always check out the A/V page as well.

And that seems like enough for the day, really. As for tomorrow, who knows, but it'll be great fun. And Friday. Our cups are overrun with runnething over.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Friends will have two questions about today. The answers are: 3:15 and very well.

The copy editing ended and the students sent the paper to press and we all left the office at 3:15. This was a lot of fun and a good experience, but part of me (the part that likes sleep) is glad that I'm only doing this for a few weeks.

Which leads us to the other answer. The paper went over well. My boss and colleagues are pleased. All of the credit goes to the student-journalists. This is their publication, they worked hard and it shows in their first edition of the year.

You can see the stories online. The site will soon be redesigned, that's Project 1A, but first the paper must be strong.

They've got a good start down that path. The editor is very talented, everyone on the staff is dedicated and put out a nice product for the week. If they improve upon this in each issue they'll finish the year with something of which they can be very proud.

Today I met with the associate provost, who's a very nice guy. We chatted for a few minutes about the direction the paper and the web site are headed and how that will be good for the students.

The afternoon was spent writing a critique of this first issue. Happily I was down to nitpicking pretty quickly which is a compliment to everyone that worked on the paper.

The best part: They liked hearing what I had to say. I didn't expect, nor want, to crush their spirits, but they were eager to hear suggestions. If they'll continue to take seriously the constructive criticism and don't repeat the same mistakes too frequently this staff will produce a top-notch paper soon.

So all of that kept me on campus until about 7:45 this evening. After stopping for gas -- How is it that oil/barrel is going down but gas/gallon is going up? How is that the last time the barrel price was at this level gas cost $.45 less a gallon? -- I finally made it home for what felt like the first time in days.

And Sarah Palin was about to take the stage. As soon as Rudy Guiliani finished loving it, that is. The governor from Alaska came out sans video because Mr. 9/11 ran long.

The lady from the frontier state then started down a path of biography, sarcasm and red meat that was at times entertaining and at times disjointed. Mostly, though, I'm left thinking the V.P. debate will be interesting.

Unlike this stuff with Palin's family. I really don't care. That doesn't make her electable. Nor does her attempt to play the "See, we've got problems just like your family" card. We've already had an Everyman in national office and he embarrassed us with scandal.

That's as loaded a Rorshach sentence as you'll ever see here. And you're invited to pick whichever person fits your particular ideals. I'd far prefer it if our choices, even these supposed candidates of change, would talk substance and not feed the masses with platitudes about what they'll do in the United States of Fantasy.

Let's not talk about what we all wish the president could accomplish with the wave of his wand. Let's discuss what the president can do with his great and limited executive powers. Let's talk about how we might best solve some of our own problems.

Just once I'd like to watch a candidate with a prominent voice turn to the American people and say "Friends, let's talk about what the federal government really does. Schools are a state institution. The economy is in your hands and pretty much everyone but the president has control there. Guns are written into the Constitution. Abortion, like it or not, has been settled for decades. The Senator here is insulting your intelligence because he doesn't know any other way to keep your attention or get elected."

The subsequent sputtering attempt at an answer would be a high quality red meat fit for any newspaper or convention.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Since it is Sept. 2nd, it is only natural to put August behind us. Great month though, huh? I visited Chicago, made new friends, attended an academic conference, a Cub's game, two college football games and got a new job. You can read all about it in the archives here, of course, or you can see the pictures and video.

It is late at night. The student-journalists are busy being journalists. Some people are here too late. Some people were here and then had to leave, but will come back.

Some people are at Rush practice.

And that's life at a college newspaper.

They'll be at it all night. I've been here for the whole thing. Not doing a lot, just being present in case someone has a problem. The printer is jamming. One computer is locking up.

A clue had to be changed in the crossword puzzle. The editor wanted a crossword, she and her staff found a crossword. They've been happily discussing it for days. It is all very exciting.

They are also laying all of this out using InDesign. This is a first for The Samford Crimson. They've put QuarkXpress behind them because the venerable old program, having not really updated itself in a generation, is now not as cool and not compatible with Photoshop. Also InDesign puts the squiggly red lines under typos. QuarkXpress does not. The copy editing has just improved 32 percent, but there are always growing pains to troubleshoot with new software.

Later I'll do a bit of copy editing, just checking for typos. My bleary eyes will be the last one to see the paper. After that they'll send it on to the press and it will be delivered in the morning.

Copy editing before the paper runs isn't exactly my job, but the boss asked me to look in for the first few weeks. In the highest ideals of an independent publication this paper should not be seen by faculty, student media adviser or university representatives before it is published. In a month or so that'll be the case here, too.

My real value is to serve as a sounding board, an advice giver, an occasional hand brake and a critical eye for critique. That'll be tomorrow evening.

Now, pushing midnight, I'm realizing I'm not as young as I used to be. The students are still going strong -- and they love that crossword puzzle -- but I'm hoping they'll put some copy in my hands soon so we can all go home.

I'm really pacing myself. They'll be wiped out soon and I'll still be going strong. That's what I keep telling myself at least.

After all, I've got years of experience with the off-the-wall schedule. I can cope easily. This after staying up a bit later than normal last night. After sleeping in a bit later this morning.

They're working hard, and it is nice to hear them chattering and typing away. There's no place better to be. Except maybe dozing off. I am a little tired.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Slept in, on Labor Day, as is my Congressionally-given right. We now must all take a moment to congratulate the august body of the 1894 Congress who saw fit, after two years of union lobbying and only two whole days of rioting, to give the people a day off.

Ironically the Cleveland riots stemmed from high unemployment.

Let's hear it for the Congress of 1894, though, who brought you such hits as the Wilson-Gorman Tariff Act, an income tax so poorly written that it was declared unconstitutional within a year.

That tax demanded an annual payment of two percent tax on any amount earned over $4,000. The Supreme Court said no.

So let's hear it for the Supreme Court of 1894, the same panel that famously protected people of the great state of Massachusetts, and the rest of us, really, from evil oleomargarine colored to look like natural butter.

I once watched a television documentary on this case, so hereby all of my television viewing habits can be considered research. So let's hear it for television which, in 1894, hadn't yet been invented.

And you wonder why the people in Cleveland rioted. They didn't have 60 channels of the Drew Carey show or 16 showings of Major League to entertain them.

It seems there aren't a lot of movies or shows set in Cleveland. Hopefully this won't stir up idle hands in The Forest City on this fine holiday. Wouldn't want the government to give us another freebie.

Not all of my day was free. I strolled onto campus this afternoon where I answered exactly six questions, three of them being more than small talk. I also fixed a link on the web site.

And then I stayed in the office reading up on news, convincing myself I was mentally prepared for the week. The first paper is due out Wednesday. The students will put it to bed tomorrow night.

It will be a long night, one more than likely to stretch into the morning. I'm staying up late tonight to sleep in a bit in the morning in the hopes that this will balance me out somehow.

Also I'm continuing another Labor Day tradition: television watching. Spike is running one of their long-forgotten Star Trek viewers choice marathons and the viewers do know how to get the episodes right.

This is all Next Generation stuff and I'm watching a series of Borg episodes, the first one being a tremendous effort. It is overwritten, but only slightly so, and John DeLancie and Patrick Stewart take off with the whole thing.

"You are next of kin to chaos" is such a fantastic line, and Stewart delivered it such a conversational style -- you'd expect sarcasm or anxiety or hysteria -- that I watched the scene two or three times. One day I'll work that line into a random conversation. I'll probably go with the sarcasm.

UCLA football isn't that good, but they play hard and don't give up. Tennessee is full of talent, but thin on coaching it seems. Its a shame really, Phil Fulmer is -- for all that people in this part of the world hate about him -- a decent enough guy. (Listen to him talk on youth culture, or see his very real work on adolescent suicide prevention. It is hard to dislike these aspects of his character.) The coaches around him all seem affable. The players, of course, give their all. Nothing just works right in Knoxville these days.

Hopefully they won't figure it out until October.

Meanwhile Samford has Faulkner coming up this weekend. The Bulldogs are sharing their field and facilities with the Tulane squad this week since the Green Wave was forced from home by Hurricane Gustav. Tulane has Alabama this weekend where things will get hydrological, friend, and you better bring a life preserver.

UAB has Florida Atlantic and the Blazers might start the season 0-2 against the Owls.

Auburn, who is apparently looking to bounce back from their 34-0 victory over ULM, hopes to get things on track this weekend after the 400-plus yards they accumulated in last weekend's cupcake.

A few curious things happened there. Auburn rushed for more than 300 yards in a game that was truly (to say nothing of mathematically) over after ULM's first snap. Fans saw offensive production they haven't seen in a while. And, for the first time in my recollection, a team up 24-0 was booed at home.

Such are the ambitions of Auburn fans these days. Time always shows which expectations age well, but Southern Miss can't be overlooked this Saturday. Worse still, this is an 11:30 game, a contest in which Auburn has lately refused to appear lively.

And, if I survive Gustav, the first paper and the Republican National Convention I'll be there.

Hope your week is lining up to be a busy and fast-paced one as well. The quicker the weekend arrives the happier we'll all be.

Someone let the people in Cleveland know.