Kenny Smith | blog

Saturday, January 31, 2009

One other useful thing happened that got overlooked here: Brian helped figure out how to pipe my Samford Email into my cell phone. Now I can be in touch everywhere I go. Now there's no escaping it.

Which would be a shame if you didn't like the place you were hoping to escape. I'm so very fortunate to be at Samford, though, working with great students that I don't mind the extra buzz of the phone. An occasional Email to answer? Not a problem.

This might seem odd given my general "I wish I could throw it in the lake" stance on cell phones, but Email is different. I've always been attached to that particular set of ones and zeroes. Some people might say addicted, but I prefer the much more nuanced "constantly in need of possession" to describe my affection for Email.

The longest stretches I've ever gone without Email required leaving the country for more than a week. On each trip I was very busy diving and generally being a tourist and so it didn't enter my mind very much. Towards the end of those trips I start to think about it. And thought leads to anxiety, sweating, worry and so on.

I generally approach the inbox as a To Do List, and so the fewer things in there -- and the act of removing items -- implies progress. The idea of being out of touch and then finding 150 emails waiting for me, even the forwards, is daunting.

On one of those trips I composed a song about the situation. I called it "I Really Miss my Email" sung to the tune of "What A Wonderful World."

So having Email in my phone is a nice feature. It'll be very useful when one of the Samford students has a question and I'm on the campus at Alabama, and so on. One of my primary functions is to be accessible, and now I have to leave the larger cell phone network to be out of touch.

That's happened once or twice, but I was also out of the country. I was probably sitting in a corner, rocking back and forth, quietly singing "And I think to myself I really miss my Email."

Maybe I should record that song.

But probably not.

Social media success stories: Today I found a former boss and a former coworker on Facebook. Haven't spoken face-to-face with either one in eight years. One was a news director and the other a producer at a particular station back then. My former boss is now working out west and the former colleague is still at that station, but he's got a much bigger title now.

And now, there they are. Same humor, same nicknames and jokes between us.

It was like nothing had changed. Except the hours, low pay and general quality of life.

I could go on about the place, the good and the bad. There was some of both, as is the case anywhere. I learned and benefited a lot during my time there, and from the overall experience, which is all you can ask from your early stops.

You could ask to make a few bucks, but they were a pretty thrifty lot. Rumor had it that the station manager had a certain budget and whatever he didn't pay out to staff and expenses he got to put in his pocket. Purely a rumor, but his many and fancy cars did nothing to argue against the point. I'm sure he knew about the rumor. He probably found it useful in some way. No one cared for that aspect of his personality.

I just googled the guy. The station manager, not my boss. There are a few disparaging comments about him in the first set of hits.

And you shall be judged by the Google returns ...

Enough nostalgia. I found two more friends, two nice guys on Facebook today. Then I watched last night's episode of Battlestar Galactica, which was just a bucketful of wow dipped in a barrel of "What!?"

Some people reading here might not have seen the show yet, so I won't spoil it. But. If they keep this pace up through the end of the show we'll all be exhausted.

You may refresh yourself with a chocolate dipped Rice Crispies treat. Found those at Publix, where eating things from the display rack is a pleasure.

I did not. But I wanted to.

Tomorrow: the Super Bowl. But we'll talk commercials.

See you then!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Happy discovery of the day: Mark Olson and Gary Louris have just released a new album and are touring. I thought there might be something to this since I'd heard the pair three times on XM within the last 36 hours.

Nice video there for Jayhawks fans, too.

The more startling discovery of the day: Both of my grandparents' homes are now viewable in Google's Streetview.

I'm obviously not sharing the link, but it is surprising to find I can drive right across the front of their homes in my favorite browser. Mostly because of the rural areas in which they live. One set of grandparents lives in a town of about 1,000 people. Their road has been paved only in my adult life. For untold years prior to that it was a creek bed gravel road.

In fact, I learned to ride a bike on that gravel road. That's motivation.

Anyway, on Streetview I can see that someone was home the day Google drove by. It was very cloudy and overcast and looks like the very beginning of spring. At the other house it is impossible to tell if anyone is there because the car would be in the garage. It looks like a warm, sunny spring or summer day there. The two families live about half an hour apart.

So now I've pondered Streetview as it pertains to my grandparents. Having considered it to unsettling an idea, I think I'll keep this news to myself. They'd just fret. I probably would too, but when Google came to my community they deemed my road too far off the beaten path and did not photograph it. "Satellite reconnaissance will suffice" they said.

Happily my munitions dump tool shed seems to have perfect tree canopy concealment. The satellites will never know about my lawn mower and assorted rakes, shovels stored there.

Quiet day today so I spent most of my time on campus writing in journalism blogs, reading about journalism, preparing for next week and generally trying to stay awake.

It has been one of those weeks that cumulatively wear you out and a nap just sounds like a nice idea. Listening to little more than the air vent throughout the afternoon didn't help keep me awake.

Somehow I made it though, after having two-buck lunch in the cafeteria with The Yankee, who came up to visit, and part of the journalism faculty I staggered through the afternoon and on into Pie Day.

Once again the laughs were riotous, the jokes humorous and the cheese biscuits were copious.

One of the waiters, we're friends on Facebook now, came over to shake hands as he always does. He's turning 21 in a week. At that point of the night I was tired enough to find 21 to be a very long time ago.

Ward, the Super Waiter, invited us all to cheer him on as he will soon strives to upgrade his classification in the martial art of his choice. They also invite us over to their houses and keep us updated on their children and schoolwork and all of those little pieces of their lives. And, of course, they give us pie.

It is a curious relationship.

And a delicious one.

Plenty of people in a restaurant setting have regular customers and sometimes the association goes a bit beyond face and name recognition. You'll sometimes see one ask the other about children or grandkids, but the conversation runs quickly out of small talk.

At Pie Day, though, we've known these people for four years. The depth of that conversation is because the people we know have been there three or four years. Odd for a restaurant. We've watched students finish high school and enter college, having stayed at that store throughout. We're just passing through each other's lives, for the most part. It is something more than a customer-staff dynamic, something like a slight friend-on-the-periphery relationship.

Vaguely familiar friends. They welcome you home when you walk in. And then they bring you pie.

That must be the foundation of a lasting relationship.

OK, I'm tired, full and blathering on about the same old stuff. When I (finally) recognize it we're well passed the time I should have quit. So, enough for now. More tomorrow, when I aspire to a day of little-to-nothingness. What does that mean for you? Creative writing!

Hope you have a fantastic weekend ahead of you.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Dallas Morning News today reported frozen fog.

Frozen fog.

Oh, sure, they'll try to charm you there with meteorological definitions "the fog cloud droplets are supercooled." Don't be fooled! The good people at the DMN are not giving you the real story. Out west icebergs have learned to levitate.

I did not take this up with the head of the journalism department at Alabama. I met her today, but we were walking and talking and questions about such weighty (and floating) aspects of journalistic ethics can wait for another time. In my media psychology class this morning I had a moment of clarity on the subject matter. Those should happen more.

After class the professor, a very nice guy and neat person to talk to, asked how I felt about the course. My standard answer is that theory can sometimes make us practically trained types work a bit to understand it, but the class was coming along fine. He predicted that one particular reading later in the semester would allow me to see Epiphanies, goddess of light bulbs. (Ding!)

It is all very fascinating. Whether I'll understand it as he expects will be a question for another day.

Today's question is how much I can confuse my own students.

The first question when I walked into the classroom: "Will we learn how to build web pages?"

No. But if you want to learn how come see me and we'll figure out a schedule where I can help you with that.

That's what the class used to be about, but it became too much coding and software introduction and not enough journalism. So we've revamped the class to emphasize more journalism and more social media tools.

So I spent most of my class selling the students on those ideas and making sure they were still interested in the class. This is the first meeting of the semester, so we skimmed the syllabus, talked a little about expectations of the semester and then set up with wordpress accounts and RSS readers.

When they get into the swing of things starting next week it should be a lot of fun. I hope they find it fun and challenging and informative. This is the first time we've taught a class like this at Samford. Not too many other places teach one like it either. So I'm in rare, but good, company. We'll see how it holds up over the semester.

I wrote a letter of recommendation for one of the student-journalists here tonight. I only mention it because I found myself enjoying that small little thing. Some people probably consider that an annoying part of their routine, but I've always been so grateful for the nice things people said about me. It's humbling to be asked to do that for a reporter who says "It has been my goal to work at this place. Could you help?" That's just cool. I hope it helps the cause.

Also cranked out a few memos and emails tonight where I noticed that the influence of all these class readings is beginning to creep in. The sentences are getting dense and the details growing more detailed. One memo will surely be filled under "It looks like they know what they're doing. No need to read this."

And, finally, I'm outraged - OUTRAGED! - at the tease the local NBC affiliate gave before a commercial break. It seems prisoners will be able to watch the Super Bowl this weekend in Hi-Def. And I'll be watching it on my regular old low-def 40 inch screen.

We should start a letter writing campaign! Marches! Signs!

What? Back from commercial? Huh? Oh. This is in Maryland?

Write your friends and family in Maryland! I can no longer be troubled by this news.

Funny how that works, isn't it? Frozen fog this morning, high definition prisoners tonight. The local lead was one black member of city government questioning the authentic blackness of another member of city government. Give me the frozen fog story any day.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Wednesdays can be a bit long. They'll soon be longer still, because Tuesdays will grow into a full day's effort of work and attention. I love all of this -- the work I'm doing, what it means, how it is helpful, all of it -- but a little nap around late Wednesday afternoon would be a nice treat.

No such luck, but everything else comes up aces. Or sevens. Or whatever icon we're using for luck in this conversation.

Speaking of icons and symbols ... this was found in one of my readings for tonight's class. The taxonomy of theory is one of the helpful illustrations in "A Multidisciplinary Framework for Theory Building."

And I quote:
This taxonomy came at a time when the discipline of library and information science was in the throes of self-definition and on the threshold of broader recognition among the social sciences. Much of the interest generated centered on the deterministic relationship between theory and research. The taxonomy was represented in graphic form intended to stimulate conversation about the roles and the nature of theory in the social sciences
So feel free to discuss it amongst yourselves.

Or there's always "Philosophies and Philosophic Issues in Communication 1995-2004" which was concerned with an overview of praxeology, axiology, ontology and epistemology.

I've been reading a lot lately. Most of it is even starting to make sense. This is a surprise to me as my training leans more toward the practical and less toward the theoretical. So I'm trying to keep up, best I can. My newest mental game is trying to decide which scholars would like, or discount, the paper I'm reading at the moment. Usually I've no clue -- though it comes up in class, happily enough -- but every now and then if you randomly assign Marshall McLuhan a particular stance you start to sound like you know what you're talking about.

In other news: It turned cold again. And rainy. I'm not a big fan of either at this point, and certain not in concert. Jack Frost, senile in his old age and no doubt caught up in his eternal Al Gore chucklefest, has seemingly forgot that January is drawing to an end. We'd like sun now, thanks.

There's a new look for our friends at Looks snazzy. Glad I don't have to be the person updating it.

The local gas station about which I mutter oaths for both their poor service and convenient location and prices, which always sucker me in for their poor service, has 12 pumps on the lot. Four of them are out of order tonight. This is not the record. This is not unusual. Also, the state is six months overdue on their annual inspections.

These are the sort of services that will be the first to go in the newly austere budgets. Pesky little services like weights and measures inspectors, jails and ethics committees. No one will, hopefully, get fired. But jobs will come open from time to time and stay open. A note will be made of it and deadlines will be overlooked, bent, pushed and broken.

Sort of like elevator inspections. Those are supposed to take place annually too, but there's two or three guys tasked with checking out ever vertically mobile box in the state. They get around every three or four years. That was one of the budget areas that got sliced in the last pinch and was promptly ignored. One of the local reporters ran a series of reports on the issue a year or two ago, helpfully pointing out where the state was derelict in its duties. No one cared.

We'd like to think we'd know when the elevators we ride in each day are getting a little of whack. You can hear a clunk in your car, you see an uneven table and you get it fixed. Surely you'll note when the elevator stops taking you to the second floor. Or, worse, fails to stop at the first.

Tonight, in my epistemology class (the readings mentioned above belong there) we discussed our new ultra-neo-postmodernism. Same as the neo-postmodernism, but it is a week further along in theory and implication. We'll ride this joke until the end of the semester, and everyone will get along because it is either a.) funny b.) we want it to be or c.) we're pretending to laugh because someone we think is smart is also chuckling.

There are a few different ideological groups in the room, but we haven't divided up the table yet. That's coming. Someone tonight asked "Why do the humanists and social scientists hate each other?" You could feel the room grow tense. By now we all know who we're talking about when it comes to the class' makeup. Except for me. I'm the traditionally valued swing vote. I'm holding out to see who'll offer me the greatest incentives. Thing of my of a philosophical bailout when it comes to one tiny room of 12 people interested in social science.

Later, at the neighborhood store, all of that got put on hold by a far more pressing crisis. Now, even your infants can wear Uggs. Distressing as this is, I'm glad to see the fad dying. When the shoes are on sale in an imitation brand at a drug store you can feel confident that the larger movement has run its course.

I've answered questions for tomorrow's media psychology class. I've watched tonight's episode of Life on Mars. It was good, but standard. They've completely abandoned the mid-season cliffhanger they set up before Christmas. It was too spooky -- in an X-Files, surreal Twin Peaks sort of way -- to ignore and return to in a later episode, so I can only guess it is forgotten.

Instead there's your typical cop drama, a few 1970s jokes and return of the weekly reminders of fashion to avoid. Harvey Keitel is still great. Thin Lizzy, of all things, made the fight scene. Nothing wrong with that.

There is something wrong with this, and I'll let you consider it until next time. I'm now the guy who will be up in the wee hours of the morning ironing. Ironing the shirt that will tomorrow remain hidden under a sweater all day.

Until then, have a great day!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Beautiful day today. Clouds and sun and blue sky all conspired to give us temperatures in the upper 60s. For 95 seconds sometime after noon we eclipsed 70 degrees and that was a glorious sign of things to come. But only much later. Too bad it won't last; we'll have another shot or two at cold before we're done and all the sweaters and jackets can be hidden away for another nine or 10 months.

Carpooled to Alabama today. I'm never sure who's turn it is to drive. I just show up and hope I have gas in the tank, just in case. It was not my day.

I discovered the office where we should all go to satisfy our paper binding needs. Later I found my first wormhole. Those particle physics boys are going to be upset when they learn it was discovered in a Comm Studies building.

So in between finding the paper clips and naming a wormhole (you say multicolored Slinky, I say toe-may-toe) after myself I delivered an impromptu lecture on ledes to The Yankee's broadcast journalism class. Printed off my workshop slides, took her page of notes and then led an exciting 35 minute conversation on the power of present tense and action verbs.

You just have to be a word nerd to appreciate that.

I also met Alabama's journalism department head. We walked and talked, she seems like a nice lady, hopefully we can some work to do together.

There was class, media and the body, where we talked about advertising and skinny people. There are sobering facts and other ideas that deserve a laugh, or at least a snicker.

After class it was time to point north on I-59 and spend the evening at Samford. The paper returns to production next week and I'm just trying to get an idea of the schedule until then.

Also received a call tonight from the athletic department of one of the in-state schools. It seems the student-athletes there will take part in a survey The Yankee is putting together.

(I'm angling for co-authorship, heh.)

Apropos of nothing, this is thick coffee. Or so I assume. Never touch the stuff myself.

Note to self: everything closes before 9 p.m. Remember that if you want dinner. So I went home and had leftovers instead. Leftovers and Scrubs, a plan made 17 percent more entertaining because Grover and some of the gang from Sesame Street was on the show tonight.

OK, that's enough for one night. Going to do a few research chores and call it a night, after a very fine and long day.

More tomorrow, as we return to the philosophical discussion of research. Good conversation and I'm holding my own with the readings. There is at least one other positive, the professor always brings us snacks.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The work week started with a bit of face-ism research. Every day starts with a nod to this theory just now, as it is the centerpiece of one of my classes. Face-ism is an ism concerned with the proportion of bodies to faces in a photograph. There are certain generalities that abide in the research. A man's photograph typically shows more of the face, a woman's picture more of her body. There are degrees of face-ism when it comes to ethnicity as well.

So I'm studying photographic representation of President Obama in a handful of prominent news outlets to see which of the to see which face-ism rules hold true and which might be brought into question.

There is a lot of copy-and-paste and screen captures involved with this, once in the morning and again at night.

So that's the start of the week, still trying to wake up your eyes activity first thing in the morning. Usually it is the last thing before bed in the evening too. It is like a medicine, only one you don't have to swallow or inject.

The students are back in force at Samford today. Just as I'd gotten used to haunted buildings and the occasional tumbleweed on campus they've all returned with the happy chatter of friends who haven't seen one another in three or four weeks.

How people did this before Facebook is a mystery to them, I'm sure.

Caught up with the ad manager, who took classes during the Janterm and is working and interning -- all of the students I know here do an awful lot of stuff at one time. Also visited with the paper's editor, who spent Janterm in England, earning credit by going to museums and stage performances. And then, on a free weekend, she just decided to go to Dublin.

I have to figure out how to get involved with the international studies crowd.

Started a blog today for my class, in addition to a blog for the paper's staff and this one. I wonder how often they'll all intersect.

Ran across this outstanding video from 1981 touting the future of news. Otherwise I added some big names of people -- professors, editors, reporters and so on -- to the ever-growing social media stream. I've also built a plan for the week. I'm ahead for the moment, and hoping I can keep it all together between now and late Wednesday night.

In the meantime, then, there's the latest installment of the Jack Bauer Hour of Power brought to you by the good people at Tower Records, Charms Sweet and Sour.

I've wanted to get in the habit of just copying and pasting 24 jokes from my Twitter feed, because the idea of that amuses me -- and is a silly little space filler. Only I didn't make a lot of 24 jokes tonight. All of my friends on Twitter are no doubt relieved. I think it was because Jack didn't do a lot.

He just stood around while Tony Almeida shot his friend and fellow baddie. Except this hour Tony's a good guy again. Given that we understand his feeling of remorse of shooting his longtime friend. Or was it remorse that he missed Jack, who was being held by the bad guy at the time? Who can say.

Tony shouldn't worry, though, because he really only shot Method. And while he did take one in the neck, that didn't sever his head. If there's one thing we know about Death, it is that he'll return again at just the right moment for a dramatic change in the story and a clever joke or two.

If he doesn't then this will be the end of the unclever Highlander jokes. I'd be upset that the last of those jokes were such weak and obvious fare, but after that made-for-TV Highlander last year such jokes are about all they deserve.

Don't worry, Tony. He'll be back. Unless you take off his head.

So you spend much of this episode wondering how we managed to get the planes down so quickly on 9/11 but now, with that experience behind us and whatever procedures were put into place thereafter, what is taking so long in this season of 24? Should we blame Bush? Or Palmer or Logan?

You forget about that for a moment, though, because you soon see Jack Bauer in all his glory, rolling out the power of Jacksuasion to convince the prime minister of a country he just kidnapped to be willingly kidnapped by the real bad guys. And, no, from the PM's point of view, kidnapped for funnsies by a good guy pretending to be a bad quiet doesn't really remove itself from the "Bad Crap That's Happened To Me Today" list when he comes clean on the matter. So now he's kidnapped a second time, but this time the bad guys are being followed by the good guys and so on.

We've also learned that Jack asks a lot of questions to be simple hired help. Sure, it helps the narrative, and Kiefer Sutherland gets to act and do his whispering shout thing, but it does tend to cast suspicion his way. I'm just saying.

While we're on the subject, the soggy, painful looking stabbing we endured tonight? That's only satisfying when it happens to a bad guy, not a well-meaning, but misguided innocent girl in her own loft apartment.

Somehow The First Gentleman, recovered from his dramatic poison paralyzer, regains the power of speech and the bad guy, formerly his good guy, doesn't think, "Hey, since he can now plead his case in a guttural sense, maybe I should consider hastening my plan. Because you never know: If he can talk he might be able to stand up, get a choke hold and then throw me over the railing to the painful floor below that could cause my death. But nahhhh."

Also the FBI agent not named Scully was rescued and seems perfectly fine, after a brief moment of hard staring, with being SHOT IN THE NECK AND LEFT FOR DEAD. It seems all you have to do is look someone in the eye, put on your sincere face and say "There was nothing else I could do. I was trying to help you. I'm sorry." And then anyone will buy it.

Maybe that's how the bad guys are always getting moles in government in the 24 universe ...

OK, back to the face-ism research.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A few pictures for the day, and then I will wow you with my movie-watching prowess. Here's to hoping.

First, I've discovered a great therapy for those upset about the current economy. Tear up your cards, by hand.

Those are old cards, long expired and have been sitting in a secured location in the middle of a military base guarded by an armored division with flanking support from artillery and a light infantry unit on standby.

They've recently float to the top of the "Stuff to Consider Disposing" pile, which is a magical entity driven by powers and forces unknown to scholars and theologians. One day these things aren't visible, the next afternoon you find yourself idly playing with them at your desk. How it works, no one can say.

So I ripped up two cards -- because folding them back and forth, back and forth -- was more fun than hunting scissors. They've been torn into many, many pieces and they'll be disposed of over many months. Random, small amounts will be selected to go into random garbage containers in an effort to thwart the garbage man trying to piece together old expired cards for accounts that haven't existed for a significant amount of time.

Each piece has also been embedded with a miniature RFID tag, so I know where they're at. Don't get any ideas, garbage man.

He may not like me because I have an account that requires him to talk to the back corner of the house. Also I tend to get him in trouble a fair amount as I'm not a fan of paying for a good or service and not receiving it. Once or three times a year there is a big conversation with the garbage company about their clerical skills and their road crew's inability to provide services commiserate with the fees incurred.

He may not like me. Trying to piece together bills and cards would just be the sort of way he'd exact his brilliant revenge. That's why I have gone to such extreme measures to thwart his plan.

Those cards remind me of an amusing pre-inaugural tale. Somewhere way up high in the barely noticed channels of my cable system I receive Current TV. Every so often I'll surf that high up the dial and check out the product. Sometimes there are shockingly good news products on, other times I'm not sure who they're aiming at. So it's about as accurate as network news - hiyo!

The funniest thing I've watched on Current was an interesting little story last week on the Credit Economy. (Did I just coin that phrase?) They interviewed a woman who's family is in a tight spot. They've lost some jobs and, as she said, "If I can't make my car payment they'll take my car away. If I can't make my house payment we'll be homeless. If they take away my credit cards ... then where will I be?"

Her next quote was the winner "We have friends who live across town with a nice house and nice toys and a flatscreen television and our daughter comes home and says 'Wow! They're rich!' And I tell her 'No, they just have credit.'"

You can guess where it goes from there.

Other pictures: cat naps. And at play. More, as they say here.

This afternoon the series of movie offerings supplied by ye olde basic cable was a tad bit on the depressing side. I caught the end of Titanic, only because it was the end, and I'm still trying to figure out the debris on which Jack couldn't fit.

That was the scene I started on, and I watched to see if I could figure out if the old Rose died at the end. I love those open-ended movies, but they don't all have to be so depressing. Castaway came on next. Another open-ended movie, another depressing tale. No matter how many times I watch it I keep expecting the guy's SUV to have a horrible accident at the end of the movie, accidentally running over his lost love. He's driving in reverse, far too quickly for a man who hasn't been behind the wheel in four years.

I didn't mean to watch the entire movie, but it is so quiet that the time just slips by while you're doing other things. Wilson's lines notwithstanding.

And so the weekend turned into a Tom Hanks marathon, as I remembered watching the end of Sleepless in Seattle last night so I could catch the beginning of You've Got Mail coming on immediately thereafter. That was last night. Today I watched Cast Away and then, finally The Da Vinci Code:
The book might be fiction, but the movie is a fun drama.
I didn't read the novel and don't especially care too now, but the movie was a lot of fun in that Indiana Jones, National Treasure, I-saw-the-end-coming-from-the-beginning sort of way.

As exciting as the adventure was, as worthwhile as Tom Hanks opposite Ian McKellen was, the best part was enjoying the rehash of Dogma for the big surprise. Hope I didn't spoil anything for you there, but I'm guessing a best selling novel, box office smash, contemporary cable staple isn't much of a secret at this point. I mean, if I finally watched it ...

Tonight there were documentaries on Air Force One and Marine One, courtesy of the good people from the National Geographic Channel. I've been on the tarmac when Air Force One pulls in, it is all they say and more. This documentary builds on one offered a few years back, but the clip at the end was the best part. The guy looks as nervous as he could be -- and who wouldn't be? -- and then President-elect Obama has this great little line to put him at ease. It was a nice moment. Handsome little site they have there, too.

Everything in the Marine One documentary was new and interesting, including the potential pilot training regimen. These are not only combat certified, but combat hardened pilots. They are put through three years of training. Four of them will be selected for the job, which they'll hold for a year. Part of the training, of course, is landing and taking off the helicopter from Air Force One.

We're in the helicopter with one pilot-candidate. Imagine this: Marine chopper pilot, you've been in combat, you've been training for this moment for three years, spending thousands of hours in classrooms and simulators and on this day you must land the helicopter in the president's backyard.

Also, a camera crew will be coming along for the ride.

Hardly seems fair. He did very well, though, as a Marine should. The documentary doesn't say if he made the cut, but here's to hoping.

And that's been the fun parts of the day. Yep. I did get questioned, this evening, by a professor wondering why I wasn't relaxing tonight instead of worrying about the week ahead. I took the hint and picked up John Grisham's new book.

It is a fast read. I'll let you know how it turns out in a day or three.

Hope your weekend was restive and worthwhile. Hope your week is easy and free of stress. Here's to hoping.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Atticus and family spent the night last night. We played around the house for a few minutes and then had Mexican for dinner, where a very tired Atticus was alternately playing with zebra and giraffe toys and trying to stay awake.

After dinner his mom showed up -- she'd been at someone's baby shower -- but Atticus was out. Having leaned against me, Atticus couldn't fight it any longer and gave in to the night.

I'm told he never falls asleep on people. Only his dad, and then only occasionally. Tonight he had little choice, and from that I learned there is something that's a reasonably close second in "Aww, cute" to a tiny little hand wrapping around your big finger. That reasonably close second is watching the eyes of a child roll up into their head as if they've just been hit by a piece of lumber, and then falling onto you. He'd been out on his feet for an hour already, this was just the rest of his body getting the memo. When his eyes finally closed I sang songs and made him dance like a little puppet. He never moved.

We put him to bed and then stayed up watching comedians, talking of work news and Atticus news and family.

I've been saying for a while now that I would not be surprised to learn I'm somehow related to Justin or, probably, RaDonna. They're both from middle Tennessee. My family moved down from Tennessee a few generations back. Every story I have she can picture clearly. Every relative she's got I have a matching person.

(Here I diverged on a 15 minute internet search of the small towns that my family helped found and populate, trying to find a common thread between my friends' family and mine. None yet. But one day there might be. And I won't be surprised at all.)

Anyway. Atticus woke up at 6:10 as promised this morning. He went back to sleep until 7 and then was ready for the day. We had breakfast at Cracker Barrel, as our community was without power at the time and the best laid breakfast plans were given over to the whimsy of a change in wind direction.

The Cracker Barrel was not bad, for a change. But apparently things have gotten so bad there that the manager's job now also includes surveying every table to see if the server had yet made an appearance. No pressure in that workplace, none at all.

Since we had no power RaDonna had to microwave Atticus' breakfast elsewhere. We stopped at a gas station before the restaurant. The Yankee joined us for the morning meal and went inside with RaDonna for girl talk and gamma radiation. They stayed inside for a long time. Justin and I had time to discuss all of the news industry's news and theoretically solve most of its problems before they came out, laughing, saying they'd almost been arrested by the police officer working security.

Seems they get suspicious when you bring your own bacon and your own roll of paper towels into an Exxon these days.

The morning was overcast and a bit chilly, so our options were limited. Fortunately the power returned at home and Atticus entertained us with his DVDs from Seasame Street and Veggie Tales. His mother took a much needed nap. Atticus played and danced and we sang Silly Songs and had a nice morning and afternoon.

And then they packed up and left for another grand Atticus adventure. I'm glad they came to visit. Maybe they'll come back and do it all again in a few weeks.

Until then, the kitties called for naps all around.

I spent the rest of the afternoon tidying up, trying to stay caught up and considered the upcoming week. January was relatively easy, this next week will have one more element added to it and the following week I'll have the complete experience -- paper, classes, teaching, possibly television and more. It will be a busy, hectic, exciting 13 weeks until the end of the semester. I love it; none of it seems like work.

So I'll feel like a very lucky guy during all that time. And if my eyes dart or appear frantic it is probably just because I can't escape the feeling that I've forgotten something or am worried if I am supposed to be in a classroom or a meeting or something.

For dinner The Yankee and I visited the local steakhouse, where there was a line out the door and almost around the corner. Good thing we brought jackets.

This adorable little girl was stomping peanut shells on the patio. I was helping her find uncrunched ones and somehow this caught the attention of a little boy who'd been gathering peanuts from inside and then hurling them to the ground with all of his might.

Since I was pointing out the shells to the little girl, the little boy figured I should have some peanuts. So he went inside and brought me some. And they were delicious. Only I enjoyed them a bit too much, because he went inside and brought me some more.

Four more trips like this and I now have a surplus. And the attention of a second little girl, who really liked the little boy. She began bringing me peanuts too. Now I need the resources of a National Guard Armory to store all the peanuts.

These kids apparently had no parents, though I was ready for a mom or dad to tell them to leave me alone. They were very nice, cute, sweet kids. They were just extremely enthusiastic about their peanut duties.

The only way I could slow them down was to talk to them, which is how I learned that Jackson and Molly aren't brother and sister. They aren't related. She isn't his girlfriend. The boy very much disliked this idea, but she was really pretty and he'll come around one day. Turns out they go to church together. And they bring peanuts to strangers together.

I'd eaten about two dozen shells worth at this point, and was wondering where I'd put dinner when, finally, my name was called. I thanked them both, got high fives, told them to be good and stay out of trouble and then collected all of those peanuts. Never did see the adults that belonged to them.

And I put them in the big peanut bin inside. I have big hands, and I had two big handfuls of peanuts. At the end of my meal I wanted to find the little boy and girl and dump a bucket full of nuts onto their table, but figured that'd only end in a food fight.

At home I watched Miss America for local rooting interests. Ordinarily I don't trouble myself with contests, award shows and pageants, but this year Miss Alabama is a Samford student and I wanted to see her do well.

She turned out to be one of the top 15 finalists, thanks to some weird reality television thing they're doing with the pageant now. Amanda Tapley is a beautiful woman, and I'm sure she's conducted herself with great dignity and grace throughout the whole contest. She should have placed higher, and I demand a Congressional inquiry.

Not like those guys are doing anything better than calling in a bunch of beauty queens for photo ops anyway. In that light I expect to see them investigating this injustice by Monday afternoon.

(Apparently there's also a Miss USA pageant? She's also a Samford grad. Nice run we're having, isn't it?)

That's pretty much the day. Lots of fun with little effort. Not a bad way to spend a slow, overcast January day. Since I had the in-house wake up call -- and early than I wake up during the week these days -- this will probably be an early night.

Not a bad way to end the day either.

Friday, January 23, 2009

I'm caught up on everything. Just in time for the weekend, over which I can get behind once again. But never mind that, I'm caught up. This is twice in the past two months when I've been apace of everything I still try to follow.

It won't last. Far too many talented and creative people will make something exciting and new. There's too much news and too much information and too much. But, for a Friday afternoon, my inbox, RSS reader, calendar, school work and mental checklist of errands and chores have all reached a delightfully round number.

So naturally I'm dreaming up next projects. None of these things will see the light of day anytime soon. As we've discussed, I'll be behind again by Monday afternoon. And next week my list of things to do will pick back up once again.

It might be February or May before it happens again, but for now I'm contentedly not behind the curve.

The house even got a nice cleaning this morning. Floors vacummed, things moved, items returned to their proper locations. More laundry washed, sorted and stored. Other items were hidden from view, an so on.

That was just the early part of the morning. On campus I reached that special moment of To Do list zen. That was sometime just after lunch -- where I did not cover myself in a drink today. Toward the end of the day I accomplished the rarest of feats in looking toward next week.

A professor sent his readings for his epistemology class and I also have the reading for my media psychology class. Now only to read them. But first: the weekend, which began at 5 p.m. and will last until sometime in the area of early Sunday afternoon.

In the meantime, fun with Atticus! For now, time to play like a three-year-old! That's my night, so more on that tomorrow.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Last night I dipped my hand into the big stack of books that are in an erratic orbit around my pleasure reading right now. I neglected, however, the work books. Not books for work, or books in which to work, but the ones in my office.

So, yes, I have a car book, a bed stand book and a book in the office to enjoy during cafeteria lunches.

Of course there are the work and fun blogs in my RSS reader, the Smithsonian Magazine -- the last slick periodical I still take -- and the various assigned readings for my doctoral classes. No wonder my eyes sometimes get weary ...

Anyway. At work right now is Max Wallace's American Axis, which centers on carmaker Henry Ford and legendary pilot Charles Lindbergh. The book has been discussed in this space within the past week, so I won't rehash that now. I'm a little less than halfway through the book and it still feels like background information. It is well written and highly interesting, but it still feels like a build up. If that's the case I have no problem with it. That just means there are lots of details to offer.

Patiently waiting in my office is Jacqueline Jones' Saving Savannah. A gift from The Yankee's mother, who thought it'd be a fun read about the city we enjoy. The story tells of the city's history just prior to the war and through Reconstruction. All the streets on the map are the same, many of the buildings are still the ones we see each visit, and this book will be much more in depth than the historic markers and occasional pamphlet.

I hope to have it finished before the wedding, so I can point out all sorts of interesting facts to a crowd of people who think "That's nice, but it is very hot. Can we go inside now?"

Spent almost all of the day inside. Still cold here, though everyone is ready for a return to sensible temperatures. Tomorrow we'll have the high 60s. Saturday the lows will be below freezing. We'll all get sick in the ensuing weeks of rapid weather change, but that's OK too because, ultimately, that means meteorological progress. More temperate weather will be here in a week or three.

And they just yesterday figured out how to turn on the heat in my building.

I ruined a shirt and a tie today. Turned out to be one of those days of clutz and, after two narrow misses of spilling a glass of tea all over myself I managed to get the job done right the third time. Shame, too. I don't mind the white shirt so much, it was old, but I really liked that tie.

So I hustled downstairs to the bookstore to buy a new shirt. There's nothing worse than wearing a stained one. There's one thing worse, getting caught wearing a stained one. So I did the perpetually itchy shoulder trick on my way to the bookstore and while I was prowling the aisles. Only the stain was so large it could not be completely covered by the perpetually itchy shoulder trick.

The moral of the story is to put your drink down before taking on a task that requires two hands. The corollary to the story is to always have extra clothes nearby.

I stopped at the big box store of the red persuasion on the way home to pick up an industrial sized bottle of industrial strength bleach. If the shirt can be saved -- and I have my doubts -- I'll save it tonight.

Only I could not check out because Chesty McFlirtalot was far too busy playing with a stock boy to notice she had customers. I mean, a stock boy. Surely there's a guy worthy of her time at the customer service desk, or running the counter in the electronics department, but a stock boy?

She tried to be friendly, but I was barely in the mood by the time she finally noticed me. I had a ruined shirt, a ruined tie, a long drive home and I still had work to do, only I could not get home to do it because she was busy with the stock boy.

When I finally made it home there was an hour of bustling activity. Clean clothes were finally stored in the culturally appropriate locations -- meaning not in baskets, but in closets and dressers.

Just before dinner I pulled the sock stockpile, or sockpile if you will, together for matching and storage. I rolled 35 pairs of socks. Thirty-five. That does not include what is already in the sock drawer or waiting for a turn through the washing machine. So no one buy me socks.

And then I made the mistake of sitting down for dinner. After that I wanted only to sit down. But I worked a bit more, caught the Daily Show and the Colbert Report -- I'm really curious about how the writers treat the shows with the new administration in office -- and did a little more cleaning and straightening and storing and hiding.

There will be some more of that tomorrow as well. But, at 9:30 I was tired, which means that now, almost at midnight, I'll make my way there. Another week almost in the books, I can now look to sail through a quiet Friday, enjoy lovely company and get ready for another week as a student and, more importantly, the return of students to Samford. Classes start next week, time to look prepared!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

So Wednesdays, it has been decided by the gods of calendars and regularly scheduled events, will be the day where I find myself just hanging on until Thursday.

Within the next week or so the fun on the Samford campus will return to a normal pace -- classes start next week -- and I'll be well on my way to great accomplishments or insanity. Tuesdays I can slog my way through. Wednesday I can multitask my way through. Thursdays I will hopefully be able to exercise great relief that I've slogged and multitasked. But only on Thursday afternoons.

Which first require me to get through Wednesday. And here we are.

Today was award nomination day for the Society of Professional Journalists contests. We nominated seven deserving student-journalists for seven different categories. Which meant I had to jump through the application hoops process seven times.

The contest rules demand tearsheets of the work being nominated. Some categories require one copy. Some require three copies. Each categories requires an entry form, in triplicate, complete with personal information from the students. Since our students aren't here right now I can't get their addresses. So, they'll all be surprised to learn they live in the department administrator's office. Wait until she comes back to work to find all of their stuff in her room.

The tearsheets, basically a full page of newsprint, had to be stuffed in individual folders. Two of the entry forms were tucked in the folders as well. The third, a-ha, was stapled to the folder. (Just in case it gets lost at the airport.) All of these things are together stuffed inside a huge envelope two sizes too large. I carried them to the campus post office and got the almighty January 21st postmark, or as it is sometimes called Hope+Change Plus Two.

The consideration of articles, retrieving them from the archives, organizing, collating and the filling out -- in triplicate -- of entry forms took an entire afternoon.

And I could be fingerprinted with the amount of newsprint currently on my hands. They look just like an old newsman's hands, like I've worked all day, slurping down coffee and bourbon and Pepto and punched an ulcer three or four times.

Those were the good old days? Yeesh.

But I digress.

There was a brief essay for my epistemology class tonight. We had to describe which of the three styles -- authoritarianism, empiricism or rationalism -- we taught and learned by. I wrote my two pages, arguing strictly from a classroom and professional perspective, that I used all three.

So I drive down to Alabama just in time for class to learn that the professor will be late because of a family emergency. Many of my classmates sit in a common lounge area and talk about housing and spiders and vegetables and all manner of ridiculous things.

When class began we went around the room discussing our papers, how we taught and learned. There are about 13 people in that room, fairly large for a seminar, but they are a fun and smart bunch. There are three or four earnestly brilliant people in there, a contrarian, an anarchist and a small handful of quieter students. And that one guy who (insert a witty self-deprecating joke here) ...

We discuss our essays, up one side of the table and down the other side. It is all very thoughtful. A bit of authoritarianism here, a dash of empiricism there and so on. Before long I have decided that my paper should have also considered life in general, not just classroom settings.

When it finally became my turn to speak -- and I somehow managed to go last -- I talked about how if I'd answered with respect to life in general it'd be all three and, I would hold, in roughly equal proportions. As a student and an instructor, I consider all three invaluable, with the first two outweighing the third. One or two people chose two of the options, but I was the only person to pick them all.

At which point the professor said "I forget to tell you last week. You can only choose one."

Clearly you can not. We learn by all those methods and more, but he was looking for specific thoughts and I managed to do an equivocation dance around the entire exercise. Good times.

Dinner at Milo's, because I was hungry and it was there. Started reading Counting Stars, which is a memoir and fiction work by David Almond. The guy has several successes to his credit, but I didn't really know his work beyond the rich adjectives on the cover and the whimsy of the first page when I picked it up at a library sale some time back. Seems this will be about the memories of youth set in an English mining town, tinged with the death of a sister and father.

I didn't expect it to be especially dark when I bought it. Or even when I started reading it. I'm one chapter in tonight and they've already going to visit a grave, but you aren't especially sure who's they've visited. This is car reading -- a book that rolls around in the floorboard for when you're traveling or dining alone. Books with short chapters and standalone stories are ideal for this, since you're only reading a few pages at a time and it could be weeks before you finish the thing. Usually my selections for car reading aren't especially dark, but we'll see.

I haven't run down a list of books lately, so now's a good a time as ever. I just finished reading George Kirsh's Baseball in Blue and Gray which covers the game during the Civil War. The early chapters have wonderful details about the evolution of the game from townball to the New York style and then in the middle of his book the war arrives. This turned out to actually be a good thing for the game, despite the absence of great players who went to battle.

There are no statistics -- it was a different game then, though, played by gentleman merchants, the aristocratic and blue collar types. Kirsch is a sports historian studying a subject through newspapers and what few letters and journal entries discuss the game which, at the time, was far more communal than professional. Except for the military matches, and the prisoner of war camp games.

There are a few instances of games with soldiers from one army serving as distant spectators from across rivers or streams. There are stories of Union prisoners playing against a team composed of rebel guards. Away from the war the game was casually played with respect to spectators until the middle and late 1860s. You could watch games for free until a few enterprising teams figured out people were willing to pay. Ladies were encouraged to attend the games, because their watching meant something of an endorsement as to the quality of the game. Profanity and heckling and even overly robust cheering were frowned upon. Especially when ladies were in attendance.

Every so often the papers' stories would list complaints about pickpockets or disorderly conduct or heckling or yelling at umpires. That's pretty funny considering the modern experience. But, then, the center fielder was a butcher, the right fielder a cobbler and the left fielder worked in a bank. None of these guys were making millions of dollars to play the game.

Somewhere in that same period a few clubs started finding ways to pay players. This was frowned upon mightily. Many of those early baseball purists didn't even approve of pass-the-hat affairs designed to help the neediest among the players. Times changed quickly in the old game, didn't they?

So that book was bedtime reading. Just finished that the night before last. Now I have the new John Grisham on the nightstand. It was a gift from The Yankee's mother, but I haven't started it yet. And I can't start it tonight. There's homework to be done for my media psychology class based on this week's reading.

But at least that class has been canceled for tomorrow. Hanging on until Thursday just got a bit easier this week!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

And on this memorable day, one good man yielded his lofty position of ultimate power to another good man. In concept this is the most remarkable of things. I woke up just in time to see all of the critical parts, and some of the unfortunate ones as well.

Joe Biden took his oath first, as is custom -- which should be reconsidered given the intricate schedules and inevitability that the president won't have said his oath by noon as the Constitution dictates the transfer of power. There's plenty of Biden material in that idea, to be sure, but mostly we'd all just like to avoid the tinfoil idea of not having a president between 11:59:59 and 12:34:08 when Obama turns to the nation and begins his speech into the history books.

Just think of what Jack Bauer could do with all of that time, for instance. Sorry. More on that later.

Chief Justice Roberts and President Obama trampled over one another in the verbal equivalent of two people trying to pass in a narrow hall. Suddenly they were dancing as the world sat watching. Obama spoke over Roberts, even though the judge botched his lines. There will be plenty of humor over that, but just imagine that: we're going to make light, polite humor over a peaceful rise to power. What an amazing country, where such a thing has become so commonplace as to be seldom worth mention.

And then the Bidens and the Obamas walked the Bushes to their waiting helicopter, and all of the world's problems were easily solved. And the nagging little issue of that curious benediction was quickly forgotten.

So Bush, that evil oil cartoon cowboy, is out of office, but gas prices haven't fallen. And there was no magical energy unicorn waiting to take me to campus. I'm sure it's in the distribution system somewhere, probably just awaiting an executive order or pending legislation.

Good news of the day was that my research project for my media and the body class has been approved. Which is good considering I started it yesterday. I'll be studying photo use of the president and first family in the early weeks of the administration. Should be interesting stuff.

We went around the class talking about all of our ideas today. The professor, one of the more on-top-of-her-game types you'll ever meet, asked questions and offered suggestions of everyone's project. Except for mine. Maybe we discussed it all Friday night in our phone conversation, but surely I'm overlooking something. My suggestion didn't seem that complete. We'll see. Next week a full written proposal will be turned in and I'm sure she'll find lots of things to discuss based on that.

Also, we've officially returned to the 1970s. I found this abomination on campus this afternoon. Odd to look at, pleasant to sit in, impossible to escape. Why the world needed a return to this design is beyond the most diligent of cultural scholars. What it portends is frightening indeed.

Starting to read some of the inauguration horror stories now. That sounds about right. Everyone I know who's ever been to an inaugural event says the same things. "It is amazing. I don't ever want to do it again. If you can, don't go."

There's a nightmare or two waiting in those links, and everyone involved was pretty fortunate things didn't turn ugly, which is as much a statement of the feeling of the day and -- oh my, there's already a Facebook group. Can't wait to see what comes of that.

But I digress. Tonight there's the replay of last night's Jack Bauer Hour of Power, brought to you by General Mills Flour and Jack Daniel's Whiskey Sour. We pick up back at the not-so-safe house where Jack, still posing as a bad guy, remembers his high school MacGyver and mixes household chemicals to make a potion that is both foamy, gaseous and noisy. He uses it to flush out the fictional prime minister of the fictional nation of Sangala, who's chief exports include Rwandan storylines, military coups, and a product that allows 24 to rehash the premise of Die Hard 2 as a minor subplot without anyone noticing.

So there's the kidnapping, and then the redheaded FBI agent who probably shouldn't make you think of Dana Scully is kidnapped. And then Jack has to kill her, but he doesn't really. Because while he's a good guy pretending to be a bad guy (Gee, where'd he get that practice?) he never lets on to the victim that he's a good guy. Jack, you see, is a method actor and when he's playing the bad guy he will see the role through.

Because Methos is his boss, and really old and wise and has probably seen a little bit of everything in his many aliases (including Death, rider of the apocalypse) he'd see through anything else. But now Jack has to kill the agent not named Scully. And he finally whispers he'll get her through all of this, if only she'll "shut up!" and remember "there's no time!" AND THEN HE SHOOTS HER IN THE NECK.

I accidentally hit the caps lock there, but upon reflection it works, so it is staying.

And then Methos, who still must be suspicious of Jack -- because he's glowering where as his BFF Tony Almeida has a sort of ashamed terrorist countenance just now -- orders our hero to bury the agent not named Scully. And so he throws a plastic sheet over her and starts burying the mostly-dead-all-day agent.

"But not the breathy parts Jack!"

Yes, the breathy parts too.

Meanwhile the first gentleman has gotten himself in some trouble with a rogue Secret Service agent. That guy drugs him with some of that odorless, tasteless stuff what paralyzes a man. And then, because he is a television bad guy, he delivers a stunning exposition, to his victim, about his upcoming death. How the president -- who just wanted to be a frumpy cafeteria woman for the rest of her days but somehow has become the president! -- will save her husband, the American people, the fictional nation of Sangala and the now shot and suffocating agent not named Scully is anyone's guess.

The show is great, don't get me wrong. But they've gone a little long on the "re-" and a little short on the much-promised and badly needed "boot." We've got Jack undercover, only no one knows it but him. (On of my doctoral colleagues would then question his moral reality no doubt.) He's working with the same cast of characters. There's moles, spies, intrigue and illicit things at the FBI -- where that sort of thing never happens in real life I'm told.

We've got the Die Hard 2 bit, the redheaded FBI agent straight out of central Fox casting. I mean, really, how many of those are there in the Bureau? There are multiple layers of bad guys. There has to be a union rule about this or something. Short of the oil and drug cartels you never see this much hierarchy in the criminal element. Keyser Soze is awed by these people's organizational skills, which is a standard device to help us navigate 24 hours of Jack making the world righteous.

Also standard in the 24 universe, two key elements of the president's cabinet are not on the same page and may or may not be playing both sides. And on and on ...

Most distressingly we're five hours in and Jack hasn't killed anyone yet.

At least next week he's taken at gunpoint again.

Moving on.

In between the inaugural pageantry -- and there's some unintentional comedy in watching the working D.C. class types trying really hard to understand the performance art and how Faith Hill fit into a lineup featuring Beyonce, Jay-Z and

After the ball went off I was transfixed by the idea of Brian Williams talking fashion. I'd love to know his off-the-record conversation about when someone pitched him that idea. And NBC brought on a highly regarded fashion writer who wanted to discuss the first lady's "Title IX arms."

I'm offended for the lady.

Much more informative (sadly) was the first Obama-era Daily Show.

"When we can rise above the minutiae of fuschia!"

It'll be interesting to see how the tone and position of that show evolves with the new administration. If tonight was any hint, it'll be a fun ride. Watch it now.

So, there you have it. It is a world that Obama can change in a day, which is more than Jack Bauer can do just now. May God bless America. And pass the magical energy unicorn.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A day off from both campuses (campi?) for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I had no plans to visit Alabama today, but Samford was closed as well, so it was a day around the house to plan, plot, evade, avoid, study and rest.

Basically all of the things I'd hope to do on any normal day, but at home and with more time to be leisurely about things.

Reading in the library, I couldn't help but notice the neighborhood kids at play. There are a lot of children in the community now, and they all seem to get along well as they approach their teen years. And they spend a lot of time outdoors, to their credit.

Enter the musings of a guy who's both old, but young-at-heart. What I say below is said as a person who knows he's both a professional and a student. I am, after all, the guy who wants to be invited to play in their football game, but really wishes they'd stop shooting fireworks at the previously agreed upon time of 12:13 on New Year's morning and not pick up the explosives again until the Fourth of July.

I'm fairly certain I did many of the same things on my day off to reflect on the efforts, life and legacy of Martin Luther King. I probably played indoors when the weather was bad and outdoors on those glorious January days of warmth and sunshine -- unlike today, brr -- but now ... Yes, now as just another old guy in the neighborhood I wonder: is this what King would want associated with his name?

If he really thought about it, we're probably hit and miss on whether we're doing a good thing or a disservice to the man. Some communities have a day of community service, which is nice. The unity breakfasts are a part of the tradition now, as if to suggest "Over these eggs and sausage links we can be together, as one, where we could not have been last week over eggs and hash browns."

My purely wild guess would be that maybe he would have wanted the day spent in good works or community outreach or slipping out of our norms and doing good and unexpected things. If you're name were to be associated with a day -- one deemed important enough by the communal litmus test that kids have the day out of school -- wouldn't you expect there to be more to it than breakfast and kids at play?

This is the last, desperate thought to preserve some sanctity for a man with lofty ideals and passionate ambitions. Within a few years the whole event will be too far adulterated to bring back. As zealous as the King family guards his likeness, it is already being co-opted.

In the future he will swoop in on wings hidden beneath his ceremonial robes, and he will judge the content of your character AND the color of your skin. This will be done as the consumer economy contracts. Over time King's day will be quietly moved back toward Christmas with the idea that the two ideas overlap. (Santa's already on the case of your having been bad or good, after all.)

Ultimately one of them will have to go, and it'll be a perverse day on South Park when they make it come to pass. The one wild card here, of course, is the Easter Bunny. On who's side will he come down? Our many holidays will never be the same, particularly as we rob the stories of their history in order to keep the narrative tidy. After all, who can teach the students the stories of such things when they aren't in class today?

Dinner in Cullman tonight with The Yankee and Kelly. We ate at All Steak Restaurant (Motto: Come for the name, be surprised by the delicious orange rolls!). Oh the jokes one could make at Cullman's expense: All Steak commands the best view of the beautiful little community from the fourth floor in the Cullman Savings Bank building (the tallest structure in the county, not counting pines and co-op elevators).

All Steak, founded in the 1940s in Tennessee, was originally a hamburger joint. The founder, though, didn't have enough money to get the word hamburger on his sign. And from there a legend was born. You can learn this and all of the personal and down-home tidbits from their website. The place has it all, as they proudly boast on the front page:
Privately Reserved guest and meeting rooms
Main Tile Dining Room- open, well lit area
Our Carpeted Dining Room-low light / candle light room
Outdoor Summer Terrace Seating-enjoying outdoors
The food is reasonable enough, the orange rolls are why you go. Tonight we dined in the tiled room, though every other trip has been in the low-light, secretive carpeted room, where everyone casts glances to see who else in Cullman society is dining out for the night and -- who are those strangers? -- we're always the loud ones, always the late ones. We're "from out of town."

And that explains everything.

Kelly is my oldest (meaning now most patient and tolerant) friend. We met, quite literally five miles up the road from that restaurant almost 15 years ago. (Now we both feel old ... )

Anyway. She's designing the wedding invitations. I play with words, of course, not illustrations, but she's an artist and so I trust her judgment. She says that each invitation will look just like this, but with customized design of the tree bark. Each one will be a collector's item!

Also, she says, there will be no text. The lines added there will not be words, but rather lines. In this way everyone can play along, creating the invitation and wording to their own liking.

She's also making designs for this, that and the other thing, but this seems to be the winner. It'll all be thematic, attractive and understated. Unless you fill in the blacks with some bold, neon permanent marker. Then again, it is your collector's item, so bring it to life in a memorable way.

So there was dinner and lingering and joking and general funnery. It all ran long past the point when the helpful staff at the restaurant is accustomed to people going home.

And then we lingered at the aquarium. Those poor kids cleaning and trying to close the place just can't catch a break.

So I made it home around 11 and returned to my studies ... and that's a Monday to me.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

How about those Cardinals? When I finally turned on the game they were way out in front, but Philadelphia was mounting a comeback. I fell asleep somewhere around the beginning of the fourth quarter and woke up just in time to see the end of the game. So the Eagles made a valiant effort, but their feathery opponents will fly to Florida the victors.

And there they'll face the Steelers, who outclawed a salty Baltimore Ravens team to avoid an all-bird Super Bowl.

I can live with this. The Steelers' defense was my fantasy football savior this year and insomuch as I am invested in the NFL seeing them play is a good thing. There are three Auburn men on the Arizona and Pittsburgh rosters, so that's a nice thing. And in two weeks we'll all talk over the game, but listen and watch with a hush of expectation when the commercials come on.

We were discussing this at lunch the other day. Apparently there are still eight commercial slots still open for the big game. And if you've got $3 million to fling around, you could advertise something that day.

Ultimately, there should be no ads for businesses that have declared bankruptcy, been bought out recently or received government money. If so there will be marches led by accountants and actuaries on various corporate headquarters the following day.

Seeing this Civic commercial once, today was enough though. It is cute in its conception, but if you watch it more than once you'll begin to wonder about the point. Most any car with tires would make those sounds on that road. Tell us about your car, Honda. Or would you rather we just buy Nissans?

Elsewhere today, a little bit of studying, a little bit of photo editing. If I undertake the studying go in small amounts, I hope, I'll actually digest more of the material. Studying for me has always been a work in progress. In the 20-plus years of formal education I've received I've yet to discover the best way that works for me. So this semester, like my first term in undergrad and my first semester in graduate school, will be a bit of trial and error.

My time management is improving, so at least there's that.

Tomorrow is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I have the day off and will be studying and watching, no doubt, the neighborhood kids enjoying their off day as well. And there'll be a fun dinner with Kelly and The Yankee to enjoy as well. Come back for funny tales from funny people!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Sorry about skimping out on the Friday post. Sometimes you need a break somewhere. Sometimes I'm just going to have to do that. No one is concerned about this, except for the guy who thinks that 12 people come here every day to see something important, or momentous, or at least marginally entertaining.

But that guy, he thinks this is a terrible development and he will try to remedy the situation.

Yesterday was another day of leaving Samford to head to Alabama, but for more fun than work. I met The Yankee as evening fell across the campus. We had Dreamland for dinner, one of my professors called me while we were waiting on the traditional banana pudding. The conversation took me outside so I could hear -- we're trying to flesh out a research project -- and before I ended the call The Yankee was bringing my pudding out to me.

This was a twist. We were headed to the gymnastics meet, but wanted to get there early to see one of her students who was dancing as a part of the pre-meet entertainment. Dodging traffic and rushing through the cold night air just in time to see her performance. During the meet itself we moved around a few times during the meet for better seats near the apparatus in use. There are a few pictures on the January photo gallery page.

Alabama beat Kentucky, but struggled on the bars. After two rotations they held only the most narrow margin possible after two falls on the bars. When they turned to the beam and the floor, however, Alabama pulled away. One of my professors who was sitting nearby is suddenly expecting a few losses for what is normally a dominating team.

In the communication building after the meet I found this. It wasn't empty, but there weren't too many suggestions inside. We've been wondering what goes in there. Who writes notes for it and what they say.

Messy day out today. I stayed in for most of a dreary Saturday, putting off today what I could do at a later date. In the back of my mind I'm plotting out and prioritizing chores and errands and responsibilities in an age-old sequence that will allow me to sneak almost all of them in just under the proverbial wire. You can duck a lot of things under that wire if you stretch it out high enough.

I watched the mid-season cliffhanger of Battlestar this morning. Since SciFi hates their fans, they've been holding off on showing the last 10 episodes of the series for more than half a year now. Because the show is good, and we are sometimes sheep, we've waited all this time for the promise of finding out what happens when our heroes finally arrive on a devastated Earth and who the last Cylon could possibly be.

I've been watching the first half of the season over the last week or so to fall back into the storylines. I have my idea on the last Cylon. It will either be Apollo or irrelevant. He's just been too uncomfortable with a lot of the concepts that have evolved over the last few story arcs and it would kill his father to learn the news. Since it can't be the admiral, it must be his son. Or an unimportant development.

That's been my theory for a few days anyway. Today I was all caught up and ready to watch last night's return to the series ...

But Brighthouse, who is not an especially good service provider considering what they are paid, has supplied me with a cable box that randomly turns off. And so instead of a show I've been waiting half a year to see, I've got an hour of black screen.

So I find it online, because modern technology is wonderful. But not without hiccups. The commercials in the middle of the programming air just as they should, but after those spots the player returns to the beginning of the show. So I'm manually scrolling back and forth. This is a small matter.

A phone call interrupts the proceedings.

This 46 minutes of television (now watched on a computer monitor, after waiting for months and deliberately put off until today) took two hour to see.

And I'm not even happy with the final scene.

(Aren't you glad I didn't spoil it?)

I don't think that's going to turn out to be the real story, but just one character's confusion and a nice little swerve for the audience. At least I hope so, because nothing about it really makes me care.

There were a lot of great little tidbits sprinkled throughout that were fascinating though, and I can't wait to see what's coming next. The entire episode was a terrific mindjob.

After that I had some light reading, a little studying and watched movies to keep the night's cold away.

Told you I put stuff off. That's what all next week is for.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Flipping toward the weekend!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The last day of my week as a student. I have a mid-day class on Thursdays and after that I can gear down a bit through part of the weekend. I like this.

This is the media psychology class, which is all about how research is done and science and papers and things. For now, at least, it seems misnamed, but there's a lot to learn from the experience. The way it is being taught strikes me as a good class in which to start the program. "While you think," he said last week, "that you know how to write these things, you probably don't."

So we aren't reinventing the wheel from the ground up, so much as figuring out what the wheel does. Or what social science does? The reading for this week was pretty basic, but I looked ahead and next week's will be a joy to cherish forever. Or at least one to agonize over for a few days.

The class is good. All the classes are good. The actual conversations are a lot of fun and generally informative because there's a big group of intelligent people involved. One of these days I'll say something intelligent as well. Bound to happen.

In other news: it is cold. Really. Somewhere in Minnesota they've discovered the prime temperature to use a banana as a hammer.

It is a little too cold for a dip in the Hudson, but some airline passengers were lucky enough to have the chance to do so and all walk away from Flight 1549. A miraculous feat by the pilot and an amazing day for everyone involved. The first photograph that emerged was that one, from a camera phone. Someone on the ferry that rushed to pull people from the plane snapped that image. We're all journalists now.

Which makes this all the more telling. This is from a book I picked up in The Yankee's office, summarizing the state of print journalism as seen in 1994.

That book has probably rested on that shelf, and a few others, for all of those 15 years. Newspapers have been ignoring the warning too. It is a shame, really. We're now bemoaning the sudden losses and changes in the industry, but all of this was foretold years ago. (And that warning didn't even know to mention the Internet.)

Most everyone that might have made some effective changes ignored it, misreading the generation, the technology and their revered place of importance. "Someday" is here, and it is a sad and frightening time for the business.

At the same time that the photo of the plane from the ferry was circulating the world it went online as's primary art. They credited themselves for it -- so hopefully the guy works for them or they bought it off of him. They were also asking for others to contribute their photos and video from the scene.

Tomorrow morning's newspaper will have to pursue a different story altogether on the crash. More indepth reporting, more firsthand accounts, explanatory graphics and better writing will be their story. Instead of picking up tomorrow's paper to learn about the crash, readers will pick it up to see what else is happening around the crash.

When you can shoot and beam video from your phone (as I can) the front lines of breaking journalism have shifted considerably.

The time for change in journalism has leapt beyond those with their head in the sand. The wise adopters now will be those that have a chance to remain viable. At least people are finally talking about what they should have been discussing before the turn of the century.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Somewhere on University Drive this evening the realization arrived that this was the new routine. So be it. Had to happen eventually. Now I can settle in to the schedule.

The schedule:

Tuesdays will be a morning and afternoon on the Alabama campus. The evening, and late into the night, will be spent on the Samford campus.

Wednesdays will feature a morning and afternoon at Samford. At the end of office hours I'll head to Alabama. The drive takes just over an hour, given the attentive driving powers of all involved. Two hours and change will be spent at Alabama for an entertaining seminar class full of people who are very interesting to listen to when you're wearing your philosophical hip waders.

After that class it'll be around 8:30 and I can have dinner, hit the road for home -- another half hour drive -- and either finish my school work for the week or find something to do to entertain myself.

Thursdays will be spent with a morning at Alabama, where I have a class until just past lunch. My stomach will digest itself until I can find a bite to eat as I head to Samford for the rest of the day and part of the evening. At this point I can take off the student hat for a day or two and, instead will teach a journalism class of my own.

It sounds like a lot. It is a fair amount. It is all very fun. Except for the driving. When you put it all together, though, it seems like anything but work. To be as potentially productive as the new schedule requires and yet not feel chore-like is a great sensation.

So I had that thought this evening, the one about settling into the routine. I still feel as if I'm sneaking into someone else's classes, though. Especially in epistemology, tonight's class. I finished the last of the readings this morning, forcing my way through. The technique is all in the knees. The class discussion is entertaining and helpful for those like me who don't have the training in this subject.

Blah, blah, blah. I have to read a lot.

It sounds ridiculous to me too. I'm working on it. It is just an adjustment, one that I'll make soon enough.

This jumped up and bit me today actually. The professor for my Thursday class said, and I quote "The readings for this class will be lighter than other classes."

I took him at his word, not thinking to verify that before today when I printed out the paper. All 86, beautiful, dense pages of it. I had to read this and answer questions before the end of the day. I despaired, realizing, as Rise said, "lighter" is relative,

And then I remembered, in a pure a-ha moment, that we'd juggled the reading schedule. So I printed the correct article, which was only 38 pages. This was much more manageable, and I rejoiced.

So I answered the questions for that chapter when I got home from class tonight. In the last three days I've read a bunch, learned a lot and worked a bit too -- not so much today, we had power-related internet problems at Samford for much of the day. I'm tired, but I'm excited to do all of this.

Or I will be, as soon as I get four or five hours of sleep.

My lunchtime reading was a book about Nazi sympathizers in America, specifically Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh. As the years have passed that might shock people to consider, but the evidence Max Wallace presents makes the case against Henry Ford seem obvious.

He's still building up to the Lindbergh side of things. Today I read about the flight over the Atlantic and the Lindbergh baby and the family's fame. When the baby was born the world couldn't wait for details. In a times-have-changed moment there's a gem where Time magazine urged readers to "give the Lindbergh baby a chance."

Also, after the baby was kidnapped Al Capone offered a reward, saying "If I were out of jail I could be of real assistance."

Ahh, the good old days.

Tomorrow, media psychology, a bitter, bitter cold spell descends and more. But now: homework.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I've moved on in the scholarly reading to Joseph Royce's The Encapsulated Man, which is a classic essay on modern philosophy. It is highly informative and entertaining as well.

For example, the author uses three sentences to explain what he means by "encapsulated." It is a precise explanation, to be sure, but to use that much text to define a word that means "put in a short or concise form; reduce in volume" is funny in a word-nerd way.

Therein lies the problem I always have in an academic realm. The professors find that I write too much like a journalist. They point this out as if to correct me, but I take it as a compliment. On the occasions where I win the ensuing debate I do it in short, choppy paragraphs.

So this is my new Tuesday. I wake up at a respectable hour, travel to the campus at Alabama, about a half hour from home. I spend the morning in a small office there -- they call them veal pens -- each about as large as an ambitious walk-in closet. Each of these rooms holds three tiny cubicles for graduate students.

None of these cubicles are mine. I'm merely a squatter, reading weighty material on communication research or philosophy until after lunch. Lunch today, was at Taco Gean, which is a delicious authentic Mexican cuisine. For six bucks I had three tacos, a tamale and a side. It'd be easy to spend your afternoon in a food coma.

After lunch I have a class, which met today for the first time. It is a seminar, titled Media & the Body. This is right down the professor's avenue of research, and the first time she's had the opportunity to teach the class.

She's a very nice lady, I've met her a few times before. It will be a challenging class in terms of workload and it isn't exactly my primary interest area. But there are plenty of positive reasons for taking the class at the same time. The most important being that I'll ultimately produce a full on research project from the class under the watchful eye of a prolific and talented scholar. The Yankee is in the class as well, meaning I'll have another prolific and talented scholar to bug with incessant questions.

The class is full of talented, bright, enthusiastic people. We went around the room introducing ourselves and discussing our research interests and possible projects for the class. Now only if I can figure out a project.

After a full day on the campus at Alabama I drive an hour north for a full evening at Samford as the students there put The Samford Crimson to bed. Tuesdays are going to be a lot of fun this semester. Since we're not in production right now this was a hold down the fort day. Days which, I've decided, should be filed under "Enjoy, when you can."

Tonight I made it home in time to watch Biloxi Blues, probably for the first time since it was in theaters. It holds up remarkably well, mostly because Matthew Broderick still looked young enough to be boyish while holding down scenes with Christopher Walken. I haven't caught the stage production of Biloxi Blues, but there are just some parts of the movie where the two performances shake hands in a steamy Mississippi summer.

Since it has been mentioned, here's your Walken impersonation for the day. "Kidding. Hah."

And now, more reading.

Later: I have two more essays to work through for tomorrow night's epistemology class and a reading for Thursday's Media Psychology class. I'm told it will be a lighter read.

Until tomorrow, then.

Monday, January 12, 2009

And so it came to pass that on this day, the 12th day of the year of our Lord two thousand and ought nine, the real schoolwork began.

Oh sure I attended two classes last week, felt out of place, nodding at all the right times, pursed my lips, wrinkled my forehead and generally tried to take on an intensely wise visage. I did all of that twice last week -- and it is exhausting! -- but today I started reading for classes.

So I printed the readings for Epistemology and Theory Construction. One of these is a highly philosophical argument about the nature of reality and does it exist. Only on half the pages, as one page contained text and the next was blank. This went on for 80 pages. So half of that stack was easily recyclable back into the printer tray.

And then I somehow managed to mix up those five readings somehow. I haven't even started reading this sometimes profoundly philosophical stuff and already my head hurts. Not a good sign.

I bought three three-ring binders tonight, along with a three hole punch. And I realized my error when I arrived home, having purchased a lightweight hole punch that only slices through ten pages at a time. This will allow me to be meditative as I chop into the paper in small stacks, to be sure, but there has to be a faster method.

So for my Wednesday night class I'm reading 111 pages. There will be discussion. I will not weigh in heavily on the text here, unless there's a general consensus that you'd like to hear all about it. It is thick, but interesting material. I only understand some of it, but I'll get there. My philosophy instruction in undergrad only went so far. The theoretical tomes I read in graduate school weren't really pursuing this avenue. That's what this class is for. Epistemology, you see, is the theory of knowledge. What do we know? Do we really know it? Is it really knowable? Does one hand really clap when it makes a sound?

So that'll be Wednesday night's discussion. That class will be surrounded by the first meeting of a class tomorrow and another class on Thursday. I have some reading to do for that one as well. But first I must get through four other essays now that I've completed James Anderson's Epistemological Foundations.

All I know is this: When the construction workers built the foundations on Dr. Anderson's house, they were certain it was there.

Aside from the beginning of the reading and the buying of supplies and the punching of the holes there was the continuation of 24, captured so ably by my Twitter feed:
Watching 24 being a little obvious with the sledgehammer of plot. Remember Harold Ramis looking into the camera with "Everybody get that?"

I am eating because Jack Bauer can't. Don't worry Jack, it's a healthy meal!

I sort of wish Air America had worked out so Garafolo wasn't on the show.

Remember when Jack Bauer didn't carry around business cards that said "Will torture," but rather just did it.

When Jack kills you, you stay dead. #jackfacts

Leakers to the left of me, traitors to the right here I am stuck in the middle with Jack. How odd that this same plot gets tiresome.

Bill Buchanan, freelance government cleaner upper, was hardly a surprising twist. Seeing Charles Logan again, however, would be awesome.

"They're gonna kill him!'" "He'll get out of it." and he did. Awesome.

Oh how I wish for Dennis Haysbert.

@Ren_ thinks Bill Buchanan is behind the whole conspiracy. I don't think he's that smart.

Jack's going to break into a panic room with a sand wedge. Really?
And since there was no time, as is customarily the problem, the issue remains unresolved. Jack will meditate on it for a week. Meanwhile, the local news leads with the city throwing a Barack Obama inauguration party with public funds.

The mayor, the honorable Larry Langford, says such a party will show Birmingham in a positive light for a change. Langford is currently under a 101-count federal indictment.

The president of the city council, who last week displayed either an ignorance or willful contempt of local history, agrees on that positive light business. No one has bothered to tell these people that Birmingham's little party will not be front page news. Apparently there's going to be some big doings in Washington D.C. that day.

Anyway -- uh oh ... I just found Jack Bauer online. More to the point, he found me. Words that will make any bad guy quake with fear upon opening their inbox "Jack Bauer is now following you on Twitter!"

Think I'll go read some more. Then I'll have an alibi should the super agent stop by.

No, Jack. I've been right here all night, reading Robert Bostrom's theory-data interactions.

Think he'd believe that?

Update: I have a witness. And a tutor.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Put the new bookshelves together today. They arrived on a rainy Saturday and I built them on a hazy Sunday, the 24-hour turnaround time perhaps setting a record for the Kenny Administration.

These are shelves done in the mission style, simple humble little things, very light and airy. They are stained a lung collapsing cherry. For the first 20 minutes or so out of the box it is hard to breathe in the same room. Should you do so you'll soon be high. I know this because I assembled their twins last year. With the addition of these two bookshelves there are now five thematically matching pieces in my personal library.

The shelves are branded as a product of The Sauder Family, which instills a certain midwestern pride in the product. The founder started the business during the Depression, a few tools and an eighth-grade education. In 1988 his grandson got involved as a salesman, marking three generations on board at the workshop.

He lived, and one suspects, tooled around the place until just before his death in 1997. His grandson runs the joint now, with the executive leadership all still in the family. One of their main plants converts sawdust into electricity, says the official company history. It also notes many of the companies they've acquired along the way, including the California-based outfit that built my shelves.

Sauder is a good sturdy name, a testament to American entrepreneurship and hard work. In Vietnam, where the shelves were crafted, the word might mean "One who can't use a drill press to the proper depth.

These are four shelve pieces, and you add the shelves to the sides, then the rear supporting rails and finally the decorative top piece. On the first bookcase I add the top two shelves and then spend -- and I'm not exaggerating -- 90 minutes digging out the prefab holes in the next two shelves. A nut is supposed to go into that spot, a bolt is meant to go through the side rail and into the shelf itself to be tightened by an allen wrench. If, however, the hole isn't bored properly ... you end up watching half of a playoff football game while muttering under a piece of cherry stained lumber.

Finally, with the two shelves attached, the top piece installed and all the bolts tightened I can turn my attention to the second shelf.

Same problem.

So that was most of my afternoon.

The shelves, however, are finally assembled. The old blond pieces have been moved into the office. One of the old shelves from in there might find a home in the extra bedroom, or it might be destroyed for kindling as our week of bitterly cold discontent is drawing near.

The shelves have books on them, they all line up in a nice row -- four of these shelves span the wall. Next to them is a slightly smaller version of the same shelf. Across the way is a shelf that's older (and more fragile) than I am. I spent a few minutes today reorganizing that shelf. Books on president on the top, organized by chronology. Books on wars on the next shelf, also arranged by date. They blend into books authored by journalists, which jumps to the third shelf before yielding to travelogues. The bottom row is all textbooks of days gone by.

This took time to organize, people. But the room now looks great. Fresh coat of paint, nice and cozy. I can't wait for sunny days when the place is bathed in an afternoon light and I can sit in my rocking chair and read about ... some perplexing epistemological theory, probably.

Tonight, though, there was the derring-do required to rescue a snowman. In trying to straighten up I managed to drop a thin decorative snowman behind my fireplace mantle. Oddly enough the mantle is easily removable and, after the snowman could not be found at a glance a full on search operation was ordered. The mantle was pulled away to discover that the snowman had fallen through a small spot between the wall and the bricks of the fireplace. It is a thin snowman.

Now there's a flashlight pressed into service, and a coat hangar, as if I'm trying to break into a car. It seemed an important thing to do, to rescue the snowman. He was behind a fireplace, of all things. That's the sort of thing that if it isn't addressed right away it is quickly forgotten until, one day years from now, new home owners decide to redecorate. Then they'll find the thing and have some bizarre snowman mystery.

"I didn't know they made them so thin back then. Times must have surely been tough. And sturdy, too. Look how he's been behind the fireplace all this time."

Most importantly, we leave no snowman left behind.

Now if the sun appears and the sky warms up and a snowman melts, returning to his original components, that's a different sort of concern. But no snowman gets left behind.

The Yankee and I enjoyed a bite out to eat at Cracker Barrel tonight. She likes the place, I remember when it was food you wouldn't necessarily mind eating over a barrel, if you were faced with only crackers and no other choices.

Tonight it took more than 6.3 seconds to be greeted by a host. At which point I made the deliberate decision to not become indignant about it. Instead, I'd take pictures of things in the gift shop -- most of which are now assembled, crafted or spun overseas, in the finest of Tennessee traditions. I made this one, and was mentally preparing the four paragraphs I could write about it later, when someone took us to a table.

So, Dubble Bubble, you've dodged a bullet. This time.

On our next visit, however, your quality, artwork and 80-year-old boast will all come under the microscope.

The food was OK. The biscuits came out almost as a dessert. At least she brought jelly without having a specific request made. And she smiled. That's more than you'll often get at that particular branch.

And then there was 24, two hours of edge-of-your-seat "Will he?" bliss mired only by the absence of Jack Bauer actually offing someone. It seems they were intent on selling the character as someone who will "Go off" or "Snap" Or "Torture someone with a Bic pen at the drop of a hat, just because you winked at him and said the Dodgers weren't going anywhere next season."

Also the Die Hard 2 storyline is OK, but this is just to get the ball rolling. Of course there will be punishing deaths and anguish and no time for salads or even burgers later. There will always be leaks in the government and moles in the agency du jour and a twist you couldn't possible not see coming and a senior cabinet official with shifty eyes.

So maybe the killing will start tomorrow night, in the next two hour installment. Or, at the very least, maybe the FBI lady will get her rightfully due spin off.

And maybe Methos will remind the good guys that he was Death.

Which means that Jack Bauer will have to cut off his head. I'm guessing they'll save that until sweeps?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Slept in this morning in preparation for a big day of party festivities. Some of you, no doubt, had big plans, big events and culturally inspiring moments to attend to today. I had that, too, in the form of a six-year-old's birthday party.

This party, held on a rainy Saturday afternoon just a few days after the actual date of actual celebration, held a Hannah Montana them at the Pine Bowl which has, I noted there, a fine sign in need of tender, loving care.

Oh but the inside of the place was a cathedral celebrating mold and cigarette smoke. At least two vastly underaged girls were working behind the counter and the adult staffers were pillars of their community.

The grandmother of the center of our attention gets around in a wheelchair and she had a tough time making her way through the place, unobservant as it was of ADA laws. I suggested that we file suit and own the place, but who'd want to? It has to be a pure profit machine though, because they're obviously not putting any money back into the place.

You know that feeling you sometimes get at a used book store or some of your dustier old antique shacks or even some thrift stores? You know this feeling? The one that your mind interprets as "I need a shower, STAT!" That feeling? You got that here.

This woman, who wanted to tell you your fortune, was par for the course.

To be fair, the adults worried over it, but the kids didn't care. They had cake and ice cream and gifts and bowling. Almost all of the gifts followed the Hannah Montana party theme. I announced to the room that my next birthday party would have a private jet theme. This might seem selfish, but my birthday is still 11 months away and they have plenty of time to prepare and comparison shop.

The Yankee and I sidestepped the party lanes and got one of our own. On the first ball on the first frame I slipped -- the waxed floor kept carrying my foot farther and farther forward until I was knee-deep into the gutter -- and almost broke my hand. We bowled three highly competitive games after that. I won two and she won one.

The kids had a great time. You could tell because they were all histrionically upset at the prospect of leaving. The parents enjoyed themselves as well because it was a carefully calibrated opportunity for the kids to do something while they could stand back and chat with one another.

The biggest gift was a picture of the birthday girl with Hannah Montana and "OMG SQUUUUUUEEEEEEEEEEAL!" That'll remain a powerful and prized possession until she learns about the powers of Photoshop. And even then, who will care? A minute ago she was on the plate with the cake. Now she's on a poster destined to be framed and placed on the wall of the kid's room. There's the six-year-old in front of the teen heroine who's leaning over her shoulder in a "Yeah, we're big buds, and this will end up on Facebook one day!" way.

We attended the afterparty, first enjoying the company of one of those larger sized dogs that's overexcited and doesn't recognize it has the potent ability to put you on your face or decrotchify you while standing idly in the yard. The dog was fairly unsure of what to do with me. She wanted to be petted, but on her terms. She'd eat snacks from my hand, but otherwise kept her distance.

Treats, I said to the dog are supposed to make us friends.

She'd hunker down and look to lunge at me, until I broke down and directed my stare at her. Then she'd run away.

Just no reasoning with some animals.

Dinner was at the local Mexican chain of great repute. The lights were out on most of the sign, so at first glance you might have thought it a Greek place. Eros, or Habaneros, either one, will make you a nice plate of food. The fajitas are probably better than the gyros though.

While we were eating the flooding floodwaters of a monsoonish flood made their way over the neighborhood. Give them this, the local Habaneros sign might only half-work, but their roof works completely. The Habaneros near my house, which is a brand new restaurant, has a leak right over the door.

"That's where we make the tequila," they say, with that smile that nods at irony, humor and alcohol. They don't let you stand under it and catch the drops on your tongue. Old family recipe they say.

And so it was a great day. Good friends, a big birthday party, bowling, rain, good food, rain and, finally, a shower. You might do that well on a Saturday, but not at a six-year-old's party.

Now a seven-year-old's party ... that might be a different tale.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Another Friday springs upon us the promise of an eternal weekend, for which we've all worked, in accordance with the prophecy of the 1980s Canadian rock band.

Highlights of the work day include the traditional $2 Friday lunch, narrowly avoiding the crush of an honor band spending the day on campus, unexpected phone calls with Rise and Stephen and having a parking ticket overturned. The appeals process works! The justice system works!

The officer that did not identify the hang tag in my car last month has, no doubt, been summarily beaten out back. Perhaps he was whipped to within an inch of his life with the cover of one of those citation books. Or flogged with a new pair of glasses that he so obviously needed. Probably everyone shrugged, thought "Honest mistake. Accidents happen." and moved on with the day.

Most importantly, score one for the little guy!

I celebrated this afternoon with an unsatisfactory session of tinkering with CSS code. I suspect more of that, with a little PHP sprinkled in for variety, might be part of the schedule for the next few weeks.

And since the coding didn't go so well there's always Pie Day. Anthropologists who've studied the practice have found it to be fairly self-explanatory, but in case you've ever wondered a few definitions of Pie Day emerged this evening, among them:
Pie Day (n) - 1. a gathering of family, and friends that should be, for barbecue, cheez bizkits and pie. Use: "Friday is Pie Day!"

Pie Day (n) - 2. A useful way to get a date. Use: "You have to go! Friday is Pie Day!"

Pie Day (n) - 3. Propping up the Jim 'N' Nicks franchise.

Pie Day (v) - 4. conducting a comparative analysis of inferior waiters to Ward and others of superlative ability Use: "Pulling a Pie Day."There were seven of us for Pie Day this week, meaning seven forks for clinkies and a few other definitions offered as well. We're almost up to two definitions per year, which is prolific in some circles.

Should you need some incentive to try it out yourself, I offer you pie. Or, if neon is your thing.

My lunchtime experience ended by ducking to avoid 500 hundred high schoolers intent on the hamburger stand in the cafeteria. Tonight there was a similar experience. Taller, better dressed people looking for barbecue. We escaped just as a wedding rehearsal party was moving in.

That's two large crowds avoided in about eight hours. Not bad. Kharma will make up for it tomorrow at a six-year-old's birthday party. Should be big fun!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Thursday mornings now bring a mid-morning class to my schedule. If you need me at that particular time of the day you'll find me trying to keep up with media psychology theory.

The professor is a guy I've met outside of this class. He's a fun guy, very likable and personable, knows his stuff and, in his class, is determined to make you understand it too. This is his last semester at Alabama. He's heading to Texas Tech after this semester and the conventional wisdom seems to be that it is a loss for the department.

So in the next 16 weeks he's going to teach us all about something called LC4MP, which is a cognition theory on media and how it impacts and motivates the human mind. He gave us the overview -- from 40,000 feet he said -- and it sounds like fascinating theory and biological science. As I said during the round-the-table introduction I probably land in the slippery, dangerous world where theory meets practical application. Words I'll surely regret one day. He's going to have to teach me a lot.

After class it was back up the interstate to Samford's campus. Waffle fries from Chick-fil-A never tasted so delicious. I was more than a little hungry.

Spent the afternoon and the early evening in the office, reading this and that, working on that and the other, worrying, for the 11th time, over my spring semester syllabus. Also I got the world's most uneventful haircut. This is a welcome thing as irregular rituals go, but doesn't give one a lot of blog fodder.

Jeremy Henderson wrote a fantastic story for The Avalanche-Journal. He wrote me last night to say that he'd sent a text message question to Texas Tech coach Mike Leach on how God feels about football. To Henderson's surprise, Leach replied with a thoughtful comment that made this story.

Henderson wrote me today to say that he's received compliments as far away as The National Review. It is a nice article:
They saw Tim Tebow - beefcake saint, David and Goliath - promise Florida fans that he would bend his Heisman-winning body and soul toward victory like no one ever has in the history of the game.


Is it possible that God ... could want ... Florida ... to win?

Chaffin, in his OU shirt, leans back, stretches in his OU jacket.

"I don't believe God alters the outcomes of games, if that's what you're suggesting," he says. "But does God care about football? Yeah. Because he cares about you. And if that's part of your livelihood, then yeah, he does, but especially if you're going to use it to glorify him."

This is all Tim Tebow does.

Which, one suspects, is why Florida depantsed Oklahoma tonight. The Sooners stayed in it for a while, but you just saw the inevitable coming from, oh, say the Texas Tech game. The best parts of the game were finally hearing the strains of Boomer Sooner dying away -- number two on the most-played charts behind Rocky Top, and these are the only two good things about the off season.

Also, when the speedy Percy Harvin was bending time around his body and the otherwise hapless announcers were discussing the direct snap formation Florida has for their Flash Gordon. Someone asked the coaches what they call it and the answer was "Percy take the snap." You probably just had to be there, but that was good stuff.

As was dinner, as you can tell. Your humble correspondent tries to avoid sharing food photographs, because they are never appetizing in any way, but when the cat is stalking your plate, that's a different issue. (Also, that's a cell phone picture, which is why it is grainy and underexposed. But at least you can understand the composition.)

And that's the day, beginning with the mystery of a new class, still trying to shake the feeling that I'm daydreaming through someone else's role and feeling out of sorts because of it. The middle was normal, routine, fun, productive. The end was a nice football game which was entertaining, but only brings on the lament of a long offseason.

Aside from that, and it is something we're better off not thinking of until August, another great day. Hope yours was as busy, productive and fun as mine.

And now (the most common phrase of the next four months) I'm off to read gobs of research ...

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

As the day began I had no classes scheduled, but an idea of what I might do, what might be possible and where I could most easily find myself in a situation often described as "in over one's head."

I'd been trying to catch up with a professor whom I've met only once and briefly who wanted me to call him. We emailed today, but by then my schedule was finally in place. He was curious about some previous coursework, apparently, and was reassured that I would find his class useful before we Emailed. So I was suddenly in his class.

Which met tonight for the first time.

And so it was that I left Samford a few minutes later than I'd hoped. This was not a problem, but it put me in the evening traffic, where every drive-slow-in-the-left-lane type was happy to help control the flow of things. This was a slight inconvenience, as it ruined my plans to run an errand before heading to the campus at Alabama.

So I'd resigned myself to simply picking up a notebook on the way, but the exit I chose -- the last one between Points A and B where I was certain to find a fresh stack of minced pulp -- was presently being blocked by one of those sweet older ladies who always wears such nice hats to Sunday morning services.

So I stopped at home, conveniently located in the middle of my new commute, where I learned that I have no clean notebooks on which to start a semester.

And thus the semester of preparedness begins. I'd rally later in the night with actual, you know, supplies, but given that classes started today and I received a schedule today, this fit the early theme. Hopefully it will be overcome by quality use of time management and productivity in short order.

In the meantime, there's the first class to attend. Fourteen of us, including the professor, will be crammed in this tiny little room where I'll apparently spend the entirety of my time this semester. The professor, who strikes you immediately as one of those charming and gentle spirited people you're sometimes occasioned to meet, allowed me and who knows who else in the class over a waiting list.

The course appears to be a broad overview of theories, mostly conversational in tone, and will hopefully serve me well as something of an introduction. For the most part I felt like I was sitting in the corner of a room and no one had noticed yet that I'd intruded in their space. I don't feel like an impostor, just someone who hasn't yet realized the place their spending the night is now their new home.

It is a two hour class, we stayed for an hour or so tonight discussing the syllabus and one another. We'll have readings sent via Email and conversation the following week. There will be a few small papers. The class has a reputation as being a good and useful experience, so everyone seems excited to be there, despite the late hour in the middle of the week.

The class is scheduled to run from 6-8 p.m., but on this first night I got home just before 8 p.m. even after my commute from campus. After dinner there was a late night run to the store for notebooks and various other items. I chose the Food World because of its proximity and the need to negotiate only one red light.

And while I haven't been in school in a few years I was aghast at the price of notebooks there. "Low price leader" in slogan only, this place. I know it is a grocery store, but four and six bucks for lined paper? Unscented paper, even. It is for note taking, not electioneering or smoking.

So, to save a few bucks I drove through two more red lights to visit the red box store, where I found a nice package deal of five notebooks for three bucks. Also they had yogurt.

The woman working the cash register had already checked out herself. No conversation or good humor would get much of a response. I was happy to note that the automated debit card system there allows you the option to pay all, or some, of your total price on a card.

One wonders if they have strict percentage limits or let you figure out the denomination on your own. "Can I pay part of my fee for this transaction on the card and the difference in, say, canaries? What about pineapples? Considering that I helped organize one shelf in the office supplies section might I be able to pay part on the card and consider the rest as trade for labor?"

Floor leaders can't make this call. Perhaps shift managers are also possessing of the wrong security clearance. This may be a rhetorical conversation for the general manager's ear or -- Dare we speak their names and titles? -- the regional managers.

"Shall well haggle?"

There seems to be a fair amount of haggling these days. There will probably be more before everyone feels they can emerge from the economic downturn in a triumphant way. The stories say retailers are willing to haggle to move merchandise, to free up floor space and to at least put something on the bottom line. But the bottom line, that high holy altar at which all must worship, must be adequately observed.

The problems are two, then. One mustn't stumble over the bottom line and one must still haggle. That's an unfortunate word for such a time-honored tradition. I'd haggle with you, but it would sound like I have something stuck in my throat. The cats, you know, they haggle all the time. We once thought it meant they had a hairball, but it turns out they were in mid-level negotiations with where to make this deposit. Carpet? Linoleum? Haggle.

I would have haggled this evening, but it requires, among other things, a bold but reasonable plan and the ability to wear the other guy down. That's time intensive and doesn't work when you have a schedule or melty things on the conveyor belt.

That's six paragraphs on a 16th Century word. Merriam-Webster says 1599, which seems terribly specific, but we shouldn't argue the point, lest they use words we don't yet know.

I spent an hour tonight ironing. And that hour yielded exactly one pair of slacks, badly wrinkled from hiding in a stack of clean clothes, and one shirt.

The shirt was the most troubling, because it was new. My sister gave me a very nice shirt and tie for Christmas. It was one of those tightly packaged shirts, which is a joy enough to deal with when you first try to make use of the thing. And when you got it free from the cardboard, plastic and push pins -- surely science can give us a more economical way to deliver these things -- you could really get a feel for the texture of the shirt. And the feel felt ... off.

Wrinkle-free. Terriffic. And so it was that the wrinkle free shirt -- made in Pakistan and then wrapped in all of the earth's abundant natural resources, shipped, stored, distributed, shelved, purchased, wrapped, gifted, accepted and finally opened -- is full of wrinkles.

Oh, the joys of making that thing presentable for tomorrow.

But that's the day. Plenty of fun, nice day at work, highlighted by the official beginning of a new adventure, meeting new people and a frozen dessert, punctuated by my tedious effort to appear unrumpled.

All of that, and still we'll have leftover things to discuss tomorrow too. That's a great day. Hope yours was even better!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

So instead of two classes this semester I may take three. In a moment of "Why not!?" I talked myself into it. There are three good classes being offered this semester that promise to get my doctoral studies off on the right foot. I might as well dive in way over my head while I can.

That isn't finalized yet, but has to be by tomorrow when classes start. Right now I'm playing phone and Email tag with a professor who so graciously may let me join his class. If that works out I'll have nine credit hours for the spring term.

I hope some people still think of me as a likable person after that.

I took nine hours a semester a few times while working on my master's as a non-traditional student and it wasn't too bad. Or at the very least I'm blocking out the memories. I'll once again be working and studying (and teaching and commuting) but these classes might be just a little more intensive than the master's curriculum.

But. I have to take two consecutive semesters with a nine hour schedule to satisfy some sadistic requirement and one of those semesters will be a summer term when I have more free time. The three I'm considering for this semester would create a strong foundation, appear manageable on the face of it and could help satisfy the sadists.

I'm very excited about it. And feel a little out of place. There's something called Impostor Syndrome that we studied in grad school which basically means you can't internalize your accomplishments and credit luck, fraud or deceit as what brought on your current state. Even people that have never heard the term know the meaning. I don't feel like that, but there is a small degree of surreality at play.

Classes start tomorrow. If I get in this particular class I'll start tomorrow night. Shouldn't I prepare somehow? Shouldn't I at least buy a notebook?

Maybe that's what tomorrow afternoon is for. Today is for streamlining things. I'm trying to make my Google accounts do things they don't want them to do in the name of convenience. I'm trying to figure out the Alabama portal, an Email issue and removing a bunch of the default clutter they offer. It'd make some people twitchy.

Today has also been for rain. Lots of rain. More than two-and-a-half inches of rain today in drizzles, sheets, droplets and that dramatic Hollywood type too. That after about two inches in the last few hours of Monday night. Already we're less than an inch from the January rainfall averages.

That much rain in two days will blur the edges of the most distinctive calendar. Waking up to early morning thunderstorm, a rare January experience, keeps all of your dates and times muddled too.

Maybe it was the tornado warnings this afternoon.

Or maybe it's the paint fumes. The dining room and library are now freshly painted. Down is the wallpaper. Removed is the border trim. A deep rich blue and a gentle tan frame what will soon be a cozy area.

For now, though, everything is in disarray: moved to the center of the room, moved out of the room, stuff stacked on surfaces not meant for stacking, many books out of order. It'll be hard to sleep tonight knowing that my shelf of presidential biographies could be carelessly stacked without regard to chronology. If I don't spend the midnight hours fixing such vexing issues it'll become a weekend project.

Which is fine. There'll be more rain in town on Saturday.

There seemed to be a downpour of Old Testament proportions on the Gulf Coast tonight. Watching the GMAC Bowl, scouting Auburn's new offensive coordinator, it was falling from the sky as if from buckets overwhelmed by larger buckets and barrels of rain. Even so, Tulsa, with Gus Malzahn calling his last game before departing for Auburn, collected almost 400 yards on the ground, had a quarterback throwing the ball when and where he wanted and scored gobs of points -- in a flood of near Biblical ramifications -- with only one penalty.

Auburn fans were happy to watch that game tonight.

And now there's a little bittersweet moment as we all come to realize there's only one big college game left this season. How will we again cope until spring practice begins?

One of the local theaters is showing Thursday night's championship game in 3-D. I'd be curious to see how that works. But not $21 at the door and you'll listen to the Fox commentators whether you like it or not -- and what's more, with strangers -- curious. If you're taking in that particular experience I hope you'll tell me about it later.

What can I tell you about later? Going to class in a new program? Or at least developing a schedule for it. Rewriting my own syllabus? Figuring out how to manage my new workload?

It'll be great, as soon as I get a good handle on things. Bear with my chatter until then.

Monday, January 5, 2009

So that's what the office looks like. Excuse me, it has been a while.

This long vacation stuff is nice, but it made today a disorienting first day back on campus -- Do I remember the code to the door? How do I use this computer -- but I'm readjusting. I'm also now caught up on reading news sites, sites about news, sites about news sites and those sites tangentially related to nothing on the subject of journalism and news.

And what of today? It was a quiet one on Samford's campus. There are very few students here right now. Janterm, one of those accelerated semesters spanning four weeks, begins later this week, so mostly you'll only find faculty and staff right now. Most of them are tidying up, putting dots on lowercase J's and polishing up their syllabi.

I met with the boss briefly today, and we had that basic conversation. I'm not teaching a class over Janterm, but I'll be doing many of those same things for the spring semester which begins at the end of the month.

I am trying to get everything together for my own classes at Alabama. They start on Wednesday and we're trying to figure out my schedule now. We discussed it today and will finalize it tomorrow.

It would be normal to feel intimidated or overwhelmed by this, but I don't. I have excellent help.

Programming note: I'm changing my Email address. This does not impact you if you write me at the gmail address sprinkled on the site.

If, however, we correspond with the old mail address I'm cycling that one out of everyday use. It is a rare thing for me to change personal Email addresses. I've had this one for almost nine years, picking it up after I lost my Auburn account.

The ultimate purpose is to funnel all of my Email into one place and have it accessible by phone, but I'm trying to be conscientious about it. It can be aggravating to get those "Please change your address book" Emails, I know, but I'll have to send you one soon.

I'll keep the old address for storage and archival purposes, but go ahead and adjust your address books now. If you need the gmail address you can find it on any page of the site, or just below this by mousing over the pound symbol at the end of the entry.

Not much else to it today. The Fiesta Bowl, catching up with a few friends post-holidays and the like. I'm slowly spinning back up to full speed. You'll understand. I'd bet your the same way.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The fourth and final installment of 2008 in review begins here.

Hey, it was either this or my impressions of playoff football.

October began in glorious fashion. Growing accustomed to this customized schedule I've built I stayed late on campus for a meeting and caught a few photographs before the sun retreated for the night. The vanguard of fall came quickly and seemed to linger here on the side of the mountain. I have many photographs vainly trying to capture the essence of the season -- an impossible task -- determined as I was to not let this autumn escape me unnoticed.

The students kept putting out good papers, I brag on them a lot, but they deserve it. The presidential campaign heated up before fizzling late.

I attended a First Amendment panel where two of my former bosses were in the same room at the same time, one as a panelist, one an organizer. I videotaped the conversation for my students, because some that were interested couldn't get away from other responsibilities that day.

Auburn's football season officially caved in on itself. The less said about that the better. October also brought (surprise!) more problems with the cable company, this time centered on a router and a modem. After a few frustrating days and many frustrating phone calls the problem was fixed. I remove such unpleasant things from my long-term memory, however, and don't recall how it happened.

I became "that guy" and played Guitar Hero at Best Buy for a little longer than someone my age should. Two days later I was meeting with one of the deans of graduate studies at the University of Alabama. He wants me to come to school there. My boss at Samford is supportive of me returning to school. What's to stop me now? That rhetorical question buzzed around in my head from mid-October to Thanksgiving.

I donated my old car to a good cause. I watched a good deal of football. In general life was very good, because I'm blessed beyond what I deserve.

Skimming through the second half of October ... more football ... more autumn ... more fun ... I started working on a big proposal for the student paper, one that is now happily navigating its way through the pipeline. I bought new cameras for the paper and am now waiting to spread them among the reporters.

Samford had homecoming.

It got unseasonably cold late in the month. I crunched the numbers to find 32 degrees was the second lowest temperature here for the last week of October in 40 years. And then there was Halloween, a weekend where I had a plan, but it got thwarted. More on that in December.

First there's November, which featured more movies, more books, more football and more autumn. It was a great month. I managed to do a fair amount of housework early in the month, but again, those memories are overwritten quickly. So is the effort, come to think of it.

I built this new design to the blog. I wrestled with it for a week because the code wasn't working write. I finally decided to scrap my beautiful menu plans -- the look was handsome, but the code was torturous -- and do something a little more old fashioned. So that was probably a week or 10 days of tinkering. Don't get me wrong; I love playing around with the code, that's a good time. I enjoy it so much that after I finally scrapped my initial menu plans I reworked the width on the template two or three times. Now the page is cleaner, brighter and loads faster. Now I have two elements to occasionally change. Some people like it; others use RSS readers.

There was the election, already it seems a distant memory, and we sat and watched the grand speeches of that night on a computer in our little newsroom. Elections are memorable enough that you always recall where you were the last time you went through this, now I think of covering those races, watching this one unfold and also wonder where I'll be on the next two Super Tuesdays. If I'm not in that same spot I hope it is somewhere that leaves me happy and content, and that has nothing to do with politics.

My grandfather turned 66, I began taking practice GRE tests and Auburn finally won a football game again, the last of their forgettable season. Also I met Thom Gossom, the second black football player at Auburn, and the first to graduate. I made him tell the story found in the first video here, so enjoy it again.

In the middle of November the editor of the paper and I had to sift through hundreds of pages of newsprint to nominate reporters for journalism awards. That took three days and melted many brain cells, but the process is worth it. Many fine young journalists will be recognized for their efforts.

I took the GRE just before Thanksgiving and somehow managed to pass the test. That was on Wednesday. That night I got to tell my mom and family that I would be back in school in the winter. Happiness abounds.

The Iron Bowl, again, another unpleasant memory expunged from my mind.

In December classes were winding down. The students had put out their last paper and were turning their attention to finals, the holidays, internships, international studies and so on. It was supposed to snow on one of the first days of the month, but it did not.

In the first week of December the mayor of Birmingham was arrested and indicted on 101 federal charges. The next day Tommy Tuberville was fired at Auburn. It was a busy news week, and I took it all in as a spectator. The Yankee and I shopped for Angel Tree presents, we went to the Hanging of the Green and the Lighting of the Way, two of the traditional Christmas programs on the Samford campus. Both very nice and beautiful and, when outdoors, cold!

That weekend was my grandparents' anniversary. My mother threw them this big party and most everyone they've ever known stopped by. Before the festivities began I was asked to lead a family prayer.

The next week I spent two days just catching up. I vowed to never leave a computer again. Until the next time I had to leave a computer, which was coming up soon.

I had an horrendous shopping experience with A&E, one so bad and stupid with a company so inflexible and unthinking that I'll encourage you to save yourself the grief and never shop there. Happily I found the same thing at Amazon the next day for one third of the price.

Google's Street View came to Birmingham in December, but more winter weather that was promised did not. Doesn't stop the television folks from talking it up like End Times, however.

I had a little meeting with the editor of the paper and the journalism department head. We all seem to agree on where the paper is going and how it is improving. Everyone is happy at the end of the semester. Merry Christmas to all.

I stepped boldly into the 21st Century and bought a new cell phone. I know! Shocking! I would spend the rest of December playing with the phone.

I also had dinner with an old college friend I haven't seen in 10 years or so. She was back in the state for the holidays and it finally worked out that we could visit. She hasn't changed a bit and that's a good thing.

The Yankee and I returned to Savannah, which you can read about here, here, here and here.

Turns out that that last link is important, so if you skipped it the first time ... click it now.

We then flew to Connecticut, where we told her parents and then called my family. More on that trip, including my birthday, lots of snow and a great trip into New York City here, here, here, here, here and here.

After that it was to North Alabama for Christmas with my family and a phone call from Santa. Within hours I was traveling again, this time for another Christmas in Indiana with my mom and stepfather, here, here and here.

Returned home to rest for a few days after all of that traveling, replaced a sink, loathed luggage, laughed at laundry and began plotting out what promises to be a busy spring semester. Which brings us nicely to this, the end of the year in review.

So 2008 was a big year in terms of change and, hopefully, personal growth. In the last 14 months I've gotten a new car, donated the old one, found a wonderful new home at an incredible new job, consider and got accepted into graduate school to begin my doctoral research, got a new phone and a really expensive ring.

Absent even all of those tangible things, 2008 was a special year filled with promise and the occasional ability to appreciate all of the many small blessings that have been afforded to me. I hope I served that promise well. I hope I took advantage of it to the best of my abilities to better myself and others. That, to me, would make it a successful year.

Oh I'd rather not have enjoyed the fun of poison ivy and a few other small illnesses or inconveniences, but on balance 2008 was a blessed year. I hope yours was too. And I hope our luck holds as long, and longer, than our looks.

Tomorrow: Back to work!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Part three of the four part review of 2008 continues today, mostly because I did little else but watch football. But, when you have to come up with content from somewhere you may as well go to a gimmick. So here we are.

Now presenting July through September.

July started off with picture perfect weather. We produced a fireworks safety video, which included talking to hospital staff who, in the interest of safety and everyone keeping their fingers, would understandably like no one to light fireworks. We followed that up by attempting to blow of a watermelon.

Unfortunately our pyrotechnics largely fizzled, but we all kept our hands intact.

After that, of course, was the city's big fireworks show, and if you're one of those folks who can't get enough colorful explosions in your daily routine, try here. We've been to that particular spot the last two years. It is a good spot, but I believe construction downtown is making it disappear. Either way, we might have to find a new location for this summer.

I shot an iPhone video, which was pretty funny in a sad way, and another trying to blow up another watermelon with heavier ordnance.

I hurt my hand, running a finger between the chair and the desk in a "Just cut it off!" moment. I agreed to run a 5K, but unfortunately those plans fell apart. I'm better for the practice though, having later in the summer matched my old three mile pace. I started spending more time at the gym, reading more books and we all started reading about banks faltering and failing. July was fun like that.

A friend of mine had an art gallery, so I went to see an opening there. Company came over from Atlanta and we played golf and watched The Dark Knight on opening weekend. It was at the end of his visit that I learned he liked coffee -- I do not -- and he'd been going without. A terrible host, I'll now include a coffee line on the RSVP cards.

It was in mid-July that Home Depot decided to lend me a hand via Twitter in my bathroom repairs. I had two smallish projects that were imposing to me, the non-plumber. They both turned out to be surprisingly painless, but I managed to put the sink installation off for almost six months, until just the other night.

At SEC Media Days I followed around Alabama's coach and made fun of the condition of fandom. I dislike making fun of people specifically, but I'm a fan and therefor can make fun of myself. Still a fairly entertaining video, too.

I spent a rainy Saturday at the Samford library and later finished up the interview and application process there. Life was moving very quickly at the end of July and early August. On the first day of that month I was finally offered the job, there. I slept on it and worried over it and prayed on it for the weekend and accepted it on the following Monday.

Which was a very good decision, by the way.

It was a curious time though, because I worked at on the weekend whether I was deciding to leave there for a new adventure. That's a great place full of wonderful people, so it wasn't always an easy decision to make. Having received the job offer on Friday, working Saturday and Sunday and then accepting it on Monday morning, I then had to tell my boss and friends of more than four years that I was leaving.

Having given my two week notice I promptly left Birmingham on a previously planned trip to Chicago, which you can read about here, here, here, here, here and here.

That turned out to be a working vacation. The Yankee was presenting a paper there. I was touring Chicago but also suddenly looking for tips and insight into my new job. I also briefly visited with my new boss there a few times, built a new peer set and made two wonderful new Windy City friends over the course of the week.

I regretted that I'd dutifully given my two week notice at one job and then departed on a vacation, but the schedule just worked out that way. I had another weekend to hold down the fort there too, so hopefully that helped make up for it and I didn't do a disservice to any of my friends there.

Between Chicago and leaving an old job for a new job I had to catch up with friends, catch up on the site, changing my reading habits and start shifting my career around a bit. My blogroll increased. I'm still coping with that.

We had a last lunch on my last Friday there. Someone paid for mine. I never did find out who, but thank them for me, won't you? I worked Saturday and Sunday in quiet and mostly alone and drifted out the front door on a sunny Sunday afternoon excited about starting the new job the next day.

And the last two weeks of August I spent meeting new people on the Samford campus, learning new buildings and offices and wondering when the students would show up.

I'm naturally a night owl, but for the past 12 years or so I've always had the early morning news jobs. I wondered how long it would take to revert to my old patterns after a dozen years of forced habit. Three days.

Also, the electrical problem in the extra bedroom was finally finished. After having four potential repairmen saying they'd come do the job and getting four no shows, and two vain attempts of my own, I finally found someone who would actually do the work.

A new Mexican restaurant near my home opened up. A few weeks later a Mexican place 13 miles away, at which I'd been eating for two decades, disappeared into the night. The night place might be just a slight touch better, even if they don't have mariachi.

After my first handful of days in my new office classes started. A few days after that the newspaper spooled up. I spent most of August adjusting to the different rhythms of life on a college campus. I'd forgotten the pace and the purpose of things, but I've always remembered the joy of the place, leaving me to wonder why I ever left.

I ended August watching the football season openers for both Samford and Auburn. The final moments of a great month were spent watching old SNL highlights:
So there we sat, a room full of academics, the five of us with 15 degrees. Our brains -- or the mush that's left -- are supposedly worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and we're giggling ridiculously at James Brown Celebrity Hot Tub and Joe Piscopo's Frank Sinatra.
Which runs us into September, when the students started churning out papers. They're a really great group that works hard, learns quickly and constantly improves. Within those first few weeks they'd grown by leaps and bounds and they deserve a lot of credit for their effort and dedication. (I write that today still trying to figure out where half of the school year has disappeared.)

I took a lot of pictures of campus, because it is such a pretty place, and of course spent a lot of time back and forth to Auburn games, where I also took a lot of pictures and shot video. It was a year of struggles for the Tigers, starting fairly early without any tangible corrections in site. If only we'd known then what we knew now.

Because it is the fall, and because school and football mean so much, just rinse, lather and repeat those two paragraphs until you feel like you've gotten a month's use out of them.

I was spending at least one late night a week in the office in case the students could find a use of me. I spent the rest of my time trying to find and readjust to a work schedule that would benefit them the most. And, also, to avoid as many rush hours as possible.

I taught or took part in three journalism workshops in September, too, and was blissfully happy doing it. See? Good decision all the way around.

Oh, sure, I read a lot, watched a bunch of old television and discovered I actually liked Mondays, but that's the basic stuff. I also cleaned out some cabinets, riveting, no? Fall started tickling the senses and at the very end of the month I started giving serious thought to returning to school as a student.

How'd that turn out?

Where've you been the last three months? Or, come back tomorrow as we review the end of 2008 to find out.

Friday, January 2, 2009

January the second, a new, new start to the still new year. Especially when it leads into weekends. This 2009 thing isn't so bad, you think, it runs right into a weekend.

Sure, some part of your brain might try to warn you about a false sense of security -- the ant and the grasshopper parable, remember? -- but that's for people at work on Monday, not people happy to be home today.

And so it is with that idea in mind that I lean on two time honored crutches to get us through today's blog entry: an old gimmick and Twitter.

First with the new, which means Twitter, the digital scratch pad of things that I find just interesting enough to share with others. Join me, won't you, as I venture out with The Yankee to meet our friends Justin and RaDonna and Atticus for lunch at O'Carrs.

We received -- our first joint gift I think -- a GPS from her parents for Christmas and today we put it to the test. And I'd just like to say, that had it not been for the presence of the GPS that was given as a present, we might not have gotten lost, and we might have been at the restaurant on time.

I blame technology. And my failure to follow directions. But learning from a mistake is an incredibly important weapon in the arsenal of the curious, and so the error was not all in vain. Now I know I must distinguish from Mountain Brook and Birmingham, heretofore indistinguishable in some squishy geopolitical areas so that I don't end up in a residential neighborhood when I should be in a mall.

But I digress.

We had lunch. My food had wings. And, after such a wholesome and healthy meal we ventured to Whole Foods, my first experience in that wild and wacky natural place that all the suburban mothers seem to be raving about.

We have one in town, and it is in a great spot for the audience, but it isn't exactly conducive to my travel patterns. Or my budget, I'm told. But hold me back, I'm still adjusting to Publix, which I still consider "fancy" and/or "smancy."

As an aside: in journalism school they teach you to never use and/or. Strunk and White note that it is "a device, or shortcut, that damages a sentence and often leads to confusion or ambiguity." (I'm a little embarrassed to note that I recall that line almost word-for-word all these years later. Mostly, I think, because "or shortcut" seems too redundant for them.)

I'd teach our journalism students the same rule -- it is a good one -- with the corollary that it could be placed in a position to excite absurdity. Anytime smancy makes it into your essay you're just tripping on the absurd. So there you are.

We found cereal made from penguins. (Fine, puffins, an entirely different species of adorable birds. Nevertheless, they are inside the box. -ed.) They weren't kidding about the strictly natural gimmick, were they? I found toilet paper named Seventh Generation. Given the lack of cartoon decoration and the sandpaper exterior, to say nothing of the product name, I had to pass.

Also, this. They call it pure cane sugar, I say these were the building blocks of the Fortress of Solitude. If the cell phone picture was clear -- that thing was really only meant for outdoors shooting -- you could see the actual silicone on a stick. We demurred. As you can tell by his look of disbelief and disapproval, Atticus is a smart shopper.

Tonight there was the Utah versus Alabama Sugar Bowl, where Twitter backs me up again:
21-0? Bama is backish?

Saban should have had his team watch film on My Cousin Vinny. "What's a Ute?"

Would the Andre Smith story play any differently if Bama had Oklahoma in the big game?

Surprised we haven't seen the "Saban drives a pick up" spot. Maybe Ford knew something ...

Fox is so bad at college football coverage their montage include none of the scoring clips of the team that's dominated the game.

"Roll Tide and all, coach, but what's a Mountain West? I'll hang up and listen."

Maybe Saban has a "no first quarter in bowl games" clause in that contract.

Utah? What's with the "Third down Jump" sign?

Hey Fox, he gets his talent from his dad. Those bangs are from his mom.

Houndstooth Man is crying, because he lost to Utah. Yoyoyoyoyoyo WhydidyoudoitAndre?

If we had to talk about it yesterday with USC we must now also consider Utah in the national championship conversation.

Hook and ladder, FTW!

So I'm guessing no one is booking Utah to play at Bryant-Denny any time soon?

The best thing about that Moose Johnson Sugar Bowl clip? Syracuse has to re-live that tie again. War Eagle!

Pop Quiz: What did UAB do this year that Auburn, Alabama and Troy did not do? Win their last football game.

How much does Utah's coach make?

Moose Johnson just said Bama never got back in the game. Somebody send him a memo!

According to Wikipedia Utah has the highest bowl winning percentage in college football (10 bowl minimum). Who knew?

Calm down Bama fan: Andre's phone is unlisted. Leave the guy alone. JPW too. It is a shame you scorn your statistical leader so.
Tough end to the season for Alabama. They had a great run, but maybe got exposed late in running into the Florida buzzsaw and a hungry Utah team that simply seemed to want it more. Going 12-2, you take that, even if you got picked on tonight.

The continued 2008 review, now featuring the months April through June. If you're especially curious about January through March just backtrack a day and you can see the highlights.

At the end of March I started cleaning my basement, which occupied the first two days of April as well. It was a big and messy chore. But now it is clean, though it could stand to use a reorganizing. Maybe I'll put that on the list again for this April, if nothing else I can avoid it for a few more months. But I digress.

I also saw Spamalot again. Caught it in 2007 in Atlanta and in April of 2008 in Birmingham. It is closing on Broadway soon, not sure about the touring show. Either way, catch it if you can. It is a great production.

There was the best movie trailer ever created. I had nothing to do with it, wish I could take some sort of credit, but it is Kelly's creation. The thing is just too funny to overlook though.

Also in April I attended a of an academic conference, took an hilarious haunted tour of Savannah and generally enjoyed myself for two more days in that city.

I got sick, observed the arrival of spring and still made no progress on the electrical wiring problem in the extra bedroom. There was good news on tax day, I was finally finished upgrading all of the photo galleries to the new template. That took forever, it seemed.

The day after that I took part in an journalism panel at the University of Alabama. See a trend yet? I'm beginning to pick up on one myself.

I also hired, and then fired a guy who said he'd fix my lawn mower. I'd been having a bad run, you see. Electricians, bee guys, lawn mower guys. No one seemed to want to do the work for which I was happy to pay. So I fired a handful of nonworkers around this period.

For the first time my Glomerata collection made an appearance in the blog, where I used a picture some 75 years in the past in support of an obituary. I was listening to a lot of obscure stuff thanks to XM and Pandora at the time, too, and the songs and artists from bygone days were appearing frequently in the blog.

My grandmother turned 75.

Golf became one of my cheaper hobbies as, you'll recall, gas got ridiculously expensive. Also, there were BEES! The bee guy estimated some 40,000 when he cleaned out my little problem. He laughed, scoffed and said that was nothing. He's played with hives taller than you. Impressive or not, my bees are happily gone.

My last adventure of April involved getting rained out at a baseball game at Alabama and later being heckled from the park. That was fun.

In early May, it seems I didn't do much but go to work, read and watch television. Before that first week was over Jim 'N' Nicks had a kitchen fire. This means we'd been using Twitter at for almost two weeks. Within the first few days of that little diversion we broke two fire stories using the tool.

It was thankfully a small fire. It happened in the morning. No one was hurt. They were only closed for a few days. Life quickly returned to normal.

My long troubles with the cable company began on May 15th. It was all so frustrating that we'll gloss over the problem, only pointing out the solution for purposes of showing how long (and who must be notified) before something ever gets resolved. Brighthouse, when you work, you are efficient. When you do not work you are deplorable. When you're people come out on house visits they badmouth their coworkers and often don't do their work.

When you call the president of the company -- a number not easy to find, might I add -- you finally start to get results. Brighthouse, I may remain an uneasy customer, but we'll never be friends.

I also spent a weekend shooting video for a friend. It was fun, long, tiring, educational, entertaining and while I appreciate the work I never want to shoot that particular project again. Seriously. This day, next May? I'm busy. Here, here and here to find out all about it.

More reading, more work, more piddling about town. Late in May Brian helped me network the TiVos. Things like this are a bit out of my comfort level sometimes. And then Brian comes over, blinks at it really hard and it is fixed. Then I feel stupid for offering to grill food for no more work than he puts into it.

I kid. Having technically savvy Brians are very helpful. Pick one up if you can.

At the end of the month I had the worst golf experience of my short life. Ordinarily this isn't something to complain about, but bugs being bugs, sometimes a nice day in the office is better than a bad day on the links. And, on the last day of the month, The Yankee and I went into the woods and enjoyed the Moss Rock Preserve.

Which brings us nicely to June. In the first week of that warm month my lawnmower finally returned home, stuck in the shop for repairs for six weeks. Somehow I managed to mow the lawn only once in this time, with a neighbor's push mower. I blame, and credit, the drought for killing the grass and keeping it from getting too unruly with the big screaming red machine of grass shortening potential was up on blocks.

Oh yes, I got my first ever case of poison ivy. It was awesome. For weeks, even after I was all healed up, I couldn't go near that tree without a shiver. It was so bad I called in sick to work, something I never do. I visited friends and babysat and decided that the drugs you take for poison ivy are little better for your frame of mind than the irritation itself.

After a week plus of doing next to nothing because of that, life slowly returned to normal at its own happy-go-lucky pace. I saw Atticus in the hospital, where I witnessed a kid who'd just had heart surgery was running circles around the rest of us.

There was Father's Day with the grandparents, where we also celebrated a few retirements.

I was stood up for a third time by Brighthouse, the most dimwitted cable company around. And the story continues ...

I met Chris Denbow, one of the prolific blogger, photographer types in town. And right after that meeting he decided to move his family to Houston. (I'm a nice guy Chris, I promise!)

I worked a 10-day work week. And while they weren't hard or physically demanding, I do not miss those.

I was simultaneously dealing with a flaky WordPress issue and the brilliant customer service of Brighthouse. That particular WordPress project was a bust, but a good learning experience.

It was on June 21st that I finally called the president of the cable company. She called me the finally Monday and promised action. About this same time someone else put me in touch with the marketing folks. On the 24th a technician actually showed up. Two of them, in fact. It took them 10 minutes to fix a problem that the first guy inexplicably neglected and the company ignored for six weeks.

If they show up in a slightly more negative way in Google because of it, so be it.

We pondered the silliness of the Olympic Games coming to Birmingham. Most anything that crosses the mayor's mind might then cross his lips and then become comedic fodder.

I started the last entry of June by concluding the month, which holds up well:
And, with this, June comes to an end. The month would be remembered for poison ivy and bad cable service, if the month were remembered on a series of mild inconveniences that exist to otherwise prove the point that life has dealt you more than a fair hand.
Amen brother.

Tomorrow, the eternal weekend continues, we'll cover July through September as we wrap up 2008 and probably find something else to amuse or interest the internet. Come back again, won't you?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

I didn't do this yesterday -- I can haz a sink instead -- but here's my 2008 review, since we're now into 2009.

The year started with some silly dance fighting motif and a late Christmas with The Yankee. Soon after we had our annual brutally cold spell, where it dipped into the low teens and I realized I didn't know how to use the heater on my new car. Heck of a time to learn. Three days later I was wearing shorts again.

There was our friend Taylor's always fun birthday party at the bouncy place. (She turns six in a few days. Big girl.) I'd forgotten this, but I tweaked my neck and shoulder at that party and then complained about it for a week or so.

And then it snowed. Probably the most ridiculous and talked about video I created last year. (Kelly helped!) That was my first use of and perhaps the first video produced by the in-house staff to play on

The strength of that video gave me a project for the rest of the year. Before you knew it I was making fun of fireworks, football and mostly myself. I also returned my attention to a ceiling fan installation and wiring repair, which was not going well.

I also met Jeremy Henderson one of the few people who I knew as a blogger first and a person second. I have many friends who blog, but that's different, of course, than bloggers who are friends. After this many years you'd think I could count them on more than one hand, but most are phone- or Email-type friends.

So that was January. In February I finally bought new bookshelves -- I'd bought some online in January, only to find the place didn't carry them anymore. I also ordered a toaster - big doings for me -- and was worried over upgrading the site's photo galleries. Feel the excitement again!

I also had to dig into the house's plumbing. Things like that are easily forgotten, and indeed I'd filed it away until yesterday, while I was replacing that sink and mentioned the previous adventure in the blog. That was February too. I also watched Auburn break all kinds of records on their way to dominating the swimming and diving championships once again. I wrapped up the month shooting at the high school basketball championship and recalling the last leap year and wondering about the next one.

March brought the great Firefox bookmark collapse. That's one of those things from which you fear you'll never recover. Three days later, though, it is like it never happened. All the same, even with Firefox we must always have backup files. Preferably in triplicate.

My mother had a big birthday party that my step-father put together. She wanted to be with her family and friends and have the chance to visit with people she seldom gets to see and she celebrated in that style over two days. A great time was had by all.

I got the car worked on, the electrical problem in my extra bedroom not worked on and made a lot of headway into the great photo gallery redesign project.

There was also the beauty of San Francisco. A family and scholastic trip so grand I had to read all about it again, and you can too: here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

March ended with the beginning of a project that I feared would take forever, even before it began: the long overdue basement cleaning. It only took three days, but they were three intensive days.

And since this is getting long as reviews go, and since I plan on doing little in the next few days beyond watching football and maybe cleaning a bit, I'm going to stretch the year in review into a four day gimmick.

Hey, it's still the holidays for me.

Hope you're enjoying your free time. Hope you come back soon to once again enjoy some of mine!