Kenny Smith | blog

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The morning featured the commute to Tuscaloosa under overcast skies and almost coolish temperatures. Sometime just before noon those skies opened up and poured down a heavenly sampling of the finest water Mother Nature could provide.

This was delightful as we were walking to lunch at the time. Had a nice chat with a classmate about a scheduling problem I'm having and we might have stumbled upon the answer. More on that front as things are resolved. You may now move back from the edge of your seat.

Good class in media and the body today. I probably say this every week, but it must be said again. While the topic isn't my primary interest the professor and the classmates have made it an interesting discussion each week, to their credit. Sure, sometimes I feel as if I should go home and watch some football or American Gladiators or Cops, but it is a useful class in several important respects. And I'm NOT only saying that in case the professor wanders by the site. I have a paper presentation due next week, though, and I hope it goes well.

Part of the class is the preparation, step by step, of a full on, honest to goodness study. This is perhaps the most helpful part for me. This is my now long running face-ism research. The data collection was concluded today. Hopefully it is all coming together well. Also, the professor is a marathoner, biker type. She teaches a spin class at 6 a.m. to illustrate the level of her dedication. I told her of my recent obsession with the bike and asked her how I was doing. Apparently I'm close to the right track with that. Hopefully I can say the same for the class!

After Alabama and before Samford there was a quick stop at the Home Depot. I purchased a few things on New Year's Eve for the Great Sink Project that I did not need. They've been sitting in the customary holding pattern position of clutter that's going place since then, waiting on "whenever I make it back to that side of town." Turns out I never go over there, apparently. I stopped today because this was the last day they were eligible for return.

There was a long line, but I was on the phone with Kelly, who has a way of making the time pass quickly. The line moved with the same sort of rapid precision and within a moment the items were returned to the store, the job long since happily completed and $10 credited back to the card. That's the do-it-yourself mentality that makes America, America. Well, that and the gimme, gimme of stimulus packages.

Gas needed to be purchased, and so gas was purchased. I stopped at Sam's where they have an attendant who does not take money, generally knows the answer "no" and who's purpose is still a vague mystery. This fellow, though, was an aging gentleman of the friendly sort. He'd just finished playfully lecturing a child about why he should not be filling up the gas tank as that is a job for Mom or Dad. Mom appeared, chagrined, shoe-horned all of her children back in the car. The attendant then sauntered over to me to continue the lecture.

I would have listened intently to his thoughts on the splashback feature of gas pumps spraying precious, go-juice into the eyes of young children, but I was distracted. His well-presented arguments of how, if only the child was 12 instead of, say, nine, any splash back of the refined dinosaur byproduct would hit their chest, instead of their eyes. This did not register on me at the time, as I was busy watching my non-existent child pump gas into the car. If the imaginary kid wants to help, let them I say. If they are too short for the procedure they should learn quickly the sound of a full tank, or risk drowning an eye in the stuff. It is the sort of mistake one only makes once, so I wasn't too worried. You know, about the child that I do not have, which was not with me during this friendly lecture.

Why this mattered to me, I don't know, but he just wanted to visit, and so we did. I nodded dutifully until my gas tank was full, paying close attention for that gurgling of contentment that signifies there's a danger of splashing, confident that if the petroleum dared escape my tank it would merely make slacks and shoes reek, but at least my eyes would be safe.

I drove off, wondering what in the world the guy discussed with the person opposite me at the pump.

At Samford tonight one of my students, who also works at the paper showed me a slideshow she made from her Spring Break mission trip to inner-Jamaica. It's a moving little piece, and she's very excited about sharing it with her sponsors. All of my students are putting together nice work on their sites. I'll have to share more of it soon.

The Crimson staff put their paper to bed late into the night. I spent the time working on work projects, trying out a few troubleshooting techniques and trying to be helpful where I could.

And tomorrow is an early morning leading into a full day. So let's call this a stopping spot until then. Tomorrow: the paper hits newstands and I hit the road!

Monday, March 30, 2009

What happened to the top of the page? I'm tinkering again. Trying to figure out ways to embed the Twitter feed into the blog. It goes everywhere else, why not?

But the sizes are customizable for larger looks, but not for something the size of our narrow column to the left here. So I thought I should add the 12-Seconds feed, too. Because that'll make me think of new videos to shoot on a regular basis. And then there was a symmetry issue, so I figured I'd look on feed too. Of course I haven't added any videos there since Christmas. Guess what I'll be doing soon?

Will all of this stay? Or will it disappear making the above paragraphs a mystery to the search engine spiders who find no correlating boxes embedded at the top of the page? Time will tell.

Bright, clear day today. Moderate temperatures and just the slightest of breezes. Throughout the day I watched the great big ornamental trees turn from blooms to green before my eyes. There's always a bit of melancholy that comes with that change, but the inevitable conclusion comes around, reminding you of the inevitable and sturdy spring and summer that we can enjoy for the next, oh, six or seven months.

The sun going down was glorious. I must have stepped outside in the golden hour. It looked like fall, without the smell of an expiring season. This was the smell, instead, of life and growth and ACHOO! Pollen. Lord, how we are covered in it. In a few weeks that too will be gone, but for now we're making fingerprinting that much easier on the authorities.

Caught a few new photographs which have been added to the March photo gallery. They are the usual lovely green and flowery theme I'm stuck in this time of year. Sometimes it seems so shocking to watch the armies of sticks turn into waves of green.

Photosynthesis is my favorite unappreciated chemical process this time of year. Except for all of the pollen that follows it, but that gives the bees something to do, which was better than before -- I believe they call it Beefore -- when all those hapless, restless bee youths were buzzing around with no jobs, no hopes, no future, only stingers.

And then they unionized. You know the story after that.

Caught up with a lot of the newspaper staff today. Did the last bit of copy editing on one of those papers to send away to a conference. Now I can turn my attention toward the end of the semester. There's one paper to work on for my classes and a test-paper of some sort to worry over. It is all spelled out neatly on various calendars -- in my phone, the private Google calendar, one in the office and of course in the various syllabi. Those calendars also have the phrase "Last day of class" and I'm not paying attention to that at all, nope. Nada.

A handful of the students that I work with are graduating seniors. I remember that feeling, six weeks out. It is remarkable how reproducible it is. This is my first year back in academia full time since undergrad. After eight years in normal jobs the summer was just another period of time to work. Now the summer is The Summer again. And that's even after considering the nine hours of classes I'm taking.

Anyone want to help me out with stats this summer?

But I get ahead of myself. Today I'm preparing the week, and just this week. There are laundry issues to consider and presentations to prepare and family obligations to keep in mind. Getting through this week brings us one step closer to the summer. No, I'm not going the weeks ...

See how quickly the mind drifts?

Got a haircut this evening. Visited the local scissors in a strip mall joint where, suddenly, hair cuts cost $16. How the rising costs of fuel has hurt scissors, I'm not sure, but I might soon be shopping for a new discount hair cutting establishment.

The woman that cut my hair today was a nice lady. She asked me a few questions in an attempt to work at the small talk, but they were all yes or no questions. As I tried to help her out, complimenting her photographs and Easter decorations, she did not play along. The hair reduction process continued in silence.

I was waiting for her to ridicule the last hair cut. It had been some time and the hair was getting a tiny bit ragged. If she said anything I'd have to point out that she was also the last person to do the job. I've had the rare consecutive visit -- especially unusual given the delay between haircuts -- with the same styling engineer at one of the discount venues.

After that:

And then it was home, where tacos took America right up to the moment where we watched Jack Bauer not eat once again.
Found all the WMD. They've been on the Fox lot all this time ...

The FBI is good for catching up the viewing audience. And also the president.

"Here's your bloodwork results." "Oh. Thanks." Jack needs no emotion to show he's wrestling down the germies.

I like that FBI guy Larry doesn't really believe the realism of this storyline anymore either.

They have templated immunity papers in the 24 universe. Makes sense. Jack Bauer used to hand them out like candy.

The Yankee makes THE point of this 24 episode: Why make a raid on a biologic weapon with no HazMat gear?

Remember how CTU used to use backdated sat feeds to see something that happened moments ago? I bet the FBI is jealous.
The show ends with a tense standoff and a bit of the Copperhead Road vibe. Next week there will be more teeth gritted, oaths muttered and wacky biological shenanigans that will allow Jack Bauer to survive the deadly dose of deadness he's contracted. There is no suspense; Kiefer Sutherland recently said he's read for the next season.

Also, kittehs like 24. She really was watching it.

That's enough for today. Tomorrow: Rain! March refuses to take on the qualities of a lamb as it gives way. Also, there will be class at Alabama and a long night at Samford. Lot of fun to be had, hope you come back and visit!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Leave me alone with the snickering and the clucking. I was feeling artsy. So I composed a photograph that left me a lot of air -- literally, heh -- and then discovered that you can't bring a sub-CSS template into Blogger, lest the world end. Further I discovered that no one else has ever asked for this because the good people at Google are responsive to your every whim.

But not with their blog tool. Odd, that.

Anyway. I have this picture and I'm staring at all that air wondering what to write about. A quote? No. This could be come an occasionally regular feature -- if no one laughs -- and I don't want to start out with a quote. A poem then. Doubly no.

So I began to reminisce and find I'm fairly decent at that. So you get 180 words or so and a picture of maple seeds. Not bad for a Saturday.

The alternative was to discuss some reading, both for pleasure and class. If there's one thing you, my dear friends, need a little more of around here it is the opportunity to read about my reading.

I could talk of pedaling away 16 miles yesterday and the medium-sized workout that followed it. Or discuss taking the car back to the mechanic who hooked his computer to the car, let them talk and then came away with "This is a dealership thing and should still be covered under your emissions warranty. You may have to fight with them about it, but make them do it and don't pay."

The guy doesn't want to do the work. Even more importantly, he doesn't want to take my money. And if I can get the dealer to, you know, deal with it, for free I'll be even more grateful.

There's the grocery store where, among other things, three-hour Menora candles may be found. They are very specific. And you'd think that if the boys down in legal got that particular the fellas up in research could have worked on a longer-burning formula.

Incidentally you'll note that these candles are kosher. I hadn't realized that kosher extended to non-edible wax purposes. If memory serves you have your traditional eight and seven-candle Menora. Seems that, in the dozen candle box, we have the same sort of shopping dilemma that hot dog lovers have when it comes to buns. Happily, these candles are made in Kfar HaOranim, on the West Bank. Nothing like a little authenticity on Aisle Six.

What's more, they are now grinding up Georgia boys for sausage. What is the world coming to?

There was Earth Hour (Motto: Because Earth Day was simply too much). I didn't turn off every light in the house, but there's usually only one or two on anyway. Comparatively speaking I'm doing a lot better than all those big buildings. What's more everything is off for about 15 hours a day during sleeping time and daylight. It seems I'm doing a lot to save the Earth.

Now, about all these location officials who, during Earth Hour who were bathed in television lights to discuss the event. We are all very aware of the festivity. That or we were sitting in well-lit rooms, enjoying the earth through our human eyes which, oddly enough, need some light to fall into them. Better fire up that generator and splash some wattage on the skyscraper. Else the tourists might begin to wonder about Schroedinger's Gorilla scaling up the other side.

I suppose I could mention the joys of trying to download a movie from Amazon by way of TiVo. The problem was in the registration process, where the interface was slower and clunkier than my now five-year-old PC. There was no anticipating the cursor, for anticipation would lead to that most comic situations: making fun of misspelling your own name. What's more my Amazon password is one of those highly complex uppercase, lowercase alpha and numeric arrangements and that doesn't lend itself to patience. No Coen brothers' movie is worth the aggravation.

The Yankee and I were going to rent Burn After Reading, figuring the two bucks is the best deal around. Now I just want the 20 minutes of my life back where I struggled trying to make the thing work. I'd gladly sit through that dreadful Kid Rock National Guard promo to avoid that.

In the end we did not watch the movie, and that made an early night of it. For me it meant more reading.

Today: more reading. More copy editing. Tomorrow there will be a little more of both, perhaps some writing and attending to other important matters. It is important to stretch one's wings, after all.

None of this is a complaint, except for the TiVo/Amazon failure. I love the work, the teaming up with bright people and watching them do interesting research and making my tiny little contributions here and there. I enjoy the editing. It just doesn't make for the best blog fodder.

Unless you want to ready about Bucy's Media Participation Hypothesis. (We've emailed back-and-forth. We're friendly. I'm meeting all the great scholars.) The other paper has to do with agenda setting and The Daily Show. They are both quite interesting, but probably only to a limited audience. The audience here is limited enough, hiyo!

All of these papers -- and that's only the ones I'm involved with, The Yankee has a ton more -- going away for conference consideration next week. We're trying to beat the deadline, keep our classes straight, teach, learn, commute and keep it all straight in our respective heads.

I love it. Of course, I say that on an off day that involves no commute and no long hours. Even then, I enjoy it still. These, too, are like magical seeds magically filled with magic.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Friday, March 27, 2009

I rode 16 miles on the bike this morning. And, boy, is my backside tired of being tired.

They are good miles though. High resistance, lots of sprinting, getting out of the saddle a bit. I'm doing each mile at about two-and-a-half minutes. I like cycling. It seems a lot more ... probable ... somehow than a lot of other cardiovascular efforts. And when I'm doing I feel like moving mountains. As soon as I regain my balance and the feeling in my legs.

That makes 42 miles for the week and I can tell a difference in how the body feels. This morning it took the first eight miles or so to really break into the effort. I've been adding two miles per ride for the last two weeks, which is how I've managed to work up to the number 16. At some point this will level off, but who knows where.

And now, since this is not a blog about my boring workouts -- I also did arms and back this morning -- but about other boring parts of my daily life, we'll move on.

At work I contributed to the two-step flow that is my day with such gems as "Authorities believe alcohol was involved." My subtly added commentary, "That may be the most unnecessary sentence in this story."
Authorities said a man threw a Molotov cocktail at his neighbor's trailer, but the wind shifted and set fire to two cars, a pickup and a travel trailer in the man's own yard. The Florida Highway Patrol reported that a 51-year-old man got into a fight with his neighbor on Tuesday night and threw the makeshift gasoline bomb.
He's charged with arson, among other things. I'm of course no legal expert, but I'd enjoy hearing the arson argument in Orange County court.

"Your honor. My client may be many things. A dolt, a meteorologically challenged, overly susceptible to alcohol and its biochemical influences, but can it really be arson when he torched his own things?"

It'll stick, it'd just be entertaining. That's all.

Did you see the very interesting story from The Washington Post about the homeless using cell phones, Email and even blogs?
"Having a phone isn't even a privilege anymore -- it's a necessity," said Rommel McBride, 50, who spent about six years on the streets before recently being placed in a city housing program. He has had a mobile phone for a year. "A cellphone is the only way you can call to keep up with your food stamps, your housing application, your job. When you're living in a shelter or sleeping on the streets, it's your last line of communication with the world."

Advocates who work with the District's homeless estimate that 30 percent to 45 percent of the people they help have cellphones. A smaller number have e-mail accounts, and some blog to chronicle their lives on the streets.
Eric Sheptock is one of the blogging homeless mentioned in the story, Steve Thomas is another.

It is a fascinating thing to consider. I just finished my part on the paper with The Yankee that discussed, in part, internet penetration. We've argued for a long time that the tools of the Internet aren't for just some of us, but that story takes the conversation even further, demonstrating these technologies can be lifelines rather than mere expensive accessories.

And from somewhere in the bunch there might emerge a new Woody Guthrie. The technology is apparently cheap enough.

Still, if money got tight, my cell phone would be one of the first things to go. The internet might be the last, painful cutback, but it could be made too if necessary.

After two-buck lunch -- friend chicken and plenty of vegetables -- I spent some time working on papers and staring out the window. Here's the view from my window. The cell phone doesn't do it justice, but trust me it has been beautiful all week.

At Pie Day Ward was waiting on us. The ribs were a bit off tonight, but the cheese biscuits were delicious and the pie was, of course, a great treat.

And now I'm home, there is work to be done this weekend, but no Battlestar Galactica to watch. It's an odd feeling. Some 80 Fridays over the last few years have had a new episode and now I am only left to think of Starbuck as an angel and Adama sitting on a hill by himself.

Guess I should find something entertaining to watch on Friday nights, eh?

On the site: Just so it feels like I've contributed a little something to the clutter of the Internet for the day, the March photo gallery is now up-to-date, including pictures from today.

Tomorrow and Sunday we'll simply make up stuff to put here. I'll be working on a few projects at home. If you're really interested in the research projects on voting and social networking sites you might find it intriguing. Otherwise you might enjoy some nostalgia or fiction. All this to say I have no idea what tomorrow will bring, but that's all in the adventure, no?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

First day of class this week. Only day of class this week. Tuesday's class was not held because the professor was in Europe. We sat here, thinking jealous thoughts, those of us not sitting here thinking beautiful spring thoughts. Last night's class did not meet because the professor offered to cancel the class since he'd whiffed on the readings. All will be forgiven, good sir, and my gas tank appreciates you sparing me the commute as well.

Today, however, there was class. I know, I have to get it from somewhere. We talked in media psychology of the effect of pacing and arousal in television commercials using the limited capacity effects model. Ever the dilettante, I asked a bold question full of skepticism. I did not ask it very well, and, I fear, it got us off track. After that we toured two of the labs. Or one of the labs and a glorified closet with some equipment in it. This was meant to inspire us to plug people up to machines, sit them in front of software and derive meaning from it all.

Not to be paranoid, but all of these classes are being held in a communication research building. I'm reasonably certain that each time you hold a door for someone you're being included in a study. (No, IRB wouldn't like that, but it is hard to make a joke about IRB. Cut me some slack.)

After class, and chatting with the professor (where we dreamed up two studies we should do, but likely won't), and lunch, I was right on time for returning to Samford, finish preparing a few tidbits for my class and, some time later, go teach it. We talked of interviewing techniques and tips. I showed them audio editing software. We're using Audacity, which works just fine and is delightfully free.

Mileage varies on that sort of thing, but many of us find it useful. Soon they'll be putting their own audio together with photographs. And then it's on to video. Hopefully along the way they'll find it all worth their effort.

Samford pulled out all the stops again, making breakfast for dinner while I read more from James Reston's book. Sitting at his desk in the early 1990s he described the heady days of newspapers versus radio in the 1930s. It sounds oddly similar to the modern worries of newspapers versus the Internet.

If only radio had the ability to deliver freestanding entertainment like Barack Obama's Teleprompter's Blog it might have had a better run at things. But, alas, not everyone could afford to build a big transmitter in the backyard. Now even inanimate objects have a voice, and that's why the world is a safer, more entertaining place. Also, the rest of us can stop. When the prompters are blogging one of two things has happened: Perfection has been achieved or Skynet is starting.

And when Skynet starts the weekend isn't far behind. Oh, sure, there's work to attend to tomorrow, but you're already mentally at lunch. (Tomorrow I get two-buck lunch, and I'm mentally camped out there quite a bit.)

On the site: There's a small addition to the 1996 Glomerata section, dealing mostly with the student media, something of which I knew very little about at the time. If you're behind on the 1996 version you can start fresh. If you've no idea what is going on in this paragraph, but you're curious, try here.

Tomorrow: The gym, the aforementioned two-buck lunch, Pie Day and more. See you there!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Pedaled my way through the morning -- I'm beginning to like the experience, which means it is pleasant from head to toe, the one exception being the part of body making contact with the non-moving portion of the bike.

Somewhere around mile seven this morning I envisioned my million dollar idea: a detachable, modified seat that actually allows for comfortable cycling.

And then I pedaled five more miles, giving me 12 for the day. I'm fairly pleased with that, even without weights, owing to the morning's time crunch.

At lunch I was almost run over by a linebacker. I bounced off -- he didn't wrap up the tackle -- spun away and 15 yards later was doing an end zone dance. I did not spike the bowl, that would have surely been a 15 yard penalty.

After lunch interviewed my old friend, Andy. We met in 2000, working on a high school football show. He now manages Samford's radio station next door to my office. I needed some example audio for my students to edit tomorrow and he was kind enough to give me the mental tour of the station.

Midway through the chat his phone rang. Hey! Something to edit! Tonight I plugged the audio into the computer and was pleasantly surprised with the recording quality of my new digital recorder. If you're in need of a new one yourself you might look at the inexpensive Olympus VN-5200. Easy to use, it has an external mic jack and an open air microphone. Small, but not insubstantial and it gives you plenty of recording time.

No class tonight, owing to the professor's time crunch. If my class tomorrow is canceled it'll be a second spring break!

So instead of rushing off from one campus in the evening to the other I stayed at Samford until late into the night working on a paper The Yankee and I are sending off to a conference. It examines social networking sites and presidential politics. Ultimately the research comes away saying that there is enough correlation, if not causation, to merit more research.

All good research is repeatable. Or modular, so that said researchers can come along and add on to their work. That's what we're doing here. We've found one scientist writing on this particular applicable idea. His work is due an update, and our work somewhat justifies that.

The question the faculty always ask of us at the conclusion of a paper is "Did it contribute to the body of scientific knowledge?"

The answer this time: Maybe?

There were some fascinating data points emerging from the research, so the answer is, of course, yes. If you're really interested in this we'll be presenting it in a conference in the near future. One day we hope it'll be published in a highly valued publication for other scholars to study with wonderment.

While working on this paper tonight I stumbled, via Twitter, onto Daniel Hannan, a member of the European Parliament who's delivering a verbal comeuppance to the Prime Minister. "You are the devalued prime minister of a devalued government."

The question was posed: Who is saying this in the States? Certainly there are few doing it with such eloquence. So MEP Hannan is becoming a conservative hit on both sides of the Atlantic. He's an author, a journalist and a politician -- who says you can't be all three anymore? -- and he blogs at Telegraph. After that video, and it's stunning and rapid success, Hannan says:
The internet has changed politics - changed it utterly and forever. Twenty-four hours ago, I made a three-minute speech in the European Parliament, aimed at Gordon Brown.


Overnight, the YouTube clip of my remarks had attracted over 36,000 hits. By today, it was the most watched video in Britain.

How did it happen, in the absence of any media coverage? The answer is that political reporters no longer get to decide what's news.


Perhaps people felt frustrated about the way Gordon Brown had carried on without once asking for their votes. Perhaps they would have loved to tell him what they thought of him, but lacked the opportunity.

Breaking the press monopoly is one thing. But the internet has also broken the political monopoly.
Hannan will be quoted in this scholarly paper. It plays directly toward the paper we're working on tonight. Incidentally, the clip he includes in this post is the one where he calls the European Union a racket. This guy would be a star in the States.

Tonight on Tivo: the next to last Life on Mars. The series ends next week, but you might have almost suspected it was going to end this week. There was just enough conspiracy, oddity, drama and rooftop adventure.

It'll be a shame to see the show go. Even though the important people at ABC seemed to like it they never found an audience. I'm glad they were given the chance to wrap everything up. I was critical of it at first, having never been really convinced that the story had a lot of episodes to it. The premise made me give it a shot. Harvey Keitel kept me coming back after the first few episodes. Before long the ensemble cast did the trick.

The British version -- my, but are we an Anglophile today? -- ran for two seasons. It'll only get the one season in the U.S. It runs after Lost, but I guess people can take only so much incredulous plots. Or maybe they're like me, and not an especially big fan of the 1970s.

At first I'd say the setting would work better in any other decade prior, but that's not true. Doing it in the 1960s would be too risky. The '50s would probably sound too Leave it to Beaverish for audiences. Anything earlier it would absolutely be Stranger in a Strange Land. At least in the 1970s we recognize the people, understand the artifacts and those little morsels of information about the future aren't entirely hard to swallow.

Briefly explaining the idea of laptop to someone from the 1970s is funny because the person from 1973 thinks it is ridiculous. What sort of reaction do you think you'd get from having that same conversation with someone in 1939?

Couldn't call it Life on Mars. David Bowie aside, the distance between '73 and 2008 is in the solar neighborhood. You're going way beyond the asteroid belt to understand the differences between New York 1939 and 2009. You might have to go that far to explain this tortured little concept in its entirety.

That's usually a good sign to stop for a while.

Tomorrow: Class. And then class. And then some things that don't have to do with class. Come back then, all you classy individuals.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Long day at the office, and it should seem that more was accomplished, but there were few things definitively stricken from the List of Things Which Ought Be Stricken. At the end of the day I wasn't disappointed by this, but rather considered it a day of great marshaling. By the end of the week things Which Ought Be Stricken will be strucken and I'll be able to torture a new word.

No class today as the professor is in Europe. She's leading a two week excursion through France teaching photography to undergraduates. Nice work if you can get it. I sent her an Email last week, lamenting that she's in France and I was here working on a project. She has not yet replied because, you know, she's in a different country.

Not that I begrudge anyone that experience. We have an international studies program at Samford as well and I'm vainly trying to figure out a.) what I'm qualified to teach that b.) must be taught in a foreign country.

So instead of both campuses today there was just the one. We've put the wheels in motion to start building next year's newspaper staff and I'm presently refining a plan of action to do the many fun things we want to do.

And then there's the writing -- even though this might now be more accurately called the re-re-re-rewriting. The Yankee and I are putting the finishing touches on a couple of papers for conferences and one of them is completed but the second one is giving me a difficult time. As I mentioned yesterday I wrote the expert on this particular little area asking for his latest work. What he's done is excellent, but it feels a bit dated from 2001.

So he sent me a book chapter he's written on this same subject from 2005. The most recent citation in it is his 2001 effort. And, as I said, the work is excellent, it happens to deal with one of those rapidly evolving *koff* you're reading on it *koff* elements of communication. So the scholar was kind enough to share his hard work with me and I'm tiptoeing down the path of saying "We should revisit this within a more contemporaneous context."

Wondering if that's a minefield or paranoia is always good for your late night reverie. And that's the most difficult part of the day, proving, yet again, that I have it made.

The second toughest moment was "watching" the end of the Auburn-Baylor NIT game with the winner advanced to the championship round in New York. Auburn played from behind all night and in the last five minutes or so the writing was on the wall. It was not to be.

With two minutes to go and down by seven Auburn's defense roared to life and pulled within a single point. Baylor fouled one of the best free throw shooters on a team full of long-suffering free throw shooters. Needing one to tie and two to take the lead with three seconds left he missed both. Poor guy.

Even after that Auburn got another look at the basket, but it was not to be as Baylor held on 74-72.

So this team, left for dead in January, coach on the hot seat, becomes the first SEC team to have 10 conference wins and a snub from the NCAA tournament. They finish the year with 24 wins overall, second most in school history and they did it in the absence of support from anyone. No one thought any of that possible, if only because it was so improbably. Those guys have heart and made believers out of unreconstructed football fans. It was fitting, in a way, that it came down to free throws. It was a shame they didn't fall.

Started reading James Reston's memoir, Deadline, tonight over a sandwich. Reston worked for the New York Times for half a century and was seemingly in the middle of everything, everywhere. Reston retired in 1989 after 50 years at the paper, wrote this book in 1991, considering it a valentine, cross section and a primer for America as it prepared to enter the 21st Century. Though he didn't see that new century, he died in 1995, he knew a great deal about the 20th.

And so it was odd that I began reading that book, in particular the the first few chapters on his Scottish origins, while President Obama was going on and on about ... nothing new, really, in the 21st Century. He lectured pedantically in his press conference and offered nothing new. I was watching him at the deli, but the book was far more interesting. Reston, who in five decades earned his share of critics -- specifically on his relationship with Henry Kissinger -- but the guy has a simple charm and a wonderful wit about his writing. If it is possible to be impressed by such in the foreword alone, it happened here.

It was that or listen to the talk of the trillions.

After dinner and the first few chapters I returned to my own paper and its struggles, which will continue on for a bit longer. In other news: I've still got it made.

Tomorrow: rainy weather, class, the gym and more!

Monday, March 23, 2009

It's a back to school Monday. After having taken most of last week off it was time to return to the normal schedule. The drive was familiar enough. It took a moment or two to for the left side of my brain to remind the right side that this, too, was normal.

And so it was last week that my brain might not have taken any time off, but the neural bridges between the two sides have yet to return from a neural network retreat. Where did those all important connections venture off to? Brainard, NE of course. I hear it is all the rage.

Me? I had a staycation. I worked a little from home and campus and read and slept a lot. I spent some time on a few small work projects, hopefully nudging them a little closer to readiness. I worked a bit -- and probably should have worked a bit more -- on some other projects as well.

As it was I spent the weekend fussing over two papers for various conferences, alternately having ideas and having relatively futile ideas. I rewrote one section of one of the papers, a content analysis of news programming. I liked it, until it was no longer likable. I added a few things, rearranged some things, tightened it up and pronounced it likable. Now that particular paper needs only its final copy editing.

Another paper needs a little attention and I've sought out, via Email, the help of one of the lead guys in that particular research field. The Yankee and I have stumbled onto this idea that is pertinent, but devoid of a lot of supporting literature. That's great, because we can figure it out ourselves. That's a little intimidating because we have to figure it out ourselves. Fortunately she's found the one man around who's apparently done scholarly research in the area. And the paper is now eight years old, but in an area where eight years is a lifetime.

So I wrote him last night asking about about a copy of this updated paper -- I'd seen mentions of it, heard rumors and studied pictographs on cave walls that hinted at this paper, but could not find the document itself. He wrote back this morning, asking a few questions about what we're doing, who we're working with and sent the new paper, which will be a great help to the cause.

After that there's one other little piece of writing to do and I'll feel all caught up again. Until the next time I feel behind.

Watch Battlestar yet? Can I spoil it for you? I watched it Friday night as it aired and loved it. A few times I found myself leaning forward in anticipation for whatever was going to happen next. I'd already decided that I loved it, but was ready to read the essays on why I shouldn't love it and find myself agreeing with them. This was all in the first hour.

Around the 75 minute, I felt, they could have ended the show, but there was that entire planetside prologue to work through. Like others the idea of abandoning all technology on a whim is too pat an answer. These are a people who could get along over nothing in space yet they suddenly decide "Sure, we can ditch the quonset huts, guns and antibiotics to melt into this pre-language society."

Not buying it. Cavil's end? It was funny, but out of character. You have to get rid of the antagonist before you can do the happy ending though. The angels as a deus ex galactica? That's a tough one, but OK. The post script message was hard to swallow, but "You know It doesn't like that name" was great.

That leaves only the characters of a character driven show, and how they come to choose the places on the planet they come to choose. Shouldn't they have at least mentioned who went to pre-historic Europe? And if Galen Tyrol really went to Scotland shouldn't he have built a nation of tinkering projects and whimsical inventions? I'll not ask the questions of archeology.

But I liked it. There were many strengths, particularly tying together all of their random philosophy and prophecy. As it has been throughout the series, the strengths have been strong enough that the occasional shortcoming could often be overlooked. I'd like to say I knew the ending, but I'd been guessing the ending for months and I had to be right eventually. I kept coming to the conclusion that there was no way they could escape the story and keep the fanbase happy, but it would seem they did that, and so it was a successful ending. Now I'm just waiting for the last season to come out on DVD.

And then the George Lucas, digitally re-remastered, full set compendium complete with a swatch of a flight suit and paint flecks from a Viper. This will be followed by the full set, complete with the podcasts, webisodes and media collection all delivered to your door in a box in the silhouette of the Galactica itself. And don't forget the requisite extended episode versions. Or the movie releases.

They auctioned off fake products from fake product placement in the last few weeks, what do you expect?

And that was last week, along with the rest of the above, and some plant watering and just the tiniest bit of house cleaning and stuff straightening. And a fair amount of sleep.

Today it was back to campus. Met with a colleague as we plan to put Step One of next year's paper in place. Sent out a few Emails, wrote a few Emails, made a list or two. I'm making lots of lists these days. Most everything gets accomplished on the lists, lest Something Bad happen.

Oh. I also registered for classes for the summer and fall. This is all done online now, as it should be. When I was in undergrad it was done by phone. My freshman year, in fact, was the second year of the phone system. It was still so new that we all had to watch a dreadfully painful VHS on how to use the phone system.

And then at midnight, or as we learned, minutes before midnight, we'd all fight against our peers to try and secure one of the four phone lines put in place for the scheduling process. It was a race, with course availability and, ultimately, when you might perchance graduate on the line. Registration night, for the A-1 specific types, was never much fun. Even still it was better than standing in long lines stretched across campus.

For grad school we also registered online, though the program was so small we may as well have just shown up. In fact we might have. I hold no memory of registration there. Today I registered online. Click a term, select a class, check your work. Done. In this way colleges are making at least the one thing convenient for the students. A great deed has been done this day. I have nine hours in the summer and eight in the fall.

This evening the 24 promo promised that I'd be unable to breathe by the end of the hour. I did not find myself in an asphyxiated condition at the end of the hour-long period - in fact breathing at the gym this morning was harder than this week's installment.

Trip got demoted from a starship engineer to a port security officer. Jack Bauer helped seal his fate, and then saved his life. Tony Almeida disliked so much Jack's going off book that he allowed himself to be captured. Jack stole the weapon of mass plot device from the bad guys who were trying to steal it from the port. He drove it away in a big truck until noticing a blinking light on the container. He calmly stopped the big truck and checked it out, finding a leaking valve and some ominous hissing.

He did the old hold your breath trick to seal the valve, but when he got the job done the bad guys came along and stole the weapon of mass plot device back away from him again. The virtual hot potato is now en route to the bad guys' boss who assuredly wants to do bad things which will, somehow, let his mercenaries get a lucrative government deal. At the end of the episode Jack had to call back the FBI and say that the bad guys are now a little bit badder, and also he's been exposed to ... something.

The promo for next week's episode, which will sure make me gasp after all of this breath holding, ended with an extra saying "I've got the results from Bauer's blood sample."

I'm going to be very upset when we learn his skin has been contaminated with a fine coating of dehydrated milk.

Tomorrow: No class, but still lots of fun. Come along for the ride, won't you?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The blog is on spring break, meaning I'm looking for an easy way to make it through a relatively uneventful week. Solution: Photo and a brief description.

Beautiful day today. Two things are happening here. A wasp found a way into that narrow space between the window screen and the window. There's the tiniest of gaps in the corner. I tried to free the wasp -- because we all need insect karma -- for a life of pollinating and wasping. While all this was going on the kitty got interested.

She likes view and loves an open window. There's an entire world of sensations and sniffs that she can only dream about. I like to think the spring and autumn, when the weather is mild and the windows are flung open, gives her plenty of daydreaming material.

This is deliberately gauzy. I shot it through the curtain because the light and the window frame were making fun shadows.

Otherwise today seemed filled with working on papers. Unless I was not working on papers. Finally got happy with one. That will leave me to concentrate on a few others.

And the blog, too. While I've enjoyed this easy little format, it'll be business as usual starting with the Monday entry.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The blog is on spring break, meaning I'm looking for an easy way to make it through a relatively uneventful week. Solution: Photo and a brief description.

I spent a long time on the phone today. During some part of that I realized I needed a photograph for the vacationing blog. Yes, even the half speed version of the site was looking to cut corners.

This is my mom on speakerphone, telling me all about her trip to Georgia. The Yankee returned to town today from Georgia as well so we had dinner and assorted silliness. Good way to end a week.

Tomorrow, though, will be another photograph. I like this format, but I can't stick with it forever. I'd start another blog for it, but that'd just be more to do. Oh, the dilemmas of life, eh?

Friday, March 20, 2009

The blog is on spring break, meaning I'm looking for an easy way to make it through a relatively uneventful week. Solution: Photo and a brief description.

That's the exhaust pipe on my car. The tail lights were inspired by jet fighters, the exhaust pipe inspired by simple geometry.

The car received a bit of regular maintenance today. That's how beautiful spring Fridays should be spent, in dusty, broken chairs at your mechanic's place. A "check engine" light had recently come to life. So down to the shop where the guy plugged the car up to a computer.

When the two machines finally started talking the code that the car communicated meant "tighten the gas cap." The gas cap was tight already, but this seems to be a regular feature of my model of car. Overnight pent up gases from the fuel are supposed to be let out through a special filter. If the gas cap isn't tight enough the evaporation happens through both directions which the sensor finds as an error. So he reset the warning light, winked and told me to have a good day. Three minutes, easy fix, no bill.

The next time I cranked the car the warning light was back on again. So I'll go back someday soon. Sigh.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The blog is on spring break, meaning I'm looking for an easy way to make it through a relatively uneventful week. Solution: Photo and a brief description.

I found myself watching a few DVDs today. And when you watch more than one all the details can get blurry.

Get it?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The blog is on spring break, meaning I'm looking for an easy way to make it through a relatively uneventful week. Solution: Photo and a brief description.

Auburn hosted, and defeated the University of Tennessee-Martin 87-82 in the first round of the NIT tonight. Martin wears football and basketball uniforms very similar to Auburn, and Tiger fans have seen them both first hand in the past six months. UTM has a talented basketball team but Auburn survived a late rally to advance. They'll host another game now and, if all goes well, could be home for a third game before a finals round trip to New York City.

That seemed lax, even by the hardly exacting spring break standards of this site (which are being made up as I go along), so here's another one. I picked this book up at a library sale recently. I haven't read it yet, but I did skim some of the chapters. I spent one night recently scanning all the graphs and charts for a colleague.

And while I haven't been reading this book today I have been doing a bit of school work this week. A bit.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The blog is on spring break, meaning I'm looking for an easy way to make it through a relatively uneventful week. Solution: Photo and a brief description.

My dogwoods are blooming. Or, one of my dogwoods is in bloom. We planted four years ago, all in a nice row in the front yard. One died. Another is about as diminutive as can be. I believe it actually shrinks with each passing year. The fourth one, after years of growth, has proven itself to not actually be a dogwood.

This one, though, this one's doing just fine as another beautiful spring draws near.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The blog is on spring break, meaning I'm looking for an easy way to make it through a relatively uneventful week. Solution: Photo and a brief description.

I love old books. These are some of the old yearbooks that I collect. Oh, to go back in time and see your campus eight decades ago. To say nothing of the hairstyles. Each book is about an hour's detour into the past, from the sports to the general activities and even the ads. Especially the ads.

These are all from Auburn, of course. One day I'm going to scan all the covers, since they are all works of art -- except for the 1980s, a regrettable era of cover art. Until then, you can look through a few here. You can check out the university's digital collection as well.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Rain. Light rain. Overcast.

Was it something we said, Spring? We can change? Just give us a chance. We know we've had some difficult times between us, but beneath it all we've always had fun. Remember that time we took a trip to the mountains? And that time at the beach? There are good days between us, Spring. Please come back ... tell you what: Sleep on it, think about it, come back with sunny skies and warm temperatures tomorrow. You know we can make it work.

Oh next week will be much better -- I've studied the forecast -- so this appeal to the gentle generosity of the season will make me look like a prophet next week when we see lots of sun and 70 degree days.

On the other hand it sounds like I'm complaining about the rain, but I'm not. Just a few weeks ago my corner of the world quietly emerged from a two-year drought. That's not fair. We'd been in the yellow for months. Yellow means abnormally dry. But we finally sneaked back into the white on the drought monitor recently, meaning I can wash the car guilt free. One of these days soon I'll do that very thing.

But not until the rain clouds go away. No need to tempt fate there.

Dinner tonight with The Yankee was an impromptu Pie Day. We were beginning to feel guilty about having not seen Super Waiter Ward in a long time. And it has obviously detrimentally impacted him.

Wards doing fine. He introduced us to two new people working the floor, which made me wonder about all the other people that have come and gone. What is the turnover rate in a barbecue restaurant anyway? Outside of four or five people I don't recognize any of these new faces.

[Cuts off "Back in my day" transgression before it can began.]

Journeyed to the dollar theater tonight as well. We were torn between Valkyrie and Seven Pounds. The dozen word review, carefully calibrated to give you everything you need to know about the film in a minimum amount of time:
Well done movie turning your best mood into depression. Starring Will Smith.
That last sentence is the most important part as we half chose this one just to see what the mysterious promos were all about. After a few minutes the guesses began and about halfway through you might figure the whole thing out. And then you realize Oh, they couldn't advertise that even if it does star Will Smith. No one would pay to see this.

Hence the mysterious promo.

And now, my favorite theatrical device, Twittering away about the movie, copied and pasted for your reading pleasure in the blog:
Stimulus marketing at the $1 theater.

The wall curtains are torn. This would have terrified me as a child. I had a big imagination about what hid behind the curtains.

What do Kid Rock and the National Guard have in common? I mean beyond that regrettable promotional song ...
That question may never be answered, unfortunately.
I think Will Smith's character is like Bruce Willis in Sixth Sense. Just waiting for the kid to come along and straighten out the confusion.

If the theory I've been developing over the last 30 minutes about Seven Pounds is accurate this is one depressing film.

My morbid guess was right. @Ren_ and I decided between Seven Pounds and Valkyrie. Valkyrie might have been more uplifting.

I kid. Seven Pounds is a very poignant movie.
And the very end of it is, if you're a sucker for that sort of thing as I am. The children's chorus was subtle and hilarious and Woody Harrelson looks as strange with Will Smith contacts as he does with a blind man's contacts earlier in the film.

After the film we had a long talk about the lessons derived from the film. They include: banana peels make for an excellent garden trick, your organs weigh seven pounds, Barry Pepper continues as a fine character actor and Blackberries cause car crashes.

We'd called it The Pursuit of Happyness II, but this isn't that. (Though a lot of the cast and crew worked both movies, including the director.) In fact, the largely accurate tale of a German officer with a winning, Crusian smile trying to assassinate Hitler because "I can do the job better" might have been a bit happier.

Seven Pounds, though, is another chance to shake your head at the thought of Will Smith the rapper, and to depress everyone around you in a very delicate way.

And I really have to remember that tip about banana peels.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Friday might have been the last full work day for a while. We're on Spring Break at Samford next week. I'll stop by campus and do a few things here and there, but it won't be bad. Alabama is on break too -- my last class was Thursday, and I don't return until a week from Tuesday -- so this is nice all the way around. Doing half of one thing when the norm is doing two things means that, no matter how you write it up, you're on break.

So yesterday was the wind down day. I had lunch at Momma Goldberg's with The Yankee and a friend from The Birmingham News. We ran into some of the Samford students there since Momma G's is just over the mountain. We had sandwiches and talked design and waited out the rain.

After lunch it was back to Samford for an afternoon of writing and research. The Yankee and I are putting the final touches on a book chapter on new media use in modern political campaigns. It was very favorably reviewed by the editor and a peer review, so the changes weren't too harsh and the additions aren't overly intrusive.

We wrote this chapter in the fall and it has only recently made it back to us, so the memory of the things I typed has long since been burned to a backup storage drive in my brain. There's a dusty corner of the mind holding this information, but I couldn't access it yesterday -- we'll blame the rain and the Fridayness of it all. It turned out to be a good thing, though, because I had to read the chapter as if it were new. In some places I found myself thinking "I wrote that?" In other places I found myself thinking "I wrote that?"

So that's a book chapter for the vitae. What's remarkable about the topic, though, is that I wrote that centered around the political conventions. There's one segment in there that draws a line to the day after Barack Obama accepted the Democratic nomination, but now that seems horribly dated. In a way it was a good thing that the revisions were done now because without mention of what the Obama campaign did between August and November there's no heft to the argument at all. It ended up with a nice symmetry though in that the first online fund raising success story was the 2000 John McCain campaign, but the standard bearer is now Barack Obama, who so handily thrashed McCain in terms of online strategy in the 2008 race.

And now that we've resubmitted the thing I can easily think of a half-dozen other ideas that should have been included. Maybe the publisher will need a second edition.

Also last night I managed to make it home in time to watch the final few minutes of the Auburn game in the SEC basketball tournament. They faced Florida after a first round bye and trailed for a while, but pulled ahead in the second half. If Auburn was not on the NCAA tournament bubble they got a bit closer with that victory.

Losing today to an inspired Tennessee didn't help the argument though. So the Tigers are probably going to be in the NIT next week. No matter what happens, those guys have played their hearts out and turned a bad start into an amazing season. They deserve a lot of credit for that turnaround. A return to the postseason after a years long drought sounds like a nice reward.

I managed to watch Battlestar last night, improving my trend of catching the show closer to its original air time. Still no spoilers here, but you'll find they've left every "question" to be "answered" to the final two hours. Which means it won't happen. I'm sure the finale next week will be great, but I'm no longer hoping to have a nice tidy package of solutions.

And that's odd considering how they've had a very finite date for all of the storytelling arcs now over two seasons and three years. It isn't as if this snuck up on anyone, or the network made a sudden decision to end the show. But still, the "everything culminates with a three-year-old who's had four lines" seems a bit hasty.

I'm ready to be proven wrong. It's all happened before and it'll all happen again, after all. The biggest challenge will be in watching it in real time. Commercials are hard to endure after you stop watching television live. And now I have to do it over a two-hour period wrapping up one of the best, darkest, most challenging and quixotic shows ever on television?

@BrianMcAlister said this about last night's episode on Twitter, "I refuse to watch any more #BSG until the show gets even darker. Oh, there we go. Watching resumed." And that was before the shaky, frail, on death's door president answered the admiral's attempt at a Henry V speech. It was one of the few moments in science fiction where you might get misty eyed. And next week will only be more visceral, I'm sure.

But you won't get every answer you crave.

Anyway. Today. Gym this morning, where I'm trying to grow accustomed to the bike. I pedal hard, make miles, sweat a lot and desperately want to invent a customized comfortable bike seat.

Grocery store this afternoon to buy a few things. Fruits, meats, the particulars for a few specific meals versus the more widespread shopping for the week. It makes the trip much faster, at the very least.

Chill and damp all day, turning into rain in the evening time. At one point tonight we received the movie rain. One moment all is well the next moment small animals are drowning without warning. We didn't have the lightning so customary in cinema that is meant to explain to audiences "Don't be surprised by the 6,000 gallons of rain we're about to spray on the leading actor." We just got the 6,000 gallons of rain.

It died down and then returned again.

And that's pretty much been the day. That and the boneless slices of baked Paula Deen.

Also, you'll find all of last night's gymnastics photos in the new March photo gallery.

Tomorrow? Well that'll be an adventure you'll want to read about here.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Ricki Lebegern earned a 9.875 on the beam for Alabama tonight in a tri-meet against visiting North Carolina and Oklahoma. The Tarheels struggled early, so the meet came down to the Sooners and Bama. It was a good, close battle between number five Alabama and 11th ranked Oklahoma until the final floor routines. Alabama won on senior night scoring 196.725 to OU's 196.525 and UNC's 193.225.

Photos and more tomorrow. Happy weekend!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

It should be noted that on Monday we celebrated a high temperature of 80 degrees. This morning we enjoyed a low of 42 degrees. The only thing odd about this discrepancy is that it took three days for the mercury to fluctuate by 40 degrees.

It might have gone without notice had it happened, literally, overnight. Just part of the season and all of that. Spread over the week, however, I'm left to recall the beautiful Monday, the overcompensating warmth of the office Tuesday, the cold in that same room Wednesday and the sweater I wore today.

Only sinus medicine manufacturers could enjoy such conditions.

Good news this morning from the dean. The rest of my coursework has been given the once over and nod of approval. This is not even a formality, but rather a coping mechanism so that I'll know what I'll be doing between now and July 2010. He liked the proposed classes, there's only one stumbling block and if we can get that little bump smoothed over in some literary use of the mixed metaphor it will be full steam ahead in the doctoral work.

I've shown the schedule to a few classmates as well, they've all pronounced it imminently achievable. We'll call it a win.

Class today was delayed while we waited on a student the department is recruiting. We sat for about half an hour wondering why some people get recruited and others -- meaning all of us -- did not. The jokes seemed to be in a generally good humor, but you're talking about a room full of people accustomed to being noted for their intelligence who now hear that someone else seems to be valued for meals and personal meetings and a two day tour.

On the other hand, the prospective student was to join the class to get a feel for the seminar format and since this is a very specific course the professor took it upon his broad shoulders to hit the highlights of the semester thus far. If you were listening closely you could find a little validation in there. This stuff sounds familiar. I understand that. It is sinking in.

So another win then.

Lunch at Rama Jama's, the greasy spoon that flips the greasy hamburgers literally in the shadow of the football stadium. It is one of those paraphernalia laden places which are always a lot of fun. The place gets its name from the popular Alabama cheer and the decorations from the local past time.

If you've never been you can get a quick video shot from just about where I sat today.

On the men's room door there's a newspaper clipping of Nick Saban being hired. Inside the restroom there's some great World War II era clippings and an old football program the 1920s. By the soda machine there's a collage of papers from Paul Bryant's death. By one of the doors there's a full page documenting his 315 win. There are 45s hanging from the ceiling celebrating the man's career. He will never be able to die.

Behind you when you order there's a great landscape portrait of the campus and faculty and students from 1929. There's a phone booth, not especially old, but certainly uncommon at this point. Tucked away in a corner is an old GE phone operator booth. If I'd had more time I would have asked the owner why.

Maybe this was formerly the region's telephone switching hub. Perhaps his mother was the person moving the patch cords. Now the world will never know, because I was in a rush. The hamburger was good, the milkshake was better, so odds are that I'll visit again at some point. I'll let you know.

My own class was a bit of a struggle this evening. We were all ready for spring break and the IT guys who'd promised to add a particular piece of software in the lab, but did not, must have already skipped town too. So we did what we could. After next week's break we'll try to make up for it all.

After class I ran into @joelhwilliams near the Samford food court. He's an architect in town that I've known via Twitter for a year or so. Despite working only a few blocks apart (while I was still at we've never met in person before this chance encounter. Now he's taking a professional development class on campus during the evening. I'll probably bump into him again. Hopefully I won't blurt out the @ symbol the next time I see him.

And now, after a bit more office work, making it home and enjoying a nice pasta dinner I'm catching up on Life on Mars via the internet. The novelty of that may never wear off, nor should it. I'm watching a show about 1973 on my computer. They'd find it amusing too.

Finally, there are a few new entries to the 1996 Glomerata section. Follow that link to start at the beginning or, if you're all caught up, join us in progress where we delve into the not too distant past and make fun of their technology. Because that never comes around again, nope.

Tomorrow: Muddling through the end of the week and dreaming about doing less during Spring Break. Its a tough life, but then again it really isn't.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Wednesday, as you know, is newspaper day. This week's Samford Crimson. There's talk of spring break fun and spring break missions.

The Sciencenter got a new name this week. Just as well, Sciencenter was too painful a word to contemplate. The Crimson also has video of the unveiling of Probst Hall, named in honor William Self Probst, who made a handsome donation to the pharmacy program. He's also a Samford graduate and is something of a celebrity in pharmacy circles. You don't think of them that way, but they have their own stars. Ask your local guy the next time he's handing you his refills. There are pharmacy A-listers and your guy wants to be one, sure as the lid on your pill bottle is childproof.

There was a model search on campus and Samford is packing away the basketball gear for the men and the women for another year. Now there's baseball and softball and that long stretch of summer between those and football practice.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves here. Can't think of summer and long for autumn before the trees turn green again. That just wouldn't do.

Spent most of today writing on this and that, preparing for class tomorrow and wondering about class tonight. I'm starting the audio topic tomorrow, which probably won't go far since everyone will already be on their mental spring break. Thursday evening classes are challenging in that regard. So we'll hit the high points, do a little housekeeping and let everyone get on with their packing.

My class was fun this evening, but they usually are. The room is full of bright, funny people. Everyone manages to get a little delirious around 7 p.m., meaning the second hour of theory building can be challenging or punchy, just depending on who's still focused at the moment.

The Yankee and I had dinner in Tuscaloosa to end the night. Logan's is getting sneaky with their two-for-$13 meal. They no longer boast of the promotion, but you have to ask about it. And the waiter who handed over the $13 menu was no master of body language. He was none too happy, instantly recognizing we were cheap, which would kill the table for him.

You have to feel bad for that guy. He's a college kid too, working in a steak house of all places and now three nights a week he can't get any tips because the average check per table is around $17. He got me back; my veggies were cold.

The TiVo failed me tonight. I bring this up only because the problem is the cable box's. The two machines don't get along and I naturally fault the cable provider, since TiVo has never done anything to hurt anyone. I've gotten quite good at ridiculing Brighthouse, however, and if only I had the energy for it I'd do it some more here.

Grouse, grouse, grouse. Brighthouse, you've earned my grouse.

And now I'm going to go finish my homework for tomorrow's media psychology class. Nothing puts you in the spring break mood faster!

Oh, my new digital recorder arrived today. We'll have to take it out for a test drive soon. I know you'll be ready for that.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Back to class today. We had no Tuesday class last week. The week before there was no Wednesday night class. This is the first week of the last three weeks when I'll be in each class. Next week is spring break.

I could get used to this.

Met a very nice professor today who teaches students radio production and audio editing via Cool Edit. I sat in a booth and watched her coach a timid student through it all. I miss the feel of a studio -- the goods ones are a bit dark and mysterious, but bright in all the right places -- but I don't miss the mixing board or Cool Edit. I have both in my home office. I could use them more but mostly I hear lectures, conversations about journalism and road noise these days. Who'd want to log on to hear all of that?

Started a new book that will become Tuesday morning reading. I have a bit of time from when the carpool arrives at Alabama and when my class begins. So I'm reading Walter Cronkite: His Life and Times, which is the commercial version of Dr. Doug James' dissertation from Walden University. Dr. James worked on the book version during his stay at Auburn, just a few years before my time on the Plain.

I listened to Cronkite's autobiography on CD during a trip to Florida a few years ago. Since I retain little while listening and driving I only remember two anecdotes and one of them isn't even Cronkite's, but rather Bob Schieffer's. Clearly this is a necessary read.

James, the author, also taught at Spring Hill College in Mobile after retirement and still leads a class at Enterprise-Ozark Community College in south Alabama. To their credit, EEOC has front page links to blogs by their SGA president and pageant winner. They also have a frightening cartoon weevil across the top of the page. That's Bobar, a further testament to the notion that the good people of south Alabama have a sense of humor about their history.

But I ramble. Lunch was at one of the 9,432 burrito places around Tuscaloosa. Class was fine, except that it seems we are very impressionable creatures, prone to the power of stereotyping. Marketers know this, they've known for generations, but the common public seems unaware of the impact. I'd like to think that I'm immune, but then I'm merely a small part of the common public.

We hit traffic on the way out of town, but this was the progressive kind of traffic. They were actually working under the pretense of fixing some of the potholes on the interstate and such noble and necessary work is forgiven, even if the carpool was forced to briefly detour.

There came really good news at Samford today. And since I can't especially talk about it just yet this is getting buried in the chronological telling of things rather than the lead of the entry. You'll get an update on this next fall. Approximately six people who read this will know, or can guess the goings on. I'm building up suspense for the other three of you.

There came tragic news from the northern and the southern parts of the state today. There was a murder -- possibly a murder-suicide in the Huntsville suburb of Madison. A former colleague lives just a few doors down the street, so he was delivering the bad news. The homeowner was described as the Mr. Wilson of the neighborhood, as in "You kids get off of my lawn!" Where the story goes in the next few days will be telling. That's a nice little neighborhood where things like that don't happen, now full of kids wondering why things like that have to happen.

Everyone in south Alabama is wondering the same thing, where a man went on a raging shooting spree across two communities, killing nine before dying himself. That'll be the deadliest mass murder case in the state's history, which is a really crappy record to have to keep. I briefly covered the previous record killing, and we've all seen these stories enough to know this story will take on one of two themes, both of them senseless.

A lot of our out-of-state students spent part of the evening reassuring family and friends that that little town is hours away. After that they attacked their spring break issue. They're on break next week as well. I've only an idea, as is custom, of what is going to be in the paper. I suspect it will be covered in breaky things about breaks and breaking spring break.

Judging by the way the students have been talking they should have ran these stories weeks ago. Our students take nice trips that require advanced planning. Some are going to Boston, others to Florida, still more out of the country. These aren't the people who find themselves on Wednesday thinking "Oh yes, Spring Break is next week. Whatever shall I do?"

The Globetrotters are on campus, but I did not go. The tour is using the Hanna Center as a venue, and otherwise have nothing to do with Samford. Buy your tickets through Ticketmaster, where the going rate for courtside starts at $68. Pretty steep for a night of fun for the kids.

And since this has been random enough, and since we vaguely touched on history, and since this has been stuck in my Email inbox for a week or so, I now present you with pictures from the previous campus of Samford University. These are believed to be the few surviving color images of the campus from that period.

Also included are some shots from the early days of the modern campus in the late 1950s. One of the oldest colleges in the state, Samford has a colorful history, having survived two fires, two moves and "the partial paralysis of the Civil War and Reconstruction."

Samford started in Marion, but moved to a young and booming Birmingham in the 1880s as Reconstruction choked the Black Belt dry. During the war 102 soldiers were buried behind the buildings on campus, but disinterred and moved to a proper cemetery a few years later. If the old campus still stood you could imagine the ghost stories leaking into every crevice of the old place. I just discovered the MMI archivist site, if you're interested in more on the history of Samford (nee Howard College):
It appears that Howard College, MMI’s predecessor, remained open during part of the war, at least, but that the college was non-military (if not Confederate in spirit!). Yes, the Confederate Breckinridge Military Hospital utilized the campus in 1863-1865, and Federal troops entered the town of Marion in 1865. However, there is no mention of the Howard College Cadet Corps participating in any of this; perhaps, because they were non-existent!
That's one thing Samford doesn't have today, ghost stories. Not that that's bad. Some nights it is around midnight when I leave. I like knowing that the guy polishing the floor at the other end of a long hallway is a corporeal being.

Anyone else spooked yet?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Warm today, and getting warmer still. Until it stops, which will be the exception that proves the rule against those who would argue that the climate, she's a changing.

Bringing in the volatility of spring flips a lot of those arguments somehow. Tomorrow we'll have the 80s. By Wednesday night we'll have enjoyed a 40 degree temperature swing.

By Friday we'll all be sick again because of it.

The morning began with a meeting about a meeting and a press conference tomorrow. It seems that one item is being moved here and another item is being moved there. Thus sufficiently comfortable that everyone was scanning the same piece of pulp the meeting was adjourned.

And then there was another meeting, brief and fun and more personal than anything else. The very nice lady that cleans this part of the building sometimes comes to visit for a few minutes. She'll sit down and rest, since it is toward the end of her shift, and tell me about her son or her second job or her medical concerns. There's a short story in just what she randomly chooses to talk about, I'm convinced.

The morning ended with another meeting. This meeting was about the first meeting. And once those two meetings were put together and everyone was examining the same piece of papyrus the meeting was adjourned. Other meetings, on the phone, were then held in discussion of that meeting.

It was a morning of meetings. But they are quick and to the point. You've been in that meeting that lasted two hours when it should have gone 16 minutes. These meetings are the opposite of that.

I also took a survey for a student today who must interview someone from each generously distributed demographic. For the purposes of this study I'm a young adult until I turn 40. This definition strikes me as perfectly plausible. For the next seven years and many months. After that it will strike me as an incredibly short sighted definition.

But the survey involved self-perceptions of the quality of life and I probably came off as just about the most happy-go-lucky person around. I'm fine with that. Life is good. I get to have meetings and teach students and help them do surveys and listen to their jokes and stories and I have my health and my friends and my family. All of this and I'm a young adult.

There's a lot of quality in that life.

The rest of my day was spent in deep journalistic thought, preparing for my class, considering a class I have to take soon, incessantly tracking the delivery of a new digital recorder and so on. And, also the Tao of War Photography.

The Yankee returned from Oklahoma City where she'd been attended an academic conference the past few days. She stopped by campus to visit briefly and that was nice.

We had an impromptu Pie Day this evening, since no one has convened a Pie Day in these parts for some time. There were rumors of a Pie Day to the north over the weekend, but that couldn't be substantiated as of this writing.

There was no problem parking, no problem getting in and that's the benefit of Pie Day on a Monday, I suppose, even if it doesn't rhyme as it should. Ward wasn't there, and a lot of the regulars were out, but we're such a part of the routine that we still knew at least two of the people working. I left for home with a big box of leftover potato for sometime later in the week.

At home there was 24, where Bill Buchanan makes a hero out of himself. Never liked the character, but I've always enjoyed James Morrison's work. It's a shame to see him go, but by fighting a bad guy, wrestling away his gun and firing a round into a room flooded with gas the rest of the bad guys were then distracted and defeated by the one man assault team, Jack Bauer.

Initially Jack was going to make the ultimately sacrifice, but that would call into question the viability of the rest of the show. And we'd also have to wonder how Bill Buchanan -- who was too nice, too ethical and too willing to pass the buck for much action in the 24 universe -- could have handled a dozen bad guys on his own.

The president was saved. She reconciled with her daughter. There's more FBI-Jack Bauer tension. But somehow Jack manages to be freed from the customary "Congratulations and thanks for saving our lives in the White House, you're under arrest" proceedings so that he can go continue his interrogation of a senate member's chief of staff who -- brace yourself -- was on the take.

Also there's the anonymous business man pulling the strings. Until he gets a name we'll call him John Voight. (Wikipedia tells me his character's name is Jonas Hodges. The 24 wiki suggests he's an arms dealer and looking to manage the second coup of the day.

Jack could fix this, of course, but he got framed for murder while in the hospital. He's questioning a bad guy in bad shape and another bad guy loops the video feed, fooling the pensive good guys outside. The second bad guy, lurking in the ceiling, then throws a paralyzing gas into the room. He sneaks in while Jack is down and slits the first bad guy's throat.

If you've seen it once you've seen it a dozen times.

Jack then leaves the hospital, even thought the pensive good guys are trying to find him and arrest him for the murder of the hospitalized bad guy. Jack, naturally, calls the other good guys and says "I wuz framed!" and they're well on their way to believing him when the episode ends.

They have to believe him. Otherwise they'd have to arrest him for the seventh time of the day and, trust me, you do not want to see the paperwork involved with that sort of thing.

Elsewhere my face-ism research continues and I'm preparing for another week of classes. Tomorrow is media and body followed by a long fun night of newspapering. There's nowhere better to be, that survey I took this morning said so.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The sun came out, ever so briefly, but it was a day done in by haze. No matter, still beautiful in its own way. There were high temperatures and plenty of promises of things yet to come. I've now counted three ornamental trees blooming. We'll take it.

Spent most of the afternoon studying and watching basketball -- I never do this, but Samford and Auburn have pulled me into their respective post-season dramas.

The Auburn women, the SEC's regular season champions, lost in the conference tournament's final against a salty Vanderbilt team, 61-54. Auburn, expected to get a very high seed for the NCAA tournament, has lost three games all season. Two of them were to Vandy.

Samford lost two heartbreakers today. The men fell to homestanding Chattanooga in the Southern Conference semifinals, 81-70. The women, also in the SoCon semifinals, fell to Western Carolina 66-53. Neither team was expected to perform as well as they have in their first season of Southern Conference play, but they've certainly earned themselves some attention.

During the evening I spent some time with my old friend the diffusion of innovation theory. Nothing like looking for graphics that don't resemble bell curves for a little Sunday fun.

Capped the night off watching, for the eleventieth time, Roy Orbison and Friends. That show will never get old.

Particularly Crying, which features, maybe, the best moment in rock 'n' roll.

Also tonight, Discovery Channel featured a documentary on Flight 1549, which we're all fascinated by based on what went right. I caught the last 20 minutes or so and a few miraculously redemptive emotional moments in there. It is worth watching if you can catch it on again.

It was either tell you about that or tell you about valence in television commercials in the Limited Capacity Model of Motivated Mediated Message Processing model. Which do you prefer for your light blog reading?

Tomorrow: A new week. A busy week. Things will get done. Moods will be happy. Fun will be enjoyed, and so will the spring. You won't think less of me if I admit to enjoying Mondays, will you?

Hope yours is wonderful too!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The day of good intentions is paved over by the overwhelming urge -- after having slept in -- to take a nap on the sofa.

And so it was that two big ticket errands did not get attention today. That's OK. Both will still be there in the next week or so when I finally work my way around to them.

Instead today there was beautiful weather to enjoy, and movies and games to watch. Most notably Serie A from Italy, where I caught the Torino vs. Juventus game and dozed off during the second match.

Later in the evening I cheered on Auburn as they closed their basketball season with a dominating upset of LSU, winning 69-53. For a time that, two months ago, seemed to be on the verge of shopping for a new coach they've really come a long way to wrap up the season with 21 wins. After the game coaches for both teams argued the point that Auburn should get into the NCAA tournament.

They have a first round bye in the SEC tournament and how they perform there will probably determine whether they make it to the big dance. Either way, they've put together a great season through grit and talent and an absence of free throws.

The Auburn women, one of the best teams in the nation, defeated Tennessee in the SEC semifinals 78-58. That's the Vols worst SEC tournament loss ever and second-worst SEC loss in team history. Auburn is a basketball school all of a sudden ...

Samford, meanwhile, beat The Citadel 76-67 to advance to the semifinals in the men's Southern Conference tournament. The women play in their semifinals tomorrow.

Tonight I watched most of Waterboy, starring Jerry Reed and Kathy Bates, who often had their scenes rudely interrupted by Adam Sandler. Though, this scene strikes me as one of Sandler's finest bits of comedic acting. It's simple and real and doesn't strike you as far off the mark.

TubeChop, incidentally is my favorite new online video toy. Give it a YouTube URL and then move the markers to the parts of the scene you want to share with others. It condenses the video and gives you links and embeds. Instead of having to wade through 10 minutes of Waterboy, or me writing "Go there and move the cursor to 6:19 or so" you can see only the intended part. Brilliant!

One of the best parts of Waterboy remains the Lawrence Taylor cameo. Just a few weeks before the movie -- and LT's anti-drug message -- he'd been arrested again. Four people in the theater got the unintentional humor.

Saturday Night Live featured Dwayne Johnson and Michael Dean Anderson. Neither one of them can save that show. It is simply too far gone. So I turned off the television and set about replacing bulbs around the house -- anything to keep from moving all of the clocks up an hour.

I spent part of the evening leafing through a new Glomerata that was recently delivered, this one being the 1928 edition. It has to be handled delicately, but there's an age of history between its brittle covers. I love this ad, which harkens to a time when not being freakish was the way to go. Fob James Sr. is in there, as are most of the names stretched across modern buildings.

I'm sure I'll discuss 1928 more at some point, but now we must welcome back the 1996 edition of the Glomerata. As longtime readers will recall this has been a fun little look through three generations of Auburn history. I've scanned and made gentle jokes at the technology and progress from the 1950s, the 1970s and also my freshman yearbook, which is the 1996 edition. This has been on hiatus for a while, but I'm determined to finish the project in the near future.

So, you can see them all or start in 1996 or, if you actually remember this little project, you can pick up where we left off, covering some of the student activities of the time.

What's the point of all this? I love the goings on in the background in the old pictures. There's a connection there to buildings that students used way back when to when I used them. Through the larger collection of books I've been watching the campus and the student body grow throughout the 20th Century.

The 1996 book hasn't been as awe inspiring to me, but I suppose that's because I lived it. The funniest thing in that one is the fascination with technology; that was a period of rapid growth on the campus, but all of it is so painfully dated now. I'm trying to work through the end of the 1996 book, though, so that I can move on to the next big Glom project, which is scanning in all the covers. They're all beautiful -- except for some from the 60s and 80s -- and should be shared.

And so, yes, I spent part of Friday night scanning pictures from a dusty old book, and part of Saturday night editing those pictures and trying to think up interesting things to say about them. Documentation doesn't stop on weekends.

Finally, a note aimed at Auburn readers and (unfortunately) lost on others: Dean Foy is on Facebook. That's just too cool.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Friday's here. The weekend's here. Spring is here.

If only you could add winning the lottery to that list, eh?

Quiet day at the office, as most Fridays are. I spent my time working on a long-running project that will be guidelines and tips and hints for next year's staff at the paper. Have to get that finished up soon, in addition to another half dozen or so Dream Big projects rolling around in my head.

Had lunch with several members of the journalism faculty. They retold the story of when the university closed its journalism program in the early 1970s. Two of the players in the story were recently on campus telling the tale to some of the students. It had to do with a president with his hand in a little bit of everything, some coverage he didn't like and a group of student-journalists who decided to publish an underground paper.

That particular paper is a thing of legend, and how one faculty member lost his job over the larger controversy is surreal to the point of disbelief. It is a great tale, and one hard to imagine happening at Samford.

After work I stopped off for dinner where a well-meaning but generally busy and distracted woman gave me food and drink, some of the time. I spent the time reading Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack, about the run up to the war in Iraq. Woodward has access to everyone, and you're only left to guess who doesn't get attributed. He doesn't especially care for Dick Cheney, who doesn't really come off well -- not much surprise there one supposes. Everyone else feels pretty likable, and the intractable conflict seems to be between Don Rumsfeld and Colin Powell.

I'm not sure that there's much in the way new in the book (at least when reading it four years after it was published) but it is written well, and with authority. And it has that slow, agonizing tread of inevitability. You know what's coming. You'd like to apply a few years of retrospection on all of this and offer a little advice of your own.

Mostly, I'm curious to see Powell's reaction when they tell him, who fought the whole process, that he has to go make the case before the United Nations. If he doesn't throw a big fit I'll be disappointed.

Earlier this week I finished Max Wallace's The American Axis which is enough to make you never want to buy a Ford. The story details Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh and their Nazi sympathies. The farther we get away from the 1930s the harder it is to conceive of such a thing, but there it is in all of its ugly unapologetic truth. Except for the whitewashing, which is almost as troubling.

Last week I started reading Saving Savannah. It was a Christmas gift from The Yankee's mother and centers around the city during the Civil War and Reconstruction. I'm not far enough into this one, written by Jacqueline Jones, to offer such stellar reviews as you see above, but I'll let you know.

On the bedstand is Edward Bok's A Man From Maine from 1923. I picked up a first edition some time back at a used bookstore. Bok won a Pulitzer for his autobiography and then wrote this book on Cyrus Curtis' publishing empire. Bok would become Curtis' son-in-law and worked for him at Ladies Home Journal.

Ladies Home Journal, by the way, was the first magazine to have a million subscribers and the first to carry $1 million in advertising in one issue. One of Curtis' properties was The Philadelphia Inquirer. Odd timing that I'm reading about the growth of Curtis' empire when The Inquirer is bankrupt and seeking drastic help.

All of which is written here to distract you from the idea that I had dinner and came home for a long night of scanning things and watching Battlestar Galactica. Can't spoil it here. Kelly noted "Starbuck smiles, I get nervous," but I have an entirely different reaction.

I watched it live, with the commercials and found myself wondering how in the world we ever managed to tolerate those little intrusions in a time before TiVo. I kvetched recently about obvious product placement in 24, but that's a reasonable tradeoff for no commercials.

By the end of the episode we're left with the possibility of thinking of new names for the show to cover the last two episodes and still so much left unanswered.

As for the scanning, that's tomorrow's entry.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Today is my mother's birthday. Visited last weekend. Ordered flowers for delivery today and called her this evening. I wrapped up the day's calls because I've been busy. I dialed the number while heading home just after 7 p.m. following a full day on both campuses.

She told me of the bell ringing, and her receiving flowers from family friends, immediately followed by the bell ringing for flowers from my step-father, followed immediately by the bell ringing with someone outside holding my flowers. They all came from different florists. I didn't realize there were so many of them in their little town. On the other hand, since I now know that so many people send flowers I can skimp next time.

Or not.

She sent me a picture from her iPhone. That was a birthday gift, and she's enjoying it, as much as she pretends not to care for having so much available technology in her hand. The flowers were bright white, with a shock of green and red; the card wished her an early spring. She took the picture on her porch, so it couldn't have been too cold.

Checking. They hit 68 today, the warmest she's had in the eight birthdays she's been there. Maybe the early spring birthday wish is the way to go.

In today's media psychology class we radically changed the course midstream. It was interesting to watch -- because, again, in the comm building you can never be sure when you're playing a role in an experiment -- and when the professor used his best pitch and said the original plan would probably earn more scrutiny in the grading process he sold most everyone.

We were originally going to write a research proposal, now we'll do something of a test based on the habits of the LC4MP model of cognitive theory we've been discussing. It will be a lot like comps, he says.

On the plus side it gets us out of writing a paper -- I was going to do mine over spring break -- and gives us a little taste of what the comprehensive exams will be like when we're finished with the coursework. Instead of the comps format of four questions over 12 hours across four days we'll only answer one over the course of several hours. Contrary to what you may think of me here, I'm not that verbose.

Maybe he'll let me Twitter my answer.

After class ended, we chatted with an undergrad. I caught a quick lunch and headed to Samford to finish the last bit of preparation for my class.

I'd made several pages of notes, they jotted down a few of them as well, including Paul Bradshaw's brilliant take on the classic Five Ws and H as an online content/idea generator. (Click ahead to the 15th slide for that one.)

And then I set them loose editing photos for a slideshow. My original intention was just to have them demonstrate the technical ability to make the shows themselves, but these are overachieving and excited students. One add music and captions, another threw in some really great music and turned the exercise into her own "How to build a slideshow" entry for her blog. Another student was experimenting with natural sound featuring people walking, white noise chatter and bells chiming.

The class meets two hours a week, which I've decided is a big challenge, and at 3:30 on Thursday, obviously. By 3:30 they've had a long week and I've had a long week, but by the time we're finished with class I'm full of energy. Having a set of enthusiastic students makes class really fun.

What's more, one or two want me to teach them even more stuff. They're hoping to build portfolio sites, so it looks like I could soon be in the HTML-teaching business. What do you say? "No. You can't learn new things."

It is a great problem to have.

Less great problem to have is in discovering your friendly neighborhood cell phone store closes at 7 p.m. No one has phone problems in the evening it seems.

Dinner was at the local Mexican joint, because I was craving salt and a perpetually filled drink glass. It was an off-peak night for the restaurant. They did not have the handful of red shirted drink runners there. The waiter was a man of elegant bearing, and he carried himself with sophisticated importance. It seemed beneath, somehow, him to carry around a drink pitcher. But it was a nice, quiet little meal. Me, some tacos and Bob Woodward. I picked up one of his Bush Administration books at the Tuscaloosa library sell two weekends ago.

But that's just one of the new book developments in my world. I'll share details about those -- riveting, beautiful details for which you'll barely be able to wait -- tomorrow.

Tonight there was the TiVo, which was holding Trust Me. The show, which I gave up on last week, has been moved to Tuesday nights by TNT, who might also be giving up on the show. But, since the TiVo recorded it and I was determined to stare at the screen and do little else into the late night hours, I caved and watched it.

Kinda glad I officially abandoned the show last week. I doubt I'll cave again. There was also last night's Life on Mars -- complete with television technical difficulties straight from the 70s. About four minutes of dialogue took place behind a black screen. You never recall the goofs like that from the good ol' days until one of them surprisingly shows up in our perfect, modern mediated environment.

As I learned yesterday my media psych professor loves this show. He was set to tell me all about it, pronouncing it a good episode, and it was. He and I are the only people in the class watching the show, so I had to explain the premise of the cop from 2008 being hit by a truck and magically waking up in 1973 New York City, his paranoia about it and his efforts to get back home.

I really think my professor was going to make some class-related point, but no one else follows the program. Few people in America seem to be watching the show -- Wikipedia says half the audience has abandoned the show since its pilot. Earlier this week ABC announced they won't pick it up for a second season. That's fine, the show has always struck me as one with limited stories and the network has now set it up so that they can show an actual ending, which has been most of my curiosity with the program anyway.

According to Wikipedia the final episode will air on ... April Fool's Day. Hmmm.

That's pretty much it for today. Tomorrow wraps up a great week with a day full of productive plans. And I'll tell tall tales of the tales I'm reading. That's the best tease I've ever written. (Good thing I was never a tease writer, eh?)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

While doing some early morning face-ism data collection I ran across this headline from the wizards over at the Associated Press: Earth survives asteroid scare. The opposite, of course, being not surviving the asteroid scare. It is a tough choice, living another day by avoiding another Tunguska style impact or reading copy like the following story which tortured the expression "near miss" in the headline.

Remember your Carlin.

The story tells us the asteroid got very close, on an interstellar scale, passing well within the diameter of the moon's orbit. Also frightening is that the thing wasn't discovered until almost the last minute, but apparently it was immediately realized as no threat, begging the question how we survived a scare. One supposes it would be less of a story than it already is if one had no scare over which to survive. In doing so we're all cosmic victims.

The better for us to enjoy, without guilt, our federal bailout plan.

The entire day has felt like some other day. I've constantly reassuring myself that it is Wednesday which means it is OK that I am here, the alternative being that it is Tuesday and that I should really be there. Or Thursday -- my internal calendar is really unsure of itself today -- which would also require me to be elsewhere.

A few times while in the office I had to check the calendar, just to be convinced. An hour or two later that uncertainty would be back again. This is probably a quirk from not having the regular Tuesday class yesterday morning.

The Samford Crimson ran a paper today. On the website we had slideshows and videos that I've discussed here earlier in the week covering Winter Storm '09. They covered a very popular Christianity vs. Atheism debate which took place on campus last night, proving themselves once again capable of quick turnarounds. They're doing a great job there of late.

Campus is preparing for a big concert performance later in the week featuring composer Libby Larsen. The SU basketball teams are preparing for the Southern Conference tournament, which begins Friday. There's also the traditional passing of the wisdom from graduating seniors to underclassmen. "If I knew then what I know now."

Science should really get to work on this. Or, failing an invention to solve heartache and stress for so many, science could at least build a time machine. Or a cell phone that talks to the past.

That's a made for SciFi movie that will be debuting in May, no doubt.

The drive to Tuscaloosa was easier than normal. I must have somehow just mistimed the traffic. The hardest part was the sun, hanging perpetually in my line of site as I headed west. Otherwise it was smooth sailing for a change. Usually everyone you've ever thought could conspire against you has made their way into that path and set a leisurely pace for everyone behind them. But not this evening. I arrived four minutes early and noted that for the first time the sun was still up at 6 p.m. of the season. I'll take it.

In epistemology class tonight we talked about the readings on theory building not at all. Instead we discussed, for almost two hours, the comps and dissertation process. So, in a way, it was not a class but, in an equally important way it was the most important class in which many people in the room had participated.

I spoke with the professor, who's a funny and genuinely sweet individual after class about my potential schedule for the rest of my time on campus. He'll likely be on my advisory committee and is an invaluable resource.

I'm trying to plot out every class between now and the end of next summer, just for peace of mind. He looked at the schedule and, surprisingly, wasn't surprised at all to see it jotted down on one piece of paper. I was ready to explain how it'd just make it easier to know where I'm coming and going, but he accepted it and pronounced it a good and reasonable plan. I expected nothing less, The Yankee helped me design the thing and she's toward the end of her doctoral experience.

So now I'm reasonably confident about what every class will be between now and July of 2010. If all goes well and I can maintain my ambitious plan that will get me through the coursework on a fairly brisk pace.

The key, of course, being to do that and still like myself when I'm finished. But people who've already been through this particular ringer seem to think it doable. We'll find out.

Dinner with The Yankee was at Surin of Tuscaloosa. The food here is six percent spicier than Surin West on the Southside. And they served dinner on square plates. Also, the cologne on the man sitting at the next table was overpowering.

But he was on a big date. He had on a nice coat, his companion a pretty little dress and he masterfully smuggled in a gift when she was distracted by the waitress. I wanted to wait around to see what was in that box, but after dinner entertainment for me includes a half-hour drive home and, then, homework.

And that was a fun experience this evening. I just started writing and writing and the more I wrote the more I found that I thought should be written. I had to force myself to stop at the deadline, knowing that what I was writing at least demonstrated I'd been reading the material for tomorrow's media psychology class.

Hopefully the material is actually registering as well. If not I could blame it on my limited cognitive processing based on the resources allocated and the resources required.

For pages it goes on, just like that. Interesting stuff. I'll have a few questions for tomorrow and not only because I don't understand it tonight.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

No class today. So no discussions on media and body image, which means my image of media and bodies will be unaltered. The professor is spending that time in a series of one-on-one interviews with the students concerning their upcoming projects. She's a great professor.

Since I live so far removed from campus and my meeting would have taken less time than one half of the commute she's letting me visit with her on Thursday. She's a really great professor.

So I spent all of today at Samford. On my way in I caught John McEuen's show on XM. The guy founded the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, played the Opry -- not bad for a California boy -- helped invent performances for the five-string banjo, has won every award and worked with everyone.

And today he was playing tapes from his personal collection featuring a bluesy Greg Allman, pre-Allman Brothers Band. So there's John McEuen sitting in a room with Greg Allman playing Gram Parsons' songs. Some days XM is worth it.

So today and tonight was spent printing, reading, researching, writing, talking with the students over tomorrow's paper. It is all great fun, a big thrill and somehow manages to keep the energy levels high, at least until they just fall through the floor around 1 a.m. or so most days.

I found a couple of interesting journalism things that I put in blogs elsewhere tonight. First was Daniel Ucko the editor of The Poly Post, on modern journalism: "There is no direct conclusion here because things will keep changing." Students don't have all the answers either, but some of them see the questions quite clearly.

The column seems fairly reasonable, but he gets a bit hasty towards the end. Part of that is understandable, from his perspective, but unlikely to change. On balance it is a valuable read for journalists everywhere. People do get it. They'll be the ones that dream up the answers. They must first land in the right positions, however.

In the meantime, there are always free openware classes on journalism and technology. If only you could somehow apply those to your formal education, but some day we'll figure that out too.

Not much else to the day, but there will be more tomorrow. The middle of the week, I know, doesn't leave me with a lot of time for much beyond the two campuses. I'll just have to try harder to contribute to the number of diversions on the internet. The epistemology class will meet in the evening after taking last week off. I'll be preparing for my web journalism class and the paper will be out as well.

So come back then for more of the same, less of the different and the opposite of each.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The snow persists. Oh the roads are dry and the yards are clean, but on a few bumpers and a few rooftops you can still see the remnants of Jack Frost's reverie. The common theme appears to be "shade."

It is still fairly chilly, which has left some of the indirect sunlight surfaces to hang on to frosty hints of Sunday's fun. Everyone, since this is the South and snow seldom happens here, is still talking about it. The student-journalists at The Samford Crimson put together a slideshow. One of our broadcast students produced a nice snow video.

I see these as little bits of evidence that we're moving the program in the right direction. We're getting there! It is a fun challenge, but I'm looking forward to the day when I have just enough people who see the same vision and am waiting to see what they do with it after that. They're creative, smart, ambitious students in the Samford program. Now I'm just looking for the tipping point to turn momentum towards the website and, ultimately, toward a multimedia news platform.

The same debates are going on in professional newsrooms too. Sometimes it feels like we're all looking around and wondering from whom we should take our hints. Another fresh start of something new took place today at, which unveiled their latest adventure, NewsBreak. Their rotating hosts through the week, today's offering hosted by columnist and funnyman James Lileks.

When you can laugh out loud at something said on a news desk you're watching something done right. That's a pretty engaging show, for a first offering. Can't wait to see what they do with it.

By contrast late tonight I watched about four minutes of the first episode of Jimmy Fallon's show and quickly pronounced it a train wreck.

In between there was work and, on the way home, a trip to Target. I needed charcoal for the grill. My mother sent home filet mignon last night. They buy them at the local grocery store chain for about two bucks, stock up an entire freezer expressly dedicated to filet mignon when the desired sale price is reached and then send me home with as much as the luggage will bear.

Since the flight from Louisville to Birmingham only takes an hour you don't even have to ice the things. But you do need charcoal for your grill, as I did tonight. Only Target ... had none.

And no one working, either, from the looks of things. I made a lap around the store, toured the thin little grocery area twice and considered another lap around the store looking for the briquettes of magical glowing properties. That's when my favorite piece of economic stimulus advice kicked in and I noted, aloud, to no one (since no one works at the place) that Target should not make me work this hard to spend my money.

I did pick up a bottle of shampoo. And considered a box of laundry detergent, but the price seemed off. I checked out at Register One, the only one that was open, and that helpful young man did not think they had charcoal either.

It'll be in the 70s here late this week. People might want to grill out. They should probably get on that. Unless, of course, the absence of charcoal is Target's radical clean air initiative. If that's the case I can never shop there again.

At the nearby Publix -- where shopping is a pleasure -- I found some charcoal. And also detergent. The identical box at Target was listed at $17 and change. At Publix I got it for $9.

Maybe I shouldn't shop at Target, then.

After all of that I got the reluctantly shy charcoal. Took awhile, and some lighter fluid help, to burn. But cook it did. And the filet mignon, purchased in Indiana for $2 and flown in a suitcase back to Birmingham, was delicious.

With dinner there were two episodes of 24. The first one was unique in that the action was overshadowed by the storytelling. I say that, of course, even as Jack Bauer tortures a guy in the White House and then the place is invaded by foreign soldiers.

The bad guys show that successful plans are done in charcoal and that there are no camera's in the entire White House, except for in one key spot. You get a sense the show is moving toward its ultimate conflict, but it was one of the better episodes of the entire series because of the storytelling, where characters made a strong argument on both sides of Jack Bauer's -- and some topical major themes. I thought it was all handled very well.

The second episode saw the president emerge from her safe room in the White House under duress as her daughter was being threatened. Super Secret Service Agent Aaron Peirce got shot, but he's not out of the fight yet. There are a lot of hostages, including a senator, Jack Bauer, Bill "Ethically Opposed" Buchanan and other White House staffers. The FBI is doing something we can't be concerned about. There's a shadowy business man who's motivation hasn't yet been explained and the vice president, who always gets a bad rap in this show.

The more troubling thing is that we've now had two nuclear bombs go off on American soil in the show and now the White House has been broken into -- and that final scene tonight was heavy. Where do they go to top themselves next time?

Watched last week's Battlestar Galactica tonight as well. Starbuck hallucinates, and that gives people clues. The ship is falling apart and there's a Boomer twist you could see coming a mile away. This was another good and powerful episode, but the catch to having a finite run is that we all know we're down to the last few and you begin to wonder when they'll do what. It makes for a tense series of final episodes.

But the end, which is only the beginning, unless you in the middle of the end meaning you're really somewhere before the beginning, will have to wait until Friday. So I'm torn. I want to see what happens, but I don't want it to end. Which is why I have the DVDs, I suppose, so that it really is only the beginning.

And should I feel nostalgic there's always the BSG auctions. After this episode you could buy a tube of toothpaste, which is fictional marketing so cynical that it would make Rodenberry and his IDIC pins blush. Can't blame 'em for trying.

Tomorrow, no class, but a busy day all the same. Just makes them more fun that way.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Back home after a brief weekend with family in Indiana. They were forecast for snow, but had none. Here the week-out forecast called for spring, but the area received up to three inches of snow.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

Breakfast was at a Cracker Barrel, perhaps the nicest one I've ever seen. The gift shop area looked clean and uncluttered. The wood paneling was blond. They sold Indiana University apparel. No Notre Dame or Purdue gear, just the IU stuff, demonstrating some of the cultural differences between the two regions.

Another difference is that in deciding on Cracker Barrel we had to set out for Cracker Barrel. The nearest one is about 20 minutes away from my folks. Here at home perhaps the only restaurant I can find quicker than a Cracker Barrel is Waffle House. And so this leads us down a long, winding essay about the proliferation of Cracker Barrel in the part of the world known for that sort of dining and kitsch.

You'd think it would be spread elsewhere, as an ambassador of the lifestyle, a reasonably tasty window into the cuisine of the Appalachian people. Ultimately there are more of them here, dribbled in big globs along highly trafficked interstates, rather than smeared across the continent like jelly on a biscuit.

Hmmm ... jelly biscuits ...

The natural inclination, when dining out, is to have something different, and yet one of the most popular choices in this part of the world is merely a carefully constructed glimpse into the familial past. Or Applebee's or a visit to the Waffle House or IHOP.

Where is this conversation going? To the tea. Cracker Barrel, bless them, has sweet tea, even in south central Indiana. The place was sitting at an exit off the freeway that existed because some farmer a few years back got tired of the game and sold his land. There was a gas station, a Wal-Mart, a few satellite stores orbiting that, the Cracker Barrel and no real sense of why any of it was there.

This is Corydon, which has the excellent URL This is Indiana! It was the state's first capitol. You can see the corpse of the constitutional elm under which delegates got together to write the state's first governing document, all the while resisting the urge to carve their initials into the bark. The one battle of the Civil War fought in Indiana was fought here.

In that battle the Confederate soldiers in Gen. John Hunt Morgan's calvary came over the Ohio River from Kentucky, swept through downtown Corydon and marched north, directly over the land now occupied by the Cracker Barrel. Contemporary accounts from Corydon called Morgan's men murderers and horse thieves, but it could be that Morgan, from Huntsville, Ala., was just looking for ham and fried apples at a sensible country-themed restaurant.

Spent a quiet afternoon with the folks and Coco. We chatted a bit, watched a little television and generally took it easy. Grandmother came downstairs in the final scenes of Face/Off which, I learned, is an impossible movie to describe.

This evening I again bested the helpful TSA at their airport checkpoint. The contraband toothpaste was again not considered a threat to national security. Nobody move, I have Crest!

The flight was listed as on time, but I grew concerned, was the airport buried under a three-inch snow?

Shared the flight with local celebrity, nice guy and all around tall man Steve Crocker. He rides the desk at Fox, where The Yankee used to work in a previous lifetime, so they had the chance to catch up.

He said they were about to be sold again, for the second time in less than half-a-year. Even still, he said, they felt like they were in better shape than everyone else in the market. If anything that says a lot about the local television market right now.

"Yes, yes" I hear you say "but what about the snow?"

Good question.

Winter Storm '09 on

That was in Homewood, where we stopped for dinner. Prior to that little patch I'd found no snow on the roadsides.

At home I found this snow drift on the drive. It got warm in the afternoon after snowing hard this morning, so most everything on the west side of buildings had melted away. On the eastern side of the house I found a patches of the white stuff. The backyard, insulated from the sun by a full tree canopy, still held a lot of snow this evening.

I did my part by making a snow man.

And that's how I successfully dodged the last gasps of winter in the South. Now bring on spring!