Kenny Smith | blog

Thursday, April 30, 2009

I received today the opportunity to attend a sneak preview, next week of the new Star Trek movie on an IMAX screen. And here my dedication to scholastic excellence sneaks up and surprises everyone because, instead of watching Star Trek I'll be at the paper as the students put their last issue of the year to bed.

So I have Kelly to thank for the opportunity, and the entertainment people at the Spacedome to thank for making it on the one night I could not be in attendance.

That was the early morning. Mid-morning was dedicated toward my media psychology final. We were given one question, essentially two graphs, within the theoretical constraints of the LC4MP model, under which we've labored all semester. The question, essentially asks "Explain ..."

The purpose of this type of final was to help prepare us for comps. Mine isn't for another 15 months or so, but more practice now means it will be easier to do with later.

So for two hours and change I wrote about six pages, explaining four squiggly lines on two spare graphs. They're all about camera changes and information introduced and how the mediated message from a television show is interpreted by the lower functions of the brain in an appetitive or aversive way until, finally, so many changes and so much information induces cognitive overload.

Only I wrote about six pages on that. Now I'm in cognitive overload. I expect it to last through much of tomorrow as well.

I had a class to teach today as well. My students are wrapping up their semester and are now putting together their video interviews. Within the next week they'll put together their final project, which I've helpfully designed to be thorough, but simple. They all like this idea. I playfully reminded them to remember that come evaluation time.

The videos are really good thus far. One has a concert and an interview telling a nice story about non-profit work, another is a good narrative interview of a writer and so on.

After leaving campus I had to stop on a secret mission to create a gift for one of our students for next week's awards picnic. The task fell to me, almost at the last minute, but it will get done. At the framing place where the project is being put together I found the world's largest example of bubble popping nirvana. I had no idea they produced that stuff in such large rolls.

Do you think they wrap it in something to ship it?

Tonight I saw an ancient episode of Cheers that was new to me. In it, Coach references his time with the Birmingham Barons. If Cheers were around today the Ernie Pantuso character would have a fully fictional backstory to consult online somewhere. I'd like to have known what years he played at Rickwood Field.

I also watched the first half of a 2001 documentary on Johnny Cash. The camera changes were slow enough that I did not have my second case of cognitive overload of the day, but I did get an education. Everyone was in the thing and the stories run thicker than that grumbling Arkansas voice that prompted the whole documentary.

I've never really watched anything on Ovation, but I might have to start, judging from the promos they were airing. I'll start tomorrow by taking in the second half of the Cash documentary.

But for now I'll just enjoy the light, peaceful thought that the semester is coming to a neat conclusion. One more project as a student to go, a few more at Samford too, but it is all easy sailing from here.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Beautiful day today. That's Hodges Chapel and Divinity Hall on the Samford campus. I took that while waiting on an Alabama classmate to drop by. She was picking up CDs I'd burned of our seminar's last lecture. I recorded the conversation, as it relates heavily to our final tomorrow, and a few people asked for copies.

So I stood out in the breeze and bright, sunny afternoon and waited for her, and also recorded a video on the not-quite-nightmarish Wikipedia project. I finished it late last night, also on the Samford campus, sitting in an Easy Bake Oven of an office where I hastily learned Wikipedia code (equal signs mean subheads, brackets are somehow related to footnotes).

That was turned in tonight. You can see the entry, if you'd really like to learn all about exemplification theory. It was a pet theory of one of the now retired Alabama scholars and has seemingly fallen a bit by the wayside in the last few years. Lately, though, it seems to be making a comeback in health communication. It makes sense if you read the entry. For that reason, I mentioned in my presentation on the subject, it could also serve in political communication. The professor, who's a big policomm researcher, didn't seem to think that an outrageous suggestion.

Next week our final is at a restaurant. I love this class.

I met The Yankee and our media and body image professor for dinner tonight. The Yankee was celebrating her completion of comps. That's a four day process that she, in her usual flair, finished in three days.

Each member of your committee asks you questions and you're locked into a room for four hours to answer the question. On Monday The Yankee had one section, and was disappointed she only had four hours with which to work. Yesterday she had another section and pronounced it fun. Most people make it out to be the worst experience in the world, but prepared students actually manage to enjoy themselves. (She's been working toward hers for months now). They gave her the option, yesterday, to take her third and final sections today and she did. Now she's done with comps.

All there is left after that is defending her answers, which won't be too terribly difficult and then moving on to the dissertation.

I have to do all this next year too. I don't plan on it being the most miserable experience ever, but I doubt I'll think of it as fun either. I could be wrong. There could be daisies and rainbows and puppy dogs and fresh desserts all over the place, but it isn't likely.

But she's finished. That's the important thing. She breezed through them without a worry, which is an impressive thing. And now it is on to her dissertation. Ostensibly, what she wrote for comps will contribute to that. She's very organized.

So we had dinner at this Mexican place, where I played with our professor's kid and made swine flu jokes to Twitter. Madison County schools in north Alabama are closing for several days in an overabundance of panic, meaning this particular virus is now more potent even than snow, which had heretofore never known an equal in this part of the world.

The superintendent of that school system dashed off a witty letter to parents who must now rethink a week's worth of supervision. "I urge you not to allow your children to play and gather with other children during this time."

His humorous tone also noted that neither of the two children "suspected" of having a case of the swine flu were hospitalized. Both recovered. And for this an entire school system shut down. But it "is not a time to panic."

Meanwhile, there was breaking entertainment news tonight as well: Babe, Wilbur and Miss Piggy are looking for new representation. It's hard out here for a pig.

I did not have the pork at the Mexican restaurant. I was tempted, but I demurred.

Wouldn't it be great if the Department of Treasury received a vaguely ambiguous swine flu diagnosis, closed for a week and stopped spending money? They could maybe just get the sniffles and stay home under a humidifier for a while. Let things sort themselves out, get some rest and then come back healthy, happy and with a new outlook on printing us into greater inflation.

The games are ready. You can either be the person who rids us of this media overreaction in Swinefighter or, more cynically, you can spread the germs to your video game brethren in Sneeze.

Oh, in today's Crimson (the next to last edition of the year, or "Where did the year go?" issue if you prefer): a dorm to be replaced, another dorm is leaking. One Samford student will create an African documentary during her summer vacation and one of our columnists wonders how the Detroit Lions (nee Ford family) can pay all those millions to the NFL's top draft choice.

Matthew Stafford inked a $78 million contract with $41.7 million guaranteed. That's got to be filed under N for, No One's Worth That. On the other hand, someone was willing to give you that money -- some of it, no doubt, coming from federal bailout funds -- so congratulations, sir. Run with it. And throw the ball really far. Just don't throw interceptions. The president might shut you down. Or sell you to Fiat.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Spent the early morning at Alabama productively, meeting with three professors. One who will one day be on my committee -- though he doesn't know it yet -- and the other two who's seminars I've been in this summer.

The first one was a nice chat on various research ideas. Hopefully I sounded interesting and similar enough. The guy is a publishing machine and it'd be nice to have my name attached to his for a while. I floated part of my most recent Big Idea to him, he seemed to like it. I say "part of" because of the momentary forgetfulness about the other part. I did not have those notes with me, but maybe I can overcome the embarrassment of the moment.

I also ran some of my brilliant summer plans by him and he thought there might be something useful there, so I feel like I'm heading in the right direction there at least.

Walking down the hall after our brief meeting I found one of my professors in his office and visited with him. We're having our final this week. It will be one question, from which many pages will be written. I feel confident enough when I hear the discussion and in talking about it, but I'm still looking for the many pages within me. More on that tomorrow and Thursday I suppose.

After an early lunch I found my other professor, with whom I had class today. We talked over this class and also the independent study she'll be overseeing in the summer. She also likes my idea. Now I must find a theory for it. One always needs a theory, or otherwise it would turn into a "What I did with my summer vacation -- besides take nine more hours of classes" paper.

We walked from her office to the classroom where ... well, perhaps if the me-of-the-moment explains. This is the face-ism paper for which I've been collecting data all semester. Today we had to give conference-like presentations on our research. This is the PowerPoint I spent all of last evening preparing -- and realizing that I am a fairly slow PowerPoint maker.

The difficulty is actually a problem. You see, too many people put all their text on a PowerPoint and just read it. These people deserve laser pointers flirting with their eyes. It is easy to see how the temptation to put everything in the PowerPoint exists, but it must be fought. So I did only a bit of text in the slides, and a lot of images -- which makes sense as my research has to do with images -- I wrote three other pages of notes, which I consulted during my presentation.

It went OK. Someone else was controlling the slides, making it difficult to time your conversation with their interpretation of when you should be on the next slide. I tend to think the next slide should appear as I'm talking about the subject matter, but my helper didn't care for such suspense. All in good fun, the presentation was concluded. Questions were asked. Answers were assembled and dispersed with the properly authoritative tone. Heads nodded sagely. The paper is due in a few days.

Others also presented and then the professor skipped town. She had to get her daughters to a soccer match. I skipped town as well, heading for Samford and a night hanging out at the newspaper. After seven hours, three meetings, one presentation and one class my day was half-done.

Part of the night was spent working on a Wikipedia entry. This is for my class tomorrow night. The professor asked us all to publish an entry on a communication studies theory that hasn't yet made it into that great egalitarian encyclopedia in the cloud.

I spent a few days in the middle of the semester poking around for a theory. All of the ones I knew seemed to already be well represented. And then I ran across one that has been researched quite a bit, stems from a former Alabama scholar and is not listed on Wikipedia. So for some time now I've been reading articles about this theory and collating notes.

Tonight I'm writing my first Wikipedia entry. I feel so empowered! So much of a populist!

Talking with this professor once earlier in the semester I pointed out how the academic texts have become so insular. In Benjamin Franklin's time, for example, everyone could read the latest scientific research. It was widely circulated and simply written. Now the publications are aimed only at the core niche group of a BFF scientific community and written in a very specific, jargon-heavy language.

"Job security," my professor says. "That is why you're writing this Wikipedia entry."

And so tonight I'm writing it. Only everyone in the class is a bit nervous. We've heard horror stories of the Wikipedia police undoing all that hard work. We're uploading and printing immediately for verification. It isn't enough to suggest that you're a talented young scholar studying under some of the most preeminent academics in the field -- true for most of us; I qualify for the second half -- the Wikipedia police will shut you down if they don't like your looks.

It isn't helping me that I can't keep the bullet points straight. So there I was at 11 p.m., thinking I could have never survived the Wild West, even text bullets don't do what I need them to do. Also the printer stopped doing its one job. We have seven computers in our little newsroom, all hooked up to one printer. When it isn't jamming for no reason whatsoever it is picking a random machine and refusing to accept any commands from it. Tonight that machine was mine.

I muttered oaths and vowed my revenge on toner cartridges near and far. I threatened to forcefully open and close the 4,325 useless doors and compartments on the printer. I offered to sale it, sail it and see if it could fly from my third story window. Finally, after taking the name Xerox and Hewlett Packard in vain I managed to get my copies of the Wikipedia page.

On the way home I celebrated by finding a station playing classic Meatloaf. That's not the original video, but rather the Leap of Faith version of the video. If all videos were as entertaining as that cartoonish effort you might still be able to find videos on television.

(I found a video of some couple Paradise at their wedding reception. Odd.)

Tomorrow: More studying. A lot more studying. But the light at the end of the tunnel is getting a bit brighter.

Monday, April 27, 2009

I've been busy all day, forgive me. Do we all have swine flu yet? Or is it just the media that's been infected?

Work at work, and I love the work. I'm wrapping up a handbook for student staff. It has basic journalistic niceties, rules to live by, style to remember and job descriptions. I'll give it another pass or two next week and then call it complete. It strikes me as a wonderful opportunity to think that I offer a tiny piece of influence on young journalists. I often think of the people from my own journalism program and how valuable they were in setting me on the right track. I was fortunate to have them. Hopefully I'm useful to these students. One thing is certain: they're starting off at a great pace.

There's a lot of concern about newspapers -- and the circulation numbers illustrate the obvious fears -- but there's going to be plenty of work for people with hustle and knowhow. The students at Samford work hard, so they've got the hustle. The curriculum and the faculty are great, so they've plenty of opportunity to get a good foundation of knowhow. They could do great things in a brave new world.

They aren't all print journalists, of course. One of the graduating PR students recently got a great job at a local non-profit that gave her a job description that sounds absolutely perfect. There's other PR students heading toward promising goals, graduate school is in the future of others. One broadcast student I know has an internship this summer with MSNBC; another with Sony. These are good students and I get to watch them do great things.

And so life is good. Except for the To Do List.

Not much here for the day, there was work and then home for more work as I spent the night preparing a PowerPoint presentation for tomorrow. By way of apology I'll try to apologize with a NASCAR crash joke. And speaking of crashes, a disgruntled former UAB employee crashed into a building on campus today. The reporting, and photographs, come from a student-driven blog.

That's a great site. Seems to be a labor of love rather than a class assignment. It is a very handsome design and powered by Wordpress. I wonder how it stacks up to the university's official avenues of reaching out to students, pretty well I'd bet.

Enjoyed 24 tonight, which exhibited a curiosity common to that show. The power of the preview overwhelmed the delivery of the show. One can't jump from A to Z without thinking of the last hours of the program, of course, but this one seemed to be another placeholder episode.

It was nice, however, to see the shadowy anonymous organization devoted to overthrowing the government exhibit the need for a quorum and a majority to agree to the coup. Such a democratic action seemed out of place.

The CTU computers are coming back online, Janeane Garofalo continued to annoy. Tony eliminated the middle man. Jon Voight makes a deal, some people in the besieged administration don't like this. And this is why a president, once the mind is made up, shouldn't explain the narrative. It only leads to huffing and secret plots. Jack gets worse, Janeane Garofalo annoys us more.

Here are two pictures to pad out the day. The Yankee and I visited the horses that live near my house this weekend. We found two all alone, they ate a few carrots, but soon they wanted only the apples. Later some of their friends wandered over to join us. This was my favorite, though he did have a bit of a temper. As always, the very curious and friendly mule followed us everywhere. He likes apples and carrots.

It was a nice afternoon for a walk. Too would have been as well, but I watched it from inside. I'll do a lot more of that this week, but after that the days will open up somewhat.

Who's counting? Not me, noooo.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Nice set of weights after a quick 15 mile bike ride this morning -- the battery died in my music player, I took it as a sign. Brighthouse, the occasional provider of my connection to the 21st Century and conversely sometimes frustrating non-provider of the aforementioned cable/internet juice, had a technician parked across the street.

Happily I had both cable and internet. Neither have even faded today, which is great, because nothing need get in the way of my sheer joy at laughing at Mel Kiper Jr. He has an undeniable mancrush on Michael Crabtree and his hair has found the fountain of youth. To watch his blood boil just below the surface of that Dick Clark Complexion No. 9 when a team does not pick according to his best guess is the sole entertainment of the draft.

It keeps me entertained, that and flipping around and reading and writing and trying to study a slight bit, for hours.

As darkness falls there's an entire new entertainment. Snakes on a Plane is on FX, and thanks again Brighthouse for working tonight. It takes them half an hour to get to the snakes, as we must first establish "a story" and then give us "characters" in which to "invest." I seem to recall an interview with Samuel L. Jackson, however, where he was asked about the plot of the movie. He said "Who care? It's snakes on a plane!"

You're never really sure if he was into it, or just trying to get through yet another promotional tour, but it worked either way. Snakes! On a plane! With Samuel L. Jackson! And also a bunch of newlyweds, a wannabe kickboxer, the real thing, a ditsy blonde, a germaphobe rapper and the bodyguards who can't take him seriously.

Just when the snakes appeared it was time for dinner, so I'll watch the rest of the movie another time. I did catch enough to learn to not reach blindly under the seat on any plane I share with Samuel L. Jackson, though.

Later in the night I found myself entranced by this show called Deadliest Warrior, the premise being that we'll study the impact of weapons of some of history's greatest toughs and see how they'd fare in a head-to-head battle.

First, for example, was an episode where two experts on Viking weapons were demonstrating the ability of the Nordic arms alongside two Samurai experts. And they're talking smack back and forth. It was mildly amusing, until they start destroying car crash dummies, pig carcasses and ballistics gel humans. The hosts of the show pick a winner based on weapons, input all the computer data they've collected into the ComputATron 1000 and find the winner. In this match up the Viking wins, but only barely.

And then cable television demonstrates one of its greatest innovations tailor made to people enjoying lazy days, the back-to-back episode. The second installment of Deadliest Warriors put a ninja against a Spartan warrior. Again the weapons were measured based on their deathability. Aside from quotes like "The Spartan short sword has proven to be a deadly weapon, but not as deadly as the ninjato." The show is pretty good, in that fake documentary, putting aside that the two would never meet one-on-one, even if they did live in the proper centuries and hemispheres.

The best part is the trash talking. We have an ex-special forces, Spartan historian talking smack to a guy who holds black belts in four different martial arts. And the Spartan supporter is getting under the ninja advocates skin. That's part of the show, of course, but it was rubbing on the guy in an uncomfortable fashion.

It all came down to the famous Spartan shield. They figured the ninja and his many tricks wouldn't be able to come away with a victory -- their computer simulations agreed -- but the ninjas were nonchalant. "We'd just come back and kill you in your sleep."

He might have kind of meant it in a personal way after a few days of Spartan goading, but we'll never be certain.

Television or mass comm theory? Which should I write about? On days where I don't go anywhere it can be a tough decision. Today the TV wins.

Tomorrow, we all win.

Hope you're having a great weekend!

Friday, April 24, 2009

I rode 25 miles on the bike this morning. Cushioned seat, a cushion in my seat and Guster made it happen. Airport Song and Bury Me are nice sprint songs. So, if in the next day or so I'm walking around and one of my knees falls off I'm blaming Brian Rosenworcel. I found them on Twitter earlier this week, hence the music today.

Hard to believe I haven't seen them in a decade. And they'll be here and Atlanta one weekend this June, but I'll be busy. Maybe next time.

I spent a lot of today editing photos, it was great fun, but I have little to show for it. I also traveled back to that mythical world of 1930s Alabama that the New York Times finds to be still in existence:
In Eutaw, where former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's grandfather grew up, the son of a sharecropper, a town square is ringed mostly by covered walkways, the paint of storefronts tattered by rain and heat, a pastiche of faded green, chocolate and pink against a blue sky. "We don't see many out-of-towners here," said a man who stopped to ask if I needed directions.

In Demopolis, a city of about 7,500 along the Tombigbee River first settled in 1817 by aristocratic French refugees, the faded outline of a Coca-Cola advertisement is visible against the brick wall of a warehouse in its historic business district, the words “relieves fatigue” painted white on a red background.

Most buildings there are well-preserved brick or clapboard, with upscale shops like the Mustard Seed, a gift boutique, co-existing alongside the local pawn shop and the Beehive salon, which was bustling on a recent Friday. The town too has a small theater district that, according to local history, was popular in the 1920s among fans of operas, plays and minstrel shows.

Other towns are easily experienced passing through. Twenty miles away in Uniontown, three men had set up a roadside stove in front of a burned-out building where they served $2 bowls of boiled crawfish, a washed-out canopy shielding them from the hot sun.

After sampling the sweet meat, I asked one of the men stirring a bubbling aluminum pot if he knew of any nearby restaurants to stop for dinner. "This is our supper," he said matter-of-factly as he ladled a generous helping of crawfish into a container a woman had brought from home. He said nothing more, and I left, acutely aware I was an outsider.

This rural part of Alabama, much as it was when Evans was roaming its back roads, remains visibly divided by race, money and class. The state retains scars of its violent past.
Much like every other part of the nation. Also, a Harvard-educated, moderate black man stands more than a slim chance of being elected governor in two years. Congressman Artur Davis isn't mentioned; doesn't fit the narrative.

This feature is filed under their "Escapes" heading, but it is really about examining the land the great Walker Evans once photographed. Some of his work is currently on display in New York, ostensibly the reason for the Times to come down and talk about race in the South. Someone probably made a going native joke.

Also, since the towns are small and suitable only for the morbidly curious -- and antique shopping -- and since the crossroads haven't changed in three generations, the New York Times would like for you to stay at the $150 a night Hotel Highland. Nothing says escape to rural southern roots like an upscale hotel two hours away. What Chez Fonfon, a French joint on Birmingham's southside, has to do with any of those towns escapes me.

Wouldn't it be nice Evans photographs were on display here? There are a pitiful few examples of Evans' photographs in that slideshow, but you can find more here.

The Times could have just reported the story from Google Street View. Here's Greensboro, 1936. And the full (1936) size, via Shorpy. Here it is today, via Google, who, of course, will give you far more hotel options for your travel dollar. So thanks, New York Times, for trying so hard to write eloquently about our scars and catfish. You'll find the latter, here, at Mustang Oil -- they had that wrong in the first print of the story by the way.

The most frustrating parts of those small towns, to the young and impulsive, is how nothing ever changes. The charming, and truly bedrock solid part of those small towns is how nothing ever changes. Main Street and the squares are lined with small businesses, owned and managed by local people who live among and know when something is troubling their regulars. We'll never know of the regular and steady conversation between this black woman and white man outside of Lottie's Restaurant in Marion. On the other side of the bus two more people are ready to walk inside for lunch. How often do you suppose they've known the wait staff?

Next door is Janelle's, a woman's clothing store. On the other side of the restaurant are a string of closed shops. There's scarcely little ever written about places like that, and nothing in this article about the sad and quiet rot that is eating away at small towns.

At which point you come to the end of the article, and oh so much is explained:
Toward the end of my trip, as I barreled along a stretch of highway back to Birmingham, I was struck by something I had not imagined when admiring Evans’s black-and-white photographs: The landscape is saturated with color.
Incredible, we know.
At sunset the horizon turned the color of fresh egg yolk. The round tops of trees formed a patchwork quilt of green — emerald, jade and olive — stitched together with the white blossoms of low-growing dogwood. The clean scent of new fallen rain smelled like blue.
Like blue, eh? Get some bad tartar sauce with your catfish, did you? Did it smell like chartreuse? That's the stuff you really want to stay away from.

At Pie Day, we had biscuits. They did not make us hallucinate or otherwise smell colors. The barbecue has been known to do that from time to time and the pie always does that, but that's the point.

On the way home I heard a great cover by Elvis. It smelled of Muenster cheese.

You could spend a weekend tracking down songs Elvis covered. I'm not saying I will, but I might. Some of them would have to be good on the bike.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

In media psychology today we went over our final. That was two weeks away, but the professor must be bored with us since he bumped it up to next week. The final will be one question -- originally it was to be a paper -- in the style of a comps question.

Today he went over the process in detail. It seemed like a good idea to take notes and record the lecture, which allowed me to get a few gems beyond his thoughts on the Limited Capacity Model.

Here, for example, is Sparky going to church. The best part about him is his personality. He's a strutting barrel of humor, deprecation and know how with straw blond hair and a big goatee. He's from Tennessee, which became obvious even before he started telling us his life story in class one day.

He's got some familiar cadences in his voice and I knew early on the biggest difference between us was that we were from different hills. Here he is preaching about Annie Lang's theory. He's a disciple of Lang, having studied under her at Indiana, and he's done his best to brainwash -- he prefers indoctrinate -- our class in this, his last semester at Alabama.

He's packing his things and heading to Texas Tech this summer, and the place will be a little less colorful without him.

After class we stood and talked about a few ideas I have. One of them might go a long way toward my dissertation one day -- or it could be discarded next week, who really knows at this point? -- and it holds the guy's interest. He's all about the effects of mediated messages from television on the human mind, but I have him convinced about the importance of similar studies on mobile screens. Are smaller screens treated in the same way by the lower brain? I only ask this because everyone is going mobile, and it hasn't been studied a lot.


I won't give away the exact idea, mostly because you don't care. Any day now I expect a general revolt in my inbox. "Too much theory and lecture and class talk!" I know. We're at the end of the semester. Everything is coming together, which is better than fraying away at the edges. In a few weeks I'll be filling space with slow news about the month of May. Bear with me.

In my own class I taught a refresher on video editing today. This was similar, but less lengthy, than the workshop I held on Tuesday for Alabama's community journalism students. Mostly because the Samford students -- the majority of whom are counting the days until graduation -- have had some video production.

We also discussed their final project today, and they were relieved to see how it will all come together. It won't be that bad after all. They've all worked hard, they've all done well, they're all on course to get good grades and everyone can be happy.

One of them just got a job, today apparently, at a youth outreach nonprofit here in town. She'll do PR and sports and it sounds custom-made for her. This is exciting news, and well deserved for such a hardworking person.

Just as exciting, to me at least, she said she's going to keep her blog going beyond the class. (I'll count that as validation for the class.) She's been reporting and writing about human trafficking, and there's been some interesting stuff there. It will only get better as she grows into it.

In other happy news, I bought new padded pants for the bike today. They, and the gelled seat cover, should make rides much more comfortable. Tomorrow, too, I'll take headphones. Now the question is if I'll ever get off the bike.

I also fixed my cell phone Email problems. I looked at the settings on the Gmail side, found another option, made a few clicks, typed a few things and the Email seems to be working. It was as easy as going from POP to IMAP if you're curious about the details. I had to set up a new "account" on my phone to the same Email, but now that it seems to be working I can delete the old one and go on about my day.

It isn't exactly a barren desert, but once you grow into expecting the ability to send Email from your phone you do miss doing without for four or five days. Happily all seems well for now. If I missed an Email from you somehow in the process of fixing this, try again, OK?

Finally, there's a new dishwasher at my house. She may get renamed. I'm thinking either Pre-Rinse or Drier.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Another Wednesday, another edition of The Samford Crimson. Three students have received fellowship grants from Alabama Power. One of them, Jonathan Coley, is the editor of the paper's opinion page:
Coley will work with political science professor and chair Fred Shepherd to study genocide prevention efforts.

Coley will also go to Washington, D.C., for a few weeks and attend a conference on genocide where he will visit with scholars and activists.

"We will be studying genocide prevention and answering questions like, why efforts like Save Darfur been so successful while crises in the Congo have received little attention," Coley said. "We will be studying groups like Save Darfur and Enough and their efforts to mobilize for genocide prevention efforts.

Coley said his work this summer with genocide is really a way of expressing his larger passion of social justice activism.
Earth Day, at Samford, spans the entire week. Not the week, but the entire week. I don't know where you start with that. There's a nice feature on a beloved history professor. After reading that story I want to take his class.

Finally, nothing says spring like an ice cream slip 'n' slide.

Just a quick workout to start the day. I did a flat 10-mile sprint on the bike. I shortened the distance mostly because of time, but also to give me a chance to do other weights. I mention this only because suggesting a 10-mile ride is now only a short trip is a lot of fun.

This afternoon I was interviewed about podcasting. A student at Alabama had to do a paper on technology, choose podcasting and then found my name from my time at A bit more searching led her to my Email address and finally we spoke on the phone today. She was very curious about how the technology would change editing. Maybe that's the class she's in, but after a while I brought the topic back to editing for her.

I'm seldom the interviewee, of course, but she said I gave her good quotes. Here's to hoping. Since her professor will likely end up on my dissertation committee I hope he likes the quotes. I'll find out next week when he and I speak.

While printing out, this evening, my readings for tomorrow's class I noted that I've filled a three-ring binder. First time I've ever done that. Usually these things start out with noble intentions of holding a bit of paper and a notebook, but this one is overflowing with PDFs about people hooking the human body up to wires to study the reacting of the lower brain to stimuli. It isn't exactly brain surgery, but the literature is becoming plentiful.

I promised a conversation about salt shakers. I had to turn in a brief reaction paper for my epistemology class tonight on Murdock Pencil's Salt Passage Research. That PDF is satire. It supposes to take a look at how uttering the phrase "Pass the salt" moves a salt shaker from one place at a table to another. You could argue that it has to do with constructs or norming, but it is largely a critique on the practice of research. Anything can get published. Even satire.

A look at the name and bio would tell you that. Our professor says someone always falls for it, though there should really be no doubt about halfway through the second page. He also says that when this piece came out in the 1970s a lot of people thought it funny, but a lot of people were very angered that space -- which is finite -- in a research journal was given to such a ridiculous effort.

The citations are the best part, though I had fun making fun of the paper as it intended to make fun of others. Somehow this is all part of the indoctrination. Here. Laugh at an obscure joke on ourselves. Tell no one on the outside about it. They'll never appreciate it. Mostly they'll just look at you oddly, and perhaps with a hint of sadness.

On my way into class tonight at Alabama I heard, for the first time ever, the Denny Chimes ringing. They talk about them so much I'd expected something a bit more ... majestic. Instead they were a bit underwhelming, at least from a half-block away. They were in tune, though, and that's saying something.

Class didn't last long. About as long as it took to drive down to Alabama from Samford, so we'll call that a wash. The Yankee and I had dinner at Logan's, the Wednesday night, we're cheap and like to eat for $13.99 tradition. The waitress has a calculus test tomorrow morning, and was happy to tell us all about it, and how she hadn't studied. I don't know how she'll do, but it didn't look promising as of 8 p.m. tonight.

For fun: The video won't stay up on YouTube, so I won't link to it, but I've just finished one of the last episodes of Scrubs (which they're apparently not hyping at all, nicely done ABC). This episode had the funniest joke I've ever seen on that show, where the now-retired chief of medicine is admitted for food poisoning.

The nurse comes in to check on him and he says he still feels bad, but he's saying the names of his favorite novels when he vomits "So that's fun." After some expository he gets sick again, reaches for his tub and makes the I'm-about-to-puke face while saying "The Grapes of ... The Grapes of ... " the camera cuts away just as you hear "Wraaaaaaaath!"

I don't know why, but that became a 10 minute, watch it four times, tear producing, I'm choking, can't breathe guffaw. I've read Grapes of Wrath, Working Days, East of Eden and Of Mice and Men among others. While it isn't the complete collection, I'm confident that's the funniest that John Steinbeck has ever been.

And from the funny I'll turn to the oddly gripping. I found this guy's YouTube channel by following a link on Twitter and it becomes oddly captivating. The first clip was of the guy lip-synching Pretty Woman. Then comes the YouTube vortex of similar videos, but I was captivated by edarem's YouTube channel. He ranges from song to tragedy and scripture to the prosaic.

The guy, whoever he is, once had a local television show somewhere. There's one clip from 1982 there, but the truly incredible, addictive thing is the sad, humorous, lonely, happy feeling you get from his videos. There's no reason for this stuff to be there, other than the guy has the time and, like all performers, still craves an audience.

He cross-posts his vlogs on all the video sites. And a few of them are gravelly and incredibly intense. He holds this moment and then, finally, just lets it go with a little nod and a smile. Its like the old relative relative that frightened you as a child, but whom you secretly wanted to visit with more. Just to be scared; just to see how cool he really was.

You could watch those videos all night.

I almost have.

Tomorrow, there's a class to take and a class to teach. And probably a few more things thrown in for good measure. Stop back by and see what gets cooked up for your amusement.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Started the day going to Alabama early. I spent two hours teaching iMovie and video editing. About an hour of that was on iMovie, about 40 minutes letting the students edit their own previously shot video and the last few minutes doing the crash course on adding your own audio. It felt as if I spent too much time on some of the bells and whistles and limitations of iMovie, but that's what they needed. Here's a video one of the students produced today.

These students are in Alabama's community journalism master's program. This is part of a joint venture with the Knight Foundation and The Anniston Star. They train up a group of students -- apparently not all of them even journalism graduates, which boggles the mind -- and then send them to the paper. There are a few criticisms, but a lot of positives as well. A few of the students are very excited about their possibilities and that's great to see. One of them stopped me as I was leaving asking about the equipment in which she should start investing. We had a nice chat about the job market and opportunities and it is always fun to see the students who are motivated and enthusiastic. That alone could take her a long way.

After the workshop I had a meeting on a spring class. I'll be taking a critical, cultural, rhetorical theory class next year and, as I told the professor, my studies have been on practical application and mass communication theory. What he teaches will be an entirely new approach for me. We had a nice chat on ideas and options, the first of many between now and the spring.

I'll be taking this class because the curriculum requires one theory class and the mass comm theory class is scheduled in a mystically inconvenient way. There was no easy fix from the Alabama people and it was unacceptable from the Samford perspective, hence the change. Critical, cultural and rhetorical is a different track for journalists, but I'm not the first. There's at least one guy in the program who's done the same thing, so I'll be tracking him down soon.

Lunch with The Yankee, Our Friend Andrew and Stephen. We had quesadillas and big sweeping talks on post-modernism. These are the conversations I should record for posterity and humor. We talked on Truth, truth and my new favorite: consensus truth. This came about as Stephen talked about jury trials and their findings. From a philosophical standpoint it would seem that what truth (as in perception) a group reaches would be the Truth. I'm sure this has a name, I'll probably read about it in the next year. Unless you tell me about it now. (Send an Email!)

Somehow all of this led to a thought that someone should do a post-modern examination of Twelve Angry Men. Andrew, who would deny post-modernism on the basis of literal and practical thought -- and he does it so well, in such an animated way -- argued that the movie couldn't be seen through a post-modern frame. It can't be disproven, he'd say. The idea that it can't be disproven can't be disproven, hence, no post-modernism.

I feel sorry for whomever was eating behind us. They really got more than they bargained for when they walked into Qdoba.

After lunch was the media and body image class where we turned our attention toward SPSS, that magical sausage making machine that is posing as statistics software. This is what I understand of statistics so far: Depending on the data you have there are different tests you can run. That's an improvement for me. Previously I was convinced you just ran the tests that gave you the numbers you want. Again: I have a practical undergraduate degree, a theoretical master's degree and a participant-observation ethnographic thesis. I'm taking my first statistics class in the summer. And while I'm sure it'll be good it'll hardly be comprehensive. And that's maybe a shortcoming at this point.

I feel like I frustrated my professor over all of this because it is frustrating too me. She's really great -- I hope to be the kind of researcher and instructor, one day, that she is -- but I think we both see the limitation. There's a handful of terrific young researchers in this class that look at SPSS as a magical sausage making machine. It is a shame that the program doesn't have its own stats class, but instead we all take classes wherever we can find them. Mine in the summer, for example, will be through the college of education. Stats are stats are stats, but the stuff education scholars use is different than communication scholars which is different than the next school.

Anyway. After class The Yankee and I went to visit my media psychology professor. We have a final coming up soon and he's also on The Yankee's comps committee, so we had a long powwow which was useful for both of us.

After leaving Alabama I had a nice brainstorming session with my friends in Anniston. That could prove promising in the summer.

The rest of the evening was spent hanging out with the student-journalists at Samford as they put their weekly paper to bed. In keeping the rest of this post in the journalistic and academically themed as the above, I found a great post by Lauren Rabaino on mobile alerts:
Have you ever deleted a text message without reading it? Most people wouldn’t, which makes SMS text messaging a potentially valuable tool for news organizations.

Use of a texting service is different than a mobile site or iPhone application because it delivers news to the reader without requiring the reader to seek it on his own. All he/she has to do is sign up.


It baffles me that most news sites which offer text alerts bury the feature somewhere on the site. Pro news organizations like Tampa Bay Online offer text alerts, but the feature is hidden under the "tools" option.

The New York Times offers the service too, but again, it's a hidden option that most readers probably don't realize they have. Even a Google search didn't yield results for LA Times' mobile alerts, which only leads me to assume they don't offer the service.

The option to subscribe for text alerts should be offered prominently on the homepage, right alongside the option to subscribe to RSS.
Smart. Very smart. I wish I could claim that idea, but I had one of my own tonight. In reading about changes with the E-book I wondered when the Kindle becomes a vehicle for targeted ads. Like AdSense works with web pages it would seem that E-books are a fertile ground for ads and links to similar books and even related products. You see product placement in movies and television, and even auctions of props and costumes. Why not placement in E-books? The day I can order an exploding, telescoping, satellite phone-watch like the one James Bond wears is the day I start buying a lot of really cool stuff via Kindle. It'll also be the day I buy a Kindle, just so I can pick up some fantastic new toys all from my helpful friends at Amazon.

In other news, the Colorado Springs Gazette goes free, local and four days a week.
"It's not an alternative paper," Cobb said. "You can get sports and weather there also. We think this will serve the community well."


"The idea that newspapers have to be paid for to prove their worth has gone away," Edmonds said. "Most free daily components are doing well these days."
That should be interesting to see. There are a handful of reinventions going on across the industry right now. As I tell the students, these are exciting times.

And finally, some breaking news on the Samford campus tonight. Ramsay Hall, a dorm which has been vacant since a March 2008 roof collapse, can finally be razed and replaced. A new dorm will ultimately replace Ramsay, which has been at the center of insurance negotiations since the collapse. Thirty-two men lived in that dorm, all escaped unharmed.

Hopefully the paper will have more on that tomorrow. Come back then, for highlights from the paper and a lot of talk about salt shakers.

Yes. Salt shakers.

Monday, April 20, 2009

This was a Monday full of Mondays, encased in a nutritious and low-in-carbs Monday wrap. I don't have Mondays often, so I won't complain too much, but I'm glad this one is over.

Mostly my Monday-themed Monday has been technologically based. My cell phone Email still doesn't work. Any ideas? I'd hoped that returning back home from Philadelphia would somehow fix the problem. If not that, maybe a lot of reboots. No such luck.

I had a long fight with the printer today. Exasperating in that way that printers should work, but inexplicably don't for a while. After a half-dozen trips into the guts of the printer it finally became convinced that I'd win the day. And then I won the day.

Various other electronics conspired against me for a while as well. Maybe it was my electromagnetic field. Maybe it was karma. Maybe the machines wanted the day off, looking for a nice three-day weekend on some machine beach somewhere. Maybe they're starting to take over.

Here's to hoping the machines hold off at least until tomorrow. I have a video workshop to teach for the community journalism master's program at Alabama Tuesday morning. It'd be nice if the software to cooperate, if only so it looks like I know what I'm doing.

I talked with one of the teachers in that program this morning. Later today talked with my old friend Justin Thurman, the multimedia czar at Consolidated Media, who manages the newspaper side of the program. Since the students are being shipped to him soon they need certain skill sets and I want to do my part to help make them well equipped. So, if the technology revolt could hold off for a few more hours I'd appreciate it.

Elsewhere it has been a day of papers. I'm working on a project for my media and image class, wrapping up a project for my epistemology class and trying to make sense of everything in my media psychology (not quite brain surgery) class. These are the things that occupied my day. Fortunately, my class on Thursday will also focus on teaching video editing. I'm getting a twofer in preparation.

All of these things filled my day. I also found a great old car somewhere along the way. I made it home just in time to see Jack Bauer do some things on 24. His friend Tony is a bad guy, and Jack figures this out in about eight seconds. By the time he can confront him, though, the deadly gases were taking their toll. Things look grim as there is still deadly gas on the loose, Tony is running free and the FBI just got bombed to oblivion. The head bad guy was caught, but then his bad guy associates got to Jon Voight and gave him a fast acting death pill. Also Jack looks really bad.

And that's when the previews for next week's show hurt this week's episode. In the space of credits and commercials you go from uncertainty about the outcome to "Oh, Jack's in control." Voight's character lives, and is being cared for in a hospital lit in dramatic fashion. Jack emerges from the darkness and he looks great ready to confront the bad guy in some imminently satisfying way. Tune in next week to see what happened and so on.

Surf on over here tomorrow to find out about the video editing class, the media and body image class and another night at The Samford Crimson. Tomorrow is going to be a long, fun, busy day.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The party yesterday was great. You can see a brief slideshow from the festivities below. The one-year-old's house was filled with family and other strangers like me. She was a bit withdrawn over all the fuss -- but she did enjoy that cupcake. As people began to say their goodbyes and it was just down to the most familiar faces she perked up.

Except for around me. She never could decide what to think about me. Most children get along very well with me, but Lane was leary the whole weekend. This makes her the smartest baby I've ever met.

I visited my first ski resort today.

Bear Creek is an hour or so outside of Philadelphia, where we're staying, so I got nice views like this. Hey, Lane, who's the biggest kid in the car right now? That's right.

Anyway. That's the hill down which people ski, and the hill down which people of lesser talent flail and fall. It is April, so there's no snow of course. The white patches are where they build in the obstacles. The blue thing at the bottom of the picture is where they pump in the fake snow. Apparently you need that even in Pennsylvania. The wooden structure at the bottom in the foreground is where people get married.

And that's why we came to Bear Creek. The Yankee's other godsister, Megan, is getting married here in October. She wanted to show us the place. There won't be skiing then either, but the leaves will have begun their long seasonal sigh before letting go. It should be a lovely, crowded ceremony.

So we walked the grounds at Bear Creek today, very nice place. I see on the website they also have a golf course. Note to self.

After the tour we went to a place called Friendly's. It is a regional restaurant change The Yankee has been telling me about for years. Can it live up to the hype? The food, they say, is good. The ice cream is what they're famous for. I had a burger, and while I was very hungry it was very delicious.

But don't spoil your dessert. Here was mine, the Reese's Cup Bottle of Cold Heaven. After that little sugar rush I did well to hold the camera steady for a silly video. Thumbs up indeed, Friendly's. Meal well done.

It was right about here, however, when I realized my phone was no longer sending Gmail. That's how I ship those videos to 12-Seconds. I emailed it off using my Samford Email, which is also on my phone. If you know why I can receive Gmail, but can't send it, please drop me a line.

Here was the view on the way back to Philadelphia. We'd just opened these little sunscreens in the roof of the Jeep. And then we spent a long time wondering what she was thinking about.

Maybe she was thinking of our plane. We caught the evening flight back to Atlanta, again sitting in first class because we're now quite spoiled. We pushed back from the terminal and then waited. And waited. And for 45 minutes waited some more. Who cares? we were in first class. Seems there had been some gusty winds over New York City and the region. Planes were being diverted, flying over Philadelphia. That slowed things on the runway and we're 27th for takeoff. So we can blame Newark and LaGuardia for the delays and, yes, I will have a V-8 (Official tarmac beverage of

When we finally got into the air, after about 40 minutes, we had an easy flight. I dozed and read Jacqueline Jones' Saving Savannah. The Yankee's mother got me this book for Christmas, figuring I would be a perfect tour guide on the mid-19th Century and Civil War history of Savannah by then. The stakes were upped a bit this weekend. Lane's grandfather, I learned, is a big Civil War buff. He's the first one I've met from New Jersey, but he'll want to know all the ins and out of the city as well, I'm sure.

We had two flight attendants, one of them was named Aretha and she had a beautiful voice, much too nice to be wasted in a plane. She should have been broadcasting. But, if she were, she couldn't work with the other attendant, who's name I never did catch. He had a huge watch, once was a perfume sales rep and could tell you all about going to Costa Rica. If you rent a car there, apparently, you get a car that used to live in New Orleans around Katrina. We listened to him talk all about the French pedicure he got while he was on that vacation.

It was all very interesting, you see, because once we landed in Atlanta the terminal was full of planes. The guy sitting next to me had a 10:10 flight to Indianapolis and, despite the logic of Philly-to-Atlanta-to-Indy, he was running behind. It was 10:05. We finally parked the plane at 10:25. I checked my phone, hoping that he'd catch a break and that his connection was also delayed. Just as I was set to tell him the bad news he started looking himself. I hope he got to where he was going. I hope AirTran paid for it.

We spent a lot of time on the runway, which allowed me to catch up on all of my online reading. We probably spent as much time in the plane on the ground as we did in the air. And then I spent a lot of time in the car, because you drive home when you don't have anywhere else to go. Heading out of Atlanta I heard "Midnight Train to Georgia." It wasn't yet midnight, but close enough to be poetic.

It was a busy, long, wonderful weekend. Hope yours was as well. Tomorrow another week begins, we're in the homestretch for the school year and everyone's counting. So come back for more adventures in papers and paperwork, errors and errands and similar plays on words.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Friday, April 17, 2009

Life, I realized this morning, would be made all the more efficient if it had a few computer features we've come to take for granted. Copy and paste would be good. Sure, the government would step in here to make sure you couldn't create money out of thin air -- they don't need the competition -- but it would have a lot of uses around the office.

My favorite feature that I'd like to pull from the computer and install as a walking around tool would be Control-F. As in, find my music player. Where are my keys? And so on.

I'm riding the bike enough now that I've grown bored of the silence. I have to dig up my old music player, but I fear it is buried in boxes somewhere in the basement. If I could just mentally run a Control-F subroutine I'd know precisely where the thing is hiding.

Busy day today: the gym, campus, two buck lunch and then wrapping up the day for an evening flight up north. This weekend The Yankee's godsister's daughter -- The Yankee's godniece? - is turning one. Time to par-tay. You could tell this was a serious, big event because our airline tickets had been upgraded to first class. This was a first for me. Here's The Yankee sitting in her spacious front row seat.

First class has its perks. In addition to the elbow room, we had a beverage before takeoff, and two in-flight. There's also plenty of food and chairs that aren't designed for those with painful spinal curvatures.

It only takes 90 minutes or so to make it from Atlanta to Philadelphia, but I did my part for the Produce Growers of America. I had a V8 and apple juice -- the official tarmac and in-flight drinks, respectively, of kennysmith. They bring around a basket of goodies in first class on AirTran. You aren't just resigned to peanuts or pretzels, oh no. There are many baked goods for the taking. We both took the Milanos, wiping out the inventory -- sorry fellow passengers.

The flight is easy. I finished James Reston's Deadline on the plane. Reston was a great writer, but he lost me around the part about three-quarters of the way through where he suggested that World War II was really a civil war of western society. After that he started throwing in more and more of his opinions which, he admits, were growing more barbed as he got older, so that was fun. It was a good book for the most part, you could still smell the ink that ran through the guy's veins -- particularly odd since he's been dead a few years now.

First thing you see when you get off the plane in Philadelphia? Cheesesteak neon. This seems a silly placement, as if I would have traveled all this far from varied foreign and domestic lands to arrive in the home of the cheesesteak and think Yes. The airport. It is here that I will find that savory taste of beef and cheese and soft bread. I needn't look any further and may now take the next flight home.

It works well the other direction too. No one flies to Philadelphia, conducts their business and, upon leaving that fine city thinks The one thing I did not have time to do, in addition to the Phillies game, the Liberty Bell and cinching up the big merger was to enjoy the fine local fare. I am glad the originial cheesesteak can be conveniently found on Terminal C..

Picked up a car, where everyone was so friendly it was scary. I ran over a guy with my suitcase and he apologized to me. The attendant who gave us our weekend ride laughed at every joke, and I was in rare form. It begin with asking the question about what she thought when seeing an Alabama driver's license and continued through the inevitable car insurance questions. I'm more than covered, I said, we're going to get this thing airborne. She laughed at all of them.

We had the Nissan Versa, which is a fine vehicle with an identity crisis. It isn't a car or an SUV, but is rather the lovechild of both, most resembling a station wagon on a protein supplement. It is a little bumpy, but that could be the rental. It sits a bit high for my tastes, but it is obviously well suited as a rental car. There's lots of space and everything is simple enough. The one problem was in the gear shift. For the first four or five miles we ran the transmission too hard because the little indicator said D, for drive. We learned that D really meant 2nd. N, usually reserved for neutral, actually represented the more tachometer-friendly drive. I fixed that for them for free -- later I found $.12 on the floorboard. It just so happens my maintenance fee is $.12, so it worked out well.

At the house I finally had the chance to meet Lane. She was about ready for a bath and a nap, so it was a brief meeting. She's a bit leary of me so far, but I'll have pictures for later. We had dinner with Stephanie and Vram. He made kabobs and we watched the Fliers beat the Penguins on a big beautiful wide screen television -- the high def makes the ice look really white. Later Stephanie's sister, Megan showed up with Sammi a very friendly and not spoiled at all, no sir, puppy.

I have a basement bedroom for the weekend. The window looks out on the backyard, my door opens into the entertainment room. I could just move in and live comfortably ... and at this point I'm tired enough that the bed will do the trick. I know this not having even yet touched the thing. It won't matter.

Tomorrow, a birthday party for a one-year-old. Need there be anything else?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

No media psychology class for me this morning -- Or was that a test? You can never be sure -- so that meant another 20 miles on the bike. That's two days in a row and the regular Friday morning ride to come. Not to get overly personal, but those nice gel seat pads aren't nearly nice or gelled enough for that.

With no class, and the morning exercise out of the way I spent a long day at Samford. It was very nice to have that time to do some research, play phone tag, plot, scheme and generally set myself up for the run toward the end of the semester.

Everyone is feeling it now, even the faculty. Maybe there's something particularly potent in the pollen this year, but I don't recall hearing faculty go on and on about spring fever like this before. As I've said to friends recently, April and May would have just been another series of days when I was working in a newsroom. Now, once again immersed in campus life as a student and staff, the old feeling is back. You can't help but sneak peeks at the calendar, count the days and wonder what you'll do with the days after those.

But first there are papers to write, research to be finished, classes to teach, students to help and more. It really is a nice life. You seldom need a gelled seat for it. That's reserved strictly for the bike.

My class tonight was different, abbreviated. Half the students were out for one thing or another. One was on assignment, another had to survive life guard certification and so on. So the whole classroom experience was brief, but next week the pressure will be upon them.

My students are down to editing video. After that they're going to pull together their favorite elements of their semester's worth of multimedia journalism and present it as a final project. Should be fun.

Talked with my old radio mentor, Chadd Scott. He's still in Atlanta, writing and broadcasting at 680 The Fan. It seems two lifetimes ago since I was doing that. Odd how time flows.

I called because of a comparison he made on his website. He was discussing the impact of Michael Jordan and Dolly Parton. Both are remembered, and generally celebrated for only one or two things, but both brought a lot to their respective businesses. I wanted to tell him about a Dolly Parton song I heard a few months back:
Somewhere around Pell City -- I only note the location because it is apt -- I heard a Dolly Parton song in which Daddy was a drunk, there was an allusion to prostitution and four people died. Country music sure has changed.

Dolly Parton, however, remains awesome.
During the phone call, however, I blanked entirely on that story. Chadd sounded great though.

Watching UEFA Cup soccer tonight I had my million dollar idea of the week. It has been an exciting tournament this go around, but what we really need are heavy duty space polymer shin guards reinforced by titanium plates and polytonic alloys.

These shin guards will be called No Dives. The commercials write themselves. (Some of these guys are embarrassing.)

I broke into commercial radio doing sports and since we're on that theme I'll end with two other points for the night.

Frank Caliendo may soon be applying for a loan from President Obama. With John John Madden quietly retiring the comedian will be forced to find another go-to impersonation. It has been a rough few months for Caliendo: Madden retires, Bush is out of office, the Robin Williams health scare and Jay Leno's programming move have no doubt made for some tense moments in his household. He probably needs $70 million to recover. Or at least to buy the new vehicles off the Government Motors line.

Inflation is tough on everyone, even hosts of TBS programs.

Finally got around to looking at my fantasy baseball team. I'm the guy rounding out my boss' league. I think they needed 12 for the league to be activated and I'm the 12th team. My team name is Warm Bodies. I'm in 10th place. So I made roster changes.

Just by registering that little bit of a pulse I should move up one spot, right?

Tomorrow: the gym, work and travel! Don't miss it!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Beautiful, busy day today. Got wrapped up in things at Samford and never did make it to Alabama for class this evening. Fortunately my professor there is very understanding.

It was one of those one-thing-or-another kind of days, the details of which are unimportant here. Those days, though, tend to become very useful in one way or productive in another. That was the case today, and after a few minutes and several phone calls everything turned out rather nicely.

And none of this had anything to do with taxes.

But it was a beautiful day out. I stayed indoors far too long and discovered it far too late, but I did have an afternoon stroll to the library and slowed down a few steps to take it all in just a bit longer.

This week's edition of The Samford Crimson came out today. Among other topics the paper touches intramural dodgeball, a cool new book on drug store soda fountains by a faculty member and a fun column on texting zombies.

I did manage to discover Susan Boyle today. I found the link from somewhere on Twitter, wrote about it myself there and pronounced it my video of the day, which is an arbitrary construct for me, but could be a good gimmick. Or at least so I thought.

Before long a professor I studied with in my master's program was heckling me. "This was the video of yesterday, gah." And so on. I, conveniently hid behind the excuse of trying to work on my doctorate as how I managed to be a full unforgivable day behind. She replied that mass communication scholars should never be behind on such things.

And this, bless her heart for not knowing any better, is why she's an interpersonal scholar.

About that video: watch it if you haven't already. (And look at that view counter too.) Set aside 15 minutes and watch it twice. Not to get bent out of shape about it, but there's a humble, unassuming honesty there that just feels right. It may say a lot about your expectations and how they can be formed by the silliest of things and trumped by other equally silly things. There's a good lesson in there somewhere. I'm sure she'll get shaped and formed and twisted into something else, entertainment is good at working in sheet metal, but she's solid gold.

At the end of a long (but beautiful and fulfilling) day The Yankee had the excellent idea of doing an anonymous good deed for someone in the neighborhood. I posted a video recently in the 12 Seconds feed found at the top of the blog about some wind damage in the area. One house got whacked by a giant old oak. Another building, a business, had a tree fall near the structure but fared much better. The people that live in the house, though, are camping in an RV right now.

So The Yankee drove by, I tried to not get caught doing this good deed. The details don't matter, but being neighborly does. I hope that you can find a way to do something kind for people near you soon as well. We all benefit from a little bit of that.

Bits of distraction: Someone on campus is displaying historical Samford stuff in the student center right now. Old books, pictures and artifacts from all three campus locations (Samford had two other homes before moving to Lakeshore) and a reprint of this 19th Century letter describing a visit to Birmingham.
I boarded in the Magic City two days, and I don't believe I ever saw as many people in all my life as there are in Birmingham. You can see all nations here.


The business of the world is carried out at Birmingham.
We don't describe places like that much anymore, do we?

Remember this song? I don't either. It isn't a spiritual hindu hit. My stereo doesn't have a scrolling screen so long titles are a risky proposition, and these happy accidents sometimes occur. James Brown, for instances, sings on my stereo about Papa's Brand New Bra, but I digress.

You'll recall the song if you watch the music video which is proof there's no YouTube police for quality like you'll occasionally meet on Wikipedia. Given the incredible storage of crap we must add the YouTube servers to the list of Things That Will Give Anthropologists Fits In The Future.

If you sit through entire video you'll really be able to empathize with the female character at the end. She seems to be onto something that the rest of pop music was a bit slow in understanding back in 1986. Naturally they have a MySpace page (note the extremely specific username) that discusses the entirely unnecessary (and unheard) 10th anniversary remix.

Missed class tonight, no class tomorrow -- but I am teaching. This is my kind of schedule. Next week all three classes will be back in session. That might hurt after the relative down time. Either way you just find yourself counting down time until the summer. Beautiful, busy days will do that for you.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

For a brief shining moment this morning I found myself in a place of small movement. Every Email had been considered and appropriately handled, the RSS reader was at zero. My data collection was completed, there were no pressing readings to be worried over at the moment. I didn't want to move too much, you see, because I felt caught up with everything. And the HMS Everything is not a boat which you wish to rock.

I settled in to read a little more of my book on Walter Cronkite, a love letter written by a communications professor who wrote his dissertation on the man, had the good fortune of meeting him and later expanding his research into a book. It pounds away at sentences, reading like a blueprint assembling Complimentary Statement A with Glowing Adjective B. You almost begin to feel for the period key on Dr. Doug James' typewriter, so soundly smacked it must have been.

I'm reading Cronkite on Tuesdays and James Reston's memoir during lunches the rest of the week. You'd think that somewhere the premiere broadcaster and one of the premiere writers of the period would bump into one another. They covered a lot of the same things, but the one never mentions the other. Maybe they eyed one another warily from opposite ends of the bar. Maybe they were the best of friends. Perhaps one had a grudge against another. We don't know. And, almost 20 years after each book was published, we might never know.

We need to know these things. These are the things that must be pondered, puzzled and teased out while Other Things stack up to be done. And so the cycle will continue.

Actually the cycle gained momentum today thusly: The Yankee, Our Friend Andrew and I left campus for lunch, headed to a local Indian place of delicious repute, but we were met at the door by the very apologetic host. They'd lost power in the storms and had only just then regained the curious electricity which makes cooking possible. The four power trucks in the parking lot with hungry, pole-climbing experts hoping for a bite of Indian food were a testament to the progress of freshly reconnected power.

We decided to try another side of town as everything nearby is either a.) bad or b.) also just getting used to the idea that light switches mean something once again.

So we went to a Japanese place, Bento, which means food in a box. To you that means food surrounded by unnecessary partitions around which you must wrangle your food. It was good, and most people agree, though the reviews about critical people and their sushi tastes are always worth reading. Also, the atmosphere, which is also a complaint from reviewers, consists of Neil Young tunes and SportsCenter. To which most people would say, "Dear reviewer, you are in a college town. That's about right."

Unfortunately they did not have sweet tea. I miscounted, and thus mistweeted, but the official score on Tuscaloosa's The Strip is now three restaurants with the nectar of the gods, two without. Still, that's a poor ratio for a proud Southern town.

And while I try to avoid photographs of food for obvious reasons, I include this one to remind us all that this tried to catch on in the States once before.

There was the regular meeting of the Media & Body class, which made the light Japanese lunch a wise selection. Today we tried to learn all about SPSS, that great and easy push button stats software. Happily we get to learn more about it later. For now it is still Greek to me. Slightly intelligible Greek, but a different language all the same.

After class I helped a friend find her cell phone. These are the modern and trying dilemmas of our times: One must have another phone nearby, remember their own phone number -- or that of a friend or relative to call your phone -- so you can find it in the central lap drawer of your desk. If only the frontiersmen, or even our great-grandparents, could see us now.

Left Alabama to head to Samford. A meeting was delayed until tomorrow, but that's fine. Important meeting subtopics were clarified this evening and all seems well on the meeting front.

The students worked through the night putting together tomorrow's paper. I spent a few minutes at the library vainly wandering the aisles looking for scholarly journals that might hold the secret to some research I'm trying to put together. Of six journal entries (across four separate journals) I found two. One of them was interesting and relevant and may lead somewhere one day. All three books I hoped to also discover turned out to be simple classroom texts and of little use.

Back to the online stores of knowledge. On EBSCO, on JStore, on Questia and Google Scholar! How in the world did anyone do work before this was possible? Even still, with those raw stores of huge databases I'm bumping blindly into roadblocks, finding frustrating references to particular pieces of scholarship, but not the actual works themselves. Another fun example: a particular reference, which might be wonderful simply for the inspirational title, is not to be found in this state.

When I finally do pick it up, and I might have to buy it from Amazon, the quoted parts I've seen elsewhere might be the only thing of value. But to know that it can't be located in the vast libraries of Samford, UAB, Alabama, Auburn and Birmingham-Southern is an impressive thing.

I must be doing something right: I keep running into a few of the same names over and over, and I find myself liking what they write. I have a three-pronged idea which I'm hoping to float before a few professors soon. They can tell me of all of the conceptual and methodological problems I haven't thought of or can't solve. The first of which being that the three-pronged idea is really two prongs, but the middle prong is necessary for the possibility of a cool acronym.

Somehow my night was lost to research and talking with the student-journalists. It is a great experience. I roamed campus on a brisk night and spent a few minutes in a beautiful library. I returned to a newsroom of ambitious and hardworking journalists eager to finish the paper so that they could move on to the next 15 projects they are addressing.

It seems we're all trying to catch up. That should be the motto of April, "The Catch Up Month, sometimes with Showers which lead to May Flowers, which announce the onset of Summer, where we all feel Empowered." We could probably tweak the wording a bit and use a good font to punch it up, but there might be something there.

And that's the day. Hope yours was as fun, productive and full of energy and happiness. Hope your tomorrow is even better!

Monday, April 13, 2009

And how was your Easter? Filled with family and pictures and memories and unevenly dyed eggs, I hope. Did you find them all? Go count them again. Be certain. For if you've missed even one, this is the experience that awaits you.

Years ago, we'll say I was seven, there came a violent stink in the house. For weeks it only grew and morphed, stretching at first from my playroom into the hallway and finally over the entire top floor. No answer could be found. No dead body could be found -- and that idea was considered. The smell only grew, advancing into some circle of which Dante should have thought.

As the days crawled into the warm Southern spring and the putrid air persisted and threatened us with nasal burnings into the summer it was resolved that the bottom must be found. My mother, being the determined but gaggy type -- and the vile odor was bad, coroners were calling from miles away to complain -- insisted that the problem be solved.

(You should hear my mother tell this tale.)

She covered her face with a rag and began to dig through the closet of toys and clothes because that was where the smell was the strongest. That was where cadaver dogs managed by people with no olfactory sensation had given their last, only to be carted away, never to work again, overcome by post traumatic smell disorder. Finally, after what must have seemed like hours of trying to restrain the gag reflex she found the culprit.

It seems that after a long ride home from my grandparents house I'd simply thrown my Easter egg basket into the closet. It was full of the hard boiled spoils of the day. At that young age, of course, I had no concept of rotting eggs, but that April and May we all got an education.

And the house was never the same. Some say that on years when Easter and the full moon fall too closely together, and the winds shift just right, you can still smell the smell of decaying egg shells.

Trust me. Go count them all again.

Off today. Samford closes so that students and employees may travel back from Easter. I've spent the weekend doing a little cleaning and studying. Neither ever ends. However, if I applied myself this week I could reach that unique and happy place where every piece of clothing I own has been freshly laundered. Something to shoot for.

Today there was a run to the gym, which was closed. And then a run to the grocery store, which was also closed. Happily Easter remains the last of the Western world's holidays where people can enjoy themselves at home rather than work. But when did Monday suddenly become a day like this as well? I like it, but it was odd to see all the neighborhood kids outside instead of in school.

They could have been mowing my lawn, but they left that to me. First there were a great many sticks to pick up from the yard. We had storms last night -- three places in the community had significant tree damage. One home had a large oak fall on their house. A nearby business had a tree fall, but they seemed to have only lost part of the chain link fence, the tree having landed just short of the building. Another house has a tree resting in the horizontal position, falling harmlessly in the yard, but surely scaring the old woman as it came down around her. Fortunately our little neighborhood was spared any further damage. No one on our street had any real problems, just twigs and sticks. Several of them had been hurled into the ground, as if the gods were angry, and only had branches with which to stab at the earth.

The lawn mowing was easy enough. Now the grass is more or less one consistent height again, and just in time for more rain tonight!

This afternoon I ventured out to pay the car insurance. Of course they were open. And then to file my taxes. I'm a walk-in and the lady says "I don't know where I can put you ..." But I know people and within a few minutes I was with a nice lady who's been in the accountant's office forever, and another nice lady who kept interrupting at all the important parts of the conversation.

With taxes completed I wished them all a quick end to the day -- the accountant's office is the one place where they never seem to get tired of the "last minute" joke. The novelty of people coming in on the 13th and 14th in the hopes of avoiding the last minute rush never gets old to hear them tell it. I was all set to explain I hadn't the time previously, remembered my wonderfully lazy spring break and realized I shouldn't say anything. I had lots of time.

Back at home I started coding data on the face-ism paper. I have to turn in numbers tomorrow, so 70 days worth of images from seven news sites must be analyzed for the face-ism index of President Obama. Before dinner I stomped through the first 22 days worth. After 24, which was good (and shouldn't be spoiled), I got back into my little system and finished the coding. I'd like a larger sample size, but you go with what the sites give you. That will just be something to discuss in the limitations. Oh, I'll have many things to discuss in my limitations I'm sure.

Tomorrow, back to school at Alabama, then to Samford where the students will be putting another paper to bed. And then, later, I'll get to a little more of my own studies. It's going to be a great day. Be sure to stop by and find out all about it!

And count your eggs, you don't want them to hatch, or do any other thing.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Ever read about the legend of the dogwood?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Rode 20 miles to start the morning, but I was also able to work out at the gym after that. I didn't get to the weights yesterday. There was a woman heckling a younger lady -- we'll assume it was her daughter or sister -- and I knew if I stayed we'd end up in a heated discussion on gym etiquette. It was better to leave.

At the time, yesterday, there were four people in the area. The two ladies, an older gentleman and myself. The younger woman finished at one station and the older gentleman began his workout. The older woman then began heckling the younger woman that the older man could move more weight around than the younger woman. The man was 72, but barrel chested and looked as if he still tossed telephone poles around for a living. The younger woman was new to the gym and was in no way near the same shape as the man. The problem, for me, was the heckling of the slightly older woman while she sat on a machine and -- this is key -- did nothing. While she exercised her mouth, making the younger woman feel self conscious, I tried to talk her down, as did the older gentleman. We tried to point out that it wasn't about what he did, or she did in comparison, but what she did that was healthy for her.

Only a lazy fool would find comparison the order of the day at the gym. I only consider the woman lazy because she was perfectly content to not do any exercise while poor-mouthing her daughter/sister/friend. And she could have benefited from a few reps herself. It was very unfortunate.

But she was not there today. I got more weights in and then promptly came home and sat around watching the Georgia spring game. Football in April is a beautiful thing, even if it is two-hand-touch on the quarterback.

Pretty overcast day, and a bit on the cool side as well. Made use of the afternoon by visiting Sam's for meat products and paper utilities. Tried out a nice futon. If I had need for one, that'd be the one to get. Nice dark colors, elegant design, heckler not included. The guy seemed jealous I'd found the futon first. I'm not one to hog the display model, so I moved on.

I discovered a nice overstuffed leather chair that, if I had room, and $500, would look great in the library. In the grocery section chicken was chosen, pork was picked and salmon selected. Around the salmon I ran across an X-Wing fighter kite.

Half of the Canadian wilderness is now sitting in my closet, represented in the form of bathroom tissue. Another third of that timberline is now carefully stowed in the basement as paper towels.

Splurged on those, buying the package that costs $.45 extra because they seem sturdier. At home there was a bonus discovery. These are the paper towels with many perforated edges. Why waste one when a third of a sheet will do?

Had dinner with The Yankee, Our Friend Skye and his girlfriend Asya. Skye is also in the doctoral program at Alabama and Asya hopes to soon be there as well. We brainstormed comm theory research over pasta from DeVinci's. A lot of good could come from that dinner. There are lots of promising research ideas now sitting in the pipeline.

I need a nickname for such meetings -- I already have the t-shirt design in mind -- but a good group name would be useful. Something better than Think Tank. Drop me a note if you think of one.

Hope you have a lovely Easter plan for tomorrow. Got all the eggs dyed? I didn't dye any, don't have to, the smell of that stuff hasn't escaped my nose since childhood. May you find all your eggs, and may you find them in a timely fashion. I'll tell you a tale on Monday that will make you want to double-check, just in case.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Twenty miles on the bike this morning. I bought a new seat for it last night, but I'm not sure it is getting the job done. More seat searching might be in my future. One bike person I know suggests shorts that have a big pad sewn into the critical area.

"You have to get used to the feeling that you're wearing a diaper though," she said.

I'll try a new seat first. I need to. Sitting just so finds a painful nerve and that's no fun. But, still, 20 miles. Not too bad.

On campus there was a morning of reading, writing Emails and a brief meeting. Before noon we had two buck lunch with department members. There weren't a lot of students there today. Many of them had left already for their Easter weekend. They get Monday off, too, for a travel day. In this way students can spend Easter with family.

Samford does this right. But every holiday should have an extra travel day.

Had a phone call from Miami about web sites. We're going to launch a new one for the paper in the fall and trying now to pull together all the details. After that the day passed quietly, from afternoon into evening, which segued nicely into Pie Day.

The Yankee and I watched Ward try to pick up friendly ladies from his tables. He was bummed that none were leaving him phone numbers, so we started leaving him 867-5309s.

After dinner, and pie, we visited the dollar theater to watch The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The 12 word review:
There are continuity problems, go figure, but it's a touching, sentimental movie.
Brad Pitt's accent was different as narrator and character, which was annoying. But given the New Orleans location he was better than Tom Cruise, but perhaps not John Travolta, both were considered for the lead role.

The whole movie makes you want to be old and then younger, a Brad Pitt lookalike, a motorcycle riding, button company owning, sailboat cruising character. But without the war and the Murmansk scenes.

The movie theater was packed, dollar movies and a shaky economy? Check. Plenty of people were coming and going from the screening room, which smelled of dust and wet pulp and initially suffered from poor projector aim. It was close enough to a full moon and the people coming and going were acting like it.

It was the end of a fun week, and the beginning of a long and quiet weekend. That's a great way to spend a Friday night.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The media psychology class I'm taking originally began with a paper due at the end of the semester. Recently we decided to exchange the paper for a question much like our eventual comp question when we're all one day finished with coursework. Today the professor sprung a practice question.

Actually he did this last week, but I was in Virginia presenting papers, so I caught the practice question today. I wrote three pages and then we discussed after class. What I wrote wasn't exactly what he was looking for. Some of it was not that at all. I feel, though, at times, like I almost get what he's after. Sometimes I feel like I'm about as far away as you can possibly get.

This after last night's homework, which was to be Emailed to the professor. Just as I finished the work the Internet went out. And the cable. And the phone. (Hence the danger of the combo plan.) Calling Brighthouse, my sometime digital signal provider, I was promised a half hour resolution to the problem. It seems they were working in the area and that required pulling us off the network. We wouldn't want those technicians to be overwhelmed by the flow of ones and zeros.

They always seem to be working in the area. About every third day you can see a Brighthouse crew at a silver box in the neighborhood. All of that effort from the technicians should make the system work. From experience I know better.

So the homework had to wait until this morning. Woke up, sent it in, went to campus and took the practice question on the Limited Capacity Model of Motivated Mediated Message Processing. I'm just going to keep typing that here to bring my site up to the front page of Google. So every Thursday for the rest of the semester we'll be discussing the LC4MP. Right now I'm not even in the first 100 hits, and that's a shame.

Meanwhile in my own class at Samford I'm trying to overcome technical difficulties. There are some IT issues to deal with, but we're pressing forward. Next week the students are shooting video. Should be fun. Half the class are graduating seniors and everyone is counting the days until the end of the semester. It is interesting to watch, but I think we'll all make it through the semester.

I spent most of the evening in my office, working on this, writing on that, reading on the other. Dinner, for which I was ready after skipping lunch, was the traditional Thursday breakfast in the cafeteria. I'm still reading James Reston's Deadline. He's writing about acquiring the Vineyard Gazette, where his son is still the publisher. That paper's got a great history too.

I left campus around 10 and then visited the big blue box store to find Cadbury Eggs and a bike seat. The two items are not related. I found a bike seat cushion cover in the sporting goods section, the eggs in the seasonal candy section. They come in boxes of four for $2 or $.50 individually.

Found rows and rows of Easter animals. They seemed a little too close to the Wolverine claws for comfort though.

The economy is taking on bizarre turns. This math hardly seems like an incentive. And the marketing here is unnecessary. The kid totally eats that ball. Having been on the unfortunate end of that exchange myself, I can speak for him (his mouth is full) and say that leather does not taste good.

And that's pretty much a Thursday, exchanging one campus for another, getting home about 13 hours after I left. Nice work if you can get it. Tomorrow? Well, that's Pie Day. What else do we need?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Rode 15 miles this morning. Only 15 miles. I love the only there. It suggests so much about such a distance. Since I rode 20 miles on Monday 15 today is rather an only. I'd feel like a slacker, but various muscles disagree.

The new edition of the Crimson is out this morning. One student was recently honored as the sportscaster of the year by the Associated Press. That's not a college award, but rather a professional honor. There's also a column recounting a delicate moment in the history of journalism at Samford. The date got mixed up in the copy, but it is a nice brush across the top of what is a very colorful tale. It has been told to me once or twice by the department's resident historian, and some of the details boggle the mind. Anyway, also in the paper today, the crowd-favorite intramural dodgeball standings.

This is the time of year when all the various publications come out. And our students are so enthusiastic that the staff on one magazine is similar to the staff on another, which is similar to the paper's staff. This week all of that simultaneous work caught up to them. Everyone's ready, I think, for an extra day off at Easter.

This evening there was class at Alabama. I was all set to do one assignment for that class, glanced at the syllabus and realized I was about to do the wrong assignment. A quick call to the professor gave me the proper details and a week-long reprieve.

But I've been working on the idea anyway. We talked about them in class tonight where everyone discussed the original article behind a theory they tend to use a lot and then discussed the papers that helped form that original article. It was an interesting conversation and probably a useful exercise. Plus it is always fun to see how communication theory emerged from psychology theory or sociology or elsewhere.

Mine, for example, emerges from political science.

At least I think it does. I tend to fall between one and two theories a lot, never sure whether to head left or right. There's a nice shady little space in between them, but it is an area of research that has fallen out of favor for unknown reasons. This could be a good thing for me as there's been no question about theory as it relates to the Internet. If I can figure out a way to keep my professor from laughing at the idea I could be on to something.

Or he could laugh.

Dinner at Logan's for the two for $13 deal. Lately they've hidden the banners and tabletop advertisements. Tonight we almost got stuck with the full price. Harmless error. But I'm watching you, happy-go-lucky waitress lady.

And, now, to do homework for tomorrow's media psychology class. Barrel of fun, I am.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Wade Kwon the mastermind behind Birmingham Blogging Academy invited me to write about why I started my blog and explain the reason and meaning behind its existence. All of that? No problem. Here goes.

The answer to this question for my work blogs would be "To hopefully help student-journalists." The answers below pertain to my personal blog.

In college at Auburn I set out to learn HTML thinking it would make me a better job candidate. (Back then HTML was a mystery and everyone hand-coded pages. Turned out I was right, too.) It held links and displayed feeble efforts in journalism and broadcasting. After school my website started serving a second purpose aimed at briefly catching up with family and friends. I'm alive. I made this trip. I interviewed this interesting person. This was a few years before the regrettable abbreviation came to life, but I was blogging.

In August of 2003 I finally started a proper blog. I liked the idea of automated archives. I enjoyed that my template, after I tweaked it to death, was automatically replicated across my pages. Ease and convenience and too much free time meant I should write more.

At first, and for a long time, the blog's voice was scattered. That may happen to you when you get started, don't fret. There was scripture and news stories I covered and the occasional mention of books I'd been reading or shows I'd recently watched. It evolved from a short format to a daily dose. It stayed a semi-personal thing. For a while it had no real purpose. At some point that became its purpose.

Over six years, through countless design changes and after many coding experiments the blog portion of my website has become a catchall of wonderful memories, another place to show off photography, discuss books and classes and movies and sports and everything that interests me. It might not all interest you, but I have two audiences: You and me.

I write tons of tomes. Some of it respectable and some of it overwhelmed by typos. Sometimes it is rife with lame puns -- those are for me. As often as I can I try to paint descriptive imagery of the stories of my day. I'll want to remember my own adventures from some far off perspective, and I'll find the details that help my hazy memory here.

I have practiced style and tried to emulate others. For some things I want to have Willie Morris' pen or Nanci Griffith's lyricism or the style of a handful of journalist-authors. For the blog I try to write like James Lileks. I fail fantastically.

I've met terrific people. Random Emailers have turned into invaluable friends. I've helped people with this and that where I can. It makes me read more, study more and think more. A blog did these things.

I write about things that interest me -- and much interests me -- in the hopes that some of these things will interest you. That's what you should do too. If you're not writing to your own joy and for your own reasons you're doing it for the wrong reasons. Passion shines through. Your audience will see it.

(Today my post would have been about attending a class in my PhD program at Alabama and spending the evening at work at Samford where the students put together this week's edition of The Samford Crimson. It is a certainty I'd write at least one blushing paragraph on how lucky I am to do these things. I would have also groused about the cold spell. I would have discussed lunch with The Yankee and Brian. I would have included a brief video from Rama Jama's or noted the dangers of autocorrect or made a joke about Nickelback. I would have also written a really nice note about today's class and bragged on the students staffing the paper at Samford. Both are terrific and I don't want to forget that. I might have transcribed, word-for-word, an anecdote I heard today about being stuffed in a locker. It was that funny and worth it. It would have been my day, and it has been a great day.)

Blog. Give it time. When you think you've given it enough, give it some more. It'll catch you. Finally, listen to the good folks at BBA. They've got great advice in store for you. Enjoy yourself. It would be awfully hard to successfully do all of the things they can teach you if you're not having fun with it. Finally, if you asked me for one last piece of advice after all of this I would say: Buy your own URL (they are inexpensive) and install Wordpress (you'll thank me).

Come back soon!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Before I rant on about the day -- and I wrote this paragraph last, so I know all about the ramble that follows -- I should point out the presentation we watched on Sunday before leaving the conference. One of our classmates, a funny, nice, smart guy, drew the unlucky card of having to present at 8 a.m. on Sunday. Figuring no one would be there I insisted that I'd be there.

When The Yankee and I arrived there were the three presenters, the respondent (she offers critiques and encouragement) and two other people. Each of them were friends of a presenter. So there were eight people, and we all sat in a semicircle and listened to an autoethnography on coffee bars -- yeah, I don't know why either -- an oral history of the "first woman of public relations" and our classmate's presentation of identity on racist, antisemitic websites.

You'd never have guessed what all is happening on those websites, unless you spent your time there. It was very revealing and Eric did a great job with all of his critical, cultural, rhetorical know how. I think I bragged on most everyone else during the conference and didn't want to leave him out. Plus, you never know. He might find this one day.

So good job Eric.

This morning I bought football tickets. Alabama football tickets. I plan to give some to my mother and sell the rest. Already they feel as if they're cluttering things up and dirtying my view into the world and these tickets exist in a purely digital form. There's the PDF of the receipt, but otherwise they aren't even there, but still I want someone else to have them.

So. Best offer. If you've got a government bailout check I'm willing to accept a third-party check.

The university opens up their ticket sales -- it is all online these days -- at the brilliant time of 7 a.m., further guaranteeing that most of the undergrads will still be asleep. I woke up for this, woke up early in fact -- because I want my mother to be able to enjoy a game, and sell the rest -- and then proceeded to watch the system not work.

Fortunately the overwhelmed server was able to make a comeback and sell tickets. They go for $35 per student. Mine were purchased, I made a joke of it on Twitter and within moments I was given offers of kidneys and the like for tickets. This from friends. I cannot, in good conscience, sell these to a friend. I know them. I like them. I happen to appreciate the value their kidneys hold in their quality of life.

Some undergrad who couldn't wake up for the big sale and an unlimited access to daddy's credit? Oh I can sell them to that person.

So that was the early morning. I celebrated with a 20-mile bike ride. (I'm really not that good, it sounds more impressive than it really is.) The first six or so miles have become the warm up. By the 13th mile the adrenaline kicked in. Around mile 15 my hamstring started aching.

I figure OK, I'll nurse it to get back to 18 miles, which is where I left off last time. At mile 18 I think You know, your goal for this morning was only two more miles. It'd be a shame to go all this way and not finish it up.

After the last two miles I cranked out a few weights for good measure and within 15 minutes I could barely walk up and down the steps. My leg hurts in an emphatic way -- but it has improved as the day continues -- particularly on stairs. Also, I work on the third floor of the student center. There's no elevator to my office.

I took the elevator from the second to the first floor today because I was tired of grimacing the grimace of an old man surrounded by full-of-life young people. I'm not that person yet, nor do I wish to be him. So I took the elevator. This was the first time I've done that in my building, and it will be the last. It is a charming rickety container of death waiting to happen. The modern Samford campus isn't old, this one growing out of the mid-20th Century, but the elevator seems to have been there for 87 years. At the time there was no building, just the elevator. You could take it from the ground to a slightly more elevated view to more of the woods. They built the campus around it. They had to be careful; even a stray wind would make the contraption's passengers feel a shimmy.

I did not have the heart to check out the inspection document. You don't really want to know. All that matters is that, finally, after a moment of thrilling uncertainty, you managed to get to where you are going.

I took the stairs back up to my office.

The day, beyond defying gravity and creaky 19th Century physics, was spent catching up on the chores upon which we all must be caught after an absence from the office. It turned cold outside as I typed. And there's more of that coming. No one needed nor asked for this. I'm wearing a jacket. In April. In Alabama.

At home there was the latest installment of 24. I did not point out my usual and witty indulgences observations on Twitter tonight, so there is no 24 Retweet Theatre.

Jack Bauer did, however, manage to overcome the powerful effects of the deadly Crutchfield Jakob he's been doused with. He did this through the poor of special agent musk, will power, machismo and the low metabolism one can only develop when they never eat.

He's taking shots to mask the symptoms, but we know he lives. Mostly because Kiefer Sutherland is the executive producer, but also because he's agreed to another season and there's still talk of a movie. In the movie, breaking from the traditional theme of the show, will just be two hours of Jack Bauer eating and visiting the men's room. It will take a while because he gets nervous when other people are around, and the entire film crew will have to be sure that the lighting is just so ... two hours.

Anyway. Jack's trying to coach on Tony Almeida who's actually carrying along the anti-terrorism plot. There was the showdown of good guys versus bad guys last week which led us to this episode. Finally the good guys -- oddly enough played by the government setting out to trespass beyond the boundaries of their executive order -- left. The bad guys -- portrayed by the folks who were just trying to protect their property which is currently housing weaponized toxic badness -- looked victorious, but only in a menacing fashion.

The one bad guy with Second Thoughts was killed. John Voight, who's the rich old white bad guy du jour, bludgeoned him and then threw him over a railing where he landed on a deadly map painted on the floor. Voight is turning in the scenery chewing performance of his life. The sledgehammer of plot gets to even the good actors on this show.

Tony Almeida finds the poison, but they'll soon be on to him. The president is all ready to make a big fireworks stand out of the place but the props people intervened, pointing out they didn't have the special effects budget for that this week. Voight's character helpfully piped up and said he could threaten the eastern seaboard with the poison juice gas on some rockets the government gave him. And, he said, he'd feel like launching those to cities along the seaboard, but he'd hold off if the president would play a round of bridge with him.

This president, who desperately wants to appear tough -- as I suspect they all do -- feels hemmed in by his proposal and agrees. Next week they're playing cards and eating cucumber sandwiches.

Meanwhile Jack Bauer is dying. But it has to stretch out six or seven more hours or they'll have to rename the show. I suspect by next season he'll have squeezed the virus from his system via the sweat glands.

Also, tonight there was last Wednesday's series finale of Life on Mars, where the cop has been flung back to 1973 after a particularly nasty accident in 2008. He's been hanging out with Harvey Keitel and a terrific ensemble cast, making some fairly interesting and often amusing episodes while hoping to Quantum Leap his way home.

I say all this because no one in America watched this show aside from myself, one of my professors and two people I know online. You need to be caught up on the premise.

Well, he's close to figuring it out, all of the weighty subjects are moving together toward a dramatic conclusion. There's a big fight, our hero is in a lot of trouble, but Harvey Keitel, who makes white loafers look cool saves the day. At the very end we're yanked away from 1973 as the show promised us a conclusion to all the mysteries.

Turns out he was on board a rocket ship to Mars. (Get it!?) There was a sleep program designed to keep their brains active, but there was a glitch. His program was supposed to recreate New York 2008 with him playing a police officer, but the glitch changed things to New York 1973. (Get it!?) When he wakes up, and his crewmates wake up around him they are descending to Mars in 2043 or so and all the ensemble players are there, but they're astronauts. (Get it!?)

It was underwhelming and not the quality ending the show deserved. In the U.K. version of the show the audience finds out he's been in a coma. Apparently that direction wasn't good enough, so they poured Rumpelstiltskin, original Buck Rogers and Wizard of Oz into one unsatisfying vat of television.

If Bobby Ewing had stepped out of the rocket ship's shower we might have been OK with that, for all the cliches would have been examined. The final shot was of the astronauts about to walk out onto Mars. As one foot moves to take that first step the space boot turns back into Harvey Keitel's shoe.

So, in a way, that goofy shot made sure that at least one regrettable style will not return because of this show. For that I'm appreciative.

If you'd come back tomorrow I'd be appreciative of that as well. I've been asked to write a post about why I blog. I haven't tried to explain this corner of the Internet for several years now, so I'm probably due.

See you then!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Because this is opening day of the baseball season -- and because I spent 11 hours in the car -- I'll present you with this slideshow from my recent day at the park.

Tomorrow we'll touch on the drive, dinner and highlight one last presentation from the conference. Then it is business as usual.

Until then, it's 1,2,3 strikes ...

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Back to the conference today, day three of four and my last full day here.

After a brief stint in the "Fitness Center" which is just two doors down from the hotel's "Suite Shop" there was more stuff to consider from smart people. (Stuff is a highly technical term that we don't often use off campus.)

During a break in the day I learned a valuable lesson about being in Norfolk. When downtown one must always look both ways for battleships before crossing the street. I had lunch at a little place next to the conference hotel called D'egg Diner. Nothing to look at, but the reviews are good and the serving portions are beyond ridiculous.

I saw the MacArthur Memorial. Here's your 12-second tour. The all important last word that you don't hear, of course, is MacArthur.

About this time I heard from The Yankee that she won the Bostrom Award for top paper. This is a rather prestigious thing, and an award that has never been won by an Alabama student. Back at the conference there was a great round of picture taking. You might notice that the plaque she's holding isn't hers. There was a mix up at the plaque making place and so she was presented with an award the Auburn communication and journalism program earned.

And I've been fighting really hard all day to not make jokes about that.

Some of the presentations I've heard today include rhetorical studies from undergraduates:
The Burden of Henry Clay

The Rhetoric of John Brown's Final Speech

"You cannot win a battle in any arena of life merely by defending yourself": Nixon's Politics of Self Preservation

"The Wall Cannot Withstand Freedom": An In-depth Analysis of Ronald Reagan's Tear Down This Wall Speech
Clay and Brown are oldies, but goodies at these conferences. Reagan seems fairly modern for rhetorical critique in contrast. And while they were all nicely done, I'd like to see something a bit more contemporaneous.

I also attended, and Twittered through, a session titled "PR in a New Media age." Fortunately (for you) I can't access my Twitter archives just now, so you're spared the blow-by-blow or the redundancy if you're already following my feed. If you're not, you really should be.

Anyway. The panel was chaired by a professor from Auburn and featured to panelists from Auburn -- but one canceled -- and another panelist that is an Auburn grad. They talked of blogs and social networking aimed at students. War was the example, since this was almost an inclusive Auburn panel.

The legal profession's use of social media -- it was found to be lacking -- was the topic of another insightful presentation. Facebook, Twitter and Skype as used in the classroom and the PR world was discussed by @BarbaraNixon. She's full of helpful tips and tidbits and because of her questions to the audience we learned that Twitter and Facebook were the most widely used social tools in the room. Flickr was the least used.

The topic that was not presented, unfortunately, was to focus on ushering students into the social media age.

As the day wore into evening and the conference wound down I caught back up with The Yankee and her parents for a delicious dinner at Freemason Abbey. Delicious steak, great staff and moan-inducing desserts. You're dining in a 19th Century church, and everyone seems content to linger a bit. The staff doesn't mind if you stay either.

Our waiter, a very animated guy named Chris, keep walking back scoring updates from the basketball tournament. Turns out that he and The Yankee's father grew up about three miles (and a year or two) apart from one another in Pennsylvania. He went to school at Old Dominion and never left Norfolk and that's where we found him as he gave us a free commemorative glass with the restaurant's logo to celebrate the occasion.

If that place were at home I might go broke there.

And that's been the day, another fun adventure of conference, friends and family fun. Tomorrow's adventure will be a bit different, and a lot longer. Don't worry, unless something really exciting happens on the way home I won't share the details of the 11-hour journey.

But do come back. There'll be something here worth seeing.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Light day at the conference today. Most of our activities were slated for the opening day and Saturday, so I took advantage of this morning to meet with a few professors and chat about this and that.

The Marriott, which is hosting the conference, has a handsome lounge that is filled with overstuffed furniture surrounded by dark paneled wood. I'd like to convert my entire house into this look, if you don't mind. They also have a guy who wanders through, plays the piano for 20 minutes promptly at 10 a.m., stares at the strings with a curious expression and then walks away. He comes back throughout the day and repeats the process. My version of this room need not have the guy, that would just be too extravagant.

I learned a lot about the naval base in Norfolk this morning, discussed my nascent plans with my advisory committee chair and met, in passing, a lot of old scholars waiting for their luncheon to begin.

The Yankee and I had lunch elsewhere, at Schlotzsky's again. I order a salad in my one feeble attempt to eat healthy while traveling. Yesterday I had a sandwich.

After lunch we joined her parents, sat in traffic and made it out to Harbor Park to walk into the stadium of the Triple-A Norfolk Tides to watch an exhibition game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Washington Nationals. Norfolk's club is in the Orioles' system and this is seems to be a regular fund raiser for the place.

It is a really attractive stadium from the outside, and there's plenty of comfort to be found inside the stadium as well. We bought tickets at the box office and still sat midway down the first base line on a beautiful afternoon that drew almost a capacity crowd.

Koji Uehara got the win for the Orioles, throwing just 72 pitches through six innings. Hometown hero Ryan Zimmerman provided a massive home run for the Nationals, but they fell behind early and a late rally fell short. Baltimore sent the crowd home happy, winning 6-3 in the last spring game before the regular season begins.

There are more pictures up in the April photo gallery (without captions as of this writing, but I'll get to it, promise). One of my favorites is this little girl who was such a big Mets fan that she was in disbelief when her parents finally made her realized her team wasn't playing in the game. She was happy to go around pointing out the logo on her shirt. "Mets!"

I managed a really nice shot of the pitcher's release. There's also the traditional baseball stadium shot featuring The Yankee. Her parents had a fine time too. Her father is an umpire and I think her mother found a new favorite team, based on a few of the player she saw after the game. It was a beautiful afternoon with a bright sunny and swirling winds. That was nightmarish for the outfielders, but entertaining for the fans.

After the game, of course, there were the autograph seekers. They are a big crowd.

Remember, still more pictures in the April photo gallery. After the game, and the hike back to the car, we stopped off for dinner at Pizzeria Uno. There's a sign up front that says Health Magazine calls them the healthiest chain restaurant. But don't believe it. It's pizza. Delicious, wonderful, perfect pizza.

We ate at the original Pizzeria Uno last August in Chicago. There it is strictly deep dish. At the chain stores they've got a menu that rivals the TGI Fridays at their peak of kitchen ramblings. Why you'd go there and order something beyond a steak escapes me, but you have the option at least. We had the classic pizzas and perfect crust. After dinner we were offered free apples. That's where the health part comes in.

Spent the later part of the evening watching YouTube videos with The Yankee's parents. I showed them Pearl, they showed me the trunk monkey campaign. That's such a great idea. I'd love to see that as a real commercial. Some of those are better than the real car spots you see anyway.

The hotel where I'm staying has cookies at the front desk each night. We just missed them tonight. Tomorrow there could be a stake out.

Also tomorrow, more conference and more fun!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Day one of the Southern States Communication Association conference. Hereafter you might read a lot about research projects and really smart people. I make a cameo as well. If it isn't your idea of a good time, well, then, you're lost anyway.

Walked downstairs from my hotel room -- we never stay in the hotel where the conference is taking place as that is cost prohibitive, fortunately we have a classmate who helped find a huge deal at a Hilton 10 miles away -- to see The Yankee's parents. Since this is all taking place in Norfolk they drove down to visit her for the weekend. We had the delicious continental breakfast (I'm not sure what continent finds muffins and bananas a breakfast, but hotels love that place) and then headed over to the downtown Marriott for the actual conference.

After registration -- where the conference happily extracts more of your money despite the amount of money you've already paid to be a member -- we headed into our first panel of the weekend. The Yankee was presenting a paper she co-authored with Our Friend Andrew, who's been mentioned here before, two other classmates and a professor. Her's was the last presentation.

First was a presentation by Dr. Roy Schartzman titled "Der Kampf and the War on Terror: Metaphorically Framing Symbolic Combat." He was comparing the build up of Nazi-Germany to George Bush in what seemed, at times, a strained metaphor. He offered Germany's framing of 1930s posturing for annexed land as comparable to the post 9/11 framing of the U.S. government. With the exceptions that Hitler needing war because Nazi-spending alone would kill the economy, the sitting in the European woods waiting to be backed down by France and the U.K. and having not been attacked prior to his rearming in violation of international treaty, yeah, I suppose I could see his point. He argued that Germany's rhetoric inevitably led to blitzkrieg. He argued that President Bush's posturing inevitably led to Afghanistan and Iraq. Czechoslovakia and Poland were much the same, to Schartzman, as Afghanistan and Iraq. Germany, after all, did not act alone. The Soviets and Slovaks were right alongside. That entire United Nations resolution, preemptive ideals of the Bush doctrine stuff was no different.

I'm no foreign policy expert, but it would seem that the two are most similar in that it is hard for a sovereign state to fight an idea. Nazi Germany was troubled by inflation, poor World War I treaties, racism and a madman. The U.S. found itself fighting the more zealous aspects of a religion in a place with no prominent military actors. Thankfully high-minded ideals, like not committing genocide, have separated the two nation's approach to power. This is why Schwartzman focused only on the kinder, gentler 1933-1939 Germany. You'd think that line would be drawn at Kristallnacht, but alas.

The next presenter was Dr. Eugenie Almeida who presented "Five Years of U.S. News Coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict." This was an interesting study on language use in the coverage of prominent newspapers and their coverage of that region. Her study follows what you might expect: the words most often used are full of dire situations, violence, danger and heartbreak. Sometimes research must tease out those things that are obvious. While intuitively you would have considered this no surprise, Almeida made a few compelling finds.

After that the University of Arkansas was represented by a host of master's students, one of whom presented a very nice paper titled "Characteristics of Political Blogs: What Contributes to the Popularity of One versus Another?" While deliberately avoiding ads they touched on every aspect possible here except inbound links. This study might also seem intuitive to closer observers of popular websites, but it serves as a rigorous validation of what we've been guessing all this time. You'll find the answers out there, in fact if you're interested in this stuff you've known it for some time. Now you may now that the finest scholarship available in northwest Arkansas has proved your hunches correct.

The Yankee completed this particular panel with "Are the News-Makers Listening? A Study of the Role Web Site Metrics Play in Newsroom Practices and Decision-Making." Despite an admitted problem with the title, this paper has fascinated me as I've been listening in to their work on the subject. They submitted surveys to every paper in the country, receiving replies from (I believe) about 30 percent of them. The editors were asked whether they were putting to use the often contextually rich web site metrics toward news selection of the papers. Most, they found, aren't.

The problem, in my view, is that newsrooms see the web site and the newspaper as different entities. There's not much of an argument made that a web site visitor and a newspaper reader want the same material. Newspapers can get feedback on occasion from focus groups, letters, interaction and eye-tracking tests, but web sites can provide real time data on how people are coming in, where they are landing, what motivated the visit, where they go, how much time they spend in a particular section and so on. This information is scarcely considered for the paper, where traditional news values hold true and there's the undying fear of ever changing anything on the funny pages.

If papers were driven by a website's data of the bourgeoisie it'd look a lot different. At least in the funny pages. They might look like the Bluffton Today.

Anyway. The Yankee did a great job. You might not be able to tell from the low volume, but she's telling us here that the size of the newspaper seems to be reflective of their use of web metrics.

After lunch across the street from the hotel at the conveniently located Schlotsky's, the Yankee made her second presentation of the day. This was in a panel grouping the top student papers from the conference. The first presenter was "Identity Construction of and by Women of Color in XXL's 'Eye Candy' Feature." It was a presentation of letters to the editor of that august magazine that would have made the skin melt off the face of any feminist. I'm still not sure what theory he was considering here, but he had a subject that could make most people uncomfortable, so at least he had that going for him.

The Yankee presented "Type Up and Speak Out: Does the Internet Restrict the Spiral of Silence?" She stood for this one, giving a nice lecture on things I've heard about for months and again in the car, but it is a good presentation and it appeals to the heart of communication theorists because it takes an interesting theory and bends it into the Internet's construct.

The third panelist was also an Alabama student presenting on "The Role of Self-categorization Theory in Mass Media" and she did a great job. Later in the conference one of these three papers will be honored with a prestigious award. Should it come to one of the Alabama students I would not be surprised. I'll let you know Saturday.

I went to an afternoon panel for no other reason than the chair was a professor of mine at Auburn -- he didn't remember me -- and because of the paper titles. How can you go wrong with selections like:
The Changing World of Presidential Communication: Sarah Palin's Construction of Style at the Republican National Convention

Beyond Pseudoscience: Rhetorical Resources of Nazi Anti-Semitism

Simulating the Civil War

Vicente Fox's Inaugural Address: A Comparative Analysis between the Generic Characteristics of the United States and Mexico
After that, there was this:

Up first was Dr. Lynne Webb from Arkansas, who presented research she and some of her students had conducted on the web sites of presidential candidates in the 2008 election. I listened closely, very interested in their findings and afraid she was going to say everything intended for my presentation.

Our Friend Skye, an Alabama classmate, presented a paper on "Entertainment Media and 'Backstage' Event Framing: How 24 Defines Torture." There was a fascinating survey he put forth about the certitude of distaste Americans have toward torture. Jack Bauer may capture our adventuresome spirit on Monday night, but it seems that we draw the line at torture. Unless, as Jack Bauer often says, there's the imminent threat and this poor, soon-to-be-tortured specimen is the one lead we have to save the day. It was a strong paper and won a top paper award, deservedly so.

Up next was my presentation of a study The Yankee and I conducted last fall. It was similar to Webb's, where she spent her time talking about campaign web sites, I talked about the candidates' MySpace pages. We'd been looking for a correlation of elements on the MySpace sites and longevity within the campaign. We found that the number of friends corresponded in that way, but the research disproved our other hypotheses.

Since I was trying to not cover the same ground Webb covered which trimmed my time down a tiny bit, and since a fourth presenter no-showed we had plenty of time for a conversation. It was, for a change, a crowded room of scholars and between us we had a very interesting conversation about Internet implications on political campaigns.

I was able to reference (thank you phone with Internet!) today's story on Google advertising in New York's special election:
From late Sunday night through noon yesterday, ads for Democratic contender Scott Murphy blanketed Web pages viewed by residents of the district, which encompasses Saratoga Springs, Lake Placid, Glens Falls, and Oneonta. The tactic tested by the Murphy campaign involves serving up ads on behalf of one advertiser on most or all of the Google content network pages generated within a short period within a specific geographic area, in this case New York's 20th congressional district and some surrounding areas to catch local commuters at work.


The Murphy campaign expected to hit the district's 650,000 residents who visited a site in Google’s AdSense network with around 12.5 million display ad impressions during the 36-hour period before noon Tuesday. "I assume the GOP had some Google ads going, just not at the level we were at during the 36-hour period before noon Tuesday," said de Villis.
This conversation got everyone interested as we began to guess at the future of online campaigns, discussed how the culture is evolving from a generational aspect towards the Internet and on and on and on.

Dr. Gary Copeland, my advisory committee chairman, was sitting in the room. To his right sat Dr. Robert E. Denton Jr. Copeland introduced me to Denton which, when you consider his work, was an especially nice treat for the political communication enthusiast.

Standing there talking about the presentation from Arkansas, Our Friend Skye's connections to the LSU political communication studies and our work at home, Dr. Copeland came up with a plan to pool resources in what would make for an impressive database on gubernatorial campaigning. I'm excited about any big possibility, of course, but that was only the beginning of his brainstorming for the night. We stood around and talked about ideas for this and that and, ultimately, Dr. Copeland took six of us out to eat at Snappers. (I had the salmon wrap, pretty tasty).

Our table was likely the most overeducated the place had ever seen. I counted 17 degrees (and still three more in progress) between the seven of us. Also at the table were two other professors who studied with Copeland at Alabama. I only mention all of this because it always amazes me how these smart people let me hang out with them.

They'll have to put up with me through the weekend, as the convention continues on tomorrow. There will be less comm theory written here, though. Can't give you too much fun that closely together. Tomorrow is actually a slow day at the conference so there will likely be some exciting diversions for you here. What's in store? You'll have to come back to find out.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

None of what follows is an April Fools' Joke. This announcement is a public service as I don't want to slow down the Internet with rampant speculation.

The new edition of The Samford Crimson is on newsstands now. There's news of the campus' first living-learning community scheduled to open next fall.

On the bottom floor, a visiting Spanish professor from Spain will reside to encourage an entirely Spanish-speaking floor. The top two floors will house women interested in a distinctive experience while living with several international students and other women with a similar passion for international studies.

Though particularly unique, this residence hall will follow the same guidelines as any other in Beeson Woods. That means paralleled visitation hours and the same quiet hours.
Interesting idea, that. There's also a fashion show for charity and news on Samford's new lacrosse club teams.

A video report from Imagicon is also a highlight on the site. They're doing nice video. I -- the overzealous, enthusiastic adviser type -- only want to see more.

So that's the news from campus. Before that this morning was an 18-mile bike ride. After spending the morning on campus there was all day and all night in the car. I spoke with the web editor of The Whit, the Rowan University paper. They've done something we'll do soon with their product, so I was hoping for a few tips and a heads up. The call was disconnected three times, despite being in the middle of downtown at the time. I also dropped a y'all in the conversation. It occurred to me later that Emily Kostic probably thought I was calling from a third world country.

Somewhere in east Alabama I spoke with my grandmother. She had surgery on her knee this morning. She was walking around this afternoon. Remarkable.

In Georgia, this was the view.

Gorgeous day. Perfect for driving through half of my state, a third of Georgia, the entire length of Carolinas, both south and north, and seven-eighths of Virginia. This is a long drive. About 11 hours.

The Yankee and I broke up the trip with a stop at South of the Border. I'd never heard of the place, never even heard of it. The Yankee, though, had seen the place once before, with her mother on a college visit. Says Roadside America:
South Of The Border is a unique amalgam of Dixie and Old Mexico. At first you wonder what all this Mexican stuff is doing in South Carolina, thousands of miles from its natural habitat. But in a remarkably short time you'll accept SOB as a neon yellow and pink Tijuana, with the added benefit that its inhabitants speak English and its water is safe to drink.

The lovable mascot of the place is pedro, a grinning mustachioed caricature topped with an outsized sombrero. It is pedro who speaks from the billboards. It is pedro who straddles the SOB entrance, 97 feet tall, "the largest freestanding sign east of the Mississippi." You can drive between his legs.

Once parked by "The Big Fella," a visitor can venture into Mexico Shop East -- West being across the street -- and pick up any one of figuratively millions of souvenirs. Quantity rules, with, for example, eight types of backscratchers and twenty-two types of coffee mugs. Rifle through bins of address books and shot glasses. "Bins" is no exaggeration, as the fourteen different gift stores are all packed with thousands of each type of gewgaw and doodad.
The neon is heavenly. We arrive in the last fleeting moments of day down, the sky going from blue to grey to black as I stood and gawked at the signs and the sheer audacity of the gauche scene laid out before me. This says nothing of the motor lodge, which I desperately want to inspect. If I must ever spend the night within 50 miles of here -- and that could only be for a pine tree conference since there is nothing around this awesome explosion of freeway tourist trap Americana -- I will be staying at Pedro's motor lodge. It has a pleasure dome. Whatever that is.

Here's the story of the origin's of the place, again from Roadside America:
As with other great accidental discoveries like X-rays and penicillin, it took a man of vision to realize SOB's vast potential. That man was Alan Schafer, who began his rise to roadside immortality in 1950 with a simple beer stand. When building supplies began being delivered to "Schafer Project: South Of The [North Carolina] Border," a neon light went on in his head. He began to import Mexican souvenirs, and on one such trip arranged for two Mexican boys to come to America and work for him. As Schafer said, "Somebody began calling them 'Pedro' and 'Pancho,' and since it fit into the theme, we began calling them both 'Pedro.'" Today, all SOB workers, regardless of race, creed or color, are called pedro.
The menu at the Mexican (what else?) restaurant said they've served 112 million people since the 1950s. I have doubts about that, but who cares. Also, who cares if the Mexican restaurant has 86ed the rice. The restaurant's upholstery is in the style of Holstein cattle. Many transgressions can be forgiven over such kitsch.

Here's your view from the interstate. Of course you've been tantalized by random signs about the place for an hour. After that sort of brain washing, and hours of mindless humming from the tires, you have to stop in and check out that 22-story sombrero. You can ride up to the top in an all-glass elevator to see ... miles of forest. Seriously, there is nothing around.

After that delightful diversion we continued following the GPS into Norfolk. We prefer Karen, the Australian guide. She says the word "recalculating" in an odd way. And she must say that word a lot when I'm driving. I like thinking of celebrity voices the GPS could use and my favorite idea of the day was Edith Bunker. I also decided that the last 15 miles of using a GPS, particularly after a long trip, is the most painful experience one can endure in an unwrecked vehicle.

And that's been the day. Safely into Norfolk for an academic conference that starts bright and early tomorrow. We're presenting papers and I'll have all the details here. And that's no April Fools' Day joke.