Kenny Smith | blog

Thursday, July 30, 2009

You know that permanent record they always warned you about? The one that had the ability to hold a black mark and follow you around forever? I found mine. I've had it all these years in a box in a closet and didn't know!

This was my official high school transcript. The Yankee read it and was not overly impressed with the scores. We met in graduate school and she's a year ahead of me in her doctoral research and we're playfully competitive about this sort of thing. (I didn't show her my entrance exam scores. Mine were better than hers.)

The point is, I found the permanent record. Hidden from even myself probably a dozen years ago. Just imagine what I could have done in the interim had I known the record was secured and safely protected against those marks that could follow you forever. Oh, they'd still jot things down on you, but some poor clerk would have to fill out all new permanent records, in triplicate, just to get the process started.

Good thing I'm generally a straight-and-narrow kind of guy.

It was a day full of sorting, cleaning and organizing and so I'll share with you Peter Jackson's insight on the shortcomings of Hollywood:
The writers and directors should be blamed just as much as the studios because really everything seems to be a remake or adapting a 1970s TV show that was never particularly good. Why anyone thinks that it would be a good feature film now, you know, goodness knows why. And I guess it's easy to say it's security that you know a studio is only prepared to put $150 million or $200 million into something if it's a known quantity. But at the same time I'm also aware that audiences are getting fed up with the lack of original ideas and original stories. And if you look back to the great days of "Star Wars" and "Indiana Jones" and those sorts of movies, they weren't based on TV shows, they weren't based on comics. They were inspired by them and they had DNA in them which came from years of Flash Gordon and various things in the past but nonetheless they were original. And yet we seem to be incapable as a general industry, which includes not just the studios but the filmmakers and writers and directors, we seem to be incapable of doing that now for some reason. It's a little bit depressing.
Says the guy who's become rich of Tolkien, remade King Kong and is going back to Tolkien for at least two more films. Not that he's saying anything movie audiences haven't been saying for several years now, but it is worth considering the source and his pronouns.

Heroes of the 21st Century: SMS. We could not decide on dinner this evening. Our wedding photographer who shot engagement photographs in 17-degrees in December snow in Connecticut and wedding photographs in 115-degree heat in a Savannah June and is a dear friend in any temperature also makes wonderful dinner recommendations over text message. (We have seen the online version of the photographs now, they are very nice; if you need a photog in Connecticut I know a great one.)

So we had Mexican. Fajitas are filling. Walmart, after dinner, was not as satisfying. They did not have the items we sought. We did meet a very nice lady who explained the school shopping list stand. It seems parents are now expected to go to the store, find their school and grade and pick up all the things on the list. Not for their talented sons and daughters, but for the classroom as a whole. The last item on each list is an additional requested monetary donation. So there's taxes, fund raisers, your supplies, your contribution to the classroom's supplies (and, often, the teacher's, from their personal salary) and your donation.

Why stock up the kids on supplies when there's another administrator to pay, seemed to be her take on the subject. They say, she said, that you aren't supposed to even write your child's name on these items, but she does anyway. If that makes it proprietary or if it still goes into the redistribution remains a mystery. This programming will all mean something in a generation or so.

So we visited Target. They had even fewer items of use. Apparently the stores feel everyone has everything they need in the way of organizational supplies. We're the exception proving the rule, I suppose. So we went back to the big blue box store and got a few things and called it a night.

Finally, July started with a bang, photographically speaking, but it should not peter out over the course of a busy month with a wimpy and crude lightning bolt shot. Instead, I give you a pretty kitty.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I started reading James Tobin's Ernie Pyle's War. Early on Tobin quotes the famous war reporter "(M)y idea of a good newspaper job would be just to travel around wherever you'd want to without any assignment except to write a story every day about what you'd seen."

He said that while working as a copy editor, and grousing that he was never allowed to write. A decade later he got to go on the road and write all of those columns that made him mildly famous before the war. It was there that blogging began.

I stumbled across this book during a library run a few weeks ago. This is alternately why I love and dislike libraries. You go in looking for some specific thing for a useful and productive purpose and you must pass by all of these fascinating tomes to pick up, carry out and distract you.

This time the library won. I've always wanted to read about Pyle. All I really know is his obituary and the romanticized view he earned from his time during the war. Even early in the book, though, you can see he's a troubled man. Full of wanderlust and self doubt and all manner of those pesky, worldly insecurities, but brilliant all the same.

I got through his childhood, his early days and the bulk of his career while standing in line at the DMV this afternoon. Sure, the book's central focus is on Pyle during the war, so it only covers a couple of years, but that DMV line was almost two hours long.

The line bends out of the door and down the length of a long hall. That's where it was when I joined it. Three ladies were working with customers. By the time I made it to the front one of them had disappeared.

A lot more are disappearing. The county, in its infinite corrupt, mismanaged and near-bankrupt condition of wisdom, is closing all of its satellite offices. Those DMV lines are about to get a lot longer. Also, they're laying off almost a quarter of their work force. All of those services are about to come a lot shorter. That's the county, here's an above the fold look at one paper's view of their city. I'm guessing they don't get all the big scoops and quotes at City Hall.

But I digress. There was gallows humor in the line at the DMV. Behind me was a gentleman who worked in the steel mills and knew everything, if you gave him enough time to talk about it. He was an interesting fellow; a nice gentleman who could pluck numbers out of the air. Though when he pointed out that this DMV office was set to close -- it is not -- and that the next town over just buried a 20something who died of swine flu -- they did not -- I began to grow suspicious of his claims.

So I started reading about Ernie Pyle.

On the way to the place I heard Kenny Smith on the radio. He's an incredible bluegrass guitarist, and his wife plays a mean banjo. I'm familiar with their work because we are comparable on Google returns but I've never actually heard him on the air, which is still a neat moment, even in the download on demand era.

(We often swap places on Google searches. Today he's the number eight hit and I'm number nine. Next week I'll be six and he'll be seven. We've had this little competition for a few years now. While my SEO is sometimes stronger, his guitar is far superior.) The other other Kenny Smith outranks us both. (He can dunk.)

There's also a famous Kenny Smith the Drummer, Kenny Smith the Football Player, Kenny Smith the Lottery Winner/Race Car Driver, Kenneth Smith the British War Hero and Kenneth Smith the Pennsylvania Politician, just to name a few. Search engine optimization is a necessary part of the job compared to all of those gentlemen.

This evening I staggered through my six-hour stats final. I finished in six hours, flat, all but guessing on the last question. (And after double checking later I believe I got it right!) The test was administered online, which means it was graded instantly, which means I could figure out my final grade for the semester, and I'm happy to collect the A for that course.

I wrapped that up around 10:30 this evening. The last 40 minutes or so of the exam a vicious thunderstorm was blowing through the area. Deadlines and lightning don't go together and they do little for tense muscles and heartburn.

After the exam the clouds were still emphatic. We went out for pictures. The Yankee chose the plastic bag technique, I opted for the towel over the camera trick. She got no lightning, I got one miserable little bolt. Lightning photography is one of the many things I've yet to master. I understand the principle behind it, but I never find myself in the right circumstances.

Tonight, however, I got one shot. Oddly enough it looked better in the camera's LCD than it does on the computer, where you can barely see the thing. I am very jealous of my friend Wendy who is, apparently, perfectly situated in Savannah to capture fantastic lightning shots. She's not a photographer, but she gets great lightning shots on her cell phone's camera. Think about that for a second.

Through the powers of the auto levels button (PhotoShop masters: I know, I know.) I was able to find the lightning. Obviously it was underexposed and a horrible picture, but I stood in the rain to get it, so I'll conclude the night by showing off the image.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I almost fell asleep on the sofa last night.

We have a great many throw pillows and they are rather comfortable, as throw pillows go. I often find myself in a big internal debate when I want to shift positions on the sofa. Should I leave the pillows where they are and let physics redefine my immediate concept of comfort? Or should I grab this one that sitting behind my calf and install my own paradigm. It is free will versus fate, really.

Anyway, the pillows all seemed to be stuffed up on the high side of the sofa last night, that being where I was sitting while staring vacantly at the television. I was very tired by then. One pillow, I only vaguely noticed, managed to somehow land on my head. It was as if I had a little tent or cave out of which to peer into the big, brightly glowing box.

The Yankee came downstairs from her work and said something to me. That woke me up. Soon after I went to bed. I woke up this morning only slightly less confused, but at least well-rested.

Today I've been in recovery mode from the paper you've read about below. I've also conducted one interview for a case study on which I'm working. Four interviews down, four to go. They've all run about 20 minutes each so far, but the material is good. Now I just have to jot it all down into a paper.

Anybody better at dictation than I am? Wouldn't be hard. Somehow that's a skill where I've always struggled. You'd think a guy who spend a considerable amount of time listening to people and writing what they said would get better at this, but my studio was often a ceaseless whir of soundbite, type, playback, soundbite, type and so on.

Two tiny pieces of progress on the site today as I finally got around to some technical house cleaning with link structures of which you care nothing about. I also uploaded my humble vita. It is pretty thin, only six pages as of this writing, but I'm just getting started. The ultimate contrast: The guy who sits in the golden chair in the department at Alabama has a staggering 75-page vita. He's been an excellent scholar for a very long time.

There's more site work to be done, there's that case study to work on, there's my stats final tomorrow. There's probably half a dozen other things I can't think of at this late hour. That's always the way of it, no?

I've been shirking you lately, dear blog readers, I know. I'll make up for it soon.

Monday, July 27, 2009


I stayed up writing until just after 7 this morning. Woke up around 10 and worked on the formatting for the next two hours and change. It is that bad. The hardest part of getting a doctorate, it seems so far, is satisfying all of the requirements of the graduate school's formatting.

(If you have a better word processor that can handle such things, let me know. I used Open Office on this project, but my friends who are using Word can commiserate with this tale of "WHOA DON'T DO THAT!")

At the end of it all I'm fairly beat. Even in a stupor -- I noted today that I got too old for all-nighters about seven years ago; a friend rightly noted that it is the day-afters for which we are too old -- I have a nice feeling now that the biggest of the big school projects is done.

And now to continue work on the other two.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

And now I will spend some time complaining about formatting and the supposedly artful, but ultimately inflexible, design of word processing programs.

Just before midnight last night I formed my first observation in a series that would say "Things aren't going badly, but they aren't exactly smashing, either."

I would like to have the ability to remove fonts from a program. In this case Open Office, because, for whatever reason, when I got this computer in 200mumble-mumble at the start of my master's program Microsoft Word somehow never made it onto the machine. I managed to grab a nice copy of OO, though, and while there are some quirks in the formatting when you translate from one program to another it more or less gets the job done.

No one has never found a need, however, to copy and paste text and bring the other font and size with them. Let's just assume I'm going to be typing today in Times New Roman -- with the occasional dash of Wingdings, just to see if the professor is paying attention -- and that I have no need for Arial or New Courier. Shouldn't there be a box somewhere that allows me to deselect these font options?

The answer is, yes, there should be a box somewhere that allows me to deselect these font options.

On the plus side, I got a lot of writing done today. As of now it is pushing midnight and I've been at it all afternoon, evening and night, save one break. I've been collating notes, overwriting (comes with the format), making citations and writing in Wingdings the whole time. I'm still about five or a dozen pages short of where I need to be. And that's why someone invented all-nighters. (And someone wrote a wiki on the art behind the concept, bless them.) I haven't pulled an all-nighter for academic purposes since chemistry in my senior year at Auburn, but I'm willing to try it once sgain. Back in my day we didn't have wikis to tell us how to do it, we just knew!

The biggest hurdle of the day was finding the title page of Ithiel de Sola Pool's Technologies Without Boundaries. I need the title page because this is the project where the professor has demanded such things, at the expense of a great many trees in some tropical rain forest. The problem being that this book -- while smart for its time (1990) and a clever look back from here on a brilliant man's mind -- does not exist in any library in this state. (I've checked. We have libraries. Very nice ones from what I hear.)

Google Books has only a limited preview. I am bumping up against technology's boundaries. I figure a book with such a title has to be online somewhere. Finally I settle on a preview of the title page from Amazon. Technology, suddenly is boundless. I screencap it, because it is one of those formats that doesn't just let me see a .jpg. Opening it in Photoshop, trim the margins and print ... the shoddiest low resolution image of printed words you could imagine. If Guttenberg and de Sola Pool saw this they'd both scoff at what was happening here. Technology has boundaries, it seems, and they're all in my Hewlett Packard printer.

So that was one big slow down. This is a format that hardly needs them. Anytime The Yankee or I, or anyone else for that matter, does Internet research we're always left banging our head(s). All the stuff that has come before you is horribly dated and of little value to your project. By the time we've studied ICQ, for instance, you're on AOL and then GChat and then Skype. And while this is a hindrance to your project it also foretells the future of your work: by the time you get it finished and (hopefully) published the masses will have moved on.

We did a MySpace paper last year centered around the elections and now I wonder why, for very much this same reason. If we get that in a journal within the next year (these things take a while) we'll be wondering about the lasting relevance. MySpace, of course, still has considerable web clout, but such is the way of online research. When I was called away to dinner I offered a silent pray that not all of this stuff would be obsolete before I came back upstairs.

After eating I noted on Twitter that I'm writing about the need to revisit the media participation hypothesis and The Yankee is working on her dissertation proposal. We are party animals.

Media participation hypothesis, if your interested, has to do with engaging the public in democratic life. The thinking goes that the greater your opportunity to interact the more invested you'll be in the process. This is an idea of Dr. Erik Bucy which builds upon research focusing on the 1996-1999 Internet. Things change and the hypothesis, I'm arguing, needs a web 2.0 look.

That's generally what the paper is about.

I've managed to cite research The Yankee and I have done. Twice. A conference paper we delivered in April is in there and a forthcoming book chapter made it in as well. I always giggle when I parenthetically note myself. Now watch that be the citation where the professor knocks off points for some obscure APA rule violation.

At 11 p.m. I'd finished two chapters, with one more and polishing to go. At 11:36, just before writing this, I had a stunning moment of clarity where the entire project made sense. Those show up too infrequently and vanish too rapidly. But, for a moment, I had it, it was mine and I felt better about the project.

Mostly I now feel OK about the pace of the thing. That's been a big part of the struggle in this paper for some reason. Usually they come a bit easier, but this one has involved a little extra staring at the margins.

The margins! We'll get to those tomorrow. First I have to write the rest of the thing. Hopefully I can catch a few hours of sleep, too.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

There are three general categories for sitting at your desk. You could be sitting there typing away, making progress on something (and congratulations on that), you could be sitting there idly killing time or you could be sitting there, typing away and yet managing to get nothing done.

I was aiming, today, for the first. Usually I get my fair share of the middle option. Today was chock full of the third choice. And this, for reasons that have been lamented and bemoaned about plenty recently, isn't exactly good timing for that.

Always tomorrow I guess. Assuming there's not an asteroid bearing down on us that the government doesn't want to talk about. They've been unable to pass a bill in Congress to regulate the thing, so they're just going to throw some money at it, hope that stimulates the trajectory and causes a close miss. If splinters, some insiders are telling themselves quietly, fall away and nick Cuba or Venezuela, that wouldn't be so bad.

Assuming that the unthinkable doesn't happen, though, there's always tomorrow. I have a big paper to turn in Monday, so it better be tomorrow when the ideas and the insight return. It's only about 35 percent of the total grade in the course, so there better be a good day of it tomorrow. Today didn't lend itself to that process, though. I've done this for long enough to understand the times when the magic isn't going to happen and be patient with that moment. Instead of writing those periods are turned into careful thought, or worry or reading on the subject. Best, though, to let the words arrive on their own.

And today the 3:02 train did not blow through; there were no muses to be found. Seems I knew this would be the case soon after I got up this morning, but I sat here and stared at notes and words and files and things all day anyway.

At one point this afternoon the weakness in the Internet-Cable-Phone bundle plan was on display when we lost the Internet, cable and, less important, the phone. The neighborhood, after about 15 minutes seemed like it was getting itchy, this being the one day all the kids on the street weren't outside playing. This lasted for just under an hour and did not help my progress at all.

So I sat inside and stared at the computer, because that's a symbol of working. Or, at least, working at it. Outside this was going on.

I call this further proof of a newly tapped "You're a horrible parent if you don't buy this" market.

There was a time when this wasn't necessary. That time happens to roughly coincide with Ever. Admittedly the technology is interesting, but the application seems limited. The sales pitch will be not unlike some of your more aggressive kids' sports photographers. Some outfits take pictures of your star slugger, print them off right there in front of you and then ask you for $20 or $40 for the digital picture. You say no, they shred the picture, right there in front of you. You are now off the team's booster list, but you no longer have to cut up orange slices, so there's at least that trade off.

Here, though, we have the miracle of kitsch. Where does this model go? In a few months it comes out of the knick knack box and becomes a kid toy. "Oh, look hon! He's playing with the model of himself! Look how well he gets along with others!" The next thing you know you're buying a second airline ticket and paying two tuition bills because the thing goes everywhere with Junior, hung up, as he is, on this odd dependency you gave him because "The doctor had a model and if we didn't want it he was just going to melt the plastic back down to it's base parts!"

And while we're on the subject of plastic ... We have all learned that the stuff decomposes at the satisfying rate of slightly slower than us. What, then, will be the impression of the archeologists that come along centuries from now and uncover this.

There's just no need.

You know we're beyond the stage of sadness over broadcast news. (That happened about two hours after I left that industry, hiyo!) Jon Stewart -- lovable, rascally dilettante that he is -- is now Uncle Jon, the most trusted name in the game. It says something about us, something about him, but largely it just says something about everyone else, I think. And he gets to stories like this.

I like the guy, catch his show whenever I can and have even co-authored a few studies on the program, but it says something about us, something about him, but most distressingly it just says something about everyone else in television news.

Late in the night and I've now found something of a little pace for the big paper. If this carries over into tomorrow I could be on to something. (It started by writing an updated vita, which will be published on the site soon.)

Today hasn't been bad, just not as obviously productive as one would want with a deadline looming. I'm a big believer, though, in foundations and this paper has a wealth of foundation already in place. It should be easy, I'm telling myself, to step into this and knock it out. I'll let you know tomorrow.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The day, summed up as it began, in about ten seconds.

Made it to campus just in time for a morning inventory meeting. I spent three hours playing with cameras and cables and other technology on Wednesday night trying to get an accurate count of what we have so we can determine what we need. I spent part of yesterday distilling this information into something that would only take a few minutes to present.

This morning I presented it to my colleagues, taking a minute or two more than I wanted. No matter, we ended up discussing our assets and wish list for the next 90 minutes or so. It was a good meeting. We have a lot of items to acquire.

I gave a quick tour to our newest faculty member -- this was me just last August. We all ventured up to the cafeteria for Friday's $2 lunch. We talked of baseball, the British Open, drug commercials, airlines, Calvinistic philosophy and football video games. Everyone seemed to realize all at once how oddly shaped the conversation became, but it made for a very nice chat.

I took an hour in the afternoon and interviewed three faculty members for my case study. They gave me great stuff. If I was on the fence about this paper's prospects last night I'm more excited about what it could say now.

This paper was accepted a week or so ago for a conference this November. I'm also using it as an independent study this summer. Hopefully it will be useful within our department as well.

There were other phone calls. Some writing that should have been done was delayed, but some important reading took place. I left campus at 6 p.m., realizing I'd spent a full day, a Friday there and I'm off for the summer. It never seems like work; I love that place.

The inventory meeting went thusly:
We have this and that.

"I thought we had that, this and the other thing."

It isn't up there now.
Heads were scratched. Notes were made. The growth of our program was plotted. We're going to be buying a lot of equipment for the students to use, should be fun.

Just The Yankee and I for Pie Day. I had a delicious salad, which I promptly oversalted. It was then that I learned an interesting thing: oversalting the main course really brings out the flavor in the dessert.

This pie I said to The Yankee, is especially lemony tonight.

"No it's not," she said. And then she began to look at me as if I'd never actually had this pie before.

My palate isn't the best or most trained -- or even trained ... -- but I did detect the subtle addition of 3/4s of an additional lemon tonight than usual. It was that or the salt.

Tried to work and read up a bit this evening when we returned home. Now, finally, my eyes are ready to retreat for the evening.

Tomorrow: Nothing but computer time.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The morning, a typical Thursday in the second half of my summer off, was spent trying to recall everything I've ever forgotten about spreadsheets.

I learned about them in college. This would have been about 1996 or so. It was a small, squat distressed little building amongst the engineering majors. Nice computer with all the best 386s that money could buy. (Auburn was well-wired, early.) It never made since why those three old buildings, built just before World War II looked as they did. You'll find a nice picture, but to walk up to them they feel small and ruggedly used on an otherwise gorgeous campus. Why the architecture folks didn't walk across campus and lend a hand never made sense.

Anyway. That computer class was a core requirement. A buddy and I took the class together so we could scoff at the whole thing. If you'd never been around a home computer before it could be valuable, but I was one of those lucky few kids that had the Texas Instrument computer with cassette tapes as a software medium. When you can beat Pong in monochrome off a tape the world is your oyster, my friend.

The spreadsheet part of the class was useful. I'd no experience with it and promptly went to work in an industry that required me to use it very little. Once every year or so I've found a need to open the program, and today was one such day.

So the morning was spent remembering how this thing worked. The afternoon was spent unremembering it again. That space will be needed for something much more important soon, no doubt. I had to detail a list of inventory for part of my job and almost immediately after I began I realized I should just limit tomorrow's presentation and hand out to the most important equipment. About halfway through I thought You don't really need a spreadsheet for this ...

The left half of my brain replied: Ignore that. Press on!

So I did. And, ultimately there's a spreadsheet of which both sides of my brain can be proud. As soon as they get finished forgetting all about Excel once again.

For lunch I enjoyed a Healthy (And By Healthy We Mean Sodium Laden) Choice meal of blackened chicken. The expiration date was December 2009, meaning it has been in my freezer for quite some time. Indeed I probably put this back in there last summer when I left for Samford. A work lunch became an uneaten home lunch. Until today.

The date was euphemistically stamped as "Use By," which is a cynical way to label the healthy choices of meals that can be prepared in five minutes, plus the government mandated two minutes untouched in the microwave to prevent steam burns. "Use By" suggests I should drive nails with the chicken, sand rough edges with the rice and Spackle with the delicious apple crisp dessert. We do not wish to "Use By." In fact, better altogether if we simply leave off the date, trusting that customers will recognize this healthy choice and enjoy it no matter the decade, or how outmoded the font may appear.

Back at it through the evening, then, charged up as I was on brain food. The Yankee made a delicious chicken. She found a honey pecan barbecue sauce that was introduced itself with a firm honey sauce, which was quickly brushed aside by a determined pecan flavor. Hence the name, one supposes. Stubbs, like so many in the barbecue game, finds the product to be something that will live through the ages. Legendary, in fact.

It could be the sepia tint of the label, which suggests an aged wisdom and experience. The gentleman's cowboy hat adds a bit of authenticity to what's going on here. The slogan across the top "My life is in these bottles."

Stubb's is people too!

(And, this fall, it'll go great lathered it on a fresh batch of Solyent Green at a tailgate near you.)

There's a certain existentially temporal dilemma in that phrase. "My life is in these bottles" would suggest these were his last, slowly viscous words. The smiling face of an honest, hard working man on the logo gives the phrase a certain self-satisfied impression, but how could one really feel?

The man's worked to provide for his family, maybe help his community, when a few barbecue judging contests at the state fair and impress his neighbors. He's found someone to mass produce it, another fell to sell it and a third group to market it. Then, one night while Mr. Stubb is languishing in a babyback rib coma all of those people get together and say "You know. The stuff's good. But it's missing just a little something."

"I don't know, if you put any more honey in there it will overpower the pecan."

"Surely. But adding more pecan is going to change the way it drips over those front taste buds. Besides, Honey Pecan focus grouped better and I've already printed the labels -- "

"You'll just have to print them again. Think of it boys! The thing this sauce needs is a bit of ol' Stubb there!"

Things were never the same in west Texas again.

The company also does marinades. They'd considered a ketchup and a nice hollandaise, but there was only so much of Mr. Stubb to go around.

Christopher Stubblefield's story, as told to Wikipedia, is a good one told in the "Is this a great country or what?" vein. Born in 1931, he picked cotton as a child, served in the Army during the Korean War and opened his first restaurant in 1968 in Lubbock.

In the 1970s and 1980s the place was the Sunday night destination. Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Muddy Waters, B.B. King, George Thorogood and others all played there.

The place burned -- Texas blues were not blamed, but some locals cast a long, hard look at the mesquite flavor. He moved his operation to Austin where he died in 1995. Somewhere along the way, the author of the Stubblefield entry must be anti-corporate info, he started this distribute chain of legendary basting sauces. There is now a statue in Lubbock honoring the man and plaques noting where the kitchen, cash register and other items of interest -- like the restrooms -- were located in the old store.

To go from a hardscrabble west Texas life to serving delicious sauces nationally you deserve a note that points out where the john used to stand. America demands it.

Back to work this evening. I ran across a study published in 1998 focusing on emerging media. It was surprisingly prescient, until he says the Internet isn't feasible. Seems it costs too much? This wasn't the author's speculation, but rather something he'd cited. We can safely pass the blame on to something written by other researchers in 1996 and 1997.

What a difference a few months makes, eh?

This is for a case study I'm writing. Usually, about halfway through, I have a solid impression about my research. Usually I figure this could be good or it's going to take a big surprise and major help to pass the muster. I've been on the fence about this project, but I'm starting to lean toward the good side of the fence. The one where the grass is greener.

I hit a nice little pace of progress on the school projects tonight. This, of course, happened late in the evening. I have to be up at an hour closely resembling normal tomorrow, so I can't stay with it the whole night through. Hopefully I can find it again after tomorrow's big inventory meeting.

My promise to you is that if I can't make observations about a meeting on high end video cameras entertaining, I'll skip it and find something else to discuss. Tomorrow, then, you could see Stubb Strikes Back.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

If you look hard enough in life it isn't too hard to find a frequent first. Did that today as The Yankee and I bought our first bag of diapers and baby wipes. Not for us, oh no.

My college friends Stephen and Brooke were blessed with their second daughter last week. We got to meet her today and brought the gift for the little one that keeps giving. (Later Brooke told us how much she keeps giving and I immediately wished I'd opted for the jumbo pack.)

I noted the humor of the situation. So many brands! So many sizes! So many colorful packages featuring happy babies! Another college friend wrote to inform me "I hope you have sextuplets and find out how "comical" the cost of diapers is."

There's nothing funny about the price of course, making me wonder why this kid hasn't been potty trained already. (They're trying.) I thought about pull ups for the one-week-old because I like to invest in the future, but was afraid no one else would appreciate the joke.

I wrote last week that my cell phone pulled the first official Whitney photo out of the air less than two hours after she was born. Her aunt had uploaded a photo to Facebook and informed everyone of the happy news. I've suggested, since, that we go ahead start the kid her own Facebook account and let them upload every photo, ever onto the site, just to see how high we can push the number.

If so, here's my first two contributions: The Yankee and Whitney in what I've just realized is maybe the lousiest picture my cell phone's camera has ever recorded. There's no saving it in Photoshop either, so I apologize. When we look back on some of these cell phone pics years from now they won't look unlike the faded emulsion from prints that came from those old point-and-shoots in the 1970s.

Her closeup is better. And such a cute kid. She slept the entire time we visited, I held her for a nice long time and, no, we did not get any ideas out of the visit.

We did manage to leave before diaper changing time. I'm getting a PhD for a reason.

I discovered this evening that I'm holding a very nice grade in my statistics class just now. That's statistically improbably for the boy that's always struggled with anything over, say, algebra. Just the final to go next Wednesday. Wish me luck there.

We stayed in class tonight for just over two hours tonight reviewing for that test. Wish me luck. I may need it, yet.

I spent the rest of the night on the Samford campus doing an inventory of the Digital Video Center, which is a new part of my job. I was named the department's director early this summer -- not bad for a guy that'd already taken off for the break, no? -- and we're now trying to get our P's and Q's together for the fall. There's a meeting on this Friday, which means Spreadsheet Thursday for me tomorrow.

The inventory took just over three hours and I didn't even detail all the cables or the tiniest doodads. It's hard to make since of your notes after 11 p.m., but you realize that hash marks were an incredible invention.

I learned an interesting thing about minidisc recorders during the inventory process. We have a few lovely little MD devices. They work perfectly fine, but the technology, of course, has been outmoded by cheaper, easier, purely digital products since these were purchased. For some reason Sony's design team attached a bolt on AA battery case to this piece of technology. The engineer's have probably forgotten why, but it's going to keep me up nights.

But not tonight.

P.S. If you're shopping for gas, try the Sam's Club in Hoover. It was $2.15 a gallon there this afternoon.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Yeah. I've got nothing and it shows. Didn't even write anything on Twitter today. It's pretty bad when you can't find anything clever or witty to say in that format.

I even looked in that clearinghouse of collective intelligence and authority on everything, Wikipedia, for some historical thing I could personalize like yesterday. It was easy, fast and fun. For me at least.

Nothing hit home today in the same way. There are a couple of curious small things that took place on July 21 last century.

In 1904 Louis Rigolly became the first man to break the 100 miles per hour on land. He drove a 15-liter Gobron-Brille in Ostend, Belgium. It drank gas. When he exited the car his parents chided him for not wearing a seat belt and said if he got a ticket he was paying for it himself.

Two decades later, in 1925 Sir Malcolm Campbell becomes the first man to break 150 miles per hour at Pendine Sands in Wales. He drove a Sunbeam to a two-way average of 150.33 mph. He was 40 at the time. Later his son, Donald Campbell, took up the family business, set the standard at 403.10 mph and remains the only person to break land and water speed records in the same year. His father could say nothing.

(Incidentally, the modern record is 763. The rail speed record have reached 6,462 mph, equivalent to Mach 8.5.)

But I digress.

A generation later Gus Grissom, piloting Liberty Bell 7, became the second American to go into space. I watched The Right Stuff again tonight as a once-a-decade treat and study break to escape writer's block. They spend far too much time on Grissom's Mercury flight because of that hatch, particularly in light of his ultimate fate on the pad in the Apollo missions.

Grissom was vindicated, of course, after the capsule was recovered in 1999.

But all of that -- 100 mph, 150 mph, space -- in just over half a century. It is remarkable to think of all of that in a lifetime. My great-grandparents heard about it all. "He went 150 miles per hour? I can't imagine why anything would ever need go that fast. Why, keep this up and we'll be up in space for no reason."

The most productive part of July 21, 2009 for me has been Email. Oh, sure it's no land speed record or 15 minutes in suborbital space. If it gets me out of the present dry spell of research and writing, though, it will be a huge victory. I'm staring at two papers and a stats final looming next week. Now's not the time to struggle for all the right words.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Another short one, as I'm vainly trying to work on school projects. Progress seems slow, Vermont syrup in January slow. Maybe I'll break through soon. Anyway, today's been all about returning to the gym, wondering if that was a good idea as my back is still a bit spotty from my fall, getting ready for class this evening and then this evening's class. Mix in some work on two different projects, none moving rapidly at the moment, it seems, and you've got the day.

Longtime readers might recall this photo, I shot it around Thanksgiving of 2006 and have probably mentioned it since then. Also I use it as an example for students when talking about photojournalism, because it has an interesting story.

This was taken at the Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala. There's three generations of a family in this photograph. The man most visible in the photograph brought his son and father to see the museum. He was very proud to show his son what Grandpa did.

Grandpa worked on the Apollo missions, you see, as an engineer. This was a trip down memory lane for him. He played the moment very cool, as you might expect. The grandson, too young to really appreciate this yet, was a bit underwhelmed. The father, though, that middle generation man, was so very proud of this moment.

The moon landings had come and gone before I was born. It was an historical inevitability and there was never a notion that we didn't, or couldn't go there. It has always been a magical thing to think Someone's been there and, as the consensus now leans, We wasted a chance.

Kennedy, with poor rationale, but wonderful rhetoric, said we would do this thing because it was hard, not because it was easy. Congress agreed, because they realized a way to make this profitable back home. Eventually, the funding became too hard, for Kennedy's ghost and his predecessors.

None of that quite matters to the little boy, who probably just wants to go flip and toggle things in the museum's displays. It may not matter to the old man, who was a part of a lot of people who were a part of doing A Great Thing.

It matters to his son, who carries this sense of pride about it.

Attitudes are curious. They can attach, morph and bind themselves to a single moment or ideal or action and carry us through a generation. That older gentleman had the war, and then space and the moon. His son has the memory of the moon, the echoes of the 1970s and the nascent information age.

What's that little boy going to have?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

I'm trying to work on the school projects, so this will be brief. You're welcome.

Last week someone stopped by the site looking for a gentleman I worked with in a different life back in the radio days. I'd noted in September of 2003, not too long after this blog got started, the death of Jerry Desmond.

He was one of the men I worked with in Little Rock. He was the dean of the newsroom, and our time at KARN/ARN overlapped by a few months. That was his next to last stop, but he taught me and Grant Merrill a great deal in that short amount of time.

Grant's running a sports talk operation in northwest Arkansas now. We talked earlier this week and reminisced about the old man. And while we were both much younger then, but it seems impossible to think that Desmond died at 63. He was the oldest young man you could ever meet. Years of smoking had robbed him of his pipes, but way back when Jerry Desmond was a powerful broadcaster. He could tell great stories, offer wonderful advice and, once, he brought in an old reel of his television work.

He'd come along at just the right time for television. The business was firm and the production values were improving. The journalism was great and he was working at a time when he could do anything. And he did, sports, weather -- back when there were magnets on a map -- and news.

Oh the clothes were laughable, but Jerry Desmond, as a young man, was a powerful presence.

Two clips of him are online today. One is a generic intro while he was on the air in WBAP-TV (now KXAS). Desmond is sitting on the backbone of the fancy five desk. Otherwise it is a spare set, but it was 1969, meaning Desmond is younger there than I am now.

More trivia: Bob Schieffer started at that station, and it was one of the first in the nation to broadcast in color and claims several firsts in digital and HD innovations.

In the other clip, Desmond has a little tease. I wish there was more of him to share. Maybe there is, these two clips came off his co-anchor's reel. Someone, somewhere, has Desmond's material. Maybe it'll make it online one day.

I remember his laugh, and his perpetually dirty coffee mugs. He lived a short, but full life, dying of cancer at 63. He seemed improbably old, but he was an incredibly talented newsman. It's nice to think that I have the chance to pass along some of the things he taught me about the business.

I'm a lucky guy.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Trying to get a little work done -- and not doing an especially good job of it at the present -- I'll only offer a few very quick things in this space today.

The next few days may be equally thin.

Rise of the pre-teen heroes: An 11-year-old helps save a life with CPR:
(Imani) Love (who was babysitting) said she never had CPR training but she had seen it performed on television.
Score one for the tube!

A 10-year-old shoots an intruder in the face:
"He told his sister to be quiet and seconds later, they started kicking on the door and finally kicked the door in," said Sheriff Mike Cazes. The two children ran to their mother's bedroom closet.

In a panic, the ten-year-old grabbed his mother's gun for protection. "He did what I told him to do. I never told him to get the gun, but thank God he did," she said. Once the two suspects opened the door, threatening the kids, deputies say the boy fired a bullet into the lip of Roderick Porter.
A wound like that should help if police need to do a lineup.

One of the last World War I veterans -- there's only five or six left, at most -- and the oldest man in the world, has died:
He jokingly attributed his longevity to "cigarettes, whisky and wild, wild women".


When asked how he had lived so long, Mr. Allingham, who held the Legion d'Honneur, said: "I don't know if there is a secret, but keeping within your capacity is vital.

"I've had two major breakdowns, one during the war and one after but both when I was trying to do the work of three men.

"The trick is to look after yourself and always know your limitations."
As someone pointed out, Allingham was 21 when Walter Cronkite was born.

The cat sleeps like this. One I could not shoot the other night involved her making a triangle of her front legs and her back paw, and sleeping on that as her pillow. Cats.

That's it for now. Unless you want to hear about school stuff, but I'll entertain you with that soon enough.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Woke up and considered going to the gym. When I realized, while bending over, that I could not bend over, I decided to try another ice pack instead of the gym. I slept for two more hours.

I'm icing my back. I fell yesterday afternoon on a flight of stairs and managed to turn my body to avoid hitting my head or tangling my legs. The unfortunate part of that plan was landing on the crown of the step with a solid and sickening crunch on my ribs.

I seem to be OK, but I am stiff and sore. Hence the ice. I could just be a wimp. But the knot on my back remind me I hit something hard and in an unforgiving way.

The Yankee and I had $2 lunch at Samford. We took the trip to visit the library and pick up some paperwork I need.

At the library you rub Davis' nose for good luck. Woe is the student who ignores the statue and then can find no quiet seat. Only once does a freshman forget to rub the nose -- polished to a bright yellow by generations of students -- only to find the book she needs has already been checked out. Rub the nose.

Alabama has a big library, but they don't have everything. The Yankee found three or four books she needed (and two more online). She made fun of me in the medieval section. Somehow this is very near some of the journalism stuff. Don't ask me, I'm nowhere near a librarian.

We poked our heads inside Hodges Chapel. I take pictures of the outside of the building all the time, but hadn't been inside yet. We were surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. It is a beautiful place. Samford has two gorgeous chapels on its campus, staring across the quad at one another.

A quiet Pie Day tonight. Just the two of us, and we got sat at Table 1, which is the misnomer of the restaurant. Nothing right next to the kitchen should ever be number one.

Ward wanted to bet a dollar that a guy at table two would have some food poured on him. After making sure that I wasn't at table two, because that would be an embarrassing way to lose a dollar, I suggested that the staff was far too talented to drop anything on the guy, even though he was sitting in the aisle.

I was right, there was no food spilled. But the pie was delicious. It was extra lemony tonight, which was a nice compliment to the heaping big salad I had for dinner. It wasn't exactly a healthy meal; the piece of pie was very big.

Tonight I'm watching Rio Bravo, a great John Wayne western. Before he'd said anything Wayne was knocked out by Dean Martin. Now they're friends.

I love this movie because it reminds me of watching it with my grandparents. I imagine all the giggles and guffaws my grandmother makes at the funny bits throughout the movie. That's what this one is about to me.

This time I'm watching it through Leo Grin's eyes. On the 50th anniversary of the movie earlier this year he penned an excellent essay of praise for the film. Ever since reading it in May I've been waiting for the movie to show up in the TiVo.

And so now if you'll excuse me, Angie Dickinson, Walter Brennan and Dean Martin are calling from the other room.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

I've fallen and, for a moment, I wasn't sure if I was going to get up.

This afternoon I was taking a trip down to the kitchen, glass in hand and somehow managed to slip at the top of the stairs. In one of those moments where a lot of thought goes through your mind in an incredibly short amount of time it seemed wise to turn. I did not want to smack my head or somehow get my legs tangled up and really hurt myself. So I turned to the left.

And I made it about 45-degrees before I landed, which was when two more thoughts came to mind. Turning might not have been ideal. You might have broken some ribs.

I came to rest midway down the stairs and somehow crawl, leaned or fell the rest of the way to the floor, where I lay in agony. I considered calling for help, only to realize that my phone was upstairs. So I stayed there, isolating all of the things that hurt in my mind.

On the upside I did not hit my head or hurt a leg. My left elbow was numb, but that was temporary. My right wrist hurt, but that turned out to be carpet burn. My ring finger and pinkie on my left hand were also screaming at me. More carpet burn. I managed to land on my backside more than I'd hoped and that didn't agree with me. I worked through all of these before thinking again about my ribs. I'd managed to put them squarely across the ridge of the top step.

They aren't broken -- I don't think. I've never broken a rib, and if doing so takes more than this I'm fine never having the experience, thanks. I do have a nice little bruise on my back. And a big knot. I've gotten to know the ice pack fairly well tonight as well. I'm a bit sore and a lot stiff. Tomorrow should be fun.

Today was too, before gravity and grace conspired against me.

In running the day's errands I met a really nice bank teller who, just before I walked up announced to the room "I'm short $30!"

What do you do with that, just as you are getting ready to make a deposit?

While out and about I saw this ad for the local weekly. Hardly makes me want to pick up a copy. The above-the-fold in the box looked pretty good, but the website for The Western Tribune could use some work. They're trying. At least a little.

The paper reads like straight news coverage. The site, in a simple Blogger template, reads with an oddly different tone. It doesn't quite work. The Tribune, Bham Wiki tells us, was founded two years ago when The Western Star, the heritage weekly, fired their editor. That guy started Bubba's paper.

Birmingham is like most everywhere else as a one-paper town. Bessemer, a suburb of the Magic City, enjoys the Star (which is not online), the Tribune and the Birmingham Times. Three weeklies for a town of 28,000 people.


Watched a new show tonight. TNT has a program called Dark Blue, which was named by a friend of ours. The Yankee worked with him at her first television job in Atlanta years ago. Very nice guy. The network had a naming contest and he won.

The show wasn't bad. Pilots are always a bit different since the script demands that every line of dialogue explain a character or situation. For a show that wants to look modern and gritty they summed up everything nicely in a single hour. Our friend, the champion television program namer, says the show gets better in the coming weeks. Could be good, you should check it out.

I think I'll go check out some more ice. I'm sore. Or did I mention that?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Fairly full and busy day today, but not a lot to show for it. This is the mode the mind slips into when a To Do List is adorning the desk. Here are the items; have enough been scratched off the list? No, but we're getting there.

Nice morning workout today. My foot feels better, thanks for asking. I did a quick 15 miles on the bike and then walked into the core strength class that would be difficult even for those gymnasts performing with Cirque du Soleil.

The Yankee struggles with some of it, and she's a gymnast and doesn't struggle through a lot. The instructor, come to think of it, is also a gymnast and some of this stuff she's doing is tough for her as well. I, finally this morning, felt like I'm improving a bit. I've never had any core strength, so this has been a lesson in physical humility, but after three or four weeks I find I can do a few more of these things. Of course, the things I'm doing successfully I'm probably doing incorrectly, but you take small victories where you can.

Spent the afternoon working on statistics homework. At one point I asked The Yankee for her thoughts on a question and we ended up calling one of our research partners who's specialty is statistics. None of us could resolve the problem. That's stats class to me.

Finishing the homework as best I can I had a bite of lunch and then drove to Gadsden for the stats class. Tonight we talked about regression and chi-square. We did one of the former on the calculator, the professor demonstrated it in SPSS. We did one of the latter the long way -- and that was three pages in the notebook -- and then she did it in SPSS. The moral to the store is SPSS, which could be a fantastical source of magic for all we know, is a wonderful tool to have. If you have SPSS, you needn't know anything else.

Finally we went to the computer lab to use SPSS ourselves to complete our last assignment. I helped out my very nice teacher friends who are deathly afraid of the computer. They are overly worried they'll hurt the machine, but After they get started they do just fine. It's a generational thing; they're not accustomed to that much computer work.

This was our last homework assignment in the statistics class, and we were able to finish it there and turn it in on our way out the door. Now all that's left in that course is the final. Which means the semester is beginning its inevitable wind toward the finish. I have two weeks to wrap everything up. Hence the To Do List.

After class I made it back to town in time for the late showing of X-Men Origins: Wolverine:
The more they do with the franchise the less impactful it becomes.
The dozen word impulsive review is actually shorter than the same sentiment on Twitter, limited to the traditional 140 characters. I did add a "Meh" on Twitter. And here's why, now. The thorough discussion of the chemical properties of a fictional element, taken so seriously by fans of a comic book character.

I thought I wanted to watch an action movie, but found that the best parts of the film where all of the places when Wolverine was not pointing his claws at something. Odd, that.

The movie made it a late night after a long day, and that's pretty much it for now. It will soon begin storming here, the wind is already picking up, and there's more rain in the forecast for tomorrow. Sounds like a good day to get stuff done, don't you think?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Today I made the To Do List. It, or the defining features on the list will be with me for the next several weeks. After spending a considerable amount of time compiling the list I realized it'd be wise to do a few things contained therein, lest I feel overwhelmed.

So I spent the afternoon with a few phone calls, writing a few letters and getting to a place that felt caught up. Funny how temporal that feeling is. I'm behind. I must work to catch up. I'm caught up. Hey, look at me everyone! Caught up! What? Oh. I'm behind again.

Note to Firefox: The latest version of your browser has an odd cursor quirk. I can't describe it, so I will demonstrate.

Noe to Fieox: Te lates version of you broser has an dd curso quirk.rowrthfrt

You might note the missing letters; they are all grouped there at the end. Fortunately closing the browser and starting over -- or as it is known on my machine: crashing -- fixes the problem. This is happening in 3.0.11, but has never happened in any of their other browsers. Certainly doesn't happen in IE, but they are looking into how to add the feature.

So the day was a list and starting the work on that list. Five things were taken off the list today. A few letters were written, a few phone calls made. A trip to the store allowed for another quick strike, and so on. Nine more things remain on the list. At least two-and-a-half will be removed tomorrow. Two or three more may fall by the wayside later in the week.

After that the real heavy part of the list will come into play no longer avoidable. Those will all be school-related efforts, requiring time and brainpower. The former I can find, in the latter I find myself somewhat limited.

It felt like I spent the entire day behind the computer, mostly because I did. Disappointing as that can be to some I'll think of it as building a foundation for the end run of the summer semester. The biggest downside is that the grass did not get cut, but it'll still be growing tomorrow.

Not much else into the day, unless you want to hear more about the studies or a very normal and uneventful afternoon trip to the grocery store. Call it as you see it: Nothing to see here. Move along.

Tomorrow, though, there will be more gym antics, stats homework, stats class and more. It's the more that will keep you coming back, I know.

Monday, July 13, 2009

I did not mention, yesterday, the stomping my foot took at the movie theater.

We sat on the back row, which has been dutifully abbreviated for wheelchair accessible viewing. Since it is the dollar theater you can count on every third or fourth seat to be damaged in some way. After a few experiences you learn to bend at the knee hesitantly, rather than just plopping down into what you suppose is a working chair.

Anyway, the broken chairs along the back row dictated that we sit not in the middle, directly below the camera, but rather on the end. About halfway through the movie a man comes in, stands in the door to let his eyes adjust and then decides he wants to come down our row. We do the shifting and moving dance and he slides through and with his right foot, and what had to be most every one of his near 300 pounds, he stepped solidly across the toes of my right foot.

It wasn't just a glancing blow and it wasn't one of those quick steps, but rather it was the placement of the foot, the slow move of the other leg, a shifting of the ball of his foot and then, finally he let go. All of this, so he could sit on the other end of the row.

I wanted to suggest that he next time exit, walk the eight feet to the other door and then have his choice of seats, but I was too busy at the time trying to not yelp. Somehow I managed to not think about it again until this morning. At the gym every toe hurt when it touched shoe. This made riding the bike less than fun, and that suburban militant horizontal training regime wasn't exactly entertaining either.

Maybe the little piggies will be better Wednesday.

Learned some nice news when I got home from the gym. UAB graduate Dr. Regina Benjamin has nominated as surgeon general. She's practicing in Bayou La Batre and does she have a story of good deeds to tell.

I remember reading about her and the clinic's plight after Hurricane Katrina, clearly she is a remarkable and dedicated physician. If she is to be confirmed hopefully she'll be able to continue her service of distinction.

On my way to class I heard John Prine on the radio. It made me think of my dear old friend Stephen, who just minutes before welcomed his daughter into the world. I didn't know that yet, but the timing was fairly serendipitous. But I smiled at the idea of Stephen one day telling his daughter about John Prine, of whom he is a fan.

The little girl was induced this morning and delivered, healthy this afternoon. Mom, Dad and daughter are all doing well. I sat in the parking lot before going to class and saw the first picture of the nine-pound star of the show. She a head full of hair and a peaceful look on her tiny face.

Technology is an amazing thing. Just an hour after she was born a new aunt uploaded the first photograph to her Facebook page by cell phone. I pulled it down from the cloud on my phone. If you wonder why children mug for the camera at such impossibly young ages this should be your explanation. However will this newborn believe there was a day when you couldn't pull a photograph out of the very air?

In class I learned this evening that my professor worries not for the environment. As has been discussed in this space she has requested a copy of the works cited for the final project. The actual studies themselves.

For a mini literature review she accepted simply the relevant page, but she has now decided on requiring the entire work. This is the process: cite others' research, list it in the bibliography, print out the work of others, highlight the relevant parts and then put a sticky note on the front page to serve as a tab with the author's name and another on the relevant page of the paper.

This must be done for every citation -- studies vary from 15 to 30 pages, generally and I typically cite several dozen, easy. But! If we take a sticky note and cut it into two pieces we can -- and she said this in class -- save paper.

She's a nice lady, and I understand her purpose behind this: She fancies herself as the plagiarism police. That's fine, all discerning teachers should. This is why we have citations, after all. More to the point, it is more than a little insulting in a doctoral level class. I'd be insulted by it in an undergraduate course.

So there you have it, the University of Alabama hates the environment. That's my only conclusion. This professor wants reams of paper smeared with tons of ink. There's no one around to think better of it. I've searched, and even asked some faculty in the know, if there was an environmental officer somewhere to whom I could speak, but that position does not exist.

Maybe I could just insert a quote from some thick, dusty old tome and put it in the stack in an environmental protest.

She, the professor, did me a very nice favor tonight. There was an online quiz which, for some reason, did not register my score. She didn't have to, but she's going to allow me to take it once again. For that I'm grateful. I'll have to remind myself of that kindness when I spend a full day printing out countless gobs of material in a few weeks.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Going to the pet store is always dangerous. You'll see cute scenes like this.

It would seem, I said idly, to be a good place to look if you wanted to find a part time job.

"I would bring home all the pets," The Yankee said. A few moments later we ran across that tender kitty scene, one bathing the other. We were looking for cat food sales when we heard a stalking cry from the nearby cat apartments.

A little mother cat was yowling at this or that. There was a note that said she'd been picked up by a vet tech in a parking lot somewhere. She had four kitties, two survived. There were notes on the personalities of the the mother cat and her babies. Maybe saddest of all was the hand-scribbled addendum. Rambo had been adopted. Rocky and the mother were left.

It is a good thing the mother cat was white or we might have considered taking them home. Something about white cats seems at odds with the universe, somehow. And that's how I learned that, if I am ever in need of a part time job it would not be at the pet store.

We visited the dollar theater this afternoon while out taking care of the day's errands. We watched The Soloist:
Jamie Foxx is brilliant as ever. Occasionally overwrought, but a nice film.
At which point the dozen word review will yield the floor to the review by the Los Angeles Times' Kenneth Turan who found himself in the odd position of reviewing a movie made in part about his paper:
Once he fully realizes Ayers' history, shown on film in overdramatic flashbacks, Lopez dedicates himself to trying to improve the musician's quality of life in a variety of ways. But wouldn't you know it, the newspaperman has things to learn about life as well -- and dealing with the difficult Ayers (capably played by Foxx) turns out to be just the learning experience he needed.


When Ayers gets to hear a concert in Disney Hall, we can't just experience the moment, we have to watch a psychedelic light show left over from the Jefferson Airplane playing the Fillmore. And we can't simply enjoy this story for what it is, we have to suffer through bogus and unnecessary slapstick moments like Lopez slipping on his own urine during a hospital visit.
Judging by interviews I've seen with the reporter it is easy to suspect that Steve Lopez may disagree with the aww shucks chagrin of a needed life lesson that his colleague finds unnecessary in the story. Most everything else, though, are fair points.

The Times has happily pulled many of Lopez's relevant columns together in one place. After you get beyond the 60 Minutes piece where you can actually hear snippets of Nathaniel Ayers playing, you find that he's really a bright personification of a gloomy subject. It isn't about the man, or his illness, but the social undercurrents that grip a large segment of Los Angeles that Lopez is really writing about. Picking the right one would be like reading a Rosarch test.

Happily Lopez is still writing about his friend, as recently as today:
It was as if a rock star had arrived, and Mr. Ayers was mobbed by admirers who were attending NAMI's annual convention.

NAMI is a national organization dedicated to improving the lives of those affected by mental illness. Though Mr. Ayers has many challenges ahead, the story of his long journey -- from psychiatric hospitals to the streets to supportive housing at Lamp Community -- has given hope to many. They wanted to thank him, hug him, pose for pictures and get his autograph, and Mr. Ayers was all too happy to oblige.

That evening, he performed on cello and violin for a crowd of several hundred. I've never seen Mr. Ayers happier than he was when a roar broke out as he was given an award for his courage and spirit, and for sharing a story that has helped decrease the stigma.
What is remarkable is what you'll find in the comments of that story. Everything there is positive and thankful. Lopez, after many column inches, a book and a movie, still finds himself on a topic that is only growing in importance to many people.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

And now a day with no stats, or any kind of homework of any kind. If you can't completely ignore your classes at least one day a week, you're entirely too attached to them.

Of course the problem begins when a class is all too easy to ignore.

Today, then, is a day of other things. The blog, for one, could use it.

I mentioned the other day a list of Publix brand foods which were of comparable quality as their name brand friends. So far I've been very pleased with these discoveries, but in the interest of complete reporting I must say: The Publix brand Apple Jacks taste like damp press wood lightly dusted in imitation cinnamon. And there are 3.2 bowls per box.

In many ways you are glad for the small box size here, unless you have a need for more cellulose and wood chippings in your diet. I also recently purchased the Publix brand Honey Nut Not Cheerios. I'll let you know how those fare next week.

Spent part of the afternoon writing up thank you cards. The Yankee is writing on the inside right half, and then she hands them to me. I get the inside left half and try to find some little tidbit or anecdote I can mention that she hasn't already written. This is hard; she is very thorough. But I like to express my thanks, as well, so I try to get a little dose of my handwriting in as many cards as possible.

Today I only strained the language and made great writers cringe in two letters. Overwriting is an occupational hazard.

We ventured out for extra spaghetti sauce. Apparently if you purchase one thing at a time at Publix there's no urge on their part to offer to carry out your things. So, with that observation your left with the options of being efficient and shopping for many things at once or making many trips. On the one hand you have to convince the young bagger that you will somehow manage, with the help of a cart you've been pushing around the store, be able to get your things to the car. On the other hand, you're buying one thing at a time.

The Publix brand spaghetti sauce is not bad. Even The Yankee, a purist for all things Italian, agrees. Though it is a bit long in the tomato and could use a pinch more of garlic or that ever elusive ... something.

Once we identified the flaw in the Publix grocery delivery model we played with the neighborhood horses. Here's a very curious fellow.

He just loves you for your apples.

Later in the evening we shared the last piece of our wedding cake. (Three weeks old and still delicious.) I learned she has a very, very precise system for eating cake. Now she probably thinks I won't eat cake with her anymore, but who are we kidding? It's cake! Of course I will!

Friday, July 10, 2009

I ended up returning to the television last night and finishing off the rest of the John Adams miniseries. It was just too wonderful. I didn't want to wait another two days to finish the thing, so I stayed up into the very early hours to finish the last two episodes.

The Family Controversy Years were shot on the back lot of some Dickensian nightmare. (Truly, it was the same period, just a different continent and still in need of social reform.) As an aging John Adams sought out his drunken son, though, you keep looking for a Christmas ghost over his shoulder.

Things glossed over in John Adams: the better part of eight years as veep, the nasty campaign against Thomas Jefferson and, almost, their reconciliation. There's actually six more years of letters between them than the miniseries allows, and they currently enjoy a five-star review on Amazon as a bound work.

History tells us the two great men died the same day, but they spiced up Jefferson's final moments. No one cares. It is a poignant piece of Americana, so unreal as to make a skeptic think it created somewhere in the mid-19th Century for American morale.

The real moving moment is when Abigail Adams dies. Seldom do you find yourself moved by someone's passing 91 previous, but that's the power of John and Abigail, or more appropriately Laura Linney and Paul Giamatti. The Adamses, diligent writers and diarists, kept the event to themselves.

Just look at the way he spoke of her:
This Lady was more beautiful than Lady Russell, had a brighter genius, more information, a more refined taste, and at least her equal in the virtues of the heart; equal fortitude and firmness of character, equal resignation to the will of Heaven, equal in all the virtues and graces of the christian life ... She never by word or look discouraged me running all hazards for the salvation of my country's liberties; she was willing to share with me, and that her children should share with us both, in all the dangerous consequences we had to hazard.
That's in Edith Belle Gelles' Abigail Adams. The miniseries, of course, is based on David McCullough's John Adams, which is another fantastic read.

In fact, at the end of the miniseries I found a very nice little documentary on McCullough, who was a pretty neat guy himself. But then I'm a sucker for a tight little biodoc.

Anyway. The gym this morning. Twenty miles on the bike followed by more core training that men with actual abdominal muscles can't do. It'll get easier, the trainer lady says. Sure, I say, just pretending to go along with the idea that I can develop some strength and stability in this area.

For the record I fall firmly in the "I'll believe it about two months after getting over the disbelief of having seen it" category on this one. I simply have no core muscle strength.

Stopped by the insurance office to make the quarterly loyalty payment. I choose to do this one in person because they are close and they deserve my gratitude for having helped put me through Auburn many years ago.

Today the gentleman could not find me in the accounting system. I was curious about the development. He asked for my social security number and still couldn't find it. He corrected the type, but still no luck. That's a bit disconcerting.

Finally he opted for a name search. I, as you might have noticed, have a fairly common name. Narrow it down by zip code, then. No luck. Finally, he found it by searching the social, zip code and surrounding agency offices.

So the bill was paid. I visited the library, dropped off John Adams and went to Samford. Missed lunch, but had a few good meetings and did a little work all the same.

For some reason, though, my Mac wouldn't power up. I tried the rest of the machines in the computer lab and they, too, were sleeping away the summer. I suppose the tech guys did something, otherwise the old rickety 2001 throwback Mac would have been powered down as well.

I tried using it for a few tasks. It was not worth the effort or frustration. But, in it's perpetual freeze cycle I found myself wondering: In a movie where the script calls for the hero, or the geeky sidekick, to type the computer never lags or locks up. I wonder why that is. Probably because the hero (or the geeky sidekick) aren't using the original iMac, which suddenly makes a 486processor look promising.

At home tonight The Yankee and I hosted our friends Brian and Elizabeth for steak and potatoes and the Natalee Holloway movie from Lifetime:
This movie sets low, low, low standards for made-for-television movies.
What the dozen word movie review -- intended to simply give you the overall impression -- doesn't tell you is that the tragic tale of Natalee Holloway took place as Brian, The Yankee and I were all working media. Brian still is, but we all continue to get shudders in thinking of the story, the disproportionate coverage and audience fascination with the tale.

When Lifetime announced the movie we simply had to have a watch party. Tonight, finally, we had the opportunity to do so. It was worth our wait, and everything we thought it would be. Of course I Twittered the movie:
"Based" on a true story.

"The hotel manager says this kind of thing happens all the time." Also the acting in this is ... not good.

CSI Aruba. They'll get to the bottom of this. But first he "needs to have his Frosted Flakes and a shave."

The star rating for the Natalee Holloway movie on imdb is 6 out 10. Someone's been generous ...

At home clinkies for Pie Day.

IMDB say there's another Natalee Holloway movie in development. Guess that means the mystery doesn't get solved in this one.

Beth was apparently on a first name basis with Greta. And CNN got everything first. There's no love, though for WBRC-Fox6 or Mai Martinez.
Martinez, who funded herself through an extended stay on the story in Aruba for the local Fox affiliate did not make the movie, nor did any of the local media who were so instrumental in keeping the saturation alive. Understandable in a major motion picture event. All of the media was more or less represented in the character of one local television journalist who is shockingly portrayed as holding bad information and few scruples. Martinez, meanwhile, was able to parlay her experience in a tropical paradise into a weekend anchor job in Chicago. Back to the movie:
"Beth. The FBI thinks Natalee is dead." "OK Beth, you're going live in 30 seconds." Geeze.

I'd never call artistic license on a movie (well, of course I would) ... but there's a nice little twitch here at the end of the movie ...

Sadly there was no Row Tahd in this movie. But the real Beth does a PSA at the end. At least her accent is real.
And let's talk about accents. Tracy Pollan, who did OK, otherwise, vacillated between Long Island, bad Southern and a middle American accent. The guy who played Natalee's father sounded like English was his second or third language. David Holloway, in fact, is from Mississippi. I've interviewed him.

And while no one slide a Roll Tide into the movie anywhere -- and we were waiting -- one of the characters opposite Natalee mentioned Alabama as "the U. Of. A." We discussed it. None of the four of us have ever heard it referred to in such a way. Disclosure: The Yankee and I are, of course, currently enrolled there.

So the movie was bad, the tale is still unfortunate. The screenplay is based, in part, on Beth Holloway Twitty's book and, honestly, she could have left a few of those things out for her own sake. She does a nice little PSA at the end and talks up her talks on college campuses. Not sure if she's still doing those, but good for her if so.

We saw the mystical lighthouse which occupied the dreams of so many local concerned citizens who Emailed media outlets urging us to look under the structure. (Seriously. People were writing the media, tell us of their dreams and hoping we'd follow up on them like crime tips.) Except it wasn't the right lighthouse. The film was shot in Cape Town, South Africa.

So it was a fun night. After Brian and Elizabeth went home I watched the season premiere of Eureka. It was cute, in the typical Eureka way. Robot sheriffs are a lot of fun. Our hero, being considerably the least smart man in a town full of brainiacs (and a new robot cop) figures out this week's dilemma and saves the day. Good, harmless fun.

Later I watched Jarhead:
I wish I hadn't, even though Jamie Foxx is in the movie.
Just bad. Maybe the book on which the movie is based is better, but this feels rushed, gonzo and comical and cliché. You feel like you've seen everything here through a better, more crisp lens.

That should seem enough for one Friday. Hope yours has opened up a wonderful weekend for you!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Spent the late morning and part of the afternoon preparing a presentation for this evening. I finished with 25 slides. While I'm over my 10-slide rule, I managed to create a presentation that didn't rely solely on reading the slides.

We all hate that. Classroom, conference room, clairvoyance room -- shouldn't readers know this already? -- it doesn't matter, no one likes to watch you read your script from a giant screen.

So The Yankee and I visited Alabama this evening. We saw our carpool friend, showed her wedding pictures (I should be in a few less). We went to the classroom, where I talked for, oh we'll say about 10 minutes longer than I should have, on the ethics of online journalism.

There were more nods thank blank stares. The Yankee, who's probably heard me deliver the entire spiel in one context or another over the years, seemed into it, so we'll call it a victory and another riveting line on the vita.

We had dinner with our friend Andrew, whom we haven't seen since Chicago in May. We had Indian food, which we haven't had since Chicago in May, also with Andrew. His research is on computer avatars, his passions are seeing the world and doing it on a shoestring budget.

Talking with him tonight I realized how much I've missed my friends from school. The classes I'm taking right now are fine, but I'm surrounded by teachers working on their own specialty degrees. I'm their outsider and that's fine, it's only two months of class, but the conversation isn't the same. All the more reason to make our group come visit soon.

I watched the firstepisode last night of the seven-part HBO miniseries John Adams. Everything about it, from the simple and beautiful DVD menus to the tiniest little details in the settings are just beautiful. Even my pet peeve of historical accuracy can be overlooked. The parts that weren't accurate (of which there are several, apparently) are largely forgivable given the overall attention to detail. These things happened more than 230 years ago, after all.

Anyway. I fell asleep last night at the very end of the first episode, but I'm hooked. I watched four more installments tonight, Twittering happily away:
Fortunately the letters of John and Abigail Adams have survived. What a story they were. (Also they've given Giamatti a signature role ...)

I know Giamatti and Linney have chemistry, but this reunion scene at the start of the fourth episode ... You feel intruding just watching.

Watching Washington's inauguration scene in John Adams, it seems an improbable shot to pull off, but beautiful.
How they did that, according to IMDB:
During George Washington's inauguration, the apparent cheering crowd of thousands was actually filmed with only around 80 people. They would stand in a square formation --edged by greenscreen cloth (the material TV weathermen use as backdrops because it turns invisible on camera so that digital backgrounds can be added). After filming a few seconds of giddy flag-waving, the 80 would switch positions, trade flags and buntings around, pick up different things (pitchforks, tankards, children, etc) and move over thirty feet. More cheering. More filming. Repeat. By day's end there were enough squares of different-looking crowd activity to stitch the lot together digitally and make it look like a seamless mob of thousands.
Watch the scene. You get the sense of a faithful attempt at a scene we'll never be able to see, right down to Washington's mumble.

Someone should just bankroll a television crew to create scenes like this. Think of our finest moments, re-imagined with CGI and in widescreen. What would you want to see?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

After my much longer bike ride on Monday a late start gave me a much shorter ride this morning. So I did 15 miles and then struggled in vain in the horizontal core training class which has proved difficult for Shaolin monks.

The Yankee asked me how much longer I would stay in that class. It is a fair question. We'd all much rather do things we can actually manage to do rather than have someone point out the things we can't. In this class the two are rationed out fairly equally to me. And I'm reasonably sure that the things I can do are because I'm cheating on the technique somewhere. If SEALS, ninjas, kung fu monks and others couldn't do this stuff right, why am I there?

Aside from the day I felt nauseated by the effort it is a fun class. And I'm encouraged by how much effort it takes to even fail miserably at something in there. So I'll stay a while longer. Just need to get there earlier.

You know those lists of states rankings where the shortcomings or successes are always held up for display by some supposedly arbitrary interest group? We're always on the top of the wrong list and the bottom of the right ones.

But not, for now, this time. ABC put together a list of the 10 Most Broke States and while we'll be on the list one day that day is not today.

And while the division of non-counters at ABC apparently looked at the source material from Center on Budget and Policy Priorities -- Arizona is a glaring omission when they should be ranked second -- Alabama would be 26th on the complete list. Happily in the middle, no doubt, with only a 16.7 percent budget shortfall of $1.2 billion because we'd been cinching purse strings for some time.

Alabama and 16 other states come in with gaps of $1.2 billion or less for 2010. The economy was strong here for a bit longer than in other places -- even slow downs come slower here, I guess. Sales tax economies being what they are we'll surely rocket up this list when it is put together in the next few years.

Things for which I'd pay a dollar, even in a poor economy: Kelly -- the official invitation maker and entertainer of the far end of the table -- tells me today that SyFy is considering a relaunch of Quantum Leap. While they are burdened by a rather silly new logo and branding relaunch of their own, a network taking a serious look at Quantum Leap could do worse.

Provided they play it serious, rather than for comedy or fantasy ham. I recently caught the series finale and was reminded how strong many of those shows were. There were plenty of episodes aimed at social awareness and they were fairly well done. This will, no doubt, be the linchpin of the new series. How many different weeks could the new Sam Beckett leap into a same-sex marriage hoping to put right what the legislature left wrong, hoping that each new civil union would be his leap home?

I wrote this tonight: I think I *almost* understood something that was just discussed in stats. Never really expected that to happen.

It had to do with significance. Whether I really understood, or retained it, remains to be seen.

We spent some time in the computer lab working through the wonderful vagaries of SPSS. I have made two new friends in that class from two wonderful ladies who are afraid they are going to hurt their computers. Whenever we visit the lab they save me a seat so I can help them navigate the software. I get to learn it and teach it simultaneously.

That keeps me there late; I stayed longer than the professor, actually. It was almost 10:30 when I made it in tonight.

My troubles, they are very small, indeed. Aren't they?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Could not sleep last night. My eyes were tied open by the secret weapon of some newly unveiled superhero of the Marvel comic book world. You'd think Insomnia Man would be a bad guy, or failing that, a wretched character from "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" but no. He is real, here and pestering me until almost 4 a.m.

On the other hand I did upload a lot of photos of people to the various sites on which those people tend to congregate and show their face, or display a recent book. I did not upload any of myself, as I had not the space. But that's a little loss.

Yes, your average pun runs in a thick crowd of other, hasty and unfunny puns when one does not sleep the normal amount.

Also it could be that I'm mostly brain-dead after having spent five hours and 50 minutes on a statistics midterm. It ran, neatly, opposite the Michael Jackson memorial. I heard a bit of it, discovering where Al Sharpton has been all this time while struggling through probabilities and distribution issues.

Al Sharpton, who looks as if he's lost a bit of weight since we saw him last, pointed out that Michael taught us how to love. The world rejoices, then, for his time here on earth. However did our ancestors and our neighborhoods before us struggle through before the man came into our hearts by way of Gary, Indiana?

Watch this video and be disturbed.

Anyway, it was an online exam. So I sat and read and thought and furrowed my brow, muttered, scribbled, pecked at the calculator and input my answers. At the end of the test, though, I'd scored a very high B. I'll take it.

The neighborhood children are celebrating my score, and July Seventh, with still more fireworks. This will go on for several more days. We appreciate a good math score around here.

Nothing much else. Seriously, I spent six hours on a stats test. What else can I possibly do in one day?

Oh right, double check the stats homework.

Monday, July 6, 2009

I rode 50 miles on the bike this morning. Skipped the horizontal training that is beyond the skill level of me and ninjas and just kept on pedaling.

Around mile 17 my music player ran out of The Jayhawks -- whom I love, though I've discovered in the last few days they don't exactly provide inspiring workout music. After that came an unexpected dose of U2.

Joshua Tree started playing and I managed to stuff the headphones deeply enough into my ear so that all I could hear was the guitar and the bass on "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" and I was feeling no pain. Up past 25 miles when I began wondering where it would end. At 30 I felt great, and began thinking that maybe today would be the day that I'd just stay on and see how long I could go until something made me stop.

At 40 miles I passed my meager little personal best, and it was beginning to tell. My left foot hurt, my hamstring was tightening up and I was beginning to finally notice the saddle. I have a theory that I can ride 10 more miles to anywhere. (If I were a real bike rider and managed to, somehow, turn it into a book deal that might be a good title.) At some point the miles you've passed don't really impact you mentally, it seems like the only distance that matters is the space in front of you. And I feel like I could struggle through 10 miles from any given moment.

So I finished at 50 miles, because I'd been on the bike for 90 minutes or so. I still had weights to think about, which I did in some meager fashion.

Back at home, after cleaning up and having lunch, I dove back into a literature review that was due for my class tonight. It is a mini-review in which the professor intends to identify problems and help you correct them before the final project. It is a nice idea. I have pages of literature ready for the project by virtue of preparedness and dovetailing research. I had to whittle it down to the required three pages today.

That was easily enough done. After that I had to print off the actual works cited. This, I thought, would be pretty useless and a big waste of time. Turns out I was wrong. It was even more useless and an utterly larger waste of time, effort and toner.

The professor wants to make sure people aren't plagiarizing and doesn't want to go look up the source material herself. She's spent a great deal of time discussing plagiarism in her course, to a room full of teachers and a lawyer. If it seems disproportionate it is only because the students don't seem that impressed. Printing off source material is a bit insulting, even at an undergraduate level. And yet here we are ...

So there was the long drive up to class. The class itself and then I realized I'd brought the wrong references page because in that class if something can be messed up I'll manage to find a unique way to do it. So The Yankee Emailed me the correct version. The professor and I chatted for a few minutes after class about formats and various other minute factors about the fine points of the details of the final paper.

Honestly I did that just to break up the drive. I'm spending almost as much time in the car as I am in the classroom. So, after the drive home there was Thai (Team Atticus loaned us the recipe) and now this.

Tomorrow I'm taking the massive statistics midterm.

Seriously, I am enjoying the time off over the summer. And it was well placed. So much has gone into the wedding and travel and life and these classes that I don't think it could all get accomplished in a normal semester. Things just seem to work out like that.

Now, if they'll only work out on the stats test tomorrow ...

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Here's The Yankee, four photographs stretched over five years. At the top left is a sneaky shot I took from our first Fourth of July visit to Dreamland from 2005. The next year events, as they say, conspired. She was in Atlanta in 2006, the Fourth landed on a Tuesday and got rained out anyway.

By the time July of 2007 got here she was back in town, getting ready to start the doctoral program at Alabama and ready for fireworks. That's the top right photo. Last year the pre-fireworks ribs meal became a full-fledged tradition. By then the patriotic shirt, the sitting on the bench to wait for our table and the photograph on the bottom left were all a part of the system.

This year we waited for our seat for about 90 seconds. Usually it is about an hour wait, but we must have caught the flow of traffic just right. I just managed to get a few pictures before our name was called, and then we were in for ribs and banana pudding.

After that it was the fireworks and then home. Before that it was finishing the book chapter's final edits. I'd started that on Friday before noon, finally quit at 8 p.m. Friday night and we had another hour of citations to work through yesterday morning. To clear my head of that there was a mountain of stats homework to finish.

Good thing I'm off this summer, eh?

We enjoyed the fireworks once again this year with The McAlisters. This marks our third year, I believe, in seeing the show with them. We may have to get a new spot for next year's event. We've been watching the scene over Vulcan from Elizabeth's UAB parking deck about a mile away, but cranes and a new building may block the view in 2010. Incidentally, each of the last three years the music played along with the explosive program has also been the same. Maybe they'll change that up next year too.

Fireworks are a fickle thing. The Fourth even more so, it has all of the letdown of the day after Christmas, but none of the relief. Now it's just the drift through summer. And, unlike the toys and sweaters and gifts and photographs of the holiday season you're only left with a few sparklers and explosions.

But I have some nice ones ready for you to see on the new July photo gallery page.

This after was more stats, a trip to the library and pulling the photo gallery together. Tomorrow there's more studying. And then more the day after that.

Sorta makes you long for the temporal melancholy of fireworks.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Friday, July 3, 2009

A woman said to me this morning that she was about to have a heart attack while watching me pedal my little legs off on the bike. It felt like a downhill ride, the kind where it doesn't matter how hard you pedaled along as a child, your legs couldn't keep up the pretense of speed that gravity was giving you.

That usually ended in a bad crash for me, how about you?

After 20 brisk miles on the bike we moved into the small little gym for the horizontal training course that would give ninjas pause. I can't do any of these things as I'm severely lacking in core strength. The trainer, who's a tiny, perky woman (aren't they all?) with four children and no end to her energy said she wanted to see her husband in this class. "He can ride 100 miles a day, but he has no core strength."

So it'd be just like me in your class, then?

"No, he'd grunt and groan and make a lot more noise."

Ahh, but you see, I'm trying to not do that.

Everyone else in the room can do this stuff except for me -- and the ninjas, and the Navy SEALS -- but I don't want to draw attention to the fact that I struggle mightily.

After a round of weights we returned home. The Yankee had lunch with a friend and I had an afternoon editing a book chapter. We've been working on this project for what seems like a very long time. She wrote a section and then I wrote a section. She got it back for edits and we wrote more. We got it back for edits and we edited it. We recently received it for final edits and that's been all of today.

Seriously. She left for lunch just as I was starting my final copy edit. When she returned I was still working on the thing. We finally quit in time for a late dinner.

The chapter, on political campaigns in a 2.0 world, isn't bad. Some of the things in there really impress me. Those must be the passages The Yankee wrote. The parts, in previous edits, that made me grimace were obviously mine. And at this point the time between edits has been long enough that some of it sounds like some third party wrote the thing.

And that person is also a talented writer. One of us included the phrase "in the aggregate." I believe it was in my section based on the surrounding material. If memory serves I had a few days in the spring where I used that expression a few times. There are some other areas where the copy has a terrific flow and rhythm. In other places it is strictly an academic enterprise. So far there are 10 pages of citations. We still must add a few tomorrow to complete the list.

The whole exercise, long and absorbing though it was, allowed me to fix an important quote. That led to this gem: Fixing a quote by Francis Bacon. Is that saving my Bacon, or saving his?

I have become a stereotype and a pun in one swift motion.

Nevertheless, there's this classic news piece. I can't wait to show that one to the journalism students.

My first thought was that someone surely put Todd Meany up to that story. The guy's an anchor and there's no way he'd ... but then I found the station's Facebook page and can now only assume they were playing it for laughs.

Better to grin, say "There's nothing else happening in town today. Here's a bear scat joke." If you don't laugh at least three times during that segment you can't find the joy and charm in the quasi-unintentionally funny world of local television.

At Pie Day tonight our hostess friend was surprised to see us. "What are you doing here!?"

It's Friday.

"Oh yeah. It is."

We sat on the patio, where it was warm. Inside someone had left the door open to the walk-in cooler and the entire place was a frost 48 degrees. Outside a table-and-a-half of children fascinated by balloons with no adult supervision were bouncing the things all over the place.

One loses one's appetite for onion rings when a green balloon that's been in eight tiny hands, three different areas of ground and who knows what else lands in your plate.

We learned that those giant decorative Christmas-like lights put off an incredible amount of energy and that the nearby wing place will be closed tomorrow for the Fourth, but at Jim N Nick's they'll be running double shifts to keep everyone happy.

The pie was delicious, of course, and everything was incredibly filling -- must be the balloons. I have to figure out something lighter to eat there, but I'm glad as always for our many friends that stop by and visit while we're sawing away on chicken or sharing a slice of lemon ice box pie.

Somehow dinner on the patio turns into an all-night affair. By the time we got home it was 10 p.m. and, somehow, I'm already thinking about sleep. Tomorrow has to be a productive day, after all.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

As we approach the Fourth, we should also celebrate the Second. The Lee Resolution, seen there in hyper Flash, declared the Thirteen Colonies to be independent of the British Empire. It was proposed in June of 1776 and was passed on this day of that same year.

Meanwhile, the British are coming! And they have a copy of our famed Declaration of Independence with them:
British researchers have announced the discovery of a rare original copy of America's Declaration of Independence -- just in time for the Fourth of July.

Katrina McClintock, a spokeswoman at the National Archives, said Thursday that a researcher accidentally discovered the "Dunlap print," named after a printer, several months ago. The find was announced only after it could be properly catalogued.

Edward Hampshire, the National Archives' specialist in colonial materials, said the find was "incredibly exciting."

"It is likely that only around 200 of these were ever printed, so uncovering a new one nearly 250 years later is extremely rare, especially one in such good condition," he said.
Three years ago I had the chance to stand in the rooms where it all happened. You get a little tour and walk around with the impression that you're really getting away with something. For such an important historical setting tourists are really given the run of the place. A few years before that one of the broadsides visited Birmingham. It was hosted at the Civil Rights Museum and they formed a line of people to the door and outside. You walked by and had a moment to glance, but nothing more. And no pictures! Flash photography is bad on old papyrus. And the security apparatus in place didn't want to bother with people who could shoot sans flash.

I saw the Declaration, then, because it was in town, but was far more moved by the setting in Philadelphia.

When you celebrate on Saturday, remember the defiance and the fear became real 233 years ago today. It was from that point that there was no turning back. Those men were going to make it, or be shot or hanged as traitors.

And with that happy note ... I can move into the day's school work. The semester is picking up and the homework is delightful and everything is moving according to plan. There will be a lot of talk of studying and research over the next few days. Brace yourself for such riveting excitement as "It was a day spent writing." Or "It was a day spent reading."

In a parking lot we found this bag, addressed to avoid ambiguity.

We also found the limit where the nice folks at Publix don't force you into an uncomfortable argument about whether you are able to manhandle your own groceries to the car. If you go in and purchase one package of Publix brand "Six Cheese Italian Fancy Shredded Cheese" they'll simply put the package in a plastic bag and hand it off.

For some of their other over-named items you may get assistance. You're guaranteed a hand if you're picking up a container of the "Seven Cheese Domestic Bland Chopped Cheese." No word on the zesty Mexican, or the smelly French brands.

While we're on the subject, I'm happy to file a brief report on some store brand items at Publix. Where once I was a brand loyalist, now I am experimenting. Having always enjoyed their minimalist art I thought I'd try the minimalist price as well. So far all of the various cheeses, imitation Cheerios, generic tea, vegetable packs, yogurt and sorbet have all been of high quality. Staples like sugar, butter and olive oil also do not disappoint.

Let's see, history, hints of studying, shopping ... yes, it's been that kind of day. What's more, tomorrow I'm doing final edits on a book a chapter! Feel the excitement! There's also the regular trip to the gym! Breathe in the anticipation! And of course the traditional Pie Day! Get caught up in the emotion!

And remember: Happy Second!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

You might recall that I spent a disproportionate amount of time doing statistics homework yesterday and all evening. That also bled over into the early morning hours today. Well, that homework had its revenge on me before class.

The professor wanted to see the answers only -- this is the first person I've ever met who didn't care to see the math -- and so I worked them all out on scratch paper. Punching the numbers into the calculator I received sophisticated looking answers and then typed everything up nice and neat, under the idea that I should subject no professor to my handwriting. I printed them off this afternoon, gathered my books and left.

This class isn't on the Alabama campus, which is a convenient 35 miles away, but rather at an off-site facility, which is 81 miles from home. In the parking lot, before class, I gathered up my things from the back seat and realized I'd left the work in the printer carriage.

There was no choice but to sit in the car and hurriedly do the work once again. Ridiculous and distracted as my goof was, the inconvenience did have upside. What took hours to do yesterday I did in 20 minutes in class. I also learned the valuable lesson of Emailing everything to myself -- if I'd had the file in the cloud I could have printed it in the lab. Finally, I do get to drop one homework assignment in this class, so whatever I did wrong and in haste today won't hurt me too much going forward.

Tonight in the class we reviewed for the upcoming midterm and started the second half of the course's not-so-baffling math which includes inferential statistics, confidence intervals, point estimates and sample sizes.

But enough about that. We got to see Atticus, the coolest three-year-old you could possibly meet. We were supposed to see him Monday, but he had a doctor's appointment that got in the way. He showed me his pool, and he showed The Yankee his trampoline (that was while I was away at class, and I'm very jealous). He showed me his surgery scar, which is almost impossible to see. I got to see his train and other cool toys too. I told him he was spoiled, "And by spoiled I mean I'm jealous."

We had dinner with Justin and RaDonna, who made Thai. We stole the recipe and then shared wedding cake. The visits are invaluable and we always feel lucky to be there and sad to go. Now only if we could get them to move back closer ...

Did you know that the Walkman is 30?
What better way to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Sony's iconic Walkman than to ask a teenager for some feedback on the device?


But I'm well aware that it must have been different for 13-year-old Scott Campbell, who co-edits his own news Web site. For one, teenage impatience must have stood in the place where I fantasize scientific curiosity should have been.


Campbell went on to criticize the portable cassette player's size, appearance, functionality and the "hissy backtrack and odd warbly noises."

Even when he discovered the cassette had more music on the other side (it took him three days), Campbell was still disappointed it could only hold a small fraction of what an iPod can.
The Walkman was never exactly futuristic. After the idea that your music was suddenly mobile the device was a tool and sometimes a poorly constructed one. No model that I ever owned seemed designed for the aesthetic. In fact they usually seemed to prefer to be hidden. "Let me do my work and play hissy, warbly music."

I think we can all agree that the cassette tape was a poor medium. It is funny that it took the 13-year-old to figure out the other side had music -- and in the full story you'll learn that he created an "impromptu shuffle" by using the rewind button. All of that is redeemed by the last quote.

"Did my dad ... really ever think this was a credible piece of technology?"

Furthermore, for a story that was comfortable noting that young Scott Campbell has his own web site I had to go from the San Francisco Chronicle, a Google search, Now Public, then Boing Boing and finally the original BBC story before finding Campbell's own site.

If you're going to feature the kid, use him for content and ad revenue the least you guys could do would be to link to his site.

Tomorrow: More school work. Good thing I have the summer off, eh?