Kenny Smith | blog

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Just a day of taking it easy. Some days, some people have to work hard at taking it easy. I pity these poor souls.

Nice day for taking it easy, too. The mercury only crept into the mid-70s and it was clear from here to there. Picture perfect warm fall day. The light is changing, the days turning a bit more golden and a bit earlier, but the summer sun hasn't given up on us yet.

I did take in a class at Alabama today. One presenter -- again, this is the first-term class I'm taking as I now work in my third semester, so the introductory nature of it all is a bit wasted on me -- was a librarian. He seemed a nice enough guy, I'm sure his work is very interesting to librarians. (I am not one of them.) I assume his work is interesting, as he did not talk about it. He did, for about half-an-hour, discuss how his life got him to this point, right now, in that room.

It was proof that librarians can be lonely people -- which is a shame, because they know so much stuff! It was also became a useful piece of life advice: beware of nostalgic librarians. The problem with his chat was that his purpose was to introduce to all the new doctoral students his research interests so that the new students might find out whether they might find a kindred spirit. So while we know all about his days as an undergrad in the 1960s (he doesn't remember them) we aren't sure what he studies.

Other than bibliometrics, but that seems to be a librarian standard.

He did have two nice pieces of advice. Dissertations are best when they are done. Following that point he noted that no piece of research we do after a dissertation will likely be as narrow and that, hopefully, it won't be the best work of our lives as academics. I especially liked the first advice. I think everyone did.

After that came in one of the communication studies professors. The Yankee and I studied under her at UAB. (In fact, I largely took that class because she would be in there too.) It was a good methods course, after which the professor left for Alabama. Indirectly, and though we had no way of knowing it at the time time, we'd follow her there three or four years later.

I'm a mass communications person, though, and the communication studies crowd is a different sort of research altogether. They do interpersonal stuff, cultural research and rhetoric. This particular professor does work on children studies, which is very interesting to hear her talk about, but doesn't interest me professionally.

So I drove down to Tuscaloosa to meet a librarian and catch up with an old professor with whom I'd caught up just last week.

My mother-in-law, who's down for a few days of visiting, has been to the store, purchased too much, is spoiling the cats and made a delicious chicken noodle soup for dinner.

We're thinking of keeping her on.

We watched old Cheers episodes with her tonight. We've been following along throughout the run of the show on late-night cable syndication. While we lost a good 30 episodes summering in New England, we've been able to see most everything else in recent months.

And now we're getting to the episodes The Yankee and I each remember. Sadly this is later into the run of the show than I'd like to admit. My memories of these later ones -- where Frasier and Lilith are on the outs, for example, and when Sammy isn't chasing women so frequently -- seem to have the most clarity. The early seasons held only vague memories as we watched them, I saw them in syndication later and not in the original run during far more formative television-watching years.

It is a little odd, The Yankee and I having grown up 16 hours apart, but liking some of the same shows and remembering some of the same episodes. It is a bit more odd, somehow, when we both have no memory of the same episodes.

We've only a dozen or so episodes left, if I recall correctly. No doubt it'll be a sad night. Cheers has become the dinnertime routine around here. What will we watch next?

From the looks of things they'll just start the entire run over. Hallmark knows how to treat its 2 a.m. crowd of TiVos.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Our cats think inside the box.

Monday, September 28, 2009

In my seminar on social movements one assignment was to write a critique of a piece of rhetoric using some of the items we've discussed in class and read in our assignments. I thought about this for a day, wondering what I could do that would be both within my abilities and not an absolute cliché.

I'm not sure how it came to mind, but I found myself doing a random search for a particular old newspaper column. Two years ago we were introduced to Al McIntosh, a midwestern newspaper editor during the mid-20th century. His columns gained a measure of fame as a feature of Ken Burns' documentary, "The War." At the same time a collection of his wartime columns were published as a book.

They are fantastic little windows into a community, this being long before a time when we discussed community journalism as an academic pursuit. It was happening all over the country and there's a wealth of information buried in the musty, crumbling old pages of newsprint. Of course, they are far more moving when Tom Hanks read excerpts.

In the book's epilogue, and in reading about McIntosh here and there on the Internet you'll find reference to a column he wrote in 1964. It was called "A Tired American Gets Angry" and it gave McIntosh, now close to the end of his career, a measure of national fame. The column was widely reprinted across the U.S. and even got play overseas.

The column hadn't been put online, so I've never been able to read it. Though I ran across it last week in one of those random searches that you remember to undertake from time to time.

You can read the column here, as a PDF. It is a good read, and you have to transport yourself back to small town 1964 to really appreciate the power this piece carried. You could see such a thing, perhaps, on a number of blogs today, but the tone, tenor and message resonated in a world where there wasn't in the way of comparison.

So I've been reading the column over and over again for the last week. I sent a copy to my professor, shared a few of my notes. He gave me a few valuable suggestions. Some of them I, hopefully, took advantage of and others I'm sure I diverged greatly. But I turned it in. Here's an excerpt and part of the column, which I excerpted:
He was simply a country editor. He was a Republican. He was a middle aged Midwesterner in the middle of the 20th Century. Newspapers were his business, and though he had opportunities and offers to move to the big city, Al McIntosh preferred to stay in small-town Minnesota to offer a contemporary examination of his community. What were observations and writings to his friends and neighbors has become a fleeting glance of a place and time and way of life.


From his opening sentence -- "I am a tired American." -- the tone is set. Quickly he launched into a litany of those that are deserve his ire:
I am a "tired American" -- weary of having American embassies and information centers, stoned burned and sacked by mobs operating under orders from dictators who preach "peace" and breed conflict.

I am a "tired American" -- weary of being lectured by General DeGaulle (who never won a battle) who posses as a second Jehovah in righteousness and wisdom.

I am a "tired American" ... weary of Nasser and all the other blood sucking leeches who bleed Uncle Sam white and who kick him in the shins and yank his beard if the cash flow falters.

I am a "tired American" ... chocked up to here on this business of trying to intimidate our government by placard, picket line and sit-in by the hordes of the dirty unwashed who rush to man the barricades against forces of law, order and decency.

I am a "tired American" ... weary of the beatniks who say they should have the right to determine what laws of the land they are willing to obey.

I am a "tired American" ... Fed up with mobs of scabby faced, long haired youths and short haired girls who claim they represent the "new wave" of America and who seer at the old fashioned virtues of honesty, integrity, morality on which America grew to greatness.

I am a "tired American" ... weary unto death of having my tax dollars go to dictators who play both sides against the middle with threats of what will happen if we cut off the golden stream of dollars.
If anything I might have spent too much time establishing the background and setting the scene, but I felt it important. This is a class on social movements, after all, and here was an aging man railing against the generational change at home and criticism abroard.

If anything else I may have excerpted too much, but McIntosh was angry at a lot of people in that column and there was a fair amount of rhetoric to be had.

We'll see.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

One paper, finished.

It would be better if the had been one of productive writing. For one project that's somewhat been the case. For the other, nothing could be farther from the truth. So I', 1-of-2 on the day, which in baseball would be .500, but for projects on deadline feels far less successful.

The project that has been successful is due tomorrow, so its completion is a positive. I've been teasing you with it for three days, but we'll talk at length about that somewhat interesting, but not especially exciting project (to most people) tomorrow.

Being finished with the composition means consulting the APA stylebook. I was just getting used to the fifth edition -- and that only took four or five years -- but this semester we are switching to the sixth edition. The rules haven't changed much, probably, but figuring out the organization of the book itself is always the biggest chore. Maybe this one will be better.

The project with which I'm struggling is due on Tuesday. We'll see how that turns out. Today my struggles grew so profound with the thing that I changed into an Ivy League shirt, hoping that having Yale in big letters would make the writing look more impressive. You never know.

Lately though I've been staring at a lot of notes, a lot of PDFs and a painfully blank screen.

Painfully blank.

I should probably try to do something about that.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

If you tried | to stay dry | it was in vain | for there was more rain | on the plain

We weren't going to go to Auburn for the game. We could have used the rest. I could have used the time. The Tigers were hosting Ball State and it in no way seemed a compelling contest. But, at the last minute, we decided to load up the car and hit the road.

It rained a lot once again. The Yankee, Brian and I were eating lunch at Niffer's when the real storms started. The power pole just outside the restaurant was struck by lightning. How the power only blinked I do not know. How nothing caught on fire was also impressive.

The place didn't miss a beat and one of our fellow customers broke the moment's tension by asking if they sold underwear. It was a reasonable question. We were inside, but that was as close to a lightning strike as you would want to be. The room turned blue ever so briefly and you were painfully aware that that little poke from the heavens was only about 150 feet away.

The storms in the area delayed the game, again, but it was only delaying the inevitable.

Ever wonder what 1,100 high school cheerleaders look like?

This is the view at the half. (These are also cell phone pictures because I have no desire to take a real camera into a monsoon.) Every year Auburn invites honor band members and an ever-growing number of cheerleaders. This year the routine was simple, with the exception of the girls running pell-mell from one spot to another across the field to make this formation. How there were no wrenched knees or head-on collisions is beyond me. Otherwise it was a brightly enthusiastic, but stationary show.

It was odd to see all of these girls dancing along to a Gary Glitter song. You'd expect that the choreographers would have figured out the negative connotations of the man by now.

Anyway, onto the game. Auburn turned the ball over on a punt and Ball State took an early 7-0 lead. My step-brother, a Ball State student, heckled me via SMS, but his taunts were short-lived once Auburn came alive and dominated the game through the first three quarters. The Cardinals (who have a chant that is simply "Chirp!") made the score look respectable in garbage time, but Auburn did what they had to - win easily and escape injury. The Tigers won the tune up, 54-30.

The offense looked fine, the defense alternately impressive and porous and the special teams were dangerously lacking. While the latter could be foreshadowing, the real lesson to take from this game is the lack of depth Auburn has right now. A lot of playing time in the second half will hopefully help break in some new contributors. After all, the bulk of the SEC schedule is coming up, starting with a tough road trip to Knoxville next weekend.

As for the rest of this weekend ... there will be much work ... and a little sleep.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Galeuse d'Eysines, I believe

Some days have a way of interrupting your plans in a most complete way. Today was one of those days. It started early, ran late and was entirely different than the expected norm. So, dear Internet, I apologize for not contributing my iota of rote routine here. Stuff, as the bumper sticker famously says, happens.

Not to worry; all is well, and all will be better. For now, though, there is only this space-filling photo (shot last week at Peach Park in Clanton, Ala.) and awkward excuse for an apology.

We'll all catch up again quickly. Stay safe and enjoy yourselves until then.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Critiqued the paper at work this morning. Here's how that conversation goes:
What do you like about the paper this week?

The editor talks about the positives.

What do you dislike?

The editor discusses the negatives she's found.
Then I fold up the paper as it sits on the newsrack. Where is the dominant art?

The answer, today, was "Below the fold." That's not the best place on the front page. However, the staff is very good, so far, about not repeating the same mistakes. I doubt they'll make this one again. By the end of the year, among other things, the staff will be able to critique it as well as I can. When you're looking at it with a critical eye then you can make a great newspaper.

This afternoon, while working on a paper, I'm certain my left brain said to the right brain OK, let's get serious about this.

And then I spent a very long time wondering what I wrote in the marginalia. "Universal view" meant something yesterday, but absolutely nothing today.

I did manage to get four pages of rambling put to paper in the effort. Much refinement will be needed, but that's a start. This is a paper due on Monday, and so I'll say more about it then.

The writing had to stop when I got tasked with shopping for new fluorescent lights for the kitchen. Having measured the demon sticks I stopped by Sam's Club on the way home. Walking through the store that still operates under the pretense of a warehouse I found one small section of light bulbs. There were none of the fluorescent flavor.

I asked one employee if they might be stocked elsewhere, but she plead ignorance. The customer service desk, despite three employees and my universally recognized expression of curiosity, was not concerned about service. The nice lady at the door asked what I needed.

Fluorescent light bulbs? I looked on the lighting aisle ...

"You mean those big long ones?"

Yes ma'am, like those in the ceiling there.

"I don't think we sell those. They probably buy those at Home Depot."

So I left the business that supposedly caters to small business, wondering how they were expected to light their businesses. The Home Depot seemed the answer, unless you have an inherent distrust for a place that smells of sawdust without the existence of sawdust. And if I can get that in a Yankee Candle we'll be on to something ...

There are approximately 428 different styles of the fixtures from which you can hang fluorescent lights. This was disheartening, at first, because the light bulbs themselves weren't anywhere in sight. I need these for the kitchen. Dinner hangs in the balance.

One aisle over the lightbulbs were resting silently, unlit and without fanfare. There are 74 different sizes of fluorescent bulbs. I've been sent to find the 47-inch bulbs. There's no such thing. So, my tummy grumbling, I pick up a pair of 48-inch bulbs and hope for the best.

At home we plug them in and try to remember if these are brighter or dimmer than the previous set. Happily, dinner is made and it is delicious.

Afterward there was more writing. Later there will be more, still. Tomorrow, of course, is Pie Day!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Today was a whirlwind. There was a whirl, though not much wind. These things happen, sometimes. You look around and wonder What was that about? What happened? What is there to show for it?

The Samford Crimson hit the racks this morning. I'll critique it with the staff tomorrow, but there's no reason you can't learn about Banned Books Week now. Fall break is suddenly upon us, earlier than normal, not that anyone is complaining about it this week. The Samford campus, some freshmen decide, is becoming less of a suitcase college. And check out this art, everyone is agog with the thing.

We had an award-winning staff artist last year. She's still on staff, and with the new guy making stuff like that we may have two award-winning artists.

The paper was mostly painless to produce this week. We were out of the newsroom just after 12:30. It is not without a few things that need some close attention. We're probably still a few weeks away from a really solid paper, but making progress.

Every week we get a bit better, that's the goal. Every week we find a new mistake to make. That's reasonable. If we start making the same ones then we'll have a bit of trouble. This year's staff is young, but eager. The nice thing is that they are taking tips and advice to heart. When they pull it all together they'll have a paper of which they can really be proud.

Meanwhile, all those fancy new cameras are due any day now. The broadcast students are eager for them to show up, and so am I. Before long we'll have them out of boxes, into student hands and, hopefully, integrating some of their production with other news sources on campus. That's the ultimate goal to which we're working.

One day.

Like I said, a whirl without wind today. I attended a class, another unfortunate prerequisite of little redeeming value, but it is required, so I have a determined smile on my face. I came home later in the evening and sat around working on the rhetorical paper and flailing away at another one. I'm sure they'll both come up again in the near future.

Tomorrow: Writing, shopping, football. A full day. Until then, then.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Learned all about Bill Monroe this morning. The father of bluegrass is no stranger to anyone who's spent, well, anytime in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. The music, yes. The man, not nearly as much.

There's an advertising professor at Alabama who is working on what will ultimately be a book about Monroe. He came in to the colloquium class and actually redeemed it's existence for about 25 minutes this morning. He started out talking about Monroe within the context of W.J. Cash's Mind of the South and ultimately the Southern Agrarians. The professor and I were the only people in the room, I'm certain, who'd read this stuff.

Very interesting stuff, he's analyzing song titles and lyrical refrains and Monroe's life on and off stage. It is a compelling and, from the sound of it, frustrating research project. It is made the more interesting because he has a bluegrass, arbor brush revivalist voice and looks ever-so-slight reminiscent of Wayne Duvall in O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Learning a bit more about Bill Monroe is interesting, everything else in there is easily tuned out. I paid attention, however, in Methods. We talked of content analysis today. I do a bit of that, so it was a good lecture. I also realized that the paper I wrote in large part last night for this class was clearly all wrong. So while I have to re-do the paper, at least all of the errors are taken care of. The professor was kind enough to let me send it to him tomorrow, so I fixed it and emailed it to him tonight.

And all night I've been in my office on the Samford campus. The Crimson writers are quietly hard at work on this week's edition. Every so often someone will ask a question or need a bit of help. Every once in a great while a student will poke their head in my door to chat. Mostly I have the opportunity to catch up on a bit of work -- and wonder how it is that I manage to get so far behind.

With the paper, though, the students are on a roll. By 10:30 six pages had been completed. Looks as if we may get out of here in a reasonable amount of time tonight.

After a series of small errands, reducing email to a simple stack, satisfying the conversations on Facebook, circling over some PDFs of various usefulness and making maps for one project or another I'm ready to move on to the next project.

I must write a critique for my social movements class. I think I'll do it on Al McIntosh's 1964 column A Tired American Gets Angry. This is due Monday and in a curious turn I'm going to start on it early. I'll keep you up-to-date on the progress.

Tomorrow: More from the paper, more school work, more, more, more!

Monday, September 21, 2009

I haven't worked in radio in more than five years. That's long enough to realize you can forget a few things in that time. I stopped by a restroom next to the public radio station studios that are housed on the campus at Alabama this afternoon. I'd forgotten the ol' speaker in the restroom trick.

Stations pipe in their signal so the on-air staff knows where they are in the programming and, most importantly, to help guard against dead air. It is surprising to hear talk, especially the calm public radio tone, in a room where you aren't expecting it. It is especially disconcerting to hear a female voice in the restroom.

On the other end of the spectrum I heard a conversation that people from across the quad could eavesdrop upon. It was that boisterous and unnecessarily loud getting-to-know-you chat. Today's went something like this:
Girl 1: I was chubby.

Girl 2 (much louder): You was a chubbster!? I was a tomboy!
Yeeesh. Let me guess, neither of you are English or women's studies majors.

That was in between classes and before the rain. Oh, the rain. If I'd been trying to describe it with each storm I would have run out of adjectives by two weeks ago. But still it falls. We've had 9.5 inches of rain so far this month. That's more than twice of our September average with a week and several showers to go.

Next time I'm borrowing rain boots from an undergrad.

A long night of rhetoric. I have to write a rhetorical critique this week, and so it was probably good that we discussed the canons of rhetoric. I am not a rhetorician, but I do know that something that is even more persuasive than the canons of rhetoric are the cannons of rhetoric.

Nerdy ordnance humor, can't beat it!

Tomorrow, two more classes and then spending the night at the paper. Should be lots of fun, and will come complete with plenty more puns!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Mood: restive. Condition: damp.

After a long night, made longer by the biblical rain delay in Auburn, it was a late, late trip home. Totally worth it, though. I was able to take The Yankee to the new Daylight Donuts in Auburn. I noticed it on the drive in yesterday afternoon and thus it was an imperative that we make a stop.

Daylight Donuts closed when I was at Auburn. Somehow I feel as if my classmates and I let a future generation of students down in not keeping the place in business, but there were some serious problems behind the counter if I remember correctly.

The old place on Glenn, according to Google Maps, is still empty. That's surprising, given the location. Just one block off campus and almost within view of the busiest intersection of downtown it has been vacant for a decade.

The manager of the new place on South College was working. He told me a little about the old store, the problems every place downtown is having because of a shortage of parking. I still see things as a student, though, and wonder what the problem is. You walk off campus and into the downtown district. It would seem a natural area for walk-up business.

The manager told me he was an Auburn man. His father was before him. His grandfather too. The owner talked about how Krispy Kreme is in trouble and how Dunkin Donuts doesn't make anything fresh anymore, they're just there to sell you coffee. He'd disappear in the back every few minutes and bring out more concoctions he'd just pulled from the oven and kept giving us free samples. Try the county fair caramel doughnut and then have your life changed by the blueberry doughnut. That's his favorite one and why, he says, he's put on weight since he opened the place last April.

He talked about an upcoming expansion the Daylight Donuts brand is about to undergo. Soon, apparently, they'll be everywhere. I'd never before realized they were a franchise. In my mind it was an Auburn store and I've never ran across another one. I haven't thought of the place in years so it had never occurred to me to Google it. There are seven in the state. One, it turns out, not far from home. The rest are in towns I rarely visit, if ever.

This will be a new post-game tradition, The Yankee suggested. It was somehow not too crowded and gave us a sugar rush for the drive home while also letting some of the traffic drift out of town. But we won't get three doughnuts every time. That'd just mean more weights and laps. They are soooo good.

Now here's the regular beg off from stuff actually happening on the web site. Once upon a time, it seems, stuff was posted here regularly. One day that will happen again, but my clutter will have to wait. We're now in full stride in the fall semester and very soon will have all of my irons in the fire and a lot of balls up in the air.

Tomorrow, for example, will include work and then two classes. The day will start at a regular time and end somewhere around 9 p.m. Mondays are long, Tuesdays are even longer. And while it is all very rewarding, it tends to eat into one's free time. When things get sparse we can always blame real life.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Happy Birthday to The Yankee!

She's enjoying her fresh peach ice cream at the Peach Park as we made our way down to Auburn. She wanted to see a football game for her birthday, and that was part of her gift. She's mine ...

Before the game.

We stood on the northwestern walkaround as we usually do, watching the players stretch before the pre-game festivities got underway. See that line of dark cloud in the background? That turned into an imposing wall of doom. From our vantage point we watched the rain wash over campus toward us. As the wall of angry water washed over telecom and then into the athletic facilities we sought shelter.

We sat here for an hour or so.

And we made it just in time. We beat the rain and barely beat the crush of humanity. Through the portal to the upper deck you couldn't see the far side of the field through the rain. Not everyone could get inside, a lot of people were doomed to drenching. The student body never left, choosing instead to turn it into a party.

Visiting Toomer's Corner.

Some four inches of rain fell, but the gunpowder stayed dried. Auburn wore down West Virginia and won a game full of offensive fireworks, 41-30. The Mountaineers jumped out early, 14-0, and their fans were joyous. Auburn fans recalled the "Here we go again" feeling of last season, but the team didn't panic. Ultimately what happened in the second ten minutes of the game was far more impressive that WVU's burst in the first 10 minutes. The last 10 minutes or so were more impressive still. This was a big win to shape the tone of the program and the biggest non-conference win the Tigers have celebrated in a long time.

One of the many reasons The Yankee is great is because she was looking for a day like today for her birthday. Not a bad present, huh sweetheart?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Another day, another social network to join. At some point this becomes too much. At some point we figure out that the best of our online selves (the best of the best) is already in one place. The rest, we'll realize, are simply competitors.

So you have your Facebook account, because the volume is huge and the networking is worth a little effort. You have Linked In, because that's professional, though no one really seems to know what to do with it. There are the various other sites. If you have a log in there's an opportunity for you to run an individual page. There's YouTube, Digg, local news outlets and so on. You're addicted to Twitter (or is that just me?). And then there are the niche social networks.

Auburn now has at least four of them. Two of them are for public relations, another is for alumni and, now, there's one which aspires to be a special interest of Facebook. See? All of these sites are competing for your time. Or my time.

So I'm fighting back by being a minimalist. Except for Twitter.

Auburn people can be very particular about how they choose to be labeled. Most don't care for the poorly phrased "Auburn Nation" name. It is generic, applied to everyone and, sadly, originates from the unoriginal Jim Rome. Being from Auburn, we would say, is a bit more special. We call ourselves the Auburn Family. When I joined, my membership had to be approved by an administrator. Funny, I would have thought the degree earned my way in.

Did you read this story today?
He was walking toward the stairs when a teenage boy approached and pulled out a knife.

"He wants my money, so I just gave him my wallet and told him, 'Here you go,'" Diaz says.

As the teen began to walk away, Diaz told him, "Hey, wait a minute. You forgot something. If you're going to be robbing people for the rest of the night, you might as well take my coat to keep you warm."

The would-be robber looked at his would-be victim, "like what's going on here?" Diaz says. "He asked me, 'Why are you doing this?'"
Read the whole thing to find out the answer.

I haven't shown you a picture of Hodges Chapel lately. Here's a crooked one, shot from the car. Beautiful building, sometimes I catch the light and the sky just right. One day I'll shoot more than just the campus chapels, but they are worth seeing a few times.

At Pie Day Wendy (She lives her now!) met Ward the wonder waiter. One more mouth to feed, one more fork to clink, one more brazen personality to entertain. The barbecue joint will never be the same.

And at the dinner table I might have talked a big game, but I was ready for bed by 9 p.m.

Tomorrow: we travel to Auburn as the Tigers take on West Virginia in a revenge match. It'll be a big and rainy day, so bring your poncho!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Great day, now bring on the weekend!

Samford's journalism workshop for high school students was today. By chance this was the third, and largest, workshop I've been fortunate to take part in this week. We had 20 schools and about 360 students on hand for a five hour, four session workshop. Jim Dunaway, CBS' sports anchor delivered the keynote.

He told of how he started in the business, which is a great story that carried his underlying theme -- you never know who is watching -- and gave great advice like "If someone ever ask you how much money it will take, have a number in mind" and "Surround yourself with people who love you and care about you."

He also told the story of a time when he almost lost his job, because you never know who is watching.

Dunaway did a fine job, and because he has a morning radio show to do as well he hustled out of the building and back to work. We marched the visiting students from the recital hall to our individual workshops. I ran through the building to make sure all of our presenters were there. For the day we had a television producer, two magaziners and two staffers from The Birmingham News. Our department covered the rest.

As our faculty grows we've been able to trim back on the outside professionals in the last few years. This is a great opportunity to reach out to potential students and gives us the chance to actually do a little teaching rather than sharing anecdotes. War stories are fine, but they don't really help out the students.

I spent most of the morning reading the papers the teachers brought with them. Mine was an afternoon session critiquing the high school papers. A few of them were surprisingly good. Others have a nice potential. We talked for two hours, me standing in front of a room full of high school teachers and feeling a silly for it. I'm not so old that I don't feel like an impostor there.

And then they started taking notes. I'm teaching teachers. It was very hard to keep a straight face.

At the end of the day The Yankee and I visited Wendy's new place. (She lives here now!) She moved on Monday and Tuesday and her place already looks settled. Don't know how she does that. We ordered Chinese and took the dime tour of her place, helped her decide on picture frames and checked out her balcony view.

We watched a bit of the football game and then I did something I might not have ever done. I said I was tired and wanted to head home. It's been a long week. At least I was able to console myself. Wendy lives here now!

Tomorrow is Pie Day!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Days are sometimes like elaborate plans. The ones that you fret over the most are often found to be the ones not really worth the dread.

I had three workshops to present today for the Alabama Scholastic Press Association. All on broadcasting topics -- because I'm now the default broadcasting guy in that circle, apparently. The ASPA has a three day series of workshops, the first in Auburn, the second day in Tuscaloosa (where I presented yesterday) and the last day, today, in Huntsville.

So that meant an early morning after an incredibly late night. I made it home around 2:30 this morning and was up and moving around at 6:30. This late hour, however, was an improvement over last week, when I made it home at 4 a.m. And so now you see why I'd been so troubled over the day. Could I make it everywhere? Would I be intelligible when I got there? Is that slide really going to make sense?

I drove through two rain storms to get to the location of the Huntsville workshop. I arrive just in time to find myself presenting in a walk-in cooler with a conference table inside. I give this presentation:

... And we all shiver. Two of the high schoolers began to sing Christmas songs. It was a nice session, though, I learned about the way two schools shoot their shows. One does an irregular magazine-type program. The other dose daily announcements. A third school is trying to pull together a program from the ground up. These are exciting things.

The session ends. The students stay. I stay. I realize, then, that my next session will be in the same room with the same students.

It gets better.

This is a bit problematic because I'd considered my first and second sessions as fairly similar. This called for that greatest of broadcasting gifts, the ad lib.

And I thought up a perfect one. At which point technology decided it would have no use for me. There was no Internet connection in this meat locker. I call for the workshop organizers, who are powerless to help. They call for the technical support folks. Fifteen minutes later a guy arrives.

Meanwhile the students are just chattering amongst themselves. Having deduced that the third session will be largely populated by the same kids (there were apparently only five schools represented at this smallish workshop) I called an audible on the whole arrangement.

The students, happy to just not be in school, were content to talk with one another. A second tech support fellow came along and watched his colleague not fix the problem for about five minutes. I watched him for another 25 minutes, largely doing the same thing over and over again, failing each time to find a connection to the Internet. Finally, after a full 30 minutes had passed he decides "Having no ability to log in as a guest, I'll log you in as myself."


The students, meanwhile, are still happily talking amongst themselves. That's fine. I have a plan. I'll merge the last two sessions, titled "Interviewing for television" and "On camera/on mic excellence" together as one. And since I am old and they are impossibly young, I decided (midway through the last season) to start with a scene from Saturday Night Live at a point when the show was still marginally funny.

Only the first link I found didn't work. And the second link was no longer there. Videos are temporal things. Finally, on the SNL site (Motto: We don't want anyone to show our videos elsewhere that might actually boost our audience, ever) I found the right video.

I was right, no one in the room had seen the skit. Kids these days.

We then discussed the infamous Brian Collins video. (To be fair to Collins, who's now at KVVX in Waco, Texas, the world was against him that day. Read Gene Wojciechowski's column for more.)

We talked about getting the giggles, the art of recovery, the dangers of monotone (which is a comedy bit, but makes a great point). There was a nice chat about mis-timed graphics, the troubles of choking and being unphased by distractions.

So three workshop sessions became two. I still got out on time and that gave me a few minutes to visit one of my grandmothers before heading back to campus. All was right with the world.

On the way back home I traveled through two more rainstorms. I think they were the same ones from earlier in the day; they just hadn't moved.

I made it to Alabama in time for my class, where nothing of great importance was discussed. Now, finally, I'm home. I feel asleep a few minutes ago actually doing something that engages the brain. Anyone can fall asleep while watching television or reading or doing something that doesn't challenge your cognitive skills. Say, driving for example.

I, however, was in the process of cleaning off files from the TiVo when I nodded off. Obviously this isn't the biggest stimulant in the world, but thought must be had -- Do I want to keep that, or can I not record it? -- and then a few low-level cognitive actions must be administered. Press this button, scroll, snooze.

That's pretty much how it happened. Otherwise, though, a long day I'd fretted over didn't cause any problems. Something to be said for that.

Falling asleep, though, means it is probably time for bed. Rest is important. Samford's journalism workshop is tomorrow and I should appear alive for that one. It will be my fifth workshop session in three days. Tomorrow I get to critique high school newspapers. Lots of fun!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The first of my four workshop sessions this week began today. Since I had to be at the University of Alabama anyway, I volunteered for an early session and got slotted in something I know a tiny bit about.

So I find myself in this largish room. It looks like it can hold about 60 or 75 people pretty easily. But I'm the only person there. It seems I arrived a few minutes early. So I took advantage of the waiting laptop and plugged in my presentation, such as it is. I had it on flash drive, Slideshare and a hard copy version. Always bring extras, and a joke for when something unexpectedly breaks. (Mine is to give the hard copy version to someone, rename them Power and then make a big deal out of pointing at them for the rest of the presentation. If you like dry, repetitive puns it works well, and you may borrow it.)

The television is too fancy. There are no buttons or switches. There are no knobs or dials or even a remote control. There was a remote for the PowerPoint, but it did not work, even when I tried my own batteries. (Go prepared.)

One of the students led the way. It seems there was a faintly labeled and cryptically worded touch panel on the side of the giant flatscreen. If you even move near it you could change the channel, turn up the volume or turn it off. I did this twice before I figured out to stay away from the thing.

I started off by telling the story of how I was once asked to interview a congressman over the loss of his beloved hunting dog. The congressman and I were both uncomfortable about the entire interview. I thought it silly, but was stupidly told to go for tears. He thought it silly and me stupid. We were both right.

But there I stopped telling war stories because high school students don't need those. You get a lot of those when you bring professionals into a workshop. "I interviewed this governor and he said this about that coach." Doesn't matter. This is about teaching technique, and so I have this simple little slideshow.

It went well. I had nice questions, about three more than normal. That means that the students were either into it or I wasn't being clear enough. Kanye West became an example and I subtly kicked myself for being so out of touch with popular culture. It seems he got a bit emotional on Jay Leno's show. One of the teachers in the room told me about it and it turned into a good example of a point we were trying to make in the session.

Ultimately, I found I can easily do an hour-long presentation on interviewing and still leave out a few details. I file these under "You can't learn everything in a classroom."

Two classes today. In Colloquium we heard from a professor I studied with in the spring. She happens to also sit on my program and thesis committees, so I'm familiar with her research. The other visitor today was a professor with whom I'm studying this semester. Again, if all of this weren't an exact repeat of one of the other prerequisites we might find it to be more useful and less redundant.

In methods, my final class of the day, we discussed sampling. The building just outside the window is beautiful. The weather was a dramatic backdrop. I had a similar methods class in the summer. It all made for one of those days where focus was difficult.

I made it back to Samford in time to do a final edit on the program for our workshop, which is coming up this Wednesday. We now have 20 schools and some 300-plus students expected. The program was necessarily stuffed with information. I've been working on and assisting with specific details of the workshop for so long that I'm grateful it is here, if only so that I can work on something else. Turns out I'll be offering a critique of student newspapers and broadcasts. That should make for a fun afternoon.

For a fun evening I began reading Kurzweil's The Age of Spiritual Machines. This is all about how computers will soon outpace us for both intellect and computational power. There is speculation about what will come of it emotionally, both for us and them, and, ultimately, what it means to be human.

My answer: confiscate all copies of Terminator now so they don't realize we're onto them.

I'm happy to be reading this as a good old-fashioned paperback. If I were reading this book on a Kindle it would zap me at every critical point. "Zap! Pay attention." "Zap! Or, you know what, don't. We'll just sneak up on you."

It has also sneaked up on me that I have three more workshop presentations to prepare this evening. Tomorrow I have three discussions on broadcasting to work through. So, as the newspaper students are newspapering, I'll finish the night, and the wee hours of the morning, developing slides and witty broadcasting anecdotes for tomorrow. If you have any, send them along.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Happy Birthday Atticus!

The fourth birthday is an important one. Presents are sometimes remembered in the proper context and they can last a good long while. No longer is your gift automatically an educational toy. You've ventured out of one genre of kids toys to the big kids department. These are the formative toys, and they'll stick with the child for many years.

So this wasn't an easy gift. It required two stores. Because the first just wasn't appealing. The best option was an odd Transformers branded thing. It was supposed to be an oversized Optimus Prime. You pushed buttons and it talked, but it was the voice of Optimus Adolescent at best. Perhaps the marketing folks found a focus group that suggested Optimus' voice was too intimidating for tikes. Perhaps they couldn't afford someone with the sufficient pipes.

Either way, that was one small concern. The second was that the familiar red and blue truck transformed, not into a giant robot that would lead his friends to another day of safeguarding earth from the bad guys, but into a giant gun. The gun, the packaging noted, would help you defend your city against evil.

No 4-year-old takes this to heart -- they can see past it, I believe -- the biggest problem, as you will recall, is that the bad guy turned into a gun. We can't mix the brands here. Remember, these are formative toys.

Hot Wheels are a terrific option. There's warehouses of different cars, they're durable, shiny and they roll. They will also be a key component in a child's play routine for half-a-dozen, or 30, years. So we found Atticus Hot Wheels and some track. His mother approved and Atticus, his dad and I are all equally excited to see what stunts can be performed.

We grilled on a giant grill provided by the park where the party was held. Justin is considering renting the pavilion again solely for access to the grill. We played on the playground, played with other kids, danced in bubbles. We wrote in chalk, road the train and poked our heads through those cutouts meant for silly family pictures. We saw a lion, learned about foxes and petted a deer. We had hot dogs and hamburgers and cupcakes and a Thomas the Tank Engine cake.

It was a great day.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Darvin Adams makes a nice catch at the goal line, completing a Chris Todd pass that set up ...

... Kodi Burns, who ran for three touchdowns and threw another.

Auburn romps over Mississippi State, 49-24.

Ho hum, another 589 yards of total offense at a rapid 83 plays per game pace. Another night of Ben Tate and Onterio McCalebb each rushing for more than 100 yards. Somehow this is the first time ever that two backs have each broken 100 yards rushing in two consecutive games. Shocking, considering the running backs Auburn has relied in the past, oh, half-century. McCalebb also became the first Auburn freshman to rush for more than 100 yards in his first two games. See previous sentence.

Despite these successes there are special teams woes -- Auburn almost had a punter killed tonight and returns and coverage are lacking -- and the defense is primed for exposure.

Doesn't matter after this game. The Tigers feel like world beaters and they deserve that enthusiasm.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The biggest concern of my day: should I begin reading Zhou and Sloan's Research Methods or Ray Kurzweil's Age of Spiritual Machines?

That's a tough one. Drs. Zhou and Sloan are professors in my department at Alabama. I'm reading that for Dr. Zhou's class. Kurzweil is for another class and looks a bit more interesting. He wins.

I've already read through the first four chapters of Zhou, so there's no short shrift there. I have to get started on Kurzweil, though, since it is very metaphysical, philosophical and there are four people in that class. The odds that I'll be called upon for a few thoughts are pretty good.

I finished Dr. James Chace's 1912 today over lunch. I've been reading it here and there since we departed from Boston for Connecticut last month. Chace was an historian at Harvard and he offered here a nice look at the 1912 election between Roosevelt, Taft, Wilson and Debs. It somehow doesn't seem as complete as one might like, concentrating largely on the Roosevelt-Wilson dynamic. And, despite observing that Wilson and Roosevelt were more like Debs than anyone wanted to admit, you get the impression that Chace's love for Eugene Debs shines through.

All of this lead to an interesting conversation on Twitter today about Woodrow Wilson. While of course the man can't be judged against contemporary standards, I still wondered aloud how well he'd hold up in a modern environment. (You just think Bush had critics.) Jeff Moore and I discussed Wilson's merits. Jeff took the positive, I took the "I can't believe this guy was president" side of the conversation, just to be different. We started out with how history has somehow forgotten the man (despite his relative importance) and concluded with the same thought, that it was also probably for the best.

There was also the usual round of phone calls and emails and phone calls about emails. There were precious few emails about phone calls. I'm ready for the journalism workshop to be here so that I can move on to something else. Fortunately tomorrow is the deadline for the schools to respond. Looking at the answer list we're going to have a nice crowd.

Tonight I put together the program for the workshop. We have 16 schools on board so far, and just over 200 students expected. We'll see how the final numbers tally next Thursday.

Later, it was a quiet night of football at home.

And as evening turned to night and the morning rushed on I began to think about how today -- just an ordinary day, really -- could have been better. There didn't seem to be any obvious answers. I hope your Thursday was equally satisfying and that your Friday will be even more enjoyable.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Four this morning. That's when I made it home. There was a great collective effort of aspiring young journalists pulling a paper together and, at 4 a.m., they considered the feat finished.

Everyone was bone weary. Remember, they'd already had a full day and still had three days of the week to go.

The rest of my week will be spent in putting together the bits of flotsam and jetsam of memos, emails, phone calls and ideas that will coalesce into workshops next week. I've spent the better part of the last two weeks on the phone, leaving messages and voicemails with high school teachers who are (or may) attend the Samford workshop. I'm taking notes of the number of times I've called and left messages with each teacher. One series is up to four messages.

I don't think teachers receive their missed calls. On the one hand they don't have to worry about phones ringing for the most part. On the other hand it is difficult to communicate with them. Clearly they are busy people. We've sent out two letters and a series of faxes. I'm the last line of phone calls, to be followed by Emails, and there are still a few that are incommunicado.

After the teachers I repeat the process with the handful of outside presenters. They might be under deadline, but at least they won't be in classes.

So there was a morning of phone calls and an afternoon of meetings. First with the new web editor. Soon after was a critique with the editor. Later with the department head. My day's progress is now measured by the scribblings of growth rings of meetings in my notebook. As meetings go they are generally small groups and, thus, useful. I get to spend my time with bright people and talk about interesting journalism topics.

If you like even the meetings you've found yourself at a good place in life.

I did have a class tonight at Alabama. This being the Wednesday evening introductory class. It is a requirement, and good for first semester students. Since I started in the spring my trajectory is skewed from the first year students. I have my committee picked out, for example, and know all of the relevant people. But you must go, so I went.

Afterward The Yankee and I visited the campus rec center, which is a very nice facility. I noticed, though, a sign inside that said "Outdoor recreation" while pointing to a door. Only on a college campus.

In the middle of the basketball courts (around which the racquetball courts, weights, aerobics rooms and climbing wall orbit) they'd set up a temporary indoor soccer court. I played the outdoor game, but have always been intrigued by the inside stuff. It was empty, so I sneaked in to try out the smaller goals and the way the walls add to the motion of the game.

Before long another guy showed up, and then a third. We took turns shooting the ball at one another and I realized quickly that the ball moves much faster inside. Mostly because the court is small, the floor is hard and the ball is inflated with helium or some other light substance. The ball just jumps.

So that was my workout for the night. Oh, I can do a full round of weights or ride a bike all day. Make me move around on the court and I feel useless fairly quickly.

When I got home I watched the night fall over us. My school week is over, the newspaper is out. Now I'm just preparing for the next week. I had the feeling of a weekend on a Wednesday. Or it could be the delirium of no sleep.

Nah. Even still, I think I'll go read myself to sleep. Maybe I can nod off to the raindrops. Happy Nine Day!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Very long day already. It is late in the day and the day isn't nearly over.

Visited with the dean this morning, sitting in his plush leather chairs around a neat little circular table, trying to not glance into his towering bookshelves. His office is everything you'd expect it to be, large but cozy, tall but inviting. There are bookshelves built into the walls stretching from the floor to the ceiling. They are stuffed with great works, the accumulation of a life well read.

I like bookshelves in the same way that I sometimes find myself disliking libraries. There are so many wonders there to see, and I'd like to see them all, please. I spent an evening recently in the home of one of our faculty members and I could have disappeared from the party, found a little chair and just started reading the night away. I was trying to not do that today, since the dean had asked for a meeting.

We discussed policy things about this and that on video and video cameras. Others in the meeting discussed things that were discussing the potential of doing this or that within the college. It was a nice meeting. Within about 10 minutes of returning to my office the dean had circulated an email hitting all of the high points that we discussed. It was a concise and thorough eight point memo and he hadn't taken the first note. I guess that's why he's the dean.

It rained, hard, for a long time this afternoon. It was about as bright of a cloud covered, monsoon producing sky possible, but I watched the rain fall from three different directions throughout the storm. I walked outside about an hour after it finally stopped and the roads and sidewalks were dry, and everything looked new.

It was a bright, summery day masquerading as an autumn afternoon. We'll get there, but thankfully no time soon.

The largest part of the day was spent watching the students work on the paper. We discussed ad rates, design, copy editing and the possibility of us getting out of the office before 2 a.m. Prognosis: not likely.

I did find When is good?. It should just be easy to pick a day or a time far enough out in the future and say "Be there." Everyone I work with has fairly regimented schedules, but they are all different from one another. With When is good? one can pick a day and let everyone highlight the times that work for them. By virtue of commonality and the process of elimination a meeting or function can be scheduled. Brilliant.

Plus, the interface looks a bit like Minesweeper crossed with Battleship.

So. Today has been long. I'm at 13 hours and counting. And it is going to blur into tomorrow and, if I'm not careful, the middle of next week. Maybe I should step into the newsroom and see how the progress is going.

Yes. Long night.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Our day

Give us a break. It is Labor Day.

A few errands and other distractions actually landed in the middle of the day. Therefore I've decided that I need another one.

Who's going to get on that for me?

Back to campus and the newspaper tomorrow. After this the calendar suggests the fun won't stop until December.

Sure I can't have another Labor Day?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Yankee and I had lunch with Wendy's family today. They came up from south Alabama for a visit and to see Wendy's new place. She's already picked an apartment and ready to sign. It will be a whirlwind effort for her to get moved, but she's cheating and hiring movers.

On the other hand, she won't have time to dread it. She'll just have to endure it and be done.

So we visited with them this afternoon and sent her back to Savannah with a few of our leftover boxes. (And yet we still have plenty ... ) After that we just sat on the sofa and stared at the wall for a while.

"What do you want to do?"

I don't know, this seems pretty nice.

And so that was Sunday evening. A bit of reading, a bit of television and not much else. We'll each have to be productive again next week, so taking a little time here doesn't leave anyone feeling too guilty.

On the other hand, the September photo gallery is now in place.

On still another hand, it is Labor Day weekend. More of even less tomorrow.

(Including pictures of cute cats, the official signal we're in holiday weekend mode.)

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Onterio McCalebb sprints into the record books

Auburn's new offense started the season strong and the defense held up against a Louisiana Tech team that went bowling last year and looks to do the same this season. The crowd went home energized after watching Auburn move aggressively from start to finish and post a 37-13 victory.

True freshman Onterio McCalebb is still learning his way around the campus, but he knows his way around the football field. He became the first true freshman running back to gain more than 100 yards in a season opener since the immortal Bo Jackson did it in 1982.

We can't make too many such comparisons just yet, but the guy is amazing. He posted 148 yards without even breaking a long run. Every time he touches the ball, though, he's just a step away from the end zone.

Quarterback Chris Todd, at the beginning of his 2009 redemption tour, connected with wide receiver Terrell Zachery for a 91-yard touchdown reception. That was the longest play from scrimmage in the storied history of Auburn football.

The defense, thinly stocked, played stout all night. Were it not for a bogus pass interference call and three big (and legitimate) facemask penalties that kept alive Tech's scoring drives they might have been celebrating a shutout.

The offense amassed 556 total yards. That's the highest total since the 2005 Kentucky game. They averaged more than seven yards a play, also the highest since facing Kentucky. They set the tone for a season that will have ups and downs, but suddenly looks more promising, providing they get a few breaks and can duck the injury bug. That's going to be the key this year.

I'll have pictures soon.

War Eagle!

Friday, September 4, 2009

I've been spending a lot of time on the phone lately. Once upon a time I spent all of my day either on a microphone or a telephone. This task isn't exactly journalism, but a tad bit more like telemarketing. The end result has to do with journalism, and so the effort is a fun one.

This is a rite of passage for the early fall at Samford, it seems. There is a journalism workshop and it has now become my traditional "Give it to Kenny, he'll do anything" role to chase down the high school teachers about their attendance at the wonderfully instructive and motivational event.

In the past week I've called one school twice trying to reach the teacher in charge of the campus paper. The first time it seemed random, but after this second experience today I am left to wonder how they came to choose Simon and Garfunkel for hold music.

It reminded me, somehow, of an interim principal experience in elementary school. He took to the intercom one morning to make the announcements, read the menu and generally cheer us on for the day. He cracked the microphone at the appropriate time and all of our K-6 ears strained upward to hear ... Yellow Submarine.

But that guy was spacey anyway. Simon and Garfunkel? Bridge Over Troubled Water? One can only imagine where and how this seemed the obvious choice. Just boring enough to keep you on the phone. Just common enough to make you feel comfortable. Just the right sort of message that implies "We are here for you in your upwardly mobile suburban neighborhood."

One guesses it is aimed at the parents of the students. Either way they missed their aim. Today's PTAers are children of the 1980s. They need something that both inspires the students and reminds the parents of their glory years, the days of the synthesizer. So to this high school I humbly suggest finding a copy of Joe Esposito's "You're the Best." You might know it better as the theme from Karate Kid.

One call to the principal's office would have moms remembering that one summer where they went out to the lake without telling their parents. And sighing with regret that they later did not name their child Daniel-san.

Quiet day on campus. It seems that most of the students took advantage of the opportunity to start their long weekend a bit early. For me that meant that the cafeteria was less crowded for two buck lunch. I love Fridays.

The slower day also means I was able to do a little reading. For example, have you met the new decider in chief? Joe Biden is a funny man, unencumbered by things like "the truth" and "reality." If my studies of national leaders have suggested anything, it is that there has historically been an odd causation of successful mean and a complete disconnection from fact. Biden might do well.

Let's check in with the Associated Press. Yep, reprehensible as ever. You can debate any side of that you want, but at the end of the day you're left with the facts: there's a divide between first amendment rights and the intersection of human decency and taste. That's no surprise. As journalists we're often ham-handed probity. Obvious and wrongheaded as the decision was, their most grievous error escaped them. The journalists involved stumbled all over themselves to display a photograph of a 21-year-old boy dying. They did it under the protection of "historical record" and the "grimness of war" but in fact they've cheapened that young man's sacrifice because we must now discuss the editors involved and not the death their decision purported to cover. Without doubt they've become the news. There was a time when we tried to avoid that.

And they will wonder why journalists are seen in such a negative light.

Kind of like the police in the tiny town of Jericho, Arkansas apparently. The cops shot the fire chief. In the back. Over a ticket. In court. The judge resigned. The police force has been suspended. Yeesh.

I told that story at Pie Day, just to make sure that I hadn't lost my mind. Everyone found it to be a bit too excessive.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The Yankee and I engineered a little surprise for Brian and Elizabeth tonight. At our wedding they finally got to meet our friend Wendy, who lives in Savannah. We thought they'd all get along on the basis of their humor, sarcasm and generally being very nice people. We've tried to get them to meet when Brian and Elizabeth were in Savannah, during trips Wendy has planned and had to scrap and at various football games in Auburn. This has gone on for three years, maybe, but they'd never met. We joked that if they ever did actually find themselves in the same room the universe would collapse on itself.

Happily they met in Savannah this June, there was no galactic implosions and everyone gets along wonderfully. This weekend Wendy came to town because she'll soon be moving here. We didn't tell Brian and Elizabeth, but just spring her visit on them at Pie Day. And we managed to keep her hidden until we reached the table.


The subterfuge was worth it. Brian's jaw dropped; Elizabeth immediately began planning a babysitter fund. Wendy, the life of every party, it seems, was here. Brian's parents are also in town this weekend. They are great fun themselves, so it was an even larger party.

After dinner we spent the evening in the pool at Brian's parents' hotel. Labor Day weekend and the water was more than chilly. There's something wrong with that.

But there's nothing wrong with a Friday, or friends and fun. Even better: tomorrow we kick off the football season. I'll be at Auburn, where will you be?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

My friends at the War Eagle Reader posted a column of mine today. They asked me to write about the Southeastern Conference's social media policy:
Kenny Smith will discuss the game on Twitter. He'll also tell you if the flag guy trips.

If you've been ignoring the world in protest of Tommy Tuberville's departure you might not know that the SEC hasn't been especially smart with this newfangled social media business. Twitter was one of the toys up for debate. The conference did not want it (or Facebook or YouTube, et al.) used at sporting events, citing ownership rights. Fans, the ones who've been planning on Twittering through halftime, quickly grew indignant.

As best as anyone can tell, the problem begins with the name. Twitter, you see, doesn't sound manly enough for the gridiron. Even worse, the verb form, "to tweet," sounds offensively against everything good and pure about bruising linebackers and 240-pound running backs with speed.

So the conference had a big staff meeting and came up with this language:
Ticketed fans can't produce or disseminate (or aid in producing or disseminating) any material or information about the Event, including, but not limited to, any account, description, picture, video, audio, reproduction or other information concerning the Event.
You, the fan, suddenly became the SEC's competitor. You must not, they said, take eyeballs away from CBS and ESPN. The fans wrote many blog posts, Twitter updates and letters to the conference.


The SEC listened to the complaints and switched directions like they had to cut loose an offensive coordinator midseason. Fittingly they announced revisions on Twitter. When it was released the revised policy stated: "Personal messages and updates of scores or other brief descriptions of the competition throughout the Event are acceptable."

Slightly less draconian, the new policy suggests if you're doing it for the joy of spreading the game you'll be fine. Do it for money and you better have a note from Commissioner Slive. Those are increasingly difficult to come by in the age of ESPN/CBS television, even for legitimate media.

What will come of it?

First, there's spite. We would have done it anyway, proving more points than the SEC cared to consider. My first tweet was going to be "Dear SEC: I'm somewhere in the crowd of 85,000. I'm wearing blue. Good luck finding me." I would still have 53 available characters.
Go read the whole thing. I'll be here when you get back.

This is the best read of the day, however, from an essay by Dr. Steve Harmon, a professor of history and doctrine at Beeson Divinity School at Samford. He quotes Robert Wilken, a professor at the University of Virginia, who notes "to praise God is to narrate what he has done" so "the past becomes a present presence that opens a new future."

It reads as a neatly precise, linear thing and strikes a chord. If you're interested in the history of prayer you can read the PDF version of his essay.

A bit more mundane, but equally philosophical, I present another entrance into the category of things I don't need recycled, thank you very much.

Spent the afternoon listening to a small animal or four scurrying in the attic above my office. There are walkways, some electrical work spaces and storage up there. A few squirrels every year also find there way inside. It sounds like they are playing field hockey.

Or maybe the gremlins are back.

From the Department of Odd Timing comes this gem: while talking with the paper's new editor about the need to have a few solid reporters with different class schedules on speed dial just in case someone need to cover a breaking news story word came of an overturned car.

Not to worry, Samford friends, no one was harmed.

It seems that a car exited a parking lot in an unexpected way and another driver swerved to miss a collision, overcorrected and rolled her SUV. I only say this because everyone is thankfully safe. And it also kept me from creating a horrible example of something terrible happening to someone on campus.

Now I have an anecdote for that. I'll use it for years, or at least until the students show up to campus by transporter, or jet pack.

After wrapping up an afternoon of meetings I made it home just in time for the return to football season. I watched the doubleheader of South Carolina at North Carolina State and Boise State hosting Oregon. Twitter takes over:
The bulk of football players agree that a Kenny Chesney tune does not equate to their emotion on the field.

We have kickoff! See you in January ...

Those color tabs on the Bottom Line corresponding to school colors are a waste.

Craig James just intimated that a football coach understands there is a second half to a football game. We missed you too, Craig!

I once read a science fiction novel that had a never ending football season. Why can't that be science reality?

I have: steak, football and an awesome wife.

She just muted the already painful Chesney song. Told you she was awesome.

Who would guess it would be special teams that would give Spurrier heartburn this year?

Good to see that the SEC didn't use any of that ESPN money to upgrade their vision package for officials ...
To sum up the game: North Carolina State is bad, South Carolina is four percent better. One team will improve this season, the other team will call themselves a Wolfpack.

A quick trip to the blue box store for various household goods changed my worldview. Since I've last been in the store they've painted, updated the logo and moved everything inside. The pharmacy, which once stood on the front wall, is now floating free in the middle of the store. This is unnecessary.

The grocery section still runs along the far wall and now wraps around a corner. The region of the store that holds the soaps and detergents remains unchanged. For reasons I've never understood they insist on keeping them with the groceries. Perhaps it is easier to keep the produce fresh and Bounty soft this way. You'd think the cleaning sundries would be more comfortable with the rest of the cleaning supplies, but the store doesn't see it that way.

The blue box store now has a new bank lodged at the front of the store. The Woodforest National Bank. As opposed to the Concrete International Bank or the Asbestos Regional Credit Union.

Or the Marshmallow Bank. That'd be a perfect fit, and just as reasonable a bank name as anything else. The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man would be a natural spokesman. He could probably use the work, having not acted since Ghostbusters.

"But he was destroyed in Ghostbusters," you say.

We prefer melted. And that was just a special effect.

Anyway. Woodforest has 22 branches in the state. Founded in the heady banking days of 1980 in Texas, they're growing east. They are generally set inside stores, which explains the lack of standalone branches. They have better hours than your bank because of this, but that's about as much research as I'll do for free. After that your into policies, percentage points and customer service reports. Wading through that stuff sounds like work, and let's be honest. There's football on the television.

Back to it then:
I can't decide if those are empty seats or incredibly precise fans at Boise.

From what Arena League team did Boise steal their jersey? From what aborted Rocky Horror script did Oregon get theirs?

She can't look.

"Helmet-to-helmet hitting above the shoulders," as opposed to that helmet-to-helmet hitting around the knees. Welcome back Bob Davie!

Oregon is actually coached by Sly Croom ... Who hired Tony Franklin as his coordinator. Yes, I still have 3-2 nightmares.
Around the time that I realized the Ducks would have no offense for the remaining game -- 14 yards in the first half! -- I realized I was getting kind of tired.

Added later: The Oregon Assault Duck who displayed both offensive ineptitude and thuglike tendencies on the field should be off the team. Punching an opponent? It took two police officers, two security guards and a coach to keep him from going into the crowd. They should have just let Boise State tackle him again.

All that aside, he's an embarrassment to Oregon. Hopefully they'll act quickly and decisively.

Another update: Oregon president Richard Lariviere said "We do not and will not tolerate the actions that were taken by our player. Oregon's loyal fans expect and deserve better. The University of Oregon Athletics Department is reviewing the situation and will take appropriate action, reflecting the seriousness of the player's behavior."

Final update, because why not: He's gone.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

My apologies for the grim "Oh yeah!?" that was yesterday. In a way it was a good development. Generally speaking my body gets the message from my mind and after a few days (my reflexes are marvelous) I begin to get healthy once again.

So, immune system, you're on the clock!

I can't add any more exclamation points, however. The excitement will bring on another coughing fit and suggest improvement is not suddenly due.

Worked out this morning, despite an inability to breathe. I stuck with the weights rather than the cardio -- since I couldn't breathe -- and used most every machine in the gym. No personal records were set. That's for later in the week. For now I'm fully anticipating the muscle soreness to kick in any second now. It seems like forever, or at least most of August, since I've been in a gym.

There was a lot more workshop work today, we're getting close to the annual Samford journalism workshop and I'm recruiting student attendees and making sure all of the rooms we have reserved will fit the need. These are the unglamorous workshop duties. Not, I suspect, that workshops are generally considered glamorous, but I enjoy them all the same.

On my way off campus this evening I ran into the gentleman that handles the media and broadcasting of Samford sports. After the talk we'll host some of their highlight packages on the paper's web site. Value-added content we can host, not bad for a brief chat.

It made me 3.5 seconds late for class this evening, but I didn't seem to miss much. That's not the nature of the Wednesday evening class, which serves as a faculty introduction. Since I know the people in the program pertinent to my research this is an introduction to the nice people in library sciences for me.

I had another nice chat on the way off the Alabama campuses -- every conversation held while leaving campus should be so productive -- about the Alabama Scholastic Press Association's workshops. I may be taking part in two of those in a few weeks.

The night has been spent writing, writing and writing. We'll get into that, here, once that particular project is finished. Except to say this, several paragraphs into one project, and without warning, the computer simply shut down. I didn't open anything new, didn't get an error message, didn't have a power failure or bump a cable. It just stopped working. There are less painful ways to show me I should rewrite my lead.

So, random things: Kelly, my dearest and oldest friend, recently sent a lovely housewarming gift. I'd somehow managed to not show it off until just now, despite the attention it receives. (We're watering it constantly, Kel.)

Tonight I had my proudest moment on Facebook: George Wendt is now my friend. And this on the night when The Yankee and I watched Cheer's 200th episode. Norm!

Tomorrow, the football season begins. If you need me I'll be in front of the television.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

If I may brag: The Yankee defended her dissertation proposal today and her committee approved her research. She's now officially a doctoral candidate -- I'm merely a doctoral student -- and the only thing standing between her and receiving her PhD is concluding the research.

She also got one step closer today to getting a paper published. It was a good day.

Congratulations, hon.

Somewhere, buried in one of the books I'm cramming into my eyeballs lately, I ran across a fascinating analogy between right and wrong and "just wars." St. Augustine defined just wars. And, according to this text, no one between the 4th century scholar and that contemporary theologian, George W. Bush, tinkered with Just War Theory.

The author's contention lands somewhere between hard to believe and patently ridiculous. Thus I now consider everything in the chapter discredited on the basis of political shenanigans and oversimplification.

That's how you justify skimming a chapter. This is in a book on research methods, of all things. An adjoining chapter is on ethics, for Augustine's sake.

In the prosem class -- which is Latin for uneventful, but required -- I learned all about the rhetoric of 16th century letter writing manuals. They are every bit as fascinating as you might imagine.

For lunch, we visited Jimmy Johns -- which is Latin for prosem. Having heard the hype and finally eating at the place I'm unimpressed. It wasn't bad, it just wasn't ... good. Also it smelled of funky bread worse than your average Subway experience.

If you'd guessed by all of the above that I've been dealing with a headache today you'd be right, and you're now eligible for a wonderful array of prizes. Right now prizes would be a little bit more oomph in this Tylenol Sinus medication and the ability to breathe.

I like breathing. I find it underrated. I'd just about have any other typical illness than sinus woes simply for the ability to breathe. And I've been fighting this since Thursday of last week.

At least it is not porcine in nature.

Since I'm on a roll, here's my favorite headline of the day. The print version was "Very angry fire grows."

Really? Did someone ask that fire how it felt?

"Oh just chipper. Burning things. That's what I do. No one's smothering me."

After a few rants and rages -- because this thing is "very" angry and the point must be proved -- the reporter retired to the newsroom, wiped the sweat from his brow and the smutch from his hands and added his money quote "If the fire comes through here, we're going to be in trouble."

The online version has a little more attribution than the print version, denoting that very angry was actually a quote and not firsthand editorial experience.

Here's my view for my second class of the day. We spent an hour in the class and the last 90 minutes learning about the interesting things that the library has to offer, like search engines, and databases where you can type in keywords and press enter and get results. And also books.

Have you heard about this thing called Google?

They mean well, I know, but I haven't been in the mood. Any other day this would be funny. There's nothing entertaining about not being able to breathe in a library's computer lab. I've now officially crossed my threshold for coughing tolerance. I'll crack a rib with another good hacking fit.

So that was my evening. My night was spent with reading and Samford stuff. As of now the semester is in full swing. If I can just make it to all my meetings and remember all the right deadlines, in the right order, I'll be just fine.

Oh, and not coughing like a 75-year-old man with a four-pack-a-day habit would be nice too.

Site stuff: The August photo gallery has been officially updated with cutlines and closes. Usually I do the cutlines as the month progresses, but August's busy schedule allowed for an experiment. And the end result is that I'd rather do them as I go, rather than at the end of the month when I'm still trying to remember why I took the picture in the first place.

More tomorrow, from a happier, more chipper perspective.