Kenny Smith | blog

Monday, November 30, 2009

There was a potluck meal in one class today. One classmate brought a delicious pumpkin bean soup. Another brought brownies. A third brought plasticware. The professor brought tambouli and a pumpkin roll bread.

They were all very delicious. I'm waiting for the recipes.

I brought Saltines and oyster crackers. And cheese. I'll be sharing my recipes as well.

Did the book review in that class. Everyone ran long and I was the last presenter.

"This book was good." Finished!

And then I talked about the subject for about 20 minutes. Next week I'll turn in big paper on the topic as well.

A brief evening class and somehow the day was full and productive and not productive enough. But one more thing is down. Four more to go!

And now back to writing. There are four things to go, ya know.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Busy day. Writing. Reading. Perhaps more reading than necessary. Definitely less writing than necessary.

Did I say that yesterday? Of course I did.

Will I say it again? Of course I will.

We're down to the last eight or nine days of the semester -- oh happy days -- and the crush is on. Unhappy, crushy days of weighty school work.

Which brings us nicely to the now traditional Sunday Assessment of Things to Come.

Tomorrow info tech and society meets for the final time. I'll give a 20 minute book review presentation there. I've been writing on that this evening. Social movements will also meet for the last time tomorrow night, but thankfully nothing is due there. Yet.

Tuesday, in the class of needlessly unnecessary busy work, I'll give my "job talk." This is where the professor intends to "give you interview experience" by reading your job letter word-for-word, a submitted job advertisement word-for-word and then let you stand up in front of the class and talk about yourself for a few minutes. And then, for the really exciting and -- koff -- useful part, your peers (who've no doubt staffed countless hiring committees) are supposed to ask you questions that will "prepare you" for some eventual job interview.

What really happens: The professor reads your cover letter word-for-word and the job ad word-for-word. The "candidate" then feels awkward and tries to get out of the experience as quickly as possible because this is a silly exercise. The "committee" then all looks around awkwardly and tries to avoid asking any questions because this is a silly exercise.

But after that the class will be over. Also on Tuesday there's the last research methods class. There's a paper critique due for that professor.

Tuesday night the students at Samford will produce their last newspaper for the semester. I'll get to spend the evening hanging out with them.

On Wednesday there's the last class of the semester. And after that I'm helping teach a class in the master's program.

After that I have a big review to write for info tech and society. There's a final paper for social movements and a research proposal, THE RESEARCH PROPOSAL, to turn in for methods. These are all due a week from tomorrow.

So, yeah, busy.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Busy day -- every post for the next week could start like this. Lots of reading. Some writing. There should be more writing. But there has to be reading first.

We watched football today, but it was a mild day. It felt distant and removed, unwinding as we are after the emotional Iron Bowl and the conclusion of Auburn's regular season.

So there was a little progress on the school work, but not enough. Every post for the next week should probably end like that.

You'll excuse me, then, if this is brief. To make it up to you, I managed to get the November photo gallery updated.

This took two tries. I blame the cat. Helping with the computer is cute until she starts actually pushing buttons.

Wendy came over for dinner, we watched more football. She left, I did more work. Not nearly enough. Rinse, repeat.

Tomorrow: More school work.

Until then, bookmark this video. When you are having a bad day pull it out and play it once to receive an instant cheer.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Terrific game. All that follows are some of the pictures I took and what I wrote during the game on Twitter.

How this works: the stuff in the blockquotes are what I published to Twitter. The parenthetical stuff outside of the blockquotes are, oddly enough, parenthetical and added after at least three or four seconds of thought after we returned home. The grainy photos came from the cell phone. The better pictures came from a real camera.

This starts, then, with one tweet from Thursday. With the family, casual sidewalk Bama fans all, you can expect the normal amounts of good-natured grief. But there's also this:

If you don't understand the Iron Bowl's importance: My 90-year-old great-grandmother is giving me grief.
(I don't know how much football she's watched in her life. I can't imagine it is much. I've watched one football game with her, ever. On Thanksgiving day, however, the sweetest woman in the world actually scoffed at me, turned her head and stopped talking because I "go for Auburn." It was cute. So take that every other rivalry. When your great-grandmother gets bent out of shape about the Purdue/IU or Oregon/State or Pitt/WVU game you might have some room to talk.)
On our way to see the Tigers play!

They're heading to Jordan-Hare too.

Just passed an SUV and the driver had his Iron Bowl ticket stuck in his window.

Campaign yard signs in central Alabama say "Sparks Lottery." I'm left to conclude that Mr. Lottery likes fire.

Traffic is backed up five miles before Wire Road.

They're ready for the game.

Reason for the traffic delay: After 20 years Tide fans still can't find their way into Auburn. (We're fine with that, really.)

Found a pack of police motorcycles just after the rest area. They're secretly pretending to be in a gang.

Sweet Auburn! loveliest village of the plain, where health and plenty cheered the laboring swain ... ( -- Oliver Goldsmith)

They are almost there!

Most dangerous decision on the road today: Being in a car decked out in Bama stuff trying to cut off a car in Auburn.

He can't merge, cause.

There's a Tiger in your van!

Santa Claus - the Bama version - is next to us. He's sporting a handlebar mustache. (Evil Claus?) No one is letting him merge.
(This went on for about seven minutes at the College Street exit on I-85. There was a bit of jawing between him and trucks in front of us. You'd like to think it was good-natured, but we've no way of knowing. Whatever it was, he was having no luck getting onto the exit ramp.)
Best way to rile the crowd and honor the 1989s: Introduce a few at a time throughout the game, showing the key plays of that win.
(They almost did this. We could hear the video being played as we walked to the stadium and of course got to see the team -- and some of those guys look ready to play -- but my idea was to start with the lesser well-known players from the era and then lead up to the legends in a fourth quarter break. Imagine Pat Dye walked onto the field late in the fourth with Reggie Slack by Trooper Taylor and a handful of towels ... )

See the background guy? He has 'em.
(The irony of scalpers in need while he has tickets in hand always amuses. I understand his point and purpose, but it still gives me the giggles.)
Pygmies are at Supper Club tomorrow night. The more things change ..

Back to my earlier point: The Alabama band goes the wrong down College Street.
(We missed Tiger Walk because of the heavier-than-normal traffic. The wife suspected it might have been a larger collection of people making a day-trip of it as we always do. We're accustomed to the flow and timing everything just right, but had problems today. I blame the Bama fans.)
I'm guessing we'll have no flyover? Two blimps and an advertising plane are over Jordan-Hare.

The line at Momma G's Too.

RT @Ren_ Auburn Prof: "No matter what happens, we win, because we get to stay in Auburn and they have to go back to Tuscaloosa."
Notre Dame officials are meeting with Saban before kickoff. Mt. Kody missed the bus to the game. #rumors

Julio Jones (hangnail) is doubtful for today's game. #rumors

Bama fans are not Tidy Tigers, and they are littering all over the place.

I just saw a woman in a regrettable 8-bit houndstooth dress.

Bama fans making a sign: "My wife bought Iron Bowl tickets for our 20th anniversary." Of course SHE was making the sign.
(I always ask, because it amuses people to hear it, for the secret to their success. You get good answers. Thoughtful, funny, exasperated and truthful ones. This guy, without missing a beat, said "The Lord." I said "And a wife willing to put up with your football ..." She turned and nodded her head. Very cute couple, despite their taste in schools.)
RT @wennybrown: A Bama fan on 459 with shoe polish writing on the car. The writing looked Arabic. Bin Laden is a Bammer.

Inside Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Even the ushers are hyped for the game.

Dear Jay Jacobs, Upon reflection you sold too many tickets to Bama. War Eagle, Everyone That Matters

McElroy is really Brodie Croyle. #rumors

Jordan-Hare, 40 minutes before kickoff.

@AUHD Any chance you can turn it up? Make it go to 11.

The 1989 SEC Champs, victors of the first Iron Bowl at Auburn, are being introduced; they played clips from that game.


The team is about to take the field.

Seriously, what self-respecting Auburn fans resold their tickets to Alabama people? There should be an investigation.

The band plays Glory.

Honestly, one of the points of leaving Birmingham was so we wouldn't have to be surrounded by Bammers at home games.

Auburn won the toss. Time to go to work!

Chizik's pregame speech: "Its not about you today. Its about people you know, and a bunch of people you dont know. Remove all self today."

I'm surrounded by bourbon and body odor. It's the late-arriving Bama fan. Seriously.

Bama goes three and out. Auburn takes over at the 20.

TOUCHDOWN AUBURN Terrell Zachery, 68 yards on the end around. Toilet paper is falling from the sky! 7-0 AUBURN.
(I didn't notice in the game, but later editing pictures you can't help but see number 12 running 65-yards down field. It came too late for what the kid deserves, but you can't question Chris Todd's heart. He may not end up immortalized on the side of the stadium, but he's quietly added two big records this year and has been nothing but steady and a steadying factor in what could have been a tumultuous time.)
The Bama fans sat down ... Hmmmm.

Onside kick, check. (Best back in the s)Tate gains nine to midfield.

Bama fans reduced to cheer penalties. Love. It.

Wow our SLOW QB is getting first downs ...

Best false start ever! Bama fans, classy as ever.
(As this is a family site I won't repeat, verbatim, what was being said. A bad Kodi Burns interception was called back because of a false start against Auburn before the play. Suffice it to say the Bama fans were not appreciative of the law of averages finally working in Lee Ziemba's false starting favor. And, apparently, a Bama player should not be penalized for, you know, breaking printed rules by throwing the ball in disgust which displays, according to those printed rules, both unsportsmanlike conduct and could conceivably delay the game. Bama fans.)

TOUCHDOWN AUBURN! Todd to Eric Smith! 14-0 TIGERS

RT @AU_Game_Update: Zachery's 67-yard TD run was the longest play yielded by Alabama's defense this season.

We should really scheme a new kickoff plan.
(I, as the guy that said a week or two ago that Javier Arenas is the most dangerous player Auburn must defend, see what they are TRYING to do. I also see that they can not do it.)

Honk if you sacked Greg!
(Note the hold on the right side of the shot.)
Auburn has a two score lead, the momentum, the ball and the joy of being, you know, Auburn.

A drunken Alabama girl is trying to be polite, in a drunken way, to Auburn fans. Awkward.

Bama's average starting field position: their own 41.

End of the first quarter. Bama: 31 yards. Auburn: 149 yards. 14-0, Tigers.

Bama fan: Booo edukayshun! They don't even cheer the Rhodes Scholar being honored on the field. (Means he's smart, Bama folk.)

Bama's Richardson scores, 14-7.

@supurmario27 is the man. Auburn punts, keeping the ball from Javier. Tide starts at their 35.

Umpire for defensive player of the game!

Auburn football hero, Walt McFadden, gets flagged. He is so awesome that he makes a 15 yarder just 5. Still, I'd rather he didn't

Auburn punts from their endzone. Bama takes over at the AU 45. Defense is imperative.

The split stadium cheer for AU is this side Auburn, that side Tigers. For UA it is this side Ala, that side Bama. Can they not say it all?

Tide scores (and Auburn roughed up ol' Greg.) 14-14.

Other things that are abominations to nature: Row Tahd cheers inside Jordan-Hare.

@supurmario27 takes the reverse for 13 yards. Down the field and Alabama plays dirty cheaters on the corners. Bama fan=disbelief

Todd gets sacked, fumbles the ball away at midfield. #$%&!

Auburn defense holds, Tiffin's dad knows he could kick that. Auburn starts at their 25.

I'm confused Bama fans, was that The Miss? I might buy that one from Daniel Moore.

Auburn is in Bama territory quickly. @supurmario27 came off favoring his shoulder.

The Plug Nickle Band is on the field. They spread an 8-bit blanket of houndstooth. It looks like a burial shroud. #ohwait

The Plug Nickle Band brings a bass guitar, a guitar and a microphoned clarinet (played by a professor).

Don't get me wrong: The microphoned professor of clarinet is a talented musician. He's taking a student's spot, but whatever.

The Plug Nickle Band plays Percy Sledge's When a Man Loves a Woman. Make your own jokes, Twitterverse!

AU band plays the bullfighter, J-Lo for reasons that baffle philosophers, and Mask of Zorro. #needEarthWindFire

No speech from Chizik on @AUHD before the team came back on the field. Shame, that.

And I quote Auburn's 1894 QB, Walker Tichenor: The duty of this eleven was | To put Tuscaloosa in tears.

Now that Malzahn got that regular brain cloud out of the way and Auburn punts to start the second half ...
(Third-and-1? Pass? Really? Remember what Chizik said about being a running team?)
Trading punts at the Iron Bowl. Auburn takes over at the 24.

TOUCHDOWN AUBURN! Todd to a wide open Darvin Adams for the score! 72 yards! 21-14, Auburn!

Todd, by the way, now holds the Auburn record for TD passes in a season with 21. Campbell and Sullivan have 20 from 2004 and 1971.
(At the risk of being a little too melodramatic with this, you can't help but notice that he threw that ball from the shadows and into the light. I'm just sayin'.)
Trading punts at the Iron Bowl. Auburn takes over at the 24.

Auburn's defense needs a big stand!

For a beautiful moment of bliss I take back every suspicion I've had about this defense.

Punt coverage. We are ALL lining up for punt coverage.

Bullet, dodged. Thanks Julio.

Bama kicks a field goal, but the Auburn defense, back against the wall, holds AGAIN. 21-17.

Fan behind us: "Time for a 20 minute and 32 second drive boys!"

Someone give Trooper a raise so he can pay for the upcoming rotator cuff surgery.

Todd throws an ugly pick on a busted play. Bama takes over at the AU 43. Come on once more defense!

Love this defense. Love them.

Tigers hold for a third consecutive drive, forcing Bama into another field goal. 21-20, Auburn. Now we need offensive production.

Fourth quarter. 21-20. This unholy mess is still in doubt, let's send these folks back to Tuscaloosa in shame.

OH MY Todd! Willing it!
(Have you ever seen anyone of Chris Todd's assets and liabilities doing something more improbable than moving the chains by a desperate third-and-long scramble? He may not be immortalized on the outside of the stadium, but he deserves a small mural in a hidden corner somewhere inside the place. If he had another year on the plain he'd come to personify everything you love about the place, and you are beginning to realize it.)
A bitter wind is blowing in. Saban must be ticked.

I want Durst's sand wedge! Bama has to start at the four, with the student body in their earholes.

Somebody get the Pepto, Saban looks sick.

Auburn takes over with a one-point lead at the Bama 45.

Malzahn's offseason project: Creating plays that develop just a bit faster.

Momentum is homeless. So long as it doesn't move to 35401...

Walt McFadden, HERO, makes a huge-lio tackle.

(This guy likes Zubaz more than the Tide.)
Honk AC, you just sacked Greg McElroy!

One more, Miracle Men. Just one more.

Come on Defense, you deserve this.

Bama takes the lead on a play action pass. Two-point try FAIL. 26-21, with 1:24 to go.

Clock management. Clock management.

(Defensive holding! CONSPIRACY! Or something.)

Never been more proud of an Auburn team, or especially an Auburn defense. Never. 21-26.

59 glorious minutes of joy and one more minute of hope. Take it every time. Thanks, Tigers. Auburn men, all.
(In the final analysis, basically the same team that was blown out last year controlled this game. On the final play they were throwing to win against one of the best teams in the nation. That's not a moral victory, that's a sea change.)
I'm torn: Just had to give directions to Bama fans. Should I give them good directions or get them more lost?
The Bama fans that were lost? Of course I gave them good directions. Even differentiated between turning left and right, just in case.

UPDATE: The War Eagle Reader also ran a version of this as a column.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

"That sure is a pretty dress."

That's my grandmother and the Yankee, looking over wedding pictures. We spent the night with her last night, the house feeling much emptier without my grandfather in his chair. My grandmother was quiet, even moreso than her usual.

It's starting to set in, but she's the toughest woman I know. Fifty-six years. You don't toughen up overnight and you don't find all the emptiness that quickly either.

She got invited to my other grandparents for Thanksgiving dinner three times, and again after that for leftovers. She ended up spending this afternoon with her sister's family. After spending last evening, last night and this morning with her we headed to the other half of my family for turkey.

And my mom made the bird this year. It was moist. I've heard this can happen ... (Actually The Yankee made one a few years ago and that actually confirmed the rumor.)

A dozen people gorged ourselves on turkey, ham, dressing and dumplings. We had two countertops of vegetables and four options for dessert. I had seconds of the good stuff rather than the pies. Either way I was stuffed, of course.

There were kids to play with, football to watch, jokes to make and leftovers for dinner. Family and food are fun.

Came back home tonight because tomorrow we'll be at the Iron Bowl. (I was quoted on Rivals today about the series.) The Iron Bowl on a Friday, at Thanksgiving is an unfortunate thing -- and we'd all like to thank the universities for grabbing at the television money to put the most important game of the year on a Friday afternoon. But there's a big and solo stage for the game. There will be little in the way of competition for the college football nation's attention.

We'll get up early in the morning, driving down and making a day of it, our last game of the season. Auburn shouldn't be on the same field as Alabama if you look at the numbers, but I have a feeling the Tigers are going to acquit themselves well by tomorrow evening.

War Eagle! See you from the game! I'll be wearing the old lucky gray sweatshirt. The Yankee will be the one in orange.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Shouldn't you be getting ready for turkey? I am. More tomorrow, however.

Until we meet again, just remember that your list of blessings includes items both big and small. Don't leave any of them out.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I had a big meeting today. It is something of a formality, but as these things go it is an important formality.

In the doctoral program at Alabama you must gather up a program committee that, among a few other things, helps makes sure that the classes you take are good classes. This is supposed to be done in the second semester. I am, however, a problem child.

My second semester was in the summer. Gathering a committee in the summer is well nigh impossible, which is the first problem. The meeting got put off until my third semester, this term. I've learned that gathering the committee in the fall is almost as difficult. The problem there is that these four people are all incredibly busy.

I tried three times to put all of these schedules together. On the last attempt, on the last of 12 days possible and the day that the formality of the meeting came due, we finally managed to convene.

The meeting is supposed to take about 15 to 30 minutes. I'd planned to do it around classes if at all possible rather than making a special trip, spending two hours in the car to take care of this paperwork. But circumstances proved to once again be smarter than I am. One class was canceled today and the other class became an at-home exam. So I was at Alabama solely for the meeting after all.

But the thing went smoothly. For a moment, though, I was worried they were going to suggest I create an entirely new curriculum. This is not the sort of thing one wants to hear in the next-to-last semester of coursework. (That's what exhausted, misplaced, helpless mild panic feels like. I can cross that off the list of life.)

All is well, however. They figured out who would ask which question on my eventual comprehensive exams. I got a few very nice suggestions and some productive and supportive advice. I have an excellent committee made up of some of the finest folks in the program, so I am both lucky and grateful for their input.

The paperwork was completed. Signatures were signed. My coursework has been approved. This is an important little step.

This evening I took a methods exam and I feel pretty good about that. Call it one more big task out of the way for the semester. I also got a bit of work done at Samford, meeting briefly with the boss, returning calls and cleaned up a bit at the office.

We ate the leftovers we ignored last night. Late into the night I'm doing laundry. Today featured small victories; tomorrow features travel.

Monday, November 23, 2009

I'm not exactly a perfectionist, I'd just like to be perfect is all.

Didn't come close today. Didn't get near it. But a few more things are off the list for the semester. My two-hour long presentation was a stumbling thing. The computer tasked with displaying my lovingly created slideshow refused to computer or show slides. So I abandoned that after about 10 minutes of farce.

I'm by no means the best speaker in the world, but I'm not a slouch. I'm not the person that stands in the room who reads the screen word-for-word. Slideshows are supposed to be multimedia presentations. I'm showing graphics, videos, images and words -- lots of words -- and I'm not reading them for my audience because I trust them to be generally literate.

Only I feel that the words on the screen should be the more complex structures. The material I was dealing with today had more than a few of those. And the computer wasn't cooperating. So instead of talking about this and showing you that, I ended up talking about the things that I'd intended to go on the screen. And since the screen was gone, and the material needed to be correct, that meant I read too much.

So I didn't like this presentation at all.

But several fine points were made in the discussion thereafter. I got a lot of material and ideas as the project goes forward. It was as useful as that particular computer wasn't.

In between classes I had to write a one-page proposal for my social movements class. This proposal will drive the term's final paper for that class. I've had one idea for it all semester but at the 11th hour I had an epiphany. So 30 minutes before it is due I'm completely reorganizing my thoughts -- this doesn't take long -- and rationalizing an entirely different examination.

Class tonight was at a Japanese restaurant. I didn't have dinner -- we were planning on having a leftovers party at home -- but the discussion was good. I had three hours or so of sleep last night and yet somehow held up pretty well.

Until now. The Yankee just came downstairs and told me to go to bed. It has come to that point in the semester where I'll sacrifice food for sleep.

The photo? Just a little more autumn. I haven't had the chance to take a lot of pictures as the seasons shifted, but I do like to share a few of the ones I have. They'll help pad out the holiday week.

Hope your holiday week is carefree and full of relaxation!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Today is a day of writing and polishing said writing. And while that is not very exciting for you -- and I know why you come here, reader-friends -- it is a necessary thing for me.

So enjoy a pretty picture of autumn, the season, more than any other, that can not be adequately conveyed in a photograph. You never get the feeling on the skin or the smell of fall in your nose through a picture. It is a sensory explosion unique to each place. Unlike other seasons where snow is snow and the eternal sunshine of summer can feel similar here or there, fall has a proprietary feel. And yet here you are limited solely to the visual.

In keeping with the habit of late, here's the list of school work that remains between now and the end of the semester. In Info Tech and Society I have a two-hour presentation tomorrow -- See? Writing. -- a book presentation next week and then a 10-15 page paper after that.

For my social movements course there is a paper proposal due tomorrow -- See? Writing. -- and then the actual complete paper due at the end of the semester.

Colloquium a "job talk" next week. I'll stand in front of the class who will play the role of the "hiring committee" who will listen to the professor read my cover letter and vita word-for-word. Then I'll talk about myself for a few minutes. Then they'll all sit there and wonder who else will ask the one token awkward question. We will all be relieved when this exercise is over. This week for that class I must write a teaching philosophy and a research portfolio.

Which leads us nicely to my research methods class. There I have an exam on Tuesday. There's an article review due the week after that. The class will conclude with a full research proposal.

I'm getting a lot of mileage out of that proposal though (it will become my dissertation), so it will be a worthwhile exercise.

All of this will be done around work, where the Samford students will produce one more paper this semester and I'll conduct a complete inventory of the digital video center. That will probably take two days.

I'm going to keep count. This should be somewhere around 100 pages of copy I write at Alabama. When it is done we'll be staring at the holidays. I could be staring at a blank wall.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Phone buzzes me awake this morning. Ordinarily I keep it as far away from the bedroom as possible, but my mom is in town and trying to get into a football game and you never know when someone will need directions or advice.

So the phone buzzes, and it is her phone waking my phone up. But she is not on the other end of the call. My 11-year-old second-cousin, who she is taking to see his first Alabama football game is talking to me.

He's a good kid. Very mature, quiet guy. He's a big Alabama fan, but is somehow surrounded by Tennessee people. He's never had a lot, but every now and then a boy has to get spoiled. So my mother is giving him the big treatment this weekend as it is her goal in life to leave no doubt with any of the kids in the family that she is the Coolest. Aunt. Ever.

It is two hours and change before the game. "We parked two blocks from the stadium and I've already seen the Paul Bryant statue and Big Al and the band march in and everything."

I don't mean this to sound like a superlative, but this is the truth of it: You've never heard a kid sound more excited.

A little while later he text messaged me. They got in on our converted student tickets, made their way into the general admission area and chose seats down low at the goal line. Later I got another text that he'd been on the jumbotron during a lull in the game. He got to see a blowout.

And through all of this fun and his gratitude for the experience, he never forgot to talk trash to me. He was happy to point out that while I have one degree from Auburn University, I'm working on my second from within the University of Alabama system. He also noted that my highest degree is coming from Alabama. It sounded almost as if he'd been prepped.

Who cares, he had a great time.

We set up the house this morning for another watch party. In this, a slow week of college football, we only found it necessary to pull up the action on three screens. (Earlier this season we had five screens going all day.)

We watched Memphis/Houston and UConn/Notre Dame. We enjoyed the LSU+officials versus Ole Miss. (What a bizarre game that became.) We watched UAB regrettably wrapping up another season, caught the second half of the Penn State/Michigan State game and the beginning of the Georgia/Kentucky game.

(Apropos of nothing, somewhere in here I found the best caption, ever, at The War Eagle Reader.)

After football we played Guitar Hero at Wendy's place. The Yankee rocked out and then she let me stumble through a few with her.

Iron Maiden songs that you don't know can be pretty challenging.

Lovely day, though. Football and delicious food, we did a good deed for people we love and got to spend time with other people we love. Can't beat that.

Tomorrow it'll be back to the grindstone. Think I'll get any writing done?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Taught iMovie to a room full of graduate students today. Things went fine after a slow start. There was the issue of transferring their video from the camera cards to the computer themselves. That took awhile, but we managed to work through it. One of the guys on faculty is an old television guy and knows a lot about iMovie, and so between us we hit all of the high spots.

I'd hoped to leave enough time for the students to work on their projects, but we ran behind there. They'll have the next two weeks, and I'll be on hand during an evening class if they have any problems with the software. They asked good questions today, though, so I get the impression that they're thinking about how to make this happen in a clever way.

After I taught this class last year I changed the way it begins. In the spring I had to answer a lot of Final Cut Pro questions, so we got that out of the way early. As Justin Thurman, my friend and the students' eventual boss at The Anniston Star, says: "Good enough is good enough."

It is a question of price and complexity, really. Final Cut Pro is expensive; iMovie is free on Macs. Final Cut Pro does a lot of stuff television needs; iMovie does everything they'll need in an online context and more.

And then I point out that the version of iMovie they have in their Mac lap on campus is newer than the one they'll have at the Star. I then told them of Brian McAlister's story at SEC Media Days, where the television guys were complaining of having to work for weeks of getting all the video online. Brian, however, was streaming it live with software geared to the immediacy of the job. Good enough is good enough.

The message got through, I think. No one asked about Final Cut Pro after that. They did ask very good questions, sometimes I had the answers, sometimes the professor offered the answer. Hopefully they found me helpful.

At the end of the class one student asked about how to best market herself for jobs. I suppose, given how many times I've been on the market that I'm something of an expert. Over the years when I was looking for new work I talked with a lot of professional helpers. I spend a lot of time thinking and talking it over with our students at Samford. Apparently my answers made sense; she wants me to come back and talk to the Knight Fellows on that, too.

To me getting them ready for marketing themselves is one of the most important things we can provide students. If it is at all helpful I'd be thrilled to do it. We'll see.

Anyway. I had a great meeting with one of my professors discussing a few papers I'm writing. The guy's incredibly nice and his enthusiasm is infectious. He's the sort of high-energy fellow that you'd like everyone to be, until you realize that too many people like that would just wear you out.

The Yankee was working on her dissertation experiment today. She has half of our participants already tested. At the end of the day we met a few of our classmates to help celebrate a birthday. We left that little party to meet my mother and my 11-year-old second cousin for dinner.

They are in town because he is going to his first Alabama football game. The Yankee and I gave him our tickets. He is very excited.

Logan: I have Bama tickets! The Yankee: Go Chattanooga!

I hope he has a great time tomorrow.

We had a great time tonight. After dinner The Yankee and I had a surge of energy and spontaneously hit up the movie theater. New Moon opened tonight. Ordinarily I'd write a dozen word blurb on a movie I've just watched for the first time. But the entertainment of this series for me is making fun of it for The Yankee. She's been waiting for the sequel since the day they announced it. Here's my coverage of the first movie. And here's my observations from the new installment:
The Yankee and I are about to see #NewMoon. She's been counting the days, I'm making fun of it for YOU. Settle in.

Slow news night? @CBS42 has a live truck here. At the theater. For a movie. (But #NewMoon or the Saban biopic?)

Waiting for the cinematic masterpiece w/ a #Twilight recap: She had the hots for him. He had the hots for her (but only cuz she was klutzy).

Oh, and also, the one boy was a werewolf (but he might be juicing). Vampires glitter, rave or no.

She has an odd name, is too emo and has a well meaning father. Also, the vampire baseball was kinda cool ...

There's a line. Not for tickets, to get in the screening room. A guy just admitted to reading the books.

Someone is wearing a cape. I. Don't. Know. Why.

A theater worker is urging everyone to get in a straight line. I am a non-conformist.

I think we've got 15 years on this crowd.

Oh oh! We're going in! The line is serpentine, like Six Flags or the bank, but less rewarding. (They have cops here. Really.)

The other part of a real theater I don't miss: Sitting next to strangers. No need to be that immersive, thanks. Bring on the brooding vamps!

The lady in the cape is sitting next to us! They guy from Inside the Actor's Studio just did a bizarre anti-SMSrumor PSA.

Has there been a bigger miss in movie commercials than the National Guard campaign? (It's operatic and pretend-dramatic and just flat.)

Rave is giving us a personal welcome ... And doing the "cell phones are the number one plaque in movie theaters" speech. OK, Sparky.

Vampire guy has another movie, Remember Me, being previewed. The Yankee: "This is totally ruining the movie. He's not sparkly."

You forget how badly melodramatic this girl's narrative can be.

Vampire=sad face.

This movie makes one wish to never have teenagers. And George Lucas has a hand in the dialogue.

In vampire-world kisses are painful. And broody.

Girl meets boy. He glitters. They break up. Very tragic.

So they broke up and she wanders the woods. Alone. At night. A wolfman found her. Cue the emo music and spinning steady cam.

Movie dad needs to get drama daughter some high grade zoloft, stat.

Edward uses the force! Just like Obiwan after Vader sabered him...

Bella and the biker, no not skeevy at all...

Bella, and I mean the character, is kind of an idiot.

Vampires want you to wear helmets on motorcycles.

And wolfboy rips off his shirt... You can tell he's been waiting to do that for weeks. The theater, by the way, goes wild.

So they go to see a movie, a bad action movie. Ben Stiller wouldn't have written those lines to be ironic.

Normal kid: "That dude is weird." Bella: "OMG you're RIGHT. I LOVE HIM!"

For the record, Graham Greene is the best actor in this movie, by far.

Girl meets wolf, wolf breaks up with girl. Oldest story in the book...

Wolfboy: "I have a secret. I can't tell. But you already know it." Everyone in the #Twilight universe talks this way.

Wolfboy: "So, like, I'm a wolf. Wanna date me now?" Bella: "Yeah!"

"Gotta go. Got a vampire to kill." Who hasn't used that line on a girl?"

The movie about wolves and vampires just took a turn for the surreal.

When the teenyboppers are chuckling at the "dramatic lines" you have something of a problem.

So not only are they ripping off Romeo and Juliet, wholesale, they have no trouble explaining it in the first act.

Edward's back. See he lied about not loving her. So now she loves Dracula AND the Wolfman.

Edward and this master vampire are both stymied while trying to read Bella's thoughts (because she has none, really).

"Bella, leaving you was the hardest thing I've done in a hundred years ... Except for opening that sticky mayo lid in 1973."

Removing the supernatural trappings this film is about an emo girl torn between an angry young linebacker and a reject from The Cure.

Said I wouldn't spoil it, so I won't. If you like this stuff, run now, I guess, to see it. If not, pretend to be a werewolf or something.
The dialogue is fantastically stilted and the acting is as rigid as a piece of petrified mahogany. If you don't need emotion or believability in conversation that George Lucas is kicking himself for not writing then you're going to find this to be the best movie EVAR. If so the rest of us are going to laugh at you.

It occurs to me that they've erred this year in releasing this movie so late that they can't capitalize on the Christmas DVD money. It seems they are correcting that problem. The third movie is currently scheduled for a release next June. Oh goody.

Happy weekend everybody!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hide and seek kitteh

The cats have strict routines. The only variation is when they change what they are doing every few months or so. Otherwise, if you are in their spot, or disturbing their quiet or deviating yourself from the routine they will let you know about it.

Lately the early morning routine has involved a sunbath for this one. As the sun moves through the sky it shifts in this window. She starts on this side of the door frame and, by mid-day, she'll be on the other side of the doorway. Today I was finally able to catch her hiding from the camera.

We exist to pet her, and when we aren't within arms' reach we may not even exist. Getting close for a picture is challenging.

Quiet day of work. Did this, answered that, visited with students. Resolved an issue that has previously already been resolved twice. I left campus this evening to come home for more work. So I'm, say it with me, writing.

Before settling in for that, I found this: Tactics, PRSA's trade publication, ran this article on using Twitter in your job search. As a sidebar they ran this brief on David Garcia, who used his Twitter feed to help him land a job. They pulled the tweets themselves as a graphic, but noted that they removed his phone number for privacy. From the Internet. Where he'd posted his number.

If you'll look at his Twitter page he also has it posted in the background there.

I noted this on Twitter -- it seemed the appropriate venue -- and Garcia, who apparently wants to be found, wrote back immediately. We'll just chalk that up to a funny and well-meaning undersight.

Spent a few minutes this evening plotting the rest of my semester's taskes on one piece of paper. Happily they fit on one page. On the other hand, that's a whole page of stuff to do!

The first task on the list is to teach a class tomorrow on iMovie. I've been asked to repeat the class I taught last spring in the Alabama Knight Fellows community journalism master's program. They've given me two hours to fill. No problem, right? I have tomorrow and a class session after Thanksgiving. Four hours and change, then. That's a lot on iMovie.

So I'm working on that tonight. I'm watching football -- the comedy of errors between a struggling Colorado and Oklahoma State with backup quarterbacks. And more football -- have you seen the UFL yet? A team from Florida and a team from California were playing tonight. The Tuskers and Redwoods have very bright and proud uniforms. I watched that on a standard definition television and found myself, for once, feeling sorry for folks with high definition screens. Oh, sure, it is big, flat and has lots of dots, but tonight they could see lime green and two shades of teal splashed across their wall. These colors are unfortunate.

That's a four team league, but they are growing next year. And had to tell the media and fans there will be a next year. Hard to imagine the NFL, the NBA or MLB "Hey, we'll be back next year!" Maybe you've finally arrived as a league when that becomes a foregone conclusion. And when you tone down the color scheme.

I signed up for Foursquare (The Twitter/Facebook/MySpace/Geocities of 2010!). It looks like a bit more effort. And it is organized via cities. As you might know, in addition to lovely Birmingham, Ala., there's also a city of the same name in England. The Birmingham Foursquare lists is the other one. No problem with the other one, but the database that Foursquare uses suggests from the beginning that you may only have fun or do things of interest or note, in the cities they've listed. They don't need the rest of us, apparently.

At least I have my name reserved. It may turn into the next Google Wave (too soon?) or it may become the LiveJournal of tomorrow, but it isn't there yet, and won't be so long as it excludes the rest of the world not fortunate enough to live in the cities they've arbitrarily selected.

And, finally, check out this story from Spiegel. The lead paragraph:
Global warming appears to have stalled. Climatologists are puzzled as to why average global temperatures have stopped rising over the last 10 years. Some attribute the trend to a lack of sunspots, while others explain it through ocean currents.
Scientists, with approximately 100 years of datapoints on a model millions or billions of years old, are baffled by what they don't understand. Shocking, that.

I don't know anything about global warming. Could be there, could be a figment. Humans could have contributed to the problem if it exists. A particularly burpy volcano could be to blame. I can only think, however, of what one of my earth and climate scientist/professors said in a classroom a few years back, "We are on the tail end, in the planet's history, of an ice age." He talked of the scale of things, all of those many millions and billions of years. Conversely we've been industrial for a few centuries.

To me this isn't about belief or disbelief in the concept of global warming global climate change. This is about the statements and proclamations of uncertain scientists, the fear that breeds and the global economic changes it is bringing about. (To a skeptic it would also be about who is benefiting from those economic changes.) Things change with and without us. The problem is that we can't yet speak with such certainty on what is happening because we clearly don't know.

The scientists quoted in that story are confused and yet again refining their public statements. I'm not interested in assigning blame or claiming that the scientists have poor motivation or bad scruples. I'm simply suggesting that if they can't get their reports for the media correct one must consider the accuracy of their research. They are interested only in what they can say and not interested at all in sharing their data so that others may replicate the research, that's a bad sign.

The planet is an incredibly complex, intense and mysterious thing, despite all of our science. We're nowhere near understanding everything, yet that's what we're told to worry over. "We've figured it out and you don't get it." But more of these stories are trickling through now, and whatever legitimacy there may be in the argument is about to be drowned out by the popular reply "We get it, you don't have anything figured out."

Read the first subhead: reached a plateau. You're going to see more along this theme across the issue in the coming days.

And, now, more writing.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

One of the smaller, more annoying chores of the day was converting print to digital. Silly atoms, they are valuable to me in this binder that carries around all of my dissertation material. When they must be shared with others the paper is a limitation.

Problem: A key component of my research material needs to be shared. Second problem: Finding a version someone has uploaded has proven problematic. Solution: I'll scan all of the individual pages and build a PDF.

Third problem: My scanner crashes during the process of scanning. Reboot and try again. Crash. Repeat the process, sitting in a slightly different posture. Still crashing.

The difficulty seems to be included in the scanner's software. The drivers want to default the name of a new file as "Untitled.tif" or whatever file extension you prefer. But the very nature of calling it Untitled is, in fact, titling the file. This is an existential dilemma and the machine was not prepared to contemplate.

It was also not prepared to download the one copy I'd found of the study online. The Internet, too, then is conspiring against me today. This happens. You can't take it personally. The Internet giveth, and sometimes the Internet doesn't downloadeth and thereby taketh-ing away. You can only hope that, at that exact moment, someone elsewhere is enjoying an amazing Internet breakthrough. It is only fair. All of the incredible things the Internet provides to you and I must be balanced out somewhere in the equation. These are ones and zeroes, there must be an evening-out. The great actuary, somewhere in the Alps plugging in the patch cords that makes the Internet go, demands it.

There's good news: I now have a second panel presentation for the Broadcast Education Association's conference in Las Vegas next April. Looks like the early spring will be busy: I now have two papers and a panel at Southern States and two panels at BEA. All of this in April.

Speaking of Alabama (I wasn't), in prosem this evening we met one of the television faculty and one of the advertising guys. I've seen the gentleman from advertising before. He's a very nice guy, enthusiastic and has this rural cosmopolitan persona. He's from a very Southern town, loves bluegrass and has a very urbane view on the world. He studies the use of ads in this and that circumstance and follows historical findings of things. I mentioned him here a few weeks ago, when he visited one class and talked about Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs. Today he talked about the recent discovery of some of their very early television work. It had been sitting in a tool shed for decades. He didn't find it, but it is going to contribute to his forthcoming book on the subject. Pretty neat.

So tonight I'm writing. I'll be doing that through the first week of December. I'll probably say it a lot here. There's a lot to write. Fortunately a great deal of it has been bouncing around in my head -- that's where I do my best work, it seems. Now I just have to get it on paper.

I typed away a bit watching last night's episode of V. We are now, what, three episodes in the four episode run of this "season." I'm still not sure if the program is any good. Next week they'll have their last installment of the year and if they don't deliver a big, gripping development they're going to lose people over the hiatus. The slow burn has to promise a big payoff, but there has to be hints of that and we've seen nothing of the sort.

The original V, in the early 1980s, did more than this in their 270-minute story. Mostly, if you'll recall, because the story was told from the human perspective. The humans were us and the lizards were the other. Such black-and-white storytelling in an invasion-and-abuse-of-authority allegory, go figure. The problem here seems to be in the attempt to build a drama by showing things from the reptile's point of view.

They have dissenters among them, an ongoing civil war. They have families, and that little revelation isn't as impactful as they would have liked. Even the silly, backward humans must realize that all reptiles come from somewhere. All of this, no doubt, is intended to provide for us a lesson of moral equivalence. That's a fine argument for a philosophical lesson, but is lacking for an audience that comes home on Tuesday evenings and wants to see the evil lizards sent packing. Give them some green blood, defeated bad guys and victorious, occasionally unified humans. Throw in some self-sacrifice and a bit of personal redemption if you must, but clearly there's a good and bad here. Native species versus interstellar invaders. This is all very clear cut; this is a show on NBC, after all. The N doesn't stand for nuance.

Three episodes in and the thing still feels flat and uneventful. Not a good sign.

The Yankee has been working on her flying superpower. It involves a flex and a Superman pose. Sometimes, as she did tonight, it is more Great American Hero than Superman. She fell up the stairs.

She's so graceful and funny. The giggles make my night.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The student-journalists are putting their paper this evening and they sound very hyper and excited in the newsroom. They're having fun, picking on one another and seem to be having a pep rally about the paper they are producing.

It'll be interesting to see what they put on newsstands tomorrow morning.

I've been peering over their shoulder a little here and there throughout the semester, but the last two weeks they've been pedaling away all on their own, if you'll pardon the mixed metaphor. This was a young staff, and if you like a sports analogy, like a young team they did good work and occasionally made odd mistakes. One of the many things for which they deserve credit, however, is in their ability to not repeat the same mistakes.

They are learning and very enthusiastic and full of potential. There are a lot of contributing writers who aren't journalism majors who volunteer to do a little work just because they want to (God bless 'em). And for not knowing all of the ins and outs of journalistic style they are coming along. The staff is learning how to help smooth out those wrinkles and generally turning out good work.

Oh we had a few regrettable typos last we, and there is the occasional design problem, but they are making nice strides from there to here and I'm very proud of them. Mostly I'm excited to hear them so excited. This is a place in the semester when it would be easy to drag and go through the motions, but they are a lively bunch.

So I was exhausted yesterday. I'd slept my share and didn't do a lot, but was just tired. About five hours after waking up I finally felt awake. For all of that time and most of the day beyond it my body had the emptiest fatigue of malaise feeling possible. I like to think of it as the superhero in agony mode. "Limbs. Don't ... work. Can't. Move. A musc -- ungh." This is also known on stage as the Speaking in Fragments for Emphasis Method. Very big in the off-Broadway circuit.

This is a new brand of exhaustion for me. I'm accustomed to being tired, but working through it. I keep long, odd hours and just power through. That's the routine, this is unusual. This afternoon, just before my methods class, a similar thing happened. Maybe next weekend I can get some rest. Oh. Nope. Not next weekend. Thanksgiving, then.

Tonight I'll be in bed in the morning. If I make it that far. Three cars with Tennessee tags have almost hit my car today, the most recent one head-on in a "MustbeinthatparkinglotbeforeyouNOW!" moment.

That's been the worst of the day. The best has been finally setting my program of study meeting at Alabama. It works like this, in your third (and, in my case, next-to-last) semester of doctoral coursework you must gather your committee, show them your curriculum and have them sign off on it. (And since my coursework has now either been completed or set in stone, one hopes this is a breezy process.) The problem is that you must all sit down to do this together. Your committee is made up of four very busy people (Or, in my case, four hyper-busy people.) and yourself.

Finding a time where five people can meet is a challenging task. I'm lucky that on my second try and out of something like 12 possible days I was able to find an hour that worked for everyone.

Of course, since my time at Alabama is minimal, and since it is an hour away from my job at Samford, I tried to set this up around my pre-existing trips to campus. I outsmarted myself. On the day next week that we meet one class is canceled and the other is having a take home test. Turns out I'll be going down there solely for that meeting after all.

Two hours in the car so I can say hello to everyone, catch up, ask a few questions, answer a few questions and get the all important signatures. It'll take about 30 minutes.

So today then, two classes of relative ease. An evening with the student-journalists. Reading Jarvis over dinner and then spent a while helping The Yankee, who's finishing up her experiment instrument. She starts testing participants this week on her dissertation. These are exciting, busy times.

But aren't they always?

Pardon me if I'm not making sense, this is the end of a 15-hour days. A few hours sleep tonight and I'll be as good as new. Good thing, too, there's a lot to do.

Monday, November 16, 2009

"He lived with us for a while when he was little."

In a day of sorrow you can find joy. I learned a great deal about my grandfather on the day we buried him. To me he'd forever been simply a silver-haired grandfather. Loud and tall and strong and funny when he was healthy, soft and gentle and frustrated and funny when his body failed him.

I knew of several of his jobs. In my lifetime he'd been a junkyard manager, a gas station owner and, until the day he could no longer do the work, a long-haul truck driver.

My grandfather was not always a nice man. There are stories and I don't doubt their veracity, but that's not the man I know. He was stubborn and strong-willed and an old-fashioned country boy until his dying day, but in my lifetime he was always a better man than some of those tales.

When his health declined two decades ago he became a gentler spirit. He'd scoff at people who drove foreign cars, insist the president was all wrong (no matter the president) and get mad at his beloved Atlanta Braves when they struggled, but his circumstance turned him from a rough-edged, blue collar hillbilly into a delicate, thoughtful, more caring man.

"We were always tinkering when he was growing up. We'd look all over for something that we could make run. That's why he liked to do it later, I guess."

The handyman. My grandfather had always worked with his hands. Wrenches, tractors, wires, crops, engine parts, 30weight oil, there was always something in his hands and they bore the tough ruggedness of a man who'd strained for everything he'd ever achieved. After he fell ill -- he had a brain aneurysm one afternoon 18 years ago, just after returning from a long trip on the road, and then another on the way to the hospital; they would leave him permanently debilitated -- I was amazed at how quickly the skin of his hands turned smooth. His personality was quick to follow.

He could still talk, though he was difficult to understand. That was very frustrating for him, because he knew what he wanted to say. Very clearly the idea was there, the problem was in expressing it. It was a slow process. He'd tried to tell you his thought two or three times and, if you didn't get it, he'd turn to my grandmother who would do her best to interpret the conversation. If you were around him enough you could learn his speech patterns, but if you weren't familiar with him this was tough for everyone. He'd get mad, or he'd scoff at it and fall quiet until his next question would come to mind.

He still knew all the roads to everywhere, the order of cities, how to fix cars and solve household and farming problems. He was most definitely in there, and we were fortunate to have him those many extra years. In a way those medical problems gave us a different sort of man. He was no longer as serious as most of us are, but willing to tell a joke, hear a joke or be made into a gentle joke. He loved to laugh, this loud, harsh disjointed thing, but there was a great deal of joy in the moments when he did. Being the clown, I lived to oblige him with every visit.

He could still walk, though not without a walker, a bit of dizziness and someone standing alongside just in case. At 58, still hard at work and full of energy, all of those days were suddenly taken away from him in a flash. His vision would dim in one eye and thereafter he moved much slower, coordination being a test of focus. He still had his mind, still had his wife and plenty of family. He was the same man, but could not do those same things that defined him.

"I remember the time my car broke down and he drove all the way to Huntsville (that's three counties) to fix it. And he wouldn't take anything for his troubles when he was done."

The helper, teacher. He taught me to fish. On the bank, in a boat. Live bait, chicken livers, crank bait, it didn't matter. He couldn't wait until I'd be there to visit so we could go to the water. We'd drive out, the old man and the child, onto calm waters and cast a half dozen lures, sit back and eat peanuts on the slow days.

We'd catch 'em, he'd clean 'em and my grandmother, who has forever been the most good-natured woman I've known, would cook them up for us. We'd spend the evenings listening to crickets while scaling fish. I'd get bored and run to catch the fireflies, and he'd get the day's haul ready for the skillet.

Later I'd walk deep circles into their kitchen floor, doing thousands of laps around their table. That would be the only scolding he ever gave me, at least that I remember, because I was making him dizzy.

"We lived with him for a short while when we were young. He was always helping."

The giver. He bought me a go-kart, a second hand hunk of aluminum and plywood with an overexcited weed eater engine on the back. It was my second-cousin's go-kart, and I idolized him because he was older, had a farm, a barn, a four-wheeler a go-kart and he acknowledged my existence. Now the go-kart was mine.

I got to drive it all of one day. They set me lose in the fallow winter garden and I almost decapitated myself running the go-kart under a parked tractor. Later that day "the clutch burnt out" on the engine and it was never fixed. It took me a few years to realize why that was a.) the story and b.) the right decision. There's no way a clutch would have bested the man, but he was trying to keep me from killing someone, named me.

I can still picture him walking out to that garden in the summertime with a salt shaker in one back pocket and a knife in the other. He would take me out to the garden so we could pick a freshly ripe watermelon straight off the vine. We'd sit in the shade, he'd bust it open on a rock and cut off slices and, friends, you haven't lived until you've enjoyed sun-warmed, fresh watermelon.

He'd take me to the creek damn he built off in the woods and scoop me a cup of fresh water. It was cold and crisp and wholesome and no doubt all of those things my city-water wasn't. Not that I realized that. The novelty to me was in drinking from a mug that spent all year, or a considerable part of it, hanging from a tree branch.

He gave me a free run of the countryside. There was nowhere I couldn't go, mostly because there was nowhere to go other than these woods or those woods. But I loved the woods, I'd lose myself for hours in the trees and weeds making up elaborate stories while he worked on an engine or tinkered with a tractor. They'd call me for dinner and tell me to watch out for snakes, but otherwise there was nothing I couldn't do.

He let me stay up late at night. I couldn't do this at my other grandparents, so it was something of a devilish treat, even if they only had three television stations back then. I could sleep in, too. For eight years I was the only grandchild and I wasn't spoiled in anyway, no sir, not in the least.

In the summers I would spend long weeks with them. He took me out to the junkyard where I could play among the tetanus. He'd let me visit him at his gas station, where I could stomp on that pneumatic hose by the pumps that rang the bell in the shop. He'd take me on very short trips in his truck, but I didn't care for that at all.

I did love sitting in the rig, when it was parked and quiet at home and cranking away at that big steering wheel. I could sit for hours listening to the strange faraway voices on the CB radio. Sometimes I could hear people speaking Spanish, sometimes there were the rushed, jumbled syllables of some far eastern language.

Even better than the truck cab was prowling through his old house. When that got old I'd go outside and climb the place. He'd built it himself, with a creek rock exterior that offered plenty of handholds for a boy scaling Kilimanjaro in his mind.

He took the blame for me. I somehow managed to make my way out onto the porch as a very young child while they were painting and covered my t-shirt in a dark red paint. Inside they asked me what happened and I said "Granddaddy shouldn't have let me get paint all over myself!" My grandmother, a quarter-of-a-century later, laughs at that like it just happened.

But now she's sadder. For all of his good qualities, and through the less-than-stellar ones that he and circumstance outgrew, she'd been by his side. Faithful to a degree that sometimes boggled the imagination, she'd always taken care of him. And she took special care of him until his dying day, seeing after his every need without complaint for 18 shut-in years. Those extra years were a blessing, but maybe we didn't all realize that at the time. The preacher talked about it at the service, and he was quick to point out that all my grandmother's care would mean something too.

She'd given her life to him, 52 years of grace. That's more, he'd say, than he deserved. You could see it in his face when he'd run the words together, "Iloyouuu." He wasn't always the best of men, but he'd grown better and he'd grown appreciative. Just as we had those extra years of laughter, he had the opportunity to see her for her selfless character. She's been an example to the rest of us, too, if only we're willing to pay attention.

I was the first grandchild and the only grandson -- hence the number one grandson. There are three granddaughters There's great-grandchildren now, four boys and one girl. Even if he couldn't play with them the same way that I did long ago they made an impression on him. The oldest probably won't remember him very well, which is a shame, because he could have left a nice impression on them, too.

The things I'll remember most from the funeral are the perfect, golden sunset, the strength my uncle displayed and the maturity in a trying time of his daughter, who's eight years younger and twice the adult that I am. I'll remember how beautiful my grandmother looked. And even in her moments of obvious sadness, how in control she seemed. It won't always be that way, but she was incredible yesterday.

I'll treasure and cherish forever seeing my two grandmothers together. I don't know when that happened last, life and circumstances being what they are, but my maternal grandmother came to mourn with my paternal grandmother in what was, to me, a powerful moment in the middle of a numbing day.

To see them together, both looking strong and sure on such a trying afternoon, made me feel like a boy again. They were the powerful matriarchs of their families at the height of their abilities and I had to blink back tears of joy.

And tears of sadness as I held my grandmother's hand when the preacher offered a prayer, "To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord" when they closed his casket for the final time.

I sat behind her during the service, focusing on a spot on the wall. It felt so empty trying to imagine 56 years of anything, let alone 56 years with a person and what must be left when that is taken from you.

We all tried to be the strong, confident ones during the day. That's what people do, but no one in that family is better at it than she is. She was able to laugh, doubling over with her full body celebration of joy even on this horrible day. She was comfortable and happy knowing that his suffering was over, that he would rest near so many family and friends.

They tried to send her home from the cemetery before they lowered the casket into the ground, but she wouldn't have it. She didn't want to watch, but she wanted to be there. We were the last ones to leave.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Saturday, November 14, 2009

And now an attempt to take my mind off other troubles, my day of football at the watch party, via Twitter:
Gameday warmups = adding televisions, making sure all of the viewing angles and connections work.

Gameday sweeps Auburn to a victory at Georgia. Has that ever happened?

Tennessee@OleMiss, Kentucky@Vandy and GaTech@Duke. Not a bad start to a watchparty.

Tennessee's Lane Kiffin does not want to jump the pellet gun. (That's going to be Crompton's formation of choice in the second half.)

@BrianMcalister is here for the watchparty. Screen One has UT@OleMiss, Screen Two has UK@Vandy. The third screen is on blowout patrol.

New college football rule. The Wildcat others run against Tennessee must now be called the Pellet Gun Formation.

He's Techmo McCluster!

Don't bring a pellet gun to a Giggity fight.
I said that one out loud, but didn't think it was strong enough to make the cut. @BrianMcalister tweeted it for me.
I love watch parties.

I did not know South Carolina had joined the XFL. Hmm.

Dear SEC, you dropped the ball. If you were going to do a Service-Integrity gimmick it should be conference wide (but not after UT arrests).

@cbrannon War Eagle to you, sir. May you enjoy the game, right up until hearing the lamentations of the Dogs at the very end.

360 keeps dropping games and showing soccer. And it is a friendly. Come on 360!

Does USC -- seemingly the modern Notre Dame -- finally fall from the top 10 when they drop this game to Stanford?

That defensive stop keeps South Carolina in the ball game against Florida, and most importantly, on TV 1.

Touchdown Carolina! (Admit it, you want CBS to have egg on their face for jumping the gun on those SECCG promos with team rankings.)

Bob Griese pwns the SEC. "But on MY hi-def monitor ... " #dontfinehimSlive

RT @BrianMcAlister Gitmo. Waterboarding. Health Care Socialism. Haliburton. Don't Ask Don't Tell. #rejectedcarolinajerseys

RT @twstephens Getting shredded by Stephen Garcia must be like getting beaten up by Carrot Top.

USC takes a fumble, scores and steals the momentum. Why? Because they are playing Stanford. Trojans trump Cardinals.

The Pac-10 and the Big 10 are on the big screens. We've demoted the SEC and ACC games to the lappies. What happened here?

Heh. RT @lucasalexander (Auburn man) The high-water mark for Athenian (Ga.) civilization was Pat Dye. It's been all downhill since he left.

USC can't stop Stanford. Do not adjust your monitor.

Not only will USC lose to Stanford, the Cardinal are going to hang FIFTY on them.

No longer an upset alert, Stanford@USC is a train wreck alert. Can't. Look. Away.

Screen One: Samford@USC beatdown. Screen Two: Iowa@OhioSt tied. Screen Three: Miami@UNC. Screen Four: UF@USC.

You can't spell schadenfreude without U-S-C. #wewillneverforget2004

Iowa looks to do something they haven't done since 1991 -- win at tOSU. (And they'll try it in overtime.)

Steve Spurrier has cast his visor over his countenance, game over in Columbia. Iowa@OSU in OT on Screen One at the

Pete Carroll thinks we're all angels. Unless we are Cardinals. Those so and sos get no truck from St. Pete. FIFTY-FIVE points!

ABC guy just oversold the tOSU field goal a bit. Here's a tip: You aren't the homer.

Nature is restored: USC is less relevant, Iowa's dream season has expired and the SEC is back on Screen One at the watchparty.

Bring on the rivalry! (I hate Dogs for the next three hours.)

TOUCHDOWN AUBURN! Chris Todd to Kodi Burns!

Tough runs, a few post routes UGa can't defend, Auburn takes out the early lead and the Tigers feel right. Now let's hold 'em D!

Dangers of four screens: "OMG Miss State just did see something! I don't know what, but their fans are cheering!" (They moved the chains.)

Apparently removing one of the fours from Ben Tate's helmet does not keep it on his head.

Halfway through the first quarter prediction: The only team that can stop Auburn is Auburn.
And some guy named Martinez that no one in Georgia likes and a misunderstood defensive crew, but I didn't know that at the time, now did I?
Dangers of four screens: Noting the statistical inaccuracies between ESPN broadcasts. How many touchdowns does Ingram have?


(OK, I don't hate ALL dogs. I still like the Bullies who are presently frustrating Bama.)

2009 UGa = 2006-2008 Auburn. Mark Richt IS Tommy Tuberville.

ESPN shows a game management stat. UGa has -2 yards ... then Todd is sacked and Auburn punts as Bama scores. Ack.

ESPN says: Bulldogs Bulldogs Bulldogs! Audience: They don't have a lot to do in Georgia, eh?

So ... who's actually going to watch Blind Side (that also read the book)? I'm curious to see how BAD they've made this film.

Cox to Troupe, who got behind everyone for a big score. 7-14

Hate to see AJ Green come out. I hope he miraculously recovers around midnight.

Look kids Big Ben! Another first down on a 19-yard screen.
Here @cbrannon writes "Hey, dawgs. We don't need AJ as much as we need discipline and DEFENSE!" Because I am picking on my nearby Georgia man I reply "I believe Discipline played for USC today."
Chris Todd, impact player, punting the ball down to the three.

Don't look now Bama fans, Ingram is hurt and in pain. That looked rough, but he's a tough, tough guy.

Whatever Todd Blackledge is eating looks gross.

Nic Fairley is a bad, bad man, sacking Joe Cox back to the two!

Todd to @supurmario27 for 39 yards! (Does Georgia play defense?)
In retrospect, I'm wondering if it were my fault. If so I apologize most profoundly.
This game is suddenly bad on receivers arms. Todd's favorite receiver Darvin Adams comes up slow.

Todd intercepted on third and long. That ball came out odd ... Yep, his arm got hit as he threw.

Bob Davie just called Willie Martinez "really a good footbaw coach." Georgia fans are now cleaning their screens after spewing beverages.

Georgia's punter is good and I looooove seeing him on the field.

Demond Washington's life just flashed before his eyes as he muffs Auburn's 98th punt of the season. Lucky it bounced out.

Georgia's backup quarterback is returning kicks for Georgia. Has Auburn tried Neil Caudle deep?

Seriously ... when the ESPN promotional machine and the talking heads are lined up against a Notre Dame coach the writing is on the wall.

Man's Eternal Questions, Vol 66: How many losses does it take for sports commentators to hurl themselves from the USC bandwagon? Three.

Touchdown Mississippi State! 7-17 early in the third.

No! No! No Eltoro, get up! (Auburn has only one scholarship linebacker on the depth chart, a true freshman.)

And the officials in the Bama@State game called the kickoff return back. #conspiracy! (But not really.)

Where credit is due: the ESPN graphic on what else happened in 1892 (when the UGa-Auburn series began) was nice.

Georgia kicks a long field goal to get within four, 14-10 Tigers lead and start the second half from their own 37.

Todd! Double coverage is when there's two guys in the other uniform. It is bad to throw it there. Try not to do that, whydoncha?

You think ESPN has to pay USA Today royalties for ripping off their feature in their time wasting franchise?

Look ... if Bob DAVIE of all people, can figure this call out better than your replay official, you should rethink the process.

Georgia scores, taking their first lead of the evening, 14-17.

Chris Todd remembers Tommy Trott is an Auburn man, the Tigers are in business at Georgia's 24.

Judging from Gus Malzahn's reaction Lee Ziemba was not an eligible receiver there.

Foot Lauderdale is renamed Wes Boink Byrum, pinballing one off the left upright and in. 17-17. Phew.

State gets on the board, squandering a 1st and goal from the five (CONSPIRACY!) and settling for a field goal. 17-3, Bama leads.

That's Mr. Josh Bynes to you.

Alabama is solid throughout, and scary fast on defense, the player that's the most disconcerting for Auburn must be Javier Arenas.

Neiko, Neiko, Neiko ... 17-24
I do believe you can find marked progress across the board for most of the regulars. Unfortunately I don't believe this can be said for Mr. Thorpe. Shame, that.
TOUCHDOWN AUBURN!!!! Demond Washington for 99 yards on the kickoff return. 24-24
Clearly, as a significant contributor at this level Washington is fleet of foot, but I don't know that I've read anyone discussing him as one of the faster guys on the field. He surely does look it though. He seemed to find a gear approaching c as he ran by the safeties. Just wow. Wonder what his yards are like for this game now.
On Screen Two: Who jumps higher? Julio Jones or Maze?

Double coverage, Todd. Grrrr.

Receiver ran a bad route. ARGHHHHH!
I've long thought there should be an asterisk by some interceptions. This one likely wasn't on Todd, but unfortunately he can't share it with the wideout. Perhaps if there was an official scorer, as in baseball, we could put the E in the proper spot.
So Todd throws an ugly pick, Auburn adds on 15 yards, just to be nice.
What are the things we need to avoid, friends? Turnovers and penalties and here's both. And you just know Ziemba and Andrew McCain still have the latter still in them.
Georgia scores, Auburn's defense is gassed and definitely needs a break. 24-31.

Reverse pass from Kodi Burns to T-Zach ... flag is down ... illegal motion, Auburn. (Someone's running up-downs ... )
For a procedural penalty if they ain't they oughta be.
Onterio McCalebb -- who is clearly not 100 percent -- first down, flirts with a fumble but keeps it together.

Not the first play that Auburn has run from under center has worked very well this year. First down on the next play, phew.

Todd had @supurmario27 on the seam at the goal line but can't hang on after the hit. Georgia player, Rambo I believe, is down.

Bob Davie: "You just see his shoulder go limp after the hit; you can't speculate right now." Really Bob?

I propose a highlight reel maximum on replays of injuries that leave a player in questionable health.
Two or three of those are really more than enough. The guy's still down, his injury is far from certain (Despite Bob "I don't want to speculate, but let's speculate" Davie) and he has family and friends watching.
While I don't want to be critical of a specific player, this is habitual enough to be a real concern: Someone teach Ziemba to count!

Georgia holds off Auburn. 24-31. One good quarter, three of more-or-less misfiring. Finally Auburn gets a bye week and then the Iron Bowl.
Football was a nice and almost effective diversion today. Now reality returns and there's tomorrow to dread.

Friday, November 13, 2009

To a boy, no matter how old he may get, grandfathers are the biggest thing in the room.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Former Jefferson County Commissioner Mary Buckelew was sentenced this morning for corruption, bribe taking and lying to a grand jury. She pleaded guilty for a lesser sentence as prosecutors sought her cooperation in jailing former commissioner (and until recently, Birmingham mayor) Larry Langford.

She never testified in Langford's trial. He was found guilty on 60 counts a few weeks ago. Buckelew, after several friends and family members testified on her behalf, learned her fate this morning.

She received three years probation and must pay a fine and community service.

I followed the sentencing on Twitter via John "Worst reporter in Birmingham" Paepcke. (He's not, but the former mayor said it, and I'm sure Paepcke wears it with pride.)

My friend @BrianMcAlister had the best reaction of the day.

Spent the first half of the day writing. Spent the second half of the day with the Crimson's editors working on nominations for the upcoming Southeastern Journalism Conference awards. Last year it took nearly a full day to pull all of this together. So, naturally, I soft-sold it to this year's editor when I mentioned that we needed to pull the work together. She called in the managing editor and, with the extra set of hands we were finished in about three-and-a-half hours.

This involved spreading all of the papers around the newsroom, going through them one by one for each category, looking for our best submissions. After we were thoroughly fingerprinted the stacks of nominations were collated, separated from the rest of the paper, placed in manila folders (other colors are not allowed by the rules) and then each carefully labeled. If anything is omitted or added to the labels the entrants are disqualified.

The rules are exacting, but we have some good nominations. Hopefully a few of them will earn some awards and recognition next February.

I'm still playing the part of the bachelor, which tonight means cleaning up the cats' mess. Lately they've found a way to voice their displeasure at being left alone by tossing the paper towels around.

This is done when we take out of town trips. (We have friends visit them while we are gone.) This evening one of the cats meowed her proud call of rebellion by knocking the paper towels into the sink, where they landed in a soaking bowl, which ruined the role.

So, after the third time I've learned my lesson: the paper towels will now be stored well out of reach from the kittehs.

They can't outsmart me forever. Can they?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Productive week so far. I've been accepted to present a paper at a conference in Las Vegas at the Broadcast Education Association's convention. This morning there was the happy news I'll present two papers and participate in another panel at Southern States Communication Association convention in Memphis.

Not a bad week at all.

Have you let a veteran be bashful around you yet today? Get in the mood with this collection of videos. You like dogs, you like veterans, put them together while I go find the box of Kleenex.

While we're on the subject of veterans and papers, I'm going to tie the two together nicely here. Earlier this week I finished a second paper on Al McIntosh, the mid-20th Century small-town-Minnesota newspaper editor. When I have a few spare minutes I'm going to put the two projects together, submit them to another conference and try to get a rhetorical presentation for my troubles.

McIntosh is great, but he's narrated there by Tom Hanks, making it all the better. If you listen to that a few times you'll find yourself wishing all columns came across that way. Maybe we read too fast. Maybe the writing of today should be as chatty as that as yesterday. Maybe we should all have Tom Hanks come over and read to us ...

Hey ... now that might "save journalism." Tom Hanks: Superhero.

I'm a bachelor again. Who had four-and-a-half-months in the pool? The Yankee is off to a conference and I am at home eating leftovers. Pepperoni calzones from De Vinci's are delicious, go there if you can.

So I'm watching We Are Marshall while I study, in the hopes that the tears will clean my eyes and leave room for me to remember stuff.

Also, I had a helper.

She studies better than I do.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Four inches of rain.

That's what Ida brought us. I woke up around 6 a.m. listening to the drops drip from the leaves outside. The sensation never left us today.

Things Ida has taught me: My car has a SLIP! warning for when it gets loose. As if I couldn't already feel that. In fact, the SLIP! warning is about a half-second later than it should be. Not that a little yellow light in the dashboard distracting you from the probably at hand is a good idea anyway.

Other things Ida has taught me: Leaking ceilings contribute to wet floors. We learned this one on the Alabama campus.

One last thing Ida taught me, late this evening: You can hydroplane a looong way down Lakeshore after a heavy rain.

The SLIP! light never came on.

I mentioned last night my web browser woes on an old G4. If you're interested: Firefox has fits, Safari stinks Camino collapses. I'm now trying Opera. If it goes hoarse I'll accept suggestions on what to try on such a finicky machine.

Two classes today, one useless. They can't all be good, I guess, but none of them should be a waste of time. There we are, nevertheless, formulating our course evaluations in our heads.

The other class, research methods, was both insightful and entertaining. This class, which by rule should probably be the driest of the bunch, is actually a lot of fun.

Running across the campus dodging the rain, less so.

By the end of that class, though, the storm had finally blown through. My feet stayed dry, my bag stayed dry, that's enough to call today a win.

At Samford the student-journalists started a Twitter account. When they hired me last year I squatted on a few Twitter identities just in case they ever came up. Tonight the staff decided to take over theirs. You can follow them @SamfordCrimson if you are so inclined.

Also tonight I worked my way through a bit more of Jeff Jarvis' "What Would Google Do?" The best parts are when I find myself thinking I read this on buzzmachine.

And finally I spent a few minutes scanning old photographs for the World War II pilot's oral history I mentioned here recently. We did a bit of video at the Southern Museum of Flight a few weeks ago and he gave me a bag full of old photographs to include.

It is nervous thing, working with someone's six-decade-old memories. Pull, clean, scan, replace and pray you don't mess up any of these beautiful old photographs.

To keep the mood authentic I tried a soundtrack of all 1930s and 40s music. I found old footage of the Duke Ellington Orchestra from three-quarters of a century ago.

Here are a few of those old photographs now, including Ed Congdon's official portrait from his pilot training days in the early part of the war. One of his training stops actually produced a yearbook, which seems an odd devotion of energy in retrospect. Among all the others -- and Congdon's yearbook picture makes him look even younger -- you'll find this one in the back of the book. You get the impression that she worked in a traffic control tower, but there's no name or other information. She's a 66-year-old mystery that will likely never be solved.

So this is the end of Tuesday. We're two days into the week and I've already enjoyed two 13-hour days this week. After tomorrow everything will slow down, but only a little.

This isn't a bad way to spend your week at all.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Busy and productive day. This morning I visited the library. I dropped off a macbook at the on-campus computer repair office. It stopped working about 14 seconds after we landed in Canada. Seems the hard drive can't find the OS. We'll see where that goes, I guess.

Had a meeting with the boss on the conference and the upcoming week.

Got four pages of writing in.

At Alabama I wrote two more pages, finishing the paper which should have been prepared last night if not for mechanical mysteries with our plane.

One of my professors was sick today, but the show must go on. We used a recording software to save the presentation for her. One of my classmates did two hours on a very interesting topic, discussing theory behind teaching computer skills to the elderly. It was nicely done.

I have to present in that class next week. Hopefully I'll do a decent job too.

In my social movements class we somehow found our way into a discussion on Madea. You have to love a group that diverges so widely from prominent gay rights leaders to over-hyped entertainers.

Over a late dinner The Yankee and I marveled at how one can be so quickly tired after such a restive trip. Almost-five-hour setbacks at the Chicago airport can impact your ability to relax.

But, one paper of the week is done. There's the distant hum of a not-so-noisy light still beyond my vision in the dark tunnel of this semester. We aren't there, but soon I'll see the light.

There's one two hour presentation, one much shorter presentation (complete with four supporting documents), a full research proposal, a full rhetorical paper and a test are that remain in the semester.

Distant hum.

The Yankee is watching Kate and Eight Minus One while I wrestle with various web browsers on an old G4. This show is the worst. Why we are watching it I have no idea, but you should not. Just horrible.


I take it back. The Jimmy Fallon show is on. Perhaps it is the worst. Elmo and Laurence Fishburne are his guests. Fishburne, still cool after spending so much time with Keanu Reeves, can survive the muppets, but Fallon is killing the furry creature's credibility. Elmo is smarter than Fallon.

A furry piece of polyester with a hole where his guts should be is smarter than Jimmy Fallon.

Tomorrow we'll see if we're smarter than the weather. The storm system formerly known as Hurrican Ida will move in for a day. Better break out the hip waders.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

If you find yourself near a Tim Horton's, do stop in.

We're back home now, finally, but to wrap up our Canadian adventure, I must correct this oversight. I forgot to mention it, somehow, but there is a Tim Horton's between our hotel and the conference hotel.

Tim Horton's is a fast food place, famous for coffee and doughnuts. Thinking Dunkin Doughnuts. Horton was a hockey player, the venture bearing his name is now the largest food operator in Canada, bigger even than McDonalds.

We had breakfast there yesterday, a late lunch yesterday and another breakfast this morning. The multigrain bagel is ridiculously delicious. I wish we had Tim Horton's here at home.

So we had breakfast there, checked out of our room and caught a bus to the airport. (Tip: Cabs in Ottawa are ridiculously expensive, take a bus when you can. The three we had were clean and on time.) We got lost in the aiport, brainstormed a new reality show while walking around -- picture it, The Most Boring People in the World, Tuesday nights on A&E -- finally found the right area and met the hardest working customs agent in America. He'd been on the clock for 12 hours.

Breezed through security -- see, Parliament's process was far more time-consuming -- and hoped on our plane to Chicago

This is what it looks like to be on a plane.

We had difficulties in Chicago. Lovely place, fine polish sausages, lots of folks getting on planes -- except for us -- and too few power outlets. It was a long afternoon. Here, then, are the highlights from the Twitter feed:
We're back! @Pampi asked how I felt about abandoning my phone. My phone, not at all. Email on my phone, very little. Twitter, I missed.

Luggage burial tonight. What Delta and a trip to New England started last Christmas has been finished by United and a trip to Canada.

There is a woman here talking on her phone. She just told someone that she loved them and had the sweetest smile when she said it.

Hmm ... Salted bread. It has superpowers.

Blessing and a curse: Check your flight status sites on days when you're delayed for hours.

Word is there are troubles in Charleston. If you're a mechanic in the Carolinas could you head on down and fix the plane so it can get here?

The tall blonde alien in Mars Attacks that seduced the White House aide? Just saw someone like that. The airport ethnography begins.

Now watching the best mullet we've seen since the '80s. Poets, write sonnets to his hair, which goes past the shoulders. He's from Duluth.

Five soldiers have walked by in the past few minutes, all of them younger than I am. God bless you guys.

There is a very pretty little girl in pink and Snoopy and she is not happy. But she has a cool stuffed bunny.

When did we wash the planes in warm water and shrink the overhead bins? Stuff cited as carryon size must now be checked. I smell a con.

There is an Aaron Tippin lookalike here.

Now on our third gate of the afternoon. Already four hours late. #stupidbrokenplanes

We'd REALLY like to leave now.

When we finally do get a plane I'm hoping for a mechanical explanation. We deserve that after 3.5 hours of delays, @UnitedAirlines.

ANOTHER plane is broken. Beware travelers to Dayton. This could lead to our fourth gate change of the day. Thanks @UnitedAirlines.

What if a competing airline offered to fly horrendously delayed passengers to their next stop? Talk about building brand loyalty.

I calculated the miles. I could have made Nashville if I drove really hard, I think.

Fourth gate change. I had this nightmare once. Thanks @UnitedAirlines.

Sign: "Delay reason: Aircraft delayed."

The good news: Our pilot showed up just as the plane (finally) did and he looked ticked. Maybe that means he'll fly fast.

I feel for the lady who's missed 3 flights today, and those just now here from Charleston. Now let's all safely get where we wish to be.

@UnitedAirlines has a red carpet. They should have saved the money and bought extra: planes, parts, mechanics.

The silly @unitedairlines carpet.

If you're one of @UnitedAirlines 4,218 special groups your feet may touch the red carpet. If not they block it off. Stupid marketing, there.

After 4 hours of delays and 4 gate changes we're on a @UnitedAirlines plane. It's 85 degrees in here and the co-pilot just visited the lav.

Our @UnitedAirlines pilot says he volunteered to get us home. If that's so, and he's not our original pilot, kudos to Gavin.

Everyone is complaining of the heat. Many of these folks are returning home to Birmingham and, thus, know and tolerate warm temps.

Four hours late and we're off. We'll never know the answer to the mystery of "Reason for delay: Aircraft delayed." Thanks @UnitedAirlines!

We made it, uneventfully. Now there seems to be some luggage issue, of course. Say this, though: the @UnitedAirlines flight crew was great.

Overheard: "This plane is a little ghetto."
We were supposed to be back in Birmingham at 4 p.m. We finally left the airport 10 minutes before 9 p.m.

So we went to DeVinci's, which was the only good thing in Homewood we could think of being open after 9 p.m. in Homewood. At a nearby table were four young women from northern Europe who were visiting the states on a work-study program at Disney. They had a few hours off and drove up from Orlando. That would seem silly, even at that age.

As we left DeVinci's an older gentleman (I believe he may be the owner) asked about the poppy on my lapel. Everyone in Canada was wearing them for the upcoming Remembrance Day and I wore mine home. He was a veteran and began thanking me for wearing the decoration. It was humbling and silly. We should be thanking him.

The downside to the delay (because you're only allowed to find one seeing as how you actually did make it home) is that my long afternoon of leisurely writing has now been turned into an overnight of frantic writing. So, if you'll pardon me ...

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Yankee's presentation at the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport was this morning. She had the final presentation in her panel. Before was a paper that examined coverage of Muslim athletes in the Olympic games and a very interesting piece on "bizarre comments" made by Slovenian commentators during the Olympic games.

So it was an Olympic themed panel. The Yankee presented the pilot study for her dissertation, which has to do with commentary during the Olympic gymnastics events. She did a great job, as usual. There were quite a few nodding heads and she got plenty of interested comments as the panel drew to a close.

In the afternoon I "watched" the Auburn game through an online stat tracker. This was homecoming and Auburn hosted little Furman. The Tigers piled up a 42-3 halftime lead and I was long hoping for an early call to empty the bench. Turns out keeping the starters on the field for two full quarters was a good idea.

Furman scored twice quickly in the third quarter and then abused Auburn's backups the rest of the way. Auburn won 63-31, but no right-thinking person should be happy with that. Sure, Auburn had second, third-stringers and walkons on the field late, but those young guys should be able to handle a team like Furman. (And yet the Paladins "won" the second half 28-21.)

We caught a bus across town this evening for a hockey game. I'd tell you about it, but that particular league does not understand the potential of free advertising. They have a policy against cameras. The gentleman that informed of this, because he was Canadian and thus polite, was almost apologetic about it.

So I will not tell you about the game, or the teams, or even mention the sponsor-named arena. (Take that, fifth-ranked North American professional sporting organization!) We had a good time though. The visitors won on a last-minute goal.

Paranoid of being stranded across town, we rushed out in the final seconds to catch a bus. The Yankee got on board and the guy was shutting the door -- because he had places to go, I guess. I had to force my way onto the bus, prying the door open three times before I managed to get all the way inside.

Then he cut off about three cars leaving the parking lot and then heckled a few of his more inebriated passengers. He was the least polite person we've met here, and he was only misunderstood.

We had to walk two blocks from the bus stop back to the hotel. Dark, unfamiliar, empty and a bit sketchy looking, you still felt safe.

You know, if they didn't have so much winter here I'd really love Ottawa.

Of course, police here are looking for a stabbing suspect tonight. That sounds like a domestic violence case, and it took place about half an hour from here. (Edit: A few days later his body was found in his stabbing victim's burned home. There are sad stories everywhere.)

This isn't sad at all. At this anonymous -- because they don't want the free publicity -- hockey game the national anthems were spectacular. One gentleman did both the Canadian and American anthems. The crowd sang along to the Canadian anthem in English and French in a powerful way, it was the most noise they made all night. The American anthem was a bit quieter, but there is something stirring about hearing the song in a different country. It is a different experience, one everyone should have.

Tomorrow, we pack up and head back home. We'll go from a weekday of the 20s to an evening in the 70s and only have to travel 2,000 miles to do it.

Friday, November 6, 2009

We had nothing at the conference today, so we took a walking tour of Ottawa.

Speaker's Selection syrup

We toured Parliament. I gave security fits. It seems the metal detectors there are set to the highest sensitivity. Wrists make them beep. Not watches, but the bones in your body. The security officers were very patient and polite, almost apologetic. But, then, everyone we've met in Ottawa has been unfailingly nice.

When we finally made it in we sat through a few minutes of the House of Commons, including their regular question period. We made our way up to the Peace Tower and Memorial Chamber. The Memorial Chamber is a very solemn, quiet place. So much so that I didn't even take any photographs there. Everywhere else, yes, and they'll eventually make it into the November gallery when I get that section of the site back up to speed.

The picture above is from the gift shop in the parliament building. The kids working the cash register were not prepared for my line of questions about the Speaker's Selection syrup. Peter Milliken has been the speaker for forever, they said (since 2001) and so this has likely been the syrup since he took office.

How did he decide on this particular syrup?

"I think it was a blind taste test," one young lady offered.

But surely not. Milliken is from Ontario, but imagine if he'd chosen a syrup from British Columbia in a blind test. That'd be a bit embarrassing. No, he probably brought his favorite from home. Surely this producer is among his constituency.

Unfortunately I couldn't bring some home with us. The humorless TSA would not allow it. Perhaps I can order some online.

We visited a fancy mall while looking for hats. Turns out this was the coldest day of the season so far. It was 30 degrees with the occasional flurry and we were out taking pictures all day. The guy working the desk at our hotel directed us to the mall, telling us "You can't get more Canadian than Roots." He told us to look for a toque.

This was the sort of mall that made you feel poor just by walking inside. "Authentic Canadian" must mean fooling the Americans. Before we found Roots we found Old Navy. Figuring they would be cheaper we steered that way. Right next to Old Navy was a store called Buck or Two.

Why not? We walked in, found hats right up front and bought two of them. Four bucks.

We found Roots, found the toques. Twenty-six dollars, each.

On our way out of the mall I noted my hat couldn't get any more American: Made in China.

Take that, desk clerk! You will not be getting any kickbacks tonight!

Sure, we're staying at the downtown Radisson, but we booked through an online discount site. We = Cheap.

We met some striking museum curators -- a noun and modifier that could lend itself to a great band name or a magazine layout. These nice, freezing folks were trying to get better wages and less contract labor in their field. Museum curators are important; these are being replaced, the woman said, by non-experts at a lower wage.

Not Canadian, but what can we do? They urged us to drop this note of protest in the mail to our representatives. My guy wasn't on the mailing list, what with him living in a different country, but I picked a good sturdy English name from a place I'd like to visit and dropped him a note in the local postal system. What else can we do? Not go to museums? Not a problem.

Museums charge for customers in Ottawa. You're a museum, public trust and all that. Your fellow countrymen are surely already paying for the place. Otherwise there seems to be a flaw in this logic. If the striking curators can depress attendance then the people they are arguing with can say "See? We don't need fancy, knowledgeable, expensive curators. Not that many people come here."

But I could be wrong.

Notre Dame Basilica

We also saw this beautiful church. It is acrosss the street from the art museum -- we didn't go -- with the giant spider on the corner. If they make a Night at the Museum III they should start with that. Creepy.

We saw black squirrels, the famous canal from which all of Ottawa sprang, Quebec on the other side of the river and some very nice, funky shops. We had lunch at a deli that housed three tables and two old French-Canadians slicing up meat. For dinner we tried Carmello's and met a nice lady who brought us decent Italian.

I know, I know. We're eating Thai and Italian. Anyone know the culinary tastes of central Canada? Me either.

The Yankee is working on her presentation, which is tomorrow. After that we'll have another adventure. Tomorrow it'll be a bit warmer, so we'll only look twice as silly in big coats.

We've decided we like this conference. At the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport you can only submit two papers, and you can only present one of those. Instead of the usual two or four items this rule makes you be a bit more passive, watch a few things, try a few more sessions, be a tourist. I like that.

(Also, this conference next year is in San Diego so, yes, we'll be submitting again.)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

It is cold enough in Canada to wear a long coat. So as The Yankee and I walked to the conference hotel -- we're staying about two blocks away -- we looked sharp and professional in power clothes and long wool coats.

Of course all the Canadians were laughing at us. It wasn't quite that cold.

Oh, it was chilly, but not cold. Of course it was in the mid-70s when we left home yesterday. Forty-degree temperature swings make it feel cold. This is the first real chill of the year for us. Long, hot summers make it hard to guess on what will feel cold when winter finally comes.

The Canadians laughed. Or snickered. They are too nice to laugh -- everyone in Ottawa that we've meet is unfailingly polite -- but it snowed today. Or flurried at least.

I sat in the lobby of the hotel and reworked, once again, my presentation. With the paper in hand yesterday I typed up all of my notes on the plane. Then the computer crashed when we got settled in our room. So, I decided to present from my very scribbled upon notes. Rehearsing the thing in my head I realized This is far too long.

So I cut stuff. When we made it into the actual session we learned that one of the presenters was not there because of an illness. So we had more time. Now I'll be short. Terrific.

The first guy presents, a critical piece somehow comparing Michael Phelps' marijuana problems and Joakim Noah's similar issue. It was an interesting idea, but I got lost in the details of what he was trying to argue.

The next presenter was a lady who presented a critical analysis of an episode of Boondocks. I'm not sure which episode -- I've read the strip, until it became formulaic, but never seen the show. The presentation was interesting insofar as I understood what was going on.

And then I presented the paper The Yankee and I worked on. By now I feel as if someone has thrown us into the wrong group. Those were qualitative papers in every sense. Ours was purely quantitative. We're dealing with numbers here.

So I explain the literature: News media typically has a disparity in its sports coverage, of course, white males get the most coverage and everyone else comes in a distant second. You can see a trend in recent years of that inequity shrinking, but it is still there. You'll also find it in college media, but to a lesser degree. Hence our paper. We looked at the college newspaper websites of 10 of the 12 schools from the Southeastern Conference.

The results: There's still a gender disparity (and a racial one as well). Football, of course, overwhelmingly gets the most coverage. Men's basketball is second in coverage. Women's basketball and baseball are closely grouped together. Stories are a tiny bit longer on men's athletics. Photos are a bit bigger as well. The numbers seem to keep with the recent trend that sees the gap closing. The so-called Olympic sports have a dearth of coverage.

The most interesting element to the research, to me, was in seeing twice as many stories on men's basketball compared to the women's game. Last year six women's teams from the conference advanced to the NCAA tournament, three men's teams did so. Twice as many teams were successful, half as many stories to cover it.

So we say the gap is still there, but we agree with research of others who see the inequity improving. We noted that the discrepancies are seen to a lesser degree from college outlets. We argue that it won't go away from professional news outlets, where the bottom line is so critical, without a big shift on the sociocultural level. If there are shifts, then, we concluded that if the probleem is ever corrected it'll be first seen in college media which has better reason to cover all of their sports, and probably online where bites and bits are cheap and the only limitation is reporter-power.

I got several nice questions. As always, I'm never sure if that is because I left something out or because the audience found the topic interesting.

We had lunch at a little place called Palermo Cafe and Deli. Light food, healthy choices, hot soup and delicious bread. Can't go wrong. When in Ottawa, look them up.

Back at the conference there were more sessions. The Yankee, who's more interested in the sports side of research, checked out a few of them. I spent most of the afternoon reading and engaged in the fruitless effort of approaching that zen-like place of being caught up. I knew it once, I will have to become acquainted with it again.

In our spacious room at the Raddison, just two blocks from the conference, we ironed more clothes and The Yankee worked on her upcoming presentation. I sampled the local cable offerings, watched news from Fort Hood and was otherwise surprised by the amount of American television that was available.

We walked down to the lobby and asked the guy at the desk about our dinner options. The hotel had a Tex-Mex restaurant attached. No thanks.

There was an Italian restaurant that all the tourists liked. There was a rib place and the best Thai in town.

Would you like to try some Canadian ribs? I asked The Yankee.


We'll just wait until we get back home for ribs, I told the nice guy at the hotel desk.

"Where's home?"

Alabama. They know from ribs.

"You don't want ribs, then."

So he sent us to the Thai place, Green Papaya. It was a few blocks down, cozy with rich wood paneled walls and warm golden light. They tucked us away in our own little corner in the front window.

The place was quiet (and a bit slow, which was unfortunate for two starving souls) but the food was delicious. The Yankee had a roasted cashew chicken dish and I enjoyed a Thai chili and basil. Definitely worth trying.

So the evening moved slowly. We had no where to rush off to, no one calling (the phones are off because international rates are cost prohibitive. We sat and talked and told jokes and acted like we had no burdens of hectic schedules. It has been a while since we've had that simple little pleasure and it was a welcome feeling.

We ran into two guys who were in my presentation this morning. They remembered the topic and my name. (This doesn't often happen.) I guess it was an interesting discussion then.

Tomorrow we're going to be tourists. It will be cold (Canada in November, who knew?), so we'll be bundled up tourists. It'll be fun.

Hope your day is fun as well!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Watched V last night. The new miniseries that is. It looks like a conservative cautionary tale about lizards from space. There will probably be a great deal of talk about the themes online, which makes you wonder how the original V series would have been received if we'd all been chatting on the Internet in 1983.

I watched it then, as a child. I only remember it being greatly shocking that there was a lizard under that skin. As a child, I knew it was a fantastic twist. I did not see the Nazi symbolism. I was six.

Watching the original this weekend I picked up on that theme. I found myself a little bored with the show, actually, probably that's more of a testament to modern television sensibilities. Mostly I found myself thinking This made 40 years of Nazi rhetoric. Are we going to have another four decades of Middle Eastern/George Bush rhetoric in our television viewing?

Did you notice the faux-website they used near the beginning of the show? I'd link to it, but there's nothing at that URL. How does that happen in a time of viral marketing and fan extras? Somebody dropped the ball there. Makes you wonder if they have lizard under their skin.

Why is V inferior to Battlestar? It took V 47 minutes to mention a terrorist. It took a few seconds for BSG to have Armageddon.

Did you see Auburn safety Zac Etheridge's injury Saturday? My friend Brian and I were there. Frightening moment, really. He was still for so long and everyone in Jordan-Hare Stadium was trying to get whatever information we could via friends at home watching television or listening to the radio. We saw him raise his hand to the students as they carted him off and that was the best news of the day. He'd been knocked out, temporarily paralyzed and before rolled him from the field no one had an idea, really.

I watched the game again Sunday and was terrified for the young man all over again. His head and neck were crunched into a teammate as they were moving in to make a tackle on an Ole Miss running back. I'll never watch it again. Today, though, Etheridge returned to the team. His season is done, perhaps his career, but he walked into the athletic department. Who cares about football?

We are in Canada. Ottawa, to be precise. The Yankee and I flew up tonight for a conference. I have a presentation tomorrow and she has one on Saturday. We made it here just in time to check in, iron clothes and fall into bed.

On the way up I read part of Jeff Jarvis' "What Would Google Do?" I'm going to do a book review of it, I believe. My former boss and all around good guy Ken Booth loaned me the book. I should read it fast. He loaned it to me while he was still reading it! See? Good guy.

So three or four chapters on the plane, a few magazines too. There I saw this ad, which makes no sense.

This is what I can tell you about Canada so far: Getting through customs in the middle of the night is easy, it is dark, taxis are expensive and our king size bed reservation equals two regular size beds. I know the dollar is down, but is it that bad?

Tomorrow: I present a paper on gender equity in college news coverage and The Yankee and I will behave a bit like tourists.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Today was a big presentation in the colloquium. It is intended to be like a conference presentation so students can get experience in that setting. Except it is nothing like a conference, really. It is like every other presentation you've ever had to give in a room full of people you know.

At conferences you know maybe one or two people in the room -- and there is a difference in how that plays with your mind -- and at conferences people are coming and going from the room throughout.

I've given my share of conference presentations. I was a broadcaster, a speech contestant, a big ham. I didn't need the experience as some might. I was, however, looking forward to the feedback from my program adviser. Unfortunately he had a meeting called at the last minute. The show must go on, so I did about 15 or 20 minutes off the slides you see here. I received several nice questions. Does that mean I wasn't thorough or that I was interesting?

The slides are generally in reference to literature and statistics that makes the argument that more research in this area should be done. This argument builds to my larger purpose, my dissertation.

They don't mean much on their own. If they did that would mean I was reading word-for-word from the PowerPoint. We giggle at people that do that.

After this there was more class and then back to Samford. The student-journalists should be putting together a paper ... only they are not. This is homecoming weekend. At homecoming the paper comes out on Friday.

I forgot about that.

That just frees up my time for other stuff. I need the time.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Another beautiful, brilliant day. Started, like so many others, in traffic.

I have an interstate interchange on my way into work. You exit to the right and then make a big sweeping 90-degree turn under several bridges to make the transition from 459 north to 65 north. Just before you join 65 you must encounter the traffic coming from 459 south who are all now also looking to join those making their way up 65.

The problem is that those people have a lane which ends, and so they must merge with my direction very quickly. One guy did it a bit too eagerly this morning, almost clipping a car in front of him, narrowly avoiding sideswiping me and barely missed out on swapping paint with still a third car.

People of this caliber and importance do not abide my the traditional traffic signals -- and by signals I mean here blinkers or hand gestures. So when I caught up to him I pulled up alongside and applauded.

The look was amazing. He knew exactly what he'd done and what I was doing and yet he still tried for this "What? Who me?" look. It was terrific. You should try it some time.

At work I have a mailbox in the copy room and someone put two Halloween candy corn Hershey's Kisses in my office mailbox. They tasted oddly like candy corn. That was delicious, for about two bites. So, whomever in the office sampled the goodies and ascertained that two pieces constituted the right dose, I applaud and thank you.

Two classes at Alabama today. In information technology and society we are in student-driven classes. We're each teaching a week (I go in two weeks). Today I walked in to hear this question "If you could take part in a process that allowed you to easily and painlessly change genders and then change back later, would you do it?"

What do you with that question? I mean, in an academic sense, how is someone supposed to handle that question in a reasonable way? I think we all failed.

In between classes I had a very nice "A-ha!" moment while working on a project that saved me half an hour. Why can't I find those more often? I actually had this moment while getting a hug from The Yankee. So ... I think we should do those more often, hon.

So I wrote on that right up until my second class of the evening. After class we rushed home, had a hasty dinner and I worked on tomorrow's PowerPoint presentation. I did this with the really weird Saints game on in the background. (The life of an academic is an exotic one, no doubt.)

I was asked why I said, on Twitter, that ChaCha is dead to me. ChaCha, the free (with advertising) SMS service gives you answers to questions. I asked it one tonight, it asked me to take a four question survey. That's an easy enough thing for an answer to one of the pressing questions of our time.

So I had to answer four questions. One at a time, meaning four text message questions, four answers. After eight text messages I was glad we have the unlimited option on the cell phone plane. The ninth text message said something to the effect of "You've used all of your allotment for ChaCha this month."

Only I haven't used ChaCha in months, had to give up demographic information for no reason and got lied to in the process. So ChaCha has taken the two things they had to offer -- answers and mobility -- and turned them into advertising without an actual service in return.

And people are noticing.

Now. To finish the stuff for tomorrow's presentation.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Bright, clear, sunny and mild day. It was fitting, then, that I've been inside all day writing.

There's a big presentation this week. Another one after that and then various other things that deserve some attention. So today I've been inside, staring outside and wondering why the last level of polish won't rub onto the first presentation.

I mean the thing has been more or less written for weeks, the ideas have all been bouncing around in my head -- where some actual productive work occasionally does occur -- all semester. The end has been the most difficult part. Tomorrow, when I do the slideshow, will be easy.

So there's not much else to talk about here, unless you want to read about that. You'll know all about it soon enough anyway.

In other clutter, if you didn't get enough of it yesterday, my friends at The War Eagle Reader have been compiling my game tweets into a column. They're calling me the Basho of the format. Basho was a great and famous haiku poet. Now TWER is full of smart, kind people, but I am none of those things.

I'm just happy they ran the Bear picture.

And while the clutter is minimal today, there is a plan in place to make it up to you. Last night The Yankee and I saw a preview for the new Twilight movie. She shushed me -- rather loudly, as I wasn't even saying anything at the moment -- and then she sighed and gasped. Then she replayed it on TiVo, in slow motion.

We're going to see it later this month when it opens. She isn't making me go, because she is awesome. I'm going so I can make fun of it. I'm doing this for you, Internet, in my dedication to contribute to the useful information you can find online on a daily basis.

Stuff like this:
Yesterday in Physics someone's phone went off to the tune of the Justice League. After the professor paused his lecture to acknowledge the phone, the kid answered his phone and replied, "The University is in trouble?! We're on our way!" The kid stood up, ripped off his t-shirt, revealed the Superman costume underneath, and exclaimed "Super Friends, Assemble!" Scattered across the class of about 150, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Green Lantern, and Flash all stood up and promptly left the class to save Auburn University.
We never had classes like that ...