Kenny Smith | blog

Thursday, December 31, 2009

I traditionally do a year in review piece in this space. This year, instead of text, I'm going to do it in pictures, with links to all of the photo galleries. Come back with me through an incredibly busy, hectic, trying, wonderful and rewarding year.

In January ...

I started work on my doctorate at the University of Alabama.

In February ...

I fought colds, sniffles, viruses, worked, went to school and watched a lot of gymnastics.

In March ...

I enjoyed my first Spring Break in nine years. I took a staycation.

In April ...

We took road trips to Norfolk, Va. for a conference and flew to Pennsylvania for a birthday party.

In May ...

We took a road trip to Chicago for another conference, staying with my folks to break up the driving.

In June ...

We got married in Savannah, Ga. The heat index was 128 degrees.

In July ...

I worked on nine hours of classes. Note the many pages of this project. I took on a second title at Samford.

In August ...

We attended a conference in Boston and celebrated my in-laws' 60th birthdays.

In September ...

I started my second year at Samford, my third semester at Bama and watched Auburn start 4-0.

In October ...

We perfected the football watch party. My semester also threatened to spin busily out of control.

In November ...

I lost my grandfather. We went to Ontario for a conference/mini-vacation.

In December ...

I had a big grandmother lunch (thanks Mom!), aced my classes and concluded the fall at Samford.

It was an incredible year, and 2010 is full of potential. In so much as this, the Arbitrarily Assigned Date of Annual Delineation, means a fresh start, I wish you the best of luck in making it the success you are seeking.

Also, make it a resolution to come back here often. The upcoming year may be 16 percent less busy on my end, which could mean three percent more content for you to enjoy.

See you next year!

"10 - 9 - 8 - 7 - 6 - 5 - 4 - 3 - 2 ... "

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Dunkin Donuts for breakfast. We met with Diving Coach Dan, who, coincidentally enough, is a diving coach. More specifically he was The Yankee's diving coach in college. He's a very nice guy and we always try to find a visit with him when we are up visiting.

My bagel -- of which I've recently been giving a proper regional education -- was OK, but not as good as the one I had at the corner diner last week, or as tasty as the ones at Tim Horton's in Ottawa in October. But it was fine enough.

A light breakfast was needed because we had lunch at Tutti's Ristorante. Of course food photography is challenging (I can't do it) and often a failure (I stopped trying) the pictures on that website are mouthwatering and I ate there today.

That was the big meal of the day because we're traveling. The TSA, which is a bunch of awesome, has enacted new rules, not specified in any way what they might be and has finally taken the advice I've been offering for years by spinning their inconsistencies as a defensive strategy.

Of course this is all happening during the post-holiday travel season. And the TSA, which is a bunch of awesome, has something they call a Wait Time Calculator (Fifteen percent of the time it is accurate 30 percent of the time!) is under construction.

And no one in the media is talking today about wait times at the local airports. So we decide to go early -- especially after receiving an automated call that says our flight has been canceled and our itinerary re-booked on a new flight -- just to be sure.

And while we'll miss the ball dropping at midnight -- that's deliberate, don't you know -- there are two bits of news from there today. There's a suspicious van parked in the area. (I have an alibi.) Before anyone can explain what constitutes a suspicious van -- why can't it just be confused, or misunderstood? -- the vehicle is cleared of any wrong doing.

Many barricades, police hours, robotic bomb sniffing machines and every precaution were taken and, happily, the van, which looked all narrow eyed and swarthy, checked out.

The clothes inside, however, were up to no good.

Second, we learned today through some proudly composed press release, that the =Times Square ball in use this year will be 78 percent more energy efficient. Turning the lights off would have been too obvious, as would be calling off the entire event and reducing the carbon footprint (or prime target of bad guys) altogether.

Yesterday's Dave Barry column is beginning to grow on me.

The one line of driver's license defense (TSA, making sure both bad guys and good guys have IDs since 2001!) was a humorous man. He was working at a choke point, which is to say everyone -- the expedited, medallion club red carpet business travelers and the rest of dirty unwashed masses as well -- must funnel through this one slot. Occasionally someone would thank him, or wish him a nice evening and you could see that he was genuinely pleased by the moment, which means it never happens, which means everyone secretly loathes the role his career has offered him.

Anyway, the guy that proves he's not a bad guy by virtue of holding a legal identification document just before me observes "It smells like pizza."

The TSA guy says "I smell a lot of things here, that ain't pizza."

Occupational hazard, eh? I say.

"You've no idea."

Everyone at LaGuardia is very nice, this guy included. A Delta employee wished me a happy new year out of the blue. Even as our flight was delayed, and delayed, and delayed, the people in airline uniforms were very patient and understanding and cordial. Some days it is harder than others, I'm sure.

We found out later that our flight, rescheduled because our original plane broke -- or was misplaced or sold to Yemen -- was late because the crew had worked all day, 11 hours so far, and had to take some time for dinner. You can't begrudge them that.

Even still, with our early arrival and long delays -- how long does it take three people to eat one meal, anyway? -- we could have driven to Virginia, or one third of the way home by the time we arrived in Birmingham. (I looked it up. We had the time.)

We managed to meet a very nice lady heading back to Tuscaloosa after their first trip to New York City. They watched four Broadway shows and saw everything on Manhattan in five days. It was a whirlwind tour, inspired by a nasty divorce and the opportunity to take a trip with her daughter, a senior in college.

With the delay I saw a great deal of news -- Charlie Sheen arrested! Rosie O'Donnell has a new girlfriend! -- and something that was actually important, courtesy of CNN: There will be a blue moon for New Year's Eve.

This was accorded a news update. Sorry, CNN, you were scooped by the Farmers Almanac on that one. Also NASA, the Mayans and the Aztecs had reporters out for that story.

A curious thing was happening at the airport, however. Everytime CNN cycled through to a TSA/terrorist/underwear story the channel was changed, mid-sentence, in favor of commercials. When the story was over it was changed back, mid-sentence, to whatever was on CNN's air. George Orwell is so proud.

We had it home just before 10 p.m. I hastily unpacked and found myself quickly and thoroughly ready for bed.

Tomorrow: the post-travel subconsciousness.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

"You should go outside and experience a real New England winter."

Later ...

"Did you go outside?"

Yes. For a minute.


Because you told me to.

The windchill is 13-degrees. The wind, this is not a breeze, is howling. It is a roaring, house-shifting, tree-bending, 43 mile-per-hour gusty, angry thing. I've been in massive straightline winds and in hurricane-strength winds and this one kind of intimidates me.

Did I mention it is a cold wind?

So I spent part of the day typing away. And another part editing photographs, refreshing the photo across the top of the blog and the picture on the home page as well. I believe that's the first black-and-white photograph I've placed there, but it looks snazzy.

My father-in-law and I also watched the Half Blood Prince:
Missed the last movie, but kept up. Is that good or bad?
Harry Potter is an easy, empty distraction to me. They have improved as the actors have grown, though there is not a lot of intrigue involved. Having never read the books I saw the big surprise coming from the first installment of the series. But, still, a nice way to spend a chilly afternoon.

Also watched enough local news to get my fill. You'd think that being the New York affiliate would mean something, but its a lot like any other local news product, just more annoying because it is in New York. In one segment a reporter used the expression "explosive Jihad Jockeys" and another tell a horribly lame joke and, in the same breath, tease a story on the death of a 12-year-old.

And we wonder why there's no respect for the profession, or any signs of audience growth. These aren't the only reasons, of course, but it is as good a place to start as any. Here's a tip: You're not Jon Stewart. Here's another one: Ask yourself "What would Uncle Walter do?"

It is as fitting a note as any on which to start the year-end business. Dave Barry, he of the absurd, artfully blends reality into comedy to the point where one is not recognizable from the other, making us all think "What the - !?":
But all of these stories suddenly seem unimportant in ...


... when pop superstar Michael Jackson dies, setting off an orgy of frowny-face TV-newsperson fake somberness the likes of which has not been seen since the Princess Diana Grief-a-Palooza. At one point experts estimate that the major networks are using the word the word "icon" a combined total of 850 times per hour. Larry King devotes several weeks to in-depth coverage of this story, during which he conducts what is believed to be the first-ever in-casket interview; this triumph is marred only slightly by the fact that the venerable TV personality apparently believes he is talking to Bette Midler.

On the economic front, California is caught on videotape attempting to shoplift 17,000 taxpayers from Nevada. General Motors files for bankruptcy and announces a new sales strategy under which it will go around at night leaving cars in people's driveways, then sprinting away.

In political news, the Minnesota Supreme Court, clearly exhausted by months of legal wrangling, declares Al Franken the winner of American Idol. Meanwhile the governor of South Carolina, Mark Sanford, goes missing for six days; his spokesperson tells the press that the governor is "hiking the Appalachian trail," which turns out to be a slang term meaning "engaging in acts of an explicitly non-gubernatorial nature with a woman in Argentina." The state legislature ultimately considers impeaching Sanford, but changes its mind upon discovering that the lieutenant governor, who got into office through some slick legal maneuvering when nobody was paying attention, is Eliot Spitzer.
So it was a bizarre year. Next year will be back with 34 percent more bizarreyness. The talking heads of cable news must be satiated!

Today ends easily enough. I'm trying to put all of my things back in luggage. It seems I did not consider, when packing for the trip, the possibility of returning home with more things than I departed. The modern Christmas dilemma.

Tomorrow: Fun with airports!

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Yankee and I at the tree at Rockefeller Center

We took the train and spent the day in New York City to see the windows and take in the sights. It was very cold and incredibly crowded. Incredibly crowded. Amazing-no-one-snapped-and-started-slugging-people crowded.

There are a few more pictures in the photo gallery.

Very brief cell phone videos of two Christmas windows can be found here and here.

More tomorrow, from cold and windy Connecticut.

(They are using the word Arctic, which sounds more imposing here than when they use it at home.)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Merry extra Christmas from Jersey

We ventured out for another family get-together today. This time with The Yankee's godparents' family. So there we are, with my in-laws, my godparents-in-law and their daughters.

I love this extended family in-law joke, but I won't wear it out here.

The family story is a great one. My father-in-law and the godfather are lifelong friends. My mother-in-law and the godmother went to school together. The godparents met at my in-laws wedding in the early 1970s and were married a few years later. My in-laws raised The Yankee and the godparents raised their daughters all together. Everyone in the room goes way, way back.

The little girl above is the first grandchild of the hosting godparents. This is her second Christmas, her first walking, and all still mildly confusing. To her way of thinking Santa is now coming every day.

She is a very smart girl.

She delivered the presents and entertained us all day. The godfather, yes, the godfather, made a homemade pasta. I've heard about this for years, and it was even better than advertised.

Also, I've learned something about my first Christmas up north. We should really have Christmas shrimp cocktail in the south as well. We're missing out on that one.

We sat around late into the night listening to old tales about growing up in the 50s and 60s. There has been quite a bit of this the last few nights and it has been delightful. I somehow doubt that my stories, in three decades, will compare.

If I remember them at all.

It was a great trip for the day. The best presents were Lane's little pink work boots and an unexpected gift that The Yankee and I received. It is a family tradition to have a decorative hearth crock with your family name. My in-laws have one, the godparents have one, and so on. Today we received ours.

Can't wait to have it shipped home and put on display.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

If you have a moment, and are inclined to do so, we'd appreciate a prayer for my 91-year-old great-great-aunt. Normally I wouldn't say anything about this sort of thing in this space, but the timing and the story of it are pretty sad.

Agnes was home alone last night working on Christmas quilts when her home caught fire. She managed to get out of the house, grabbed envelopes with gift money and apparently pulled two cars out of the garage. Everything else, they say, may be lost.

She has some burns and a serious bout of smoke inhalation. She was stabilized at a local facility and moved to Birmingham, where she is getting the very best care, but because of her age and pre-existing conditions, this could be a tough battle for her.

She lives in a community where everyone knows everyone. She goes to church with the police chief that answered the call. It would not be surprising to later learn that one or two other relatives worked the fire. Her grandson-in-law saw the smoke from his house. Not far away her son, my great-uncle, was spending his evening playing board games with his grandkids and had pronounced this the best Christmas ever, just before receiving the call.

(Now if you'll pardon me for a moment.)

I'm sorry to bum you out with that. She's a nice lady in a tough spot. When she makes it out of the hospital I'll come back to this and we're going to shamelessly beg to help her out a little bit. That's because of the greatness of my friends and readers who, reading about this on Twitter and Facebook have dedicated their generosity in advance.

In short: You rock, you're going to get to prove it again soon, but for now we'll take a few prayers.

The rest of the day pales in comparison to that. We watched news on the Detroit airplane and wondered what they will mean as we must now needlessly overreact. We saved a computer from a Trojan attack. We were surprised to see Urban Meyer is leaving Florida.

We ate at Pepe's Pizzeria. Six of us tore through three giant pies. Food pictures seldom look as appetizing as the real thing, pizza even more so. These, however, are the best pizzas I've ever tasted. I had my first one in August and this was the first place I wanted to have again when we made our holiday plans.

Oh, here's the after. Everyone else quit and left me the last four pieces, during which I had to explain to one of my Connecticut by way of New York friends that pizza at home is not the cultural expression it is here. I offered to host him, teach him about barbecue, country cooking, meat-and-threes and soul food. I did this over pizza and didn't even miss those places (for the moment). I believe I could eat there all day. But who am I kidding, I could eat any of those all day.

That's it for today. Tomorrow there will be more family holiday fun. I hope you're enjoying the same. Hold 'em tight and let go of those hugs with a smile.

And they would really appreciate it if you could take just a second to think of Agnes and her family.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas! I hope your holiday is rich in the things that really matter!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Turns out there were a few more Christmas presents to buy. We discovered a need for a last-minute DVD, which sent us initially to Borders. Fortunately they were out -- average price per DVD: $30.

So we tried the People's Republic of Walmart, where the DVD, in one of three versions, we splurged for the deluxe version. Details are not available because the gift recipient may find their way here before tomorrow.

This experience shows just how spoiled we've become by Amazon's prices. If only I'd known about this DVD three days ago I would have saved 44 percent!

At CVS we picked up drugs and stocking stuffers. I saw the headline $71 million doesn't go far. Here's the story from The Wilton Bulletin. The headline is a bizarre departure from journalism. Someone's just apologizing for the local bureaucrats and how they're using the taxpayer's money. The story, your basic local government struggling with a budget piece, is fine. The headline is an embarrassment.

We stopped at the local grocery store to round out the Christmas menu. Everyone had this idea. The front parking lot was full. The back lot was packed. The other back lot had one spot. We fought three soccer moms for the space. With the 2-on-1 advantage at fisticuffs, we finally won the day.

We celebrated by playing in the snow.

Later we visited a Christmas party that was just getting under way. These were former neighbors and family friends of The Yankee's parents. The family grew too big, they had to find a new neighborhood. And they were all at this party. It was exactly like every big family Christmas movie you've seen the last few years -- most of them starring Diane Keaton, or someone thereabouts. The part that was the Steve Martin, pater familias, was a gentleman who'd lived for two years in Atlanta while working at Georgia Tech. For whatever reason we struck up a long conversation, he told me I have the best mother-in-law (I do) and a great wife (I do).

It was loud. And then a round of Italian bingo began. It was boisterous. Beautiful little girls wearing crisply prepared dresses were constantly offering appetizers. A surgeon was opening clams or oysters or whatever. I wanted to do it for him; it seemed a dangerous career move on his part. There were at least 39 people in the room. Precocious kids were swirling in chaotic orbits.

It was great.

Now, we're readying presents for tomorrow. This is a nearly all-night effort.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Yankee and Paige

More Christmas shopping today. I met the woman who cut The Yankee's hair as a child. She was a little ball of energy.

I called a store to verify they still existed before making a special trip. They answered the phone "Happy Holidays, gorgeous ... " I'm going to call them every day.

We shopped the day away, and more gifts were shipped through the miracle of UPS. I believe that means all of the Christmas errands have been purchased. Here, I bought this for you. Pardon my wrapping.

On the way to dinner with our friend and photographer Paige I finally heard the song Dominick the Donkey. It is a New England staple, I'm told. While I could have found it online some time ago, it just seemed best to let it happen naturally. It seems that the reindeer can't climb the mountains of Italy and Rudolph doesn't work for scale. Enter Dominick to save the day for all the boys and girls. The Yankee, it should be known, is famous for mangling lyrics. But she knows every word to this song.

Later I found a fan video, which is just as hokey as you want it to be for such a song. Watch it twice and the song will never leave your head.

We had dinner at Archie Moore's local chain boasting the best wings in Connecticut. They make a strong case, especially since they were cheaper than the menu listed.

Paige is great. She shot our engagement pictures last year in 17 degrees and snow and our wedding this summer in 128 degrees. As soon as we invent some other weather extreme she'll be there to shoot an event for that as well.

Since and obligatory plug: If you're in need of a photographer in Connecticut, PH Photography is for you.

Tomorrow, Christmas Eve!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Yankee and Melissa

Cold, but snowy and bright. The Yankee and I ran Christmas errands today. Picking up presents for this person here, gift cards for that person there. One must be vague about these things, just in case the wrong person runs across the details before the big day.

I made this mistake four or five years ago and I still hear about it.

(I know what you're getting for Christmas, Elizabeth ... )


The Yankee and I met our friend, Melissa, for dinner at a little Mexican joint. They had sweet tea. In Connecticut.

Melissa is an old friend of The Yankee's, she is working on her doctorate in the Midwest. That's a shame. She's sweet and smart and funny and too far away for us to regularly visit.

Take 'em where you can get 'em. That's what the holidays are (sometimes) about. There are parades of people moving in and out of your day, you moving in and out of other people's living rooms, shuttling yourself about with cheer. You wish you could stay longer and visit more, but there's another place to be, another group to hug.

This is why I'm a big proponent of the holiday that has no traditions -- not even an airing of grievances -- but only visiting. It'd save time and money on shopping, wrapping and returning of gifts. You'd get straight to the substance that matters: People.

We'll be pulling this holiday together soon. We need only a name and a date.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Snow over the Hudson River (cell phone picture)

I was supposed to travel last night, but the great December blizzard up the east coast closed most everything. LaGuardia was shut down and a Plan B had to be found.

Meanwhile The Yankee was sending me updates from her parents home. There was no storm for a long time, but hours after it was to have started the sky dropped a pleasantly furious amount of snow.

There was 12 inches in six hours in Connecticut. Twenty-two inches a few hours to the south in coastal New Jersey. Mountains to the north were flattened by powder. New York City got a manageable snow fall, but everyone seemed stunned by the size, location and slow pace of the snow storm.

So instead of landing last night I woke up first thing this morning, caught a miracle and boarded the first flight out of town and flew safely into New York.

It isn't exactly fair. I arrived to find all of the snow already here, when I would much rather be here to see what 12 inches in six hours looks like. At least it is here to see. The snow will be around for a few days -- "warm temperatures" and rain are in the forecast around Christmas -- and the roads are still passable. We'd be shut down for a week from a snow like this at home. Here the roads are ridiculously clean.

Today was mostly travel and seeing the snow. I did learn that if you ask for two of everything on a Delta flight you get two packages of peanuts, pretzels and cookies. You can also get a refill if you play your cards right. If I had 643 more I might be able to recoup the cost of the ticket.

Got off the plane to learn that government, in its eminent wisdom, will now limit the amount of time airlines can hold you captive on a tarmac. Three hours is the new federally mandated limit. It is remarkable that it took this long for a policy to be put in place. It is not surprising how the flacks came out with this new rule to reassure us "This sort of thing hardly almost seldom ever happens, you never even hear of it, no." The comments I'm getting on Facebook would disagree.

No one involved in this policy has ever been stuck on a plane. Ever.

All of it just makes you loathe air travel.

I was introduced to Taylor ham today. I didn't know it until later, but it is a popular regional treat. Straight off the grill, put together with melted cheese, a fresh egg and bagel it is a delicious lunch. I'll have to have that again. Dinner was a big Italian meal with family and new friends.

The rest of the week will be filled with errands and visiting as we rush toward the holiday. Should be a blur. A big, cold, snow-filled blur. And lots of fun.

Hope your week is shaping up nicely as well!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A special, belated-birthday treat this afternoon. After church I picked up one of my grandmothers and met more family for a birthday lunch.

Today I got to visit with three of my grandmothers at the same time. (I still have four grandmothers.)

Three in one room ties a personal best, but that hasn't been done in years. As a very young child, before I could appreciate how cool it was, I could have my grandmother (on the right in this picture), her mother-in-law (center) and her mother in together.

Four is a great number when you consider the importance of grandmothers. I have memories of three more, which just proves how rich I've been in grandmothers.

Perhaps never more so than today. Getting three important people so rarely together in one place is a terrific birthday gift.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

He was a Georgia boy who flew transports in the Pacific during World War II. He was preparing to drop the first paratroopers into Japan when the atomic bombs were dropped.

He flew fighters in Korea, as seen here. He helped experiment with the world's first in-flight refueling tests.

He flew Adlai Stevenson as he campaigned for the White House. He flew for Eddie Richenbacher. He's a magician, a ventriloquist, a SCUBA diver, a jazz musician.

We interviewed Ed Congdon for more than two hours today, and I can't wait to share the entire project when the editing is finished.

Now I'm with family as the holidays begin. I hope yours are wonderful.

See you tomorrow!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Spent three hours or so on the phone with Kelly, which just goes to show what happens when you don't talk to someone for too long, you end up talking to them for a long time.

During that time, however, I got keys made, bought a few frames, got stuck in the traffic you'd see under a sign for government bailouts. Or Christmas shopping, whichever.

I managed to get a haircut, despite the crush of humanity who should all be at work, really. The lady that cut my hair smelled of Marlboro and had a voice gruff with three too many bourbons. I really hope the haircut turns into a job poorly done. I'd hate to have to go back and ask for her. I did learn all about her father, who buys three of everything, including flat screen televisions. None of them are for me, so I'm not sure why they came up, other than we could relate to one another on the front of Christmas shopping for people with everything.

Odds are you can relate to that too. This just suggests our present-buying has grown misplaced. We should all join together and buy for others. The Yankee and I do some of that. Kelly also does things like this. Lots of people do, in fact, and they all have my great admiration. We should all do it more.

So don't buy me anything; I've already got stuff.

That being said, I wouldn't mind finding a few extra bucks to stimulate my holiday economy. This Christmas is too big to fail!

I spent the evening finishing up the details for the big oral history project. We're taping that tomorrow.

Had dinner at the Homewood Jim N' Nick's, where I took The Yankee five years ago this week for our first lunch. I offered, she hedged, I pointed out that it was Friday and that Friday was Pie Day. She said yes, the tradition began and now includes a rotating party of dozens.

Oddly enough I stole the Pie Day slogan from a waitress at Johnny Ray's, which is a barbecue competitor of Jim N' Nick's. One afternoon five years ago Justin, Ken and I visited Johnny Ray's for lunch and the waitress used that line. My former colleagues and I visited the Johnny Ray's on Valley and the waitress used that line. So impressed with her logic, or perhaps it was the rhyme, that she should three slices of pie that day.

A few weeks later I used it on my classmate who would become my best friend and, this summer, my wife. And this is one of the little things that contributes to the later directions of your life.

She wasn't there, of course. She's already in New England. Joel Chandler Harris was there, however. I'm not sure how I feel about this book. It is bordering on biography, which I prefer, and literature review, which I read enough during the school year, thank you. But, still, it is a 19th Century southern writer that inspired generations and is an important read. Meaning I'm skimming some of the lit review.

Back to campus after that, because I realized there was a project I wanted to address. So it is 8:30 or 9 p.m. and I'm on campus on the Friday after graduation and there's not a soul around, except for the campus safety people who are wondering suddenly why I'm around. But it is possible that I'll have a few free minutes during the holiday and I'll want to build a particular web page. I'll just need the photographs with which to do it.

And, now, home again. I should be packing. Or cleaning. Or ... something. Instead I'm going through my old photographs. It can safely be assumed that I am in full procrastination mode. But I'm learning something important from these old pictures. It took me forever to master the concept of shutter speed. This is a bit embarrassing to say out loud, but I'm much better now. And, more importantly, I'll remember this in the spring the next time I work with the campus paper's photographers.

Now I'm going to watch the last four episodes of the first season of Deadwood, which has been fantastic so far. I'll wrap the season tonight, full of ornately constructed ways to insult in a complimentary way. I'll never have the opportunity to use these sentence structures, and they'll promptly be forgotten by tomorrow, of course, but it is nice to know they're out there.

Tomorrow: The oral history of a World War II pilot, begin the holidays.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

This is another installment in the Should Be Christmas Shopping, Or At Least Running Errands, Chronicles. When the editors get hold of it the title will be punched up a bit, not to worry.

Apologies, I don't have the energy or enthusiasm for the crowds just now. Some of you are enjoying yourselves with the shopping and I applaud you for helping prop up a shaky economic model. Others find no joy in the process and are yet grimly out there carrying out their holiday shopping responsibilities. And you, sir or ma'am, are holiday heroes. There's no two ways about it.

I figure I'll be motivated eventually to finish the shopping chores, and I'll do it then. There are two things working for me at least: My family announced that there will be no major Christmas this year (I've been pleading for this for years) and I am broke. So the shopping will be kept to a minimal.

First off, the question we all ask -- and for which some people through themselves over the rail from the upper levels of the mall to the retail floor below -- "What do you get the person that has everything?" I ask "Why are we shopping for this person." To my way of thinking this is an exercise in purchasing things for people who either A.) Have more purchasing power than I do B.) Have accumulated everything they really want/need in their assorted years or C.) Both.

All of that happens while your family, in truth, just really wants to see you anyway. So the kids are getting Christmas presents. The rest of us will buy for our closest family members. The extended folks will just get a nice hug. That's a good Christmas.

So I have to shop less, which suits me, and also de-motivates me.

Started watching Deadwood last night. I picked up the first season at the library last week and have to return it Saturday, so I watched the first four episodes last night. There's nothing new I can add to this show, other than to say that to get ahead, then as now, one must have will power. Henchmen help too. Direct lines of colorful communication, so that no one gets lost in the nuance of your syntax, is a big help too.

We will later learn that not all that is bad is bad. Only the Native American Indians, dirt worshipers they are called, are bad. Only then because this is told from Al Swearengen's point of view. Everyone else is tolerated, useful or quickly dispatched from the living realm.

One thing HBO's television series do well that networks do not is define their characters quickly. This is historical fiction and those roles that aren't based in reality, like Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane, are often composite characters. Even those fictional constructs aren't going to change. In just four episodes you know who everyone here is, you've quickly learned what they're capable of -- the profiteering saloon owner, the prostitute with a heart of gold, the moody former marshall, they all have clear paths. If anything, Swearengen has to change the most, but that will be more texture than change. The creative types surely didn't mess up the formula.

It's a good show so far -- I'll watch the middle third of the first season tonight -- but the language is ripe and there is no squeamishness in showing the hard and tough characters that populate the town. But these were not easy places to live, either. I find myself wondering where all of Swearengen's money goes when Old West trends toward Modern American Suburb. Does his become a revered family name down through the ages? There'd be a Swearengen Boulevard today, and the family would have a great deal of respect and land, thanks to the hard-dealing days of yore, carefully and thankfully forgotten.

The best part of the series, already, is the way the people talk to one another. Not the profanity itself, but the colorful treatment of the language. I find myself wanting to make notes so that I can repeat the sentences. (This is what I'm doing with my break from school, apparently.)

With the Yankee out of town I'm dining on my own. I wanted a burger and figured I'd give Five Guys Burgers and Fries a second try. It could be that the place in Tuscaloosa was having a bad day on the first experience. Perhaps my taste buds were funky that afternoon. Everyone raves about the place, it must deserve a second chance.

There's one in our neighborhood, so I ventured out with my book on Joel Chandler Harris and settled in for a quick dinner. The guy at the counter was very nice, enthusiastic, fast and accurate with my order. I grabbed my drink, found an empty table, one of those elevated jobs that look silly with only one occupant and waited for my meal.

I read for a few minutes, my order was called and I grabbed the no-frills paper bag. You're surrounded in the restaurant by their own propaganda. Every good quote from every paper that's ever written about the place has been smeared in red ink across signs in the restaurant. You know you're in the presence of greatness when the Dublin Dispatch has declared it so.

The fries, which are capable of feeding a small eastern European nation, are good enough. The burger is just very average. Not bad. Just not ... good. Same as the last time. So I'm only left to ask one question.

Where have all of you been eating burgers that this is good?

Look up a Cheeburger Cheeburger near you to know what these things are supposed to taste like.

Stopped by the People's Republic of Walmart to pick up a few things, but I learned that you can't have a key made there after 8 p.m. tomorrow. So I'll go back tomorrow. Terrific.

Made it home in time to see the last half-hour of Karate Kid III. The resolution of this movie escaped me entirely, which means I had to watch it. I sat down just as the big confrontation took place at the dojo and quickly realized why I'd forgotten this movie. It isn't very good. Apparently there's a new Karate Kid in the making, with Jaden Smith (who will unfairly forever be known as Will Smith's son) playing the Danielesque role. The mentor will not be Mr. Miyagi, of course, as Pat Morita has long since left us. Jackie Chan will play Mr. Han.

It can't be as good as the original, now 25 years old. The movies of our youth are now a quarter-century old. How did that happen, exactly?

And while III was an unfortunate film, this sequence was easily the best in the entire Karate Kid series.

If you don't get chills when he says "You stay focus!" you've never had to beat up a bully in a karate tournament after your mother has moved you cross-country against your teen-angsty will.

Oh wait. That never happened to me either.

Back to Deadwood, then. And then, tomorrow, more errands, more shopping. One more week in the silly season.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Grades are in. Checked for them this afternoon -- I slept in -- and found a very pleasant surprise.

As I obsessed over it here far too often, you might recall that I had 11 hours this semester. There were two one-hour pass/fail classes. I passed those two -- one of them was easy and the other should have been, but was disproportionately ridiculous.

That's two hours, leaving three, three-hour classes. I earned an A in research methods, an A in my theory class and an A in info tech and society. Straight A's, woohoo!

This in a semester where I lost my grandfather, took care of The Yankee, took on a second job at Samford, left the country once for a conference and spent another weekend up north. In the process I managed to build the foundation of my dissertation as well. This was a busy semester. I came to look at it as a great relief just to finish it. I'd never really thought about the grades. I'm more than pleased that it all turned out so well.

Now pardon me while I do a few cartwheels.

Cleaned the office today. Several boxes of things, having not been used in the last several months, were moved to storage. The office closet was reorganized, redistributed stuff on shelves and consolidated the things on the ground.

This regained six cubic feet of space. This room was quickly filled by more stuff.

With boxes of things moved from the room, the stuff that will be useful to upcoming projects has been stored in my desk. The bookshelves are stuffed to overfilling with textbooks and notebooks. The things that have to be placed elsewhere are now in orbit of the desk. The clutter is diminishing.

Now I'm going to spend some time in Deadwood. I have a dozen episodes to watch and three nights to see them. More tomorrow.

I got A's!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Took The Yankee to the airport this morning. The timing was such that I drove with the rush-hour traffic from south of town to the airport just north of downtown. On the return I drove with rush-hour traffic again, this time from the airport north of downtown back toward home.

(I am fortunate in my work and routines of life to rarely have to drive with a lot of traffic. It is always a bit disconcerting to move so slowly on the interstate.)

Anyway, she's spending a few extra days with her family over the holiday, which means I'm a bachelor again! So naturally, this evening, I found myself waking up from a two-hour nap I hadn't anticipated taking. Hardly Tiger Woods, I know.

Visited the UAB library on my way home. They had a book I wanted to glance through for a family research project. This being the semester break, and being first thing in the morning during a semester break, the library was dead.

Much like the computers. This note was on each computer. There are a few other machines in out-of-the-way places, but they now require a log-in. Apparently UAB has recently shut down my access -- I only graduated from there three-and-a-half years ago -- and so I was out of luck.

Naturally I fussed about this on Twitter, lamenting the absence of a card catalog anywhere. Someone at the library must have been listening. By the time I left the signs on the computers were updated with a new, pink version that italicized temporarily and noted access for students and faculty could still be found elsewhere.

As I tried to access the library's online catalog on my phone -- no easy proposition, mind you -- a very nice librarian offered to help. He found the book on his computer -- explained the library was renovating, so we can blame my bad timing for the problems.

He gave me the catalog number for the book and then stopped just short of telling me how to push the elevator call button in order to find the book. Yes, I had noticed that each row of shelves had a little sign on each end, noting what was contained therein.

Finally found the book. It was not properly shelved, which didn't surprise me at all. The book did not have what I'd hoped to find, which means Plan C has been promoted to Plan B, which will soon mean more time at a different library, which means more librarians. (They frighten me.)

Tried to do a bit of Christmas shopping today, but I quickly found I wasn't in the mood. So I put that on hold for a day or so.

I did do a little work around the house today, including the un-fun stuff like laundry and dishes. Tomorrow I'll do some more slightly intensive housework. Anything to keep from Christmas shopping.

And now, after a long and ill-timed nap, I'll be up half the night.

Monday, December 14, 2009

One day the sky will be blue again. Call it a feeling. Not that there's any empirical data, observed trend or anything rock-solid in the forecast, but I figure the law of averages has to win out. Blue skies will return one day.

The gray skies are charming for four or five seconds, but they just hang there, settling over us in a slow, weighty, way. The only place we didn't see fog this morning was on the leeward side of Shades Mountain. In the valley, there, you could see for miles. Or about a mile, until the road turned and we exited for a new direction. It seemed like miles after three days of clouds, drizzle and rain.

The National Weather Service says it was clear Friday. I'm going to take their word for it, I'm drawing a blank. I blame the fog.

The Yankee and I managed to get a bit of Christmas shopping finished. We visited one bookstore which is no more -- in fact the entire strip mall the place was located had disappeared. This is what happens when you don't shop somewhere enough, I guess.

From the roadway it looks like a child missing a tooth. There's a hobby store here, a pet store next to that, a big empty spot and then, down the way, a restaurant that survived the wrecking crew. It'll probably be a decade before anyone tries to replace the rock lot with something more useful.

So we visited another bookstore, which did not have what we sought. So we tried another small specialty bookstore, one we've visited before with great success. We had a bit more there today. And then we tried one more specialty store where we struck gold. But not real gold, I had to use my plastic.

With that, though, the good cause shopping -- the best we do every year -- was completed. Now we have to buy for everyone else, which includes a long list of people of people who have everything.

So I bought a few of those this evening. One or two people read the blog, so mums' the word.

Now the hard part, everyone else. What do they want? And who should be on the list? I've heard there is a reduced family Christmas this year. I wonder what that's supposed to mean. More to the point: I wonder how many people I'll overlook that I shouldn't.

Such are the joys of the holidays. Bring on January.

The new ornaments arrived today. Each year I make new ones for The Yankee from pictures of the year. We have a miniature tree up this year and the new ornaments are threatening to overwhelm the thing. But the new ornaments celebrate the engagement and the wedding and, together with the older ones, tell a nice story.

I order them from Cafepress every year, and every year I get this brief panic in November. What if they don't make those ornaments any more?

They still have them, and the prices have increased. You can order custom-made ornaments for $13, or create a new "store" and make your own for $6 each. So I made new stores, placed my (cheaper) order and found that even with expedited shipping I could come out ahead.

If all of shopping were that easy.

Also, I'm now accepting applications for a personal shopper ...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

I have an owie. This morning I rolled off the bed -- which has handsomely decorative runners along the side. The ungraceful fall allowed me to grind my shin directly across the bed frame, dragging my entire weight across a one inch piece of wood.

There is an indentation in my shin right now. The bruising is coming along nicely.

It isn't a debilitating injury. For the first little while it was painful and then got worse. It is persistently noticeable, though, and I just thought I'd point out the limp.

The moral to that story is, when falling, just fall. This isn't driving; don't steer into the skid, don't roll to the floor.

This advice comes from experience. I fell out of a hotel bed in Canada in October. We had a sleep number bed which, as far as we could tell, was a remote-controlled air bladder. We filled it and emptied it over and over to find just the right sleep number. At one point she got onto the bed, which pushed the air under myside of the mattress and me almost-airborne. I landed on the floor, laughing. That hurt far less than this experience today.

(In the process realized we didn't care for the system, too many numbers.)

So my shin hurts, just a nicely familiar throbbing.

Visited the library this afternoon. The Yankee picked up a few books for holiday reading. I found a few DVDs to watch.

Took a nap. Dozed off on a gray afternoon and woke up to a darkening night. We fetched Chinese food for dinner, visited with a friend and have now nicely wrapped up the weekend.

And also, my shin hurts.

Notably absent in this Sunday post is the summation of what must be done for school in the following week. It is all done. (Big smile!)

Tomorrow: stuff will get done. I'll go to the gym and another productive week -- of one sort or another -- will begin.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

I'd be embarrassed to tell you what I did today, and it wouldn't take long, because it wasn't much.

Started out by sleeping in. We have a new foam mattress thing that reduced the morning aches and pains by 57 percent. With improvement like that, and a cold, rainy, ice pellet kind of morning it was a recipe to sleep in. The rest of the morning continued apace.

Watched the Army-Navy game, where the vignettes are second only to the alma maters at the end. This year's game featured the best Army-Navy vignette I've seen, where a Navy mother cheered on her son while doing push ups. "Go Navy!" Down. "Beat Army!" Up. Outstanding.

There's also the march on (where you will never be so humbled in a sports venue) and the national anthem (where you may never be so moved).

After that, an evening on the sofa with The Yankee. She made a delicious chicken parmesan, which is one of my favorite of her dishes. We spent the rest of the night sitting quietly, reading, watching TV and listening to the world go by.

Nice way to spend a Saturday night.

Maybe, on Monday, I'll be productive again.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Some days are colder than others. And some days the temperature doesn't adequately express the cold. Had you told me, as I took this picture, that it was 40 degrees I would have argued the point with you.

Of course I was laying on 4o-degree cement at the time.

This is an ornament on the Christmas tree at Samford University. In the background of this self-portrait are Reid Chapel (on the left) and the Davis Library (on the right). The buildings are at right angles of one another and about halfway across the quad. I'm guessing, then, that this is one of the few pictures in which both buildings can be seen simultaneously.

That there are no details rests purely on ornament and not the photographer. Some of those ornaments have seen better days. One or two of the giant globes are busted. At least a few are just resting on branches, others have rusted hooks. There are plastic bells and they look good, but the sun -- which refused to appear today -- has taken their toll on the old ornaments. There are shiny, plastic faux-lace bows that have been bleached from red to meh. From a distance the tree is a grand thing. Get too close and you think Time to reorder the deco, guys.

There are a few more pictures in the photo gallery, which is now all caught up. There aren't many pictures because I only took a few. It was cold. And, now that I look at the photos I realize there are only so many ways I know to shoot ornaments.

I did this at the end of the day. The sky was about to turn dark, there was a breeze and it was cold. Finals were over yesterday. Graduation is tomorrow. No one was around.

The students are great for atmosphere and interaction, but there's something about a quiet, empty campus that feels magical. Even at rest you can feel the potential, the history. It makes you want to linger.

Finished the big scanning project this afternoon. Next weekend we're shooting the oral history of the World War II/Korean War pilot. Some time back he gave me a big book of photographs to scan for the video.

Here he is, in 1950, introducing the people of Atlanta to the first jet they'd ever seen. He said he buzzed the airport and made a big scene. For anyone that's ever spent time there it is hard to imagine a time without jets at the Atlanta airport, but that's the first one.

Table for five at Pie Day. This was the last one of the year, because of the way holidays are falling. That means that our next Pie Day will be the fifth anniversary.

That's a lot of pie.

After dinner everybody came back to the house for more story-telling. It was a great evening by the fire.

Great ending to a great night of a great week. Hope yours was even better.

Tomorrow: More cold, with a high probability of laziness.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Very exciting day, today. The students at Samford have wrapped up their semesters. Some of my first students are graduating. Others are now enjoying their first day out from under the pressure of their senior thesis.

Very cold day, today. We made our way to the gym and I smartly did this in shorts. It was 35-degrees. This was my first workout since the semester took over my schedule and it showed. But I had some nice weights. I'm sure I'll be sore tomorrow, just in time for a second workout. I'll get about another week in at the gym before the holidays get in the way.

Sad day, today. Editor & Publisher, the trade publication of the news business, announced they'll shut down by the end of the year. Kirkus, a book review magazine, is also going away.

I spent a lot of the day cleaning. Yesterday it was recycling stacks and stacks of newspapers that has been waiting for a good set of kitchenware to protect. Today it was cleaning up the digital video center, which was getting a bit messy in the end-of-the-semester rush. A lot of our equipment came back in and had to be reorganized. A massive inventory will soon be in the offing.

Did a media interview of sorts this afternoon. Cleaned some more, read some more. That's just been the way of it. Everything is slowing down nicely, now. Couldn't be happier about that.

The Yankee took me out for a hot cat food buying date. When we go to the pet store we must always stop and check out the animals. I must always be the voice of No.

These guys were making the hard sell.

Tonight we fussed with pictures, watched the first two hours of The Prisoner -- she did not care for it, but I'm still into it -- and watched the lights on the Christmas tree.

I think we could get used to the notion of having nothing to do at the end of the day. Wonder how long it will be before we're bored by that idea.

I'm going to use the free time around the site. There are a lot of things I want to add, some new things to do and maybe some old things to tweak. Also there's Christmas shopping after work and then the Christmas holiday itself.

We'll have the time between Christmas and New Year's for low productivity. A few days later it will be back to the usual schedule.

Maybe I won't get bored with free time before then.

Tomorrow: The last day of the week of course. Sadly the last two-buck lunch of the year, one meeting, more cleaning and then Pie Day. The rest of the night I'll be fussing with what seems to be a tortured photo upload tool on Facebook. I haven't done that in five months. See? Free time.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Still waiting for the end-of-semester feeling to sink in. Usually it happens pretty rapidly, but the great untightening of the shoulders has yet to take place. Soon, then.

Nice meeting at Samford with the outgoing web editor and his prospective replacement today. "These are our goals. You're role could be X,Y,Z and it will allow you to add this, that and the other to your resumé."

I did a great deal of recycling and cleaning today. Caught up on a few other items and started working on the next round of memos. Typical office stuff, nothing so fun as cranking out dozens of pages for some paper deadline. (I prefer this a bit more.)

Bought my first Christmas present of the season today. Now if only the rest would buy themselves. (And maybe from an anonymous third-party checking account, too.)

Spent a bit of time at the library, too. The end of each semester always has that walk that returns books, and that's a nice relief. Turned in my Kurzweil. The nice lady reminded me I have another book out. I'm still reading it.

And then I spent an hour or so looking for more books while waiting for the evening's traffic to die down. I picked up Brer Rabbit, Uncle Remus and the "Cornfield Journalist": The Tale of Joel Chandler Harris by Walter M. Brasch and a few school-type books: The Ethics of Life Writing, Doing Orsl history and Recording Oral History. I'll just skim those.

Also had an idea about a project for a class I'm taking in the spring. See? Still in the school mode.

Sat with The Yankee and watched the Christmas lights. It was nice; we had nothing to do, nowhere to go and just enjoyed the quiet of the night.

And that's when it finally settled in that the semester is over. (Yay!)

Read The War Memoirs of Major Dick Winters. I picked it up at the library last week as a lunchtime break and have read it in about three sittings, which is a good pace for me. If you've read Stephen Ambrose's book or watched the HBO miniseries you'll know most of the stuff in Winters' book. There are a few new tidbits, but by and large the memoir is a mental exercise of putting the story into the tale with which you are already familiar.

But I'll finish that book tonight, get a bit of rest, make a triumphant return to the gym tomorrow -- I haven't been to the gym in forever -- and have a day of work-work at Samford. It's be nice to have just the one place to focus on again.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Christmas cards are pouring in. Ours are going out this week I'm. I haven't had the chance to be involved in the Christmas card project this year, been a bit busy.

I saw the cards, nice picture on the front, appropriately sappy sentiment on the inside. Good cards. The Yankee is on top of it.

Turned in my last paper this afternoon.

I spent part of the day dressing up this paper that I've been working on for several weeks, trying to make it all make sense in one place instead of in three separate files.

Hopefully it makes sense. More than just a grade in my research methods class, this paper is the beginnings of my dissertation. It isn't perfect, probably, but it will go a long way to being the first three chapters of the thing. Hopefully it makes a lot of sense.

After submitting that paper I spent a few hours critiquing student projects. My adviser asked me to offer a few tips to students in the community journalism master's class I've been teaching. Seems I had a lot to say tonight.

Otherwise I spent the evening waiting for it to sink in that I've finished the semester. Until the last week it seemed this one would never end -- this past week flew -- but either way the semester is over.

I took 11 hours this semester. Twelve is the most they will let you take in one term. I'm doing that with the job and the family life and everything that goes with it. It hasn't been especially tough, but it has been ... a lot.

It rained today. All day, about .6 inches, says wunderground. Good weather for writing.

Someone at Alabama thought so too, because we received this ridiculous Email today from the provost:
The University of Alabama will resume its normal operations on Monday, Jan. 4 as scheduled. However, given the number of students who have to be in Pasadena, Calif., to represent The University of Alabama on Jan. 7 and the number of faculty, staff and students who want to be there, we are dismissing classes on Jan. 6-8. Students should expect additional assignments to make up for the lost class time.
And now my open letter to Dr. Bonner:
I read the note from your office regarding the cancellation of classes in January surrounding the university's football game. I found it very considerate that the university had decided to close its doors for three days in anticipation of those few young men and women who will be in California for the trip. I read, with great amusement, how this is also being done for those "who want to be there." That's pathetic.

I am only left to ask, with all due respect, where might I find the form to request a tuition reimbursement for the week?

No doubt if I provided a customer a fraction of the service or product they'd paid for they would demand a refund as well. No doubt, if I chose a random week to skip class the university would still demand their full compensation.
Let you know if I hear back anything over this embarrassment, but don't count on it.

And now to start Christmas shopping. Think I'd rather be writing.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Proofreading kitteh says you need more toona.

I've worked on this paper all day and night today, it seems. Worked on it all night last night. Slept about four hours in between. I'd worked on the paper off and on for more than a week before. I've put a bit of effort into the thing.

So around 7 p.m. The Yankee, because she is wonderful, cooks dinner. She brings me food, because she is wonderful, and we eat. And the food is wonderful.

I had to put the laptop down to eat, of course. Emma moves in to take over.

In the process she stomped on the keys, highlighting all of the text, and then mashed another key, overwriting the entire document. This was my references file. And it could have been cause for disaster, but I did manage to save everything before eating.

The paper was unharmed, the cat's overwrite was easily remedied. After sending to my professor a note, and this picture as proof, that the cat ate my homework I managed to get the paper turned in.

It is an examination of the rhetoric used online in the argument for public/citizen/networked journalism. The paper was a good idea, and a great deal more difficult than I had anticipated. I'm sure the professor will find many areas of improvement when he gets the chance to read it.

Hopefully he'll be too excited with the idea of taking his daughters to Disney World over the break to read it too carefully.

Turned in my book review assignment today as well. I wrote about Jeff Jarvis' What Would Google Do?. Now I've only to find a journal to submit to.

So two papers submitted, one cat-tastrophe avoided and one paper to go. I'll spend a bit of time on that tonight, but after four hours of sleep last night a long rest sounds like a good idea. I'll finish it, and the semester, tomorrow.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Internet is a Bad Thing. Detrimental, even.

I say this as a guy that made his living building websites for more than four years. I'm the guy that did part of his internship way back when building pages by hand. I'm the guy that does a lot of Internet research, who thinks we might not be doing enough and that the peer-driven model might, just might, move too slowly for some things that are happening online.

So I'm invested. But I've found today that it is a Bad Thing. (Oh, sure, there are bad things on the Internet, but there are bad things everywhere. Usually those things are brought along or are created by people.) This isn't about the bad things on the Internet, but the Bad Thing that internet is doing.

And that Bad Thing is changing George Will. Yes, George Beloved Bow Tie Wearing Will. The Internet has made him write in one word sentences:
With 20,000 delegates, advocates and journalists jetting to Copenhagen for planet Earth's last chance, the carbon footprint of the global warming summit will be the only impressive consequence of the climate-change meeting. Its organizers had hoped that it would produce binding caps on emissions, global taxation to redistribute trillions of dollars, and micromanagement of everyone's choices.

China, nimble at the politics of pretending that is characteristic of climate-change theater, promises only to reduce its "carbon intensity" -- carbon emissions per unit of production. So China's emissions will rise.

Barack Obama, understanding the histrionics required in climate-change debates, promises that U.S. emissions in 2050 will be 83 percent below 2005 levels. If so, 2050 emissions will equal those in 1910, when there were 92 million Americans. But there will be 420 million Americans in 2050, so Obama's promise means that per capita emissions then will be about what they were in 1875. That. Will. Not. Happen.
I love George Will, not for everything that he says, but for how he writes everything he says. You have to appreciate a man who is in love with the language as he. Even when he writes, later:
Were their science as unassailable as they insist it is, and were the consensus as broad as they say it is, and were they as brave as they claim to be, they would not be "goaded" into intellectual corruption. Nor would they meretriciously bandy the word "deniers" to disparage skepticism that shocks communicants in the faith-based global warming community.
... Or perhaps especially when he writes like that, the one word sentence thing is jarring. That's his goal, of course. So sure of Obama's next ultimate international misstep is Will that he's using the simplistic sentence structure to deliver his message. That'd make sense in a blog or a Twitter account (sadly, Will doesn't seem to have one) but is more than a little out of place under Will's byline.

We can only blame the Internet and it's corrupting influences.

More homework today. It is all coming to a head. My review is due in info tech and society is due tomorrow. That paper is finished. My final paper in the social movements class is due tomorrow. I'm working on that now. My final paper in research methods is due Tuesday.

There's about 50 pages of copy in that paragraph. Just this time last week that list was a great deal larger, but the old do-one-thing-at-a-time method has once again carried me through a mountain of work. Hopefully it'll again lead to respectable results.

Now the things looming large are the deadlines. Back to it then.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Football party at the house today. Brian came over. Wendy came over. They were both tired.

Brian had been covering the state high school championships for the last two days. Instead of going home to see his wife and kid he came home to see us.

Wendy has a ridiculous job, putting together a big new distribution center and she works something like 842 hours a week. You wouldn't think it possible, but that's what she's doing.

So they were fun, until about halfway through the day when they were nodding off.

The Yankee made a delicious chili, though. And we watched a lot of good football. Oddly enough the One versus Two game that had been hyped for weeks was the blowout. Every other game seemed to come right down to the final moments.

I wrote a bit on some of my papers, but should have written more.

That's what tomorrow is for. And Monday. And part of Tuesday.

So that was the day, hence the placeholder picture above. That's Reid Chapel from Thursday night's festivities. I'm going to need something to pad out this place for the next few days. Bear with me; my last assignment is due Tuesday.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Busy Friday. Got some stuff done, but not nearly enough. Did a lot of nice reading, had a nice lunch with the faculty. They shot the breeze over football and Tiger Woods.

I edited a paper for The Yankee. She's been researching Twitter usage by sports conferences. There's some pretty interesting stuff in there.

Spent some time trying to come up with a plan of attack for a paper of my own.

It was an odd Friday. I'll blame the early morning television viewing. While working on a paper last night I ran across a TiVo listing for Hair Club For Men. There's apparently an infomercial and it gets an index in TiVo.

Be careful this doesn't show up in your suggested viewings.

I actually turned off the suggested viewings feature many months ago now. Felt like I got half my life back. Now I spend that time writing stuff.

Last night I was writing with the television on, which was good fortune. I got two episodes of Steven Segal's show on A&E. That Steven Segal. This is easily already the best show on television when it comes to unintentional comedy.

The whole thing is told through Segal's very impressive martial arts background. "As a martial artist I'm trained to remain calm."

A moment later we have a clip of Segal, a reserve deputy chief or some such, riding in the passenger seat of a police SUV. "Go to the right. GO TO THE RIGHT!" His partner, driving, simply says "Steve, let me drive."

There's an arrest. There's time at the shooting range. There's martial arts. There's Steven Segal, looking every bit of what Elvis would have become had he been a martial artist instead of a musician. Terrific show.

The Yankee and I made our triumphant return to Pie Day this evening. This might have been the longest interruption of the Pie Day system ever. It was a quite night at the barbecue house. Christmas shopping, snow mongering and the local high school was playing in the state championship an hour away.

Despite a few weeks away -- it seems like longer -- Jim 'N Nicks is pretty much the same. There was a table missing. I couldn't place it for a while, but I knew something was off. Toward the end of the night they slid it back into play. Can't get anything past me.

Five years of visiting a place and you start noticing things.

Snow story: It is going to snow. We stopped by the grocery store for some things for tomorrow's football watch party and I made sure to check out the bread aisle. Apparently no one here buys the forecast.

Our conversation went something like this:
The Yankee: It's going snow and we're not even going see it.

Me: That's the best kind.

The Yankee: That means it doesn't count.

The Yankee: It looks like it is going to snow. But it doesn't smell like it.

Me: It smells like snow?

The Yankee: You can smell snow.

Me: What does snow smell like?

The Yankee: You know how you can smell rain? I can smell snow.
I can smell the rain. She says she can smell the snow. Must be what comes from a childhood in New England.

In between glances into the night sky for flurries -- Flurries! We saw flurries! And that's all. -- it was back to the writing. Fortunately, I found a new wrist rest.

I'll be writing for the next three or four days. She'd happily stay there for the duration.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Yankee at the Lighting of the Way

We are now officially festive. Guess that means I should do some shopping.

The Yankee spent the day at Samford with me. We have a colleague from Alabama who's adjuncting at Samford and they had lunch this afternoon. The Yankee worked on a paper she's submitting to a conference. I worked on work and dabbled at a paper I'm writing as well.

As the afternoon turned into evening -- this seems to happen earlier every year now, I think they are trying to sneak a little extra nighttime in on us -- we left my building, her arm in mine, and walked across the quad to Reid Chapel. The air was crisp and cool and the mood was peaceful. We told jokes and walked with the students and I thought This is a nice, peaceful life.

Because after a morning meeting with newspaper staffers, a reading lunch and an afternoon working with students and writing we headed across campus for the annual Hanging of the Green.

Fourteen senior honorees, the type of young men and women that make you proud of the future, take part in the hanging of the green. The bell choir plays, the choir sounds especially angelic and it is a nice hour in the full old chapel.

Later The Yankee and I follow everyone else outside, into the now cold night air for the Lighting of the Way. The grounds are covered in luminaries. Another choir is singing, the university president's wife read the Christmas story and they light the tree and Centennial Walk that leads to the Davis Library.

Here's a bit of the students singing Joy to the World and Silent Night. Both of those are from the video feature of my cell phone. Not too bad for a phone.

It is another great day, another reminder of the fortune that finds you at such a welcoming place and surrounded with fine people.

We came home for stir fry and laughter in the kitchen. Someone called with a survey and she likes taking them, if only to hear the questions from someone else is trying to develop a survey. This one had the traditional Likert scale.

I think she answered a question "Strongly somewhat disagree." And then another "I somewhat neither agree nor disagree."

The cat, the quieter one, chose this moment to hang out in the kitchen and meow more than she ever does. She wanted to take the caller's survey. The survey person asked about the financial situation at University Of Alabama. The Yankee then asked me. I said "I just paid tuition; they're doing great!"

And now I'm into a late night of writing. My book review for info tech and society is done. Now I just have to find a place to send the thing -- it is a class requirement.

More importantly, only two more assignments left to the semester. Another reason to feel festive. I have lots of reasons.

Snow story: The National Weather Service is no longer saying "chance of precipitation" but rather "chance of snow." And they say 70 percent. This is for the early Saturday morning hours. The situation is very fluid. Weather Underground has a giant question mark over a cloud.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Snow! We're going to have snow! Run! Hide!

It will look a lot like this.

That was January of last year. I will not be doing a video this year. It is going to be of even less consequence. (So why dilute the views on this video, which has already been produced (Thanks, Kel!) and is far funnier than anything I could make this week?)

Friday night or early Saturday morning we'll see some flakes. Hopefully the threat of a few ill-intentioned flurries won't keep us all in gridlock. I don't recall seeing a snowfall in Birmingham this early in December -- even flurries -- so this is unusual, but nothing to send everyone rushing off to the grocery store for bread and milk.

Spent a bit of time writing today. Have I said that recently? Have a few new memos to work on and started looking ahead a bit to the spring today. Should be an exciting semester at Samford, and a far less hectic one at Alabama.

Had my last class of this semester there this evening. This session wrapped up the prosem, where we were meeting various members of the faculty. I know tonight's guests well enough, so I spent the hour looking forward to our visit to Dreamland.

The Yankee and I took our friend Andrew over for ribs. He heckled my driving. We heckled him for forgetting his wallet. After our banana pudding (Hi Risé!) we met a very nice older couple who live somewhere out west, entirely off the grid. (They returned to modern civilization and found their way to Dreamland. I guess you can't get ribs like that while generating your own electricity.)

After chatting with them for a while about education, television and the pleasures of reading it was time to return to campus. I had to take part in the teaching of a production class in the master's program. Before Thanksgiving I taught them iMovie and we discussed video production. Tonight they were editing a project for their class.

That kept us there until almost 10 p.m. So it was almost 11 when we made it home. And now it is back to work.

Tomorrow: the holidays begin at Samford.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Two more projects down. Three to go for the semester. There's a light at the end of the tunnel now. Now we must discern whether it is coming this way.

The first project was the silly little "job talk." Oh, such a career-defining experience this was. We had some fun with it, however. One of the class members decided "Since we've abandoned the traditional interview format I've taken it upon myself to answer some of the typical questions myself."

She then asked herself why should would be a good fit for the university. And she said, "Excellent question, thank you for asking." It was terrific. Then she asked herself how she could meet the university's goals. By now even the professor had to see the absurdity of the situation. Finally she asked herself what kitchen appliance she would be.

When I delivered my "job talk" I, too, decided to be an appliance. An automatic can opener. And then I explained the metaphor, which of course turned into a pun midway through. After my "job talk" I was subjected to one question from the professor. From this I am supposed to be prepared for the day when I might go out and seek a job.

Total waste of time, this exercise.

But the class is over. And this afternoon I turned in a critical review of someone else's research. I had one article in mind for this research methods assignment, but the study was too well done. Bad as it sounds I needed to find a paper that was of a slightly lesser quality so I could more easily critique it. Excellent papers are terrific, of course, and when I'm reviewing for journals or conferences it is a pleasure to brag on them. This is for a grade and the professor needed to see me point out the shortcomings of an experiment.

So I Emailed that to him, and then discovered that he was not holding class today. So I'm down to one final class tomorrow.

Tonight was spent shivering at Samford. We've finally reached a the time of year where you can't go outside to warm up from the frosty climate in the Crimson newsroom. The student-journalists worked hard all night, despite their shivering fingers, at producing tomorrow's paper. It'll be the last one of the semester.

They're staring at their looming final exams and dreaming about the holidays.

At least I don't have finals!

Red maple fall on TwitpicI finally noticed that Twitpic, the service that hosts photos for Twitter, has an embed feature. Thought I'd try that with a picture from early this morning. That's a red maple near the mailbox.

Of course this is from the cell phone's camera, which doesn't hardly do the tree justice. Hopefully I can catch it with the real camera in good light soon; the leaves are on fire.

Amazing, really, I walk under that tree every day and I've only just now noticed the leaves.

Tomorrow: My last class of the semester, I teach a class, we visit Dreamland and I keep attacking that stack of work between me and the end of the semester.