Kenny Smith | blog

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Busy day on campus. Two classes, one of thought and chatter -- pedagogy is a wonderful thing like that. We talked of technology in the classroom, how it can be a good thing and a distraction.

Using technology, either new or commonplace can be of a great benefit in classrooms. It can also be a distraction. One must, we concluded, be aware of how and why it is being used.

Or it can be a crutch. I had a biology class in undergrad where the professor lectured for 20 minutes and showed a video for half-an-hour. She did this every day. I could have followed along on the Discovery Channel and covered that class.

I'm coming to the conclusion that YouTube is becoming a crutch, too. You see it especially in student presentations. There are great things on YouTube, to be sure. I saw this one in class just yesterday:

Two things are happening here. We're transposing the credibility factor of television onto YouTube. Do you know if all of the statistics used in that video were accurate? Does it matter? It is moving past your eyes to the beat of driving music, the data must be legitimate.

This is not a new problem. As I said in class this morning, there will be a generation or more of people who will be very upset to learn one day that Moses does not sound like Charlton Heston.

The other thing YouTube does, like my biology professor years ago knew, was that those videos can really take up some time, topical or not.

Kind of like here.

Spent much of the morning trying to catch up on readings and had lunch with esteemed journalism professor Dr. Andrew Dunn. He's leaving soon for East Tennessee State University. I'll miss the lunches and the laughter and the good ideas.

Much of the afternoon was writing and preparing for a presentation I had to co-deliver in qualitative this evening. We talked about Herbert Blumer's book. He was a professional football player in the 1920s and 1930s. Played on the offensive and defensive lines at six-foot-one and 200 pounds.

There are plenty of wide receivers bigger than that today.

Blumer caught a few passes, too, including two touchdowns in his rookie year (1925) when the Chicago Cardinals were on their way to becoming the NFL champions. He finished his PhD in 1928, making him, I believe, the only professional football player to hold a doctorate while playing and surely the only sociologist. He studied under some of the greats of that discipline and become a prominent person himself, here we are talking about him after all.

And then we talked about him for almost 90 minutes in class tonight.

After that we talked of anthropologist Clifford Geertz and the Thick description. I like that passage because, at the end, he points out that you'll never gleam a full or total understanding. There are turtles all the way down, Geertz would say. I feel better already.

This all gets me home after a 14-hour day. I visit, eat a sandwich and it is suddenly time for bed. Tomorrow there will be more presentations -- I'm watching this time -- and lots of meetings. There are 10 other presentations which I must prepare, too.

These are the hectic productive weeks of the semester. One thing at a time and we'll all make it out together.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Wouldn't you like to lie under the covers all day? Wouldn't everyone?

Monday, March 29, 2010

I have bad eyes. I learned this today at the optometrist. He asked what brought me in, I said my grandmother made me.

But first his assistant blew the puff of air in my eyes, forced me to hold still, discovered I can't see very well at great distance. She showed me the high holy letters. Only no longer are these found on the giant E poster. This confused me -- it has been awhile since I've had an eye exam.

Now they use a projector, bouncing a slide off one mirror and onto the wall over your shoulder. Since your peripheral vision isn't that wide they have a mirror on the wall facing you, which shows you the letters.

And there's no giant E with which you can build up a little momentum. She showed me a list of tiny letters built by the most industrious of ants. The insects also thought the letters were a bit small, but they just do what they are told.

I could not read the first set of letters. She gave me a row that was a micron taller. I could read some of those letters. If I squinted. Sometimes she'd let me squint, other times she would not. The letters O, C and D looked very similar in that font. Yes, it was the font's fault.

When I'd get a letter wrong she'd cluck every so quietly. I didn't realize misreading a letter could be so damaging to the ego until this stranger subtly uttered her disappointment in my answers.

So the doctor came in. He asked why I was there. I told him my grandmother made me. She's a delightful woman and can get pretty much anything she wants. Besides, she can now hear me when I make up excuses for why I haven't taken care of my eyes yet.

He was a nice man, the optometrist. His hands smelled of an inoffensive lotion. That's a stupid sentence on it's own merits, but when you consider how much time his hands spend in your eyes and around your nose you find such a thing a conscientious courtesy.

So he gave me my prescription, which is a series of numbers that mean nothing to me. He told me it was a mild one, meant for driving or concerts or sports and what not. We discovered that my left eye is stronger than my right eye. This is because one of my eyeballs is longer than the other. He blamed genetics.

Thanks, Mom.

So my grandmother is proud. Or will be when I actually get the glasses. I ran out of time today.

In class the students did a presentation on how advertising worked. They spent a lot of time discussing social media. Their presentations are something of an open-ended assignment and while there might have been too much social media they were trying to capture the essence of what the future holds. So I asked them what they saw in the future.

They offered their ideas, which were fairly well thought out. I told them about foursquare and Gowalla. Then I mentioned sites like Blippy where you are enticed to volunteer the things you are buying, where you are buying them and for how much. I told them about how everything we say online is a data point. I almost lost them on meta-data, but then we talked about geo-tagging.

We talked about the tracking that can be down simply by carrying around a cell phone in standby. I mentioned how they could be driving down the street and the big computer in the cloud might see them, draw upon their demographics, note they've written about Starbucks today, but they haven't mentioned Mellow Mushroom in a few weeks. As the light changed the computer could access Mellow Mushroom, find their latest promotion and send it to their phone via SMS.

"They'll be stalking me?"

Not exactly, but --


Made it home and spent the evening visiting with The Yankee and my mother-in-law. She came down to spend a few days this week, dodging the deluge in New England and she's happily enjoying our sudden spring arrival.

It's been pretty grand out, the sort of beautiful that demands you go outside.

This is my view on campus. My office is just to the right of these trees. The flowering branches can be very distracting this time of year.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Emma in sunlight.

Yesterday I loaded up the laptop with the new CS4 web suite. Today I tried out some of the programs. Photoshop just grows more impressive in each iteration -- I watched an amazing video on CS5 the other day, already I want it -- but I'd like it if they left all the commands and the boxes and the menus in the same place. Change for change's sake just slows down my work flow.

Soundbooth should be fun to play with. Dreamweaver I'm going to have to learn upside down starting this week. Everything else will come along at some point. There are a lot of things in this software package.

When you open a lot of files at once in Photoshop, as I often do, it loads the images in a tabbed format, like Firefox. I like this, but I'm told I might be the only person to do so. I reserve the right to change my mind on this later.

We cleaned house this afternoon. We hung new curtains this evening. After dinner at Surin West (try the spicy spaghetti) I sat down on the sofa and marveled at how the room looked different. Just a sheer curtain and a little red accent along the top makes a world of difference.

We hung new curtains in the bedroom a week or two ago. Already the windows face the west, and after stringing up a dark blue material it is pitch dark in there which has dramatically improved the sleeping conditions.

Now if we could just get the woodpecker to stop adding on to his home outside the window at precisely 7 a.m. every morning ...

Sunday means the return of YouTube Cover Theater, where we find randomly selected quality covers of popular music by unknown home musicians. It is amazing the quality and spirit people put into their music, even for small audiences like most will find on YouTube.

This is where we do our little part to help them out. Be it ever so humble, I'd like to share with you a few people covering classic Willie Nelson. His birthday is coming up next month, but you may as well get a head start on the party.

I was at a Willie Nelson concert in Atlanta during undergrad that was on Willie's birthday. The crowd serenaded him as he played for them. It was an enthusiastic crowd and a neat moment of music history. I've come to the conclusion that most everything Willie does on stage should be regarded so highly. His encore medley at Bonnaroo a few years ago convinced me of as much. He just strummed through about 60 years of American music in this most peaceful, insightful way. Here, before us, was history.

Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain ("For Kim"):

Always on My Mind:

Remember Me:

It is so simple and austere, you can't help falling into it. I spoke of history, here's a bit more, Willie Nelson and Ray Charles and a live rendition of Seven Spanish Angels in 1984. No one knew the song yet, but it would soon top the country charts:

That was his first number one on the country chart. I saw Ray Charles around this time in Nashville. He looked ancient then, but not so much now. My mom, during the show, said that he'd looked old even when she was young. Funny how a quarter century change of perspective makes you rethink how old someone was. Despite his age, he would have been in his mid-50s by then, he did an incredible show. For a childhood memory full of holes, that show stands out.

As far as first concerts go, that was a great start.

Hope your work week has a great start, and a smooth middle and a sudden approach to the end. (If you need a boost, try some Willie or Ray.)

Saturday, March 27, 2010


Errands and more of them today.

Got the car washed today. Met a man, while doing that, who struck up a conversation on the basis of my t-shirt.

"Did you go to Yale?"

No. But my wife dove there.

She did, while she was a student at Fairfield University. Technically it is true. Also, we've spent several days photographing the campus and surrounding New Haven, so I could have technically said that I studied photography there.

Turns out, though, that the gentleman's son is interested in going to Yale to study architecture. They drove up last October, which is the prime time to see New England. Also they drove up to Cornell and Ithaca. They are counting the days to hear back from Yale; it should be this week.

And then the guy's phone rang and he had to return to his hospital to save someone's life.

Got a haircut. Sat waiting for an hour, happy to have my book, Fischer's Washington's Crossing. When I finally got called back the guy that cut my hair started up the conversation. This is unnecessary for me. Anyone with scissors and other sharp implements around my ears should devote full concentration to the task at hand. But he wants to be friendly and asks the standard questions. Where do I work? What do I do?

Two questions in and he remembers me. Tells me I'm too young to be a professor. Asks me how old I am and pretends to be stunned. This man now has my respect.

I'm not sure, yet, how I feel about the haircut, though.

Stopped at the mall. Yes, I stopped at the mall. And now I have to return on Monday. Got a sandwich while there, though. I suddenly had a craving for a cheesesteak and told myself that if the same people are in the food court I'd stop and order one.

The name had changed, but the location and the menu were the same. That was good enough for me. I placed my order and was pleased to note that the sandwich tasted exactly as it did 15 years ago.

And then I picked up The Yankee and we went to the People's Republic of Walmart. Picked up a few things, forgetting most of my list and remembering it 15 minutes after we returned home.

We sat in the evening sunlight, my favorite time of day, and talked. She made a delicious dinner, I read and organized things. We'll do more of all of this tomorrow afternoon, I'm sure.

Hope so, it is a wonderful way to spend a day.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Ceiling art.

I've been studying this piece for a while. It dangles from the ceiling at the place formerly known as O'kafes. Now it is called Red Cat, to more accurately portray what they do there. How Red Cat signifies fresh brewed, fair trade, coffee, concerts, comedians and pastries I don't know, but that's what they say.

One of The Yankee's former students works there now. So we harassed the help, sat in the evening sun and told stories. Brian was there and Brad was too.

It was a fine afternoon to lean back, close my eyes and rest. I haven't slept well this week for some reason and it caught up with me this afternoon. Oh, sure, late at night I'll get my fourth wind and wonder why it is midnight or later and I'm wide awake. Then, during the day, I'll wonder why I'm always so sleepy.

Anyway. Lean back, close my eyes -- because I was sitting and staring into the sun -- and when I open my eyes I see the hanging, dangling silver. You wonder who that belonged to in a previous life. It found its way to an estate sale, most likely. Add some wire and beads and now you've got a mystifying decoration. How many meals did that silver serve? What big events in a family's life did it take part in? What was the last big event, and what happened to make it necessary for that silverware to need a new home?

Pie Day for five. We didn't even have pie. Ward felt my head, as if looking for a fever. That might be the first time we've ever had Pie Day with no pie. The important thing has always been the people, though, so we found ourselves in abundance anyway.

The weekend is here. How's yours shaping up? Mine will have a few errands, a bit of reading, a bit of fretting over this and that and cleaning too. Should be a nice weekend. Hope yours is restful and entertaining.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

On the one hand, I don't understand how the postal service is losing so much money. When I visited this morning there was a line out the door.

On the other hand, I suppose it could be that one in four people you could see from the line were working. And the one couldn't do all of the duties customers requested. Apparently there's different training for using the camera and filling out the passport paperwork.

Two other people were teasing out a very difficult problem about registering the index of a box that you won't receive any time soon. Another gentleman was practicing his power walk -- maximum arm lift makes the suit jacket sway authoritatively. Do this back and forth and call it a morning. Take a break for lunch, sign a few things, send an Email to the regional supervisor and, before you know it, there's a new roll of stamps in your stocking as a USPS Christmas bonus.

I was there simply to return one of those postal confirmation notes. The mail lady wanted to deliver a letter, but missed us. Turns out it didn't matter since I'm not the person to whom the letter was addressed. I just wanted to put this little card back in the system, since I've no idea who the intended person was. I had to stand in the out-the-door line. It took almost 15 minutes to make it to the one person who was working.

Turns out I could have just listened to the Elvis song and wrote upon it: Return to Sender.

On the way out I noticed a lime green Volkswagen with the Gadsden, Don't Tread On Me flag. No one in the 18th century could have predicted that. Christopher Gadsden made the flag, which has origins tracing back to Benjamin Franklin, Philadelphia marines and then Gadsden, a South Carolinian who served in the Second Continental Congress. His flag became a symbol of that state and the personal standard of Esek Hopkins, the leader of the revolutionary navy. Most recently it has been adopted by the Tea Partiers.

Gadsden inherited some wealth, became a successful merchant and a civil servant. When he was lieutenant governor of South Carolina the British went back on their word after they invaded Charleston. Instead of giving in to General Cornwallis again, Gadsden condemned himself to 42 weeks in a dungeon.

From mid-18th Century Pennsylvania to a yuppie's car at the beginning of the 21st Century. Gadsden couldn't have predicted that for his flag.

The student-journalists are putting together their paper tonight, so that makes it a long evening on campus for me. This is their first week back from spring break and the first paper back is traditionally published on Friday. From what I hear of this week's edition, however, it should be a pretty good paper.

Next week's will be on Tuesday, which is the tightest turnaround they'll have this year.

I'm taking the day to catch up on everything. Meetings, phone calls, Emails, the plan today was to make them all. One meeting was canceled. All Emails got their necessary replies. All but one phone call was made.

I've been trying to catch up with the locksmith for weeks. He's the busiest guy on campus, I think.

My calendar for the next two months is also mapped out. Ten minutes in and the thing had as much ink on it as a my March madness bracket. The calendar will have subsets of To Do Lists. The To Do List will have pull out addenda. The addenda will be covered in sticky notes. The sticky notes will have many post-hoc, hasty scribbles. This is how it goes late in the semester.

It all leads to great things; all very useful. It is a lot of fun.

Got some reading done, both the school kind and the fun kind. Made good time of it, too.

Journalism notes: There's a new $10.5 million project to increase regional reporting and combat gaps in the news industry from cutbacks. Seven "Local Journalism Centers" in different regions will band broadcast stations together. The first five LJCs:
Fronteras: The Changing America Desk, covering the southwest region and including stations in California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Fronteras will cover demographic and cultural shifts taking place in the region with concentration on border and immigration issues.

An Agribusiness LJC covering the Plains states of Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas will address topics at heart of agriculture and business–fuel, food, farming practices, and impacts on jobs, economy and the environment.

Changing Gears: Remaking the Manufacturing Belt, to cover Michigan, Illinois and Ohio, will explore personal stories and transformation of the region’s manufacturing-based economy.

The Innovation Trail LJC in Upstate New York will explore how innovation and technology are stimulating economic development and creating jobs in the region.

Healthy State LJC in Central Forida will examine health issues from the policy and consumer points of view, including disparities among ethnic and geographic communities in Central Florida.
Subsidized journalism could be problematic on its face, but this will be an interesting experiment.

Journalism students are publishing to Wikipedia. I've no problem with this. Wikipedia can be valuable or it can be a waste of time. We're all subject to the whims of the writers. Turning more people who have receiver or are receiving formalized training to the tool can only be a good thing.

The key, of course, will be in aggressive editing and in the media literacy of the audience. One will be a bit easier than the other.

UNESCO says 2009 was the deadliest year for journalists. UNESCO is also calling "for an end to impunity in the murders of media professionals."

One hopes they are equally uncomfortable with murder in any other circumstance as well.

Speaking of poorly constructed concepts, in this story the station announces that the identity of a victim will not be announced until the family is notified -- standard practice, of course -- then they name the victim's infant son, who has his father's name.

Octomom is back in the news, and you can thank PETA for that. Her lawyer has a badly formed sentence in the story as well.

And the most under-reported story of the day: Social Security to See Payout Exceed Pay-In This Year.
This year, the system will pay out more in benefits than it receives in payroll taxes, an important threshold it was not expected to cross until at least 2016, according to the Congressional Budget Office.


Analysts have long tried to predict the year when Social Security would pay out more than it took in because they view it as a tipping point — the first step of a long, slow march to insolvency, unless Congress strengthens the program’s finances.
Sleep tight, friends.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

There's a ghost in my office!

Waiting on the baseball game to begin last evening I wandered through a dark corner of the newsroom, glanced up and saw that.

For a long moment I couldn't figure out where the light was coming from. There's a very small gap in the acoustical tile in the ceiling. The light doesn't match the shape of the empty spot between the tiles. Above the office there is a large empty space that has been turned into a storing space for ancient relics (and playground for squirrels).

There's a vent, the sun was coming through there, down through the tiles and onto the opposite wall, appearing in the shape of a Pacman ghost. I did not Photoshop the picture.

Speaking of pictures, the March photo gallery has been brought up to date. There are new baseball pictures from the game last night, be sure to stop by and check them out.

Spent all day writing. I had to send a rough draft of a paper to classmates for revisions. We're critiquing one another. My paper has a long way to go, but it made a great deal of progress today. The introduction is due a polish, I feel good about the literature review. The concluding sections will come along nicely. Everything in between needs work.

We had dinner with one of professors tonight. We talked strategy about research and publishing. We talked paintings. We talked about other things, I'm sure, but the night grew long and I got tired. I walked in rubbing my eyes, in fact, and then we stayed almost three hours after that.

When I got home I spent an hour doing voiceovers. Should have taken 10 minutes, but I've discovered a short in my setup. There's a cable to fix, which led to a problem ordering online. I can get the SLR cable I need from Walmart, but not the store. So I ordered online after realizing it would cost more than twice that amount at Best Buy. Problem is, Walmart doesn't figure shoppers will use Firefox to buy things. You get through all of the steps to order and then there's no button to click to close the deal.

So you must repeat the process in Explorer. After you've spent the better part of an hour trouble shooting the thing I really wanted to do was repeat all of the steps I'd just repeated. All of this as the clock pushed to midnight. And that after about three hours of sleep last night. It was the opposite of fun.

Now I'm going to go read myself to sleep. Shouldn't take long.

Tomorrow I'll do a magazine consultation, make a list of small things to do and mark them off in rapid succession. It will trick me into believing I've done a lot of work. At the same time our students will be putting together the week's newspaper. The post-spring break edition runs on Friday. Between them that should be accomplishment enough for a rainy Thursday.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Here's the pitch ... home run Auburn!

Samford hosted Auburn for a midweek game. Lovely weather for it, the sun was settling in over the pines behind right field, the stadium filled up with almost 2,000 fans. The football team was beginning their spring practice on the field behind us. There seemed to be an even split of Auburn fans and Samford folks, so it was a nice bunch of people.

Spike, the Samford mascot, circulated among the children. We sat behind the plate and watched four children eat hot dogs and enjoy their evening at the game. We met a German teacher, from whom we learned a great deal about the continuing influx of German money and influence into the region and the economic conditions of the Deutschland.

Brian Fletcher, above, took a first-inning offering and parked it over the left field wall. The previous Auburn batter had walked, so the Tigers took a 2-0 lead early. Auburn never looked back on their way to a 10-3 victory.

I cheered for both teams. The school I attended was playing the school for whom I work. I do love college baseball, there's just something about the ping of the bat in the evening air, so I couldn't go wrong. (I might have cheered for Auburn a little bit more, but with the 10 runs and every Tiger getting at least one hit they had more cheering opportunities.)

Samford did a promotion after the game where they buried a pair of diamond earrings and let ladies dig through the infield to find them. We didn't stick around. The Yankee was hungry and, sometimes, food is more important than diamonds.

We visited the neighborhood Chinese restaurant. They were sweeping up the parking lot when we arrived, but still let us dine inside. We ordered three minutes before they closed, but took good care of us. It might have been the best meal I've ever had there. Apparently that last bit of food that comes from the kitchen is the way to go there.

Finally they turned off the music and darkened the place. They were ready for us to leave. So I brought home the leftovers. Maybe they'll be good later this week.

My fortune cookie encouraged me to remember this day. It said something great would happen three months from now. We'll see.

OK then, back to the writing. I have a paper draft due tomorrow and about 10 pages to go before I get there.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Spring break is over. Everyone is back on campus and it is back to work. My first task was to write the department's last recruitment letter of the season for potential students. Nice way to ease back into things.

I opted for bullet points. High school seniors, I figured, like bullet points. I poured in every great detail of the things our students and department does. I know the audience, but I feared I might be writing a year or two ahead of them. They are looking for colleges, I'm telling them about how all this can get them employed one day.

So I rewrote the letter, but I kept the bullet points. Seniors like bullet points.

Otherwise there were meetings, visits to catch up on, students to see and software to buy. It might not sound like much, but it somehow fills the day.

This evening, during 24, we discovered there was yet another mole in CTU. Of course it was Starbuck, she wasn't doing anything else useful. This won't be very entertaining either.

Little details like this, the ones that we've seen six or seven times over the course of the show, make it seem a good idea if they wrapped it up after this season. There's talk of that. The shootouts, particularly the one in this episode, are strong. Jack Bauer is always somehow intensely gratifying. The basic CTU-mole, CTU-under attack, Chloe sneers and saves the Groundhog Day concepts are getting old. You expect to see a bleary eyed Bill Murray stumble into the next scene.

Actually, maybe that's the answer. This season's random white guy villain is Bill Murray.

Having just submitted one paper last night there's not much time for reflection; I'll be working late into tonight on another paper. There is a lot to do and a shrinking amount of time in which to do it. I have a rough draft due this week, a presentation next week, new software to learn, new stuff to teach (the first time is always the most dangerous), a book review to write, conference presentations to prepare, papers to edit ...

You know, best not to think of it. One thing at a time, clear chunks of devoted time and good breaks. Slow and steady wins the race. Right?

Hope your week is off to a great start. Mine has a baseball game, lots of reading and writing and journalism and the great crossing of things off the list. Is it the weekend yet?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

I dressed up as Elvis Costello for Avatar

We figured we should see Avatar before it left the big theaters. Surely, we assumed, the dollar theater wouldn't have a 3D version of Avatar. Surely, we rationalized, this was a movie that HAD to be seen on the big screen. So we waited until we found a cold blustery day, today, and caught a matinee.

I am underwhelmed.

Actually, the more that I think about it the less I like the movie. It was pretty, sure, but I'm a fan of story over eye candy in movies. I'm more captivated by characters and dialog and plot than I am the oohs and aahs. For these movies the graphic artists should be the stars (they certainly deserve it for the effort). So while there is certainly some art here, I'm less impressed because I know we can digitally draw up, and improve upon, anything the mind imagines. It is a tricky non-suspension of disbelief on my part, I know, but there it is.

Turns out the 3D wasn't necessary. I am a tough sell on 3D. The temptation will be great to make everything overwhelmingly fly out of the screen and into the viewer's lap and not every story needs that. As in all things I'd opt for moderation there, but that leaves you with the bulk of a movie, like this one, wondering why you needed to pay extra for the glasses anyway. What's more I think it will have a hard time being commercially viable given the equipment demands. And until the glasses get cooler, it just isn't happening.

So I'm content with leaving 3D in the realm of brilliant marketing ploy to make people shell out a few more bucks.

Otherwise Avatar, or as I like to think of it, Dances with Smurfs, was just not especially good. I enjoyed the first two acts, learning about the planet and seeing all the pretty sights and hearing the sounds is always fun. The conflict part was just transparent and grating.

Avatar is the least good James Cameron movie I've ever seen which, I know, is saying a lot. It may be the least good movie of it's time. For such a "groundbreaking" film it is sad how utterly formulaic that was. The only thing missing, really, were insulting the women and leering promises of sexual assault. Everything else was there to solidify the bad guy's bonafides.

The metaphors, with which I'm too bored to list, weren't especially subtle. I'm all for a good message, but sneak one in on me here and there.

In summation: when Avatar makes it to TV in a few years and it plays opposite Roadhouse I will watch Road House. Everytime. (Read: Avatar has earned a place beneath one of Razzie's worst and MST3000's Mike Nelson's cheesiest movie of all time.)

I'm not writing the dozen word review here, because everyone has seen this now, but if I were writing that, it would just say "Don't" twelve times in a row.

Turns out The Yankee and I were each sitting there thinking "This is really bad" and hoping the other didn't like it. I only wish someone had told me before we watched it.

So this evening we tried Up in the Air at the dollar theater:
Much better, even though it just ... ends, which usually doesn't bother me.
It feels a little more independent and artsy, which I gather was what they were aiming at here. Normally I'd probably be fine with the resolution, but Avatar has ruined my barometer for the day. Seriously, even Pulp Fiction didn't play right for me this afternoon.

Even though Avatar was bad (Did I mention you shouldn't waste your time with this movie?) the day was a productive one. I sent off my little paper to the Southern States Communication Association conference. It is an examination of media mourning after the death of Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha. Harmless little paper, maybe someone will like it.

The Yankee helped. She's very helpful.

Oh, we kept our glasses out of protest. On the side there is stamped a note of warning "Not to be used as sun glasses." So much for going as Roy Orbison next Halloween.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Spring is upon us! It is taking a break soon, however.

We thought we'd visit the driving range this morning to answer one of mankind's oldest questions: How long does it take to recover one's swing when one hasn't swung a club in almost two years.

For me it was about a half of a bucket. Which was just fine, except the first half of a bucket was a little frustrating for everyone.

I did almost hit the guy in the cart, though. Drew a ball right over the cab of his little machine, missed him by about three feet. Of course I was trying not to hit him at the time.

And since I didn't hit him I was successful!

After that we did a bit of yard and housework. We've cleaned up a lot of excess in this spring cleaning bonanza. It only took four days to do it. Now to do everything else that needs attention.

Like the grocery store, where we purchased things and acquired stuff. I bought raisins. We met a nice cashier who, in the movie, will be portrayed as the guy who knew a little too much information for his part in the story, but will serve to advance the plot nicely.

We had nice weather for yard work and golfing today. A bit breezy, but otherwise sunny and fine. All week, up until yesterday, the sky has been what meteorologists like to call yucky. Finally the sun is upon us, which makes the forecast of Sunday night snow even more hurtful.

We're just ready for spring. I have a flowering picture up on the website's and everything. I'll be bundled up in layers at the start of next week.

This evening we spent sitting on the sofa reading various fun things. It is time to read something for pleasure when we think of straying into someone else's discipline. Tonight we were discussing food deserts, which is a sociology term about access to quality food. Access being the key word there. There are barriers to access, physical barriers, economic ones, educational ones -- and right there I realized it was time for a break.

So I spent much of the evening reading about the 18th Century in David Hackett Fischer's excellent Washington's Crossing. It is a good book, worthy of a Pulitzer. I'm about 120 pages into it now and there's a great pace, lots of material I hadn't read elsewhere and he's set up the summer and fall of 1776 very nicely.

I'm in an 18th Century page turner.

March Madness update: I'm in last place in my bracket right now. But apparently Kansas was upset and the vowel counting method I used counted them out in the sweet 16. So I might be in last place right now, but I'm sitting pretty. Most everyone else had them winning the tournament (didn't you?) but not me. I currently have the most points possible. I'm sure I'll find some way to ruin this.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Michigan visits Alabama. The Tide are not polite.

That is, they were not polite as it pertains to the outcome of the meet. Tonight was senior night at Alabama, so they recognized all of their impressive young ladies, introduced their parents and made a nice little affair of it.

After that, in a nice touch, they recognized the Michigan seniors too.

There's one senior on Alabama's team who has a perfect 4.0 for her academic career. They point this out in the introductions, when the announcer says "She's an All-American at this, a national champion at that, is majoring in XYZ and has been on the dean's list four times." All of this is even more impressive when you consider they are contending for national championships every year, win gobs of awards in the gym and handfuls of distinctions in the classroom. Most of the young ladies on the team are like that. It comes with the discipline of the sport, I suppose. I like that they get bragged about, they've earned it.

This should be done at all collegiate sporting events.

Anyway, Alabama won the meet handily. A handful of hardworking athletes took part in their last home meet. We've watched them all four years and this might be our last meet in Tuscaloosa. They've been entertaining to watch.

Lovely day today. Gorgeous day. Finally turned into spring! We sat on the deck typing away.

We've renamed the deck the veranda, just because we thought looking up the synonyms would be funny. We thought about mezzanine, but that seemed too majestic for our circumstance. Previously we renamed the front porch the portico.

Anyway, I did some coding on a small paper, she made popcorn, played with the cats and read. It was a delightful way to watch the day turn from afternoon to evening.

We ventured down to Tuscaloosa in time for Dreamland and then the meet. Now back home, I've been working on the photo gallery and this and, later, back to that paper.

March Madness update: After two days I have 12 teams still in the sweet 16, 7 in the Elite8 and my final four intact. I counted vowels to pick winners. I'm in last place in our little league right now, making me think I should have counted consonants.

Tomorrow I'll work on this paper some more, do some more yard work and see if I can find a loophole that will extend my spring break. I can't complain, I wouldn't dream of it, but wishing for a longer break isn't exactly complaining, is it?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Today the Salvation Army came. We moved lots of things. Leaves were raked. Leaves were blown. Today I discovered leaf bits down the collar of my shirt and that my leaf blower sounds like a jet engine at idle.

If I hold it into the ground long enough it can almost generate enough thrust to lift me off the ground. The Yankee bought this last year, I think, and I've never really played with it until today, but I picked up the deft technical skill pretty quickly. By the end of the day I was a virtuoso if I do say so myself.

I've spent way too much time among the leaves. It might be the modern suburban equivalent of sending a guy into the desert with a good hallucinogenic, but it was here that I found my formula for this year's March Madness bracket earlier this week. My elite eight is still intact. Also, 14 of my sweet 16 still alive. Even still, there's been a bloodletting on my bracket.

So maybe picking the team with the most vowels to win wasn't the best plan. C'est la vie.

This afternoon I did a few voiceovers. Funny how the people you meet can lead to something unexpected. This guy in one of my classes does some particular online advertising and needed some help. I apparently said something without accent and he decided to enlist my services. As I tell my students, every day is an interview.

So I did three little voiceovers for him this afternoon, trying to remember how to get out of my own way. It has been some time since I've done this and it took a bit of patience to get back in the groove. And then I had to edit everything down, which is always humbling. But, still, the overcast morning turned into a lovely afternoon. I had a nice view out of my windows and I was talking. Not a bad diversion.

This evening we ventured out to the dollar theater to see The Lovely Bones, which was as cheery a movie about adolescent murder as you'll find. My dozen word review:
What Dreams May Come to be a murder-mystery, set in 1973.
It had Michael Imperioli playing an understated role, talented child actors and the role that, perhaps, Susan Sarandon was born to play. How can you go wrong?

We did watch half an hour of previews and commercials beforehand. Thirty minutes! Is this going to be standard on all Peter Jackson vehicles going forward? We, as an audience, should know this so we can plan accordingly. They list run times for the feature film, they should list how many of those overly-long National Guard (God bless 'em) spots we're going to see, too.

Tomorrow is Friday, and how did this week go by so quickly? That isn't exactly a rhetorical question. I know the answer, but I am in disbelief as to the application of the truism about timing flying when having fun. Blowing leaves around the yard is not fun. Raking them is less so. Anyway, tomorrow is Friday and there will be data coding, Dreamland and gymnastics. All of these will be fun, especially since I'm not the one doing the flips!

Hope you're heading toward a great weekend!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Long day on the road today. Up and at 'em early this morning to head to Auburn. We hung out with our friend Shane, who treated us to lunch where we had an interesting conversation about religion. That's one of those things you aren't supposed to talk about, of course, but the restaurant was empty. It is spring break at Auburn, too, and we had the place almost to ourselves, fully able to open our minds and see what came up.

I managed to work in a reference to post-modernism. Even did it correctly (meaning, with big words) everyone nodded along as if I knew what I was saying, which is odd. I don't especially consider myself a post-modernist. Or a modernist, for that matter. Oh I've read a little Hegel, and glanced at Kierkegaard and Heidegger. Nietzsche was fun for about three minutes one year. Bismarck, Darwin, Marx, the agrarians, the continentals, the Enlightenment. I've heard of all of them and have at least studied their bullet points.

Don't knock it, but Darwin makes a killer slide show. He had to. It was prevail or be shuffled off, you know.

So I've studied or read or heard discussed at least a bit about all of those people and have no idea where I fall which, I suppose, makes the post-modernists happy in the end.

But I'll quote an out of context poet-philosopher Ferris Beuller, "Isms in my opinion are not good. A person should not believe in an ism - he should believe in himself. I quote John Lennon: 'I don't believe in Beatles - I just believe in me.' A good point there."

So there was a chilly day in Auburn. The sun was supposed to appear. Never did. The rain was supposed to stop, but it drizzled incessantly. We were supposed to go to the baseball game, but no one wants to sit in a dreary, rainy stadium and watch a baseball game. The official site says there were 1,696 people there, but we listened to an early portion of the game on the radio. Between the muted crowd, the rain, cold and spring break I am doubting it.

All the same, it was terrific to hear Rod Bramblett call the game, even if only for a few innings. And what a game, 18-0. Auburn shutout Alabama A&M which sits in the unenviable position of being without a coach just now. They apparently got on the bus to make the trip yesterday and the athletic director climbed on to tell the players that their coach had just resigned. They could forfeit or go play and they chose to play. Good for them. Maybe there will be some better games in their future. It'll certainly be a bit warmer and drier.

We did stop and hang out with Fin.

This picture is three years old

He's doing well. Looking good. As Fin as Fin can be. To know him is to understand and appreciate what that means. I'm looking forward to getting to see him a bit more in the future.

He's looking forward to the opening weekend of the baseball season so he can go see his beloved Cubs play three in Atlanta. And that's why I chose that picture. (And also because he's usually making a goofy face.)

After all of that we are home. I've edited a chapter on 527 campaign ads. My second book chapter of the week. I hope there's a certificate of achievement in store for me here.

It is late, I am tired and there's more to do tomorrow. This spring break has managed to fill itself completely with things to do. Not that I can complain, I know, even if I wanted to. I do not. I am on a break, and that's terrific. There are four things on my radar to get done and I'll work them in somewhere.

Tomorrow, more of that spring cleaning business, doing a little research, watching a movie. See? That's two of those items on the agenda right there.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I received a call from an old family friend this morning. Sweet lady, someone I haven't spoken with in years. She is a friend of my mother's. She'd left me a message and asked me to call her back.

So I called her cell phone number, which gave me an automated message. "Please enjoy the music while your party is reached ..."

Do you suspect the person that owns the phone gets a choice of what song her callers will hear?

Music is a peculiar thing, full of memories. Two songs give me what I like to call post radiomatic stress. One of them is that song. It was the music we used to start a show I did back in college. I chose that version because we played the song off a record for the show. While the station didn't like that slow whooping start to make air I also thought it was emblematic of what you were about to hear. I'd put that record on a turntable -- yes kiddies, I'm suddenly old -- and it would spin to life for two hours of talk. Usually low-quality talk, but it was college, we didn't know any better yet.

The other is a piece of bumper music that is still used in Birmingham today. Every time I hear it I reflexively look for the microphone button -- which is stupid since I hear it while I'm in someone's car -- so I can start my spiel. I haven't had to work to that music for nine years, haven't been in radio in six. Gets me every time.

Stopped at Mark's Outdoors today, where Mark sells the outdoors, or at least the tools that will let you feel like a sportsman in the outdoors. There was a stuffed bear hanging on one wall. The shelves were stacked to overflowing with inflatable mattresses and coolers and tents and all of the things that one needs to feel comfortably primitive.

I'm asking the guys in the arrow department -- all of the outdoors is a big place, sometimes they need an arrow department -- to help me with a little project. You get peculiar looks when you ask people to do things out of the ordinary for you. It'll turn out to be a nice idea when it is completed, though. More then.

Then The Yankee and I visited Hobby Lobby, where I picked up a frame. Found one almost just the right size. It is for a note that she wrote me years ago. It'll soon hang in a place of prominence in our home, just as soon as we each pragmatically decide which place is most prominent and then review each other's methodology. After that we'll steer the location to conference committee, call in third party arbiters and, finally, look for a nail. I'll just mash it into the wall with the back of a screwdriver or something.

The note is a very important piece of memorabilia from the early days. She found it this weekend while rummaging through stuff in the basement while looking for other stuff. She was triumphant. Not in the "Oh that's where that was!" way, but rather the "Ah-HA!" way.

She was "Ah-HA!" because the note involved playfully developed rules, ones which she no doubt didn't suspect would survive that weekend, yet we still maintain them in our silliness several years on. She was "Ah-HA!" because rule number four said that she can make up rules at will. Rule number five says that whatever she says, goes.

Clever girl, that one.

Then there was more housework. The details of which could be repeated in a great many homes across the land. We'll call it spring cleaning, that's enough of a description as anyone needs. And, let's be honest: You have some, you don't need me recounting the details to you. You are avoiding yours and don't need me to gloat. You have long since done yours and are wondering why I've taken so long to getting around to doing it. Any of these can be true and they all point to one incontrovertible larger truth: You don't care. Besides, the grass cutting story is coming Thursday.

Hey Auburn friends, see the new sports site? Auburn War Eagle, aside from the odd URL choice, is undoubtedly aimed at potential student-athlete recruits. That doesn't mean you won't be impressed by it. Go waste a few minutes there. If you do you'll realize you could spend a lot more time there. It is a very nice page.

Tonight, I edited a book chapter on the use of Twitter. It was a fine piece of work (I'm only saying that because I have to, it is a fine chapter.) I added two thoughts to it, trying to keep it under 140-characters. Sometimes, though, you just have to expand the horizon.

Tomorrow, we day trip to Auburn. Visiting, lemonade, baseball. Must be spring time!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Tired. Sore. Not sure if I'm more sore at being tired or more tired of being sore.

Either way, my arms are dead. My knees are stiff, my obliques are spent. Seven or so hours of yard work will do that for you.

At least the sun was hidden by clouds and there was a breeze. The weather could have picked today to finally turn to spring, but this week has turned into a last little tease of chilly weather. Some way to spend your spring break, outdoors in the cold.

But in the midst of raking and sweeping and chopping and trimming and things I had the best idea for filling out my NCAA basketball tournament bracket. Since I've watched all of three basketball games this year -- all of them Auburn games, and even two of their opponents didn't make the tournament -- I'm not exactly prepared to make educated choices here.

So I'd originally planned to use the Diane Chambers method, pitting mascots in head-to-head competition to determine the winner of each game. But then I realized that for some of the smaller programs I might not even know the mascot, or the fighting abilities of said representation. That would then require research. This flies in the face of picking a good tournament bracket.

I usually win our pool, but only because no one else in the group watches any more basketball than I do.

So this year's method goes like this: I'm counting the vowels in each team's name. The team with the most vowels win. The spellings used took the Yahoo bracket as is. They spelled State as St, so those two vowels didn't count. The higher seeded team won in the event of a vowel tie. A number two seed couldn't be eliminated in the first round. A top seeded team couldn't be eliminated in the first two rounds. (These were ad hoc rules, because I couldn't see Pine Bluff beating Duke or North Texas downing Kansas State.)

With these rules in place I set out making picks. And the eventual winner of the men's basketball tournament will be West Virginia.

Write it down.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

At the Irondale Cafe all the tomatoes are air conditioned.

You see that in the old pictures all the time, movie theaters and drug stores and other businesses always advertised their conditioned air. So hot was the heat that you'd come in to cool off and buy something.

In our part of the world everyone has air conditioning. We now wonder how people ever got in their life without it.

You don't need it today. It is overcast, generally rather ugly looking, cool and breezy. I had a chicken breast larger than your head, okra, black eyed peas and corn. The Yankee did try the world famous fried green tomatoes, and then reeled off a handful of places where she's had better. Wendy agreed. I don't especially care for them and don't have a full catalog of possible options, but I have had better.

After lunch, which was high in caloric value and homespun Southern taste, needed to be worked off so we figured Let's move furniture and clean stuff!

So we did that until after dark. We'll do it again tomorrow. Tonight we've decided to catch up on some of our TiVo viewing. We had six episodes of Men of a Certain Age to work through.

That's a good show, though there is some coarse language, but worth a view otherwise. Happily you can see the episodes on the website. That came in handy tonight when we learned that the TiVo, which doesn't always get along with the cable box, managed to record something else for two episodes.

So we sat on the bed, watching the show online over a wireless Internet connection. I love technology.

Hope you've had a great weekend and are ready for a terrific week!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Atticus, like his shirt, is amazing, even if my cell phone pic is blurry.

Our friends Justin and RaDonna called us this morning and invited us to iJump, which is another company that has fallen under the spell of the lowercase vowel, but still a great place.

It is the indoor inflatable party place that is popular for all the kids' birthdays, and should have been popular when we were kids. Fortunately all of our friends know that The Yankee and I like to enjoy a good inflatable, so they invite us along whenever they visit, or there is a party at this sort of place.

Atticus was visiting today just for fun, and we were happy to join him. This was a new place for us, it is full of the regular inflatable jumping areas, the obstacle courses with slides and so on.

Atticus is a terrific climber. I should have known, he was wearing a Spiderman shirt.

Also, all of the inflatables are characters. The moon walk is actually a tiger, the obstacle course designed for people smaller than me is a kangaroo (with a child in the pouch) and so on. There is an indoor go-kart track. There's a game room, birthday rooms, prizes from tickets and more.

There's also a Daddy Doesn't Love Me section, a dozen or so leather recliners facing a giant flat screen television. Five guys were there watching the Tennessee-Kentucky basketball game.

We set out for Whole Foods after that, Atticus is a fan, and roamed the aisles for a long time, marveling at the prices, the packaging and generally longing simultaneously for something healthy and sinfully delicious.

We bought some crumbs for a fish dinner. Crumbs. We could make those from the bread and crackers in the pantry, but we bought crumbs. (They are actually a tasty addition to the dish.)

At home we listened to music, played with the cats and made up a dance step here and there. It was a wonderful early evening.

We had a delayed Pie Day for five, enjoying the barbecue and coconut pie, before winding up the night playing Guitar Hero with Wendy. Wonderful Saturday, full of friends and laughter and happy, carefree joy.

Which means the next few days will be all business and full of work to make up for it.

It was worth it.

Friday, March 12, 2010

She's in the bucket of a front end loader

That outfit is fancy, but sorry ladies, that's not on the runways of Paris and New York this spring. This photograph is from 1970 or so. This is a continuation, by somewhat popular demand, of yesterday's Samford story. What follows is the paraphrasing of the story from the people who lived it and from our contemporary history professor (who is top-notch). All errors are mine.

That picture is of Nita Satterfield, she was the editor of The Samford Crimson for the 1970-71 school year. The paper was busy afflicting the comfortable on campus. The administration didn't care for it at all. One of the issues was some of the property the university had acquired for next to nothing. The beautiful Samford campus, if you're familiar with the modern area, sat opposite of some swampy and wooded land. The state was, at that time, building a new interstate through the area and some of the blast soil was moved in to cover the swamp (back when you could do such a thing).

During all of this the paper was causing then-president Leslie Wright a great deal of grief. The newspaper, as a statement, took their yearbook photos as part of the construction theme. The above picture of Satterfield is from the 1971 Entre nous.

This wasn't low-level irritant stuff, but truly a first amendment battle. As the 1970 edition of (the University of Virginia's) The Cavalier Daily reported 40 years ago:
The Samford Crimson is under strict control of the school's administration. As such, it has been the paper's policy to allow its stories to be read in advance by several faculty members. The issue of October 9 contained an article which was a profile of a somewhat liberal local Catholic churchman. This article was ordered deleted, by the authority of the President of the University, Dr. Lesly Wright. The administration gave no reason for this action.

The editor of the paper, Miss Nita Satterfield, wrote the article. This article, with an intent headline and blank rows of black lines, was written as a protest of the decision. This protest was based upon two observations: 1. "As editor she should have final authority over what is published." 2. The content of the article did not merit such action.

The President of the University, Dr. Wright, then called Miss Satterfield to his office and told her that, in lieu of a forthcoming sufficient explanation of her actions, the possibility of a suspension was existent in her case. Miss Satterfield answered by printing an editorial retraction in the October 16 issue of the newspaper.

In this retraction Miss Satterfield reiterated "the Samford Crimson is published under the control of Samford University as a communications medium for campus programs and activities and as a laboratory for the journalism department." She concluded that, in line with policy, she had no right to print the obliterated story, though she might not personally agree with all facets of such policy.


(I)n the absence of free speech, one realizes how dear this right is. Unfortunately no one recognizes the worth of an "inalienable right" more than the victims of the censor's scissors. Yet the victims are not those who are punished, but rather those who
have no opportunity to read or hear.

To the civilized man, a row of blank lines should be of far more concern than a row of filled ones.
Again, this was 1970. Samford University does not exercise this sort of control, in any respect over the modern Crimson. The contemporary administration has been incredibly supportive of our student-journalists. Indeed, I recently received a very thoughtful note from current president Dr. Andy Westmoreland on the work of the student-journalists. All of this is a study of history and in no way current events.

But there was a great deal of acrimony in 1970.

The construction theme continued

You'll notice Dr. Richmond Brown there on the far right side of that picture. He was a professor of journalism and the adviser of the paper back then. The next year found him in a huge brawl with the university administration. To hear the tale, which is best told in his own words (and the subject of an in-production oral history of the department) is to wonder how such a thing could happen just a generation ago.

The story is remarkable, involving intrigue, tape recordings, foot chases and more. He came on campus last fall to re-tell the story. There is still a bit of uneasiness on his part, even though all of the players have changed.

Dr. Brown, left, in October 2009

Among the unfortunate consequences of an agitating news staff and an angry administration is the fate of the journalism program. The newspaper staff resigned in protest of the administrative censorship and called for changes in the university leadership. An underground paper, Another Voice, was founded. A local newsman printed that paper for the students. They sold ads. Professors and community members were apparently palming money to the editor.

Big deal. A student paper, four decades ago. Right? Randall Williams was the editor of the Crimson when the staff resigned and he founded Another Voice. He was expelled from school in his senior year. Brown was ultimately fired and the department was shuttered for more than a decade.

That's Randall Williams, circa 1970, in the center

The happy ending: President Wright is remembered today as a president who oversaw the foundation of modern Samford, including its growth to university status. He resisted integration, but finally caved to keep federal funding. He remains the longest serving president of the university. One of the showpiece buildings on campus is named in his honor. He stepped down as president in 1983, but stayed on as chancellor until his death in 1997.

His successor, Dr. Thomas Corts, oversaw the greatest period of growth in Samford's history and also rebuilt the journalism program.

Dr. Richmond Brown, who still lives in the area, would go on to create the journalism department at nearby UAB.

The staffers pictured above (if the Google searches were accurate) include a sports reporter, two preachers, a preacher's wife, a travel editor and more.

Randall Williams would become a reporter, editor and newspaper publisher. He's a funny, kind man and the editor-in-chief and co-founder of New South Books in Montgomery, Ala.

The journalism and mass communication department celebrated 25 years last fall. At one of the events current Samford president Dr. Andy Westmoreland stood on stage, shook Williams' hand and publicly welcomed him home. It was a touching moment.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Bust of Harwell Goodwin Davis, Samford University's 16th president

Harwell Davis served as president of what was then called Howard College between 1939 until 1958. He was a former attorney general, served in the 82nd Division during World War I and bolstered enrollments during World War II. The official no holds barred overview of university history explains:
How could the college survive with its young men and faculty at war? Davis answered that question not by trying to remove the college from the path of the mobilizing national war machine, but by making the college a valuable part of its mechanism. First, Howard agreed to host a Civilian Pilot Training Program whose cadets would study alongside the college's other students. A Navy Air Corp program followed soon after and in 1943 the Navy awarded Howard a contract to host one of its large V-12 training programs. This brought the college the money and male students it needed to survive.

In fact, the college thrived. So valuable was the V-12 contract that in 1944 Howard enjoyed its best fiscal health in a decade. By 1945, Howard was out of debt, thanks not only to the V-12 program but also to continued support from state Baptists.
Samford had a campus at East Lake at the time, having moved up from Marion in 1887. Right away it was pretty obvious that East Lake wouldn't suit the needs of the institution and there had been years of talk of moving. Finally, in the 1950s, still with Davis at the helm, Samford moved to it's beautiful Lakeshore campus.

(The gentleman that came before Davis was an alumnus who helped the campus weather the depression, but found himself blaming a communist infiltration for his woes. Those were the times. The gentleman that stepped in after Davis was responsible for shutting down the journalism department in the 1970s, in small part because of his disapproval of how students were reporting on the real estate situation. This begins a long and swirling path to why all of us in the journalism and mass communication department are even here today. But I digress.)

Davis, having moved Samford from East Lake to Lakeshore, stayed on one more year and then stepped away. The University, great for his stability after years of turmoil preceding his administration, named the library in his honor.

And that's where his bust stands today. As you walk in the six giant doors you are greeted with the Davis bust. You'll note the nose has a high polished sheen. Students rub it for good luck.

Works, too. Every time I've been in the library that I've rubbed his nose I've found the texts I needed. The one time I did not my book couldn't be found.

I returned a book today. Checked out two again. Ho-hum, no big deal. Ran into two of my students there. This being the day before the day spring break starts I was impressed to see as many students as I did. Some faculty and staff already seem gone, after all.

But it is a lovely day on campus. Feels like spring. People are dressing that way too. So are the trees. There is a great happiness in the sunset and the Frisbee tossing on the quad. Spring on a southern campus is a lovely thing.

The Yankee spent her evening on another campus, talking to young scholars down the road at the University of Montevallo. They were looking for first-hand advice on how you handle all of this and The Yankee is as good an example of that as you can find. I'm told the chat went well, but ultimately it means that I was a bachelor for most of the evening.

So I did a little work, made a little dinner -- she prepared it, I just cooked -- and watched Auburn end their basketball season just as they've played it, with heart, but not very effectively.

I get home, though, to find the instructions on the counter. Here's a pot. (She'd filled it with water, in case that step stumped me, I suppose.) There's the spaghetti. Chicken parmesan is in the refrigerator. The windows were open, there was a little breeze, it was a delightful evening. Now there's this, then some reading.

Two more notes on Davis: He served in the 82nd Division with Sgt. Alan York (though it was a big division, they likely weren't pals). They saw action at Somme, Toul, St. Mihiel, were shelled badly at Triaucourt and Rarécourt, and played a key role in the Meuse-Argonne offensive while totaling 8,077 casualties during the war. One of them was a young infantry officer from Marengo County, Harwell Goodwin Davis.

In between winning a war and running a university he helped expose and end the state's convict lease system -- think the warden's scheme in Shawshank Redemption -- which was ultimately considered a legalized form of slavery.

What have you done today?

Also, if you notice closely the little plaque says the bust was given by Mrs. James Sulzby. Mrs. Sulzby was the former Martha Belle Hilton. Not much is readily available on her in a quick search, but Mr. Sulzby was a former Howard College student, became a powerful banker and realtor, author, deacon, historian, fund raiser, civil servant and general pillar of the community.

Some days I feel I've accomplished something just making it to the gym.

Tomorrow is a Friday, full of promise and opportunity (and a fine forecast in this neighborhood). We'll all have the chance to accomplish great things. No pressure.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

This is one of my problems with journalism as we practice it today. Local affiliate ABC 33/40, generally a solid market performer reports:
Drew Hawk beat out all of his classmates in the local tournament of 'Rock, Paper, Scissors'. It's a hand game where two people guesture a rock, paper, and scissors...rock smashes scissors and scissors cut paper to win. The objectivity is to guess which your opponent will show so you do the opposite to either smash or cut to win.
Someone felt the need to explain the nuance and intricacy in the game Rock, Paper, Scissors. There has been, I assure you, NO market research that suggested such a concept needed to be explained to the viewing audience, but there we are, nonetheless, reducing a story to the most insulting level possible.

The gist of the story is that the guy has advanced in a campus tournament of the game (Where, we learn, the best two out of three hands wins, thanks 33/40!) to a national level which might ultimately earn the guy some tuition money. So good for him. And good for him in the video -- unfortunately if you click the video in the story they send you to another page where you must, yes, click play again -- looking bemused at the idea of explaining to the reporter how this game is played.

All set to discuss the virtues of the story as a feature story, I noticed that the piece ran in the B-block, which can only mean slow news day, right?

This day started and ended with the rain. Actually Wednesday's rain started on Tuesday night, and left us with a most emphatic end more than 24 hours later.

It rained very hard on the way to Tuscaloosa today, which is a trip that doesn't needed the added disincentive of blinding streams of swiftly falling water and hydroplaning driving conditions to make you want to stay inside. For one brief moment I thought we were going to pull over, it rained so, but it turned out we were doing 40 miles per hour on the interstate.

Rained off and on through the afternoon. It mercifully let up during the times I had to be outside. It rained hard at every other moment.

In my quantitative class, the last one before spring break, we set up the remainder of the semester, all with varying degrees of calm and panic. The professor says "You'll be venturing to exotic an locale for spring break."

"Yeah, the library," a classmate retorts. The final paper, a book review and two presentations to go in that class. The final paper will intimidate most everyone, but everything else is manageable.

And we are to "Write, write, write" during the break. At the library, indeed.

We tried to beat the next rain cell out of town. The storm had the decency to hold off until I got out of class and made it to the car. We opted for drive-thru, hoping to beat the storm home. We got a little late start and then Chick-fil-A had a few problems grilling the chicken, so we caught the rain the entire way home.

On the upside, we met a very nice young lady at the drive-thru window who, sensing the need to fill time, gave us a bit of her biographical story. She dislikes driving in the rain and hoped to make it out in between storms tonight, or else she might just stay in the restaurant. Naturally The Yankee immediately finds the positive, "At least you'd have free breakfast."

We're positive, breakfast-centered people.

Just after we made it home, having driven all the way in a punishing storm, we heard the most impressive clap of thunder of my life. The entire house shook. Car alarms in the neighborhood rang out.

Random journalism: A 69-year-old grandmother DJ rocks French dancefloors may be among the best headlines ever. Do watch the video. Very cute stuff.

Glancing over the latest Pew Survey again, "Some 46 percent of Americans say they get news from four to six media platforms on a typical day. Just 7 percent get their news from a single media platform on a typical day."

This is most intriguing part of the summary:
In this new multi-platform media environment, people's relationship to news is becoming portable, personalized and participatory. These new metrics stand out:
* Portable: 33% of cell phone owners now access news on their cell phones.
* Personalized: 28% of internet users have customized their home page to include news from sources and on topics that particularly interest them.
* Participatory: 37% of internet users have contributed to the creation of news, commented about it, or disseminated it via postings on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter.
Everyone can be a reporter, agenda setter or curator these days. Exciting times.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I think that I must crack down on the students. They are having entirely too much fun, which is something I know they've heard about, but are not supposed to experience directly. This would be an unfortunate use of their time, seeing as how they could be doing unfun things while simultaneously dreaming wistfully of fun. It is a delicate balance to maintain, but one worth attempting.

Otherwise you get conversations like the one they had tonight, which went on for hours, it seemed. As they put together their newspaper I could hear them from my office -- indeed people across campus might have heard bits of the tales -- on their traumatic first dates gone wrong.

To get from my office to my printer I must walk across the newsroom, passing all of the fun-having students and avoid eye-contact, lest they pull me into this conversation. They will want to hear some horror story of a dating experience. Happily I don't have one.

Oh I have good stories, and I have meh stories, but no real bad ones. The worst, I suppose, being the girl I took out on a date in high school who fell asleep in the car as I drove her back home. I've thought of myself as a potential Ambien Lunesta cocktail ever since.

She was a nice girl. I ran into her a few years ago, she worked at a clothing store. I didn't have the heart to remind her about having fallen asleep on me. If that's as bad as it gets you've got it made. And I, my friends, have it made.

So I told them the story of how The Yankee and I got engaged. I noticed the story is getting longer with each re-telling already. In a few years this thing will need an intermission. Have I told you that story, Internet? I'll ask for permission (I know my place) and maybe tell it to you later this year as an anniversary celebration.

Plotting out December posts in March? That's the mark of a good blogger.

Spent all day today on one project. Finished it. Now, I hope, everything else will flow freely from here after this 30-page monkey has been removed from my back. I should have another paper finished by the end of the week. After that I'm going to make a list of the projects that still need attention. When you get down to list-making you know you're serious.

None too soon, either.

Tomorrow, then: One class and the long slow climb toward something resembling being caught up.

I think I can, I think I can.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Spent the morning at the library, always a worthy trip.

Spent the afternoon writing things. I've a stack of things to write, but after I finished today's project I'm hoping that everything else will come much more easily. Write, rewrite, edit, trim, get flustered over pagination, rinse and repeat. I've been mulling over this for two or three weeks now and it is a great relief to just have it finished.

Now we'll see what comes of it.

It all means today was a busy and productive day. Tomorrow will be even busier.

Did you watch 24? It was explosive. Starbuck still looks less than ept. Bubba is growing into the job as the boss of CTU. Kiefer Sutherland chews a little scenery, and they write what might be one of their best promos for the scenes from next week ever.

(You'll be shocked to learn, next week, that either: A. There's a mole in CTU B. CTU is a target for the bad guys.)

We watched the local news, rewinding the TiVo along the way. Live television is hard enough, rewinding it to catch the errors just isn't fair. I did find two typos in 20 minutes of screen time.

Me especially, but we can all benefit from a little copy editing.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

She has a cat that is nuts.

Beautiful day. Just beautiful. Spring is here, arrived earlier than the calendar implied, but later than we wished. Nevertheless, spring is here and it doesn't know who realizes it.

We opened the windows and the sliding doors today for the first time this season. We took the cats out onto the balcony. One of them, years ago, lived outside, but they are both pretty timid about it when there isn't a pane of glass or a screen between them and the big bad world.

On the balcony though the cats aimed right at the corners. Just as I thought I should sweep this up they started rolling around in the dust and dirt and leaves. Just after that I took this picture.

It is very hard to convince a dirty cat that a towel can be an innocuous thing.

So I cleaned a bit. I also put away laundry, read a lot, got ready for the week a little. Wish I'd done all of those things outdoors. It was a beautiful day.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Yesterday was my mother's birthday, which made today a travel day.

The Yankee and I drove up to north Alabama to spend the day with family. They introduced us to their Wii. My grandmother, who has always been deceptively athletic, has lately mastered video games. Bowling, baseball, tennis, it doesn't matter, she'll school you.

I might have her on the balance board, but then the woman is in her 70s and is recovering from two recent knee surgeries. I should beat her at the hula hoop game.

Of course The Yankee now owns all the records on the winter sports. Snowboarding, slalom, some other thing that I don't think is really a sport, she claimed them all.

As for the razzing the Wii doles out, it isn't that bad. If you can't accept a gentle pre-programmed ridicule from an unthinking machine then you should know where you stand right away. I say this while acknowledging that the Wii board assigned me an age a bit over my biological age. The silly little balance test is to blame -- and if nothing else I have reasonable balance.

If you play enough games on the little balance board you'll start to feel it in your calves. Otherwise I doubt it would replace trips to the gym.

Of course The Yankee wants one now. "For research," she says.

We had dinner at Waltons, a place I'd never heard of because it is two miles off the trail that veers from the beaten path. The people were nice. The food was decent, they've recently become fans of Worcestershire sauce.

Apparently the locals approve; the restaurant has two five-star reviews on that page. There aren't a lot of restaurants in that area, though. The place is done in a half-hearted nautical theme, as is not unusual for the area. On the wall there was a life ring stamped Seattle, Wash., which is a long way from the restaurant. You wonder if there's a story behind why it has come that far, but some times the person with the answer isn't around.

The family bumped into four or five different people that they know while leaving the restaurant. It is a neat experience to meet people they've known for decades from church or work or school. It always happens.

My mother looks great. Not even a day older. She's a very together lady who delights in telling people she has a son as old as I am. Now, I'm sure, she'll use the Wii's age if I ever come up in a conversation that lets her brag on her looks. It'll be even more impressive.

I hope she also tells them I own the high score on a game where you push a bubble around a river while avoiding bees. When you get dominated across a wide swath of video games you take your pride where you can.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Yankee and Ward at Pie Day.

Nothing cures the dreadful feeling of not getting anything done like doing several things all at once. Fine day, bright, sunny a bit chill, but Jack Frost is on the canvas and he's wobbly and probably not getting up. That's fine for everyone, especially the trees which are just days from budding. It will be glorious.

Anyway. Busy day today. Sat on a bike for the first time since -- wow the past year has flown -- last summer. Pedaled 10 miles. I'll be sore tomorrow. It was good to be on the bike. I've been doing a lot of weights lately and they are just more tedious than anything. Yes, pushing my legs up and down in a rapid, repetitive motion is less tedious to me than moving weights.

Wonder if I can work my way back up to those 50-mile days I had last summer. That kind of distance seems a long way off just now.

Recruiting all morning. Our department is handing out big awards, most students at Samford are on some type of scholarship or assistance and we've passed out several for next fall's incoming freshmen already, with more to come. I've spent a lot of time on the phone and writing letters lately, but it is worth it for the good that money will go toward. And, since I don't have the money to donate myself ... it just works out well.

Ate two buck lunch with Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. I've lately been making nice progress in Doris Kearns Goodwin's No Ordinary Time. This was a Christmas gift from my mother-in-law, I might have mentioned that. I've been reading it almost since Christmas. The Yankee, who skims things, has been teasing me lately. I read much slower, because I get caught up in sentence structure and the graceful use of dashes. When they are graceful. Just over 100 pages to go, though, so in the next few nights I'll finish this book. Then I can get needled for reading something else slowly. Just as well, I'm ready for a break from Mrs. Roosevelt.

I sat in on a curriculum meeting for the department in the afternoon. Very interesting conversation among industry experts and faculty. Our curriculum was redesigned four years ago, now we're trying to be sure the students are getting what they need and examining the possibility of new changes. The industry is just moving that quickly.

Wrote letters and organized paperwork in the afternoon. It seemed that my office exploded with syllabi and notes and scribbled upon sheets of loose leaf. This all adds to the feeling of a great day's progress, somehow.

Figured out one technical gaffe. Identified another. Not everything can be progressive all at once, there has to be inertia somewhere.

Did a little shopping after work, came home, paired off the socks, ran some laundry, sat down just as The Yankee got home. We chatted, sitting close in our rocking chairs and enjoying a few minutes of not going. You should try this too. It is very appealing to the senses and tends to add a nice relaxing stretch to the day.

We made our way to Pie Day, just the two of us this evening. Ward, pictured above, told us that the pie prices have actually decreased. So have the sizes, a bit. But I was stuffed before I'd finished half my meal anyway -- and now there are leftovers for breakfast. But not the pie. You can't just leave that sitting around.

We visited the dollar theater after dinner, checking out It's Complicated, which prompts the return of the dozen word review:
Streep, Baldwin and Martin have chemistry. We see too much of Baldwin.
She's great. Steve Martin is, well, Steve Martin. Alec Baldwin was playing the more charming version of his smarm. And he has a knack for taking his clothes off, making you want to hit the gym.

It was fun, but there's a moment or two in there that might make you uncomfortable if you took someone a little ... unprepared.

So there. Got a few things accomplished, got some bills paid (even made it to the bank!) pushed a few more projects closer to out the door, did a tiny bit of shopping, relaxed with my best girl, had dinner and a movie. Not a bad Friday.

I hope the start of your weekend was just as fruitful!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Just relaxing. What about it?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

I heard the funniest advice from one of my classmates at Alabama today. The hypothetical conversation comes up about "What do you do if you're approached by a student with a problem of ..." whatever. There are several approaches here. The counseling and legal people will wisely tell you to give them the counseling literature and send them on their way to see a trained professional. Others seem to have a closed door policy.

Still others, the best of the teachers, as human beings, are willing to help where they can, acknowledging their own many limitations in training when it comes to the issue at hand. My pedagogy professor -- who is my professional hero, as I've said here before -- is that type person. She tells a particular story of a particular student and it ultimately led to her driving the person to the emergency room. And because this professor, in her many acts of selflessness, can't catch a break, it turned into a seven-hour trip to the emergency room to help this student.

So my classmate says "She came to you because you are nice and approachable. So I should be the biggest jerks on the faculty so no one will want to talk with me."

Good line, he got a great reaction, but that's just not feasible to me.

I interjected "I believe in the human touch," quoting a tiny bit of the Auburn Creed on the University of Alabama campus. I was deviously happy to do that, but more proud of what it means to me. Though I really hope I never have to take a student to an emergency room.

I taught a little class this evening, keeping a broadcast writing section for a few minutes, talking about active verbs and conversational tones and the dreaded contusions and abrasions. I love the language, especially that moment when the student figures out how much they enjoy it too. You have to get down to cuts and bruises first.

Wrote 12 pages of journalism-themed material today, using more small words than big. Now I have to make sense of all of them. My qualitative class was full of big words this evening, but that's just part of the territory for that class. Now I just have to make sense of those, too.

Right about now this feels as if you're getting shortchanged, no?

That's because I haven't shared this video I found today via Brian Phillips. This Too Shall Pass, by OK Go:

Stick with it. The end is the best part and explains everything. The other version (featuring faux-Ghillie suits, the marching band uniform of the University of Awesome) might even be better. Life's funny that way sometimes.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Andre Natta of The Terminal

I've read Andre's writing for more than three years now, way back when he was just pecking away at Dre's Ramblings. We've Emailed, we've talked on the phone a few times, we've chatted via Twitter, but we'd never met.

Oh, we live in the same town -- and I think he knows everyone -- and we've even been to an event or two at the same time, but we've never managed to bump into one another. He went to school in Savannah, where The Yankee and I have spent a great deal of time. Indeed, he's given me dining tips for that town.

Once we were in Manhattan, only a few blocks apart, and did not realize it until later.

So this being strangers thing had to be remedied. He invited me out for hot chocolate today -- fitting since it snowed this morning, though the flurries were the extent of it -- and we talked about his website. He spends his time at The Terminal now, which is a nice site worth your visit.

We talked about the city, and restoration and renovation. Andre is an historian by trade, and one of those always dreaming, do-gooder types. You can never have enough of those around.

While we chatted a local television personality, a school board member, a prominent architect and several other people I don't know came up to say hello. Andre knows everyone.

He would also like it if I helped beat the bush. So, if you're in the lovely Birmingham area and would like to be a contributor at his site, drop him a line.

Hard to believe that site turns three years old in a few weeks. Even worse, still, was at the moment in the conversation today when we were talking about how long we'd been writing code. I started stumbling through HTML in 1996. Fourteen years!

Ditched a laptop today. My MacBook Pro from Samford -- it was a loaner from Samford, but the lease is due. It was a big, honking, silver laptop, but good and solid. The last few days it had behaved slowly, as if it knew the time had come. It had a squeak in the left hinge, but over time that had become something of a comforting presence.

Now I'm using G4, which feels like moving from Montana to Hong Kong for personal space, if Hong Kong were a cramped keyboard in a plastic frame. My new MacBook should be here in a few days. It'll be thin, light and glossy. I'll transfer all my old files onto it and rejoice at the speed of the thing. Laptops, it seems, are easy to find yourself irrationally needing.

There was a paper to put together tonight. There was much putting together of a paper. It is interesting, overhearing snippets of how the student-journalists talk through everything, how the conversations have changed over the course of the year.

It shows in the paper, for the most part, too. We'll see their finished product tomorrow.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Monday. I had a Monday. These things happen, but so rarely do I feel as if I've had the notorious Monday. If I had the day to do over again I'd choose a different day altogether.

A few useful and productive things were done. A few other things were not. Some of it will be done sooner or later. It is all interesting to me, but I know my limitations about what may interest you, so we'll just call this a Monday.

And then, at the end of it all, I got to sit down with my lovely wife, have a steak dinner with The Yankee and then sit down and watch a little television with her and, later, I'm going to go read myself to sleep.

So, even though it was a Monday, it was still a pretty great day.

Tomorrow is Tuesday. For what more can I guy ask?