Kenny Smith | blog

Sunday, April 30, 2006

So the wrist hurts a bit. Think I'll find a brace for it. There is a smashing blue brace in storage somewhere, from when my fingertips met my forearm in a freak soccer accident. Probably it would be too painful to dig through boxes than to just pick up a new piece of cotton and velcro restraint.

So a store trip, and then a sandwich. And then the rain came. Cold rain.

Rained pretty much all afternoon and then stayed dreary for the rest of the day to add emphasis. It wasn't too hard to think of this as February rather than the end of April. In like a lion, out like a fraidy cat, this mercurial month.

No mariachi tonight. They no-showed for some reason. I wonder if they were performing an immigrant walk out a day early. The waiter offered to sing, but he said his Spanish wasn't very good. Ironic, considering his heritage and new place of employ, but you have to applaud the kid for working.

When I get down to that as a compliment what I'm really saying is: Refill my glass. And comb your hair.

Could be worse. Could be the kids at Coldstone, where we descend completely into codgerdom by insisting the first guy pull up his pants, which does nothing for the sales column on the spreadsheet. I was placing an order for a cake, but an order for ice cream met with "We're out of cookie dough." Perhaps he can interest me in a fork, the favorite among ice cream aficionados everywhere.

See that big building just to the right when you leave? That's called Wal-Mart. Go visit. Get to know them.

The kid manning the cake book wasn't much more help.

I want this one, this size, for such and such day.

"What time do we close that day?"

I don't know, but since you work here and you are in the dark, let's find out ... 10.


That's what your door says, Sparky.

At this point the conversation deteriorated. Yes, I have shared with you the cultural apex of the chat with young affluent high school jocks manning the ice cream bar. It only got worse from there.

Still in codgerdom, I left saying aloud, I fear for the future of our great country. Is this the pinnacle of public education in one of the regions weathier cities? Maybe they are dense. Perhaps the really bright kids work at McDonalds.

I have friends considering moving into this city to start their family. Maybe I should take them for ice cream.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

I printed out, a month ago today, Saddam's Delusions, a 12-page essay forensic analysis of the former Iraqi regime. This morning, over a leisurely biscuit at the Hardee's in Hanceville, I finally read the thing. Hadn't been lost, saw it ever day, just couldn't justify the time.

Before that I saw a 1932 Chevy with possibly the best hood ornament of the era, and a guy with possibly the finest example of a 1988 mullet still in existence. The two were not correlated. I know because the gentleman that belonged to the car walked out of the restaurant as I was taking pictures of his ride. He only gave me a slight version of the "Are you casing me?" expression, so he must be used to this whole car gawking thing.

The mullet guy, he might not have been so accustomed to it. He looked the stocky, fireplug sort and not to be messed with, so I didn't want to draw undue attention there. It was very skinhead in the front, very party in the back. His wife, however, looked perfectly normal -- which is to say, without a mullet -- making one wonder why she let's him out of the house. He has to roll over onto his stomach at some point, make a quick pass with the shears and you can relax in front of your friends and coworkers. At least for several months until he grows it out again.

Anyway. The Saddam piece is fascinating reading. It leaves you shaking your head on how a collective group could get to that point. The authors here analyze the situation very thoroughly and deliver their findings in a very light tone intended for the Everyman. Now I need to figure out a way to read the complete 230-page book (online in PDF version) without printing a ream of paper or dedicating six more hours in front of a computer screen.

Had lunch with Kelly and The Yankee at the Cracker Barrel in Cullman. Anyone familiar with state culture or history can make their own jokes here. Suffice it to say that Cracker Barrel feels the need to put this sign prominently by the door. None of us can recall having seen that sign at other Cracker Barrel stores.

The folks of Cullman are fine, charming people. Actually everyone I've ever met there has been very kind. The people sitting around us had obviously never met us, judging by the stares we earned, which is ironic considering we all looked perfectly normal and only slightly loud and rambunctious.

There was the art. The girls did it.

I just encouraged it.

Kelly gave me many nice gifts, as is her way. I deserve none of them, as is mine.

And then there was nighttime painting. The less said about this the better. A bedroom and a hallway got a fresh coat, and I have a new reason to decline whenever someone asks me to come over and help with their own painting chores. I'm the only person you know that has sprained their wrist while painting. Fell off a stool while trying to block in the ceiling. Kicked some furniture really hard on the way down. Landed on the legs of the barstool, which somehow did not give way.

Injury really saps at your motivation to finish a project, but the painting is done.

Friday, April 28, 2006

And so begins the end of the month that heralded in spring and a return to carefree afternoons. I contemplated a movie, but then decided against it. I contemplated some quick work around the house, but circumstance would not allow.

Ultimately I went with work around the house, moving furniture inward, off the walls, a look at the bedroom shows a vortex of power, a hidden black hole sucking all things pressboard and colored various shades of brown to the center of the room.

Time to paint this weekend. The walls looked even more desperate when the furniture was in the center. Hopefully this will be a quick and painless process. Maybe I should hire a genie to give the old wrinkle the nose trick and, ta-da, new paint smell.

I'm ready for a weekend from the weekend already.

Jack called me -- go to his campaign site via the button link to the left -- today and said I'd written a cliff-hanger for a thesis. Said I'd have to go back, get my PhD to see how the whole thing turned out.

I've been meaning to talk to you about that. If you're willing to adopt, and finance, I'd be happy to.

Lots of upside. I'm raised, his wife is a professor, so that's a discount. He'd be helping the community. Its a feel good story for politics.

I'll keep working on him.

Fun links:Maybe I've shared this with you before, but here's the banned X-box commercial. Now it has inspired college students at the University of Florida. Watch the guy in the orange hat. And, finally, mysterious sounds over San Diego.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

All this rain recently has kept me out of yardwork, which is fine, because the portions of the past few days have been serious air conditioner weather. Today the mercury only ran up to about 73 on the thermometer, so it seemed like a good day to get outdoors for some pretend physical labor.

So out comes the hedge trimmer and the extension cords. I point it in the general direction of somewhat overgrown bushes and think, not for the first time, that this would look like some horror movie plot, if only in a slightly different context.

Teenagers at camp, learning about life, until Robert bursts through the treeline. A balding middle aged guy, fired from Camp Shrubalot for leering a little too hard. There was nothing overly wrong with him, he was just merely tweaked about never being picked as a child for any sports more physically demanding than kickball. The firing though, that set something off. Now he's got a trimmer and a few hundred feet of bright yellow extension cord. Wrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Really, that'd be this character's downfall. He tries to hide in closets, or evade the authorities, but they'd just take intent strides in the direction of the bright yellow cable insulation. But which way? I suppose that's something for the audience to figure out in Bob 2, The Azalea Nightmare.

You can see why I prefer the other thought, that this hedge trimmer with the top rail grip seems more like a heavy duty machine gun. Problem is, I always emerge thinking of this as Weird Al Yankovic spoofing Rambo in UHF.

Never let your mind wander kids.

So, anyway, trimming the shrubbery brings a certain melancholy happiness. I know, I know. We've entered Oxymoronville. I'm not attached to the particular bush where this started, but it just seemed wrong to cut it back too much. It has a nice flower, too pretty to shear, even if the bush is too tall. So the sides got trimmed.

A few steps down is another shrub variety that hosts a bit of honeysuckle and, even though it is a vine and in abundance, it just feels criminal cut back honeysuckle when the flowers are still budding. It felt, really, more like nostalgia than anything. A nostalgia for something that hasn't happened yet, maybe, I don't know. Of course Oxymoronville neighbors Metaphortown, but fortunately (for you) we're on the Expressway and won't be stopping there today.

Watched The Last Samurai:
Second viewing is maybe better than the first. Ken Watanabe is brilliant.
Tom Cruise almost died making this movie. You can see the statue of Saigo, on whom Watanabe's character is based here. Koyuki, the lead actress, has a familiar birthday.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

I'm starting to take this personally. Peering through the window at work -- Two windows, actually. I have to look through one window to see through another, everything is perpetually not quite tinted from this vantage point. -- the day looks lovely enough. There's a book and a quilt and a shade tree that would all enjoy my attention.

Get in the car as the raindrops decide they need to be noticed more. At one point on the drive home it was raining so hard that I would have stopped the car had my exit not been next. I never stop the car.

No rain on the exit ramp. This is a summer rain in the spring. Up and down the hill and up the following one, two lefts and I'm home. Get out of the car and walk to the mailbox, pondering the sound coming from up the street. I'm walking too slowly and pondering too. The sound is the rush of huge and cold rain drops splattering on the asphalt. Just as I reach the mail the rain hits me, having moved in a sheet of vertical water from the woods to the neighboring yards and to my head.

Junk mail wouldn't ordinarily be worth that experience, but it seems a rare treat when you can watch the rain actually move across you that way. These are subtle conditions of life we never seem to notice, caught up as we are in so many other seemingly important vagaries.

Oh, I'll know all manner of stats on sports and crime and government, and of sporting crimes in government, but those aren't going to matter too much when the guy at the gate asks me to contemplate the number of petals in my favorite flower.

For better or worseJohnny Ray's for chicken tonight, because no one, besides my heart, can say barbeque twice in one day is a bad thing. Chicken both times, however, so such indulgence is only slightly indulgent. And the chicken tonight could have been better.

I went there recently, and over those two visits I've come to the conclusion that the place just isn't what it used to be. The original store isn't all that great anymore either, but they do have the bonus of interesting clientele.

I closed the franchisee down. I don't think they were happy about that, but we'll call it payback for tough chicken. (If poultry is safe from bird flu at 165 degrees then I'm OK this week ... )

Fun link: A new airline safety video. That Chris Pirillo is a funny guy.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Interesting weather today. Bright and sunny during the morning and early afternoon. Naturally, we're all couped up indoors. I get off work at 3, but at 2:53 it officially became Mostly Cloudy.

Now there's a job. The Weather Service has some guy who's job it is to go outside each hour and count the clouds from horizon to horizon. There's a formula, probably based on altitude, visible sky and the impeding tree line and mountains and from there, the intern breaks out the slide rule and they take a stab at the degree of cloudiness. You can just imagine the spirited discussions around the watercooler.

And don't get them started at the Christmas party.

"Remember that day in March when the boss and me had it out about that cumulus cloud?"

This is only slightly better than the Christmas party hosted by the Accountants, Tax Consultants and Lawyers, an office found in Smyrna. And you thought the taxidermy/upholstery or the Bait 'n' Tan combos were bad.

Long lunch meeting with St. Andrews Place. On the way I saw a fire. The ends of a fire, really. Just the smokey parts. Apparently a garbage truck's cargo of trash started to burn. The driver pulled into an alley and hit the emergency dump-into-alley switch.

That's my theory anyway, based on the looks of things and how the firemen were chatting. If so it was a nice job by the truck driver, though he could have moved a little furth down the street so as not to endanger the old, freshly painted but always abandoned building.

No idea what sort of business was once undertaken there. If you don't guess at its age it becomes inconspicuous enough to be the home of some secret government agency. That's not what was going on there, they probably made socks, but it's worth the imagination.

On the way back to my car I start reading these half burned sheets of paper that have drifted across to the opposite sidewalk. There's UAB stuff in there, so that's cause for concern. Hopefully no important medical or academic paper in there, but I doubt they ship those around town in a garbage truck.

It would be telling if they did.

Anyway, the meeting was good. They asked me to stay on the board for another term. Must be all the super intelligent questions I think up. Or the witty trivia about state constitutions. Probably they didn't notice me eating an extra sandwich.

Fun links: Super secret scientists, The Jasons. I wonder if they've done any work on the Army's survival guide. Make it through any situation, even the webcam at Abbey Road. If that doesn't entertain you there's always the modern Etch A Sketch.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Today just flew by. Never want a beautiful spring day to get past you like that, particularly in the face of mid-week rain. Almost seems like today was wasted on the indoors.

I did meet the hair salon version of a cross between an aging hippie and a biker chick. An overly talkative stylist, I contemplated meditation I was trying so hard to block her out. In the end, I wasn't even aware she'd cut the hair from the top part of my head. She had too much to share, and she almost drove the clippers into my brain stem while being quirky beyond repair, but she gave me a great haircut.

There is no Bauer Hour tonight, but there'll be two episodes to catch up on later in the week, answering the prayers of bloggers everyone: weekend content.

How we become slaves to such things.

Spent a few minutes tweaking up this place. New background image, taken this weekend outside of Hanceville. Changed the left rail a bit, just moving a few things around. You're also aware that the pictures on the front page are frequently changed as well, right? Habit seems to make that a Friday thing. By itself those pictures aren't much in the way of content, but they do seem autobiographical in the sense that I was wherever those pictures came from. And, of course, all original.

Interviewed Dr. Larry Powell, my masters advisor, and The Birmingham News' Tom Gordon on the latest in the 2006 primary campaign. Dr. Powell did a poll for The News and WAFF and WBRC over the weekend that showed a huge lead for Governor Riley over challenger Roy Moore in the GOP. The Dems have a very tight race with some mitigating circumstances of the most serious kind. Another poll conducted the week before had the same findings.

But, I can once again share that sort of information at FFP. That blog, in a coma for an awfully long time, is threatening to make a comeback. Also added to the box in the top left corner of this page is the new Conversations blog which is the place to find the interviews. Of course you'll find even more audio here.

Seems like we're getting more of that around here.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

At my other grandparents' home we're looking over a book of history for the county. This is a great book, compiled by committee, made up of locally submitted oral histories and family stories. It is organized by family, so after the obligatory few pages of generic county history you delve into personal material from the banal listing of descendants to absurd anecdotes.

In that part of the county it seems as if there are five or six big family names. And although I've never lived here, my family roots -- on both sides -- run several generations deep. Every so often I pull out this book and thumb through the pages. This time I found a familiar face.

I don't know Mrs. Singley and none of the names in this section mean anything to me, but those are the features -- the eyes, the mouth, the cheek -- of a modern relative. The similarities outweigh the differences and the whole thing is eerie.

Where that stranger is familiar, these familiars are strangers. Got back in town in time to see the mariachi play. You can hear a little clip as well, if you go to the a/v page. There's something endearing and ironically funny about these guys singing about how a "Southern man don't need" Neil Young around anyhow.

Still, "Another Brick in the Wall" is still their best song. Its funny, I've listened to them play for years, all I know about them is that one of the trumpet players is aloof, one of the singers is smooth and the other has a thing for the younger ladies.

I'm learning, as they played a Beethoven, Haydn, Vivaldi medley tonight and a great standards medley two weeks ago, that these guys aren't hacks. And now I really want to know what they do with the rest of their week.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Days of rain gave way to a beautiful weekend day. Found a place north of town that sits in the curve of a county road where the only noise you can hear is the occasionally passing traffic.

It was a still place. The sun wasn't even trying hard. The standing water was in no hurry to dry. Granny's Place, a former grocery store turned restaurant turned impromptu flea market hadn't seen any company in a dusty and long time.

Walking down the side of the hill from the road and into a pasture I found a half-buried sign for a Guy Hunt state Senate campaign. Had to be in recent years, though I don't recall the campaign. The former governor is fighting cancer again and, since he isn't running now, I took the muddy sign to clean up and add to my collection.

That was entirely an accident. I stopped there for the pictures.

Later in the day we're at my grandparents' in north Alabama. I'm trying to catch photographs of finches feeding, but they aren't cooperating. Flighty, fidgeting, finches. Across the street, right on the river, is a very nice house with a tall privacy fence surrounding a very nice guy with a penchant for animals. There's a mule braying, which is worth a trip looking for knothole for a glimpse.

Randy offered me the mule, said he only eats one bag of eight dollar feed a week. Somehow I doubt the suburban neighbors would like the addition, but it works in his suburb somehow. He has the money to be eccentric, maybe that's it.

The score this trip is one mule, one pig, two goats and a rooster. No llamas. He's scaled down from the exotics.

North Alabama this weekend for GrandBonnie's birthday. I sang with helium.

Three generations right there. And we all enjoyed ourselves very much.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Today the sun was shining, the birds were singing and there was a sense of hope and love in the air.

OK, it was overcast and muggy, the birds were ducking and there was a sense of hope and love in the air. Weekend, freedom from schoolwork -- that'll sink in one day and I'll stop harping on this newfound realization of free time -- and big weekend plans will overcome any gloomy atmospheric conditions.

While waiting on Pie Day to roll around I treated myself to a trip to the bank. I treated myself to not going for a haircut. Do that next week, for today is a day for the electronics store. No. The bookstore. No, again. The dollar theater.

And writing in fragments apparently, but I digress.

Something of interest has to be on at the dollar theater, I reasoned. Almost any movie can be worth the dollar. The only consideration at that point, as my coworker M@ will point out, is the rhetorical question wondering "Is this movie worth my time?"

With such weighty and philosophical considerations -- and the question of when he realized he could use the M and the keyboard symbol for "at" as his name -- I wandered to the ticket booth, whereupon I met someone only marginally qualified for the job.

So, despite hearing the movie is in the theater to the right, the sign says the theater is on the left. This is the cold room. And it smells of musty celluloid of movies past. Most of the back row of chairs are broken, so I sit on the next to last row. Since I'm the only person in the room, having arrived about 15 minutes early on a Friday afternoon, I can count the seats on each side to find the perfect middle spot. Toy with the idea of fetching the book from the car, but before I make it through all of the arguments I'm in that comfortable waking dream mood. A handful of teenagers, who all think they are absolutely hysterical, walk in to bring me and the empty chairs back to consciousness. I don't know if they're funny, because the jokes are fairly quiet, but they laugh like you breathe, which is to say, frequently.

Somehow I manage to fall asleep again, only to wake up when one of those kids returns announcing that we are in the wrong room, that we've all fallen victim to the old dollar theater switcheroo, where they move the signs above the doors seemingly at random. Had we stayed were we were we would have watched The Pink Panther. Instead we all filed out, across the theater -- so it was on the right side of the building after all! The ticketbooth girl knew what she was doing. -- and sat down just in time to miss all the previews and catch Firewall:
Finely acted, just three plot problems, well worth more than a dollar.
The phone rang three times during the movie. I know someone that's getting maps for their birthday.

At Pie Day the manager remembered us. You have to understand this isn't the normal Jim 'N' Nicks, but at a different location. We were at this one last week, one of our group got a potato with foriegn objects inside. The manager was surprised we'd returned.

Every Friday, we said to this poor clueless guy. We chatted, I didn't have the heart to tell him the whole thing became a custom because of a company outing at a competing barbeque establishment.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

I'm done. We can stop talking about it. I'll stop writing about it. You can stop reading about it.

Why do I have the feeling you're celebrating more than I am?

Turned in the revised thesis to the advisor this afternoon. He kept complimenting me on the whole thing. I don't know that it deserved that much praise. Seriously, one important segment of the thing seemed a bit lacking, but maybe that's own-worst-critic material.

With thesis delivered I took the paperwork to the graduate school. Later returned the last of my library materials. No fees owed, a surprise, but I'll take it. I think the librarian took pity on me that I was bringing in books during a monsoon. Or maybe the water smudged the due date ink.

To recap months of vagaries: I've been following the re-election campaign of a local state representative. Very nice guy, wonderful family, sound politics. If I were in his district I'd vote for Jack Williams. Instead I'll tell all my friends in Hoover and Vestavia Hills.

"What was your thesis about?"

The short answer would be to say that I spent a lot of time analyzing the language he used in his previous campaign when he was initially trying to gain the seat and comparing that to the language he is using as an incumbent.

When I first proposed that to my advisor it almost sounded simplistic. Some of it seems basic and full of more common sense than whimsy. I figured it had to be something that's been studied to death. My advisor was right; there's not a lot of literature on the subject -- hence the part of the project with which I wasn't pleased.

Ultimately it has worked out very well, as things always tend to do. The process was challenging at times, but I'm proud of the end result. I've met some really nice people out of the deal. I hope to continue working with Jack, I owe him as much, but mostly the work he has me doing is a great experience. He represents the second largest district in the state and is letting me work on an awful lot of his media efforts in the campaign. I wrote, in small part, about the imposter syndrome and for a few weeks in March I was living it.

None of this gets into the curvy road of December, January and early February that got me here. Strange. Very strange.

Interviewed Dave Holloway today. Natalee Holloway's father. He's written a book, and the investigation has picked back up. He sounds tired of the same questions and the same non-answers he has to give. He's probably ready for the whole thing to be resolved, but that's an understatement bordering on the obscene, I'm sure.

Anyway, we're expecting a lot of play out of this interview tomorrow. There's only one or two things that the most up-to-date person might find new in this interview, but it continues to be a story with amazing appeal. You can hear it here. Still have to work on that audio quality, but, as always, the content is the key.

Prior to the interview we were talking and you get the feeling he has a nice sense of humor. It is amazing that the guy can find anything funny with this going on in his life, but something about the interview makes me chuckle. There's a great bit toward the end where he won't offer up any details of the book, wanting you to buy a copy instead. Spoken like a true best-selling author.

Encountered hail on the drive home. Quarter sized hail. I know it was that size because 45 seconds after I was out of it the Emergency Alert System took over the radio and told me that quarter sized hail could be moving in that direction. Should have called the National Weather Service office and confirmed the radar's estimate, but I'm sure they were busy.

Hail in a moving car, by the way, sounds like someone is ripping off the top layer of the hood. I believe that was a first for me. No dents, no dings, no errors. All is well.

Stopped by the library, picked up some DVDs for next week. Looks like I'll be busy and out of town over the weekend, but with all this new free time, I might as well go lazy for a few days.

You're right, I'll stop talking about that too.

Ate at Pike's barbeque tonight. Notable for introducing corn nuggets to the world. At least that seems to be the case from my memory as a 10-year-old. Having never had them, and having seen a big flowing banner on the restaurant one day, it was obvious to me that Mr. Pike created the things. He probably had too much corn in a stack and got top heavy by the deep frier, but terrific inventions frequently appear by seemingly random events. That my school, the next year, started offering corn nuggets only solidifid my belief that Mr. Pike was a genius of producing fried produce.

It occurs to me, now, that the creator of such a fine dinner treat would probably have expanded upon his empire. Perhaps moving -- or at least upgrading -- that most holy temple of deep fried starches. That he hasn't, that nothing has changed, that he's still sweeping the floors (I assume it is Mr. Pike. This one gentleman is always there and, in my mind, he plays the part of Mr. Pike. One day I'll ask.) would indicate that maybe he did not invent the corn nugget.

Perhaps he merely stumbled upon the idea at a barbeque convention. It is entirely plausible that in some other region the corn nuggets charm customers in abundance. I doubt this, it would seem that the South would covet all things fried before anyone else, but it is a theory which can't be discounted. It could be that he stole the idea from one of those trailer lot barbeque joints out in the middle of nowhere. Out of guilt he's storing away the money. If he closes the joint next week and moves to Fiji we'll know.

I'm glad he's never gotten around to upgrading. It has that certain suggestion of slight dinginess that accumulates after 30 years or so in one location. The place is clean, the food is good, the tables are speckled, but the colors inside the joint just make you wonder.

There's a Guess Your Weight machine. It looks ancient, but it can't be very old because it wants a quarter. It has a handy little chart, "What should you weigh?" which is not the best thing for customers to see before seeking their barbeque deliverance.

The best part are the booths which, to my knowledge, are the original furniture in the place. Don't see booths like that anymore. Mr. Pike clearly anticipated groups of two coming in for his delicious barbeque. I'm betting it was once a big dating destination where young kids pinned their romantic hopes on sandwiches, regular and jumbo. And if the corn nuggets were ordered you knew it was serious.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Called my advisor, further detailing the need to have his thesis corrections in hand as soon as possible. Friday is, after all, a somewhat important day. And it isn't too far away.

So he sent me an Email with about nine corrections. All of them having to do with format and none with content. Seems to like the paper, which is good. I'm not sure that I like all of it, but three out of four chapters ain't bad.

So I spend about 20 minutes making his changes, about an hour setting up the appendices. Sixty-five pages all told, they're staying in an asbestos lined case with a radiological decaying combination throughout the night. A multi-variance motion-detecting laser system with 42 rotating beams is in place to deter intruders. Parabolic microphones attuned to the subtle beating of the human heart are directed in crossing patterns throughout the secure room. Ethan Hunt isn't getting near this thing tonight.

Tomorrow it is turned in.

So home, then, after a nice little wreck on the interstate. An 18-wheeler by itself. Didn't seem to be hauling anything, but it looked as if giant hands reached down from the clouds and twisted the trailer in opposite directions. Twenty minutes of your life you'll never get back.

Now I'm fulfilling my promise from yesterday, doing nothing. I'd intended to work in the yard, but the weather saved you from reading about that. Now I think I'll go doze off listening to the rain.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

I did nothing today. And I liked it. I liked it so much I'll probably do some more of it tomorrow.

The March photos are finally put together. Just in time to start putting up the April photos. You can see them here.

I will catch up on this and every other aspect of life; today has just been a thumb twiddling day as I wait to hear back from my professor/advisor on any necessary thesis revisions -- may they be light.

Got pictures from Mom the other day, where they celebrated Coco's adoption.

A couple of days ago I was stressing out over something, probably the thesis, which lead to Brian creating a new threat alert system. Very clever. I wish more people thought of me that way.

Fun links: James Bond's phone. Sleep boosts your memory. It turns out that women are distracting.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Emailed the thesis to the professor this morning. Now waiting for the revisions, the Friday light at the end of the tunnel rushes onward quickly. Suddenly there's an awful lot of free time. What should I do with -- oh, yes, that list of things to do with all this free time.

So I mowed the lawn. That requires jumping the battery on the lawnmower. I didn't realize that the rubberized handles of jumper cables could complete the circuit. Or that the metal would retain the heat for so long. My butt didn't get electrocuted, no other body part was harmed. The handles only serve to point out red and black.

Anyway, the grass got cut. My yard is now as lower than everyone else on the street. The neighbors came out and applauded.

I started a book, for fun. Oh happy day. Read the first chapter of Reviving the Ancient Faith. I'll never be capable of reviewing this book, but if you'd like a review of the book covering some of the history of the church there's a good analysis by Dr. David Harrell Jr. about halfway down that page. He's an Auburn man.

Recorded The Bauer Hour. Went to check the tape and realized that I'd recorded an hour of quality UPN programming to watch instead. Brian backs me up with a review.
Tyra Banks approved the murder of President Palmer, but it was Veronica Mars who actually pulled the trigger. The entire CTU staff has been replaced by the cast of Girlfriends ("Nerve gas? DAYYYUUUMMMMM").

Chloe goes to bed with a young Chris Rock, whom everyone hates.

And in anticipation of Logan leaving the presidency, the first episode of America's Top Commander-in-Chief is now in the planning stages.
Maybe he should write the show.

Fun links: Titanic 2 The Surface. Bartering a paperclip for a house. The Miami Herald gets it in a big way.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Happy Easter!

As if all that that implies wasn't enough to be happy about, I finished Chapter Four sometime early this afternoon. I jotted down notes in a notebook to the sound of a dog show on television. "And I want that one, and that one, and that one ... " Figured it would be about two pages, but I got on a roll when the typing started and it turned into five.

And with that the writing is done. Formatting and the proofreading are wrapped up. Hand over the draft version tomorrow. Adding the appendices and making (hopefully minor) revisions are the last two things to accomplish. I'll do the appendices Tuesday and the revisions whenever my advisor gets back to me.

Celebrated the end of the writing by a trip out for a sandwich, but the Sunday deli at Publix was closed. Wal-Mart's deli doesn't make sandwiches. Bruno's deli does make sandwiches, but they didn't have any meat cut because "We're not that busy." So I turned on my heel and walked off.

And about six paces away I realized my error. I'm living in my consumer accessibility frame of mind. The "You should not make it this hard for me to spend my money here" one. I gave that rather unintelligible lady exactly what she wanted: no work. No big deal to her, her welfare doesn't depend on my sandwich, she still gets paid. Now, had I been in the more adversarial frame of mind the answer would have been obvious: you'll do for me the opposite of what you want, because I want it.

But Bruno's doesn't seem to need my money, which I'll remember, and I was in a celebratory mood anyway. So sandwiches on the deck at Jim 'N' Nicks!

Beautiful day for it too. Jess and The Yankee will tell you, they were there. They witnessed me in celebration mode. (I had the baked apples.)

No one was inside the place, but it was such a beautiful Easter Sunday that the outdoors went indoors.

Went home, formatted and proofread. Made the preparations to add the appendices. Tomorrow I'll send it to my advisor and wait for his comments and corrections.

Celebrated again with Mexican, but missed the mariachi. I'll record them soon; it has become a quest.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Woke up and went to work on the thesis. This is do or die weekend, really. The draft version is due to my advisor Monday, so these last few pages, the proofreading, the formatting all have to be in place so I can have that in his inbox first thing Monday morning. No pressure.

Got a page or two done in the morning and then went to a wedding. Ran into a guy I knew years ago at the reception. He was the booster club president of Auburn High's football team, whose games we used to broadcast. Met his son again, he played on that team and went on to play football at Troy and is now 6-4, 270 of the nicest, most polite young man -- calls me sir and I'm maybe four years older than he is -- that you could ever be intimidated by. Small world. Especially small when I met someone I graduated from high school with at the same reception.

The next time I meet these people I'm making up stories about myself. Me? Oh, cardiothorassic surgery in Memphis. In my free time I paint picture frames. Something like that. I made quite a few dollars in the dot-com bubble and then invested it in the little handles on zippers. I live modestly, but my children will never have to work again. Believability. That's the key.

Got home, did a little more work, wrapped up Chapter One. Hopefully it is reasonable, though there are parts that I'm not entirely satisfied with yet. Just Chapter Four and formatting to go!

Friday, April 14, 2006

The boss sends out an Email saying everyone can leave early, say 3, since it is Good Friday. I already get off at 3, what does that mean?

I could have left early, but I stayed late, working on the thesis. Way late. Especially late on a Friday late. This is the extent of my dedication. The guy that comes in and takes the garbage and straightens up knocked off before I did.

But I got through about seven pages. I think maybe two more pages on Chapter One, two pages on Chapter Four and its all done but the formatting, the appending and the collating.

I'm hoping for a productive Saturday. Hope along with me, won't you?

Pie Day. We had ribs. Ribs, the food that's its own souvenir. The rest of the night you're picking things out of your fingernails.

Could be worse, Brian had the potato and found something in it. His dinner was free. I think he's on to something. That potato always has something wrong with it. Sour cream when none was ordered, some inappropriately crunchy thing, It has almost become a game: What can I get free tonight? Maybe I should copy him.

Oh, here's Taylor, drinking from six straws. She had to stand in the booth to reach the other end.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The working part of the day all week has seemed to slow down, molasses dripping from a winter tree. Except the sky is high and cloudless and we're settling in for the warmer part of spring, the great Get Ready that leads to summer. We'll be pushing into the mid 80s before the week is out. The rest of the day, though, is flying down, and no matter how much I sleep or nap I can't seem to feel awake and rested. Very strange.

I'm down to the last few days of thesis writing. Things are entirely under control at this point, but that doesn't stop the fretting. So long as I can have at least one good day of productive writing and then another day of semi-productivity the draft will be in order to turn in Monday. Oh, happy day.

Before that can get here, though, comes lots of other fun. And a phone call. The ringing at 10:30 last night -- And, new rule, no one calls after 9, starting next week. You better be bleeding or on the short list to do otherwise -- set up a meeting for earlier today. And so there we sat as rush hour whizzed by outside, sitting there with a cast of characters. Prominent, know everybody, people. The best part was that one of them, a guy with an important title in the community and quite possibly brilliant in that bored-with-it way, was completely transfixed by a snow globe.

But it was a good snow globe, highlighting the city's skyline. Most of the buildings were in the right location in relation to one another, though Alabama Power was not to scale, perhaps they made it. And the statue of Vulcan sits in the shadow of the BellSouth building. Which is a shame, really, because if you can't trust the United Brotherhood of Snow Globe Makers to be forthright, who can you turn to?

Got a page or two written tonight, just too sapped for much more. Maybe tomorrow will be better.

Fun links:Taylor Hicks sings Crazy Little Thing Called Love. American Idol apparently had that video pulled. So much for that AI-You Tube partnership from last week. Wouldn't want more people to see the product. Wouldn't want to build a peripheral audience. Anyway. Maybe I've shared this before, but we were talking about it today, and so I'll offer Olde English sketch comedy: Gym Class. Aside from the first minute or so I think this is only funny because I can see wasting a night making this.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

So I'm driving to work, listening to something only mildly terrible on the car stereo, topping the hill and just about to round the big curve that drops you down among the buildings of downtown.

And then the cellphone rings. Or vibrates. If it rings there is real trouble since it is set to vibrate. So it buzzes (And that drives the neighbors wild ... ) and Grant Merrill is on the other end. I worked with Grant several years ago and today he wanted me to go on the air with him about an Alabama sports story. Prominent booster Logan Young died under suspicious circumstances, he was from Arkansas and Arkansans never forget their own.

So a few minutes later we were off and running on a short interview. You can hear it here. They wanted to interview me under the psuedonym, so that explains that. They like to play that guy up as some kind of celebrity for some reason. Its a nice gag for the occasional appearance. I was no celebrity in Little Rock. Always in the middle of things, yes, but never the center of attention. So anyway, J.R. rides again.

I did this interview from memory and, surprisingly, got it all right. I also used the word "us" in there at one point. I was speaking parenthetically offering an opinion an Alabama fan might hold. I am not an Alabama fan. Sometimes one needs such distinguishments in life.

Grant's working at WAI radio in Little Rock now. I listened to their feed for a bit this morning, he's doing a great show aimed at the 20something crowd. I'll be back to listen more, and hopefully I can con them into letting me play along somehow.

Every once in a while something like that happens that wakes up the broadcasting bug. It sure is a hungry creature. I talked with Grant later in the day and we might put a little project together in the near future. You can never have too many irons in the fire.

Oops, my other irons are burning. Hold on.

OK, sorry. Anyway, as the day turned into night, that Logan Young story grows more intriguing. Looks like they are now calling it an accident. That, to me, is more curious than the death itself. Ultimately you really have to be an Alabama fan or a Tennessee person to know the many ins and outs of this story. Go find one, ask them -- in small words -- to explain it to you.

Moving on, how about a random trip through the referrer logs:

  • I'm 28th if you google The Lady and Sons blog
  • Someone searched for toilet camera. Why? They found two modest video clips of rolling Toomer's Corner.
  • Someone thinks I'm runing for the legislature.
  • In retrospect I believe that doing so much on Monday has sapped me of energy. I did write two pages of thesis tonight, otherwise it was a chatty evening involving lots of everyone calling and talking about wide-ranging events. For one night I was popular, and Cingular thanks you for every minute of it.

    Tuesday, April 11, 2006

    Where yesterday was productive, this afternoon was the antithesis. It was the day that seemed to drag forever at work. Being there is never a bad thing, I enjoy that part of the day a great deal, but sometimes the passage of time roars by, and sometimes you really want to grease the skids. How we could stay in the a.m. that long mystifies me.

    To console myself, I got home and slept most of the evening away.

    The most entertaining news, comparatively, that I can offer in this prosaic world today is that I've went from last to fourth in the fantasy baseball league since the second day of the season. Occasionally paying attention can do that for you. Picking up quality free agent pitchers and reshuffling your lineup goes a long way from being the basement to threatening third place.

    I was asked to join a league and said I would if I didn't have to babysit it daily. When I was invited I figured that must have been the case. After getting involved I see the reality is different. I've picked up Brad Penny as a free agent, revenge will be mine.

    I got heckled from friends that live on the north side of town, and rightfully so. I said Saturday that they got some strong winds, but nothing more. Turns out they did have an F-1 tornado. Of course it took the National Weather Service and their years of experience until Monday to find that out, after a personal trip. I made my guess based on a word of mouth report and a handful of pictures.

    Oh yeah, and I'm not a meteorologist. I do like using the term straight line winds, however. Right away you can tell them apart from those swirling winds. Solid, dependable. Gives a man a sense of constancy, knowing he's dealing in meteorological occurences of such a predictive motive. No sense in bringing in wishy-washy winds that don't know whether they are going here, or there. No sir. Straight line winds have a plan. A purpose. Winds with rotation, they're nothing but rebel rousers. Tearing up Sonic restaurants. The nerve.

    Monday, April 10, 2006

    I had to look up the word to verify the meaning, but apparently I'm dull. Thanks Coach.

    Here's an illustration. The old joke goes that people race marathons for the "runner's high," but I drop off the dry cleaning and stop by the bank and I need a nap. Today has been more productive.

    Stopped by my tax lady's place after work. A building with exterior textures hung on the inside of the walls. This stuff belongs on the walls of someone's screened porch, but these ladies see it for eight hours every day. More so this time of year. Only today there was no one there. This is usually a large investment of time, but today I sat right down and talked with the woman who, once a year, has to wear the look of familiarity for customers for 15 minutes. You know the one, the 'I feel like I should know you, so we'll speak on a level only slightly more substantial than elevatorspeak' feeling.

    And then she told me about my return and we got very friendly. I think she misplaced a decimal. And then she asked for her check for doing the work, and we became less friendly. It was all very mercurial.

    Stocked up on groceries for the week. Food World was closest, so I opted for convenience over pleasure. I like the Publix, I'm drinking the proverbial kool-aid, but it is a 10 minute hike. Food World is right there, and sometimes proximity outweighs the goofiness of a place. I'm not sure how their tile and their flourescent light bulbs can change the attitude of the place. Ever since I came to this conclusion late last year, everytime I walk in here I realize, you can't be cool in a grocery store. At least not this one. I've played soccer in Publix, they don't seem to mind, so you can feel more comfortable there. Fortunately the Food World is back to bringing in the big Fuji apples once again. They still have a very narrow frozen food selection, and never have the right applejuice. They do have the right peanut butter, a thumb in the eye of Publix, that.

    The Bauer Hour! So let me get this straight, the president is the bad guy. The vice president is a bad guy. And the latter is beginning to figure out the former. This reminds me of stories one roommate trying to hide his vices from the other roommate. Three weeks into the relationship one realizes the other is enjoying the same beverages. Suddenly the party is on.

    Maybe Jack has reason to be scared, as he said last week. Now he's pulling the secretary of defense into the thing. But first he has to roust a banker from his bed, threaten his wife and force him to open a vault in the pre-dawn hours.

    How did that tape, with all the evidence implicating the president, make it to the vault today? Plot hole!

    As they listen, they are surrounded by guys both good and bad. Gunfire erupts. They make their escape and clearly the strain of no food or restroom breaks has gotten to Jack Bauer.

    Jack Bauer is single-handedly bringing the satchel bag back into vogue. It is not a murse! Unfortunately he does not have the time to explain the intricacies and distinguishing characteristics, chief among them their contents. Consider, this is a guy that has a cellphone that can take long zoom high-res photographs and blow things up. He has a PDA that can get a real-time satellite feed. With all these tools at his disposal he can't out the information on that mysterious cassette tape from right there in the bank?

    You hole up in the vault, call the secretary of defense, conference in the media on a three-way call, have the PDA fire up a sterno to make some food, and wait until the situation sorts itself out.

    Once again, using logic makes this a much shorter show. Tightening it up would at least ease the burden on the plot. Next season we could re-brand it "Before Brunch."

    Oh, wrote Chapter Three to the thesis tonight. See, productive?

    Wads changes direction. I'm not dull, I write flowery prose. Keep digging, Coach. I like the compliments better, keep 'em coming.

    Sunday, April 9, 2006

    Not much new on the thesis front, sounds like a picnic is needed. Took a sandwich to the lake searching for inspiration.

    Didn't find much of that there, but there was a lizards nice enough to pose. When he sticks his throat fan out, he's either territorial or flirting. There were one or two more lizards within a few feet of that tree, so it could have been either.

    Found some nice flowers too. Here's one. Here's some more.

    Just saw one duck, and he didn't get close enough for a nice smiling portrait. So it goes.

    Watched Cinderella Man:
    Better, emotionally, than Rocky, but then this movie is more than boxing.
    Tonight the mariachi stretched out and played some things I hadn't heard from the before. My favorite is still Bricks in the Wall, but the trumpet solo for Stormy Weather is now a close second. And then, by request, they played Devil Went Down to Georgia. Three fiddlers, and they don't have anything on Charlie Daniels, but one of them was playing awfully hard.

    Next time I'm getting sound.

    Saturday, April 8, 2006

    Rained overnight. The earth had that sodden look to it this morning. A month later and that would be the recipe for a steamy week. All things are easily forgiven in April however.

    The power blinked when the thunder came in the early morning hours. The suburbs to the north got some heavy winds, but all is well here.

    I cleaned today; the last bastion of the procrastinator. I mentioned Thursday that I'd made a list of things I'm looking forward to doing in a few days when I can take over my life in clean conscience. Scratched one of those things off the list today.

    The payment for that was a squirmy back. After a bit laying down was a better idea than sitting, so that was the better part of the afternoon. Later I discovered that I could sit down for the length of a long dinner before I'd rather be moving around. A rib moved the wrong way or something.

    Which brings up today's moral question. When you deliver a plate to the table, and there's just the tiniest bit of the main entree, but tell me that it is measured by volume, and I insist the dish has been declining recently, and you carry it to the back, returning with a larger portion, were you lying to me?

    Should that impact your tip?

    Finally watched Walk the Line:
    Joaquin can sing, can't he? Needed more Jerry Lee Lewis.
    After most of the evening lying still my back is feeling much better, thanks.

    The Easter Bunny hates you. Maybe you need a new government defense shield. If that doesn't work, you could become the real bionic man or, soon, travel in time.

    Friday, April 7, 2006

    Got a big scare from the meteorologists today. All those weather types were following this scaring looking storm over the midwest, and it was dipping down low and threatening to dampen the weekend's spirits. It also threatened with lightning, hail and tornados.

    It was to be one of those system that just appears because the conditions are set just right. One of those events that happens every so often around here. We'd watched Tennessee and others suffer through devastation during the week and it looked like our turn today. The boss sent people leaving town out of the office early even.

    The sun kept shining. The temperature went up and something surely happened to the barometer -- something is always happening with that piece of equipment, maybe it needs an examination -- and then the winds shifted and blew out of the southwest. That seemed like it would be the beginning of it, a few hours late, but here nonetheless.

    And then nothing happened. The sun went down, the stiff little breeze died away, it became another sleepy spring evening.

    Mac Thomason reports on the devastation in Tuscaloosa here and here.

    Up the interstate a bit in the Birmingham-Hoover metro, this was the scene.

    The blogroll grows. I've added some new sites that I've picked up at work the last week or three. There is a strict approval process around here, and these folks made the cut. There's a cartoonist, a guy with lists, some marketing, some political news, an Alaskan adventurer and a marine in Iraq.

    Just added:
    Merrill Ligons
    Jeff Borgman
    Timothy McSweeney
    Bill Green
    Jeff Midnight
    Mark Nelson
    Robert Prather
    Sean Hackbrath
    Someone wrote to ask how I can go on and on about a waiter at a barbeque joint. This is why people love Ward: He sees an empty glass from almost halfway across the store, bolts to the nearest pitcher of tea and sprints to deliver the delicious sweet tea. Not even his table.

    You're my hero again, Ward.

    "When was I not your hero?"

    When you moved to Florida. When you wouldn't autograph my wetnap the day you moved to Florida.

    Hey, we're close, what can I say? Ward's delivered delicious food and beverages to my table for well more than a year.

    He saw the camera and started avoiding me. May as well catch a hummingbird. I'm sneaky, though. "That's so wrong!" he declared from across the store, even before the flash retreated and the darkness took over. Now we have laid the groundwork for a challenge of photography, catching him in increasingly better shots. We teased him about photoshopping his head onto a buxom model. He said he'd put it on the bulletin board in the back.

    And that's why we missed Ward, and why we were happy he came back.

    Thursday, April 6, 2006

    Do you know who suddenly doesn't quit? The Fraternal Order of Police. Once upon a time they would call, give their spiel and I could politely, and honestly, say I wish I could help, but unfortunately I have this tuition due. Then the person on the other end couldn't get off the phone fast enough for saying that that was understandable, important and study hard.

    Not anymore. They have four or five different payment schemes. And then they had my phone number going to a different address. If you can't match those up there isn't much hope for you stopping by if I call then, right?

    Hey, I want to help. I want to help a lot of causes. I was ready to go with one of the slightly more reduced donation plans until the address thing. Telemarketers of the world, get your act together. Bad enough you're calling from a blocked number -- bad form for the police if ever there was one -- are you undercover? Get it together and then we'll talk.

    I want to do lots of things though. So much so that I made a list. Two weeks from now, these are the things I'm doing. The first four or five were household everyday things. That's sad in a I-should-do-some-house-painting way. Fifth on the list, I think was a baseball game.

    The earliest game I'll make will be the 16th. More than likely it'll be later, but I'm counting the days until I get those ballpark peanuts. For now I'll content myself with a televised game as background noise.

    Made some headway into the third chapter of the thesis. Not ready to write it just yet, but it has come together with the exception of one key ingredient. So, feeling good about that, I must now return to the first chapter. Pages and pages of notes there to distill into something readable. I seem to be avoiding that task at every turn.

    So long as I get it in by next Friday.

    Wednesday, April 5, 2006

    And now, a recipe for a fun lunch hour. Drive to your nearest shopping village, Our Town type environment. Pull into one of the parking spaces on Main Street. After every third car pull out and pull back into the space. Make sure to wave back at all the friendly passersby.

    Then go for ice cream.

    Beautiful day today, yet again. The trade off for the gorgeous spring weather looks to appear Friday night. Lots of storms are forecast through the region. We'll settle in and watch, and dream of the sun and the white clouds and imagine a bushel of room temperature days.

    Home today for a little more thesis work. That's become the routine. Go agonize over some little detail. Try to stay motivated about doing the rest. That's the afternoon, evening and late night.

    Beyond that, I'm trying a new RSS Feeder. Alertbear works pretty well so far, but their disclaimer was worth the download alone.
    NOTE: No warranties, either express or implied, are hereby given. All software is supplied as is, without guarantee. The user assumes all responsibility for damages resulting from the use of this software, including, but not limited to, frustration, disgust, system abends, disk head-crashes, general malfeasance, floods, fires, shark attack, nerve
    gas, locust infestation, cyclones, hurricanes, tsunamis, local electromagnetic disruptions, hydraulic brake system failure, invasion, hashing collisions, normal wear and tear of friction surfaces, comic radiation, inadvertent destruction of sensitive electronic components, windstorms, the Riders of Nazgul, infuriated chickens, malfunctioning mechanical or electrical sexual devices, premature activation of the distant early warning system, peasant uprisings, halitosis, artillery bombardment, explosions, cave-ins, and/or frogs falling from the sky.
    I'd say they covered their bases.

    Things will pick up; I have to see the tax lady this week. There'll be a story in there somewhere worth telling.

    Tuesday, April 4, 2006

    Yesterday seemed long. Today will be longer. This is the pattern of things when you don't sleep in the appropriate way. Beautiful spring days, though. A little cool in the morning, but gorgeous and perfect afternoons. Couldn't sleep through those even if I wanted to. Which, I predict, I would like to do one day this week. Time will tell.

    "Yeah, yeah, you're sleepy, we get it."

    I won the basketball pick'em. I won this Saturday night though. UCLA beat LSU and I didn't care about the game or the following one or anything other than that it signified the end of basketball season. That's only important because it signifies baseball, The Master's and the coming nine-month-long NBA playoff. Once that's out of the way it'll be safe to watch sports programming again.

    I watched just under two halves of two college basketball games this season. They were both very good, and I should not push my luck searching for quality entertainment. Naturally, watching less than 40 minutes of ball qualified me as the winner of the pool. I ran an experimental second team, with only the seeded favorites winning, that team finished in a statistical tie for fourth place. No money exchanged hands. No one will even listen if I brag. "You don't even like or watch basketball!" they'll cry.

    Takes the oomph out of any trash and/or talk I might offer.

    Today marked return of the Tuesday Blues. This day deserves a new name, even if that name is new. There's nothing blue, just nothing eventful going on. There was lunch. It was healthy. A beautiful day. I returned home and took a two minute nap. That was about it.

    I did find this today, and it serves as the perfect opening act for William Shatner in Boston Legal tonight. Here's Shatner circa 1978, with Rocket Man

    Wads will like that. Oh, by the way, he's posting again. Good stuff, too. Everyday even. Keep it up Coach!

    More of questionable quality tomorrow.

    Monday, April 3, 2006

    The day after the getaway vacation is always a long day. I'm returned from a lazy afternoon under the comfort of a cooly shaded tree and leap headlong back into your favorite metaphor for too busy.

    On the upside, Chapter 2 of the thesis is complete. Chapter 1 is starting to come together, Chapter 3 should flesh itself out by the end of the week. Chapter 4 will be fairly quick in coming after that. That leaves format stuff to worry over. And, with that, you know what I'll be doing for the next two weeks. We'll try not to dwell on it too much here.

    Which leaves us with ... a lack of sleep and ...

    The Bauer Hour! Returning to the normal viewing schedule to surely be radically disappointed in poor plot twists.

    So the former president's brother, just unconscious an hour ago, talks lucidly and secretively with everyone on his cell phone. He's under the same roof as the president, who travels with the most sophisticated communication gear available. No way that conversation didn't get intercepted.

    Somewhere in here we learn that the bad guy du jour ... err ... heure ... is the First Lady's aide. At first I wondered how she could be so calm and cool until they hit us with this plot point, only to suddenly fall apart. Oh! The nation would collectively smack our heads Of course! I should have seen this all along! Then I remembered that they really are making this up as they go along. Starting to fray at the seams and show a bit too. We'll have to endure this scatological villany each episode the rest of the way in.

    The aide is acting under duress, we learn, since her daughter's been kidnapped. Is it bad that whenever the child came up I imagined a cocker spaniel? She confides with the former first brother -- cooler than Billy Carter and smarter than Roger Clinton, but without the office holding power of the Jebster -- and they set out to make right what once went wrong, hoping that this time will be the leap home.

    Sorry. Wrong show.

    And then, to throw everyone off their trail, the former president's brother goes with the "Let's leave separately and meet up in the parking lot just outside yonder door of the presidential compound." That one always tricks them. If you've seen it once you've seen it a dozen times.

    So there's a satellite assisted ambush using a live feed into the PDA. I want that. You never know when you might have to knock off radical Chechnyan terrorists. He might have me on the tech, but unlike Jack I always carry a sandwich and a thermos in my satchel bag.

    Jack might have been Delta Force, but he wasn't a Boy Scout. Maybe they should have offered a merit badge in brute bodily harm. At any rate, be prepared doesn't seem to occur to the guy. Of course he takes far fewer restroom breaks than I do, so there is an upside.

    All this, and the ending, aside, it is amazing the things the mind will accept. The one aspect of this hour of Jack's Fifth Really Bad Day was a technical maneuver; one of those "Jack should know better" moments. That's what I'm hung up on when I have --

    The President? He's the new baddie? That's the best they could do, the most obvious and disbelievable character turn in the show? Are he and his veep working in concert or separately? Tripe.

    This show gets strained and pulls apart after too much examination. Granted they've got a great name for the show, but maybe season six should be re-named "Before Dinner."

    Sunday, April 2, 2006

    I was lazy under a tree. Saw some people doing flips in the park. Agile guy, in a dance-fighter sort of way. Impressed the girls too.

    Forsyth Park is where you see The Fountain in so many movies. This is where dogs meet. Opposites attract I suppose. This is where you claim a tree and visit it each trip. It might be one of the most peaceful places on earth.

    Back from Savannah. I wrote Chapter Two of my thesis. I caught up on the last two weeks of 24. That's a productive day.

    24 is turning into a comedy of errors. We're throwing stuff against the walls to see what will shock and stun. Character turns and fakes are abundant and it doesn't do anything for the audience or the story. Jack's love interest from DoD is the bad guy? She's an appointee of her father, who's the secretary of defense. And we all know how down we are as a society on that guy. But, she's not bad. Or even mildly evil. She's at most the product of some nepotism. Jack, the most clear-headed non-government employee bossing everyone else around, said so. He worked her over good, looked into her eyes -- Nay! Her soul! -- and could tell.

    So she gets drugged. Or something. It looks painful. And is saved ultimately by the authorative hoarse scream of Jack Bauer. Why doesn't he run the place? DHS is trying to take over, and we all know how well they work in calamity. Jack's more down with torture, (so long time viewers say, but he's had a slow afternoon -- get him a protein shake or something!) than red tape and bureaucratic appearances.

    Meanwhile, the evil vice president has thought of everything, and fortunately located a team of assassins inside the security perimeter of the presidential compound, just in case the former president's brother showed up. He did; they failed.

    The really super-duper bad guys were going to put the bad stuff in the natural gas, but Jack burned it. Wouldn't the natural gas customers do the same thing? Maybe that was what the pressure reduction was for, but it seems that when you invite natural gas into your homes you generally are using it right away. And if you can monitor that dispersal at CTU -- Lord save us from the self-serving bickering going on at that place -- can't you just take the plant off the grid?

    Saturday, April 1, 2006

    The nice lady who waited on our breakfast table -- who forgot our drinks and then brought the wrongly flavored refills -- will be remembered for another reason. Her name was Wealthie. Said so right there on her apron, right next to all those stars.

    She looked like the type that didn't have to work, but did it for the people. Why stay at home and play? Wouldn't you much rather sling hash and coffee around for bleary eyed partisans who aren't the least bit concerned with the epherma on the walls?

    I've been to Cracker Barrel twice recently and that's what I've come away with: That chicken and rice is good, and no one cares about the scythe, the big bicycle wheel or the fresh bread sign. TGI Friday's -- we'll argue this point from the national chain's perspective -- set the bar too high. Other people entered into the attic-on-the-walls game. Applebee's got involved. And there was the undoing. Sixteen people who's job it is to go to estate sales and by old crew boats and movie posters to afix to wood paneling with phillips head screws are having to move on, look for a new racket. No one cares about the turn of the century bowling pins or the quilts made by your grandmother's grandmother, neatly framed on the wall. That's just sad. Wealthie and I like it, though. That's why we always return, why the unsweetened tea isn't such a nuisance.

    I always thought that might be one of your neater jobs: finding and hanging the stuff like that at restaurants. It always seems a little too dark up toward the ceiling though. Is that a design trick? Does our detrius get less interesting toward the ceiling?

    Sorry, got stuck in traffic a bit today.

    Went to Hilton Head. A-beaching we will go. You cross into South Carolina on the I-95, a particular stretch of this particular interstate I haven't been on in a quarter century, give or take a few daylight savings times. There is a big brick wall, on either side of the interstate and in the median, with an arching top to it that just screams "Another Country." The flag is flying, proud and nationalist, and if it wasn't for the familiar Palmetto State logo this could be the potential beginning to a B-movie plot.

    I'd point you to Folly Field, where the children are polite and the parking meters are out of order, but every hit comes up as real estate. (Found a great condo though. File that back in the memory ...)

    There's white sand here, it is vanilla ice cream speckled with finely diced vanilla beans. The tides go way out and there isn't much to it. The water is nice, it is a quiet Spring Break weekend afternoon. A mom and her kids stops to ask if this is a baby crab they caught. I nod that it is, without telling them what's on the menu later tonight.

    Walking down the beach two kids on bikes are giving away a sand dollar. Still alive, so back in the ocean you go, hopefully with a fighting chance. Found my own sand dollar just after that. First time ever. Caught the tides just right. Hey! Another! And still one more! All seemed alive still, so delicately they all went back into the surf. On the heels of that success was a diminutive starfish. I've run across a few diving, but never on a beach. It was, unfortunately, dead and thus became a collector's item.

    Found one tree standing on the beach, serving as sentinel, out of place between a saltwater marsh and the beach. That was about the extent of the sand dunes as well. Condos are coming in here, and they'll have an unimpeded view of the water rushing up to their patio. A small handful of sea oats, not yet vibrant with their spring colors, and a staggered line of beach fences were their only protection from anything more than a mildly agitated ocean.

    Back into Savannah just before the sun went down. Improbably, we found a Graves brick. This is a brick made in Birmingham just after the turn of the 19th Century. All of this part of Savannah, built as cobblestone and European bluestone taken off ships and being promoted from ballast to enduring architecture. A Graves brick shouldn't be found as the sky is thinning down to a blue-gray gruel. It shouldn't be here at all, but here it is, almost as if you noticed it by stubbing your toe. I looked around for more, but could only find the one. A mystery to be solved. I wonder what the reaction would be if I called the Chambers and Commissions of Savannah trying to look into it.

    We decided on Paula Deen's brother's place, Uncle Bubba's on Whitmarsh. Food is good, the atmosphere is sterile. We all appreciate a clean restaurant, but you have to some attitude about it if crabs are on the menu. That should be a rule. Crabs were good. The pictures were better. The no-waiting was best of all.

    Back to River Street, listened to the trumpet street performer. He's something of an institution. Next time I'll ask his name. He's very interactive and a lot of fun. People walk by holding hands, there's "Here Comes the Bride". He plays "Charge" and you scream and then he answers "No, cash!" If a girl is wearing pink she becomes "The Pink Panther." The military gets a special tribute, though tonight Army officers heard the Navy's song. They sang along good naturedly. We always get him to play Glory.

    Somehow, after a long and confusing trip, we ended out at a saltwater inlet staring at stars skipping rocks. Early in the night we'd belted out a rousing "You Never Even Call Me By My Name."

    Seems like you always forget how you can grow to love this; the crickets are buzzing their first impatient hello, and the sound wraps a thousand memories around itself, burrowing into the ear and emerging as a smile. It seemed a fitting end to the first sticky night of spring.