Kenny Smith | blog

Friday, November 30, 2007

The week ended with the big quarterly meeting. The company is doing great, the ads look great, sales are good, the sports guys are working hard, everyone seems pleased.

Four times a year, in 90-minute installments, we hear the happy news of an organization on the move and growing. We're surrounded by talented, hard-working people and make sure you submit your expense reports in a timely fashion.

Also, lets go eat. The boss treated us to Irondale Cafe, the original Whistlestop. Fannie Flag, Fried Green Tomatoes, this is the place from which all that originates.

It is a buffet lunch. A big buffet. Lots of food. I got the hamburger steak, okra, corn and black eyed peas. The hamburger steak wasn't the best, but that can be hit or miss. The okra was tremendous, maybe the best ever, the corn was great and the black eyed peas might, in fact, motivate one to slap a grandmother.

(We do not advocate violence, but wholeheartedly endorse the black eyed peas.)

I was told the fried chicken was worth two helpings. The pie was also enough to melt a hearty man's soul.

After lunch many coworkers took part in a light-spirited Dirty Santa. A bright green, terry cloth covered massager was the big item. They were frogs, you stick your feet inside and then wait for the relief that makes you ribbit. The first guy got the frog massager, and someone stole it from him before he could finish unwrapping it. It was taken a few more times. Side deals to pair presents with logical recipients were made. A good time was had by all.

And that was the day, the afternoon spent catching up from the lunch hour, and trying to stay awake after the meat and three lunch.

Met Stephen and Brooke for an afternoon at the dollar movie theater. Brooke watched Ratatouille, Stephen and I caught 3:10 to Yuma:
Decent modern western, even for a remake. Bale is better than Crowe.
We discussed the psychology behind the movie, which seemed odd for a western aimed at the visceral, but ultimately found it worthy of viewing. For her part Brooke also enjoyed Ratatouille.

Brooke and Stephen then joined us for Pie Day. The evening moved quickly as we discussed communication theory, law, football and cartoons. Afterwards we sang songs into the night sky with helium.

We're a sophisticated lot.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Once in a great while one of the news stories that we follow so closely becomes a little bit more than names in newsprint.

At Zaxby's for dinner the other night one of the girls behind the counter asked me to donate a few dollars. One of their managers was killed, her house burned and her children orphaned.

I'd met her once or twice, she seemed like a nice lady. And now her three kids are without their mother. There's nothing in the world that fixes that, least of all the knowledge that the guy was already awaiting trial for another attempted murder. And her family will probably never be able to understand this to their satisfaction. Just horrible stuff.

Somehow a couple of bucks didn't seem like much. Didn't seem like anything, really. The chicken dinner, after that news, wasn't as good as it could have been. That happened Saturday, I was in the store on Tuesday and no one had yet come to terms with the news. The first girl could barely get the details out and the second lady I spoke with had this far off look when she tried to remember when this happened. It had been a long week already; it was only going to get longer.

I've been slightly sick this week. The interns are to blame. No one else I've been around has been ill, but now, suddenly, everyone is catching it. I'm fighting it off, though. Doing better than some. Still doesn't mean it is fun, particularly in the early morning when whatever that musty funk in our office seems to be at its peak. It takes the better part of the day to overcome. By then something aches or burns from all the coughing or sneezing.

But at least I can breathe. Anything is manageable if you can use the nose and lungs for their assigned function. Nothing ruins a good day as quickly as the malfunction of the respiratory system. You want to see me complain about something? Catch me when the sinuses are fouled. The rest of this, in comparison, is easy.

It gave me a six minute nap on the sofa this afternoon. Got still, quiet and the room got dark and the random coughing stopped long enough to doze during another installment of The War. When I woke up I had to backtrack a bit, which was good because I'd almost missed a key part.

Tom Galloway was from Mobile. He fought in Europe as a junior officer:
On November 2, l944, Galloway and the 28th were ordered into the Hurtgen Forest, just south of the German city of Aachen. The two divisions that had fought in the forest in October had lost 4500 men in three weeks and moved less than three miles. The 28th would suffer similar losses there: in two weeks of fighting the officers of every single rifle company would be killed or wounded.
Galloway said, at one point in the bloody Hurtgen Forest campaign that someone came up to him to say he was the only officer left in the entire battalion.

Galloway was an Auburn student who put his academics on hold to go fight. He had no idea, when he posed for this Glomerata sophomore headshot in 1942, that he'd take part in something called the Battle of the Bulge or that he'd become a prisoner of war.

He was studying aeronautical engineering, graduated after the war and went on to get his law degree and still works in his own hometown firm all these years later.

Hurtgen Forest, though, sounds like a horrible place if you look at the numbers in the link above. It is one of those parts of the war no one talks about a lot because it isn't one of the bright and shining moments. Indeed, the title of this episode of the documentary was FUBAR. After this there are two episodes left to watch.

So next week sometime I'll finish the marathon documentary. Seventeen hours of broadcasting that took five years to produce and six weeks for me to view.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

This seems unusual, the result of that finest of holiday traditions, the selection of the Christmas tree. Sweat.

There's an across town tree farm, a humble little place, surrounded by low mountains and almost perfectly quiet. You could walk over all of their hills and dales in about six minutes, or half an hour if you're staring at the firs and cedars. They have two reindeer for children to ooh and ahh at.

They give you saws and leave you to your own devices. Kids running around on your property with handsaws. This is perhaps the one industry that the lawyers and insurance folks haven't yet figured out could be inherently dangerous.

But it is Christmas, one of those times where losing an appendage might be allowed. Second only to the Fourth of July of course. On this day there were no painful screams, no children running around with injuries, just the joys of seeing the reindeer and the giant firs that dot the landscape.

"Ohh, Mom! That one! That's the one we should get."

That tree is larger than the station wagon, but in the eyes of a child the tree is a barometer of Christmas. "Get me that big one and I'm getting a Wii."

Found a tree, marked it and decided to keep looking, just in case. Found another tree. A better tree. The only problem with it was an ant bed built right next to the trunk.

Also, this tree did not want to be cut down. That took a while. And, given the 63 degree temperature, a little sweat.

After that there's the rite of holiday passage, carrying this heavy, sappy tree up the hill where two young guys shake the loose needles, wrap it in that cargo netting and then get it in, on or under your ride. Whatever those guys get paid it should be a little bit more. It is seasonal work, after all. They do just about anything you ask except for come to your home and put your tree up.

Which, I now realize, would be a good deal too. Never before has the simple act of putting up a Christmas tree, earned so many grunts, groans and the consideration of oaths. Turns out the trunk wasn't quite long enough for the tree stand. A few thin stones in the bottom of the stand got the whole thing standing level and, when decorated, it will be a lovely tree.

On the way home tonight the city noted that the old AmSouth building, now the Regions Center, is still Birmingham's tallest Christmas decoration.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A little more sleep last night, a little more well-rested today. Life is good. Great even. No complaints at all. I'm still thankful for all of the many wonderful things I was thankful for last week at the seasonally appropriate moment.

If you can keep that in mind when there's not a bird on the table and rolls in the oven then you're ahead of most people, I figure, so stay thankful. Which means this whole place will stay just as sappy and syrupy as it has always been. Now with more vitamins!

Lots of computer work this evening, as I'm satisfied that I've almost caught up on everything after the week away from the news, the house, the computer and so on.

Finished another installment of The War. It remains a great documentary, but there's enough footage of the graphic violence of war to make you weary just from watching.
After tonight I'm down to the last three installments of the documentary, but there's some rough stuff still to come.

Truly it makes you appreciate the people who went out into the world and did that for the rest of us. We sit in our comfortable living rooms and feel squeamish, they lived it, smelled it and slept in it.

There's no overstating or over-appreciating that can ever be done for the people who willingly do that for strangers.

It can also make you think you've had your fill of war stories. It is hard to ignore a good story of compelling heroism.

The most exciting thing that happened around the site today was an important one.

Brian fixed my archiving problem. All it took was to trick him into linking to a broken URL on my site to help me find the answer. He had no idea, two years ago, that I was really ruining Christmas presents on my blog so that he could make fun of me every Christmas on his blog which would lead to me making fun of him on my blog which would get the problem solved.

That'd all look devious -- and very involved -- if the problem had existed for that long. It has not. But I tried and tried with no success to fix the problem after the new Blogger came out of beta.. Got no help from the Blogger people, (thanks Blogger) and Brian comes along and figures it out in about 90 seconds. What's worse is that I'm certain I'd previously tried the same solution only to see failure.

Just wait until I spoil your Christmas surprises this year.

Best Iron Bowl clip of the day.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Over the last 10 days I've slept more than I probably have in the last several years. It was quite decadent, snoozing until the sun was high into the sky. I grew used to it, learned quickly to look forward to it and didn't once feel ashamed about my laziness.

All that caught up with me last night, when I was set to begin the normal life once again and found myself, at almost 2 a.m., still wide awake. The alarm clock was glowing brightly, taunting me already, and I knew that today would be a long day. Long Monday's usually make the week stretch out as well. This was not the way to start back the daily routine.

At least I had something funny to watch. A fairly recent episode of Saturday Night Live was on and it would have perhaps been unfunny if the players hadn't done the one thing that makes everything funny: Laugh.

So that was last night. Today has been an interesting sensation of wading through syrup. Sure, train the body to enjoy eight or 10 hours of sleep a night. Revert to your natural night owl ways. Get about two hours of rest before the 4:30 alarm clock. All very wise.

At least I (finally) fell asleep listening to the rain.

Which brings us to today. There should be a rule: For however long an amount of time you take off for traveling somewhere you should be made to stay at home an additional fragment of time thereafter (we'll make a formula the government would have no choice but to love) to unwind from the joys of your trip and any stress of your travel.

Basically I want to give you more time off, provided you use it at home. What you do with it after that is up to you. Now that's a campaign stance I think we can all get behind.

Dozed this afternoon. Worked off some of the old material still on the TiVo. I've made it my most unproductive goal of the week to finally empty some things off the EvIl eye's memory card. I still have four or five installments of The War to watch and that aired more than a month ago now.

I hope to be down to about four hours of that by the end of the week. Elsewhere I'll spend time getting caught up on reading -- also for the first time in years I paid no attention to news last week -- and a few things around the house. Maybe I can be up to speed on everything by next weekend.

After that it will be time for the holiday distractions and little will get done until we slip through that portion of the calendar.

So anyway, don't expect much in the way of new content on the site for the next few days. You're bummed, I can tell. There'll be something daily in this space, but probably everything else will be thin in the way of distractions.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Still basking in the glow from the victory. After all of the traveling of the last few days the plan has been to do as little as possible today, which is why you'll see the pictures and the breakdown from the Iron Bowl in this spot.

We drove down to Atlanta Saturday morning, getting there just after noon with plenty of time for finding cheap rain coats, lunch and tailgating. While looking for a poncho we saw a woman causing a parking lot scene before get arrested for shoplifting. Over sandwiches at Niffer's we watched the early part of the Tennessee-Kentucky game. On our way to tailgating we found a lost cat, tracked down the owner's home number but couldn't reach anyone. That big fluffy Garfield bit me for nothing.

Picked up the traditional ash grey sweatshirt -- I buy one every Iron Bowl, while wearing the first one, the lucky one. Visited the Wadsworth's on the lawn at Comer Hall, the Ag Hill spot where I spent half of my college career.

The Yankee and I made our way down to Tiger Walk, which promised to be an emphatic happening for the big game. There we found one of the many illustrations of why this game is so demanding. An Auburn bride and a Bama husband. Oh, the grief they've each been giving the other.

And the people around them. They are a jovial lot, there are other places where the conversation isn't so nice at this point in the night, but in this area everyone is having fun.

Tiger Walk is where the players come down the hill from the dorm and the athletic department and into the stadium, swarmed by throngs of adoring fans. The crowd lines up dozens deep for more than two blocks, pulsing and cheering and, sometimes, almost rapturous. (See: Ivan Maisel on the '89 Tiger Walk. See: '89 Iron Bowl highlights.)

The recruits get a small version of the experience. By this point a lot of the serious fans know who these high school kids are and they're doing a little grassroots recruiting. It is flattering to the kids and fun for the guys, but what they've seen the rest of the day is the real selling point.

They get seated in the south end zone for the game, where they can hear the rowdy student body. The whole stadium is packed, sealed and maybe double seated in places for this game. The Auburn band plays the national anthem. The fighter jets split the sky right on time, scorching the chilly night air and earning the approval of almost 90,000 people.

My step-father flies with one of those guys. I told this story to many people in my section.

One Alabama photograph: my old friend Matt Caddell. He finished the night with one catch and two kick returns for 12 total yards. Not that I'm biased, but his enormous talent was always squandered a bit, and his final regular season game was symbolic of that. If only they'd thrown more to the guy I know that Bama team would be better!

Brad Lester led Auburn with 98 yards on the night. Ben Tate earned 77 yards thanks to inspired running and new blocking schemes. In that photograph he's plunging into the end zone for the game's first score.

Running back of the future Mario Fanning had one catch for 12 yards and and a kickoff return for 15 more.

Alabama's quarterback J.P. Wilson was sacked twice, here by Senderrick Marks and Pat Sims, for a loss of 19 yards. Wilson's second sack was a solo effort by Sims.

On the other side of things Rod Smith caught three passes for 46 yards. Brandon Cox had a typical performance, scrambling out to avoid pressure, rushing for 11 yards, a few of them key, and throwing 22 passes, with 12 completions for 117 yards under a conservative game plan.

Quentin Groves almost took sole possession of the school sack record here. He got his arms around the quarterback, but Wilson's throwing hand slipped the grasp and flicked a ball downfield. That was as close as Groves would get in this game.

Here's the play of the game. On third and four, a down and distance that is a little frightening for this offense, with Auburn's poor third down conversion rate this seemed a Sisyphean challenge. It was a 10-7 game in the fourth quarter and Auburn was driving. This would be the dagger if only the offense could execute a good play call. Lester took the ball, shimmied through the line, fought for seven yards and earned a piece of Auburn lore.

He did not get this touchdown, but was correctly ruled down. No matter. On the next play, after running off 25 more precious seconds, Brandon Cox scored the go-ahead touchdown, earning a little redemption at the end of a tough senior season. Then he took a victory lap.

Scoreboard. Moving toward to Toomer's the celebration started blocks away. There's no more wholesome, fun, family-oriented, safe, sane, littering party in the world, made all the sweeter by such a significant victory. This is the first ever six-win streak Auburn has ever held over Alabama, and there's no end in sight. This qualifies as the big win deserving of the event: Roll those trees, dance in the streets, wrap yourself in paper, document it forever.

Those players have given us an excellent view.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

War. Eagle.

Just a few things, very quickly, to wrap up the day.




A mild dose of exaltation is a wonderful thing.

Much more tomorrow.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Today being a travel day, with most of the time spent reading and waiting, it seems fitting to catch up on yesterday, which was spent doing anything but writing.

So with two days to address we'll start more or less chronologically from yesterday.

Spent Thanksgiving on the beach. Had to come to New England to do that for the first time, but there I was. Connecticut beaches are not like the beautiful sands of the Gulf Coast. They are a bit more rugged and determined than the stately and leisurely beaches we enjoy back home. Beautiful in their own way though.

That's not the ocean, obviously, but rather a sound. The tides were out while I was standing on this little jetty, which disappears when the water moves back in. Those stones have been washed over a few thousand times and are all smooth to the touch, making for excellent skipping stones.

I think she's going to take a photograph of something. She is, she is going to take a photograph, but not of me. There was something interesting over my shoulder, I think.

We lingered on the beach for an hour or so and then walked across the street to the softball fields. They were quiet and unused, geese making the most of the space in stretching a double into a triple, wobbling around the diamond looking for grubby things to eat.

Just off the fields the last of summer was finally giving up the struggle. It has only barely felt like autumn here this week, but you get the feeling that it is coming in soon, harried and out of sorts for being late and holding things up, but the change of seasons is ready to make an entrance.

All of these maples are gorgeous and some are stubborn, but not strong enough to ward off the great meteorological metaphor in the sky. By week's end they'll all be turned, and one good gust or rainfall will knock them all to the ground as the trees shrug and brace for another winter.

Off the beach a bit there are some marvelous maples. It is easy to imagine that someone planted these for just such an ornamental display. No one needs stoplights today, everyone is braking to see those wild reds flare up and burst into the gray sky.

After the beach there was the delicious Thanksgiving dinner featuring a very moist turkey, lots of trimmings and, of course, Sister Schubert's rolls from back home. Somehow I managed to not stuff myself to an insane degree.

Helped clean a bit, watched some football after that, read a bit and then visited with more friends over dessert, including that award-winning apple pie that was without peer. The pumpkin pie was delicious as well. There are leftovers of everything, I'm not miserable, how did that happen?

Bringing us to today where it was time to pack, make a quick stop at historic Orem's Diner, which has been serving hot plates for four generations. At first it was a dairy, and then along game a weekly baseball game, and ice cream for the spectators. Meals followed, the area grew from rural to commercial and a few owners later it is still one of those institutions you have to visit.

Though, to be as proud of their history as they are, once you get inside you forget all about that. The diner is in a new building and after the foyer it could be another other joint. As I always say: More history!

I've discovered today that the way to travel for Thanksgiving is during the week. Flying Monday was a breeze, flying today was even easier. No one was at the security checkpoint when I walked through. They were all at home drunk on turkey or out shopping, but very few people were flying today. Made for an easy, but colorful trip owing to the few people on the plane.

One lady was loud cell phone talker. Another young woman was need to put on some clothes girl. There was also bringing a sandwich AND a pizza on the plane guy and a few other characters.

By then I was too engrossed in Feldman's Meat Market, intent on finishing it today, which I did as the plane taxied to the terminal in Atlanta.

Today Ed Orgeron, the central focus of the book, watched his Ole Miss team lose to rival Mississippi State in a spectacular fashion. This book might become a cheap collector's item because of it. I smell sea change in Oxford. Also on the gridiron today, we raced through the Atlanta airport (where they apparently no longer believe in televisions) trying to find the LSU-Arkansas game, which ended in an upset via multiple overtimes. Instead we found the Texas-Texas A&M game, a contest in which exactly two people in the airport were interested. Each of those games featured coaches liable to pack their bags within the next few days.

Got picked up at the MARTA, had a bite to eat and watched a bit of the Boise State-Hawai'i game at a friend's home, and now it is time to collapse.

Tomorrow will be busy with the trip to Auburn and then the return back to Birmingham. If things are brief, I apologize in advance. They will certainly be happy as the Tigers are ready to hand Alabama yet another defeat. Cheer us on, I'll be wearing the ancient and lucky gray sweatshirt if you watch the game.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

There is Blue Ribbon Award-Winning Apple Pie.

Recall the almost-cheery side of Dickens, "Reflect on your present blessings, of which every man has many ..."

Happy Thanksgiving!

Lots more tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Fishing this morning in the Long Island sound. The sky was gray, but the weather was perfect. No wind, calm waters, just barely cool.

I caught four stripped bass, though we were out on the wrong tides and the fish weren't very plentiful.

Had a nice time, right up until the end, until my little diamond jig brought in the biggest catch of the day: the Earth. I wasn't entirely convinced you could get hung up so convincingly in deep sea fishing in the same way you can in fresh water. But whatever reef or Volkswagon bug I snagged proved the point.

Have some fall colors. You can never have too much. As we've discussed it has been unseasonably warm here so far and the leaves have held on far longer than they usually do. It has been an unexpected treat to see such bright, vibrant shades.

It has been beautiful at times. There's been chill, overcast, rain, sun and everything in between. But it hasn't dropped to the really cold temperatures and there's been no sign of snow. I was taunted with that, but it seems that warm weather follows me everywhere and I can't be happier about that.

At church tonight I met a kid who's considering Alabama. He was very excited to have the conversation. I've been trying to sway him to attend Auburn, whom he's also considering, but he has his mind all but made. Nice guy, seems to have a good approach to the process. His mother is worried about the culture shock from his fantasy island starched white collar community to a college town in the South, but people adjust. Kids are resilient, there will be college parties no matter the campus' location. All will be well.

I dutifully explained to the worried mother that both campuses are in nice communities and her precious son could feel very safe there in his day-to-day life. I'm trying to rest the maternal worries and how does the kid repay me?

"Roll Tide."

Figures. He's a natural.

Despite being a yankee, he wants to be in sports management of some type or another, so he's already growing attuned to the culture. He, too, will be disappointed come Saturday night.

I'm not disappointed in anything. Road home on foggy back roads and settled in for a little reading, Feldman's Meat Market continues to entertain, owing to a breezy and style and the larger than life character of Ed Orgeron.

Critics castigate him, but he comes off as a likable guy here. He'd have to, being the central component of the story and the guy who granted access to the author. If you like football and no matter how you feel about the recruiting phase of the game you'll likely find this interesting.

Sayeth the guy who doesn't really read sports books.

Also, you'll be through the thing in a few hours. I just started the thing and I've sprinted halfway through it, and I tend to linger over text, slowing the whole process down.

Which is similar to what I've done in writing this, so I should quit for now.

Happy pre-turkey to all. We'll see you for leftovers.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Visited one of those little neighborhood markets this morning. Probably more like this afternoon, I've been sleeping a lot the last few days and have realized I can enjoy the concept. So at the Village Market, which I'm told is hopping compared to an average day, I'm surrounded by very pleasant yankees. Maybe it is the holidays, or the mild weather (it is starting to drizzle, but is unseasonably warm) but everyone here seems polite and helpful and knows everyone.

These people will ruin your preconceptions.

Every third person in the joint works here. If you make too much eye contact someone rushes up to help you. We bump into the general manager near the meat section, where she's just glistening that you thought enough to stop by. Someone from the bakery and deli is very, very hands on. There is a full cooler of locally made ice cream, right next to the big brands.

There is a cooler of Sister Schubert's, fresh up from Troy by way of Luverne. Luverne is one of those Southern towns small enough to have no sense of directed irony that they prefer the emphasis on both syllables of their name. And they ship good rolls. Why they are this far north I don't know. We walked by the case and I heard their siren song, a little piece of home (with a drawl, naturally).

"Those were your Thanksgiving surprise," I was told while gazing into the case with a how-about-that expression.

And they are a surprise. Sister has developed a nice empire, not bad for something she started on her back porch. Just one more thing to look forward to for the Thanksgiving meal.

Goofed off with an entertainment version of Trivial Pursuit this afternoon. This version is almost 20 years old, so it is an odd mixture of questions that are in my wheelhouse, and television programs and radio shows of which I've never heard. I guess Herb Brooks on each one.

That was just the warm-up, as a heated Trivial Pursuit game broke out later in the day. There was boasting of being a Trivial Pursuit master, and when challenged about 16 variations of the game were quickly produced. Armfuls of the stuff. One half of the kitchen is all but taken over by the many board game options before us. The kitchen table is cleaned and the game is on.

Do you know what two facial features the volmer separates? Do you know which organ of your body uses 45% of your oxygen intake? Do you know who has more DNA, men or women? Do you know which country on the Asian continent is home to the King David Hotel.

I do. We won. We defeated the Trivial Pursuit champ.

I fear the rematch just a bit, though.

And then the slideshow. People make jokes about slides and how they're always boring presentations that hold the interest of no one except for the people in the photographs, but I disagree. I've finally learned to see the things in the background and make guesses about things taking place in the foreground. It is a lot of fun, particularly when you see places you've never visited. Particularly when they are older images.

Particularly when the clothing is from the 1970s.

Red houndstooth, wide lapels, broad white belts (You look like you mugged a Marine for his belt I said.) and white patent leather shoes. That's an airport outfit if ever there was one. To say nothing of the pink ladies coat matching the pink plaid slacks. You'd stand out if you didn't blend in with those times.

Which is where we learned that it is only this period which can be explained and excused with four simple words: It was the Seventies.

Earlier today I went on and on about how I'd yet to met a rude yankee. Indifferent, short, hurried, sure, but in my various trips to New England I'd yet to see the true primal condition. Tonight that came to an end.

I blame Chadd, the midwesterner, turned Southerner, turned New Englander, returned to Southerner. Yesterday we were all talking of places to eat and The Yankee said something about going up to Yale. Chadd said, "New Haven pizza" and so that became the plan.

Somewhere along the way it was refined to Sally's Apizza and we set out to meet Paige.

So we drive up to Yale. Find the restaurant, pick up Paige, drive back to the restaurant and wait. Outside. In the cold. Apparently this is what they do at Yale. When a table empties you take the spot.

Finally you get inside, after being laughed at for being second in line by the guys first in line. You know, the white-bread guys speaking Russian to one another in the vain hopes it impresses their dates. (The girls weren't buying it.)

The waiter, who's doing you a favor by being there, just got off his bike apparently is still wearing his Harley vest. He finally gets your order, promptly brings the drinks and disappears for 20 minutes. He returns to ask about your order, which he's incorrectly scribbled. How one pizza becomes three I've yet to figure out. Half-an-hour later, when you finally make eye contact with the waiter (who's doing you a favor) you inquire as to the whereabouts of the pizza.

"We're on a 90 minute wait," he sneers while stalking off. Truly, the last half of the sentence is spoken with his back turned. We speculate the wait just grew to 100 minutes. At 75 minutes you consider calling Information to get the number to the nearest Domino's and order a delivery. At 90 minutes you actually make eye contact with the waiter again (who's doing you a favor) and get a simple refill.

Throughout this time as people peer into the windows to gauge how busy the little place is you wave them off. "Don't do it! It isn't worth it!"

At 100 minutes, as speculated, the pizza arrives.

And it isn't worth it. The pizza is OK. It is not 100 minute pizza. If such a thing exists you will not find it here. Instead you'll get a burnt crust and charcoal on your fingers.

Eight minutes later the pizza is gone, because everyone at your table was famished. Ninety-three seconds after that your bill arrives. Sixteen seconds after that you throw the money on the table. The exact change. To the penny. In pennies. Under the pizza tray.

At least there was plenty of time for good company.

Your only regret in leaving is that you don't live here, so you can studiously avoid the place with righteous indignation and start a whisper campaign against it. You later find out that websites referring to the dirty little joint (even the broken hand dryer in the restroom was filthy) don't really have a good grasp on the meaning of the word "legendary."

On the way home you contemplate Pizza Hut.

And that's the short version of my first rude yankee. I feel redeemed in my stereotypes and choices behind my geographical situation. All of this also makes you question the taste of the students at Yale University, as this is apparently the place to be.

Can't question the architecture at Yale though. The campus is beautiful, even if this picture of the Hall of Graduate Studies is blurry. The bricks in the building are set in some places almost like a mosaic and in other places the bricks are stamped with cryptic characters. Even the security gates are charming in their age and wear.

Couldn't find Harkness Tower, the signature building of the campus, but it got colder quickly, so the tour was brief. On our walk, however, we did find plenty of beautiful ornamentation. The law school was still brightly lit, though one of the libraries we found looked dark.

Nothing here is left blank when gothic decoration can be applied. It lends a sense of gravity to the place, implying a heft that all college campuses aspire to, otherwise masking what felt like a quiet and lonely place. In our travels we saw no more than three people together at any one time.

Maybe they were all in here. I know who's not in there: the School of Architecture. That's actually the famous Beinecke Library, supposedly the largest building in the world dedicated to the preservation of rare books and manuscripts. The design is actually dedicated to function. The windowless walls are made of a translucent marble, allowing for subdued lighting, but prevents direct sunlight damage to the building's contents. Cool stuff.

Here's a nice, spooky view to end the tour of the Yale campus. About that time it got much colder, the gentle breeze turning a little more insistent and starting to pierce denim and jackets. The cold wrapped up the tour, and urged a retreat to the car and rest before a big day tomorrow.

Monday, November 19, 2007

People watching is at an absolute peak at the airport during the holiday season. After an uneventful drive to Atlanta, dropping off the car and catching the cross-town MARTA for a flight there was plenty of time to check out the other restless pilgrims.

Had lunch at Moe's, which I'm beginning to enjoy less and less as I realize I'm not really a glutton for gastrointestinal punishment. Met a woman in line who was traveling alone with two children, one 19 months and the other four months. We were all duly impressed, but she's an old hand at this by now. Her husband, she said, was an airline pilot, the newborn had already been on five trips across the country.

The rest of us were exhausted, including the man behind me, who remembered raising twins. His kids are in college now -- apparently the exhaustion never stops -- as he was going on a holiday sales trip. He sells asphalt to large contracting companies.

I asked him if his firm had ever had dealings with Auburn, as one department on campus does top-of-the-line asphalt research -- an odd thing, but someone has to do it. He did work with Auburn, his firm was currently developing a new asphalt with the Federal Aviation Administration, which brought us neatly back to the airport and our burritos.

Eating my big ball of dough, meat and rice I settled in to watch people hurry through the terminal.

Here's a confident woman, child in tow. She took large, self-assured strides through the area, intently ticking off the gate numbers in her focused mind. Perhaps she's at peace with having forgotten her baggage. The child is content with nothing more than the pacifier, and her future co-passengers hopes she stays that way.

At first this child had the look of someone afraid of being left. His father walked down the terminal to soothe the youngest child, and this boy was continually asking about dad. Mom, on the left margin, was trying to ease his fears, while trying to conduct a sign language conversation with the father. That was odd because the kid was falling asleep in the bustling Atlanta airport, but the mother, about 100 feet away, was concerned with speaking too loudly and waking the child up.

The family sat about three rows back on my plane and the smallest child didn't make a peep until we landed.

Meanwhile, don't the people in the middle background of that photograph look wary of the whole airport experience?

The baby girl passing them in the stroller is unworried, having goo-goo-gah-gahed the length of the terminal.

While we, the passengers were early our plane was a bit late, allowing for this glimpse into the lives of three families in the Atlanta airport this afternoon.

Landed in the darkness, and the chill, of New York and then had a delicious pasta dinner at the Dry Dock Cafe. If you go through their photo tour you can see the table where I dined. These table will likely never be historic.

Apparently they were having a shortage of dishes at the Cafe, because the staff sat across the room and waited until you put your fork down and then sweep in to take it away. I understand there is a kitchen rule: Thou Shall Not Be Devoid of the Hustle, or At Least the Bustle.

After that I did what every red-blooded American northerner apparently does on a Monday night: watch hockey. When in New England and all that ... so specifically Rangers-Islanders. It is a spirited affair where two sets of ruffians from a different country and often the other side of the planet dress in distinctive sweaters in representative disagreement for their fans -- owing most of their allegiance due to geography and familial lineage. The swift and burly men then try to out-skate, out-swat and out-fight one another while ultimately attempting to put the hard rubber disc into the back of the opposing team's net.

Yes, I know what icing is, and power plays and slap shots and the significance of short-handed goals ... but not much else.

I've watched four games live in my life, paid attention to about an hour of hockey on television in that time and have taken in three movies on the sport (if you count the first Mighty Ducks film). I'm not an expert. I did, however, get the trivia question right. Purely as a guess, and because I mistook the name for someone else. No matter, for the rest of the week when someone asks a question to which I don't know the answer the response will be Herb Brooks.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

I was somehow so tired last night that sleeping on a futon at the lake house felt heavenly. The sofa part, not even the bed. This morning I was feeling no pain, though you'd expect as much from a device designed with so little comfort in mind. That's tired, and I'm still not sure what prompted that.

Started reading a new book last night, Meat Market, on the advice of my friend Orson, who's quoted in the book. My radio mentor, Chadd, was thanked in the acknowledgments. Seems just about everyone except for me got a nod, which is fine since I don't know the author.

Bruce Feldman is writing about following a year in the life of Ole Miss' football program, giving fans an unprecedented look at the inside of the recruiting aspect of the game. I don't care for the recruiting as a topic of conversation, but learning how coaches approach the mystery is worth the read. The many colorful characters at Ole Miss are more than a bonus. I don't read sports books -- I think I'm up to about four on the millennium -- but this one is worth checking out. But you can't have my copy, as there's already a line waiting to be the next reader.

Visiting a church near my grandmother's home today I noted that they, too, have made the leap to using overhead projectors. They're singing from the hymnal, but flipping through the lyrics on two blank walls at the front of the room. And then the preacher stands to deliver his PowerPoint sermon.I'm not against it, just unaccustomed to it; pardon me if I'm in the minority. I'm sure it is a help to some church members, but mostly I spend the entire service trying to wrap my mind around these humble little country churches embracing the technology.Wave of the future and all that, yes, and at least the preacher didn't preach directly from the PowerPoint.

The last hymn was not in the book. Again, this is unusual enough to give me pause.

After church I was talking to a nice elderly gentleman about the drought. He told me how he'd been just below the dam that week where the water was four feet in spots. That's drought, seasonal water controls and frankly just scary. We discusses his ailments, but he didn't complain. He wasn't worried about the water levels, it'll rain again. He asked who I was, why I was there and I explained I'm the grandson of someone he probably knows.

Everyone knows everyone in this part of the world, even as the little town tries to become a small city. I'm confident I could go into most any store and someone would know at least one of my grandparents. This older gentleman, though, knew my grandmother but was also related to her and to me.

Yeah, I seem to be related to several people in this church.

He explained how that happened, there's basically four big families in that little building and you're more or less in one and have spent the night at the home of another one or two. It is a smallish place, but you'd still be glad you don't have to buy presents for all of those people. By comparison the church I stopped at yesterday had a campus and alternate chapels.

Second early Thanksgiving and I realize this will be the end of me.

After dinner we visited up to one of the old family houses and took photographs of photographs to reprint. I'll share them with you now. Even if you aren't interested in history, genealogy or my family you can't help but enjoy dignified old photos.

This is my grandfather as a baby. This is his father.

That first photograph is a wallet-sized print, resting on a hat box under a ceiling light. The second is a large wall portrait. I darkened the room, used old books as a tripod and did a timed exposure. Turned out pretty well, I think.

If I have this correct, these would be my great-great-grandfathers. This is a photocopy of a 1979 newspaper article from the old Florence Times - Tri-Cities Daily (now the Times Daily) that was fond of printing old photographs. My great-grandmother clipped the article and stored it in a box of photographs she kept on the floor by her bright floral sofa.

Speaking of old books and grandfathers, I also inherited a few of my grandfather's grade school textbooks. I now have two dictionaries, and texts for algebra, literature and science in my library. The science book in particular, cute in an early 1940s way, is full of terrific illustrations that will ultimately make it onto the website.

So I'm back home after my whirlwind trip. Yesterday, going up to north Alabama, I drove down Lacon Mountain and then back up it, so that I might have a second chance at nice foliage photographs. Just missed it as it grew too dark. This evening the sun retired as I drove through sleepy little Town Creek. On my way out of town, though I snapped the requisite photograph of Coco. Somewhere around that dam, the one with the hull-threatening water levels, I managed to get a few good leaves.

No matter how much you try, a photograph never gets the sense of it. You see beautiful trees and take pictures from every angle and with every trick you've learned, and when you get home you realize, That's a nice little red leaf. You need the crispness of the air, I suppose, the hurried expectation of the night, the crunch of leaves underfoot and a little breeze to get the real sense, something the photograph, nor the thousand words that comes with it, will ever give.

Mexican food for dinner tonight. The mariachi band played War Eagle. (That's an old version, but they still do the oddly placed yee-haws, reminding you these are just notes to the musicians, rather than a cultural ideology.) Three or four tables clapped and sang along, all of us wondering how long it would be before the band had a request for Yea Alabama. About 15 minutes later it came, but no one cheered. Sometimes, when your program is down and out you must suffer your football in silence. After Alabama's game yesterday you can tell the fans want to cheer, but they know better.

That's a great feeling as we move into Iron Bowl week.

Speaking of which, I'm off work next week, but I'll be around here. There will be updates, however sparse, unusual or ill-timed. My apologies in advance for any inconsistencies (ha!), but do come visit.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Attended a memorial service this morning, a lovely little ceremony full of sad and weary friends and family.

I like to think that there's something to that cliched saying about how you're only given what you have the strength to endure and persevere. And if the old soothsayers and wivestales are on to something there then I know my friends are discovering strength within themselves, their family and their faith they've previously not known.

None of that makes it any better in the here-and-now, but it would color you impressed by the courage and fortitude of the people you know.

After the memorial service I was told about an annual Thanksgiving football game they hold.

"We go out into the pasture and choose up sides," he said.

I'm going to have to come have Thanksgiving with you one year then I replied.

"Of course ... that game gets a little bit shorter every year."

I'm sure it is the tryptophan.

Stopped by Target after the service to look at shelves and shoes. The shelves may work, but the shoes will not. Apparently you can no longer wear a size 13 and find a nice brown dress shoe.

Big-foot people of the world unite! We must send a message that going barefoot is not always an option! The shoemakers must know that we sometimes dress in khaki and brown and a nice shade of tan which requires more than the traditional patent leather loafer!

For people interested in the metatarsals and phalanges these are troubling times, indeed.

Spent a few hours in the car after that, where I found that the potential for a love interest with the XM radio could be strong. Driving to north Alabama I listened to lots of football. Arkansas handled Miss State, LSU dispatches Mississippi, Tennessee Vandy. I heard what might have been the last regular season call by the great Larry Munson as Georgia defeated Kentucky and, most shockingly, Alabama dropped their game to little Louisiana-Monroe.

Five football games -- and more were available -- at the push of a button. The XM in my car is still in the free sample window and while I might let that lapse for a time, I'll probably have to renew the subscription come next fall.

In the meantime I can taunt the whole family, almost in one sitting, about Alabama as they lick their wounds before receiving their annual beating in the Iron Bowl next weekend. The Tide is just not a good team right now, and seemingly everyone has come to realize it.

This was an early Thanksgiving trip, meaning too much food stretching over more than a week. There was also turkey, And since there was not much sleep last night I wore out early this evening.

I'm sure it is the tryptophan.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Ever have one of those days where you feel like you're constantly getting in the way of others? I've had one of those days.

The details would be boring, the stories about it fairly boring, but that was the feeling of the day. It carried over after the work-week wrapped up as well. Went back to Pompeii to see the exhibit for the second time and the museum docents were all very watchful of me.

Don't do this. Don't do that. Don't breathe so hard.

It was as if they thought I might try to spirit away a plexiglass case full of ancient jewelry. Or break the little audio device. Or lean on a railing. Or talk to loud.

In the gift shop things I peered at too closely tried falling from the shelves. Then the museum closed while we were all still inside. The Yankee, a classmate and I all received a private exit -- out the side door -- for holding everything up.

So it was that sort of day all day.

Until Pie Day, where the three of us were seated immediately. Where we undertook a crash course in statistics, got into a heated discussion of hemispheres (there are four, owing to the common nomenclature, no matter what others might wish you to believe) and Santa Claus and Australian culture.

Pie Day, then, was the one respite from having one of those days. And that's the whole point of the event. That and pie, of course.

Late tonight I'm packing an overnight bag for a day trip and working on animal tricks.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

First thing I saw through the car windshield this morning.

Rained for a decent amount of time last. Not nearly approaching making a dent in the drought, but it least it was a respectful length of time.

The wind blew pretty hard in the moments in did not rain. It was tearing leaves from the trees and sending acorns crashing to the ground in a kerthunking way.

Perhaps many of the Stoic Oaks have reached a point in their maturity where they hurl their acorns to the ground. I know they've always dropped the nuts to the earth below, but this year, for a few nights now, you can actually hear them landing. It is the new serenade of the season now that all of the crickets have hopped away. You can hear the acorns from inside if you listen closely.

After about two hours of the off-and-on sprinkles I thought it would be a good idea to reassure myself the sunroof was closed on the car. I knew the wind was hard and the rain was chilly because I was outside in it, barefoot and in a t-shirt in the middle of the night. Seemed like a good idea in 40-degree weather.

The sunroof was tightly shut. I became cold and damp for nothing more than reassurance, a concept worth a great deal.

That was last night, so th photo above was no surprise this morning. I'm actually impressed the maple has hung around this long. Only in the past few days have the leaves begun their defection. They'll surely all be gone in a week.

Had company over for dinner tonight. Stephen and Brooke dined on the delicious Yankee lasagna. I slaved over a salad, having picked up a bag of the green stuff, the croutons, dressing and cherry tomatoes this afternoon. They stayed for a couple of hours, discussing friends and family and football and history. It was nice having them over. They stuck around to watch Scrubs and then I kicked them out before my bedtime, which is coming any moment now.

First, there's a few things you should see. One of them would be your daily installment of autumn. Some of the landscaping outside the office have a rugged "We were tended for once before, but are now left to our own devices" appeal. I like it. Nature isn't perfectly manicured, and some of the flora should carry the devil may care appearance of unkemptness. I think that photograph has most every color of fall, and what that one leaves out, this one picks up the slack. That's through the sunroof going down the interstate with the lens polarized by my sunglasses. Gives it a certain lost postcard from the 60s feel. Makes me want to go out and buy a cheap pair of those ridiculously large shades girls are wearing just to crack the frame and use the dark tinted lense.

Another thing worth checking out is Jan Von Holleben's Dreams of Flying. Here's some terrific original work and it is obvious the kids had a blast making this happen. If you rip off this idea you'll be mimicking a guy's work is currently showing in London and New York.

Finally, there's a new addition the Black & White section. This is the last of the V-E Day photographs and we're almost out of the World War II stockpile as well. If you have any interesting prints, I'll take donations, but only if you own the print. I found a few great photographs in the inbox a few days ago. You'll see them in a few days.

More tomorrow, including Pompeii, Pie Day and more.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Dear people who don't read their Email before responding to it: You should, else you look foolish to the person to whom you're replying. I only mention this because it happened today. Twice. From the same guy. You should never put too much stock, one supposes, in the words of a person who's professional Email account is

You could not, after all, take seriously correspondence from Particularly if Chubby Tommy did not answer the question in the first Email, nor note the error upon the receipt of a second Email and answer the appropriate query then. Instead Chubby Tommy just keeps on about the new snack cake recipe, a topic entirely separate from the original thread, which brings the whole thing to a dissastisfying halt.

At first I thought it might have been my outgoing notes. I looked at the records, remembered I have two degrees in the art and science of making points and expressing ideas and realized this was not my fault;, as a corporate representative, left something be desired. So read your Email, friends.

How's this for weather? I took photographs of a beautiful tree across from Stoic Oaks yesterday morning on my way to work. Today I took the same photograph when I returned home. Mixing them up I can't tell which is which day. I meant to compare them here, but they are exactly the same. There's been a bright swath in the middle of the day (punctuated by a prompt 45-second rain today) and it has been otherwise surrounded by overcast skies. The past few days can be best symbolized in this picture.

More rain tonight. Great swaths of it, coming down in sheets. And by sheets I mean the sound, rather than the volume. Twice tonight I considered putting everything on hold and racing to bed to fall asleep in the rain. It seems like I've done that before, but it was so long ago it might have been a dream.

It sounds great. Substantial. Life-giving. It sounds like I'll have to pull the lawn mower out once more. Its the warm temperatures and the new daylight savings rules that confuse all the greenery about what they should do. The trees, though, aren't long for green. Here's today's version of autumn. They're going quick now; we do have autumn, it is just sudden.

Tomorrow it'll be cooler, with the promise of cold nights in the near future. Random rain is so often followed by the chill of a crisp air. The cold front would muscle aside the pleasant temperatures, but Jack Frost -- and his less secure cousin Bill Cool -- often depend on a rainstorm to be their heavy. Union rules, I think. Organized weather always sticks together.

Anyway, we're in never-complain-about-rain mode, so bring it on, but we do prefer sun and blue skies when not counting individual raindrops.

Ye New Box Store this afternoon. Drove east instead of southwest, toward home, because there were photographs to pick up. I was set to order from Shutterfly, as is my custom, but grew worried about the delivery timing and the larger fees of insuring under-deadline delivery. And then I saw the ad on Shutterfly for the box store. Submit, process, go pick them up later and save eight bucks. If you don't count gas in the car which, these days, probably evened out perfectly.

Wandered the aisles of the store, looking in vain for a latch for the storm door. A hardware store will have to solve that problem, then. Looked at shelves, grew dizzy with the dimensional implications and then walked diagonally until I found the furniture section. At this store all of the furniture is elevated, making you gaze upon it from a slight distance. Everything seems a miniature, which makes not the best sales technique.

By now my parking lot optimism has waned. I want to collect my photographs and go home. Stop in the health and beauty section, where I found neither. (Those signs always lie.) I did pick up a few of the routine toiletry items and then shuffled off to the photo stand.

Where a guy younger than me was hitting on a woman older than my mother. And he was doing well, too. I hated to break up the conversation, but there were photographs. He smoothly transitioned the whole thing into his game.

Oh this guy is good, I thought. But she split while I was finishing the credit card part of the transaction. It was a shame too, but no concern of mine. With photo prints in hand I was suddenly eager to head home.

Where I began the process of cleaning off the TiVo. The EvIl eye is holding a great many things just now. The last four installments of The War, an hour of Scrubs, two football games that I've been holding for next week. The Great Raid:
Hollywood goes vanilla on one of the great World War II stories.
So 511 soldiers, survivors from the Bataan Death March are being held. They'd been largely forsaken by their country which chose to fight in Europe before truly facing down the Japanese. These guys have survived the most brutal of circumstances and are the object of a surprise attack by Army Rangers who come in under cover of darkness, defeat the enemy and flee with 511 prisoners of war. All survived. Two of the liberators died in the action. The movie just felt perfunctory. I understand that moviemakers must put a romance in every tale, though there wasn't one in the actual story here. I disagree with the need -- nothing you can write is better than reality -- but find that maybe too much writing here got in the way of one of the great tales of our time.

At three hours, the television version is a bit on the longish side, but all is forgiven for the footage they ran with the credits. That's film of the actual rescuers and the recently freed prisoners. That's a nice nod to heroes.

The Scrubs, at least, I'd already seen. Everything else will have to wait. The EvIl eye doesn't mind. Just more to taunt me with.

One final note about yesterday, Kelly wrote: I was in a constant state of on-the-verge-of-pants-wetting excitement while going through the (Pompeii) exhibit.

I'm going back this week. You can see it through the end of January. More than 500 pieces, most of which have never been outside of Italy before, and this is one of only two American cities where the exhibit is being shown. If you haven't, you should.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Got around to watching the last three episodes of the fourth season of 24 last night. I'm now all caught up and wondering how Jack hasn't gone crazy or gotten a raise or something. Anything.

The fifth season, where he must unfake his undeath, is where I began with the series, and so now I've seen the details of how he arrived at that point. Truly he walked off into the sunset with his big aviator sunglasses. It was no Shane, but then few things are. It would have been perfect, though, if he had a real big yawn while he walked past the camera. Instead, according to the season five prequel I found, he just grows a really bad mullet.

So having now seen the entire show I can now make this observation: Season six, after the first hour or so, was an unfortunate waste of all of our time. And Jack should have never killed Curtis, who was really good at making phone calls and occasionally appearing menacing. Maybe he could have gotten his own show. That's in keeping with my spinoff per season idea of loading up Fox programming with titles like 24 - Kim running, 24 - Nina slowly getting her comeuppance, 24 - Curtis, 24 - Curtis Strikes Back, 24 - Secret Service Agent Aaron, 24 - Silver Spoons.

Speaking of which, shouldn't the pilot who saved the day at the end of the fourth season gotten a bigger hand? He's the guy that actually stopped the nuclear missile, but we don't have 24 - Anonymous Jet Fighter Pilot Guy. Mostly because that'd be a tough logo for smaller television screens.

So I'm caught up on 24. Through. Done. Oh, yeah, the seventh season. This time, it's personal! And also Kiefer Sutherland must sober up! And the wildfires altered shooting schedules! And the writers are on strike! And one more season through syndicate will probably make them all rich beyond their expectations! And Tony Alameda's back from the dead! With a buzz cut!

He also has a myspace page. Elsewhere Jack Bauer wanted to update his myspace, but didn't have time.

Birmingham installed a new mayor today. Watched it live on the website. The signal went from inside the building, out to the satellite truck, up into space, back down to a Hoover studio, through some server they use, over to us in a twisting maze that probably involved the signal going to New Jersey and back twice and then into my browser. I was a dozen blocks or so away from the actual event.

Stopped by this afternoon to see the bunting. I do love a good bunting. We just don't do that often enough these days, if you ask me. I believe that building is going to disappear, meaning one of its last moments of history will be in housing the man who would bring it down. For a domed stadium, the eternal windmill of local politicians seeking a cureall.

Kelly is in town! She's off work and visited the Birmingham Museum of Art today. Being an artist and an art history buff I think she was very pleased with what she saw of the Pompeii exhibit, the classic Italian work on display and pretty much everything at the museum. People don't realize how good that museum is, those are the people who've never been.

After I finished the day's work we spent a few hours visiting. So I took her to Vulcan to overlook the city, ignore what turned out to be the weakest sunset of the young month and catch up.

I was all set to explain Vulcan, the history, the cultural significance, how much he weighs and so on, when Kelly's first question ended that conversation quickly. Is he realistic or designed as an optical illusion. (She, the artist, used the proper terms.)

But, but, don't you want to know what it weighs, when it was put here and how unique the statue is?

No, she wants forced perspective. Artists.

Kelly told me about the dedication service they had at her parents' church where they named beautiful new windows after her father. He'd been finishing the installation, she believes, the night before he died.

You work all your life being decent by people to the point that when your day comes one of the smaller rewards is seeing that your visitation ran longer than it was scheduled because your impact was boundless. You spent your last hours doing work you love for people you love before going home to be with the woman you love.

Sure, there's things you might have missed out on, but none of the important things. Those things were done; those people, they know. Now they'll always know. They'll look out on bright, sunny spring mornings and see your work and your compassion and hopes and they'll know. They'll teach their children, and some of them will think of ways to make that little name by the window into a good lesson for the kids and then they will know.

As we left the park Kelly and I got caught up in a never-ending conversation with the security guard. It was almost ready to rain and Kelly had to get on the road, but there we were, wondering if he'd ever stop. Every third word was "Hey!" Very nice guy. Probably it gets lonely riding on the golf cart all afternoon.

Kelly gave me my Christmas and birthday presents early, because she's cool like that. For Christmas she made a donation to Operation Christmas Child. Because of me, the card says, "a needy child will know the happiness of the season and learn the true meaning of Christmas."

If everyone got gifts like this for me, that'd be the perfect Christmas. The last few years the routine has been to go through the Salvation Army, because then I get to shop for the toys myself, but any reputable organization will do. Why are you shopping for me when then there are far more deserving people in your community?

For my birthday Kelly snuck around and took a bunch of the pictures off my site and made me a photobook. It is gorgeous, really, and the most thoughtful gift. I'll have to share some of it sometime.

Interesting to me is that I hold a very low opinion of my own photographs. As I told Kelly, "I could teach a monkey to shoot a camera, we could take more or less the same photo, the same composition and if the monkey's photo was in focus I'd think it was better."

It isn't that I'm critical of myself, but rather I see so much depth of quality in everyone else's work before I can ever see it in mine. At least in the camera, on the LCD or on a computer monitor. In this printed and bound form though, I'm rather impressed with myself. It must be Kelly's dynamite layout skills.

So, thanks Kel. You're as giving and wonderful as ever. It was a thoughtful and touching gift.

Remarkably that adds up to a full day. Didn't make it to Ye New Box Store, where photographs are awaiting my arrival, but that's OK. They'll be there tomorrow. There'll be a few other things to get, perhaps there will be a list. Or at least listless wandering. I don't frequent the store much, as it is 25 miles and some traffic away. We're getting on in our community next year, so one supposes we'll all have to get used to red. Which is fine, it'll be closer to home than Ye Olde Box Store of the blue variety, but that's next year.

Tonight there's newspapers. If you like Cold War, space and oil stories these are for you. Shame we didn't have a Jack Bauer around back then. He could have ridden Sputnik back down to Earth Slim Pickens style.

Tomorrow there's shopping (joy), the ritualistic cleaning of items from the TiVo and a small handful of other things sure to keep me busy and you, hopefully, entertained.

Monday, November 12, 2007

For a moment, about 3.5 seconds worth, I was entirely caught up with everything for the day.

Not a bad way to start the week I said to myself. I turned the chair to move away from the computer and new, at that moment, that I would soon be behind again.

Nah. You'll line everything up and get it all completed.

Only you never really do, do you? There's always something to rush through at the last minute. There's always a big surge in the middle, or the self-rationalization of time that allows you to bargain away a chore here or a joy there.

Those are the sort of things that happen at the end, but on this Monday, I can see it all lining up already.

Worked a full day today. The first of a full week of full days. Anytime you have had random time off and you return to the normal schedule it always feels like a shock. Or a task of the herculean variety. Or perhaps just comforting. It all depends on how you look at the things in your world. I'll take the feeling as a shockingly herculean comfort, as I'm yet undecided on all the many ramifications of the nuance.

Caught up on the reading from over the weekend. Over lunch I finished Decision in Philadelphia. Nice book. The Colliers went to great lengths to give us detailed sketches of many of the particular Founding Fathers and then did a serpentine dance through the Constitutional Convention. After 200 pages of reciting primary sources and noted historians they concluded with some of their own observations.

Ultimately that Constitution thing was a good deal, they say. It all left a bit of something to be desired about race, however. And here they were discussing both slavery and the stigma much of society has on racial issues. So, I suppose they'd have preferred legislating society. Otherwise they also discussed a few flaws with the Supreme Court and how it has grown over the centuries. No argument there.

This is a good book, easily readable and worth trying if you enjoyed your civics class. And now that I'm done with it perhaps I'll stop having dreams about the thing. The first one involved finding myself back in time in Philadelphia. I mentioned that here previously. The later dream was the opposite, more of a Bill and Ted Adventure where some ill-defined Founding Father found himself in one of our shopping centers. I took him around town teaching 200 years of history, progression and governmental ramification.

The next book, then, needs fewer colorful characters so this doesn't happen again.

A few pictures from the weekend to wrap things up, then.

Here's Spanky, the miniature donkey. He's quite famous. A minor cult celebrity you might say. Yankees like him too.

Tomorrow, a Kelly sighting and newspapers.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Happy Veterans Day! And a somber thanks to those who have and those who do. You're more courageous than we'll understand and we'll forever owe you more than we can express.

Had one of those The Future Will Be Fine moments this morning surrounding Veterans Day recognition. The preacher left out one elderly veteran, a man in his 90s who wasn't there, but a kid sitting near by made sure the gentleman didn't get left out.

When was the last time you saw a pre-teen worried about a nonagenarian? This one was.

From the sounds of things it seems as if I'll have an early family Thanksgiving. Maybe someone will forget to bring the desserts, but there's nothing wrong with turkey a little early. Anyway, that's the plan as of this afternoon according to the phone call I received.

After making plans there was a quick trip to the ye olde box store for things in boxes and people watching. You'd think people would know what they were looking for on these aisles or, at least, be over the gawking. These are the things that slow the whole process down. The solution: checking out anywhere but the front of the store. Today's helpful employee with no line, no waiting, was in the pharmacy. I report this so that it may help you someday.

Groceries were bought at Publix. Mostly fruit and a few frozen things and sustenance of the pasta nature.

I had a flashback nature while watching a kid not paying attention to where he was going drive his buggy right up the back of his father's legs. The dad turned around with a look of "There are too many people on this aisle right now, or else you'd get a pummeling."

I used to do that to my mother all the time, not paying attention and crash. To his credit, this kid was trying to keep his little brother from pulling things from the shelves onto the floor. That doesn't mean it didn't hurt the dad's heels. And doesn't mean I was entirely successful in stifling a laugh.

Sandwich for lunch, steak for dinner, a lot of 24 tonight as the fourth season winds down. There are, I think, about four hours left in the season and the bad guys just launched a missle armed with a nuclear warhead.

Now that's a cliffhanger. After watching three episodes tonight I'll have to see that tomorrow.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

As football Saturdays in the South go, this has been disappointing.

Watching Alabama on television I all set to post this picture and then make bad jokes for a paragraph or three.

Instead I should have been in Athens with a sign saying "To Tuberville '07: Beware Richt. -- From Tuberville '06."

On balance both Alabama and Auburn played about as poorly as I can remember having seen in a long time. Auburn looked exhausted against Georgia, having played 12 in a row. Alabama looked absent against a scrappy Mississippi State. Both lost. By the end of the Auburn game I had no desire to watch or discuss any more football.

Consider that Mississippi State has done something this year for only the fourth or fifth time in their football history (spanning three centuries) as they've beaten both Auburn and Alabama in one season.

Alabama has lost consecutive games to State only two times in all those many years (1912-14 and 1996-1998). Until today. Auburn hadn't been beaten by 25 points or more since 2001 (Arkansas) and hasn't looked this ragged since the Iron Bowl of that same year.

On the other hand Kansas looks great. Kansas and Missouri with national title implications. And Oregon in the top two, bested only by the manic Tigers of LSU.

Consider this, if bowl-eligible Mississippi State wins out against Arkansas (possible) and Ole Miss (very likely) the Bullies will have the same record as the winner of the Iron Bowl. Not a good football Saturday in the South.

To ease my mind I went to dinner and conducted a random field study of the products in the gift shop. Far and away most of the things were made in China. A few things from Mexico and Vietnam. The second highest producer was Pakistan. All of this figures, as that's become the American way.

The black felt Toby Keith "Authentic American" cowboy hat has a pseudo-American flag image designed to stir those patriotic passions and establish his bona fides. Made in China.

Before eating I had to excuse myself to the restroom to wash the China and who knows what off my hands.

Nicely done Cracker Barrel of Lebanon, Tennessee.

Friday, November 9, 2007

I saw a courageous thing today.

Dear friends had to bury their child today. I can tell you this of the experience: There is no end to the depth of the pools and reservoirs of strength that a person of faith can dive into.

And while my heart breaks for my friends, I was warmed to see them today, as a family's most vulnerable moment was also one of their most venerable.

Philippians 4:7 is a very popular verse in my family. It was one of many mentioned today in trying to offer an answer to this particular "Why?" Today I finally understood what that verse means, for it was truly on display.

I'm very much in awe. All that I have seen today, in the personal strength of stout individuals, has made for a long day ending an extremely long week. I hit the wall at about 8 p.m. and have never truly recovered, so there's nothing, really, to see here for now.

Tomorrow there will be relaxing. Sunday there'll be church and more relaxing and probably a few pictures and more relaxing. Next week we'll be very much back to normal.

All that time I'll be thinking of my friends. They might be emotionally lost because of their loss, but know through their faith exactly where they want to go.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

There's this nice burning scratch in the back of my throat. Woke up with that this morning and can't shake it. I haven't been talking a lot today because of that and, if I didn't say much to you in particular that'd be why. It just hurt a bit much, the vague irritation while being quiet was a bit better than the distinctive burning from talking. Most people around me were probably thankful.

So I just put on headphones at the office, code for "I'm drowning this out" became "Please don't make me talk today." Hopefully it'll improve; though I thought this morning it felt like strep, but have decided against that. A few hits of that numbing throat spray helped for a while, speaking to the mild condition of the irritability. Strep would have been more persistent.

However, I've had the medicine head feeling all day. The only thing worse than the medicine head feeling is having the medicine head feeling without the benefits of any medicine.

So you'll excuse me if there isn't much going on just now. I have a few pictures to share, and then a dress shirt to iron before I can call it a day.

We climbed onto the roof at the office yesterday hoping to hear the space shuttle breaking the sound barrier on its way back to a safe landing in Florida. Carried the camera because, if I didn't, that would of course be when you could see the contrail. So, with camera in hand there was no shuttle to see. It was something like 34 miles above us after all.

A few unusual photographs came out of the noontime distraction.

The ominous and supposedly haunted Sloss Furnaces are just across the railroad tracks from our offices, offering the unusual perspective shot of a small part of the historic facility.

Pepper Place, where Dr. Pepper was once bottled, is just across the street. Our building made cookies and biscuits once upon a time.

I left work today during one of those perfect moments of lighting that allows you to see all the angles and shapes in different ways. I love that view in the afternoon. It feels like a geometry teacher's bad dream, all shapes and chaos and nothing make sense on any plane, with the lines of the handrails serving as the only thing to keep everything from spinning too quickly out of control.

At least I hope geometry teachers have dreams like that. They deserve it for the trauma the subject inflicts on some of their students.

(I was fine in geometry, but struggled in everything above it. As soon as I can find a scene that screams "Calculus!" I'll share it here.)

There's a new black and white photograph today. It isn't the best choice from the stack, but it has a very small historical importance. Even the lesser of those photographs is an awful lot of fun.

That's pretty much all for now. I'm sure I've said this before, but things will turn around here soon. Mostly I'm concentrating on not growing truly ill, that's the top priority, I'm sure you understand. And, if I can, I promise to talk more tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

I'm getting sick. Nothing major as yet. Just as the time flew back and the sun skitters away and the temperatures and leaves fall I get a scratch in the back of the throat. I'll be taking medicine tomorrow.

Already it has felt like a long week, so hopefully the rest of it will zip right by. It'd be nice if self-perception had the appropriate ebbs and flows, forever compensating for the previous time that flew or skipping through drudgery to make up for some slow movie you endured for a bad date.

If only you could enjoy the chronology of escrow.

Since there's not much of the day we'll just catch you up on the new things around the site. Think of it as my way of speeding you back to something else to make up for some day where I had you reading pages and pages of fluff.

There's a new photo on the front page of the site. Speaking of front pages, you'll find a few new additions to the newspaper section. They all but cured polio and had a revolution in Hungary during this period.

Also, speaking of photographs the October installment is now up on the pictures page. There's been some items removed and moved around on the blog here. Mostly old things that populated the left portion of the page that just needed some cleaning. Some of the items will come back, but today a little streamlining seemed like a good idea.

We streamlined the podcast process this week too, doing both the Alabama and the Auburn themed podcasts within about 10 minutes of one another. Hear the Bama podcast here or check out the Auburn podcast here.

For the week Alabama must bounce back from a tough loss to LSU to fend off a Mississippi State team that stole a victory from the Tide last season. For Auburn it is wrapping up a restive homecoming and looking to Amen Corner as Georgia is up and Alabama is waiting in the wings. Also there are coaching rumors at Auburn, so you'll find all of that and more in those links.

That's pretty much the day. There are some new pictures, but you can see those tomorrow. In the meantime there are a few important real world things to address.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Took the day off. Needed it too. Spent a lot of time on the phone and staring at books and trying to be as inactive as possible.

On balance today was not a good day. I woke up with bad friend news, the kind your heart aches for. My friends are good, decent and beloved people with many friends and family surrounding them. Oh, for a magic wand, the demand would be high just now, otherwise we're swimming in a sea of futility and helplessness. The very shocked kind.

Sometimes solace is hard to come by, but I know my friends to be strong people of character and faith and love. Those are the things that will see them through.

But dim grow the eyes with grief.

(Would you pray in the next several weeks for my friends and their families? You won't need the specifics, He knows.)

Monday, November 5, 2007

By the time I left for work this morning it was bright outside. I could see without headlights. Not sure when this happened last, but it was unsettling today. I didn't even sleep late, but rather the sun has taken to appearing over the horizon an hour earlier thanks to the time change.

None of us are unique in this thanks to the time change. The regular human fiddling with the schedule of our lives has forced us all realize in the past day or so just how many clocks we own. We've got them everywhere, and more than two in some rooms.

And there's nothing like the insecurity you get the first time you must now depend on your freshly set clock. The alarm, meeting an appointment, whatever the case may be. You now have so many clocks in your home that you grow forgetful of which ones you've changed. Everything has its own chorus of beeps and boops whenever you adjust the clock. And bringing the microwave and stove -- just across the kitchen from one another, but the stove is four minutes late in arriving according to the digital readout -- creates a digital symphony of chronological uncertainty.

You could consult the television -- it never lies -- but did you set its own clock back already? Is it smart enough to set itself? What about the cell phone for that matter?

If I look on the TV Guide channel, or The Weather Channel, will their staffers be up to date? Do they show Central or Eastern time, anyway?

The clock on my computer at work, did the software roll it back or am I actually here an hour early? Why am I hungry right now? Why is the sun already hanging so criminally low at 3 p.m.?

How did it go from light to dusk to dark while I was clearing the unwanted programs off the TiVo? Why is the EvIl eye smarter than the rest of us anyway? It didn't need my help to change the time. Didn't even ask if I wanted it to. Didn't tell me it had. It was just done. "And now enjoy more suggested recordings of the old Bat Masterson show."

That's pretty much been my day. That and wrestling with how I can possibly ever be late to anything given the dozen or so clocks in my life.

Since your mind and your body are confused and you're up late anyway, enjoy a few photographs I've been saving the past few days. For instance, I think I've discovered one of the problems the Empire is facing lately: Shortages have forced cutbacks in their armored divisions. And the management style leaves something to be desired as well. Lightsaber to throat is not an effective battle incentive.

What do cats do all weekend? The same thing they do during the week, apparently.

Well, I have tomorrow off, leftover ribs tonight and a marathon of 24 to watch. Aside from the sunset now being a comma rather than a period, things couldn't be much better. I hope you find that it is the same.

Remember: Just six weeks before the days start growing longer.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

I promised post-game festivities in today's post and so here we are. That proved to be a good idea since today has been a very relaxed day. So, before covering the rest of Saturday we'll quickly review Sunday:

Spent the afternoon reading in the sunshine. Spent the early evening eating at Cheesecake Factory. After we said our goodbyes and the folks headed north I spent the next 15 minutes at the grocery store realizing that I was not interested in buying anything. After a rich meal of food from Cheesecake, and the promise of at least two days of leftovers, there seemed no need to find groceries. Cheesecake's food is delicious and reminds you of that for several hours after the fact.

Later I kicked back and watched a few hours of the fourth season of 24. Altogether this is shaping up as an excellent season, pending what they do next. If I gave you the summary right now I think you'd find we're about halfway through the season.

So that's today, including a casual and perfect four hours or so of sunlight, reading and laughter I could repeat forever. It does not include the coping of going back to standard time. That's not a real issue until tomorrow though, feeling unburdened by it as I have been today. It is possible, though, that we'll revisit the subject later this week.

For now we must revisit Saturday after the game.

We walked up to Toomer's Corner, with me explaining the history and the principle point of the party. We discussed how the celebration has evolved over the years, how horticulturists think a variety of things are hurting the old oaks and then we rolled the trees.

And it was a good rolling, considering it was an afternoon homecoming game of little importance.

Rick got the finer points of the technique pretty quickly. My mother looks as if she's done this before. Yeah, I think she has.

I set them up for one of the rare truly posed photographs I'll take. While they were distracted Brian quickly moved in for the true photograph. Don't think they saw that coming, but they stayed still for a few seconds for the picture anyway.

The Yankee rarely rolls the trees, but she did today. After that she dressed in a nice biodegradable scarf.

We walked back down College Street to take a few pictures with one of the University's signs and with Samford Hall in the background. My mother, who pretends she doesn't like Auburn, pointed out places where she'd taken pictures on previous visits.

She took this photograph as I pretended to explain some of the history and trivia about Samford Hall. Mostly I just pointed, thinking that explaining that the bell in the tower is still inscribed Alabama Polytechnic Institute or that signing one's name in the tower is a high honor might be too much minutiae.

Great photograph though.

We walked back up to College Street to get everyone a lemonade from Toomer's. It was Brian and Rick's first. We explained how Mr. Echols worked there for more than 40 years, hand-squeezing lemons with hands so gnarled by arthritis he couldn't full extend his fingers. It hasn't been the same without him behind the counter.

They've streamlined the process a bit, particularly for game day, but I've never been convinced the lemonade was the same since he retired.

You still get service with a smile, at least, in the drug store turned gift shop.

After Toomer's we hit one of the bookstores for shirts -- Rick was shopping -- and then to one of the t-shirt shops. He ended his day with a long-sleeve shirt and a nice polo. We headed to dinner at Niffers (try the cajun tots), the official postgame restaurant for the 2007 season and watched Alabama lose a close one to LSU.

Finally we had a cozy, warm ride home, stepping into the lawn in 45 degree weather.

It was a War Eagle day.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Not a cloud in the sky, a little breeze has blown them all away and helped pour a bit more color into the trees. A beautiful day for a football game.

And so that's what we did, woke up early, Brian came over and he and The Yankee and the parents and I all piled into the 4Runner and headed off to Auburn. The entire day seemed like we were hustling to get somewhere just in time.

We made it to campus just in time to catch the end of Tiger Walk, walked up the hill to have a sandwich at Momma G's, which has become the official pregame stop of the 2007 season. Stood in that line, finally got the food and scarfed that down so I could go pick up Brian's ticket. Somehow in the confusion I ended up getting four, rather than one. Ahh, family friends.

So I'm now waiting on my group to make it to the stadium while I get my camera, tickets and everything organized. This older lady comes up and asks me if I'm selling the tickets. Since I needed only five, but suddenly had eight, I figured I could sell three and get some money back to the proper person. They bought all three tickets, I made $30 back for Mr. Brown, and we got inside the stadium and ran up to our vantage point to watch Nova fly.

Made it with two minutes to spare, and it was worth the rush as they've now stretched out his flight. He circled three-quarters of the stadium today to a rousing ovation from an otherwise quiet crowd. Think this guy got a good shot of the golden eagle? She did too.

Finally we could settle into a beautiful fall day. Sunny and clear, high of 72, I'll never order up another one any better. The band marched onto the field and played the Star Spangled Banner and as the final note drifted away a chorus of F-16s roared overhead.

After that the Tigers came onto the field opposite the overmatched squad from Tennessee Tech. Everyone knew this wasn't going to be much of a contest. Both coaches admitted it, and the game shirts made the blowout goal obvious. From the opening kickoff Auburn drove down the field and took over the game. Tech responded with a field goal after yet another Auburn special teams breakdown, but that was as close as the game would be.

Ben Tate rushed for 41 yards and a score on 14 carries. Mario Fannin rushed for 57 yards on 14 carries and also caught a pass for nine yards. This day was about getting the starters out early and getting some reps for the young guys. Brandon Cox did his methodical routine, throwing for 167 yards before giving way to the backups.

Robert Dunn had two catches for 42 yards and two scores. Freshman quarterback Kodi Burns struggled in limited action.

Auburn's Goliath defense quietly had another solid performance against an obvious David. Tech through two interceptions, one for a length-of-the-field touchdown and this one from Jerraud Powers.

Blake Field came on after that and made his case to be the heir apparent, throwing for 92 yards and a touchdown on just a half-dozen completions. Even Neil Caudle got in a few snaps.

Rick had a great time as Auburn won easily 35-3. We're teaching him cheers and working on him to realize he should bankroll season tickets for next year.

Here is my artsy picture of the game.

And, in a nearly unprecedented move I will save the post game festivities until tomorrow's blog post. They'll deserve their own spotlight.

Plus getting home was late and tiring. Nothing like a 15-hour football day in the fall...

Friday, November 2, 2007

Since the folks are in town I took the day off. It seemed only polite: They came here to see me, I should see them.

Also, I wanted to know what cats do all day. Now I see.

You might recall I did a podcast with Dr. Jim Griffin of the Southern Museum of Flight last summer. He invited me to bring my step-father, the pilot, to see the facility the next time he was in town. I called Dr. Griffin this morning and he welcomed us on short notice this afternoon.

While Rick was oohing and ahhing over the Tuskegee Airman exhibit Col. Joseph Shannon walked into the room. Shannon, the last pilot from the Bay of Pigs invasion is a soft-spoken and humble legend. Whenever he meets new people these days, particularly around the museum where he remains a fixture, they all want to ask him questions. He likes asking questions of others too.

He trained with the legendary Bob Hoover. (See Hoover in action.) He says it as a matter of fact, with a big pause at the end of his sentence as he waits for you to realize what you've just learned. This man flew, a great on his own, flew with perhaps the most experienced pilot in the history of aviation.

Shannon likes to talk about Hoover, and you, and where he's been stationed because talking about himself seems inappropriate. You have to look him up to know that he flew B-26s in Cuba, the P-38 and Spitfires in WWII and was the first Allied pilot to land in Italy after the invasion. We asked him about his experiences, but he demures on too many details. Most of these tidbits came from Warren Trest and Donald Dodd's book.

After touring the Lake Murray B-25 we met Col. Harry Ford. He was one of the original Tuskegee Airmen.

Rick was a kid at Christmas with the planes, the engines and especially the living history. As we left he was already ready to come back to visit again. Why not? Dr. Griffin gave him a backstage tour of the restoration facilities and showed off more than the average visitor gets to see. There's another half century of aviation history sitting just outside the building as well. There's a lot to see in what was a hidden gem of Birmingham, but is quickly becoming a prominent destination.

Though I wonder about this. That's a sticker that's on the propeller of The Puffer, one of the original two planes from what is now Delta Airlines. The sticker is an advertisement for propeller repair, but it seems as if it should say "If you can read this, get out of the plane!"

For all you old school font lovers, I found this poster on display that I didn't notice in my previous trip. Over 100,000 people, no admission, free parking and not a single port-a-potty in sight. You wonder what all was included in the foreign entries category of a 1937 air show.

After the Southern Museum of Flight we went to the Birmingham Art Museum to see the Pompeii exhibit. Over 500 pieces are on display, most have never been out of Italy and only appearing in three American cities.

There's no photography allowed there, but there's plenty of jewelry, much of it ornate, lots of coins and common utensils like spoons and mirrors. Curiously we haven't improved on the bucket in 2000 years, but we have more variation in our rings and bracelets. The necklaces on display are amazing. The molds of the victims' bodies are captivating in their pain and sadness.

There's a terrific amount of photography which really lends a sense of how overwhelmingly large an excavation that has taken place. In fact they've been diging there for about three centuries now.

When you start the exhibit you watch a quick video that gives an overview of the time and place. While waiting outside the video room a young mother was reading one of the museum notes to her children. "Pompeii was a city of artisans, politicians and ... prostitutes."

That's what a cold read in front of a five-year-old will get you. Fortunately none of them were paying close attention at that moment.

Pompeii is at the Birmingham Museum of Art until the end of January. Make sure you visit, and allow plenty of time to see the many other outstanding exhibits they have on display. Yes, Birmingham has a world class art museum.

After touring the museums with Mom and Rick it was time for Pie Day, where they joined us, as did our old friend Jess, recently returned from Alaska. There are pictures that Ward took, but they're all lacking in one way or another. Mostly I'm to blame, not having the ability to appear normal in a photograph.

Ward and I conspired to deliver the check directly to me, because sometimes it is nice to treat the people who are forever treating you. When everyone realized what happened there was a brief discussion on the matter. It lasted only slightly longer than when I protest about paying. I've all but stopped those protests having realized I'll never win. Tonight's protest was brief because the bill was already paid.

Ward is sneaky.

They insisted on leaving his tip however. Everyone went home happy, I went home with lungs full of helium. I thought Stevie Wonder would be easier to do full of the compressed gas, but it was a disappointing experiment.

I'm also confused about why there's a constant radio in my head at all times of the day, shifting through songs like the scan feature on your car stereo, but when I get a balloon of helium I can't think of the first song to sing. Maybe next week I'll do this.

Big day of travel and football tomorrow. I'll be up early so this'll end for now. Come back, though, for football, new exposure to college traditions and more.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The folks have arrived. They were supposed to be here earlier this afternoon, but some incident of indistinct origin held them up. You hate when that happens. If only you knew what you were dealing with you could run headlong into it, or shift just to the side as necessary.

When unknown events conspire against you it is difficult to address the situation properly.

As it was it left me with much of the afternoon to myself. I finished the cleaning in a hurry thinking they'd be in at any moment, but any moment stretched into the length of the day and the early portion of the evening. At dark thirty they made it to the house.

We unloaded their bags -- I thought they were just staying the weekend, but this is a lot of luggage -- and then sat down to catch up on the happenings of the past few days since we've been in touch. So and so's this, who's and who's that. This is not that much different than any other family conversation.

After dishing the family soap we went out for dinner to a local steakhouse. There we met Patrick, a mountain of a man with broad shoulders, an iron grip and a casual air about him. He's working two jobs and about to begin graduate school. I only held the one job through grad school and I'm exhausted just thinking about it.

He's going to get an MA in HR and then hopes to get a PhD in psychology. That's a lot of education and hopefully he'll be able to manage. Hopefully he can do it without crushing too many hands with that handshake.

Otherwise I've puttered around the house, lamenting the passing of the long sun as we finally approach the early night season. After the expansion of daylight savings we'll only have three months of early dark, and before too long we can start counting up for the amount of daylight. It is a bright side the kid in all of us, eager to be outside and playing long into a steamy summer evening, will hold dear.