Kenny Smith | blog

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

"You're not thinking of doing this tonight, are you?"

Right about there was the moment I began to question myself. Clearly I should. The Home Depot guy questioned my judgment.

But no. I've been putting off this project long enough. Today was as good a day as any.

"Because you reaaaally don't want to call a plumber on New Year's Eve, I promise you."

Look, buddy, I don't want to call a plumber any day of the year. That's why I'm here. That's why I'm wishing you'd just come moonlight and do the job for me.

So, to the beginning of the story then.

Last spring I replaced the toilet in the master bathroom as an improvement project. I also purchased a new sink which would be added to match the new fixtures. The sink, however, has sat happily in the basement since then.

I found, in my first attempt to remove the old one, that water will corrode and freeze valves if you don't open and close them once a year or so. I could not make the supply lines budge.

About this same time I met the nice PR people from Home Depot via Twitter and, one day at lunch, one of the executives from their Atlanta headquarters called me and gave me some tips. "Better yet," he said, "I'll just go down to the store and get you the SKU numbers so you can walk in and pick up what you need. Also, I'll just type up some instructions. What's your Email?"

So I've had these instructions and a big batch of appreciation for Home Depot for a while. A few weeks ago the sink, which had lately developed a mild drip, had something in the faucet fall apart and so the time to replace it had finally come.

But not before the holidays arrived.

So today I found myself at the Home Depot, repaying their kindness with my patronage and asking more questions of the guy who clearly works for a living. He looked familiar, because I'd asked him for lighting advice in the past. I'm of the opinion he could build an entire house on his own. Probably he does, every night when he goes home. He just makes it sound so simple. He figures I can do this in two hours.

He also likes it if you bring pictures. It is like a show and tell of the things that are broken in your house. And he can discern more, at a glance than you're ever going to be able to explain in your simple understanding of household maintenance. Seriously. Arm yourself with photographs the next time you go to Home Depot.

So I bought new valves to replace the corroded ones, and the lines that go from the valve to the faucet. Bought a new faucet. Bought a pipe cutter and some polishing fabric and these emergency stopper gadgets so, "If it all goes wrong" as the guy said, "you can put these on and call a plumber on a different day."

Sure you don't want to stop by tonight and do it?

He said he'd be at the store tomorrow, which I suppose meant I was doing your basic mild plumbing on New Year's Eve without professional oversight.

I'm a wild one, I am.

So at home I crawl under the sink, which is just big enough for a torso, but not large enough in which to turn. The pipe cutter is a simple little tool that spins around using the pipe as an axis and two onboard wheels as its own guide. There's a little circular blade in the tool that cuts through the pipe like pizza. Just like copper pizza, in fact.

After a complete spin around the pipe you tighten the tool via a little knob on the top, giving the blade a little more torque with each rotation. Since copper is soft and there's a little blade on the thing this shouldn't take long.

Except the package gave me "Two free blades! No, not at all figured into the cost of the total price! These are just free because we like you!"

I'd wondered at the store how I can purchase a $21 dollar tool and use it once to cut two pipes and then re-sell it. After all, when am I going to use this tool again? I wondered why I'd need two free blades. This is copper. Should be soft. How cheap are these blades? Will I need all three?

Hope not, because one of them fell from the packaging just as I opened and never resurfaced. If, in fact, there were two free blades. Great. I just might have been gipped on a free blade. Now what am I going to do if these things are of such high quality that it takes three to cut two pipes, and I'm stuck with only two on New Year's Eve?

Anyway. I had a bit of difficulty shutting off the water supply to the house. It seems that it can be closed 98 percent of the way, but not the full 100 percent. There was a trickle and I had no desire to get trickled on while trapped inside a cabinet. Remembering my physics, I went downstairs and opened every valve I have between the main line and this one, putting the trickle in the kitchen and, hopefully, not on my head. Thanks again gravity, you're my favorite universal constant!

The next question, then, was deciding which pipe to cut first. The cold water supply seemed the best bet, just in case it sprayed I wouldn't be scalded. So in starting the pipe cutting process I'm reminded of one of the best quirks of this 40-year-old home: Nothing is simple.

This tool, you see, depends on complete rotations around the pipe to make a nice clean separation. The problem is that the cold water supply is too close to the drainage line to make a complete revolution. Let the oaths to ancient gods begin.

I can cut around 85 percent of the pipe, indeed I do with ease. There is a little trickle, but that's just excess water in the line and easily blotted up. What to do with that last bit of copper, though, holding the old line and old valve in place? It needs to come off cleanly for the new installation, so I can't snap it off.

More muttering.

After a few minutes I reach the famous "That will just have to be good enough!" phase of home repair and sever the supply from the offending frozen valve. It isn't a perfectly clean cut, but it is close.

The hot water line was much easier. The tool spins around easily because -- get this -- the contractor did the original install correctly. A few rotations of the cutting tool and I've now crossed some Point of No Plumbing Return. Disconnect the drainage -- I had to do this once before to retrieve something that fell in the drain, a thoroughly unpleasant task -- which takes little effort --

Cue the louder exclamations of anger and dismay.

The PVC drainage has separated itself from the wall. This could be problematic. Suddenly those emergency caps the Home Depot guy convinced me to buy are looking better and better. After much thought, deliberation, examination and plumbing prayer, I decided this could be fixed and shouldn't be a problem if examined diligently.

So, then, to remove the old sink. Brute force should do it. Pop it from underneath and it is out of the cabinetry. After a few minutes of elbow grease removing the old caulk from the top of the counter I lean over to install the new valves. Click, snap. Click, snap. Oh that was easy.

Drop the sink in place, add the supply lines from the sink to the valves and restore the drainage line to its proper (and much worried over) initial configuration and examine my work.

Well then. The sink looks fine, the new faucet is lovely. Only one thing to do now, and there's no getting around it. I have to turn the water on to see if all of this works. Turning on the main and opening the cold valve I find a tiny little trickle. Tighten up the connection and that's fixed. Turning on the water from the hot water heater and opening the hot valve and fix the little trickle there and that works too.

Did it all in under two hours. It wouldn't take nearly that long the next time, you know, now that I'm an expert.

So, anybody need a pipe cutter? Works well, used twice.

That was this afternoon. After cleaning up and getting cleaned up there was dinner with The Yankee at Ichiban's (Japanese for: The price has increased again, gaijin.) The cook was a very nice Hispanic man, who made plenty of Tequila jokes while cooking our Japanese food. No children at our table, but The Yankee got to break an egg. There were plenty of party people getting started on their evening.

Me? I'll be watching Dick Clark from the comfort of home. Possibly from the comfort of bed. I've already become an expert plumber and attended a bonfire; that's enough for me for one day.

Hope you've had a lot of fun. Hope your 2008 ends with a bang and your 2009 is full of prosperity and contentment. Hope to see you soon next year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

And so continues the week of close to nothingness. I could feel guilty about it, but Samford's campus is closed and I'll start classes of my own in a few days at Alabama. We'll file this under the Great Charging of Batteries of the early portion of 2009.

Funny thing about those batteries, they never do get completely charged up do they?

Returned to the gym today for the first time in weeks. I'd like to thank the place and all of the equipment stored within its walls for not getting the better of me. I had a respectable enough of a workout to call it a positive beginning to the post-holiday period. May there be many more, and discernible results, in the near future.

The power went out right after I returned home from my workout. I know two people that work at the power supply service and distribution node, and I always think their names very loudly when we have an outage. It rarely fixes anything -- they're more office types than repairmen anyway -- so I always call the automated system to report the outage.

The computer dutifully absorbed my information, providing me with an alibi for that 15minute portion of the day and no doubt sending the aggregate data to DARPA. The system said my power would be restored in 90 minutes. Two minutes later everything returned to life.

And that's why I'll always live next to a nursing home or a hospital if I can help it.

Finally got around to watching the SEC Championship game. Or the first half of it anyway. Give me a break, though, I've been busy since Thanksgiving. Impressions from the first half: Florida was scary. I don't know, but I'm guessing they're going to win the game when I finally get around to watching the rest of it.

Anybody got a good cat-sock pun?

The Yankee and I decided for an early-late-mid-week Pie Day. The parking lot was a bit crowded, but we were sat almost immediately. Ward, being Ward, saw us from the neighboring county and raced through the restaurant to meet us in the foyer, demanding to see the ring. So there was no joke to be had on him. Sigh. Probably he found out through Facebook, the ultimate gossip machine.

And then the ladies at the table next to us began chatting us up about personal subjects like we were old friends.

So naturally I started playing with their daughters. There was a Tickle Monster at Jim 'N' Nicks tonight.

After dinner we watched The Dark Knight at the dollar theater. We caught it opening weekend in July at the brand new neighborhood cinema that timed it's opening to that movie. Tonight we watched it in one of the older theaters in town, the dollar theater, in The Must Room no less.

I love that place because the movies cost a buck, there's usually very little crowd and each room has its own personality shaped by decades of wear and tear. But this room is getting out of control. A used book store owner would walk in and turn around and leave, so offended at the funk in the air.

Spray some Lysol people.

While watching Dark Knight I wondered aloud what operational changes Batman is making during an economic downturn. Facebook sent me these replies:

Bullet proof vests are hard to shop out to the lowest bidder. I think Bruce is taking fewer trips in the bat plane.

Economic downturns only affect certain levels of the economic stratus. I assure you Bruce Wayne is unaffected by this crisis. Now Spiderman... Yeah he's buying his replacement suits at Party City now. He's got one of those plastic masks with the eyehole cutouts and the rubber band. It's sad. He's webbing the bad guys with silly string.

But surely Bruce's portfolio went down almost 40% with the rest of us. Maybe he isn't in line waiting for a federal bailout of Wayne Industries but if P-Diddy is flying commercial, surely Bruce is limiting his international, fly to Singapore and catch a criminal activities. I bet he's just calling INTERPOL collect.
That's good comic book, economic humor there. Owing to financial difficulties Batman's cape is now one-third its original size. Also, Bruce Wayne's Lamborghini is now using 87 octane.

And that's been the day. Not much to it, eh? Pretty awesome, right? I thought so.

Tomorrow, New Year's Rockin' Eve. I promise to find an activity that makes me at least 17 percent more productive than today.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Not much to today. I spent most of it happily not doing anything. Slept in a bit, caught up on some reading, cleaned the TiVo.

Neglected some chores, but the great thing about chores is that if you don't do them today they'll still be around tomorrow. Persistent little buggers.

Someone asked how unwrapping Christmas presents could take hours. Here's how:

Do them all one at a time, discussing the merits of the gift and the thoughtfulness of the giver and it can take a while. It took 10 minutes just to move all of the presents from Point A to Point B where the Great Unwrapping took place.

Then we opened presents for two hours. After that, and already well into the a.m. hours, we had homemade apple pie. My family's great like that.

Now a few tidbits from the weekend that have nothing to do with anything, but I might want to recall them one day. In chronological order: Auburn hired Gus Malzahn to run the offense.

You remember Gus, he was the high school coach that got the job at Arkansas three years ago. We all laughed. He had personality struggles and left after one year, spending two seasons at Tulsa where he's built the most statistically impressive offense in recent memory. This could be interesting.

More interesting is the genealogical research we did Saturday night. My step-grandmother mentioned her grandfather's name and I decided to look him up. After a bit of searching I was able to show my step-grandmother a picture of her great-great-grandfather, dating back to the early 19th Century.

My step-father and all of his family are Texans, but they started out at least in the Carolinas. They later moved south, William Fleming, at the above link, was born in Georgia and died in Alabama. He served in a militia in south Alabama and died there in 1894, a few years after some of his descendants left for Texas.

I love reading that stuff, but I've never done any of that research myself. I don't have access to enough family Bibles and birth certificates and I'm geographically too far removed to haunt the local record offices. I do have a stack of names -- names I've never from the middle of the 19th Century -- and I'll Google all of them one day. Who knows what is out there to find.

Reading a blog today I found floatover ads that said "Thanks America for investing in Crysler." This wasn't planned by the blog, James Joyner is simply taking part in one of those automated programs. The key words for that ad were fascinating: recession, plans to cut, economic downturn.

Surely Chrysler could have thought through that a bit better. What else was their $4 billion bailout intended to do, beyond insult the occasional shopper?

Today was the Bowl, held here in Birmingham. I did not attend, but did see a bit of it on television, making it the first bowl game I've had the chance to watch this year.

Brian McAlister took his daughter and reported at least three pizza tents were tapped and abandoned by the time he arrived. Papa John hisownself got face time in the broadcast booth and either did not know of this development or did not care.

Brian also said the game was fun, and his daughter enjoyed the fireworks most of all. Shame she could not enjoy the pizza.

That's pretty much it for now. I have to drive out to Anniston to pick up The Yankee, who flew in this evening. She was going to rent a car, but that became cost prohibitive. A friend is bringing her to Anniston and I'll finish the route. I'm told we're both getting dinner out of the effort.

Not a bad deal.

Tomorrow: I may be more productive, I may not. These next few days will probably be light on entertainment here as I plan to sleep a fair amount and watch all of the football offerings possible.

But there'll be something. Come back and we'll find out together what that will be.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Coco gets presents too!

Coco got her Christmas presents today.

We could discuss, at length, the health of the psyche and the economy of a people who feel the need to buy presents for pets. Judge us not; her gifts were practical, things to eat and a new water bowl.

Instead we won't discuss much. Today was a quiet day of family visiting, football watching, Wilco watching and packing and repacking my suitcase to maximize the space so I could get my presents home. One little stack will have to be shipped, but I got more in the luggage, mostly new shirts and ties, than I expected possible.

Today was also a travel day. We left for the airport early, thinking this might be a big travel night. There was no one at security and only my flight at the end of the terminal. It was a full flight, as opposed to my Friday morning flight which had 40 passengers.

Tonight I ended up sharing a row on the plane with a father and a cute kid of about eight. He reminded you of a television child. Very smart, clean, funny and thoughtful. I had to explain to him where Birmingham was, how big it was, the big buildings and similarities to Louisville. We talked about his trip; he was going to see an aunt. At the end of the flight he sat up straight, smiled and said "Nice to meet you!"

Hope he's having fun in Orlando.

Me, I'm having fun at home. For only the third time in 16 days I'm home. For the first time in that span I don't have to be anywhere tomorrow. Finally home. And now to unpack, unwind, clean up, sleep and generally enjoy a quiet week.

This is the life ...

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Happy Birthday to us!

Never mind that my birthday was a week ago, or that Grandmother's was several days ago as well. One mustn't ever let such pesky little details get in the way of chocolate cake.

Late start to the day, everyone slept in a bit, me especially. After a full night's sleep -- I finally got to bed around 3 a.m. this morning -- I feel like a respectable human being again.

All of this because we opened presents for hours last night. We do them here one present at a time, with someone directing traffic. This allows everyone to see what everyone else gave, which is a nice idea, but present opening ceremonies can last for hours.

Everyone seemed to have a nice time. Everyone got a lot of nice things. I received too many things. I wasn't this good. My grandmother, however, was very good and she received a bunch of things. I've no idea how she's going to get it all home. I've no idea how I'm going to get all of mine home, but that's a worry for tomorrow.

Today, after all, was a day for birthdays. And more presents. And cake, lest we forget the reason for remembering such occasions.

We finished a late lunch, lingering at the table and chatting about this and that, before having cake. We lingered around the table some more, chatting about this and that and presents and things. And then we all got up to get ready to ...

... go out to dinner.

Which was delicious and savory at Ditto's Grill, one of those restaurants that isn't the first place that comes to mind when you think of Louisville dining. It is also one of those restaurants that should be.

I had an apple grilled chicken concoction, which was delicious, but I should have had the steak with Henry Bain sauce. And you should too.

And then I amazed and amused the table by learning, through my cell phone, just who Henry Bain was and why he had a sauce. The mobile version of Wikipedia is a handy thing to have.

Later at the Comedy Caravan -- a high class joint with bagged popcorn and cheap lawn furniture -- we saw Torian Hughes and Rich Ragains. Good comics, a good time. Even grandmother was doubled over in laughter.

And though the day has seemed short, we've stuffed a lot of fun into it. Not bad for a casual Saturday.

Tomorrow: my last day with the folks, as I'll catch the last plane out of town and head back home. Who knows what adventures will come from that.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Slept two, maybe almost three hours last night. It was a small holiday miracle, then, that I managed to wake up when the alarm blared at 5 a.m. Got ready for the day, finished yet another round of packing and then left home.

Before going to the airport I stopped at the big blue box store to find one or two small, quick gifts. Stopping there at that time of the morning is always a risky proposition. Usually it takes forever to get through the check out procedure, and today was no different. The small change being that they had several registers open, but had no one to manipulate the buttons and scanner.

When I finally made it back to the car I had just enough time to speed across town to the airport. My flight was scheduled for 7:30, it would take me 25 minutes to make it to the airport, giving me just enough time to get through a hopefully light security line and and down to the terminal.

I got to the airport with no problem, parked and walked inside noting that my flight actually leaves at 7:45. Now I have 20 minutes to beat security and find the plane. I could have slept 20 extra minutes.

After security I walked down the terminal to find ... no plane. We'll let my Twitter feed take over from there:
Santa must have used my plane for Christmas ... Oh wait ... They are making an announcement ... My plane diverted to Nashville. Fog. Wheeee.

A harried announcement at the airport. Every flight is sacked in from the fog. Also, she said, she can't control the fog.

A flight for Chicago is leaving, despite the fog. The guy making announcements sounds like he's trying to rally friends for drinks.

This is our fog in.

The most recent announcement: It's a cluster. Also the announcer lady might like a Xanax.

The airport boss man took the microphone. It is clear he doesn't do this often, but he's informative and enjoying himself.

Now we're both fogged in and announcing oversells. Some horrible minstrel and fife 12 Days of Christmas That Hath Now Expired is playing.

My flight is now delayed by at least three hours. But the bookmarks in my phone's browser are now organized.

So it is foggy and the main runway has no approach lights. Is this Die Hard 2 or something?

The airport operations manager has made four announcements. I'd bet this clusterflop is bigger than most clusterflops they deal with here.

The natives grow restless, blaming airport deficiencies on the airport commission and Larry Langford. This could hurt our 2020 Olympic chances!

The hot rumor is that my plane as landed!

Yes Virginia, they do exist.

Southwest's new boarding procedure is sillier than their old one. It'll prompt a riot one day.

I am an A person.

And now, finally on the plane. After a three hour delay. Following a night of two hours of sleep. That could have been a lovely nap.

That hard landing? It wasn't the pilot's fault. It wasn't the co-pilot's fault. It was the asphalt.
Safely in Louisville, my mother picked me up at the airport. We drove over the river to Indiana where I'll spend the weekend with family and my step-grandmother.

Over a big table of lunch snacks my step-brother and I explained Facebook, Twitter and MySpace to my grandmother. She asks great questions. I also taught her how to send text messages. She's a delightfully curious and fun 86-year-old lady.

I ended up taking two naps today. I fell asleep in the den in a quiet moment and then later retreated to the media room, dark and cool as a cave, for a longer sleep. Someone woke me up in time for dinner. Or my nose did. I'm not clear on who did what, nor on how long I slept.

After clearing the cobwebs from my head there was a delicious and a big dinner with the whole family, where I was asked to tell the engagement story again.

And now we're getting ready for another Christmas, my last present session of the year. This one will run late -- it usually does, anyway -- so we'll wrap this up for now. You're doing OK if you have four Christmases in one year.

Tomorrow: with Christmas festivities over we'll turn to birthday fun.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas from Coco Claus!

Christmas morning came and went, with no children around there was little fanfare. I had breakfast with my mother and grandparents. We sat around chatting through the morning, building domino towers and enjoying a slow start to the day.

Eventually progress had to be made. My mother had to drive back to Indiana. I had another half of the family to see and so on. Saying goodbye to one set of relatives I traveled the mostly empty streets across the county to see more.

At my other grandparents' house my uncle greeted me with one of these: "What are you putting in your hair to keep it that color?"

He's just jealous.

We had lunch, watched The Longest Day and visited through the afternoon. I gave them gifts -- though the one I was most excited about hasn't yet arrived and I'm disappointed about that. Oh well, another trip, an extra gift and so on.

Around five I hit the road, headed for home. I made the first leg in just under 45 minutes and the remainder in 90 minutes somehow.

Now I'm doing laundry again. My mother drove to Indiana this morning and I drove back to Birmingham tonight. Tomorrow I'll fly to Indiana. I'm firing my travel agent.

I realized the other day that I packed too many clothes for north Alabama. Not to worry, that's just one less day for which to pack for Indiana.

The other night my grandmother asked how I was enjoying my long break. This is the first time in a dozen or so years when I have had more than a day or two for Christmas. Time, I said, seems a lot like money. The more you have of it, the more you find you need.

Tomorrow this suitcase will land in Louisville and drive over the river to Indiana. When I finally return home from this visit my suitcase will have been in eight places in 16 days.

This weekend visit will be another fun family Christmas party and birthday as well. We'll all, no doubt, have fun. Doesn't mean I won't be excited to make it back home for a long winter's nap.

The truth is I'm fortunate to have so many folks care about me and welcome my visits. I'm fortunate, now, to have the opportunity to spend so much time with those people. On Sunday night I'll be fortunate to climb into my own bed once again.

If you're half as fortunate as me, then you may well have it made.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

"Am I on the good list?"

Santa called this afternoon to talk to the little ones in our family. He talked for a long while with the oldest. The middle boy proclaimed that he'd been at least as good as his older brother. The younger one, here, wasted no time with a greeting, he quickly got down to brass tax.

Which is not what he wants for Christmas.

Breakfast at my great-grandmother's house, which has become the Christmas Eve tradition in recent years. I got to spend the morning telling everyone about the funny engagement story. The little ones and the older ones opened presents. I took pictures of people. And pictures of pictures. This one, for instance, I don't think I'd ever seen until the recent anniversary party.

Those are my great-grandparents, sometime during the war. My grandfather, Tonice, was drafted in 1943, so this is sometime after that. He was surely a handsome young man. A farmer he set out like so many other men and went off to fight a war in Europe. He served as a medic, becoming injured and highly decorated as the fighting wore on. His wife, like so many other women, waited at home with a young family already in progress. She looks here exactly like her granddaughter.

The little boy in that picture is my grandfather.

Later, at my grandparents' house we had lunch, the above call from Santa and then still more Christmas presents.

Christmas explodes in that picture, with some sort of remote controlled machines that all the kids loved with obvious glee.

I set up the pictures for those frames I bought last night. My uncle and I drove off to the store to get them printed. We made a few stops looking for late Christmas sales. I bought him a milkshake and asked him if he'd officiate the wedding.

He said if he tied The Yankee and I in a knot it'd be one that wouldn't be easy to escape.

By 4:30 the kids were gone. They had to get home to wait for Santa's visit. It got quiet and still and the evening just drifted away.

It has been a great Christmas and Christmas hasn't even gotten here yet.

Tomorrow: More Christmas, more travel.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

My travel plans for the day: At first I was going to drive to north Alabama late in the day, shopping for my final Christmas presents along the way, that became an early afternoon trip, with family shopping in the evening when I arrived and finally external forces changed things so that I drove up late in the evening, shopping for my final Christmas presents along the way.

This was a highly coordinated affair involving many phone calls, a late morning, doing too much laundry and the car troubles of others.

So I've washed a week's worth of clothes, fitting since I haven't been home in more than a week. I repacked the same suitcase with much of the same clothes. Road weary, I didn't realize until tonight that I'd packed more than a day of extra clothes that I won't need on the current adventure.

At dark-thirty I finally left home. I stopped at a toy store at the local outlet mall for kid presents. I picked up a few guns and noisemakers for the boys in my family ages five to nine. I also found Artoo-Potatoo, which was cute, but not as good as last year's Optimash Prime. Also found tonight: Taters of the Lost Ark.

I picked up some nice frames for grandparents, a few other things here and there, some snowman stocking holders suddenly on sale and headed north. Gliding over empty roads -- everyone must already be wherever they are going -- I made it to the lake house around 11 p.m. Along the way I exchanged good news and birthday wishes with friends and family.

It doesn't sound like much, but I did it all on little sleep, traveling two days in a row with more on the horizon. Pardon me, but I'm pacing myself.

Tomorrow: The traditional Christmas breakfast at my great-grandmother's and then the big day of presents. I hope you have a big week of gifts and family and friends. Just don't shake the packages. Or your friends. (Some of your family may deserve it.)

Monday, December 22, 2008

I flew back into the southland today, and couldn't do it fast enough in a painful brand of cold in New England.

It was 16 at the airport. The wind chill was seven degrees. But this is one of those small little airports where, after insuring that your Christmas gifts aren't a threat to national security and your toiletries aren't a danger to other passengers, you walk outdoors onto the tarmac and walk up steps onto the plane.

So, to recap, 16 degrees at the airport, seven degree wind chill, a handful of whirring turbines to just give your body something to ache over. I've only been in a few instances where the cold was so cold as to be painful, but this was one of them. And the person in front of me trying to board the plane wouldn't get inside fast enough.

On the way to the airport we listened to the Hanukkah channel on Sirius. One of the songs performed in English was by a guy who sounded pre-electric Bob Dylan, who was bitter about his heritage. He didn't get Santa Claus because he was a Jew.

Now you can run this as a conspiracy theory and good consumerist marketing back to the Templars, and someone would believe you. One line of the song, though, escaped understanding: "If Jesus were a Jew, that makes Santa one too."

I'm still trying to reconcile the jolly old elf and The New Testament, don't get me wrong, but don't see that connection.

Anyway. The flight to Atlanta was easy enough. Read all the way back, making good progress through Gen. Tommy Franks' memoir. It is fairly interesting in the early going, but everyone that picked this up was just waiting to get to the Gulf War to see what he has to say about that. He's going to be very complimentary of his bosses and the war effort. No matter how you feel about that, there's no denying his military acumen, which makes it an insightful book.

In the Atlanta airport there are no Delta people to be found. Which is charming since they destroyed my bag. It was on its last leg anyway -- kind of like Delta -- so I won't make a big deal of it.

Caught the shuttle from the airport to the hotel, where I hoped my car was still safely parked. As cold as it was in Connecticut and downstate New York this morning it was in the 20s in Atlanta today. I was all prepared to complain of the chill when I met a flight attendant who had an emergency landing this morning in Moline, Ill. For whatever reason, the passengers and crew were stuck on the plane for hours. She said the temperature on board the plane dropped below zero.

You can't complain to that woman about your breezy morning.

As an unexpected treat I learned this morning that my step-father was in Atlanta for the day before his next flight to wherever he was headed. I retrieved my car and found him at his airport six miles away using, for the first time, the Google Maps and GPS in my new phone to find my way.

We had a long meal at Ruby Tuesday (Motto: Where the company is better than the food!). I timed the whole thing well, dropping him off and driving through Atlanta just as rush hour began. On the western side of the beltway I called my mother and found enough things to talk about on the phone until I was back in Birmingham.

I was going to do some Christmas shopping tonight, but opted for laundry instead. I have to load the car again tomorrow for another trip. 'Tis the season!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

There was a Christmas party to attend last night. We drove through frosty streets into quiet neighborhoods to a tidal basin community to join friends of The Yankee's family.

It is a semi-closed community and everyone takes part in a luminary program, so you can't just park at the house of your gracious hosts. You have to park out beyond the perimeter of the neighborhood and walk in over the snow and through the cold. It was about a quarter of a mile, or a marathon last night with temperatures in the teens.

The lady of the house is a nurse and works with The Yankee's mother from time to time. Our host was a very mild mannered gentleman who made sure to spend time with each guest. He showed off his new dog and talked about his trips through the South.

One very nice lady was waiting for word at any moment of news about the birth of her first great-grandchild. Most of the people at the party had known each other for decades. They were talking of annuities and grandchildren and "Who's the young guy with the accent?"

Also overheard: "Everybody is getting prostate cancer these days ... " Who knew it was so trendy, eh?

They were all very nice people. We talked of dogs, business travel, generational photography and favorite words. Fractious, moot, pithy, balderdash, kerfluffle and phalanges all made the list. Heaven help us we also discussed communications research. It was the kind of quiet, fun little party that would leave you feeling very cosmopolitan.

There was supposed to be a family Christmas party in New Jersey today, but weather, and the threat of poor weather, canceled those plans. The weather was nice enough during the day in Connecticut, but it was lousy to the north and there was more ice expected during the evening.

So we stayed in, which is a shame in a way. There's a handful of people I haven't seen in about two years now, but we'll all catch up soon.

But we stayed in and enjoyed a quiet Christmas-like day. We tried to stay warm, shoveled the drive (a chore I've now done twice in my life, so I don't yet know I'm not supposed to like it) and watching lousy weather impact football games across the country.

We also had a mini-Christmas last night, where I received many nice things -- too many -- including sponsoring Tiger for the year. Very cool. Hopefully I gave a few nice gifts as well.

It was a nice night last night. Today was nice too, after the disappointment of having to cancel on a party. Tonight was great as well. We met friends for pizza at Colony which is greasy and delicious. I probably ate a pie and a half. I just can't get that at home.

Tomorrow is a travel day. After that they'll all seem like travel days.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

We took engagement pictures today. This photo -- any graphical problems you see are mine as I've embiggened the pic to fit my blog; in the original I am 83 percent more dashing -- is by Paige.

We drove up to a park near The Yankee's parents' home. She played there as a child, but probably not often on days like this. Six, seven, eight feet of snow on the ground. Or inches. Whichever. Who can keep track of degrees of measure when you're that cold. It was 19.3 degrees today. I checked. When the wind blew the temperature actually warmed to 20 degrees. Must be some of that lovely air blowing out of the Caribbean.

The best part of it was that tree, which is a giant old willow filled with carved names and memories. The Yankee climbed this tree as a child, nice touch that.

Meanwhile, back to the weather. We stood briefly under a pavilion. The ground and tables were covered with a good four inches of snow. Under a roof.

I like this cell phone picture. Or how about this one, from my SLR, of the snowy trees.

Here's an idea of the snow. Take a look at the wishing well. (I cheerfully wished for warmer weather. And feeling in my fingers.)

At one point someone found a park bench and thought "Wouldn't it be lovely to take a picture sitting on the bench?" In the snow. The snow, y'all.

She owes me.

The cat, by the way, has the right idea: Just hang out on the radiator all day.

We had a nice lunch with Paige, a longtime friend and current sadist photographer. Now I'm vainly trying to get warm. There's a big Christmas party tonight, but also another tomorrow. So come back for details on both.

(It was cold, don't get me wrong, but the above should be read with humor. It is worth noting, however, that it was 71 at home today.)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Today was a day spent in New York City. In the snow. And the rain. And the sleet.

The weather kept the streets light. Most sane people stayed indoors. It started snowing on our way from The Yankee's Connecticut home to the train. By the time the train made it into the city everything was covered.

In Manhattan the sidewalks were clear from the foot traffic. It was wet, but later in the day my newly acquired all-weather boots came in handy.

The Yankee's father insisted, you see. Since we arrived I've been playing the stranger in a strange land joke with the weather, but everyone thought me a little too serious when I said my leather shoes would be fine. "Cows don't get wet on the inside!"

So we went to a sporting goods store yesterday, found some cheap boots on clearance. Someone produced a coupon. Someone produced a discount card. I paid $9.99 for the boots. I plan on leaving them in the north because, really, how often do I have a need for all-weather boots back home? So, for 10 bucks I bought a pair of shoes that should last a decade. Broke them in today, they were a solid investment.

For the first of today's adventures we walked to see the windows at Lord & Taylors. Just beautiful. Look at the detail. And all the characters are in motion, creating these delightful and classic scenes.

This was my first time seeing the holiday windows, but they were gorgeous. I'm told they outdid themselves this year. Definitely worth trekking through the snow to experience.

You'll see more pictures from the windows in the December photo gallery. I didn't shoot this video -- keeping one camera dry was challenge enough -- but you can get a sense of all of the motion here.

We also saw the windows at Saks, which displayed the tale of a snowflake named Mike which, curiously, you can only read about in a book purchased exclusively at that store. Here's the view. Nice enough, but it was no Lord & Taylors. From what the windows tell you of the story, Mike is different -- snowflake, get it? -- but he wants to be cool like all the other snowflakes. Finally he realizes he can be like all the others just by being himself.

Years of therapy then awaited Mike the Snowflake, and it serves him right, too. Nonconformist precipitant!

We didn't see the Macy's windows, also a big draw, because they were too far away in the weather. But you can see them in this video. Also impressive, but no Lord & Taylors.

We walked up to Rockefeller Center, admiring the tree from a very close view. No one was out in the bad weather -- did I mention it was cold and snowing? -- before going into the NBC store. Proving that commercialism, and our appetite for kitsch is alive and well, NBC has succeeded in putting every funny thing that has happened on their airwaves in the past 35 years on a sticker, t-shirt or magnet. There are a few things that might not have even been on NBC, too.

If you need more cowbell, they've got you covered.

As our walking tour continued I realized that being outdoors in sleet can be very demoralizing. For about 10 minutes, or three days, I saw a lot that the sidewalks of Manhattan have to offer. It was painful to look anywhere else. We sought refuge in St. Patrick's Cathedral, which is a gorgeous church. I took no pictures of it today, it seemed crowded enough to be intrusive as a tourist, but you can see a few from my visit last year in this photo gallery from two years ago.

When we ventured back out into the weather we made our way to FAO Schwarz. I was a bit skeptical at first, but this is a toy store. Or maybe the toy store. Something about it just feels a bit different and magical and you can't help but get caught up in the revelry of childhood. For some people this takes a little urging, for me it takes crinkly paper, but two steps into the door and you forget about the weather and your worries and the ...

Green Santa? "Reduce, reuse, recycle. A message from your friends at FA-Ho-Ho-Ho-Ho-Ho."

This strikes at the heart of all of the things that Christmas has become. Misappropriating the use of an important day as a symbol is something to which we're far too easily accustomed, but this seems od

Also, he never said the name of the store. I stood around long enough to understand he was repeating a script, but they could have at least had him say the name of the store. We all leaned in to hear the name. How will he do it? Will there be some sort of punchline there? Perhaps a pun? But the Green Santa's Union, Local 138, apparently doesn't allow for such a thing.

Doesn't bother me it all, but the actor sounded more than a little Jewish. Maybe we could take a few hints about conservation from those noble people. One day's worth of oil was stretched into eight by careful planning and diligent oversight, after all, but it seems as if there is now an agent buried deep within our side of the War on Christmas. I'm just saying.

Wonder how many letters I'll get for that one.

He was a nice guy, but a bit on the thin side for Santa. Maybe he's eating all organic food this year, just to keep in shape. If he's driving a hybrid sleigh, though, people will give him long looks.

Hmm. Sensible, but still. You'd think icons would stick with iconography.

Also found at FA-Ho-Ho-Ho-Ho-Ho was the One Ring, everything Harry Potter but his broom -- let them sell those at WalMart! -- great trains, models, puzzles and candy you can play with.

Lego-like candy! It is as if you've died and gone to some childlike heaven. Whenever you need to renovate you just call your friends and tear out a wing of the house! Oh what great things they have here.

I'll see this at home in 2016. Everyone will be amazed, but I'll play it cool, secretly pocketing their supplies while they're concentrating on building a strong foundation.

We walked to Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue, an Episcopal church which might be the most beautiful one I've ever seen. The website needs an overhaul, but just look at what you stare at during each service there.

It is massive, ornate, ostentatious, humbling and hypnotic. There is currently a nativity scene set below it, you can see it in the photograph, but it just gets lost in all of that impressive work. The organist was practicing while we were there, but there were few people inside beyond that, so I sneaked a few photographs. It has a stunning exterior, but I couldn't shoot it myself. You'd think they'd show some of this off on the website, but you must find it elsewhere.

We lingered there, taking in this beautiful scene until almost time for dinner. We had reservations at Ben Benson's, one of those choice steakhouses you hope the boss one day takes you to on the company account.

The Yankee and her family know the day manager, and so we're treated like people that brush aside the VIPs. People who've been waiting by the bar have to wait longer as we check our coats and go right inside. There are pinstripe suits and powerful men and women waiting around, but our chairs are waiting for us.

As we're seated I hear the maitre d' over my shoulder, "These are Jimmy Gannon's guests ... " and the guy starts to hustle. He takes our orders, our first item is on Mr. Gannon (And thank you, sir, delicious.) The steaks in this place are delicious, reputed to be some of the best in the country and they justify the reputation.

I'm curious about the $35 southern friend chicken. I don't order it, but I want to know what $35 chicken tastes like. Do they do it right? Do they do it better? Steaks? They do better. They have a mashed fried potato dish which is the taste of excellence. The spinach dip is so light and breezy you can forget it is spinach. The onion rings are dipped lightly in batter and kissed lightly by gods -- but The Yankee's father says he knows of a place down the street where they are even better; I am intrigued.

The steak is so big and thick that you feel as if you might be getting away with something. Knives glide through as if the meat were frightened of the glint of steel. A nice selling point for the steak, but also for the knives which can be purchased in sets of four.

Late in the meal the waiter knocks my water into my lap. Ordinarily this is not a big deal since it is water and an accident and simply not something to worry over. Tonight even less so since we're already a bit damp from the sleet and snow. I'm more worried about the guy I ran over trying to dodge the water, but the waiter has turned ashen.

"Please don't tell Jimmy. Please don't tell Jimmy."

It isn't registering, and he knows it. He grabs my wrist.

"Did you hear me? Please don't tell Jimmy."

We'd just had this conversation about how many of the waitstaff have been at Ben Benson's for years. How they must get paid well, how the restaurant takes care of them, how hard they work. This guy now fears for his livelihood because he bumped a glass of water and I'm a guest of Mr. Gannon's.

I felt sorry for the guy. And I won't tell Jimmy. Had I thought about it at the time I might have played it up for a free dessert, but the moment passed too quickly, my mind moved too slowly.

After dinner we walked through more snow -- have I mentioned it was a bit chilly today? -- to Times Square and down to Broadway to see Chicago. This was one of my great birthday gifts: The Yankee -- and I hope I'm not leaving anyone out in that -- got fourth row center seats for Chicago.

The women were beautiful, the men were overly muscular, they all sang and danced and we were about 12 feet from the action. The orchestra is on the stage for this show, mostly because the theater is small, but they work them into the act.

There is a lot of skin in Chicago.

It is a fantastic show. Catch it if you can. The stage production plays a lot like the movie, with one or two extra things you don't see in the film. While the movie was great there are too many little things that you can't catch on a DVD that you get from a live performance that make this worth seeing.

I'd never take a picture doing a show, because it is against the rules, but since we all stood up to clap at the end anyway ...

Just a great show, a terrific sing along to wrap up the day. Only that wasn't the end. We walked back up to Rockefeller Center where we again got a great view of the tree. They asked me if the tree was as important to us as back home as it is in this part of the country, but truthfully it is just a television item there, something to be watched, maybe, and the forgotten about. Aside from turning it on and hearing about the size, weight and number of light bulbs I've always easily dismissed it.

In and around New York, though, it is as much a part of the season as anything else. You can see it on their faces.

Someone said today that the woman that raised this tree always knew it'd be at Rockefeller Center one day. Her prophecy came true, of course, but she didn't live to see it. It seems an odd thing, to have such hope for wood and needles. It is a tragic thing to not get to see it realized. It is a humbling thing to see it in person.

It is very large.

We caught one of the last trains out of Grand Central Station. Arrived in Conencticut to dig the truck out of a snow bank. It had probably six or seven inches on it in the 13 or so hours that it had been parked there.

Despite the wintery weather -- or maybe because of it, it felt so authentic -- I had a great day.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Every so often you see the joys of Christmas through new eyes. You can see into the world of those who depend on others, and those who give far more of themselves than they'd ask from anyone else. If your receptive of that, you can grow a bit.

And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."

-- Matthew 18:3-4

That video is from Special Church, a program that The Yankee's mother runs at a nearby church. It isn't even her church, but the compassion of those who give knows little about church memberships.

It is a weekly program of crafts and song and fun and Bible lessons. At the Christmas party Santa makes a big visit. He stands around the corner and jingles those bells, summoning up a long ago trained rush of adrenaline. The group cheers.

Everyone has happy to visit with Santa. Almost everyone.

It is a great two hours of joy and presents and song. I left a lot of the songs on the video because I like the singing and because so much of my memory is cataloged by song. I wanted to keep this one close.

Today was also my birthday, and going to this little party was a very nice gift. There were others. Phone calls. Cards. Excellent company. Gifts. Too many gifts. (And you people should stop that.) A delicious ice cream cake. There was also the unfortunate business of changing the chronological number directly affiliated to various minor aches and the occasional stiffness of joints.

A few years ago, when I turned 30, I didn't mind that so much. Last year soon after my birthday someone asked how old I was. Saying "31" was no fun. Thirty-two stings.

But only as an idea. As a day, this one was great.

My grandmother called in the early evening to sing Happy Birthday. The other three or four renditions I received were nice, but this is the song that makes the day official. She always ad libs a line at the end, this year she asked how old I'd be when she could finally stop singing to me. But she's not allowed to stop.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

This will be brief.

As always, you're welcome.

First, a few photographs from the cell phone.

The first inn was too big, the second inn was too small, but this one was juuuuust right.

It has been snowing, and yet people are out driving. As we know, this is against all that is natural in meteorological and transportation theory. And yet here we are. Connecticut, though, with its many nice stone fences, provides nice scenic views.

Yes, I'm the tourist that stopped the car to take a picture of snow with my cell phone. Sigh. This will be a week of getting picked on about the cold and the white stuff. I'm tough; I can take it. So long as they do it indoors.

Tonight we discussed regional dialects, we guessed at the age of family videos based on the music playing in the background -- and we were only off by one year or so.

We also learned about Carmino Ravosa. An accomplished songwriter, he wrote for Captain Kangaroo and held command performances for two presidents. He also created The Yankee's second grade play, a musical tour of Aesop's Fables. We watched that video tonight.

She played the little girl that had to marry the lion. Cute play, fun performances.

There was also this:

That's the local over-the-top Christmas light house. You walk through his yard, rather than just driving by. Tonight it was snowing on us, which kept the crowds down and added to the experience.

On Christmas Eve the homeowners come out and play Santa and Mrs. Claus, giving out candy to the kids. How Santa can just sit in his yard on the busiest night of the year hasn't yet been answered, but the children don't seem to mind.

Tomorrow: My birthday, and special church.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Woke up this morning sleepy, half-sick and in Atlanta.

At the end of the day I'm sleepy, half-sick and in Connecticut.

Left Savannah last night, drove to Atlanta, checked in to the Howard Johnson, was mildly bemused and partially fearing for the welfare of my car in that part of town. The room was big, the bed let me sleep and the alarm went off this morning, though that might have been the cell phone. I'm really not sure.

Normally I'm not that disoriented when I wake up, so we'll blame this on not feeling well.

No problem flying out of Atlanta, where the line moved quickly and the food is palatable, but overpriced. We landed in White Plains this afternoon -- and I can't wait to tell you about that airport next week -- and The Yankee's father picked us up while simultaneously getting lectured by a sarcastic, self-deprecating police officer. Ahh, New York.

We started telling the news tonight. The Yankee's parents over dinner, later my mother and grandparents. We texted friends, and we'll tell more tomorrow and probably for the next several days.

I'm here for the better part of a week with a schedule of fun parties and visits with charming and wonderful people. There will be Christmas parties, catch up parties, a big trip and more. And I'm trying really hard not to get sick.

Oh yeah, it is about 14 degrees outside just now. When we got off the plane they were deicing wings. It'll snow soon. I'm trying really hard not to get sick ...

Since today was a travel day there isn't much too it, unless I note things about the airport, the blast furnace that is the terminal transit, the many Ziploc bags the government is buying for your use at metal detectors so that thin, transparent plastic can keep us safe from our toiletries.

I could tell you that Samford's lone NFL player, Cortland Finnegan, is going to the Pro Bowl or talk about the YouTube videos their showing on network news today. Chances are you saw those videos two weeks ago with the rest of us.

Sure there's plenty of little things, but the biggest thing is that it is cold, and I'm trying to stay healthy.

Tomorrow: family fun, in the cold! And then the Christmas parties start. After that, the snow.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Forsyth Park, Savannah, Ga.

Who had December 15th in the pool?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Merry Christmas from Clary's. I took this one with the cell phone too which, I'm learning, has a reasonable enough camera if there is an excessive amount of light. Indoors this is as good as it gets.

Anyway, Clary's is the traditional breakfast spot. We're to the point in our trips to Savannah where we try to find new places to eat, the unexpected, non-touristy places. But I'll always have breakfast at Clary's, and you should too if you get the chance.

Ask for Maggie.

This will be short and sweet, because not a lot happened today. You see it rained today. First it sprinkled. Then it stayed overcast. And then it rained. And then it poured.

We got trapped on a random porch, where we waited out the raindrops for as long as possible. We ended up retreating to the warm, dry comfort of a nearby hotel and sat in front of a nice gas fire, just off from a nice plasma television and chatted a fair part of the rainy afternoon away, in what is now called the Staybridge Sessions, mostly because nice days sometimes deserve memorable names.

And also because Staybridge is the name of the hotel.

For dinner The Yankee, Wendy and I went to the Crab Shack, where we asked about the differences between the dungeness crab and the snow crab. One is saltier, one is sweeter. I sampled both, but have forgotten now which was which. We also learned that they are both easier to open. That's what the waitress said.

Tomorrow, no rain, warmer temperatures and more fun on our last day in Savannah.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

And now, a Savannah day in photographs.

I found Santa! Walking along downtown he opened a door and almost ran into me while chatting on his cell phone. This is a cell phone pic (I took a lot of these today). Later, I took a stealthy Santa shot with the big camera.

More cuteness, this time of the puppy variety, down on River Street.

Aww. Aren't they cute. Wright Square is one of the original Savannah squares, laid out in 1733 and is named for James Wright, Georgia's last royal governor.

Cathedral of St. John the Baptist is where we stood a few years ago while Pope John Paul II lay dying. Today it was where I found out Auburn had a new head football coach. One thing was infinitely more overwhelming than the other.

I mean, Gene Chizik? I'll fall into the time will tell category on this one.

The Yankee in Forsyth Park. She learned today she had three papers accepted to a conference next spring. I co-authored one, so we celebrated with hot chocolate. (We also needed to warm up on an abnormally chilly day.)

Lights on the lights. The rest of the artsy photographs are in the photo gallery.

The Savannah theater. The guy working the box office is a seasonal employee. Here's the entire sign, pretty sharp look.

Later in the evening we caught back up with Wendy at the City Market and took in the Christmas tree. There were supposed to be festivities, but we figured we were early. And it was cold, so we thought we'd wait for the Christmas festivities at the nearby Corleone's Trattoria, the Italian restaurant that is surely overdue for a lawsuit from the Brando family for using Marlon's image and whomever owns rights to the Godfather for, well, pretty much everything.

The pasta was good though. Check it out while you can. They say they'll "make you a meal you can't refuse," at least while they still own the place.

Anyway, we somehow managed to miss the festivities at City Market. When we stopped by the first time they were lighting the luminaries. When we returned after dinner they were putting them out.

At least we saw Santa again. He'd dressed up for the evening's fun. Our evening ended visiting a few stores and then heading indoors before it got late -- it was cold.

Who knew they had winter in Savannah?

Remember, more photographs from today can be found in the December photo gallery.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A lot of time in the car today. Maybe I'm alone in this, but I enjoy driving. And by enjoy driving I mean the particularly aimless travels we all used to make when gas was cheap and our wallets were full.

I'm not as big a fan of driving long trips, however. It has something to do with driving as an activity versus driving with an end goal. And when you're end goal is 400 miles away that is more daunting than I need an activity to be.

So we loaded up and headed to Savannah for the annual retreat. The freeway signs, by the way, are still warning of ice, but I'm not fooled.

Somewhere around Pell City -- I only note the location because it is apt -- I heard a Dolly Parton song in which Daddy was a drunk, there was an allusion to prostitution and four people died. Country music sure has changed.

Dolly Parton, however, remains awesome.

Somewhere around Atlanta I found the perfect Christmas present for those who have everything.

On the other side of Atlanta I had this thought: "Ever wonder what happened in Lou Bega's Mambo No. 6?"

And this is why driving with a destination is tough. One half of the brain is driving and focused on the route, logistics and traffic. The other half of the brain will wonder.

Both halves of my brain, upon further consultation, were also curious about Lou Bega's Mambo No. 4 as well.

Somewhere further down the interstate The Yankee and I learned we got a paper accepted to a conference in Virgina next April. That was great news. Now we're just waiting to hear about the rest of those many paper submissions.

We celebrated, naturally, with dinner with Wendy and friends. It was a loud and laugh-filled meal of bad humor and good Japanese food. We told the worst jokes we could think of over soup and salad and it went downhill from there.

I, as you might know, am a fan of the pun, which is of no use in that conversation, so I just ate my food. Great time though.

And then -- how it came to happen will likely forever remain a mystery -- we ended up on a spontaneous hearse tour. Wendy called the hearse people and requested Bradley, our friend from last spring. He wasn't working but when he heard Wendy requested him he said he'd be right in.

It was bitter cold, and he didn't tell the first ghost story (this is a haunted hearse tour after all) he just drove around and let the six of us mingle and talk and harass people on the street. There are probably three cities in the country in which you could do this and people think it perfectly acceptable. You should definitely try it one day. (But only in Savannah, New Orleans or Las Vegas. Do it elsewhere and you may take your life or reputation into your own hands.)

Joke of the night: "Excuse me. Excuse me. Excuse me. Boo."

Again, you just have to be there. I'm glad I was. I hope you can do it too sometime.

On the drive in the moon was in its closest Earth orbit. Family astronomers verified that it was, in fact, much brighter than normal. Not the best picture of it, but at least I saw it. Hope you did too.

Tomorrow: More Savannah, plenty of adventures!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Today was the big supposed snow day. Yesterday was the panic and End Times dry run. My apologies. You see, I can't be bothered to be concerned about this, silly as it is.

Having lived in the area for three decades -- it is horrible to say it that way -- I'm fairly comfortable with my odds of making it through another furious blizzard.

(Just to be sure, I routinely thread the snow chains on in November and leave them attached until St. Patrick's Day. Problem solved!)

So the snow forecasted for today looked, sounded and felt a lot like ... rain. They had some to the north, but nothing detrimental to the greater community's health. Just a nice little slow start to the day, and a reason for the kids to go outside and try out those rarely used gloves.

Here, no kids did this. Again, our one-to-three inch snow forecast yielded rain.

All was not lost, it yielded this little gem from local writer Anna Claire Vollers. "Alabama: A place where the schools announce closings, and then close, without a single flake hitting the ground."

I bought a new phone today. The Smithsonian is waiting on me to donate my old one to their collection of early cellular technology, no doubt. I've significantly upgraded, going from a basic cell phone phone to a smart phone with shiny edges and buttons meant for typing.

I'm still struggling through the OS, so the learning curve aside, behold the MOTO Q9h. You know it is good because the name has a random configuration of numbers and letters, reminiscent of quality European automobiles.

Keeping that metaphor alive, what my old phone would do compared to what this phone reputedly does will be like transitioning from a Huffy to a Ferrari. And while I, regrettably, do not have a Ferrari, I did make the phone call people today through the car's Bluetooth capability.

There's also the Internet, Bubblebreaker (Yowza!), GPS and I just finished downloading Google Maps.

QWERTY and 3G, I'm happy to see you, too.

If you need me for the next week I'll be off to the side of the room ignoring the instruction booklet and becoming familiar with the phone.

Tonight The Yankee and I had dinner with an old college friend of mine. She left the newspaper business after a few years in Tennessee and began missionary work. Right about the time she was traveling to Asia and England we bumped into one another online and have been trying to catch up.

This week she's back in the state, visiting from her California base. Tonight and tomorrow she's actually in town, so we had Cheesecake Factory. I had the pasta, but the table of six people all had delicious looking things.

We caught up, traded gossip and discussed the merits of naming a place after a dessert. You're almost duty bound to have some when you go there. So the six of us split a traditional cheesecake and some pumpkin/pecan pie cheesecake that was a mix that worked better than you'd expect.

We exchanged quick hugs and quickly departed. They have things to do, we're all still waiting on this mythological blizzard and we'd probably run out of timely things to say. Nice to know, though, that people don't change to much. The good ones shouldn't anyway, so it worked out well here.

The college friend strategically blocked all of my sneaky attempts to snap a test pic with the new phone. The Yankee didn't mind.

And there we learned that this camera doesn't work well in low light. No surprise there. We also learned that the "flash" is really more along the lines of "a constant LED light powerful enough to spotlight deer."

That picture was also my first real contribution to Twitpic. You can take a picture and upload it to the Internet in seconds. I pull it into my Twitstream, Facebook and a few other networked sites.

Now, I'm comically late to the party on this, but that's an awesome new toy to have. Like I said, Huffy to Ferrari. Pardon me if I spend the next few days polluting the internet with pictures. Like I said ... I have to learn how to use this awesome new tool ... Having been five or so years behind on the cell phone technology curve and two years overdue on even a minimum upgrade I'm understandably impressed.

Now, if you'll pardon me, I'm going to spend the evening building a mobile page on my site for all the most commonly needed links. After a week or so I promise to stop going on and on about the phone.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Had the end of the semester meeting today with the department head and the paper's editor. He complimented her, I complimented her, he complimented me, but the editor is the one that deserved it.

So now we turn our attention to the spring semester. This is going to be fun. I hope to see our online presence take on a bigger role. We're going to emphasize shifting the paradigm, fleshing out a few new skills the students might find useful in evolving newsrooms. We're also going to be on the search for next year's leadership at the paper.

I'll get more television responsibilities and teaching and also be in school myself. It should be fun!

There was supposed to be winter weather last night. Or today. Or tomorrow. Who knows anymore. We get worked up over the merest whisper of a chance of a threat of a winter weather report, mostly because it sends the locals into a big tizzy.

We had no bad weather. Nor will we have any tomorrow.

I watched the first four segments of Kingdom of Heaven tonight. I was going to give it two segments, but having Liam Neeson playing a medieval French night kept me interested for a moment, but ultimately the movie needed more Orcs.

I'm just sayin'.

Also tonight in these lightest of days, I've narrowed my cell phone choices down to just two. I predict swift action on that later this week.

I'm also predicting that my home office desk will soon undergo a big overhaul. I'm just tired of the whole thing.

Most importantly: No one write anything. Anywhere. It took me three days, but I'm finally caught up. This will last until Friday morning, at which point it will probably be 2009 before I've read all the things I need to read once again.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

So I thought of going to a cell phone store this morning. But after a trip to the gym and generally slogging through the early part of my day that didn't happen.

I thought of going this evening, but I remember well the crowds I found last week or so when I did that. I was invisible to the store reps, so that was counterproductive. Not that I knew what I wanted that day; maybe it was obvious and they wisely stayed away.

So I did a little more research and comparative shopping. I have it down to three phones. Two, really, because one is out of my price range. They are very similar, the differences being that the Motorola Q has the faster 3G network. The Blackberry Curve just has Edge.

The Q has a larger keypad, also has video, shoots video, longer battery life and a lower SAR rating. The Curve has a simple operating system -- it just makes sense the first time you touch it. The Q has Windows Mobile, which is a typical windows structure and you have to intuit what it wants you to think.

The prices are comparable, so I'm down to deciding size versus speed versus keyboard versus OS. Within a few weeks I should be able to make a decision.

See? It is a good thing I'm not at a store.

Besides, if I go in the morning tomorrow -- and this time I mean it! -- I figure I'll get the store's first string employees. Here's to hoping.

In more exciting news, Google's Street View has come to Birmingham. They shot this early this year or late in 2007. I remember hearing from a few people that had seen the crews out taking the photos and they've been released just today.

They were a bit selective on the roads they chose. It is a massive undertaking, of course, and they covered a lot of ground, but they also glossed over some of the interstate areas. I'm a bit surprised by that.

I did enjoy going the wrong way down a one way street on the map. That entertained me for about a block. I was looking for my car at, since I was of course still working there at the time. Maybe I found it. Perhaps I did not.

No cameras in my neighborhood. I tried to see if my car might have been pictured in both places, but Google Maps says I live in the middle of nowhere, and they did not visit that much of my community. This is understandable.

I did figure out their secret, however. Hovering UFOs. You can see their shadow.

And now another tale from the "You shouldn't make it this hard for me to want to spend my money with you" department of life.

So I'm trying to order something from the A&E Store for a Christmas gift. I find my choice, make my selection and am then assured that I'll have the opportunity to input my coupon code. I get no such opportunity.

So first you've lied to me.

I also had no opportunity to select my shipping location.

Now you've lied to me and you're inconvenient.

Plan B, then. I call the 1-800 number of stupidity, where after a reasonable amount of time on hold I get into the most banal circular argument you can imagine.

The logic is deeply flawed here, you see. I have placed an order, but can't make any changes to the order. Why? Because it is being processed. Nothing shall touch the high holy product. It will surge, unmolested, through the warehousing and distribution center.

The lady told me it will leave their facility in three to seven days. She couldn't add the discount. Liars. She couldn't change the shipping address. Idiots. She couldn't cancel the order. Buffoons.

Keep in mind that I called within two minutes of being lied to on their website. It isn't as if the package is out for delivery.

I'm told that I can just refuse the package. Oh you betcha. I offer to just have her cancel it now and save the shipping, because I surely will send it back postage due. She can't do such a thing. It would be inconceivable that a chance might need to be made.

She asks me if she can help me with anything else, a nice little worker ant reading her script. I point out that she can't help me with any of the three things I've called her about. This hits a mental reboot for the woman and so we go through it all again. When she asks me if she can help me with anything else I ask her "What do you do all day? It isn't as if you can provide me any customer service?"

So I later went to Amazon, found the gift for a third of A&E's price and will happily warn you away from the place. Their programming may be entertaining, but the lying website and the useless human on the phone were shamtastic.

I don't -- or at least I hope I don't -- take such a tone here often. I don't believe I've made a habit here of holding companies or individuals in a low regard. These folks, though, are right down there at the bottom of the list and they won't do business with me again. If you value your sanity you'll make the same decision.

Just when you get in such a mood reality snaps you back. I've been watching the still stirring Jimmy Valvano speech at the ESPYs. Fifteen years on and still as important today.

And now, there's a big nasty storm coming through this evening. Promises to be a doozy. I better go batten down the hatches.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Last week I vowed to never take another day off from the computer, because it left me with too much to catch up on when I returned. No, I'll never leave you again dear Internets I said. Until next weekend.

I'm coming to regret that decision. I should have stayed and read everything. Like TiVo guilt, and my long standing obsession with Email, I'm now suffering from a new RSS reader fixation. If the number of items remaining to read is in the double digits or -- gasp, higher -- my free time is spoken for. And so that's been my day.

Campus was very quiet. This is finals week. I saw one student in the newsroom, and she was working on a class project. They won't put out another paper until next semester and the students at the paper will be intermittent at best.

As it is that leaves me with only thin gruel for the blog. At least I can offer you quick reading this week.

Best Email of the day: Samford is forming a ragtag faculty band (most any instrument welcome). This band will play at basketball games over the holiday break when the student band is gone. The organizers hope it becomes a campus tradition, and it'd be a great one, as contrived traditions go.

The interesting cultural happenings on your campus began at the turn of the 20th Century with someone saying "This could be a great tradition!" Rather, they evolve naturally. That small point aside this is a cute idea. And while I don't play any instruments I'll have to go watch. They sort of expect the band to be not great -- a few hours of pre-game practice offers more in the way of fun than technique -- but it does sound like an entertaining night.

Jay Coulter wrote me the other night and asked my opinion on the Auburn situation. I wrote him a lengthy reply and he offered to publish it. I refined it -- some of the points were rough -- and the many words grouped loosely together appeared this morning.

And apparently I'm infamous (or notorious) again? Jerry Hinnen, one of the finest, funniest and well respected Auburn writers around wrote "here Kenny Smith--yes, that Kenny Smith--is discussing the cost of Tubby's departure ..."

Not even sure what that means, but it is funny.

Phone fun continues. Three calls to ask the same question have received three different answers from AT&T wireless. The last lady I spoke with tonight. She sounded like Sarah Palin, but she was just a very nice Canadian woman who was soooo very apologetic, "Gosh and Gee."

Basically my current cell phone package is slightly newer than the stone tablet and telegraph plans. You can't get my plan anymore and it feels lucrative next to the contemporary offerings. I can't make a key change without changing the plan and that's a non-starter.

So we've hashed out a work around. Now I must finally pick out a phone. I'm down to two or three models. Maybe I can resolve the situation this week.

Two television notes First Battlestar Galactic is on its way back to air and the teaser site promises "You will know the truth." Let the countdown begin.

We're getting hints and clues and none of it really makes sense so far. The viewing audience will begin to understand after the first of the year which just isn't soon enough.

It is an odd thing, to wish to speed up the arrival of the last few installments of something you enjoy. Shouldn't you put those off to delay the inevitable?

No delaying Boston Legal, as the series finale aired tonight. Denny Crane (rightly) acknowledged that Boston Legal is jumping the shark. Why not? They went before the Supreme Court again, this time to argue for test drugs for Denny. They won.

And then Denny Crane and Alan Shore got married. It was strictly a financial arrangement. Alan needs money to open a free law clinic and Denny has a lot of money. Their nontraditional arrangement prevents penalty for spousal transfer, medical rights and so on. Also it probably irked the people at Disney in a mighty fashion.

It was a two hour finale, so they got to do several things. Several of the minor characters that have survived into the final season advanced their storylines. Others that have drifted away remained absent. Shirley Schmidt was ready to get married to Carl Sack, which prompted inter-religious strife.

And the firm got bought by the Chinese. Finally the series could bat for the cycle, hitting on each cultural stereotype from here and abroad, and find its way into more impossible legal situations than could be conceived in a lengthy career.

It ended with Denny and Alan dancing on the balcony. And so the great characters who have for several years now created one of televisions terrific relationships swayed into the ether. There was no resolution, no ending, no threads left hanging free, just a continuing.

I can accept that.

But we'll draw this to a close for now. Tomorrow: more of the same, and more cell phone shopping. Here where we always try to entertain, never try to delay and, mostly, jot down a record of the inconsequential moments of the day. Hope yours has been a quiet, easy one as well.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

As promised, here's the follow through on yesterday's big 30th anniversary festivities.

We arranged photographs and tables well into the night Friday night and then woke up Saturday morning and decided to do it differently. This is part of the process with the family and we had time built in for last minute changes, so all was well.

Everyone got all dressed up, the ladies who were serving food and drinks, the real heroes of the party, showed up on time to put the finishing touches on the food tables. The family arrived early as requested. There were several dozen people there, we had a little prayer and waited for the guests to arrive.

And arrive they did. For the next two hours lifelong friends, church members, neighbors and the distantly related helped us celebrate. These sorts of things are always an invitation for me to meet new people. I found out how one of my grandparents' lifelong friends got her nickname some 70 years ago. I met an aunt and uncle that hosted Christmas when I was perhaps five. I figured out, for the first time, that one couple I've seen for years at my grandparents' church is actually a distant relative by marriage.

The day was full of special moments and six tables of photographs that were important to the family history. Everyone enjoyed themselves, we all survived and featured smiles larger than I'd ever seen on some people's faces.

I actually made it most of the way through the day without pulling out my camera. I decided to live this one like everyone else. I figured, having taken the majority of the photographs on all of those tables, I could take the day off.

A family friend did the photography. I brought tripods and otherwise enjoyed the company and humor of family and old family friends. At the very end of the party I gave in and took the pictures that made it into yesterday's collage.

We spent the evening cleaning up, and then the night at a famous little catfish restaurant chatting with friends. They were putting up chairs and looking at their watches when we finally left. Before it was completely dark, though, I knew I'd need a weekend break from my weekend.

Church this morning, sandwiches and party leftovers for lunch. Worked some more on the cell phone family plan problem. We have an idea in place. We'll try and put it in motion soon. Coordinating this stuff is a challenge, and I'm ready to be rid of it.

If you'll just make this work you can call that my Christmas present! I said.

Drove home after that, had a fun Pie Day with The Yankee -- the last of the calendar year -- and now this.

Actually this. It is a video of limited use, but boundless amusement. Last weekend the youngest member of the family developed an affection for my camera. I should have taped it, but I was too busy making sure he kept the strap around his neck.

He couldn't figure out the viewfinder concept and he was always about 18 inches off of his target. He got a crash course, though, and improved a bit. I shot this last night, where he was just as adorable, but his photography had improved by 15 percent.

I had a great weekend. Hope you did as well. Tomorrow: Back to campus, more cell phone fun and more!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Great party. Lot of people showed up to help celebrate my grandparents' 30th anniversary, even some unexpected visitors. Everyone's hard work paid off, my grandparents had a terrific time. More details tomorrow, for now, you'll find their secret somewhere in this little montage.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Here's the video from last night's Hanging of the Green and Lighting of the Way at Samford University. Eventually it should make its way onto the Crimson's site. You can see it here now.

So editing that was a bit of the day. There was the weekly $2 lunch tradition with most of the journalism department. After that The Yankee and I went Christmas shopping at the local box store concern.

We decided to get the unfun stuff first, so we picked up underwear for the Angel Tree kids. One of the boys got some excited Incredible Hulk underoos. The other had to get the boring Fruit of the Loom variety because they had nothing in his size.

The two-year-old needed shoes, and I found some awesome Cars sneakers. The six-year-old needed clothes and I picked up nice jeans and several shirts.

I also got an outfit for the two-year-old. Holding up the outfit I was overcome. This is a tiny little guy. Moving quickly, then, to the fun stuff, I picked up some classic cartoon DVDs for the two-year-old. (And pardon my skepticism, but DVDs?) Those were a good deal and, in an attempt to be equitable, I found him two small toys to balance him out. Mr. Potato rules and all that. Though I noted that he is now a Mr./Mrs. Potato head.

So, if you're out there reading this, parents of the two-year-old, I'm sorry that I made you explain androgyny to your toddler.

The six-year-old wanted a remote control truck. I quickly bypassed the smaller models and went to the middle size. I found a Jeep which has a pull down windshield. It's big enough that you can seat action figures inside. It has a nice paint job. It'll be a nice ride. Hope he likes it.

Dropped off the toys, all accidentally landing nicely within the price range and wrapped up the day. Late in the evening I ducked, dodged, dipped, dived and dodge weekend traffic to north Alabama. Two weekends in a row for this trip. Last weekend was Thanksgiving of course, this weekend is a big anniversary celebration.

My grandparents are celebrating their 30th this month, and my mother and uncle are throwing a big party.

We had dinner at a Mexican joint, and then went to the church where the party is being held and worked until late into the night. Setting up photographs, tables, decorations, and so on. The party is tomorrow. We'll do more work in the morning and have the party in the afternoon.

More on that tomorrow of course. It'll be a big day.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Spent a little time visiting on campus with friends today. It was a post-lunch, pre-holiday treat.

In my hand were the three Angel Tree kids I picked up for tomorrow's shopping fun. (It is the best shopping I'll do all year. Six-year-old William is getting a remote control truck because of me. And not one of those cheap, cord controlled ones, but a sensibly priced model with a few extra features of which he can be proud.)

Samford, the Email announced, sponsored 135 children this year. I've been procrastinating on acquiring Angel Tree kids this year and the follow up Email said they were down to their last few children. I got the final three. The heart cockles will now be warmed until at least mid-January.

The Salvation Army changes the rules every year. The first year it was "Buy 'em stuff." Last year the rule was "Buy 'em one thing." This year they've got needs and wishes -- helpfully listed backwards, two-year-old Braxton needs DVDs, but he'd like shoes -- a demand that you buy each child underwear and a typical price range.

Details aside, I'll soon be shopping for a remote controlled truck, and that's more joyous than the family presents. I'm slowly brainwashing all of the family to stop buying one another presents and shop for the less fortunate. Some years this devious scheme meets with more success than other years. This is not one of the more promising years, but who cares? I'm going to buy a remote controlled truck tomorrow!

Today the good news came that all of my application material is either in hand or on the way to Alabama. This matters not to you, but it is significant to me. I'll soon be back in school and the series of hoops required to get there have been cleared. It's a Christmas miracle!

Speaking of Christmas -- we're really getting in the spirit here on the site, can't you tell? -- The Yankee and I attended the Hanging of the Green and the Lighting of the Way ceremonies at Samford tonight.

I'll have a video up tomorrow, one without too much of the ants-in-his-pants guy constantly interfering with my shot -- so I don't want to spoil it or oversell it, but this was a lovely experience. They've been doing this here for about 30 years now, from what I gather.

They fill up one of the campus chapels and there is an elaborate ceremony with many varying instrumentalists, a full choir, readings, prayer and seniors selected through a sophisticated nomination process provide highly symbolic decorations and fuss over the advent wreath. Two Samford families also add Chrismon's to the official Samford tree. It was all very lovely.

Except for the busybody guy, who deserves more than a fair amount of scorn.

Outside the entire campus was covered in luminaries. Lost pilots might think they could try to land on one of the campus walks. It was beautiful. And cold. Another chorale group sang carols. A quartet sang something a little more spiritual. Two students read the localized version of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas to much laughter.

The president of the university read scripture. There was more singing and, finally, the lights on and around the big outdoor tree were turned on. The Lighting of the Way was completed.

(That's a pretty photo, if I do say so myself.)

Everyone hustled inside for hot chocolate. Did I mention it was freezing? The Yankee and I opted for DeVinci's. That's the quiet little Italian place in Homewood where, apparently the Christmas soundtrack is a mixture of Frank Sinatra carols, Johnny Cash hits and banjo instrumentals of traditional Christmas songs. We found it curious.

A delicious meal marked the end of a fine and full day. Tomorrow will be even better, and I hope you can say the same. Come back and see the video, and hear all about the shopping. Remote control truck!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

This afternoon Auburn fired their head coach. Or Tommy Tuberville resigned. Believe who you want. No matter what they say we'll all subscribe to our own views.

This, like so many things, is another Rosarch test of life. People that insist on conspiracy and power behind the curtain will see skullduggery. People that saw a weary man will see a resignation. It matters not. The next thing you'll see in Auburn is a swirling undercurrent around the athletic director. Jay Jacobs is in trouble, though he doesn't know it yet.

I sat back and waited for the radio calls. I usually get one or two on big Auburn news, but none came. I did end up writing a big long rambling thing that will probably be published on a website somewhere, we'll see.

Tuberville, for his good and bad, never made the really important folks happy and he delighted in tweaking them when he could. Today it caught up to him. He served Auburn well and was well compensated for it. He ran a clean program and for that we'll be eternally grateful. He is, by and large, a good and gracious man and we're all proud of that. He might have served the place better in some instances, but that's now a moot point.

Here's the gist on the post-Tuberville era: Much of what happened today and in the days previous, both in an athletic and administrative sense, will be judged by what comes next. These are interesting times.

In the personal sense he's getting a lot of money as severance, and as a general rule sympathy for millionaires is a touch harder to generate than it probably should be. I've a feeling, though, that will look back on the Tuberville era at Auburn with a great nostalgia. Fitting since we've more or less erased the era that preceded it from the popular memory.

What was that guy's name again? It was a Bowden I think ...

Anyway, both of the above links are delightful and contextually appropriate lolcoaches. Just so you know what you're missing.

I didn't miss this yesterday. And the proof is in the random twit, which is a tongue-in-cheek nod to the anti-Bobby Lowder conspiracy theorists in the Auburn world.

I've been saying this for a few weeks, but for sometime now the Auburn family was certain of one thing in a year of coaching uncertainty: Whatever Auburn did, they'd handle it badly. I fear it will soon blow up in their faces. I fear the place will get another black eye over this. I fear the usual suspects and the usual poor dealings will be the cause.

I could go on at length -- indeed I have, in conversation and Emails -- about how this is a part of the identity and problem and culture at Auburn. No one wants it to be, but everyone familiar with the tale is nodding wearily at all of this.

The Auburn family is a name of pride, one we've bestowed upon ourselves because we like to think we're something a little special. I don't care for the phrase "Auburn nation" because the connotation feels somehow counter to all of the things of which we are proud.

And, like any family, we are large enough and different enough to have squabbles. Just like in your family, it works best when everyone is moving towards the same thing. Even in those arguments we should be concerned only with the betterment of the family as a whole.

That is seldom the case when it comes to football at Auburn -- how sad it must be this way over the most high profile aspect of the place -- and it isn't the case here. The truth will out one day and we'll see many principle actors pulling in different directions because they can't agree on one proper course. And the program may reel from it for far too long. Sad, really.

That isn't my entire day, but reading about it has taken up part of the evening. Everything else was quiet, normal, simple and lovely. And I hope your day was too.

Tomorrow: I promise not to write so much about Auburn football.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

With each tiny movement of the pendulum of life's lesser emotions you get the equal and opposite movement. Physics works in karma, and so on. This morning I found that most elusive of joys, a tank of gas for $25 or less. I paid at the upper end of that grand scale, but was happy to do so.

Soon thereafter I arrived on campus, ready to shiver through another day. It seemed, though, that our many phone calls pleading for heat, or in heat's absence, the removal of the air conditioning since it was in the forties outside, have been answered.

The lights were on in the newsroom, unusual for this time of day. The door was open and there was a ladder giving access to the attic. The magical work of the HVAC folk -- rarely will you ever meet a more important tribe -- has fixed yesterday's problems. It is warm in the office. I dressed in layers.

Yes, my problem is that I wore too many clothes, and it is warm in there. Again, this is an anemic complaint from a thoroughly happy individual.

So what else is there?

Cell phone shopping continues. I've touched phones. I've spoken with members of the family that make up the family plan. This must be seen as progress because the process of it will grind you down.

I'm ready to just say, to my trusted assistant, "I want these features and this functionality at this price. Just go get it, and tell me where to sign when you have it."

Now if only I could find that trusted assistant. Where did I misplace him?

I discovered last night that my cell phone plan is long past extinct. The literature doesn't exist any more. This doesn't surprise me. I've called in and had the person on the other end of the phone surprised by the phone number I was calling about. They've never heard of it before.

Not only is my phone old -- it was hechoed in Mexico when Nokia was still hechoing there -- but my account is even older. I've been with this company since it was two companies ago. I've had this phone number for almost 14 years. You'd think there'd be some reward in that somewhere, but -- grousing about cell phone companies here hisses out, is replaced by a blank spot and then returns when I'm off on a different subject.

-- So anyway I caught up on the many RSS feeds from the weekend. At the high water mark it was ... well, very high. I'm finally back to zero and all is right with the world. It is remarkable how the concerns of something you may or may not be interested in can way on your conscience.

I can pick dinner with greater ease -- a shocking feat, all who know me would agree. Tonight I stood in the frozen food section of the local Publix, where shopping is a pleasure. They have motion detecting sensors on the freezers, so they only light up when you walk by. They're saving energy. Except for when people like me visit.

I'm not amused by the motion sensors, but by the novely of having them in the store, and so I walk down each aisle. I suppose this could lead to potentially more shopping, but tonight I was focused on the pastas. Only they've changed the packaging.

And so it was that I had to decide on the ravioli by, of all things, the shape of the actual pasta displayed in the art. The ravioli I've been enjoying of late has a smooth edge, not the serrated style of option number two. Heavens, no. That might slice you on the way down -- but only if you eat it al dente.

Finally I stumbled on another great early Cosby Show episode. This is the one where Rudy introduces Buuuud. His name is Deon Richmond and, happily, he's still working.

Nothing so great as The Cosby Show, but then, few things are. Go back and watch an episode or two. The story lines may seem a little elemental to our more jaded television sensibilities a quarter of a century later -- Vanessa wants to wear forbidden makeup! -- but the performances are golden.

And since we've digressed to the halcyon days of primetime programming, and I've nothing further to add to the great cell phone search, I'll just end here for now.

Monday, December 1, 2008

During the morning stirrings I heard the news, there would be big news this morning.

And then the news arrived, and we learned that it was big. The mayor of Birmingham had been arrested on long-awaited federal charges. The U.S. Attorney, in her last moment in the sun before she's no doubt released from her position in the new administration, announced the 101 count indictment in a late morning press conference.

The mayor's office disappointed. It took them 59 words to suggest that the arrest was a political witch hunt. They usually get that sort of thing higher in the quote. They did not argue the investigation and arrest was racially motivated -- but someone, somewhere, will get to it.

Instead the mayor's office suggested that the minions of an outgoing Republican president is trying to keep the hardworking, idealistic Democrat mayor of a medium sized city in the South under his boot.

We heard of money laundering, conspiracy, bribes and more. It was the same old story. The mayor, Larry Langford, found that it took only $230,000 (I was in the car and fender benders, rather than accuracy was my concern at the moment) to buy his favor. Lobbyists (now also under indictment) swooped in, the indictment alleges, helped him pay some bills -- he's a sucker for fashion and high personal debt, the mayor -- gave the man a Rolex valued somewhere around $11,000 and basically helped themselves to county contracts.

This all happened, the G-men assert, when the mayor served as president of the Jefferson County Commission. Many people have rolled over, taken a lesser rap and offered to help the investigation. This has been a long time coming.

You can see the full indictment, if you're into that sort of thing. You can see Langford's Rolex here.

This is the watch he wore -- for which he earned much derision -- at his sackcloth and ashes rally. Watch these now famous videos for ambiance. He was urging Birmingham, you see, toward humility in the hopes that God would fix the homicide rates that the police department could not.

This is the first year of the man's administration and it has been wacky since the word go. A commenter on a Langford story at has lodged itself in my head and will not leave. Every wacky thing he does has simply been to set up the coming insanity plea. Either way, next year will be a fun one in federal court.

Remember, the indictment covers his time on the county commission. Who knows what illegal secrets lurk in his office as mayor. Black eye though it is to our fine community, we've grown used to it. Our snark is embiggened by it. Honestly, there's no end to the humor stemming from the story.

If only it didn't happen so much that we found the violation of the public's trust to be a source of comedy ... This is the sixth recent indictment of an ex-Jefferson County commissioner. Some days you almost have to agree with Alexis de Tocqueville.

For a distraction I started cell phone shopping. This will be a long process, and not one to which I'm looking forward. My complaints are just like yours, so I'll skip the litany, go with my oft-stated belief that if the elected members of Congress had to buy their own phones rather than have it done by an underling there would be an investigation underway.

I'm pretty cynical in a cell phone store. Even more so when none of the helpful store clerks has noted my existence. However, in eavesdropping on every other conversation I hear that AT&T has apparently rounded some customer service corner. Everyone is pleasantly surprised this evening. But I'm looking through literature, playing with phones and generally incubating a good deal of scorn and -- Oooh! This phone has Ms. Pac-Man!

I'm also on a nice family plan, have a phone that dates back to the Kennedy administration and a calling plan that was offered when Truman was in office. There's a lot going on here. I dislike the process and I'm barely getting started.

At which point I stop because this is the greatest of my worries today. If I ran a blog of the day's ridiculous complaints it would be a big hit. Everyone would surf in to see, in 15 words or less, what ridiculous thing I had to grouse over today.

The rest of this week's complaints would no doubt read:
Cell phone plans are inconvenient.

My office is cold and my hands are almost numb. (Today my hands were blocks of ice.)

That was heavy.

Lunch wasn't very good.

I don't like putting away laundry.
Faced with those data points you'd quickly learn how good you have it in life. I know full well that if the trials of shopping are the woes of the day you're simply surrounded by blessings.

Next to last Boston Legal tonight. Next week is the two hour series finale. This week Betty White reprises her wacky old lady character and outsmarts the brilliant lawyer. That gag works every time.

She ends up urging that lawyer to take television to court -- I agree, but for different reasons. They sue because television doesn't market to old people. This is a bad legal argument as Golden Girls is still frequently on the air. (And I was dying for White to make a St. Olaf joke.)

Carl Sack broke the fourth wall by pointing out he couldn't break the fourth wall. He pointed to the camera and I've no doubt they were talking to me, such care I've taken throughout the series to note those delightful and irreverent moments.

Denny Crane's mad cow disease is getting worse. Indeed it has mooed it's way directly into Alzheimer's territory and there was a trial about whether he could get an experimental new drug. The judge ruled he could not. The appeal was ignored and then, in the end, a reprieve was granted. Next week they'll go before the U.S. Supreme Court again.

At least the show is going out the right way. I've been fairly harsh on the show the last two seasons, but the last few episodes have been somewhat redeeming. I have no doubt next week's special will be a worthy finish. And I'll be a bit torn on the ending, but better to go out strong than linger on. Even if you've been counting away the episodes to make syndication a reality.

It has been a unique program, and it will be missed. But it is good that it is going.

And so must I. But I'll return tomorrow with more droplets of the silliness of life ...

Speaking of droplets. I promised you, yesterday, a snow report. That report: Nothing. I saw one small patch, about 15 feet, of white stuff on the shoulder of the interstate. It was either snow or packing foam, could go either way.

So no snow today, no snow tomorrow and we'll just keep it that way, thanks.