Not in the clamor of the crowded street, not in the shouts and plaudits of the throng, but in ourselves, are triumph and defeat.--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

REDIRECT ALERT! (Scroll down past this mess if you're trying to read an archived post. Thanks. No, really, thanks.)

Due to my inability to control my temper and complacently accept continued silliness with not-quite-as-reliable-as-it-ought-to-be Blogger/Blogspot, your beloved Possumblog will now waddle across the Information Dirt Road and park its prehensile tail at http://possumblog.mu.nu.

This site will remain in place as a backup in case Munuvia gets hit by a bus or something, but I don't think they have as much trouble with this as some places do. ::cough::blogspot::cough:: So click here and adjust your links. I apologize for the inconvenience, but it's one of those things.

Friday, August 30, 2002

Golly, today was full of...posts. Nothing like stupid job stuff to cause a buildup of gassy humours and dispeptic thoughts, and nothing like having a Possumblog around in order to get them all down onto pixels. And even with all this stuff, and you still haven't heard all of the stories from the home front--Oldest Girl going to school all dressed up for her Social Studies project on ancient Egypt and being made fun of by the mean girls in her class; Middle Girl's graphic descriptions of puppy nativity while at her friend's house; Little Boy being forced to bare his boney little chest in a shirts-vs-skins game with a team of GIRLS; nor of Tiny Terror's debut on the soccer field.

Of all of them, the latter is probably the best story, not because she's so great on the field, but because she was so worn out from running around that the moment she hit the bed last night, she was out like she had been hit with a stick.

No multitude of getting back up to check on Stuffed Kitty, or Nother Stuffed Kitty, or Barbie Kitty, or Horsey, or Barbie, or Barbie with Brown Hairs, or to find out what tomorrow's name is, or to look at her mosquito bites in the bathroom mirror, or to get into Rebecca's bed and hide, or any number of other things she manages to invent to keep from going to sleep.

Last night, she was just a sack of wet sand.

Well, scratch that--she managed to also stay dry the entire night, for which I am now knocking on wood with crossed fingers. She's almost made the border of No More Accidents several times, but each time the guards find her and spray her down before she can reach the wire (or the pot).

She did do pretty good at soccer, though. Last night was a doozy--we had three of the four (gosh, they're turning into Borgs!) out at the park and they were on three different fields. I tried to keep an eye on everyone from one vantage point, but that was nearly useless other than to make sure if one got hurt I would at least know about it. Luckily, Reba was there to stay with Cat down on her field--she definitely requires watching (Catherine, that is, not Reba. Although...naw, better not say it...)

Stuff around the ol' Maison d'Possum has slowly been winding down to Early Fall Status, meaning there's nothing growing except mimosa, which has gotten a stranglehold on our little flower bed outside the kitchen. Overnight. If I were a good yeoman, I would put on some gloves and pull it all up. Instead, I have decided to spend my time idly musing about how great it would be to invent a robot mimosa puller that looked just like Norah O'Donnell. Now THAT would be cool! Certainly beats actually having to yank that mess up.

This being a long weekend means that there will be no Possumblog come Monday as I celebrate the contributions of the American worker by doing absolutely nothing productive (aside from watching Auburn-USC on the TV). I hope each of you are likewise lethargic and return refreshed and ready to go come Tuesday morning.

So now, let's draw a chalk outline around this week and throw a sheet over it and head for the house.

See you next week!

The Possumblog Orthopedic Clinic Is Now Seeing Patients

Especially those searching for relief who suffer from corporal tunnel syndrome computer mouse.

We have built our large specialty practice by devoting it entirely to NCOs (Non-Commissioned Orifices).

Thank you for your business.

Hey Cool! Andy's gonna be a daddy! Congratulations to him and to his wife, and best wishes for to the future WWRanter!

Oh no, I’ve gone and done it now.

Fritz Schranck over at Sneaking Suspicions spotted my post about football below and sent me the following (which someone had sent to him, who got it from another guy, etc. By the way, be sure to e-mail Fritz and ask him about "Quaker vengeance"):

College Football - North vs. South
Women's Accessories:

NORTH: Chap Stick in back pocket and a $20 bill in the front pocket.

SOUTH: Louis Vuitton duffel with two lipsticks, water proof mascara, and a fifth of bourbon. Money not necessary - that's what dates are for.
Stadium Size:

NORTH: College football stadiums hold 20,000 people.

SOUTH: High school football stadiums hold 20,000 people.

NORTH: Expect their daughters to understand Sylvia Plath.

SOUTH: Expect their daughters to understand pass interference.
Campus Decor:

NORTH: Statues of founding fathers.

SOUTH: Statues of Heisman trophy winners.
Homecoming Queen:

NORTH: Also a physics major.

SOUTH: Also Miss America.

NORTH: Rudy Guliani

SOUTH: Paul "Bear" Bryant
Getting Tickets:

NORTH: 5 days before the game you walk into the ticket office on campus and purchase tickets.

SOUTH: 5 months before the game you walk into the ticket office on campus and put name on waiting list for tickets.
Friday Classes After a Thursday Night Game:

NORTH: Students and teachers not sure they're going to the game, because they have classes on Friday.

SOUTH: Teachers cancel Friday classes because they don't want to see the few hungover students that might actually make it to class.

NORTH: An hour before game time, the University opens the campus for game parking.

SOUTH: RVs sporting their school flags begin arriving on Wednesday for the weekend festivities. The really faithful arrive on Tuesday.
Game Day:

NORTH: A few students party in the dorm and watch ESPN on TV.

SOUTH: Every student wakes up, has a beer for breakfast, and rushes over to where ESPN is broadcasting "Game Day Live" to get on camera and wave to the idiots up north who wonder why "Game Day Live" is never broadcast from their campus.

NORTH: Raw meat on a grill, beer with lime in it, listening to local radio station with truck tailgate down.

SOUTH: 30 foot custom pig shaped smoker fires up at dawn. Cooking accompanied by live performance by "Hootie and the Blowfish," who come over during breaks and ask for a hit off bottle of bourbon.
Getting to the Stadium:

NORTH: You ask "Where's the stadium?" When you find it, you walk right in.

SOUTH: When you're near it, you'll hear it. On game day it becomes the state's third largest city.

NORTH: Drinks served in a paper cup filled to the top with soda.

SOUTH: Drinks served in a plastic cup, with the home team's mascot on it, filled less than half way with soda, to ensure enough room for bourbon.
When National Anthem is Played:

NORTH: Stands are less than half full, and less than half of them stand up.

SOUTH: 100,000 fans, all standing, sing along in perfect four part harmony.
The Smell in the Air After the First Score:

NORTH: Nothing changes.

SOUTH: Fireworks, with a touch of bourbon.
Commentary (Male):

NORTH: "Nice play."

SOUTH: "Da#*it, you slow sum@&*! Tackle him and break his legs."
Commentary (Female):

NORTH: "My, this certainly is a violent sport."

SOUTH: "Da#*it, you slow sum@&*! Tackle him and break his legs."

NORTH: Neutral and paid.

SOUTH: Announcer harmonizes with the crowd in the fight song, with a tear in his eye because he is so proud of his team.
After the Game:

NORTH: The stadium is empty way before the game ends.

SOUTH: Another rack of ribs goes on the smoker. While somebody goes to the nearest package store for more bourbon, planning begins for next week's game.

AND THAT'S NOT ALL--Larry Anderson also got in the act, sending me this bit of intraconference trash talking from the SEC:


At VANDERBILT: it takes two, one to change the bulb and one more to explain how they did it every bit as good as the bulbs changed at Harvard.

At GEORGIA: it takes two, one to change the bulb and one to phone an engineer at Georgia Tech for instructions.

At FLORIDA: it takes four, one to screw in the bulb and three to figure out how to get stoned off the old one.

At ALABAMA: it takes five, one to change it, three to reminisce about how The Bear would have done it, and one to throw the old bulb at an NCAA investigator.

At OLE MISS: it takes six, one to change it, two to mix the drinks and three to find the perfect J. Crew outfit to wear for the occasion.

At LSU: it takes seven, and each one gets credit for five semester hours.

At KENTUCKY: it takes eight, one to screw it in and seven to discuss how much brighter it seems to shine during basketball season.

At TENNESSEE: it takes ten, two to figure out how to screw it in, two to buy an orange lampshade, and six to phone a radio call-in show and talk about how much they hate Alabama.

At MISSISSIPPI STATE: it takes fifteen, one to screw in the bulb, two to buy the Skoal, and twelve to yell, "GO TO HELL, OLE MISS".

At AUBURN: it takes one hundred, one to change it, forty-nine to talk about how they did it better than Alabama, and fifty to get drunk and roll Toomer's Corner when finished.

At SOUTH CAROLINA: it takes 80,000, one to screw it in and 79,999 to discuss how this finally will be the year that they have a decent football team.

And finally, at ARKANSAS: None. There is no electricity in Arkansas.

Thank you everyone—we’ll be here all week. Drive safely on the way home.

Larry Anderson is back home from his son's nuptialization, and offers his take on the benefits of clean water and electricity:
[...] One thing we do agree on is the idea that any twit who says that cultures need to be preserved even if it means people have to live in primitive conditions should be forced to live a few months in the conditions he praises as good for the world's poor. If the fool lived through the experience, maybe he would modify his views. If he didn't survive his adventure in living good, then the world would at least be a better place for the rest of us.

As far as cultural loss, we hillbillies have been able to maintain ours fairly well in the face of an all out assault by the broader American culture . Electricity and clean water turn out to actually help in our drunken Saturday night knife fights and wife beatings. You can see your objective clearer and the warm water works really well in the post fight cleanup.

Well, in case you haven't noticed I have finished shoveling out all (well, most) of the manure from the stables and been able to get back to REALLY important stuff. And as we all know, this being the end of August, there is only ONE important thing.


Real football, too, not that silly hand-holding, Kumbayah-singing, Worldbeat-playing, diversity-promoting futbol that my kids have been Shanghaid into playing, but real AMERICAN football! And not just any good old real American football, but Southeastern Conference football! In particular the form played by the Pride of the Plains, Auburn University! Monday evening they will be making your Labor Day complete as they travel to Lalaland to take on the University of Southern California Brand Name Prophylactics.

Despite the fact that many seem to believe USC will win by at least a touchdown, I will go out on a limb here and say Auburn will win 143-13. I could be wrong, of course, "any given day" and all that, but I'm sure I will be in for a nice surprise. And even if the Tigers don't quite win, at least USC has good looking cheerleaders--pardon me, Song Leaders. This is NOT to imply that Auburn doesn't--they certainly do, (although I'm sort of partial to The Tiger Paws since there aren't any guys in there blocking the view.)

ANYway, as my final bit of Auburn related propagandizing, I thought I would leave you with the following wisdom known as The Auburn Creed:

I believe that this is a practical world and that I can count only on what I earn. Therefore, I believe in work, hard work.

I believe in education, which gives me the knowledge to work wisely and trains my mind and my hands to work skillfully.

I believe in honesty and truthfulness, without which I cannot win the respect and confidence of my fellow men.

I believe in a sound mind, in a sound body and a spirit that is not afraid, and in clean sports to develop these qualities.

I believe in obedience to law because it protects the rights of all.

I believe in the human touch, which cultivates sympathy with my fellow men and mutual helpfulness and brings happiness for all.

I believe in my Country, because it is a land of freedom and because it is my own home, and that I can best serve that country by "doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with my God."

And because Auburn men and women believe in these things, I believe in Auburn and love it.

--Dr. George Petrie, Class of 1887

What Sue wants in a man...
[...] My litmus test now consists of, among other things, how nice the guy is to the waiter, and whether or not he genuinely gets along with his parents. Manners and a gentle nature matter a hell of a lot more to me than a hot car. [...]

Study: No Link Between Cell Phones, Tumors in Mice

Pinky, are you pondering what I'm pondering?

I think so, Brain, but it's a miracle this one grew back.

She knows a sucker when she sees one...

The Sweetheart of Vidalia Janis Gore sends the following:
Dear Mr. Oglesby, hon:

Read my last post. Now, set your voluminous imagination to work thinking of a new title for the World Summit for Sustainable Development. I have Tim Blair working on it (it’s amazing what you can do with a monetary bribe). Clever boy that he is, he came up with Summit of the Vanities. I’m sure your readers would love to play.
Yes, money for Aussie Tim Cobber Mate, and cooing "hon" in my ear. You certainly know how to get me to do something. (Note to Self: Must try to figure out why everyone meows and makes a whip-cracking sound whenever I walk by)

IN ANY EVENT, having been tasked with this...task, I now put on my furry Jim Traficant-inspired Possumblog Thinking Cap™ and offer up the following bilgespew:

World Summit for Sustainable Development = World Summit of Drawing "Kick Me" Signs to Put On Back of U.S.'s Pants

World Summit for Sustainable Development = World Summit for Sustainable Whining About Hunger, As We Stuff Our Munchholes With Foie Gras and Lobster (Which Seemed Just a Bit Tough, Don't You Think? And the Champagne Tasted Like Mop Water)

World Summit for Sustainable Development = World Summit for Income Redistribution

World Summit for Sustainable Development = Johannesburg Shakedown!

World Summit for Sustainable Development = World Summit for Sustainable Bureacracy

World Summit for Sustainable Development = That episode of Andy Griffith when Aunt Bea makes a kitchen full of kerosene pickles

For the benefit of allowing the other side to speak, we read this Featured Story from the website:
Plenary Sessions on Action Areas Conclude With Forward-Looking Proposals

Johannesburg, 29 August— By conference standards, the plenary sessions on six areas where the World Summit on Sustainable Development is expected to make a difference, was extraordinary.
Well, I'm sure by "conference standards" anything is extraordinary. Except for the crappy champagne.
Instead of endless prepared statements, serious moderated discussions were held, that forced representatives of governments and major groups to think on their feet and consider various points of view.
Wow. Serious moderated discussions that forced representatives to think. ON THEIR FEET, no less! (Chairs must have been in short supply) AND consider various points of view. (The U.S.--Evil, or Stupid, or Both?) The sheer mental agony of such must have been horrific.
Plenary organizers knew it was uncharted territory for a Summit and were uncertain what to expect.
Lions? Tigers? The Spanish Inquisition?
But with South Africa's Foreign Minister Nkosazana Zuma chairing all but one of the sessions, and the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy to the Summit moderating, the sessions turned out to be both stimulating and informative.
As I was toiling away the past few days on my stupid PowerPoint presentation, all I could think of is how I wished I could be stimulated by Nkosazana Zuma (soooo dreamy!), and informed by a Special Envoy. (You know, this world needs a Special Envoy Olympics.)
The special plenary sessions were intended to promote partnerships aimed at implementing projects in five action areas identified by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan which include water and sanitation, energy, health, agricultural productivity, and biodiversity and ecosystem management. An additional session was held on finance and other cross-cutting issues.
Ministers of Serious Chatting for various countries were seen looking gravely at each other, whilst Plenipotenitaries of Harrumphing and Throat Clearing added a somber background accompaniment. By conference standards, it was extraordinary.
"The sessions went far beyond my expectations," according to Luis Gomez Echeverri of the UN Development Programme, adding that the moderating by Pronk and the willingness of Zuma to chair the meetings helped considerably.
Well, I tell you, you get Pronk and Zuma together in a backfield, and nine times outta ten you know their gonna try the play-action pass to the strong side. They both have good speed and quickness; and are tough, physical players one-on-one with the linebackers... Sorry. Must be serious. I really could use some of that great Pronk Moderating and Zuma Chairing to bring me back down to earth.
But the efforts to put the sessions together, including the preparation of comprehensive reports pointing out possible areas for action in the five action areas, he said, was one of the best examples of cooperation within the UN system and between the UN and the World Bank.
So the earlier joy about eliminating prepared statements only meant that they were handed in after the fact for the comprehensive report, rather than being part some guy's droning lecture. Fair enough. (Wonder how many trees were killed for all that paper. PAPER IS MURDER!)
"There were 250 people from every agency working on this," Echeverri said. "I've never seen a group like this work together like this, putting out five books in five weeks."
That's a hell of a lot of tree-murdering bureacrats you got there, Sparky. Could it be time to promote global sustainability by dusting off the Possumblog Corollary and tieing them all in sacks and dropping them off a cliff in Iran?
But there is still the question of what comes next.
That certainly has crossed my mind.
Pronk said the process must continue, with an even more intense level of debate, with governments participating more fully in the give-and-take discussions.
I am just SOOOOO surprised! When the world needs immediate action to forestall a terrifying global catastrophe, whatta we gonna do!? HAVE A PROCESS!
"We need this process and we should establish such a process for the five areas." Each area needs a different type of process, he added. "I hope there will be a decision at the Summit that the new approach will be embraced."
"Embrace A Process, Promote Sustainability"
Pronk said it was clear from the discussion on water that there was overwhelming sentiment that a goal for reducing the number of people who lack proper sanitation should be established, and in the energy sessions, there was substantial interest in renewable energies.
Plonk also said that clean air was good, the sun was hot, his name was Plonk, rocks are hard, and mean people suck.
Echeverri said that each of the sessions resulted in a number of proposals. "If that is not a mandate to proceed on a select number of issues, then I think we have wasted our time," he said.
Heaven forbid!
On water, which he said so many countries were willing to put a lot of money into, and on energy, processes and mechanisms should be established. "They can play a major role on influencing policies that could lead to more investment. If we do this jointly, and concentrate mobilizing political will, it can make a tremendous difference."
And if Grandma had wheels she'd be a rickshaw.
On the energy discussions, Pronk said there were concrete proposals to do away with subsidies, and to see the quick entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol, "if only to do away with the disastrous consequences of global warming."
The Road To Hell Paving Project continues apace.

Japanese historian says submarine find proves US started war
TOKYO - A government historian said Thursday that the finding of a Japanese midget submarine sunk just before the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor was evidence that the United States, not Japan, started the war between the two nations.

"The finding provides evidence that it was the Americans who made the first shot, which means the war had already started even before Japan's air attack on Pearl Harbor," said Takehiko Shibata, a historian at the Defense Agency's research institute. "It's been our understanding of how World War II started. Now we have the proof." [...]
And it was just a damned lucky convenient thing the Imperial Navy had three waves of attack aircraft in the air headed toward Pearl Harbor timed just right to strike only an hour after the dirty Americans started shootin' up Hirohito-san's bathtub toys. Why, it's enough to make you want to go invade Manchuria and Korea and China and Burma and the Philipines and New Guinea, ain't it; or maybe behead a few hundred POWs for...for...well, for being POWs.

Relief as the Cows Upstairs Move Out
ISTANBUL (Reuters) - A Turkish woman has begun selling the cows she kept in upstairs apartments in the city of Trabzon, to the relief of her neighbors.

Local alderman Osman Terzi said health and safety officials had ordered the cows to be cleared out of the first and third floors of the building in the Black Sea port city.

"I have learned that Fatma Kocaman has started selling her cows, which is a very pleasing development," the Anatolian news agency quoted him saying on Thursday. It said she had kept "a large number" of cows there.

"It's hard to believe someone would keep cows in an apartment. For years me and the locals have wondered what to do...The area has suffered a lot. Noise, smell and manure everywhere make a very ugly scene," Terzi said. [...]
Yep. Suppose so.

Hey Cool! I'm the Number Seven result for russia slippers woman spanking. You know, sometimes I wonder why I keep slapping away at the old keyboard, and then something like this shows up and doggone it all, I know that I am doing some good in the world; that I'm making it a better place; that I'm confusing the heck out of just about everyone who stops by. But then, along comes something like this... where beef jerky comes from gary larson, or Paula Zahn Smokes Dope? and I know that I have exceeded all reasonable expectations I ever set for myself and have reached a pinnacle of writeritiousness reached by very few.

Hmm. Another for the "whoda thunk it" file... Palestinian interior minister calls for end to suicide bombings
[...] Interviewed in the Yediot Ahronot daily, the Palestinian security chief, Interior Minister Abdel Razak Yehiyeh, said he told leaders of Palestinian groups, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, to "stop the suicide bombings, stop the murders for no reason."

An aide to Yehiyeh confirmed that he had talked to the Israeli newspaper.

Yehiyeh, a retired general, was appointed interior minister in June in a Cabinet reshuffle, taking charge of Palestinian security forces. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat had held the post until then.

In the interview, Yehiyeh said that "suicide attacks are contrary to the Palestinian tradition, against international law and harm the Palestinian people."

"Children were exploited for these attacks," Yehiyeh said. Several of the bombers were teenagers. [...]

A day without lies...Candidates won't run campaign ads on Sept. 11
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- Alabama residents watching television on Sept. 11, the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, won't see ads from candidates for governor.

Both U.S. Rep. Bob Riley, the Republican candidate for governor, and incumbent Democratic Gov. Don Siegelman said Thursday they won't run television commercials on Sept. 11. [...]
If only we could make it permanent.

Wow. Whoda thunk it!? Village, Valley creeks polluted, Corps report says
Village and Valley creeks are polluted with fecal bacteria, pesticides and other contaminants, members of the Army Corps of Engineers said Thursday.

The report, made public Thursday, is a starting point as Corps and city officials develop proposals to restore the creeks and possibly create greenways or linear parks.

Beverley Hayes Stout, a Corps biologist, and Joseph W. Paine, a Corps civil engineer, outlined the results of a watershed study of the two creeks which cut across Jefferson County and flow west into the Black Warrior River watershed.
Birmingham lies in Jones Valley between Red Mountain to the south and a tail end of Sand Mountain called Possum Ridge (how apropos to this blog!) to the north, and these two creeks have born the brunt of the City's development since 1871, in past times being nothing more than open sewers. Today there is a bit more concern about them, but since they are in the lowest spot of the Valley, they still receive huge amounts of surface pollutants due to stormwater runoff.

The linear park idea has been partially implemented, but due to the high cost it has never been fully realized. Nor has the granddaddy of all of them even come close to being done, which was a far-sighted effort by City leaders around the turn of the 20th century to remediate what even then was recognized as a problem for the city. They hired famed landscape architect Fredrick Law Olmstead to develop a master plan for the entire length of the waterway, but as with a lot of grand plans around here, it remains a reminder of what could have been.

Ex-Target cashier settles cross lawsuit

Way back yonder on March 12, I commented on this case, and at the time thought this might be an interesting one.

Pffft. Shows what I know--although the terms of the shakedown settlement are not disclosed, I'm sure it's enough to keep one former employee well stocked in wearable religious doodads for a while.

I remember not long after this story originally went to press that we had gone to Target for some stuff, and in the checkout I noticed the cashier had on a cross necklace (and NO, I wasn't just looking at her chest. Honest. Well, okay, I was, but that's not the point of this story. Nor is the point that she sure was cute in her little red scoop-necked tee and khakis. So just hush.) and I said, "Hey, that sure is a pretty cross necklace--I thought they were crackin' down on that around here!" She just rolled her eyes and said a few choice words about her former co-Target Team Member which, like the settlement, will remain undisclosed but gave me the distinct impression that someone was a few photos short of filling up an album.

Oh well.

Thursday, August 29, 2002

As I deduced...

...since I wrote something yesterday, my hit traffic crashed into a small pile. That'll teach me! But in any event, I am now through with the pre-boss's-editorial-hatchetry version of my wondrously colorful and animated PowerPoint presentation (90M for only 22 slides--you think I might need to compress some of those graphics? Naaaaah), although I still have a pile of typing of meeting notes left to accomplish today, so with your indulgence, I will devote my day to gainful employment and hopefully return tomorrow all dewy fresh for a final day of unfettered blogological prosiating.

BUT, before I repair to my paying job, I did want to mention a new link up topside there, William Hooker over at Trojan Horseshoes. Axis of Weevil member and Keeper of the Scourge of Truth Charles Austin noted that since Mr. Hooker's blog dealt with "thoughts on topics such as geek stuff, southern culture, life as a first-time parent and politics," he might be a possible new inductee into the Cotton State Blogging and Black Powder Society, LLC.

Alas, po' Bill (or, on occasion, Tony) has stated that although the Boll Weevil State has no small amount of charm, his loyalty and fidelity cannot be wrenched from his beloved North Carolina, his allegience to Andy Griffith Country being much too great (even with the oft-abused offer to invoke the Calvinball rules to insure his paperwork does not get lost in the broom closet!) In the stead of Axis membership, though, Trojan Horseshoes does get a link with all my other daily reads, virtually guaranteeing that Mr. Hooker will receive at least one hit a day!

So then, off to work, and as in the past four days, my e-mail coolie is running hither and yon with messages if you loyal Possumblog readers feel the need to correspond.

Wednesday, August 28, 2002

The Secret to Increasing Possumblog Readership

...is apparently to write absolutely nothing! For some odd reason, yesterday saw traffic only 20 hits shy of the all-time record number of visits to Possumblog, all without benefit of any new posts. Why? Well, first thanks to Moira Breen at Inappropriate Response, Charles Austin at Sine Qua Non Pundit, and my new blog buddy Francesca Watson at Yorkie Blog for all linking to the post I did on the WTC lecture I went to last week. As for the other few hundred of you who dropped by looking for pictures of nekkid newswomen or possum skeletons or the best place to buy boots in Taiwan, my profound apologies. And no, it does not help to translate Possumblog into either German or Italian.

In order to maintain this high hit count, I will continue to work on my stupid work-related PowerPoint presentation. Actually, despite my protestations, PowerPoint is not really bad. Much like the bagpipes. But as they say about the bagpipes, than' Gawd there's nae smell. In addition, this being the second Wednesday of the month, there is our normally scheduled regulatory good-taste-burden to place upon the hard-working citizens of our city, with the resulting paperwork I must complete in typing up the minutes and swabbing the toilets.

SO, as in the past few days, I will be nonblogatory in extremis at least for today, and possibly tomorrow in order to get this mess wrapped up. As always, I will be checking e-mail, though, so if you have a comment, I'll try to answer.

Thanks for dropping by, and be sure to visit everyone else up there in the links as you wait for the next installment of hammered poo from Possumblog.

Monday, August 26, 2002

Undone by ol' Charlie Foxtrot

Whew. Aside from Friday, the weekend was blessedly free of much of anything. No road trips, no shopping excursions, just laundry and laying about watching videos. Made up for the horror of Friday. Almost.

As you will recall (if you read down below to the last post) we were in the process of attempting to prove the theory that an object can exist simultaneously in multiple locations. I think we have managed to pretty well do away with all that nonsense. Just cain't happen.

And the worst part is that I dare not do a detailed analysis of the strategic and tactical errors that contributed to an extra 50 mile round trip to Branchville, a one and a half hour soccer clinic that only lasted about 45 minutes for one little fellow, a skating party/sleepover that exploded due to finding that 12 year olds have a terrible time choosing "friends" (and just what in the [insert long string of foul Anglo-Saxon curses here] sort of parents just drop their feral brats at a skating rink and tell them they might be back at ELEVEN! Oldest was then shunned by her "friends" for bringing her mom along. The only good thing was the little epiphany of "You know what, Mom? I need to to a better job of picking my friends." Halleluiah.) No I dare not, for the same reason that I have learned not to answer the question "Does this make me look fat?" I haven't had 11 good, happy married-man years by being an idiot.

Nope, sometimes there are things which are best left alone; little unspoken reminders of the results of trying to put 10 pounds of mud in a 5 pound sack.

And there is also the issue of doing something productive this week. It appears I am going to have to take a busman's blogging holiday (blogman's? blogiday?) in order to complete the craptacular mess that now sits before me. One word--PowerPoint. As the only person on the floor who can plumb the mysteries of the greatest tool ever devised to senselessly torture meeting attendees, I have been charged with giving that Barton Fink feeling to some danged-fool mess for one of my legion of bureaucrabosses. I'm sure it will have the wonderful cutting-edge feel of the mid-1990s. Whee.

So, my apologies for the remainder of the week in which my stunningly mundane writing skills will be poured into a multimedia dreckfest of unimaginable horror, leaving no time to display them herein for your pleasure. I should be back in form next week; so in the mean time, be sure to read all of the wonderful folks up top in my list of links. I will be able to answer e-mail should it come my way, but no blogging.

Friday, August 23, 2002

Tonight--one daughter farmed out to spend the night with friends in St. Clair County, one son to be taken to soccer clinic, one daughter to be taken to skating rink, then to spend the night across town, one daughter to run screaming to and fro with an evil grin and wet pants--ALL AT THE SAME TIME! How we're gonna do this is a mystery.

Reba was supposed to get off work about an hour ago so she could pick them all up from school and start the payload delivery process. She is still at work. She has no money on her, and the bank branch around the block is closed. It is now 4:30. She is supposed to be in St. Clair County by 5 (it takes thirty minutes to get from downtown to school and get everyone, then another thirty to get where she needs to be), back to the soccer field in Trussville at 5:30, where I am supposed to meet her and grab Little Boy and Baby Girl, and then take Oldest to the skating rink by 6.

Tomorrow--hey, that's tomorrow.

Now then, I have downed a bag of chips and a Coke and managed to get to the bank and back here in one piece.

Part Two of my continuing ed coursework for yesterday took me to the other side of town to the Richard M. Scrushy Center for the Study of Richard M. Scrushy at HealthSouth headquarters. The presentation was sponsored by the Structural Engineers Society of Alabama, and included not only the lecture by Dr. Corley but a video presentation by Mr. Leslie Robertson who was the principle engineer on the World Trade Center.

There was an article about this conference in The Birmingham News this morning, but I refuse to link to it simply because the reporter must have listened to a different presentation than I did, or simply did not understand what he was writing about. As with most news stories I have read about this subject, there was little attempt to educate but much on trying to see if someone can be blamed. In fact, the writer of the article himself points to this in the very last sentence in the article (this’ll be the only part I quote)
[…] Corley said his team's report has been criticized by some because they did not point fingers and place blame for the collapse. He said that wasn't his team's mission.
"Frankly, we don't think there is any fault," Corley said. "The hijackers are the ones at fault. They get all of our blame."


And in spite of how horrendously terrible this attack was, it could have been far worse had it not been for one man’s acrophobia. More on that later. So, now, on to my small part of trying to make some sense of this.

As I mentioned, the first part of the presentation was a videotape of a talk given by Mr. Robertson (Click on his name to go to his firm’s message about the attack). I am not sure when the video was made, but it was billed as his first address to an audience since the attacks. I wish it had been done with a bit more forethought—it had the look and sound quality of a bootleg grade school recital tape; lots of out of focus shots, wandering framing, him having a coughing attack and gulping water right into the lavalier microphone he was wearing, folks walking in front of the camera.

He gave a good overview of the construction concept and methods, and spoke about the work his firm did on the building after the first attack back in 1993—he was referencing a slide show which most of the time was out of frame, except for when the camera would whip around to the screen. When it came time for the part about the collapse, the entire chunk of his talk and the slide show had been edited out due to some not-quite-well-explained reasons dealing with the slide images not being able to be released to the general public. It just went straight to his question and answer session at the end, which had a few technical questions, and then one more:

[Off camera-almost inaudible] ‘Is there anything you wish you had been able to do differently?’

He paused.

“I wish,” he paused again.

Choking on his words, he slowly and quietly said, “I wish…I could have…made it stand up.”

The audience in the video was silent, as were those watching the video in our meeting room.

It made my eyes burn, and my throat ache when he said that, and it does so now when I sit and type this.

I know from the muffled sniffs from the men further back in the room that I was not the only one who felt that terrible pang.

This is the side one normally doesn’t see within the staid world of welds and bolts and mass and force, but there are few people who are so acutely aware of the consequences of a potential failure in their work. If a doctor fails, a patient can die. If we fail, thousands can die. Engineers and architects do our best to anticipate the unexpected, to ask questions from different angles, to be thorough in our preparations, and above all protect the health, safety, and welfare of the people who will use our buildings.

All of the blamemongering in the world, all the heated editorials, all the jackassed stupidity of the Usenet, will never change that. You can’t make the designers and builders feel any worse, nor will you be able to magically eliminate future attacks or revoke the laws of nature.

The second portion of the presentation was Dr. Corley’s review of his assessment team’s report to FEMA. This report is available online at the FEMA website, but at the moment is appears they are having some technical difficulties (or my computer is screwed up). Luckily, it is also available over on the House Committee on Science website, which can be accessed here. It is a BIG book, close to 300 pages divided into eight chapters, and each chapter averages over a MB, although some of the more photograph intensive ones are closer to three MB.

Before you read anything else on the World Trade Center (including my own stuff), before you go popping off on MeFi about who should have known what about what, if you really want to learn something, go read the report first. It is very well-written with a good mix of understandable general language, technical data and photographs. It has background information on the project, design criteria, general information about construction and building codes, and a detailed chronology. Not only are the Twin Towers analyzed, but all of the buildings of the complex and those adjacent that were damaged.

It is far better to read that than any bit of commentary I might write in this silly blog. And just like Dr. Corley was quoted as saying, this report is an examination of the performance of the buildings under extraordinary circumstances. If you’re looking for fodder for your favorite conspiracy theories, you would do much better just to go ahead and make stuff up. You won’t find any help in it.

Have you read it? Don’t go any further! Go read it now. Okay, finished? Good.

Now, a few of my thoughts—

First, the thing I keep seeing discussed ad nauseum is ‘if it was designed to get hit by a plane, why did it fall?’

A lot of the misunderstanding seems to revolve around whether things should be designed for all possibilities, or for the most probable circumstances. Folks, the only way to design for all possible attacks would mean that each one of use would have to live in a nuclear-biological-chemical resistant structure, and that every person would have to be widely dispersed to minimize possible deaths. This is a fine and dandy approach if you live in some alternate universe, but here, the most sensible thing is to work from the most likely occurrences.

In the end, the most prudent course of action was to design for something within the most probable realm, and in this case the only similar incident occurred during World War II when an off-course B-25 struck the Empire State Building. The WTC designers concluded that the most likely way in which an aircraft would hit the towers would be if it were lost in heavy fog and low on fuel and flying at landing speed. The aircraft chosen was the most common type then flying in the area, the Boeing 707, which had a gross weight of 263,000 and a landing speed of 180 miles per hour. In the case of what actually happened, 767-200ER aircraft, each weighing 274,000 pounds, struck the towers at speeds of 470 and 590 (!) miles per hour. Given that force rises exponentially with velocity, it is a testimony to the robustness of the structural system of the buildings that they were not immediately destroyed by the impact. The study points out that on the impact faces of the building, more than 2/3 of the supporting exterior columns were destroyed, yet the load on the remaining columns only rose to their theoretical capacity.

Had there been no fire, the buildings would have remained standing.

As I mentioned at the first, this incredible structural performance had much to do with the way in which the floors were interlocked and tied to the exterior structural skin, which was made up of built-up segments of steel plate arranged as an array of continuous square tubes. Each column was only 3 feet, 4 inches apart from its neighboring column, one reason for which was that the lead architect on the project, Minoru Yamasaki, had a fear of heights. Mr. Yamasaki wanted to have window framing no further apart than he could comfortable grasp with two hands. The solution chosen was essentially to make the window framing part of the structure itself. (Dr. Corley said he had heard this story several times, but finally was able to confirm it in conversations with members of the Yamasaki firm.)

The redundancy of these structural members and the way in which they tied back into the central core contributed to the tremendous strength of the towers. In spite of the high loss of life, it could have been far worse—at the time of the impact the Port Authority estimated the population of the complex at 58,000. The strength of the building allowed enough time for able-bodied persons below the crash levels to evacuate before the buildings fell.

It was the fire though, and the inability to fight it, that set up the circumstances of the collapse. Surprisingly, the fuel on the airplanes was not a significant source of fuel except for the first 3 to 9 minutes. At least a third of the fuel burned up in the atmosphere in the form of the huge fireballs which shot out of the sides of the buildings. After about 9 minutes, the fuel had been totally consumed. However, before it was gone, it set fire to everything else within the crash area, and it was this fuel load of paper and furniture and equipment that produced the fire which finally weakened the structure enough to cause collapse. The energy of this fire was estimated in the report to be equal to the power generated “by a large commercial power generating station.”

Due to the impact of the planes cutting off main supply lines of water, none of the sprinkler systems could operate, and the impact dislodged fireproofing sprayed on the structural steel in critical points, exposing the steel to continuous heat far above design temperatures, for a far longer time. Just as the impact alone did not destroy the towers, it is conceivable that a large fire on multiple floors might not have destroyed the building had the main water supply not been cut and had the integrity of the fireproofing not been compromised.

The combination of the multitude of events and circumstances, however, was too great to prevent failure.

So what does this say about the way in which the buildings were designed, and how such buildings should be designed in the future? From the report (Chapter Eight)
Buildings are designed to withstand loading events that are deemed credible hazards and to protect the public safety in the event such credible hazards are experienced. Buildings are not designed to withstand any event that could ever conceivably occur, and any building can collapse if subjected to a sufficiently extreme loading event. Communities adopt building codes to help building designers and regulators determine those loading events that should be considered as credible hazards in the design process. These building codes are developed by the design and regulatory communities themselves, through a voluntary committee consensus process. Prior to September 11, 2001, it was the consensus of these communities that aircraft impact was not a sufficiently credible hazard to warrant routine consideration in the design of buildings and, therefore, the building codes did not require that such events be considered in building design. […]

During the course of this study, the question of whether building codes should be changed in some way to make future buildings more resistant to such attacks was frequently explored.

Depending on the size of the aircraft, it may not be technically feasible to develop design provisions that would enable all structures to be designed and constructed to resist the effects of impacts by rapidly moving aircraft, and the ensuing fires, without collapse. In addition, the cost of constructing such structures might be so large as to make this type of design intent practically infeasible.

Although the attacks on the World Trade Center are a reason to question design philosophies, the BPS Team believes there are insufficient data to determine whether there is a reasonable threat of attacks on specific buildings to recommend inclusion of such requirements in building codes. Some believe the likelihood of such attacks on any specific building is deemed sufficiently low to not be considered at all. However, individual building developers may wish to consider design provisions for improving redundancy and robustness for such unforeseen events, particularly for structures that, by nature of their design or occupancy, may be especially susceptible to such incidents. Although some conceptual changes to the building codes that could make buildings more resistant to fire or impact damage or more conducive to occupant egress were identified in the course of this study, the BPS Team felt that extensive technical, policy, and economic study of these concepts should be performed before any specific code change recommendations are developed. […]

In short, the WTC was properly designed given the state of knowledge in 1966, when the design process was first begun. Could things have been done differently? Yes, although it’s not clear if the outcome would have been any different. Should things be done differently now? Yes, and they already are, due to the constantly changing nature of the building code writing process. Should we still build skyscrapers? The United States is full of tall buildings. To build no more would be short-sighted if the economic conditions which drive the construction of tall buildings remain functioning. The alternative to building up is building out, and I suppose that were the disincentives great enough, out would be where we would go. The economics of this should reflect the fact that a repeat occurrence of this sort would be highly unlikely since we have now decided that swarthy sorts who only want to learn to fly and not land a jumbo jet and who pay in cash are probably not a very good security risk. (But we dare not say that for fear of hurting the feelings of someone.)

A better question is whether we will concede that anything over one story tall is just automatically going to be fodder for infantile-minded murderers who want to knock our blocks down like petulant bullies, or whether we will hold them accountable for their actions and make their cost of doing business too high. I sincerely hope that we decide that we make it expensive for others to attack us, rather than burdening ourselves with the cost of defending ourselves from being attacked. Do we really want the equivalent of herding ourselves through metal detectors, raised to an enormous scale, just to buy a little perceived security?

Seems like the money would be better spent eliminating the threat rather than hardening the target.

Just my two cents worth.

Well, now—I have now managed to catch up a bit on the stuff I was supposed to be doing yesterday instead of gadding about and associating with the brainiac crowd, so now you must endure a long-winded recap of stuff. Lucky you, eh?

Anyway, as mentioned several times, I had a professional liability seminar yesterday morning over at the conference room of the SEC Headquarters, (which, if you live around here, you know has nothing to do with the Securities and Exchange Commission and EVERYTHING to do with the real important thing—football). This is done to help fulfill my continuing education requirements for my architecture registration here in Alabama—in 1993, we were the second in the nation to require continuing ed (Iowa was first in 1979), and are required to do 12 hours a year. This was not popular when it began; architectural firms usually work on a pretty slim margin, especially those who work in a small practice or are sole proprietors, and so any time spent not being billed cuts deep. Most have come around now, though, and most find it valuable. I know I do, given that what I do now is pretty far afield from what’s normal in the profession.

Believe it or not, the professional liability talks are pretty interesting, if for no other reason than it makes everyone feel so much smarter. In a way, it’s sort of like reading about Darwin Award nominees—it’s amazing how many people, regardless of their profession, don’t seem to ever consider the thought that they could get sued for something, especially since court proceedings are now America’s number one spectator sport. It’s hard to figure out how some people manage to get any sort of work. Of course, the stupid ones don’t last long, but it’s darned difficult for even the smart ones to stay out of the line of fire.

Some people might say that it’s all the lawyers’ fault, but despite calls to take Shakespeare up on his suggestion, a better solution is to find yourself a good one. Also when it comes down to it, common sense should tell anyone a few things—do your homework about the task and the client, be clear ahead of time what you’re supposed to do and how to do it, document everything, keep good records, respond quickly to problems, communicate consistently and in a timely manner, observe mutual respect for everyone involved in the process—more or less the sorts of things you should do, no matter what.

The insurance guy who handled the lecture was good—you could tell he had seen a lot, and his biggest problem was architects who would ask him to review a contract. He would suggest wording changes or even recommend not signing the contract, then he would be informed that the work was already underway or even complete. Poor guy, each story would be punctuated by a heavy sigh. But he kept it entertaining and informative, although he needed some help with metaphors. A couple of them actually made me take notes, one being that insurers didn’t like to take all of the risk on a large project or “put all their marbles in one basket.” Yeah, I hate it when that happens. Before the World Trade Center attack, he said that a lot of insurers figured they had done a pretty good job of insulating themselves from loss and were “sitting there fat and happy in glass houses.” I just hope they had the curtain drawn. Another good one was that due to premium increases, some firms where trying to economize by “cutting some edges” to save money in other parts of the practice. Golly, I hope they don’t make it all the way to the corners!

Well, I’ve got to go to lunch, so later this afternoon you will get to read my take on the Gene Corley World Trade Center discussion. Great lecture, and despite what you may think, the WTC buildings performed exceedingly well given the catastrophic nature of what happened.

Thursday, August 22, 2002

Well, I am breathlessly betwixt seminars at the moment--I had to walk near the library downtown to get to my car, so I thought I would sneak in here and check e-mail, and found Possumblog has spawned yet another blogchild! Yes, my partner in the Jessica Rabbit Petition boondoggle, Francesca Watson, finally succumbed to my persuasive power and started Yorkie Blog. Hooray for her! (and for you.)

Now, I have to get across town, so it's to the Possummobile!

Wednesday, August 21, 2002

The free ice cream cones will be 100% smaller tomorrow.

In case you've been wondering why so much tasty possum has been thrown your way today, I will be out doing continuing education alllll day tomorrow (yippee--jeans!), so there will be nothing new. (Not that there ever is anything new, but there will be less of it tomorrow.) Seminar One will be "Limiting Liability Issues," which is always fun and it's good for 4 whole hours of continuing ed credit, and Seminar Two will be the WTC lecture I mentioned yesterday.

See you Friday!

Well, now I've gone and done it...

I mentioned yesterday that one of Possumblog's fans, Francesca Watson, needed to start her own blog. My own motivation in this suggestion was to allow us to join forces to push for meaningful change--namely in the form of promoting the production of a new Jessica Rabbit movie with Mrs. Rabbit, and her alone, as the star.

Apparently seizing upon the well-known power of online petitions, (such as in this case), Francesca has taken it upon herself to launch her own signature drive on behalf of the oh-so-squishy Jessica in order to insure that she gets her due as the fine actress we all know her to be. I figure with the one or two signatures we are able to gather, we will strike fear into the hearts of Hollywood for having so basely ignored one of the greatest talents in moviedom.

SO THEN, go forth and signify!

A nice story about a what sounds like a very nice lady--Teaching the art of gracious living: Louisiana school stresses poise, grace, manners
[...] The success of Smoky Creek Summer School for Girls, whose graduates number more than 300, underscores a reality of the times, says [Dixie] Gallaspy, who grew up in rural Washington Parish, La., and attended Texas Woman's University.

"The basic thing is this: Both parents are working, they're sending their kids to the best schools they can afford, but they just don't have any time left over," she says. "A lot of these little girls are growing up without any kind of domestic understanding. I'm trying to recapture those skills." [...]

At Smoky Creek, Gallaspy limits her classes to about 25 girls and charges only $50 for the week. Most of her students are 11-year-olds, and most of the out-of-towners stay with grandparents or other relatives who live in the area.

Community volunteers are a primary reason she's able to charge only $50 for the week. One doctor speaks to the girls about clean living, and a high school teacher helps with music.

"This is a wonderful age because they're still listening," Gallaspy says. [...]

As might be expected, change doesn't occur haphazardly in this part of the world. But even the guide to becoming a Southern belle needs a tweak every now and then.

Blended in with traditional lessons such as using the proper fork and penning that perfect note are topics that might make Scarlett O'Hara blush -- body piercing and tattooing.

Of course, the message is: A true Southern lady would never do anything to permanently alter her body.

"What we tell them is there's a reason God made it hurt," says Annie Hughes, Ellie's [a student] mom and one of the school's coordinators. "We tell them, 'You can do fads. Fads aren't bad. But don't do anything that's permanent."' [...]
As the father of a twelve-, an almost-ten-, and a five year old girl, this sounds like good advice. (Which means it will be studiously ignored and cause the veins to pop out on the side of my forehead.)

It's Wednesday, which means it's time for the newest Lileks from Newhouse! Concocting New Horrors in the Animal Kingdom
Was there ever an organization so devoted to the destruction of its own cause as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals?

Its members have in their smooth human hands one of the most ethically pure causes of our age -- treating animals well -- and they've managed to equate it with utter crackpottery. One suspects that PETA members were horrified by the collapse of the twin towers because of the hundreds of thousands of rats that perished in the rubble.

Unfair? Consider this: In a world of suicide bombing, nuclear threats and germ-warfare fears, PETA has found a new horror on which to lavish its time and dilute its cause:


PETA has filed suit in the states that ban hunting in state parks, demanding that fishing be prohibited as well. It's cruel. It's mean. It causes pain. Fishing is terrorism. Every day on every lake, it's 9/11, with boats instead of planes, hooks instead of box cutters.

Fish are just like you and me, in other words -- they have central nervous systems and can feel pain, and thereby deserve every ethical consideration one would extend to the pope, Nelson Mandela, Bob down the street, or the large bear that is charging toward you. A school of fish equals a day care center. As Ingrid Newkirk, PETA's co-founder, famously phrased the ethical equation: "A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy." [...]

But at the risk of sounding like a chauvinist to my species, the similarity stops there. Babies grow up to be doctors who find cures for cancer, and this might mean using rats in labs.

This troubles some people. Better that people should die of cancer than rats die in lab trials of cancer drugs. A rat is a pig is a dog is a little bald boy in a room full of beeping machinery, hugging his teddy. He has no better claim on tomorrow than a rat, or a minnow.

By making the child and the rat equal, you do not bring the rat up to the child's level. You push the child down to the level of the rat. [...]

Many Saudis Feel Betrayed By U.S.

Gosh golly, I know I have a box of Kleenex around here somewhere...


Last night I was supposed to take Middle Girl to a soccer clinic (coached by yet another expat Brit--where they keep getting these guys, I'll never know) but due to God's artillery drills going on, the clinic was cancelled and we headed back to the house. I had decided to take Franklin (the Ford F-100 spoken lovingly of in past posts) but he was nearly out of gas (unlike his owner) so I pulled into the Exxon there on Main Street.

A few moments later, a dung-colored four door Chevette blatted in behind me carrying a full load of two very large persons of the sort who might think driving an ancient Chevette was fun. The man got out to fill up the tank (producing a sizable shift in the center of gravity and a loud squeak from the suspension) when all of a sudden, in clatters a dark blue four door Chevette and hesitates briefly beside the first fellow. The driver's window is vigorously, yet slowly, rolled down and out pops a blue ball cap on top of a grizzled head--"Zthata sevndy-seven?" "Naw, it's a sevndy-ate!" Ball Cap looks it over carefully, admiring its velvety-textured paint and charming "brite" wheel trim. "Yep, these is really good cars--they gettin' to be collector's items." "Yeah, I know!"


Via Andrea Harris(nice new look to the blog, by the way), this bit of put-uponedness:
Sure, there is a sizable percentage of Americans who are filled with do-gooder "change the world" intentions. That's why we invented things like the Peace Corps, so we could get these pests out of our hair. The ones for whom this was only a youthful phase were supposed to come home sadder and wiser (and much thinner from weeks of dysentery or malaria), and settle down and get productive jobs. The ones that were hopeless (ie, too egotistical to admit their ideals were about as substantial as cotton candy) were supposed to stay in foreign places like Gambia or the UN building and thus out of our hair. Unfortunately, things went a little wrong. But there's always the possibility of other solar systems to figure out how to escape to explore, and it will probably be Americans who figure out how to do it, too. If we left one neighborhood gone bad, we can leave another.

Wow. From Gilbert Nicholson of The Birmingham Business Journal, just what everyone in D.C. and Birmingham have been clamoring for:Birmingham-D.C. high-speed rail summit held in Atlanta Wednesday
[...] The "Southeast High-Speed Rail Summit" will be held 1-2:30 p.m. at the Ritz Carlton hotel in downtown Atlanta.

Hosted by the Southeast Economic Alliance – an organization of 14 chambers of commerce in six Southern states – panelists will discuss the benefits of the 800-mile route proposed as a high-speed demonstration project. Trains would run more than 90 mph, according to an Alliance news release.

The first phase of the system would link nine cities, including Birmingham and Atlanta, a route deemed unprofitable by a 1994 Alabama Department of Transportation study.

The study found 196 curves would limit speeds to less than 80 mph on the current Norfolk Southern line used by Amtrak's Crescent passenger train. More than 80 curves between Irondale and Atlanta won't allow speeds more than 50 mph.

Two other alternatives were considered: an abandoned CSX line and a new high-speed rail system to run in the middle or to the side of Interstate 20. Each of the three options cost more than $1 billion in 1994 dollars.

The study's conclusion: "Even with four trains a day at 80 mph, the projected ridership of approximately 455 people per day for high-speed service does not appear to warrant the anticipated construction costs."
Well, gee whiz, with all of the stunning success of Amtrak's Acela line, who on earth could want such a wonderfully useless thing as a high speed train that can go no faster than any other train, all while costing at least a billion big'uns?
Alabama Power Co. president and CEO Charles McCrary and outgoing U.S. Rep. Earl Hilliard, D-Birmingham, are among six panelists who will discuss a proposed high-speed rail route from Birmingham to Washington, D.C. [...]
Ahhh, I see. I believe APCo. wants to sell 'em some juice (and cut their main competitor TVA out of the picture), and ol' Brer Earl is looking to get his family on with the railroad.

Good gig if you can get it, I suppose.

Saudis Plan to Sue U.S. over Sept. 11
Ghaida Ghantous
DUBAI (Reuters) - A group of Saudis plan to sue the U.S. government and media organizations for the alleged psychological and financial damage they suffered in the aftermath of September 11, their lawyer said on Wednesday.

"Tens of Saudi nationals seriously plan to file lawsuits against U.S. government, civil and media entities, the majority of whom are students who had been attending American universities and were forced to leave," Saudi lawyer Katib al-Shamri said. [...]
And who said that irony was dead after September 11!?

School Days, Golden Rule Days--Teen arrested after allegedly cutting three classmates
MOBILE, Ala. (AP) -- A 15-year-old female student was arrested for allegedly cutting three other students with a butcher knife at Williamson High School, police said.

The attack about 1 p.m. Tuesday was the result of an ongoing dispute, according to Mobile police Cpl. Pat Mitchell.

The names of the students' were not released because they are juveniles.

One victim was cut on the index finger, another on the arm and the third on the face, but none had to be taken to the hospital, Mitchell said.

The accused student was charged with second-degree assault and was taken to Strickland Youth Center, Mitchell said.

I have been a bad person. Charles Austin has had not one, but TWO of his heartwarming Scourges of Richard Cohen (Episodes Forty 8 and Forty 9) sitting out for almost a WEEK now and I have neglected to provide this link right here. In these, we find that Richard Cohen does not like Ann Coulter or Shameful Gaps. (I never shop at Gap, and I think Ann would look better with about 10 more pounds.) Charles also lets us in on the differences between illiberal utopian statists and everyone else:
[...] Most weekday mornings I wake up, roll out of bed, shower, shave, get dressed, kiss the wife, and head out the door to work. Sometime during the day, I will usually suffer some pang of guilt about something I have done recently, but more usually over something that happened many years ago that continues to trouble my conscience. It passes quickly and I move on to try and discharge another of my myriad responsibilities. I can’t be sure, but I imagine that most people’s lives go more or less the same way, with occasional regrets over long ago transgressions or missed opportunities that we can do little about now and bear no further mention.

But if you are a bleeding heart illiberal, your day goes nothing like this. Exhibit A: Richard Cohen, who wakes up, but cannot immediately roll out of bed due to the omnipresent weight that rests on his shoulders from the cumulative shame of centuries of oppression and injustice committed on his behalf – or so he believes. After several hours of woeful moaning and virtual self-flagellation over his culpability for the sins of others long dead, Richard musters the strength to raise himself and set out to right these long passed wrongs with other people’s money. Richard has no qualms about using other people’s money since they both agree with him and will willingly hand over their money and freedom to assuage Richard’s guilt, or else they are heartless, compassionless, conservative racists who know they are guilty but refuse to accept their culpability for these sins of commission by their ancestors and their current responsibility for righting these past wrongs. They deserve to have their wealth confiscated to help Richard feel better about himself – because he cares! [...]

Congratulation to Papa Kudzu! Larry Anderson is becoming a daddy in-law!

Clinton May Yak on CBS Oh joy. First NBC, now CBS (which will now stand for Clinton's Bull S**t).
[...] Rumors to that effect have surfaced again on word that syndication powerhouse King World and the CBS-owned stations are pursuing the idea with Clinton's camp. Both firms are units of Viacom Inc.

The show would probably be a cross between "Oprah," which King World distributes, and "Nightline" and air in daytime. [...]

King World execs haven't apparently yet met with the 42nd president, but have talked with people involved with the project -- including attorneys close to the leader -- about creating a Clinton vehicle. [...]

Aside from getting Clinton to actually say yes, other issues have to be resolved before a chatfest would become reality.

These include the matter of money: According to media reports in May, Clinton would demand a hefty $50 million check upfront. Others say his asking price is much lower. [...]
Ahh yes, "we've determined WHAT you are, we're only negotiating the price."

Mac Thomason over at WarLiberal asked several weeks ago why it is conservatives won't shut up and leave po' ol' Billy C alone. Were it only so easy...he doesn't WANT to be left alone!

Reps. Barr, McKinney Defeated in Georgia

I'm sure that Ms. McKinney already has a very complete list of conspiracy theories of why she lost. I mean, why would anyone vote against her?!

[Update--I see over on Instapundit that the theories started rolling out even as the votes were being counted--of course, the reason I was so slow in posting this is due to those darned CIA orgone ray generators]

News From My Hometown: Trussville decides against spraying for mosquitoes
Trussville officials said last week that the city will not spray for mosquitoes, but instead is using a larvacide to protect residents from West Nile Virus.

Mayor Gene Melton said workers are putting larvacide wherever there is standing water to prevent the spread of mosquitoes in the city. "But we're not going to spray," Melton said during last week's City Council meeting. "The Health Department has said that spraying is ineffective." Melton said that the city will take caution not to spray insecticide to protect those residents who have respiratory problems. [...]

Lewis V. "Cooter" Simpson, head of Trussville's streets and sanitation department, said that workers found three dead birds a couple of weeks ago in the city and sent them to the health department for testing.

"We haven't heard anything back from them," Simpson said. [...]
When the head of your town's Street and San department is nicknamed Cooter, you know you're doing alright.

Howdy up to Rich Hailey from Shots Across the Bow, who sent me a link to his ongoing saga of vacationing down Florida way. In particular, he has this to say about something near and dear to my heart:
[...] The possum is just too slow to make it across a highway, and keeps getting squished beneath the tires of an SUV loaded with kids coming back from a soccer game. Now a smart person would decide that maybe the possum needs to be a little smarter, or a lot faster in order to avoid oncoming traffic. But no, evolution decides to go in a different direction altogether. Nature gave the possum a suit of armor, so that it could stand against the oncoming vehicle and do valiant battle with it. Nature even equipped the improved possum with an aggressive nature, causing it to leap up at the approach of a car, to better engage the enemy. Once she made these modifications, nature decided the new, improved possum needed a new name, one which befit its new weaponry. She called it "armadillo", from the latin for " little warrior" and sent it out to do battle.

Sadly, nature didn't take physics into account, and the 10 pound armadillo continued to get creamed by the two ton cars it challenged. In time, the meaning of "armadillo" changed to "Critter most likely to be found squashed by the roadside." [...]
Mmmm! Possum on the half-shell!

I have linked to this before, but here is an interesting article from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources entitled "Armadillos, Possums and Pavement." (Sounds like some sort of scary Driver's Ed film they show at Stupid Mammal High School.) It's a short article, but full of wonderful information--
[...] Opossums are true marsupials, meaning the young live in an external pouch after birth. They can be found throughout the eastern United States and along the extreme west coast. They are nocturnal animals that can climb well. The first toe on their hind feet is opposable (thumb-like) and they have a prehensile tail. The opossum is a scavenger on carrion (dead animal meat), and the smell of death draws it to the pavement. Many times, two or even three opossums are found dead at one site, all drawn to the animal carcass they were feeding on. [...]
Wow--I nearly forgot! It's time for breakfast...

Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Interesting coincidence--one of the folks quoted in this story "Engineers soak up what they can about building safety by studying Sept. 11 tragedy" will be coming to Birmingham on Thursday to give a lecture about the WTC collapse:
[...] A year of intensive study by academics, engineers and government officials also revealed a number of other key points.

They've concluded, for instance, that even if the towers hadn't collapsed, it would have been difficult, maybe impossible, to rescue victims from the higher floors because exit stairwells were severely damaged or blocked.

And they've learned that thousands of gallons of jet fuel burned off within minutes of each plane hitting its target. It was the resulting office fires that actually weakened the towers enough to fell them.

But much remains unknown -- including whether any other design could have changed the result.

"All bets are off when you run an airplane into a building," said Gene Corley, a lead engineering investigator on both the Oklahoma City bombing and the Sept. 11 tragedy. [...]
I plan to be there; it promises to be a very good lecture--Dr. Corley has an extensive history of forensic analysis of building failures, and testified before Congress about the WTC. This is a link to the American Society of Civil Engineers' newsletter article from April about his appearance.

A lot can be said for making buildings better at protecting their occupants from the consequences of those bent on wreaking destruction on innocent people. But folks, we can't afford to all live in bunkers, nor should we have to. We can build the strongest buildings on earth, but until we eliminate those who would do us harm, we will forever be hunkering behind Jersey barriers and concrete flower pots and shuffling through security gates.

That is not freedom, and it is not security.

Just wanted to give a shout-out to a couple of folks who wrote in last week to say they enjoyed reading about my wedding anniversary. First up is a very nice lady from up in Tarheelandia who goes by the name of B. Indigo (I don't think that's her real name) in her blog called Indigo Insights. Thanks to her for all of the nice things she says about the oddness found herein, and a personal plea to all the Possumblog readers to please tell her how to set up a comment system! (She is also a bud of Redneckin's Chuck Myguts.)

And second is Francesca Watson (not Watkins--I am such a feeb) who has a personal website here, and does all sorts of stuff, including singing gospel music and playing in a rock band. In our exchange of e-mails, I pressured her to start her own blog due to her stellar record of managing to rack up four "thanks to" listings on OpinionJournal.com's Best of the Web column a couple of weeks ago. She says such an idea is "dangerous," which I think is all the more reason to do it. It will also allow us to join forces to start the drive for Jessica Rabbit to have her very own movie.

So, Fred, you've had a long hard day in the trenches of research science--what are you gonna want to fill your gullet? Why Rat Head Stew, of course!
[...] I opened the autoclave slowly, to let the pressure escape gradually, and out pours a cloud of rat-head-scented steam filling the room...a vapor of all my little chums I had nurtured for 40 days, until I became their executioner. Was it too late to consider a career change, I wondered? Not a good day, folks. I was never so relieved when the job came to a stopping place and I could go home where there were no rats...heads, teeth or otherwise. I began the 2 mile walk home, trying to think about anything other than the details of my day.

Ah, finally, our apartment door appears. Ann has been home today and I am looking forward to a home-cooked meal. I will never forget opening the door and being overcome by the smell of hot, cooked meat. Ham, if I recall. It was overpowering, too much like the rat head stew I had just left; I almost chucked my cookies. I apologized from outside the door and without explaining other than to say "I'm sorry. We have to eat out tonight. Don't ask. I will tell you about it. Some day. Maybe. Let's go get a salad". [...]
Mmmmm, boy!

Not just a venture capitalist, but pretty smart when it comes to WMD, too--good thing she's a member of the Axis of Weevil.

Good one from Steven Den Beste--a layman's look at libel law as it relates to discourse on the Internet.
[...] In other words, the current jurisprudence in libel law is designed precisely to prevent people from succeeding in doing what you just attempted to do in your letter, which was to make a veiled threat of lawsuit as a way of attempting to coerce me into voluntarily restricting my use of my First Amendment rights of free expression. But that won't work with me because I understand the applicable law and I know full well that you don't have any case.

So don't bother making any further veiled threats of libel suits. I'm not even slightly impressed. If you feel the need to continue with that line, don't bother me until you've talked to a lawyer and actually filed a suit in court. Then let me know and I'll get a lawyer of my own and we'll see what happens.

But before you talk to an attorney, you might be interested to know that there has never been a successful libel lawsuit where someone online actually sued someone else online for what they said, in a situation similar to ours. There have only been a very small number of attempts, and none of them has ever resulted in a judgment for the plaintiff.[...]
Oh, what a give-away. Did you hear that? Did you hear that, eh? That's what I'm on about. Did you see him repressing me? You saw it, didn't you?

Somehow, I just KNEW this was coming: Iraq Shows Baby Milk Store at Reported Weapons Site

Yes, yes...nothings in here except the making of the pure fresh baby milks. That is why we have the writing of the words BABY MILKS in very large letters. No, we do not know why the filthy Kurds have been getting sick when we spray it upon their babies--it must because of their weak physiques and infidelic ways.

Alabama Academy of Honor 2002 Inductees

Alabama does a lot to shoot itself in the foot, but there are still a lot of people here who have made this place and the United States a better place through their influence.
James Arthur Head Sr. remembers watching the Ku Klux Klan march down 20th Street in 1927 and hearing U.S. Sen. "Cotton Tom" Heflin a year later whip a packed auditorium into a frenzy as he bashed Catholics, Jews and immigrants.

"That kind of frightened me a little bit," said Head, 97, who attended Catholic school as a boy in Ohio and Indiana.

Soon afterward, Head and about 10 other people gathered in Mary Beard's tea room on 20th Street, where Avondale Mills President Donald Comer told them the fear and hatred had to be stopped.

That meeting launched a small group that in 1932 became the Alabama chapter of the National Conference of Christians and Jews, and it marked the beginning of Head's long history of public and behind-the-scenes work in civil rights.

Head will be honored for that work and other accomplishments at the Capitol on Monday, when he is inducted into the Alabama Academy of Honor with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, senior federal Judge John Godbold and retired Stillman College President Cordell Wynn. [...]

For decades, he chaired the state's chapter of the National Conference of Christians and Jews. He remembers touring the state for the NCCJ in the 1930s through 1950s with his friends Will Engel, head of Engel Realty Company, William Pritchard, a lawyer, and Emil Hess, who later transformed his family's second-floor store into Parisian Inc.

They preached a social gospel of racial, ethnic and religious tolerance in meetings with community leaders, pastors, school superintendents, bankers, police chiefs and newspaper editors, and often struck out.

"A banker would say, `Keep my name out of it, because I'd lose half my customers immediately.' A lawyer would say, `Look, I'd lose half of my clients.' Believe it, that was a standard reaction," Head said.

He and others believed Alabamians could enrich their lives and pocketbooks, "if we could just eliminate the turmoil, the prejudice, the hatred, the animosity, and all of us work together." [...]

Lemarse Washington, executive director of the Alabama region of the NCCJ, now called The National Conference for Community and Justice, called Head "a jewel."

"I think he's had probably more influence than anyone else, as far as a white person in Birmingham over the years, for building community and seeking justice and equality for all of Birmingham's citizens," Washington said.

"Mr. Head was in the forefront of all of that. And not necessarily walking in the streets and marching, but getting things done where it's really getting done, behind the scenes, talking to the power brokers individually, saying, `This is what we need to do because it's the right thing to do.'"

Head, whose voice still booms when he wants it to, paused when asked how he felt about his election into the Academy of Honor.

"Humble," he said softly.

Monday, August 19, 2002

Oh, I know you all have just been a’clamorin’ for this mess—who am I to deny you the incredibly detailed remembrances of the past 72 hours. (And won’t you be surprised when FOX picks it up and makes it into a show! It’ll be three times better than 24, and they’re talking to Eli “Voice of NASCAR” Gold to play the part of me! That’s money in the bank, baby!)

A word of warning: The following is way too long.

FRIDAY. Got home and found that Reba had picked out some anniversary cards and gifts—I am impossible to buy for, mainly because I would be satisfied with anything she gave me—bright blue leisure suit? Thank you, it’s beautiful! Poke in the eye? Your lovely fingers make it all the more enjoyable! I’m just as happy with nothing as anything, but she still feels bad if she doesn’t get a little something for me. I won’t tell you all of it, but two of the things were a couple of videos of stuff we never got to see in the theaters; A Beautiful Mind, the story of some chick who looks exactly like Jennifer Connelly who falls in love with a schizophrenic math wiz (wow, just like me) and The Lord of the Rings, the story of Liv Tyler and Cate Blanchett and a bunch of guys running around. But, before we could enjoy these, there was the Pre-Mother’s Birthday and Anniversary Dinner that was thrown together for my sister’s benefit, since she was only going to be home for a day or two.

Over to Riverchase to the Hunan Garden Chinese Restaurant (and every time I type “Hunan” I mistakenly type “Human,” which just makes me giggle every time I think about it) and had a very nice meal, except for the constant necessity of telling one particular member of the Oglesby family to quit putting her mouth on the plate, and quit blowing bubbles in her Sprite, and quit talking with food in her mouth, and quit loudly asking to go to the bathroom to poop, and quit turning around and staring at the two guys behind us, and quit asking why they are holding hands, and quit burping, and quit putting rice in her hair. SHEESH! (Can’t take my danged mom ANYwhere!)

Actually, this was Tiny Girl, who since coming down with her cranio-nasal cruddiolity (I realize some of you aren’t familiar with the medical terms, but it makes me sound smart to use them) has just been an absolute pill. Apparently all of her gray matter has been replaced with green matter, which causes a decided slowing of the firing of the “Good Girl” synapses, and an inversely proportional quickening of the synapse exchanges devoted to loud, obstinate, turdliness and associated lachrymal deluges.

All the rest of the kids excitedly yammered to my sister about her new kitty, and I resisted the urge to say something mean like, “Cats are wonderful—you’re eating one right now!” I had enough to deal with without that, so I just tended to my Kung Pao animal flesh, which was really good.

It was fun; good to see Mama and sis, but I sure was glad to be through with it, just the same. (Mainly because I wanted to go home and watch my movie.)

Got the kids in bed and put in Lord of the Rings. Movie Review Time I was never a big Tolkien reader, but had enough general knowledge of his work and of the hype about the movie and all the Burger King toys to sorta know what to expect. Excellent movie—I enjoy stories about stuff such as this with all the elves and ogres and trolls and dwarves and silly English kkkkkk-niggits. Beautifully done movie, lots of walking about, some real fancy swordwork. (Interesting note, just in case: Orcs fight just like movie ninjas—huge hordes who politely wait their turn to attack the good guys.) Did I mention Liv Tyler and Cate Blanchett? Them Elfwomen is sure real purty like. Which might make for a pretty good second episode if they make it to where Middle Earth somehow manages to intersect with The South. First of all, we’d get rid of all them glowing Elvish blades (although it is worth noting that Elvis collected knives) and show ‘em how to shoot (which Elvis REALLY liked), which would really throw them Ninja Orcs for a loop, and there would be a wet t-shirt contest for Elfchicks, and dadgummit, we’d find a ride for all them little Hobbit fellers so they wouldn’t have to walk everywhere—in fact, what would be even better is to have ‘em ride around in Bigfoot! Now THAT, my friends, would be a derned MOVIE!

Anyway, the movie really is very nicely made and the live scenery and studio sets are beautiful and nicely detailed—the only parts that got in my way were the edits for when the Hobbits appeared with other actors. Sometimes they obviously used kids, other shots relied on camera angles, and others were CGI, but it wasn’t quite seamless because the proportions kept changing; this is especially true when kids were used, simply because of the different proportion of head to body size between a child and an adult. Liv Tyler is in this movie, but not enough. Nor Cate Blanchett. I wish now that we had seen it at the theater, but it still translates pretty well to the small screen. The scary parts are good enough to have given Catherine and maybe Jonathan bad dreams had they been watching it, but for kids over about 9 or 10 it’s probably not too bad. I didn’t have more than a couple of nightmares, myself—I believe it was the thought of big, hairy Hobbitgirl feet. Eww.

SATURDAY. Finally, the end of regularly scheduled horseback riding. They have really enjoyed it, and I have, too, but it does take a big chunk out of the productive part of the day. They got to ride bareback this time, and Jonathan managed to do all of his leaning over and turning around and stuff without getting scared, even though once he slid off and made a big Sam Peckinpah production of falling in slow motion to the ground. (Would have served him right if he had landed in a big pile of processed horse feed, but at least he jumped back on without having to be chastised by Dad.) After they got through, the kids were as nasty as could be from the aforementioned sans-saddle riding. Horses are prone to becoming quite dusty and sweaty—JUST LIKE KIDS! Eww. Took them home and made them strip in the garage then run squealing upstairs to take baths.

Did some laundry, Reba cooked some soup, I finally fixed the tire with the screw in it, refilled all the bird/squirrel feeders, pulled up mimosas (another of the fine family of invasive Asian species), trimmed the roses, struggled to defeat the wild tendrils of the wisteria vine which has grown to Audrey-like proportions, and generally puttered around getting all stinky and hot.

Came in, sat down, opened the curtains at the kitchen table so I could watch the hummingbirds and vegetate, and had lunch. The girls had already finished and were avoiding chores in other parts of the house and Boy had just finished his bath, so we had a bowl of Mommy’s special home-made soup.

Reba sat down and all three of us just sort of sat and talked about not much.

Look at that little bird.

Need to go to the store.

Trees are starting to turn.

That hickory tree looks dead.

Other trees have really grown this year.

Except Catherine’s. Mean ol’ Japanese beetles just about got away with eating it all gone.

“What’re Japanese beetles?” asked Jonathan.

It is instances like this that the professionals call “teachable moments,” when a topic comes up naturally in conversation and you are able to impart your knowledge to your child in a way that will be memorable and allow him a better understanding of the world around him.

I put my spoon down, and started off, “Well, son, they are small, round, metallic-looking beetles that eat tree leaves, like Catherine’s cherry tree…” His little eyes were locked on me with an earnest desire to learn, to grow… I deftly held up the corners of my eyes, “and they gettah they choppastickah, and they fry arong until they see a yummy twee, and thennnnn they EATAH IT UP AHH GONE! And before they put a littah soy sauce onah leaves, they hold their sixah littah ahms up in the air and yell, ‘BONSAI! BONSAI! BONSAI!’ As I kept up my highly inappropriate, culturally insensitive anthropomorphic stereotyping of Popillia japonica, (including the dreaded sumo variant) he collapsed into a paroxysm of silly laughter, at one point falling down completely onto the kitchen floor and rolling around.

“And that, son, is what a Japanese beetle is.”

Saturday evening we went to get Oldest Girl some church clothes—Reba took her to the row of clothing stores between Home Depot and Target, while I agreed to keep the others far, far away to avoid undue shopping stress. I dropped off Mom and Ashley and drove back down to Target by way of the lower parking lot, which was again full of the old car Saturday cruiser folks. Many more than there were last month, and a few more better looking cars this time. Still a lot of odd ones that have a lot of sentimental value only to their owner—one stood out—a jacked up, bright yellow, stock-bodied shoebox Ford Tudor. Yikes, talk about unique. And hard work—a business coupe or convertible would have been much easier on the eyes, and none of the ’49 to ‘51s look right with a lift kit. Whew. Lots of other good stuff was there, though, but I dared not get out and look with three little demolition dynamos. Anyway, I would probably wind up doing something stupid like buying something.

After a couple of hours of Targetry (with only two trips to the restroom and only fifty uses of “DON’T TOUCH THAT!”) we met back up with our other shoppers and headed home in a just-starting rain. All of the cruisers picked this moment to start leaving, too, so getting out was a chore. And loud. Finally got out onto the highway and pulled up alongside a relatively nice GT500-KR fastback, which seemed to be quite a handful on the slightly wet pavement. Yow. 428 cubic inches of pure pucker power. I reminisced to Reba about the time I found myself staring back at a line of traffic after trying to complete a simple left turn onto a damp street in my AMX.

“Do you miss your car?” I had sold it right before we got married. “Nah, not really. I had been ready to get rid of it and start something else, anyway. Maybe one day it might be fun to do one for Jonathan.” Which, if you know the signs, is the sound of someone laying the groundwork for a future in which his obsessive/compulsive personality disorder is transferred back to its rightful home under the hood of an obnoxiously loud and fast hunk of iron (cleverly disguised as a father-son project.) Heaven help us all.

SUNDAY. Good crowd at church, no hiccups with Sunday school, ran out of time long before I ran out of material for the kids in my class, and made the big mistake of bringing my bag of goodies. I am an idiot. They had been nice and quiet for 45 minutes, and then I get them all wound up when it was time to go, by rewarding their niceness with a chance to get a prize out of the sack. Which created pandemonium (which is really bad in church, you know.) Not gonna do that again.

Afterwards, we went to see my mom again at her house, stopping first for our usual meal at Ruby Tuesday. Once again we arrived too early to get Jennifer, instead being saddled with some glacier-slow moon-faced idjitboy. When I asked where Oldest Girl’s food was, he went back to the kitchen to check, but before coming to tell us what was going on, decided a better customer-relations duty was to walk right past us with his other hivemates and sing their HappyCrappyBirthday song for someone on the other side of the restaurant.


Jennifer The Great came by to say hey, and I verified for future reference that she does indeed come on duty at noon. She said she did, so it now looks like from now on we’ll just have to wander aimlessly around Leeds for an hour so as to be sure to get her. She asked if everything was okay (even though it was not her table) and I allowed that our dough-brained server was not quite in her league. She asked if she could get us more napkins or anything else (again, even though she wasn’t our waitress) but I said it was okay. I wanted that little fellow to work for every dime of the tip he got. He just better be glad my mom wasn’t there, or all he would have gotten would have been a dime. My mom is very…thrifty.

Got to her house, and had a very nice visit. She would kill me if she knew I was telling you she is going to be 73 next week, but I do it anyway just to pick on her. And I pick on her mainly because if she wanted to she could still whip me. And just about anybody else. She works her own garden, cuts her own grass, keeps up her own big old house, works 40+ hours a week, and thinks nothing of calling stupid “stupid.” For any of you who like Billnhillary, Ralph Nader, David Duke, Louis Farrakhan, Jane Fonda, Jesse Jackson, Don Siegelman, art that looks like a drop cloth, lawyers, car salesmen, PETA, or women who act coarse, I would advise you to steer clear of admitting these things in front of her or you might get your ears pinned back. It’s always fun to visit Mom.

The older girls really like this trip, because Granny Jean had gone through her closets and found some of my sister’s duds from the Nineteen Seventies, which due to the great care my sister had shown them, and their near indestructibility, were now ready for a new generation of fashionably retro-minded young girls. Thankfully, these were not the hippy-dippy crap that Old Navy sells nowadays, but some of the kinda cute clothes that were made back then (believe it or not, there actually were some, but they don’t have the same self-referential ironic parody potential as the really ugly crap.) The girls were tickled to death to go through them all, and I’m glad they have some clothes that don’t start falling apart as soon as they’re worn once. It got time to go much too soon. Happy Birthday, Mom!

Headed back for evening church, headed home, ate some more of that good soup, and time for blessed rest.

Then came Monday morning, which failed to kill me, but another such victory and I shall be undone.

Then comes tonight with soccer practice and homework and baths and maybe, just maybe, a bit of time to watch my other new movie. (While at Target I managed to sneak a copy of The Magnificent Seven into the cart.)

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