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.

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

You just never know.

Rebecca had her practice last night, and since it was her birthday, Mama and I decided to surprise her with some cupcakes for her and her team after practice. We’re so busy that it’s nearly impossible to schedule any sort of real party, and we figured she would like being with her friends. So, off to the park, where I told her I was going to have to drop her off with her coach, and then I had to run to the store, and then I would be right back.

“Okay. What do you have to get at the store, Daddy?”

“Just some stuff.”


Off to the store, where I found tray upon tray of cupcakes, brightly decorated in every conceivable sort of doodad, except soccer balls. Birds, footballs, Barbies, pumpkins, flowers, baseballs, Howard Dean (not really)--but nary a soccer ball. They did have some unbricabrac’d ones, and I figured that surely there would be some of the coveted decorations behind the counter. If I could only get the attention of the lone employee, who was studiously (and loudly) cleaning some crusty something or other on the other side of the deli area.

I stood there hoping she would notice me (I’m an optimist like that), and finally decided that I would go see if I could speed things along.


A head peeped around the corner, “D’you call me?”

Finally. “Yes, ma’am, I was wondering if you have any little soccer ball picks to decorate cupcakes with?”

She looked like I had just asked for a five pound block of unobtainium.


“You know, the little plastic picks that you can stick on top of cupcakes? For decoration?”

“Hm. Foller me on down here.”

Yes, ma’am. I followed and she got to the bakery case and started digging around underneath before triumphantly pulling out the item, holding it aloft as if it were a magical amulet (not really) and said, “This what you want?” Indeedy-do. “Yes, ma’am, I need 24 if you have them.” She grabbed a big bagful and started carefully sorting them like a pharmacist does pills, then sealed them up in a ziplock bag and handed them over. Success! “Thank you!” “Uh-huh.” Oh well...if nothing else, I was excited.

So, off then again to the park where I put the cakes into the cooler at the concession stand. Then I parked my ample haunches in my folding chair down on the field and downed two big cups of dense black java in the intervening time to keep from being so chilly. At the very end of practice I got the coach’s attention to let him know I had an announcement. I told the girls it was Rebecca’s birthday and there were cupca…and all semblance of order was lost as they grabbed their bags and balls and shoes and water bottles and took off on a mad dash for the concession stand.

They loaded up on hot chocolate and grabbed themselves some sugar (sorry parents) and they proceeded to jabber like nuclear-fueled gibbons. Rebecca, as is her usual way, just grinned and giggled as they messed with her and teased her to try to get her to talk. She is exceedingly quiet around groups of people, and affects a shyness that is quite out of character with her normal ninety-to-nothing commotion when she’s around us. The girls love her to pieces, and they HAVE heard her talk some, but they like to joke with her anyway. Which she kinda likes.

“Does Rebecca ever talk at home?!”

“Oh yes, she sure does—when she gets wound up she won’t quit!”

“What does she sound like?”

“Oh, like a crow and a parrot, or a badger!” Gales of laughter, but in good fun—Rebecca was sitting in a chair about to burst from suppressed laughter, and I gave her a big hug to let her know I was just kidding with her. The girls continued eating and socializing, and after a while the crowd thinned down and I started getting ready to go, and then ANOTHER round of “Happy Birthday” set in. Her chair had gotten turned around some time earlier, so her back was to the kids singing to her, and she was wiggling like a water balloon from laughing, as they tried in vain to get her to turn around. Nothing doing! After I cleaned up a bit more and made sure everyone’s little siblings had gotten something, I managed to get her to say a teensy little “thank-you” to everyone for staying, and then I said goodnight to all of them until Thursday.

I grabbed her bag and we headed off to the van with her remaining three cupcakes, and just as I got her inside, her coach came bounding up. He is relentlessly bouncy—like Tigger on crack, but is an incredibly good fellow with a great way with the kids.

“Hey kid!” She waved. He stuck his head in the door of the van.

“Listen, I have a present for you—let’s see if I can remember it. Okay, let’s see—there’s this Swiss proverb—and you see I have my Swiss jersey on—that says, Sprechen ist silbern, Schweigen ist golden. That means ‘to speak—or speaking—is silver, but silence is golden.’ AND, there was this man named…ahhhh, Carlyle, yeah, that’s it, Thomas Carlyle, and he remembered that saying, too, and do you know what he said?”

Head shake no.

“He said that ‘Speech is of time, but silence is of eternity.’ So, you know, it’s okay to be quiet sometimes, kid.”

She nodded her head, and he turned to bounce off down the hill. I stopped him and stuck out my hand. “Thanks, Mark.”

Good fellow, even if he did nearly make me cry.

You know, I live in a pretty interesting town.

Under all speech that is good for anything there lies a silence that is better, Silence is deep as Eternity; speech is shallow as Time.

Sunscreen no guarantee against cancer, warn experts

And it tastes terrible, too--it's all I can do to get down a whole tablespoon without choking.

Wheat jumps on weaker dollar

Isn't that just like wheat? Bunch of bullies, every last stalk of them!

From Snopes.com, an interesting transcript taken from the lecture notes of Don Walter, a U.S. District Court judge from Shreveport, Louisiana who went to Iraq to assist in rebuilding the judicial system.
[...] Despite my initial opposition to the war, I am now convinced, whether we find any weapons of mass destruction or prove Saddam sheltered and financed terrorists, absolutely, we should have overthrown the Baathists, indeed, we should have done it sooner.

What changed my mind? When we left mid June, 57 mass graves had been found, one with the bodies of 1200 children. There have been credible reports of murder, brutality and torture of hundreds of thousands of ordinary Iraqi citizens. There is poverty on a monumental scale and fear on a larger one. That fear is still palpable. I have seen the machines and places of torture. [...]
It's long, but worth the time to read, if nothing else as an example of the difference between criticism with the intent to promote a political position, and constructive criticism.

Perpetuating the Stereotype, Volume 48: Pinson man threatens to kill son after Tide loses
PINSON, Ala. (AP) -- A Pinson man was charged with attempted murder for holding a gun to his son's head and pulling the trigger in the midst of a tantrum after Alabama's double overtime loss to Arkansas Saturday, authorities said.
Well, right off the bat here, let's notice that the headline says he was only threatening to kill him. That's some more sort of threat, if you ask me.
The bullet narrowly missed 20-year-old Seth Logan, who said he picked the wrong time to ask his dad for a car, sheriff's spokesman Deputy Randy Christian said Monday.
Well, yeah--that does sound like a bad time to ask.
Joseph Alan Logan, 46, surrendered to police Saturday and was charged with attempted murder and domestic violence. He was released from the Jefferson County jail Sunday on $7,500 bond.

"I know we take football serious in the South," Christian told The Birmingham News for a Tuesday story, "but that's crossing the line."
Oh, there you go, getting all judgemental...
The request upset Joseph Logan because his son has already wrecked several vehicles, Logan told investigators.

"He claimed he was just trying to scare his son," Christian said.
You know, it's the old thing, 'If I had meant to kill him, I would have.' Anyway, his kid HAD wrecked other cars and all...
According to the police report, Joseph Logan had been drinking alcohol
Hey, what are the odds of THAT!?
and began slamming doors, tossing boxes and throwing dishes in the sink
Hey, what are the odds of THAT!?
after the Crimson Tide lost its football game to Arkansas, 34-31 in double overtime, Saturday.
Hey, what are...never mind.
While Joseph Logan was throwing the tantrum, Seth Logan asked for a new car.

Joseph Logan then retrieved a 9 mm pistol from his car, grabbed his son by the collar and pressed the gun to his son's forehead, the report said.

Logan threatened to shoot his son in the head, then pulled the trigger.

Seth Logan moved his head just as his father fired and the bullet whizzed past him, the report said.
Daddy had to go to the car to get his gun!? Probably made him even madder.
Seth Logan fled to a neighbor's house to call police. He told police his ear was numb and his head ringing, but he was OK.
Sheriff's authorities called the SWAT team after discovering the armed father still had a 13-year-old son in the house with him.

Joseph Alan Logan walked out of the house with the other son and turned himself in to police just before the SWAT team arrived, Christian said.

UPDATE: The bond figure may have been incorrectly reported--Wendy Garner on Channel 13 read it this morning (10/1) as being $75,000 in lieu of $7,500, although the story about it on their news page still says $7,500. I believe Wendy--she did go to Auburn after all.

Monday, September 29, 2003

In between the numerous Google searchers that land here looking for pictures of Patricia Heaton's recently uplifted entertainment center or for disgusting images of the dewy soft Norah O'Donnell, every once in a while I get some truly sick individual looking for stuff like 2005 mustangs uncovered pictures.

The horror...the horror...

Well, here you go, you prevert.

There are very few places in the world...

...where you could have gone this weekend and heard "Superfreak" on the bagpipes.

I do not know if this is a blessing or a curse.


Friday evening, got home and did stuff which I can’t remember, then got Boy ready for his practice. Off to the park, sat there in my chair with my newest magazine and watched his teammates act like…well, it might be better not to say. No one would want to see his or her sweet little boy compared to a capuchin monkey on crack, so I just won’t say that. Let’s just say they were rather more active and less attentive than usual.

I feel so sorry for Jonathan—he wants so bad just to play and not have to put up with dealing with these little d…arlings, but every practice, every game, they never get any better. ::sigh:: (That one’s from him this time.)

Wrapped up and back to the house, via the grocery store, we went in and picked up some salad for our special treat of Friday Pizza. Of course, by the time we walked in the door, it was nearly nine, so I just ate a hunk of tepid Domino’s, figuring I would eat some more for breakfast. (MMMmmmm—tastes just like college!)

Got into bed, forgetting to give the normal Friday Evening Instructions for Saturday Morning--Do not wake Daddy. Do not yell. Do not talk loudly. Do not turn on any radios, or CD players, or televisions, or electronic devices which beep, bloop, blip, honk, scream, ratchet, hum, whistle, ululate, talk, yell, sing, say the alphabet, howl, bark, meow, moo, cackle, pop, or otherwise wake Daddy when employed as designed by their manufacturers.

Which meant that before the rooster crowed on Saturday, I was awakened by “SHHHHHH!! YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE DOING THAT!! DADDY SAYS WE AREN’T SPOSED TO!!” “I msmkdhhshhlslsf shddhh sllswwwoeu…” “SSSSSSSSS SSSSHHHHH HHHHHHHHHHH!!! DADDY SAYS WE HAVE TO BE QUIET!! WHEN HE WAKES UP—YOU ARE GOING TO BE IN TROUBLE!!”

Mmph. Urghh. This went on for a couple of more times before I gently rolled out of bed (trying not to wake Reba) to go assert my dominance. You know, you would think a large, stumbling, disheveled, slovenly, ugly man in his underwear, suddenly appearing out of nowhere in a darkened house, would have a more frightening effect on little children.

“Hellllllowwww, Daddy! I told him he need to be qui…”

“Do. Not. Talk. Go. Back. To. Bed. NOW.”

I scootched back into bed and dropped back to sleep, only to be awakened shortly thereafter by more tumult. Up again, told them all to go to a neutral corner to be dealt with later. Eased back into bed, eyes closed, WHUMP—sheet comes over, Reba sits up, then goes to the bathroom. Oh pleaseohpleaseohpleaseohplease—water runs in sink, then the hairbrush starts. ::sigh:: Time to get up.

She went on downstairs and I got up and took my shower, came down to get myself some cold pizza, only to find that it was completely gone. Not even any bones left. Reba came out of the laundry room—“The washing machine is leaking.”

Let’s recap—Friday morning, shelf in laundry room collapses, Saturday morning, awoken at dawn by little children who, any other day of the week, are impossible to get roused, who then eat up all my precious pizza as if they were locusts attacking a wheat field, then the washing machine we just purchased a few months ago is leaking. And I still have a shelf to put back up. And Catherine’s complaining about her tummy. And we have to go to her game in an hour, because we’re supposed to bring the snacks.

“Okay. I’ll take a look at it.”

Mop up the floor with the towels which are still to be washed, unhook the hoses, lay the machine forward onto its front so I can see up under the bottom, annnnnd…a nice piece of corrugated metal firmly bolted to the bottom. ::sigh:: No seeing inside of that baby without major surgery. So, I put it back, hooked it up, and threw in the towels. Both physically and metaphorically. Didn’t know what was wrong, and didn’t rightly care. But, it worked fine. Go figure.

Then there was the task of getting us to the park. Cat got dressed under protest. She’d been complaining of general evil humours for a couple of days—cranky, ill-tempered. And Saturday was no different. But she got all dressed up. As did the rest of the kids. And I was already dressed. Ready to leave? Why, you silly person, you! Someone decided to shower and wash her hair and put on makeup right when it was time to leave!

“I don’t care. Take her on if you want. Whatever you want to do. Fine.”

Which, being translated, means the exact opposite.

So, I consigned myself to being late.

Of all the large buttons I have which are red and say “DO NOT PRESS”, this is one that gets the biggest workout. I really do not like being late. If I could be everywhere thirty minutes early, I would. I am trying to have an override button installed so I could counteract the huge amount of stress and adrenaline and throbbing arteries in my neck that the frequent pushing of this button causes, but so far there’s simply not enough room for one big enough. I have thought about simply hitting myself with a hammer.

Anyway, we got to the park with her game well underway, and Cat complained the entire time. Reba walked her around to her bench and told the coach she wasn’t feeling well, and to his credit he said she could play or not play. So she came back and curled up in one of our folding chairs with her butt hanging out the side, staying that way most of the game. They did manage to win this time, which was nice for a change. Seems like it wound up being about 5-1 or so.

Back home, a little soup for lunch, which Catherine again seemed to not be enjoying, a bit more cleanup, marked the wall to install some more clips and get the shelf put back up (decided to put a whole bunch on there), then it was time to get ready for Little Boy’s game.

Back up to the park (blessedly on time, since everyone was already dressed and ready to go), and took our places. Oh. My. Jonathan’s team got beaten like a dirty rug. The other team was from Pell City, and although they were pretty good, we were simply terrible. It was blazing hot, and the boys weren’t passing the ball, or even really going after it at all, and the other team was.

Final score was 8-0, including one goal they managed to score by kicking it in close to the sideline (not a particularly hard kick) and one of our players tried to block it with his knee but only managed to bunt it into our goal as our keeper stood there looking at it roll by. ::sigh:: The little boy who deflected it in was Little Boy. He tiny little heart was very hurt. But it was still early in the game when that happened, and after they scored all those other points I think he figured out that his one really wasn’t that big of a deal. If nothing else, Catherine seemed to have perked up a bit while it was going on, and even managed to enjoy a chicken sandwich.

Home again, started getting everyone cleaned up and their dirty clothes off, discussed going to the hardware store later, did some other stuff (consisting of going out to the church building to have a teachers meeting with all the new ones for the upcoming quarter, of whom only FOUR came—and I even brought Snickers!), then got back home around 4:30 or so.

I was standing there in the kitchen with Reba discussing my non-meeting when all the sudden Catherine comes pounding around the corner out of the den headed toward the downstairs bathroom—head down, chubby little arms pumping furiously, just about to turn the corner at the refrigerator and—blupblurpBLUH BWUUUUUGHGGGGGHH… BluuHHHH-UUUUGGGGHH… Ooo.

One of those memories I had repressed from years ago when they were little—the running upchuck. All in the floor. Up the cabinet. On Reba’s laptop from work. Into the bookbag on the floor. Onto the Igloo cooler. On the rug. On her. Around her. Eww.

Cat started crying and we told her to hold still so for some reason she plopped down in the floor. Poor thing—and she was still going. Breakfast, lunch, soccer park food, a 1987 Illinois license plate, all displayed in living color there on the floor.

And then there was the waterworks. As she sat there, sniffling, crying, a clear puddle gently spread outward from her bottom. Yep. She had been trying to get to the potty, after all. No use just re-living one repressed memory from early daddyhood—might as well get them all.

Plenty of paper towels and stifled gag reflexes later, we had her somewhat cleaned up enough to go finish her off in the shower. “Hey, when you make that trip to the hardware store, get a real mop.”

I had to laugh. Reba has a thing about getting these worthless, do-nothing gadget mops that are more of an annoyance than anything else, but I think she has been loathe to admit they are not intended for actual use. So she finally had an excuse for a real live, honest-to-goodness yarn mop with a stickball bat for a handle. And a bucket. “Okeedoke. Be back in a bit.”

Off to the hardware store. Mop, bucket, shelf clips. Home, check on Baby Girl, who was now freshly scrubbed, fluffed, pressed, and folded. Mopped the floor with vigor and Pine Sol, reinstalled the shelf (and will take Larry Anderson’s suggestion of using a nice stout timber under the freestanding end), and finished getting the rest of them dunked and cleaned.

And then it was time to present the valuable prizes—I had also stopped along the way back for six cupcakes and some ice cream for someone who today is eleven years old. She had been pestering us all day to let her open her presents Saturday, so after they were all bathed and pajamaed (the kids, not the presents), we let her at them (the presents, not the kids). She seemed to enjoy her gifts immensely—a couple of CDs, a DVD, some books, and a couple of little racks to put her CDs in. She was in high cotton and jabbering a mile a minute.

And she’s growing up. You notice, no dolls. And she shed no tears about not getting no dolls. Oh, she still loves to play with them, and has scads all over the house, but still.

She’s growing up.

Got them into bed in a bit, then I collapsed into bed like Lil’ Abner, then got up again sometime early Sunday to get ready for church.

Again, since this was not Saturday, it was nearly impossible to get anyone to wake up. And they seem to be impervious to the things that work on me.

Finally up and out the door, on to church, finish up with my 5th and 6th graders, run around trying to find the folks who didn’t come to the meeting on Saturday so as to berate them and mock them sorely and rail against them with mighty words, then it was time for worship. That one hour of peace and quiet sure is nice. Even with everyone climbing over me to go to the restroom.

Home, with only enough time for Bec to run in and get on her uniform for her soccer game, then straight back to the park. Got a snack for the little ones, then went on over and set up our row of chairs again.

This game turned out much better than Jonathan’s. The other team had not played on a field as big, and tended to clump up a bit, while our girls finally got to where they could pass the ball around comfortably. Final score was 6-1. Rebecca got a couple of good kicks in and an assist on a goal, so she was tickled pink. Afterwards, we went and got some lunch over at Applebee’s. I don’t know why. I vaguely remember getting good service at some point in the past. Or maybe not. In any event, our waitress was a study in polite, deadpan, distractedness. The food was good enough to eat. Even for Catherine, who, although still a bit off her feed, finally decided she was hungry.

Back home to change and let Rebecca wash away the grime, then back up to church for them to study their Bible Bowl questions and let me run off a bunch of stuff on the copier, then it was once again time for another hour of peace and quiet.

Then home, some supper, then to bed.

And now for some blessed peace and quiet while I go to lunch!

That smell…

Around 6:15 this morning, the unmistakable dusty burning odor of the furnace kicking on for the first time in about seven months or so. It’s the smell of fall. Last night it got down in the mid-40s, and by this morning the house was jussssst chilly enough for the burner to click on. Of course, this was long after I had gotten out of the shower, when a nice blast of warm air would have been welcome, but as you know, I’m not one to complain.

In any event, it’s still nice to smell fall getting here. Pretty soon there’ll be leaf smoke, and that weird dead vine smell from the back of the yard, and there’s just something otherworldly about the smell of hickory smoke on a cold day. Barbecue joints (of which there are legion around here) smell good anytime, but there is just something about that smell when it’s cold and clear outside that makes it all okay.

And, fall is also nice because the goldenrod is blooming again. (Goldenrod gets a bad rap from allergy sufferers, but it’s really ragweed that’s doing that to you—so enjoy the goldenrod.) Alabama used to be called the Goldenrod State before some guys from the Men’s Camellia Club in Greenville got all miffed and got the Legislature to change state flowers in 1959. (“Men’s Camellia Club”…sheesh.)

Anyway, nothing like driving by a big field of yellow this time of year, with a bit of a nip in the air, and hickory smoke.

Horrible Homicidal Maniac SUVs!!

A sad story about a car wreck in which 4 people died and 17 were injured while on the run from Border Patrol agents in California. The headline: 4 die as SUV overturns on Calif. highway, makes it sound as though it's another one of those terrible stories about dangerous SUVs careening all over the highway.

Five times in this short article, the fact that the vehicle they were in was an SUV was mentioned, including a couple of references to it being a Chevy Suburban. None of which has anything at all to do with the fact that a single vehicle, loaded with TWENTY ONE people (even though it was designed to carry no more than nine) was attempting to avoid the police and travelling at high speed before it crashed.

I don't want or need an SUV, but the constant harping about their dangers is just stupid, especially in stories in which it's completely immaterial.

(I'm surprised they didn't say if the driver was smoking, or talking on a cell phone and eating high-fat frozen yogurt. Or that the Suburban had a FULLY AUTOMATIC TRANSMISSION!! Eek!)

Glückwünsche, y'all!

Montgomery teacher named national German teacher of year

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- Nellie Tietz loves to push her eighth-grade German students at Baldwin Arts and Academics Magnet School to get the most out of them. That dedication is paying off.

"She is a wonderful teacher," Nickey Wirshing said. "She pushes you and you hate it, but then you love her for it."

Her students aren't the only ones who love Tietz. The National Association of Teachers of German has named her the 2003 Outstanding German Educator at the secondary level. The 6,000-member organization selects three winners each year — one at the elementary level, one for secondary education and one who teaches college-level German. She will be honored at the association's annual meeting in Philadelphia in November. [...]
Good job, Ms. Tietz.

Well now, HELLO!!

Made it through another one, I did! But for the moment, I have to scurry off to my Monday staff meeting to hear everyone complain about the 'Bama game. Be back in a bit with more rousing tales of Life Along the Pinchgut.

Friday, September 26, 2003

You know what?

It's about time for me to leave.

Been a long week, but maybe this weekend won't be quite so busy--we have one less soccer game to attend on Saturday. Woohoo!!

Of course, that time will have to be spent trying to replace the nice wire shelf in the laundry room, and cutting the grass, and trying to sneak away somewhere to get some sleep. And, there is still another practice tonight for Little Boy, which will require much folding chair sitting on my part, but I might be up for that.

Hope you all have a fun weekend, and I'll see you all back here bright and early on Monday.

The Auburn Creed

Occasionally, I just like to read this. I know I may write like I'm a big raving Auburn fan--most of that is just for entertaiment value--I liked going to school there, but like any other place, it has its bad parts, too. I never really got into the pageantry and social stuff while I was there, and even today, about the most I do is wear the occasional logo shirt or cap. Again, despite a lot of the silly stuff I post, that experience is just another part of my life which fairly well bulges with other parts jockeying for priority.

But, I still like to read this--it was written in a time when people actually wrote things like this, and believed in them, and tried to live up to the ideals in them.
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.

-George Petrie (1945)

From the "Adventures in Headline Writing" File: Cooperation seen in football sex case

Sounds like it would be painful, no matter what sort of cooperation you get.

The Amazing Story of the Interrobang

In the comments about yesterday's post regarding William Faulkner's birthday, I noted that he and I both use punctuation, although I do allow that I use a whole lot more, liberally plastering every sentence with all sorts of stuff, whether it's needed or not. I slipped in a reference to the interrobang (and, of course, misspelled it) and Vachon was perplexed as to what this might be.

Well, ::chuckling lightly:: it's not a unit of European currency, nor ::thoughtfully stroking chin and taking down a note-to-self:: is it any one of those odd fetish things you see on the Internet.

The interrobang is a punctuation mark combining the oomph of an exclamation point with the quizzical look of the interrogatory mark--picture a question mark overlapped with an exclamation mark, each sharing the same dot at the bottom.

Better yet, go here and get the whole story.

I use the concept a lot, as when I write things like "Wesley Clark!?", but most people don't have anything loaded on their computers which will support an interrobang, so I just stick with the old two-stroke method.


Possumblog Sports Center is on the air!! This week's big game will feature a showdown between the Red Towel Wavers of Western Caintuck and the coming-off-a-weeklong-vacation Tigers of Auburn University. The Birmingham News is reporting the Tigers will be debuting a new offense this week, which might be helpful.

Or not. The Tiger rolled up a bunch of points against Vanderbilt, and Western Kentucky plays down in Division 1-AA, but the article notes that the Hilltoppers:
[...] won last year's Division I-AA national championship. Western Kentucky has won 13 consecutive games and has allowed only 58 points in its last nine games, though none of those contests were against a big-time school. [...]
Given the way the Plainsmen fared in their first two games, there were a lot of people saying rather uncharitable things about Auburn's "big-time" status; such as, that with their big-time status and a dollar, a variety of fine quality items could be purchased at the Dollar Tree.

One thing all the big league schools have to contend with is that although they might still get the top athletes, they can only get so many. The leveling of the field in recent years due to scholarship restrictions has made it much easier for the East Carolinas and Western Kentuckies to play at a higher level than they used to, and be credible threats.

If the Tigers allow themselves to repeat the bumbling taxi squad mistakes of earlier games--offsides, fumbles, missed assignments, holding, pass interference--and fail to take advantage of the supposed advantages of this new offensive scheme, they might wind up 1-3 at the final gun.

A bright spot for the Tigers is that despite the fascination the KY folks have with primary-colored cotton terrycloth, that fighting spirit does not seem to have carried over to the way the cheerleaders are represented. First, there's only one picture of them, and as always, it is gummed up with too many guys. Second, the sun is coming from their back, so they are all silhouetted--I mean, if they can have pictures of freshman volleyball players and Latvian tennis players, you would think they would do a better job with their cheerleaders.

The Tigers have managed to FINALLY get a few pictures together from this year's games--the site is still a bit on the unsophisticated side (which ought to tell you a lot, coming as it does from ME!), but at least they do now have something to show for the USC game (with Marine Sergeant Ian Hogg, famed for flying an Auburn flag from his Humvee--and be sure to check out the title of the .jpg), and for Vandy. GaTech? Missing in action, it appears. This one is rather amusing--check the one fellow in the background right between the second and third girls from the left. Looks just like Goober.

ANYWAY, having exhausted myself with the hyperlinks, it comes now for the time when we consult our efficient and down-to-business (yet still statuesque) Possumblog Chief Sports Statistician Ipsa Dixie to give us her prognostication for the outcome of the game.

As you all know, Ipsa has had a rough patch over the past month, correctly predicting not a single contest. As I mentioned in previous posts, she was severely chastised and given a raise. And she has since been very good about not touching Chet the E-Mail Boy.

She took today off to get a massage and a manicure and go shopping, but she did leave me a very nice note, which, after you mark out all of the rather vulgar suggestions for what I could do with my request for a statistical analysis and score prediction, finally came down to this bit of information: Auburn--35 Western K-Y--21.

So there you go.

Marshmallowy madness hits road

Quite possibly the longest article about Peeps you are ever likely to see in a mainstream daily newspaper.

Gravity is a stern taskmistress

You know, when I was in school, I usually never brought books home. I did all my homework in class or during study hall. The only time I ever remember having anything to carry books in was in the third grade, when for some unknown reason, we were required to carry a little cardboard satchel. It was blue and red and had a thin brass clasp.

I usually left it at school.

Even when I got to college, I never carried that many books with me, and never carried a backpack or briefcase or anything like that.

My kids, however, have been carrying backpacks since Oldest was in four-year-old kindergarten. Over the years, we have kept adding backpacks—they all have them now—and adding books. They have desks, they have cubbyholes in their classrooms, the Oldest has had a real locker for two years now, yet they all STILL manage to bring home what feels like an entire shelf full of books every day.

Over the years, the backpacks managed to migrate to the spot right by the kitchen table, piled up by the utility room door. Which makes passage nearly impossible, and you can’t just scoot them out of the way because they’re like kicking a sack of wet cement. Sure, it was convenient for them to get to, but a darned annoying circumstance for the two adults in the house.

Fortunately, there was one of those adults who in a nice bit of foresight had installed wire shelving in the laundry room a couple of years ago to hold the tremendous pile of fall and winter coats and jackets, which, like the backpacks, tended to congregate themselves right beside the kitchen table…or on the chairs, or on the table. “Hmm”, thought one of these adults, “if all the sleeping bags and clothes hangers and yardsticks and light bulbs and towels and fabric softener sheets and lengths of speaker wire were cleaned off the TOP of the coat shelf, students might have room to gently place their backpacks up there.”

So, the adult dutifully cleaned off the shelf, surprising himself about the sheer size of the space available, not realizing with all the other junk up there how commodious it was.

“Look children. Look. Look,” said the adult. “There is room. There is room. Room for backpacks.”

The children looked and were suitably nonplussed. “This is where you can all put your backpacks to keep them up out of the floor, okay?” ‘kay.

This has worked very well. They still sling them on the floor while doing homework, but they do put them up on the shelf afterwards. It’s hard for them when the packs are loaded down, but you figure it builds character.

I was getting them all ready this morning—Catherine in particular seemed to have OD’d on crabby pills, Rebecca was poking along, Ashley was avoiding doing anything resembling getting dressed, and Jonathan was busily dressing and playing in his closet when I heard the distinct sound of a Little Boy in Trouble. I wrestled a ponytail holder into Catherine’s hair and went out into the hallway. Rebecca was standing in the door of her bedroom, “What was that noise?”

“Well, it sounds like your brother has NOT BEEN GETTING DRESSED, and has been PLAYING INSIDE OF HIS CLOSET, and has GOTTEN BURIED BY PILES OF JUNK!!” Jonathan peeked around the corner of his door. He was sitting in the floor. “That wasn’t me, Daddy—I’m putting my shoes on just like you told me to do.”

“Well, it must have bee…” ::sigh::

I got Cat to brush her teeth and as she did that I went downstairs to survey the damage. Flipped on the laundry room light—nice pile of coats in the floor, a couple of giant black backpacks and one with pretty yellow straps. On the wall, an angle brace bent downward exactly 135° opposite its original up-pointing angle, and two big ragged holes the size of quarters where the wall clips had pulled out. One consolation was that the end pocket was still quite firmly attached. Then again, it never really held any weight.

Add something else to the honey-do list.

BUT, in the eternal quest to defy gravity, I must crow a bit about Rebecca’s Alka Seltzer rocket. She told me about it this morning on the way to school (after the shelf crash). Not all of the kids built one—it turns out this was for extra credit, so only about half of them built one.

Anyway, she said that hers went higher than ANYONE ELSE’S! TWICE!!

I tell you, that intensive testing process really paid off big. She said all the other kids had the wimpy black plastic film canisters, which we already knew by rigorous testing did not provide sufficient thrust. And she said they had some shoddy launch procedures which left the lids not fully fastened, allowing damaging leaks to occur.

Hers however, shot well over the six foot high mark on both launches, and the special reinforcing and waterproofing really paid off in durability.

She was very happy.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

We call it being muley.

Fritz Schranck has a great post from Monday about a situation that has been brewing just to the south of town for the last 13 years. ("Town" being Birmingham, "just to the south" being Mountain Brook.)

Read it all--it's interesting, and lays out what all has happened over the years so that even someone who's lived here can figure it out.

Well, my friend, you’ve come to the right place.

Earlier today there was a visitor who stopped by after searching far and wide for how to do a book report for an eight grader.

You know, hardly a day goes by when we here at Possumblog are not called upon to help out youngsters and their parents in their joint quest to circumvent the idea that homework is to be done by the student.

At least our querist is on the right track, and has successfully discovered the first step toward writing a convincing book report--disguising the grammar and spelling.

Oft times, parents will write the book report for their “eight [sic] grader”, oblivious to the usual poor quality of such works, and fill it with big words and fanciful ideas. Unless a concerted effort is made to conceal these, most teachers are able to pick out work done by parents because there are usually at least 7-14% fewer misspelled words, and the grammar usually sounds more “grown-uppy”.

So, be sure to throw in lots of phrases such as, “he done” and, “whitch is relly stuped” and, “duh”.

Second, the actual book itself is unimportant. Those yellow and black books in the bookstore are just fine; you don’t have to read nearly as much and they are usually cheaper than the real book.

Third, be sure to use very large font sizes (14 point is minimum, 26 is preferred), double spacing, 2” margins, a cover sheet, and a back sheet.

Fourth, the best thing you can do is get a really cool cover. This always impresses teachers.

There now, hope that helps! Let us know how it turns out for you!

Just one literary thing after another...

'Green Eggs and Ham' put into Latin
[...] Retitled "Virent Ova! Viret Perna!!" the Seuss classic has been rendered into Latin by Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers Inc. of Wauconda, Ill. The target audience is "people who took Latin in school and have fond remembrance of it, teachers and students who take Latin — and, of course, Seuss fans," Kelly Hughes, a spokeswoman for the publisher, said Wednesday. [...]
Well, whaddya know.

I'm not sure "chutzpah" is in the Law...

Hearing on extension for Moore stalls
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- A hearing on suspended Chief Justice Roy Moore's request for more time to respond to ethics charges turned into a debate Thursday over whether Moore could seek to disqualify judges on the Court of the Judiciary. [...]

Moore's attorney, Terry Butts, first asked the court to agree that by arguing the extension motion before the eight judges present Thursday, Moore was not waiving his right in the future to ask some of them to step down.

Several of the judges testily told Butts his request was inappropriate, and that he should have sought recusals before filing any other motions. Butts responded that he needed more time to determine whether any recusals were necessary. [...]
I'm sure that's probably a perfectly valid legal question, but asking it is painting an awfully large red circle on your chest--or rather, upon that of your client. It comes across as a rather poorly veiled threat upon the status of the members of the panel, whether it was intended as such or not. And it sounds as though that's the way they interpreted the question.

Just because all things are lawful, doesn't mean they're all expedient.

And speaking of writing stuff...

William Faulker was born on this date in 1897.

I blush to admit this, sounding as it does of mindless braggadocio, but my writing has been compared to Faulkner's. You will notice we both use each of the letters of the alphabet, and many of the same words. And punctuation! (How could I forget punctuation!?)

Hey, you know what this party needs!?!

Why, one of the increasingly rare excerpts from the fine little Everybody’s Writing-Desk Book (1901 Edition) by Don Lemon and Charles Nisbet, that’s what!

As you all may recall, this tiny little book was a Christmas present last year from dear Miss Reba—an O. Henryesque sort of gift, in that she has no idea about that I write this silly blog, but obviously she knows I need some help.

I have been doing bits out of it since December, and have just about pumped the well dry—it’s only 310 tiny little 16mo pages long, and more than half is taken up with WORDS OFTEN MISSPELLED, ABBREVIATIONS, and FORMS OF ADDRESS—ENGLISH, FRENCH, AND GERMAN. (Did you know that the proper way to address an emperor or king in English is “To the King’s Most Excellent Majesty”, and the opening salutation is “May it please your Majesty”? In German, this becomes, “Seiner Majestaat dem Deutschen Kaiser (und ‘Koenige’)”, with the letter addressed to, “Allerdurchlauchtigster, Grossmaachtigster Kaiser (und Koenig), Allergnaadigster Kaiser (Koenig) und Herr!” Nah, I didn’t know that, either. And a side note--I had to replace all the little umlauts and stuff because they were showing up as question marks and making a big mess all over the floor. The closest phonetic equivalents were substituted.)

Anyway, with all that stuff, there’s not a lot of room left over for some really good advice about how to write, but what’s in there has been just wonderful. And so, we come to the last bit of wisdom from this particular source:
4. Component Parts of a Composition

Unity.—The highest praise of any literary work is unity, by which is meant that its parts are all in perfect agreement, alike in substance and in form, all composing one complete whole. An artistic work is like the Cosmos, all conceived as a whole at one time in an one mood—in contradistinction to patchwork, which is made up of different pieces. The unity of any of the Gulliver Travels, e.g. is much admired. Everything in Lilliput or Brobdingnag is all on the Lilliputian or Brobdingnagian scale—the men, the seas, the navy, etc. Nor does Robinson Crusoe belie itself at any part from first to last. The Pilgrim’s Progress is also wonderfully sustained. In Flaubert’s Salammbo is no word referring to any time or any place but that of ancient Carthage.

Coleridge’s highest praise of Shakespeare is ‘self-denial’, or complete effacement of the individual writer in the subject. In Homer, Shakespeare, the reader is in the presence, not of Homer, not of Shakespeare, but of man, the world. The characteristic of all classics is quietness of style, i.e., self-equality, or strict subordination of all parts, down to the figures and words, to the whole. The bane of the magazine style, on the other hand, is the itch to shine.
Well, there you go.


Just got through sealing up my envelope with my nice list of continuing ed courses for the year, some sort of odd little survey, and a fat check for 150 clams--the last part causing much anguish and torment.

But, you may all rest easy now, knowing that I am legal for one more year.

Well, I'll be. Learn something new every day, don't you?

Via the Straight Dope, how those touch-on, touch-off lamps work.

Watching History Unfold Before My Eyes

Slammers signing first Tuscaloosa pro hockey player
They won't say who, but the minor league Alabama Slammers plan to make history by signing the first-ever Tuscaloosa native to play professional ice hockey. [...]
::sinff:: Kinda gets you right here, doesn't it?

(In case you want to know more about the WHA2 team, here's the link. No pictures of the cheerleaders, though.)

Man, them there French is just too clever... Rumsfeld Is Ace of Spades in French Deck of Cards
By Mark John

PARIS (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is the Ace of Spades and al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden a Joker in a provocative pack of French playing cards depicting "the 52 most dangerous American officials." [...]
...by at least half...France Heat Wave Death Toll Set at 14,802

More expensive by the dozen

Janis Gore (and LittleA, too--sorry not to pick up on that) both mention something I have noticed in the last couple of years, too--the increased cost for some products packaged in what we used to call "economy" sizes. I have noticed the same thing--toilet paper and towels and detergent and cereal and all sorts of other things that, if you bought the prepackaged bundle of 12 or the 15 pound box, would be more expensive than if you bought 12 individual packs or 15 one-pound boxes.

I'm sure there's some sort of perfectly valid reason ::guffaw:: why this happens, but it does seem awfully suspicious that after years of conditioning us power consumers to go for the bigger box since it will have a lower unit cost, and now it mysteriously has a higher unit cost.

Whatever--companies are free to set prices however they wish and make their profits, but this sure seems like a bad way to build goodwill. In the end, be smart and check the unit prices--take a calculator if you have to, and make sure to not pay any more than you have to.

Saying the darndest things...

Back at it again. You know, taking off work to go do other work just means you get further behind in your work.

Not that that has ever had much of an effect on me.

Anyway, got home last night to be greeted by everyone running around doing homework and trying to get ready for church and getting supper ready--more or less the normal madhouse routine. Rushed around, finally got the table set after moving everyone off somewhere else, threw some vittles down, said the prayer, and began chowing down. Somewhere in among the normal din of four kids all saying something at the same time, Rebecca was jabbering away about something, when she suddenly got a very thoughtful look on her face.

"You know, sometimes if I get bored, I will think to myself and say, 'A baby was just born.' 'There's a tornado happening.' 'There's an earthquake.' 'Someone just got married.' 'Someone just died.' All around the world, things like that are going on all the time."

All the other kids started chiming in with silly crap, and the whole thing degenerated into the idea that somewhere someone was breaking wind, but I still haven't gotten over the little leap of understanding she had demonstrated. She'll be eleven on Monday, and maybe by that time kids have some conception of the big picture, but there's still something vaguely odd about being there when the light comes on. Almost like seeing her when she was born.

Good kid.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Exciting news, via The Age!! Affleck, Lopez 'together'

Still not 'married'

Some say couple 'dim'

Po' ol' Jimmy the Rug...Traficant said to end presidential bid
CLEVELAND (AP) -- Former Ohio congressman James A. Traficant Jr. is no longer seeking to trade his prison cell for the Oval Office, campaign supporters said Wednesday.

A group that formed a presidential exploratory committee for the ousted Democrat announced that it will end a two-month campaign because of lack of support. [...]
Hm. Imagine that.

Well, now, again.

That sure was long. Even with caffeine.

Actually, it wasn't such a bad meeting, although I didn't learn that much new stuff. The nice fellow doing the presentation had himself a hundred PowerPoint slides, but the most interesting were the ones which showed just how...inventive...some roofing contractors can be when it comes to figuring out stuff in the field. It's all well and good to have a hundred slides with verbiage, but good sharp closeups are much more helpful.

He did have a movie in there of an ASTM uplift test which was really cool. The metal roof panels pooched up like the ridges on a Ruffles potato chip and then there was a crosswise buckling at midspan and then FPOOOM!, a whole seam gave way all at once. Tearing stuff up is just real neat.

And thankfully, he was blessedly free of most of the verbal gobbledygook that most salesguys fall into--maybe because he was from Iowa or something--but the only real jolting thing was his decision to pronounce "plethora" as pl&-THOR'-ah, rather than the way I've always heard it, 'ple-th&-r& (imagine the '&" symbols being schwas). Wouldn't have been so bad except he did it twice. Still, not near as bad as the laminated lumber guy from last year who insisted on pronouncing everthing wrong.

Did get to see a fellow I used to work with back at the Bad Place. He left a few years back and went to HealthSouth, and promptly lost his job when the SHTF with the accounting scandal. He looked around a while and never found anything, and started running a picture framing shop, which went bankrupt.

And then his wife lost her job.

Tough times, but he said he just found out he got hired back on at HealthSouth, to replace his boss. Nice raise, too. And his wife managed to find a job as a clinic manager for a local doc-in-the-box, so it has turned out okay for them.

We reminisced a bit about the Bad Place, including the bevy of HealthSouth babes that used to work in the same building before they built the Richard Scrushy Center for the Advanced Study of Richard Scrushy. One in particular, The Blonde Jaguar Goddess (a nomenclature necessary to distinguish her in conversation from The Goddess and from The Blonde Volvo Girl), he said he ran into at some sort of company function and actually managed to get a hug from her. So see, it all turns out okay.

Anyway, back to work now. Hmm? Oh, yes, there was a lunch. A neatly arranged plate of four lunch meat slices, two slices of cheese, a tomato slice, a piece of lettuce, and a basket full of loaf bread. OH, wait--and some slightly soggy potato chips on the plate. And a brownie.

Not quite the same as barbecue, I have to say.

Well, now.

That sure was interesting. (Although this opinion might be simply the lack of caffeine.)

Anyway, got the morning's meeting out of the way, and must now type like a fiend on real work before taking off to go to my last continuing ed seminar of the year. This one's going to be about the heady and exciting world of standing seam metal roofing, and will be held at the swingin' Holiday Inn-Oxmoor.

I am all a'twitter.

Again, probably just lack of caffeine.

In other news, Miss Reba really, REALLY liked her Barber's tee-shirt. Simply amazing--that got a better reaction than the anniversary lingerie! That's not a complaint, by the way.

So, anyway, off to the typing mine--I'll see you all later on this afternoon.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

"Strangely strange...but oddly normal."

More on that in a bit, but the continuing ed seminar was a blast. Despite not being able to make use of my sweepstakes tickets this past weekend, I still got to go visit the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, even if I did have to sit through an hour of incredibly dull Alabama Power Company propaganda. (Hee--I bet I get a comment from some gal I know who works there...)

And to make it even better, they had the barbecue I missed, too--little bit of pork, little bit of chicken, some beans, potato salad, a slice of pecan pie, and some sweet tea--in other words, stuff that'll make my blood turn to syrup. Sure was tasty, though.

As was the museum.

I've yacked and blabbered about this place ad nauseum in the past, but it really was a treat to finally get to see the place. They have a collection of around 750 motorcycles and a few cars, arranged in a huge, airy concrete structure with a central ramp connecting the various levels--it looks a bit like a parking deck, but despite the industrial materials and finishes, it really sings. The view out the window to the track and surrounding hills helps some, too.

The collection is incredibly deep, with an amazing assortment of bikes from glorified bicycles like a fully restored 1905 Indian Camelback (something like this, from another site) all the way to the spectacular and quite huge Honda Valkyrie Rune with its watercooled flat six and custom bodywork.

The nice thing is that not all of the motorcycles are restored--some have the patina of careful, long-term use, while others, like the racing bikes, have a fair amount of road rash; and then there are others that look as though they came right out of a shed. In any case, they are all impeccably presented and no matter how fanatically restored or just used, for the most part they can all be cranked and ridden. Not that I did that.

The title for this post came from a description on one odd bike, a 1995 Aprilia Moto 6.5, designed by Phillipe Stark (he of the craptacular line of Target non-necessities) as a motorcycle designed to appeal to scooter riders or car drivers. The styling, at least to bikers, was controversial, at best, but I kinda like it.

Another cool bike, especially if you hale from the Bottom Side is a 1996 Britten V-1000 racing bike, designed and constructed by a now-deceased young man named John Britten from New Zealand. The bike is full of innovative details and has a large number of carbon fiber parts including the frame and wheels. It is reputed to be one of only ten in the world.

As I mentioned, there are a few cars sprinkled in amongst the two wheelers, including a whole area down on the (inaccessible) ground floor restoration area full of vintage Loti, with a polished aluminum 7, three or so 11s, an Elan fixed head coupe (probably one of the straightest around) along with a pile of tiny Formula cars. Again, these were all beyond reach, but up on the third floor was a beautiful black John Player Special Team Lotus F-1 car originally driven by Elio de Angelis (teammate most of the time at Lotus with Nigel Mansell). I always liked the looks of the JPS cars.

In all, a great place, and they have a gift shop, too, which meant that I had to buy a couple of tee shirts. I'm going to give them to Reba, but I think she'll let me wear them.

Life Imitates Art Imitating Life, or, er...aw, who knows.

Via War Liberal and Weevil State University Dean of Library Sciences Mac Thomason, this interesting story from today's Birmingham News:
Suspended Chief Justice Roy Moore has formed a new legal defense fund with a $2 million capital campaign and the fund plans to build an institute to foster his crusade for displaying a Ten Commandments monument in a public building.

Moore's defense fund, an account once run by his lawyer, has morphed into the Foundation for Moral Law Inc., a Birmingham-based group formed by three close friends of the judge, including a pastor.

The group has raised thousands of dollars for Moore, and plans to build a two-story Christian institute to honor him in his home county of Etowah.

To help raise money, the foundation has offered electronic Ten Commandments clocks that play a commandment on the hour. The clocks sell for $19.99, plus $5.29 for shipping and handling. [...]
For any nice person we may have offended with our good-natured japes about selling polyresin 10 Commandments yard ornaments, or keychains, or decorative soaps bearing the likeness of Roy Moore, or any of the other fine line of Moorenumentals™, well, we weren't quite so far from the truth, I suppose, now were we?

(I wonder what happens the other two hours when there's not a commandment to quote?)

Yeah, I know, I know...

I said I was through for the day, but doggone it, sometimes things happen that just make a person very proud to be a swimmer in the Sea of Bloggia--such as when you get a visitor searching for philanthropical farting, and I'M THE ONLY SEARCH RESULT!!

Man, I feel so...special.

Not as special like Elizabeth Spiers, mind you, but special in that other way.

...and great was the fall thereof.

That old autumnal equinox popped up, and sure enough, it feels like fall today. I like fall and spring the best; sorta chilly in the mornings, nice in the afternoons. (Spring's best of all, though, because there's none of those annoying falling leaves.)

No soccer practice last night due to all the rain from yesterday, which meant time to actually sit down with everyone and eat supper, which was about like sitting down to eat at a restaurant with six strangers. "Hello, my name is Mr. Oglesby--and who might you be?" "Daaaaaaaddeeee, I'm Jonathan!! You know, your son?!" "I have a SON!?" Giggles all around. And you know, for it to be a bunch of strangers, that lady sitting next to me sure didn't seem to mind me rubbing on her leg...

Anyway, food, then homework--Rebecca has had an assignment for weeks now to fix an Alka Seltzer powered rocket out of a paper tube. She finally brought home the instructions last night, which was very convenient seeing as how it's due today. ::sigh:: (At least they come by their procrastination honestly.)

She has started off making a tube out of notebook paper, without realizing that the pattern was printed on her instruction sheet. Which meant her tube was not what you would call correct.

Enter Father, the Rocket Scientist.

First, we needed a film canister. You're supposed to plop an Alka Seltzer into it with some water and shove it into the end of the paper tube and when enough pressure builds up, it blasts off. In theory.

Got one of the myriad black plastic canisters from the pile of junk strewn throughout the house and sat down and we redid the paper tube so that it fit nice and snug around the canister, then retaped the pretty blue construction paper fins onto the side, and finished it off with a paper nose cone.

Found the Alka Seltzer box and began moving the rocket from the assembly area to launch pad 1A at Cape Possumaveral. Dropped in the tablet, slammed on the lid, shoved the paper onto the can, and sat the whole mess down on the patio table.




"Daddy, is it going to..."


The little lid popped off and the tube fell over. Well now, that was disappointing. I gathered up the remaining bit of Alka Seltzer and put some more water in the can and tried it one more time. pfft.

Well, by the hairs of Robert Goddard, this is supposed to do something better than this, surely! Got another tablet and took the can out of the paper and just sat it there on the table, and relit the wick. Pop. It went up about a foot this time, unencumbered as it was by any sort of payload.

Hmm. I did some quick calculations and figured that the lid had a friction coefficient which was not high enough to allow sufficient reaction force to build up in the pressure vessel. "Honey, I think we nee..." "We need one of those clear cans with the tight lid, because that one's coming off too quick and Kelli says she used one like that and it went really high." Well, yeah.

So, off to plunder some more. Mom supplied another canister, and by this time, we had also gathered another member of Mission Control in the form of a little boy.

Once again, we rebuilt the rocket, which by this time was thoroughly soaked toward the exhaust end, and installed the new motor. Water, tablet, shove, place, countdown.



Cooooool. The whole mess lifted up off the table a good two feet--the launch team examined the recovered vehicle and found that the motor had driven itself two inches up into the body of the rocket tube, which is pretty danged neat, you know. If it had been dry, it might have held better. We still had some more Alka Seltzer, so we did one more firing, which once again let out a satisfying pop. Alas, our launch vehicle was beyond repair--the structural integrity had been greatly compromised by the combined effects of dihydrogen monoxide and the wear of repeated motor replacements.

But that didn't mean we couldn't do more motor testing!!

So we went and got yet more tablets and filled up the canister with water out of the flower pot (it was more convenient than going back inside the house each time) and did two more runs.

POPPPP!! Nearly to the eave of the house!! We received a dignitary who wished to review our testing procedures, and the kids were nearly beside themselves telling Mommy how the water!, and the paper!, and it BLOWED up!, and it fell over!, and it popped!, and it WENT WAY UP HIGH!, and then!, and!, and!..."SHHH--y'all are going to make the neighbors call the police!!"

Final set up for launch, water, tablet, place can on table, countdown...



"Mommy, look, it's going to pop...NOW! 2...1...NOW!"



Danged thing popped all the way up onto the roof--20 feet up at least.

There was great joy in the power and success of the test--but no small amount of sadness at the miscalculation of the orbital trajectory which led to the loss of the test motor. And Mom, being the source of new funding and equipment, was in none too good of a mood about having to take out yet another roll of film so Rebecca could have another canister. But after much cajolery and backroom dealing, a new canister was procured.

And we had to rebuild a tube around it. This time, we made it a bit stronger, with better paper, and reinforced the nozzle end, and put a little paper strap across the top of the canister to hold it in place. Be interesting to hear how the launch goes today.

WHAT WILL ALSO BE INTERESTING, is that due to the horrid influences of the real world, I have to put up my blog toys and get some work done. Meeting in ten minutes, and other garbage to do, and then, yet another continuing education seminar to attend. Oddly enough, it's going to be held out at the Barber Motorsports Park--some sort of irony or something or other in that, eh?

And there'll be little blogging tomorrow, too, because I have my bimonthly bureaucratic exercise in bureaucratic excess, with all the attendent note taking and transcribing, and ANOTHER continuing ed seminar that afternoon!!

SO, not much possumy fun in the next couple of days--run up to the blogroll above and see what everyone else is doing, or go visit THE PROBOSCIS, the official campus newspaper of Weevil State University. You'll be glad you did! Maybe.

Monday, September 22, 2003

Trussville--Land of the Free, Home of the Merkel

Neat story from yesterday's Birmingham News about the good folks at GSI, Inc., who have a shop right up the road from me a piece, and who are the sole U.S. importer of Merkel shotguns. Which are not your average H&R single shot--they range in price from $3,600 to $60,000.

A lot going on in town this past weekend...

There was motorcycle racing at The Park that I didn't get to go to (but despite that, from all accounts it turned out very well with around 17,000 folks on Saturday), and then there was the Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival, which I also didn't get to go to. It, too, seemed to have gotten some really good press and had a record turn out.

It's a neat little event, and not one of those things you normally think about when you think of Birmingham.

Mmmmm! That's Good Night Hawk!!

As mentioned, one of our excursions included a trip to Wal-Mart for...for...for stuff, which also included groceries. Reba got some frozen dinners for us to take in our lunch--I didn't really pay any attention to them until just now as I was nuking it. "Western Charbroil -- Charbroiled Beef Patty with Gravy and Seasoned Potatoes with Cheddar Cheese." It's made by some company out of Buda, Texas called Night Hawk Frozen Foods. Never heard of it, and the tagline on the back of the box sorta made me a bit queasy:
Charbroiling... it's what has
made the Night Hawk Flavor Unique for
over 35 years!
Eww. Charbroiled night hawk.

But, where there's a frozen dinner, there's a story, so after about two seconds of powergoogling, I came across an article from the January 26, 2001 edition of the Austin Chronicle, which in minute detail tells you everything you need to know about this brand, which just happens to be one of those historical American food brands like White Castle or Howard Johnson's, and its founder, Mr. Harry Akin.

Interesting story.

And the food's pretty good, too. It has a nice charbroiled flavor.

Oh, kay. As I said, long old weekend—Boy had practice Friday night, which actually wasn’t so bad in that I got to be a taste testing guinea pi…possum for the guy in the concession stand. He had found some ribeye cutlets at Sam’s Club and wanted to know what they might taste like as a sandwich. Pretty darned good, overall. He heated one up on the griddle and threw some of those Chef Emeril spices on there (all the great taste of Emeril in a bottle) and it was really good. I asked him if they were going to have some steak sauce standing by, and he gave himself a Homer D’oh slap on the head for forgetting, but promised to have some for Saturday. Then I started getting all fancy and told him it would be good with some grilled onions, and maybe some of that cheese sauce from the nachos, but he was already shaking his head no. With as much business as they have, all that stuff’s just too much work.

But, I did get a free sandwich for being a test victim, so who am I to complain?

Saturday, we had a change in schedule so we wound up having to take two vans to all the various places—Boy’s game was over in the Clay pasture field (I’m not saying this to be mean—not really—but the only leveling their field has had was whatever the Bush Hog sliced off. Full of dips and rolls and it all slopes downhill.) We loaded up and got there around noon, and sure enough, the one field in our whole league without a restroom, and he has to pee. ::sigh::

“There’s the bushes, Son. You should have gone at the house.” This caused immediate cessation of the urge and a tiny pained expression at the thought of someone seeing him wander off into the scrub. Head shake no. “Son, you have GOT to go…you won’t be able to make it the whole game!” Head shake no. “I’LL go with you!” Head shake no.

I got his hand and we started walking over to the fire station. There were a couple of trucks parked outside, which made me think someone might be there. That, and it was a fire station. You just figure it ought to have firefighters. Rang the doorbell a couple of times—nothing. “Okay, I tell you what, buddy, we’ll go over here behind the community center—I bet they have a portable toilet back there you could use.” He seemed rather dubious about this possibility, and I was even more so, but I figured once he saw that he was hidden he would go ahead and kill some weeds. On the way over, salvation came in the form of a Mason—there was a lady at the Masonic lodge apparently cleaning up and about to leave and we caught her right before she came out the door. Poor little Jonathan was beginning to hop a bit, so she kindly let us in so he could use their restroom. Interesting place—I’ve never been in a Masonic lodge before. Probably broke all kinds of secret rules. One thing that mystifies me is why it wasn’t made out of masonry.

Anyway, he finished up seeing that man about a dog and we thanked the nice Mason lady for allowing us into their inner sanctum and it was back on down to the field.

The other team and ours were…uh…let’s just say we were equally matched. We held each other scoreless for the first half, and then we made the mistake of changing goalkeeper. Which meant that the score wound up being 0-4. ::sigh:: Little Boy played pretty good, but it was hot and all of them got tired out.

The worst part was having to share the sideline with the guy that coached his team a year ago—the loudmouthed lisping lumpen loon from Lackawanna. I SOOOO wanted the referee to send him away—he kept yelling and telling the kids to do stuff that was completely WRONG, and generally created confusion. Make it worse? He was fussing at other kids for making mistakes—he just doesn’t realize how fortunate he is that one of them wasn’t Little Boy. I put up with this joker being his coach for three months and didn’t say anything—because he was the coach, but he’s NOT the coach ANY MORE. I may have to oppress him, and show him the violence inherent in the system. He just better hope I get to him before Miss Reba does.

She and the girls left early to go on to Catherine’s game back in Trussville, and as soon as Jonathan got finished, we went on, too. Got to the park and it was packed to the gills, but luckily we managed to get a parking spot right by the concession stand. Cat’s game had started, but Jonathan was hungry, which touched off a bout of hungriness among the rest of the crew, which necessitated getting food. Ashley, despite being a pill about having to go watch stupid soccer (rather than being allowed to stay home and piled up in the bed watching teevee), did come with me to assist in the hauling of our food.

Four sandwiches (including one of those ribeye sandwiches), four chips, four large, tall Cokes. All in a nice cardboard box with a handle in the middle. This was actually a box for some of the other food service stuff, so the drinks didn’t quite fit exactly right. (This is what real writers call ‘foreshadowing’.)

Walked all the way across the hillside—rocks, slick spots, holes, and every other obstacle—all the way back to our spot on the other side of the field. Didn’t spill a single solitary drop…until I bumped the corner of the box on the back of Jonathan’s chair, which knocked over one of those big tall Cokes into the bottom of the box. ::sigh::

I was so flustered I didn’t quite know what to do at first, and to make matters worse, there was some old hag sitting on the stands who thought my predicament was funny as anything she had ever seen on that there Carol Burnett Show. She laughed and hooted and cackled and snorted—yeah, it was kinda funny, I suppose, but not THAT funny—and I had Coke trickling out of the corner of the box. I distributed the unspilt ones to the kids and Reba, grabbed the cup that got upset and tilted the box over to one side, so that it drained into the cup. Reba got the sandwiches and chips out, and after the box quit trickling, I dumped out the ice into the cup.


Still more than half a cup’s worth in there, even if it did taste a bit corrugated cardboardy.

Take that, you crabby old blabbermouth!

Cat’s game was pretty good. Poor thing still can’t run worth a hoot—she has a sort of stiff-legged heel pounding gait that in addition to being slow looks rather difficult and painful. But, she has a wild time—no goals this week, but she did manage to kick it several times in the general direction of the other end of the field. As with Jonathan’s game, there was a parent of one of the kids who just made the whole thing miserable—screaming and ranting like a lunatic. Hey guy, they’re just little kids. The other team’s coach also got in on the act, but fortunately there was one of the commissioners around who told him to cool it. I talked to the commissioner later, and he said the guy agreed to tone it down, but still didn’t think he was doing anything wrong.


Rebecca’s game got started while Cat was still playing. They played okay, but the heat was again a real killer and they got very tired. They managed to play to a 1-1 tie at the half, and kept it that way until the last two minutes, when the other team managed to get one over the top of our keeper’s head. Almost got it, but not quite.

Then we went to the store.

I SO wanted to go home and let them change, but there are sometimes Things Which Must be Done, so we made the rounds of the Big K and Wally Mart before finally getting home sometime past six. That was one long day.

Supper, baths for all, to bed, then right back up.

Get dressed, fix breakfast, then off to church. Gave a big handshake to our preacher, who just got back from three weeks in Russia, rode herd on my class of 5th graders, stayed awake just fine during worship, ran around afterwards trying to talk to everybody, then off for lunch at the place with Sriracha on the table, then to home, then change everyone into their soccer uniforms.

Team picture day, doncha know. And Rebecca actually had a game, in addition to getting her picture made.

Off to the park, stood around, Cat got hers made, Rebecca got hers made, and Jonathan didn’t. Seems no one except one other little boy from his team was there. And then, there was the sudden downpour! All the kids had been out on the field with three guys and their cameras, and then it was like someone turned on a hydroelectric plant. Buckets of rain. I had told Reba we needed to move up under the porch of the concession stand beforehand, so we managed to stay dry, but everyone else got soaked. During this time, Rebecca and her team had been down warming up, so they got drenched.

After about ten minutes, the rain stopped so Reba went on back home with the two little ones, and I got my chair and umbrella and headed out to watch Bec’s game. Almost a repeat of the day before. We were tied 1-1 until the last two minutes, when the other team cleared one over our keeper’s noggin. The girls seemed very down about this one—they had played very well, and to get beaten right at the last like that took a lot of steam out of them. But, there’s always next week.

Back home, five minute scrub down, back to church, long meeting afterwards, back home, supper, bed, snore, dream about ceiling leaking from all the rain, wake up, come here.


Well, it didn't kill me...

...but I sure don't feel any stronger. Dumb ol' Goethe.

Anyway, loooong weekend which is now mostly a blur. Part of which is caused be the brand new rain we got yesterday. Right in the middle of having soccer pictures made. You'll get to hear all about it, whether you want to or not, but I have to type it up first, which will take time and my staying awake.

IN THE MEAN TIME, it seems that the Weevil State University bandwagon really hit a nerve amongst our visitors here at Possumblog--for those who just can't get enough of the Fightin' Weevils, you may be surprised to learn that the Weevil State U. Journalism Department has started its own online version of the campus newspaper, the award-winning Proboscis. You can find out not much at all, seeing as how it's brand new, but that will soon change as soon as the rest of the Axis of Weevil membership are added on as contributing authors.

As with the paper version of The Proboscis, the online version will be geared toward keeping Weevil State's vast student body up to date on campus events and news, and will continue in the rich tradition of Weevil State's founders. Obviously, the paper's staff are still new to the cyber world, so the edges are a bit rough, but that will surely change as time goes on. Or not.

As a reminder, any of you Axis of Weevil members who would like to be contributors, please drop me a note via Chet the E-Mail Boy, and your name will be forwarded on to the editorial staff.

So, on to my Monday staff meeting (back in the real world) and I will see you all in a bit.

Friday, September 19, 2003

Weekend Stuff

Well, as has been documented ad nauseum in earlier posts, there sure won't be no racin', other than going back and forth to the soccer park. Thankfully, this weekend everyone's games are at home, which makes it much less stressful.

Last night was a bit on the fun side--Cat had practice, and Rebecca had practice, and I had my piddly little zoning board meeting to go to, and everything was at the same time. Reba took Tiny Terror over to her field, along with Boy. He went because one of the guys on his team also has a sister on Catherine's team, so they get to play together while she practices. I was tasked with dumping Middle Girl at the regular field--for some reason, she insisted we take the truck.

I'm not sure why she like Franklin so much, but she does. I made her put her hand on the gearshift and got her to help shift gears, which frightened her--the good way, like riding a roller coaster. She helped a bit but decided she would rather I stir the gears around. We were rolling down Highway 11, when out of the blue she piped up over the engine clatter and exhaust popping to ask, "Is Hooters a bad place?"

The things they come up with...

"Well, their waitresses don't wear much clothes..."

"Oh. Why not?"

::sigh:: "Uh, well, it's just the way they run their restaurant--they make the girls dress up in not much."

"Oh. Well, Amanda said it's a bad place and they don't eat there because the waitresses are almost nekkid."

"Yep, just about."

"Well, I am not EVER going to go to work there!!"

Y'doggone right...of course, she's still at that age where she actually likes me and would never consider the possibility of taking up a particular habit or activity to annoy the bejabbers out of me.

Let her out, made sure she found her coach, then headed back over to the meeting, which only lasted about thirty minutes, then it was back to the park, where the girls were just getting set up to play a scrimmage against the Under 12 boys.

The guys were wild as bucks--falling and flipping and kicking everything in sight, hard--but not the least bit accurately. The girls took a bit more time and very nearly scored, and a couple of them gave better than they got when it came to physical confrontations. We have some stout little girls on our team. It wound up 0-0, but it was a good game.

Hopefully, they will do as well Saturday and Sunday.

Little Boy has his practice tonight--I haven't planned on taking the truck, so maybe I won't have to field any odd questions.

In any event, we'll see what happens, and I'll tell you all about it Monday. Have yourselves a good weekend!

You know, she’s right.

Miss Janis, who is as devious and crafty as any person known, came up with the interesting idea that if the Axis of Weevil continues to add students and professors to its membership, we’ll wind up with our own university.

I, being rather less inventive but more pragmatic, noted the difficulty in creating a truly world-class institute of higher learning when we don’t even have enough people to make a football team and cheerleading squad. What sort of school would that be?!

Janis pressed her case, noting that we had all the necessary staff and administration, and that with the proceeds from our newly minted line of molded polyresin Moorenumentals™, we would be rolling in enough dough to buy two really nice used portable classrooms, as well as have great wads of cash in our trouser pockets.


I think I was much too hasty, perhaps…and with this being the Internet and all, who says we can’t have a football team, virtual though it may be? But what about heritage and history? Oh, heck, we can manufacture that, too.

Which is why the Axis of Weevil is proud to announce that we are now accepting student applications for the 2003 Winter Semester at Weevil State University!!

About Weevil State

Weevil State University, a proud and envied leader among the prestigious Kudzu League schools, is a non-traditional institute of post-secondary education, devoted to offering its students the finest in instruction and boon companionship. Its diverse and inclusive faculty is the finest in the country, and they allow Weevil State University to offer baccalaureate, masters, and doctoral level degrees in such fields as Applied B.S., Ad Hominem Argumentation, Ballistics, Parrot Linguistics, Eating, Work Avoidance, Professional Wrestling, French Manicure Technology, and Aerospace Engineering. (See course catalog for full list of offerings.)


Weevil State University was founded in 1541 by two members of Hernando DeSoto’s expedition through Alabama. Senor Eduardo Roberto de Santiago Castillo (Eddie Bob), the expedition’s ink grinder, pen sharpener, and stationery carrier, and Cabo Jaime Jose Mendoza (Jimmy Joe), a petty officer in charge of a detachment of ship’s caulkers, became lost in the densely wooded forests somewhere south of the present-day town of Fayette on their trek northward.

Greatly alarmed by their circumstance, they nonetheless exhibited the hardy spirit and inventiveness that is the hallmark of Weevil State University. They took stock of their situation and made an inventory of their belongings—according to Sr. Castillo, these consisted of
“…our clothing which upon our backs we carried, three blocks of best ink de chine, a bag of parched maize, fourteen sheets of best white laid quarto paper, five goose quills, a bucket of tar, an iron hammer, a book of bawdy engravings, a three-legged dog (which we must with shamed faces admit we named Hernando), a carved whale ivory ear wax spoon, and a small piece of stone which was reputed to have been from the kitchen of Abraham’s home in Ur.” "The Journal of Our Travails, 1541-1569" Castillo, p. 13
Using these simple items and their quick wits, they managed to befriend a local tribe of Native Americans who had taken them as war captives. Their chief, seeing that they were both useful and harmless, allowed the men some freedom to come and go, which they used to begin developing their idea for creating a New University in the New World.

Originally styled as “La universidad del gran conocimiento para los salvajes de ensenanza sobre la civilizacion con el uso de la intelecto astuta y superior por la tolerancia de Carlos, del rey de Iberia y de las Américas” (The University of Great Knowledge for Teaching the Savages About Civilization Through the Use of Cunning and Superior Intellect, by the Grace of Carlos, King of Iberia and the Americas), the University became known far and wide as a place of great learning, knowledge, and general smart-aleckiness.

Throughout the 16th, 17th, 18th, and 19th Centuries, the University attracted visitors and students from across the globe and established itself as a beacon of intellect in a wild and untamed continent. However, the true measure of success was the establishment in 1919 of the University’s first football team, which coincided with the renaming of the University.

The infamous boll weevil plague that devastated the Alabama’s cotton crop actually proved a blessing to the state’s farmers, forcing them to practice crop diversification which allowed them to greatly increase their income. In 1919, the citizens of Enterprise, Alabama, erected a monument to the pest in honor of its work. Not to be outdone, the Regents of the University voted to similarly honor the boll weevil by changing the name of the school to Weevil State University, which was especially welcome given the tiresomeness associated with reciting the entire name of the school as it was previously recorded.

The football team took on the name of “Fightin’ Weevils”, and like its namesake, proceeded to spread fear across the Southland, except rather than eating crops they spread fear with their gridiron prowess, just as they continue to do to this day.

Weevil State University Today

From our lush campus, still located somewhere south of Fayette, the faculty and staff of Weevil State University continue to pursue knowledge and build strong minds for the future. Go with us now on a tour of WSU

The Old Main—oldest building on campus, and location of the Registrar’s office.

Eddie Bob Memorial Student Union Building—here some of our ROTC cadets relax in the comfortable and spacious Student Union.

The Quad—many students find a walk across the verdant Quad the highlight of their day. The University Chapel is shown here at the end of the Business Administration complex.

Student Housing—We are justifiably proud of our safe and secure student housing.

Esther Williams Memorial Natatorium—The Fightin’ Weevil Swimming and Diving Team have continued to excel in their new facility, and have especially enjoyed their underwater clubhouse.

The Stephen Hawking Planetarium—one of the finest facilities of its kind in the world.

And of course, one of our most beloved landmarks, Weevil Field.

As you can see, we are blessed with a multitude of wonderful facilities, but it’s really our people who make this place what it is. And we want YOU to be a part of it!

Contact the Registrar’s Office today—you’ll be glad you did!

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