Monday, January 31, 2011

Happy Birthday Way Back Machine

Happy birthday to me. My favorite birthday card ever received had the following greeting in it:

For your birthday, may you enjoy wine, women and song...
...just make sure none of them are flat.

Props to my mama for a photo of my first birthday celebration. I find it interesting my gift was a horse because it seems I eat like one these days.

Here is the comment my mother sent with the picture.
We lived out on the hill. Dad walked on snowy and icy sidewalks from the newspaper office to the Woolworth's on the square to get the horse for your birthday.

Of course the Rogers boys broke it before you ever learned to ride it. We were excited about getting it and trying to help you learn to scoot along on the horse.
Realization #1: Those dadgum Rogers boys. I always knew there was something I didn't like about them. If I'd only had that horse, I could have rounded up a posse to go after them.

Realization #2: Its true! My folk did walk up hill in the snow back in the day. And here I thought it was just a rhetorical lecture to a lazy kid.


Friday, January 28, 2011

January 28, 1986

Two roommates and I lived off-campus during our final two years of college. We either carpooled to campus, or I'd bike there when the weather was nice. Precision became a bit of a game for us - how close could we cut it by leaving the apartment, deal with just a bit of college-town traffic, find a place to park, and still make it to our seats before the professor?

On January 28, 1986, one of my roommates headed to campus early to take care of some things. Chris and I stayed behind and said we'd catch-up with him.

One of the reasons we were waiting to go was because Chris wanted was to see a shuttle launch. He said he'd never seen one on TV before. I gave him a hard time about it because I'd seen many of them through high school and early college years. The timing of the launches was never really predictable because of altered schedules, mechanical delays, weather, etc. But the way the launches happened predictable. The thing rises slowly from the pad on a column of flame, the TV cameras struggle to focus as the orbiter gains speed and altitude, the solid rocket boosters separate gracefully and fall away, and the shuttle and main fuel tank continue until out of TV range. The whole process was predictable - yet I never tired of watching them. I couldn't believe Chris had never seen one.

We easily had 15-20 minutes to spare before class to watch the launch. The engines ignited, and the shuttle lifted from the pad - just as expected. Once it ascended a bit, something odd happened. The solid rocket boosters separated in a crazy, accelerating, smoke-belching pattern - not the graceful way as was the norm. Also, the booster separation was normally preceded by a *poof* of smoke - some sort of charge they used I guess to get rid of them. This time we saw a big fireball.

Having seen many launches, I knew this wasn't normal. Both of us stared at the screen, and Chris then said quietly "Is it supposed to do that?" I think I muttered something to the effect of "Um, no. Daayyum."

The TV folks picked up on the problem, and then we heard the voice from Houston through TV: "Obviously a major malfunction."

We watched a couple of more minutes and then clicked off the TV to head to class. We knew. Chris and I weren't the only ones in class to have seen it happen live; however, we were in the minority and began to spread the word of what we'd just seen.

25 years ago. It still just doesn't seem possible.

On Saturday morning, February 1, 2003, sadly and incredibly I witnessed the loss of a second shuttle live on TV as the story was unfolding and again in the presence of someone who'd never watched a shuttle launch or landing - my young son. I remember flashing back to the scene on TV in our college apartment's living room in 1986 when my son asked "Was it supposed to do that?"

May you continue to R.I.P. Challenger and Columbia crews.


Friday, January 21, 2011

Is it possible to be a really dumb idiot?

The world is full of dumb people, and the world has its share of idiots. But is it possible to be a really dumb idiot?

I've organized a boy scout trip to a university about 90 miles from home for the kids to earn a variety of merit badges. The trip is tomorrow (January 22).
  • Six weeks ago, I arranged for drivers.
  • A month ago, I reminded the scouts who signed up and their parents to mark the date on their calendar.
  • A week ago, I e-mailed them all again with our specific travel logistics.
  • A day ago, I e-mailed them a condensed recap of the same information. I provided my e-mail address and cell number in each message.
Appropriate level of communication, correct? Apparently not...

Middle Tennessee got a bit of snow last night. I knew it was on its way, and I told everyone I would e-mail, call, send smoke signals, or whatever else it took to communicate any changes in our travel plans. The snow wasn't a big deal, the roads are clear, and all systems are 'go'.

But then I got a call this morning from one of the scouts. Are we still going? Are we car pooling? What time are we meeting? What time are we getting back?

Huh? I told him all that information was sent in multiple e-mails and suggested he and his parents read it. He then gave the phone to his mother who asked me the same questions. So I told her the same thing.

Then I got this response. "Oh, we're over our data limit for our Verizon plan this month. So we're not getting any e-mails for now. That's not the best way to communicate with us." I responded with silence on my end.

She then said she also wanted to go on the trip to look around the campus and visit the engineering building to see if its a school where her kid might want to go. Noble goal I thought - let's see where this goes.

Her: Can I catch a ride there? You know, to look around the campus and all?
TMC: I don't mind your going. However, all seats are accounted for with the 3 drivers I've got. So you'll have to drive separately.

Her: Well, I'm not a snow driver.
TMC: The roads are fine. I was at the office by 7:30 this morning.

Her: But what about there?
TMC: I don't know. I'm not there. I'm here, but I'm certain they are fine - and will be even more so by tomorrow morning.

Her: Well, I really want to go to see if this is a university where my son might want to go.
TMC: As I said, you are welcome to go. I just don't have room for you in our vehicles.

Her: I'm not wanting to go just for fun. I want to go to help us make this important decision about college.
TMC: Time for me to go. I have a meeting to go to...uh, um...right now.

Her: OK. Well, let us know if there are more updates today. Just don't send them by e-mail since we don't have any internet access right now.
TMC: [Click]

Cue Antoine Dodson. She's so dumb. Really dumb. Furreal.


Monday, January 17, 2011

In recognition of MLK Day

Off and on the last couple of days, I've pondered if I should blog something about Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. During lunch today, I read the January issue of The Contributor, a newspaper published and sold by the homeless of Nashville, and a poem contributed by Jesse Hayes jumped off the page at me.

I don't know Jesse, but I think I understand the basic message of his poem knowing he has been homeless. Yet like all poetry and lyrics to a song, a poet's or composer's original meaning is often different when interpreted by the eyes, ears, heart, and mind of another reader or listener.

Reading Jesse's poem today brought to my mind images of MLK and the civil rights movement for which he so passionately fought.
The Struggle - by Jesse Hayes

Time after time I find I'm drowning in a sea of despair
doubtfully I open up my eyes searching for a road that leads somewhere
when it seems that all hope is gone memory brings back to me what your love has done
so I'll glory in all my tribulation knowing that it will make me strong
surrounded by a great could of witnesses
I'll struggle until the race is won
I'll struggle until the race is won
I'll struggle until the race is won

Faith is being sure of what we hope for
certain of what we do not see
when the trumpet sounds and Jesus comes to take us
I pray my faith will still abide in thee.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Separated at Birth - Journalism vs. Seinfeld

Newsweek columnist and author, Jonathan Alter ...

and George Costanza from Seinfeld...

I'm just sayin'...

Other Separated At Birth entries plus one from my racing-themed blog.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Feel Bad For You - January 2011

For over two decades I've really grown to enjoy Americana music. I hate the label hung on the genre by labels, media, retailers, or whoever came up with it. 'Americana' does nothing to describe the type of music, and folks are generally biased to think the genre is limited to artists/bands from the U.S. or even the North American continent.

For years, I felt like I may have been one of only a handful of people who enjoyed many of the singers and band included in the sidebar of this blog. In the big scheme of all-things music, I probably do represent only a handful of folks interested in it.

While the genre is virtually impossible to describe with a single adjective, folks who enjoy it get it. Marketing for many of the bands is done through constant touring in places with nominal ticket prices or cover charges, ReverbNation sites, Twitter accounts, support for bootleg trading, and word-of-mouth endorsements.

My exposure to new Americana music has been widened through on-line sites like, message boards, and list-serv subscriptions. But the last two to three years, my learning curve has taken another sharp turn upward by meeting several great folks and new friends through various blogs and Twitter.

A year ago, Matt from A Truer Sound invited many other bloggers and me to submit our top 2o Americana releases from 2009. He tallied the submissions, ranked them, and published the consensus as The Bird List. I was flattered to be requested to submit my choices.

In a parallel blogging universe, Rockstar_Aimz has diligently blogged compilations of Americana tracks titled Feel Bad For You for months. Each compilation was built around a loose theme and based on submissions from posters to an on-line Canadian music forum.

As the number of contributors has waned, Matt has stepped forward again. Beginning this month, a new blog site is now live to make Feel Bad For You available to you. This month's theme represents a pseudo-best of 2010 - top songs of the year or tracks from top releases. Again, its pretty cool because I've been asked to submit my choice for this month (Twang Town Blues by Jason & The Scorchers) and in the months to come.

If you want to sample some new music, these compilations will be a great way to start. Will the songs included meet your definition of Americana? I don't know and frankly don't care. I've already said the one-word adjective is too restrictive. But I am here to say these songs are really top-shelf, and the contributors are to be applauded for their choices.

Download the Feel Bad for 2010 compilation (MP3's here), or simply play it below:


Big Dogs Rule (Normally)

I generally favor larger dogs such as Labrador retrievers, German Shepherds, spaniels, boxers, etc. It just seems to me they are easier to train, love to please their owners, are generally more mild-mannered, and have an all-around better time than small dogs.

Having said that, I love it when any dog - large or small - outsmarts their owner.

epic fail photos - Sledding with Your Dog FAIL gif

From Failblog

I could watch this clip a million times - pretty sure I'm up to a quarter-million already.