Southern Man

Saturday, September 30, 2006

H&R Blocked

Southern Man considers himself to be a fairly smart guy. He's got a PhD in nukular physics, for cryin' out loud. But this Saturday tax course makes him feel about as dumb as a box of rocks. The homework last night would have had him kicking the dog and tearing his hair out, if he had either. Favorite quote from today's class: "There's the right way to do this, and then there's the (company name omitted so that Southern Man doesn't get sued) way. Guess which one we'll use?"

But anyway the course is already half over and I have learned quite a bit - certainly enough to make my Schedule A a much more creative piece of work than in previous years. And I'm so looking forward to that three hour final exam in a few weeks. Now just why is it that I'm giving up my Saturdays for the purpose of working through the Christmas holiday for ten bucks an hour? Oh, yeah, got my divorce lawyer's most recent bill the other day. I knew there was a reason.

So for your general amusement here's the official IRS form for solving the quadratic formula. Share it with a teacher you love and tell 'em Southern Man sent ya.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Slow Ride

placeholder, will update tomorrow...

Saturday, September 23, 2006

State Fair

The weekend with Southern Man's seven-year-old daughter picked back up again late afternoon when we headed to the fair. It was a beautiful fall evening and the midway was packed. We grabbed a handful of tickets and she led me through about a dozen rides, only one of which nearly killed me. Roller coasters are bad enough, but the Spinning Teacups of Death just about did me in. But we had a terrific time. She wore out after about three hours and once we settle down back at my place after dinner she only lasted about three minutes into the movie. She's such a sweet girl and I treasure every moment I have with her.

Tomorrow I'm going back to the fair to hear Foghat in concert, who I last saw opening for Boston's first nationwide tour way back in the day. A couple of other forty-to-fifty-somethings from work are also planning to go. The concert is free with fair admission, which doesn't give me a lot of hope, but it will be fun to relive the glory days of our concert-going youth. Let's hope we can raise our lighters to a nice long concert rendition of Slow Ride tomorrow!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Miller Time

The only thing worse than being the non-custodial parent is being the non-custodial parent of really active teens. So for the second visitation weekend in a row the older kids have commitmements elsewhere and I only get the youngest third of my offspring. And because of my Saturday tax class I don't even get her the full time. But so far it has been a good visit.

I picked her up after work, we did a little shopping, and then headed out to my folks for pizza and salad and general fun with...well, might as well give the entire cast of characters for tonight: the aforementioned seven-year-old daughter, Southern Man's sister and her adopted child (who is one of my daugher's favorite playmates), another nephew (the youngest son of Southern Man's brother), and Southern Man's parents. After the meal we headed out to the local high school football statium (the alma mater of Southern Man and his siblings) for the game, mainly because yet another nephew is first trumpet in the high school marching band and would be featured in the first portion of the half-time show.

You've never seen a crowd like that in your life. The home team (named the "Millers" after the once-famous flour mills that still stand in the center of town) was heavily favored to have their butts handed to them by the opposing team, but the home-team stands were absolutely packed. It was some kind of featured "game of the week" and one of the local UHF stations was broadcasting the game live (which we of course recorded back home). But a more likely reason for the crowd was that the other part of the half-time show was provided by about three hundred cute little elementary-school-aged girls who had just finished some kind of cheerleading camp. Each one probably had mom and dad and brother and sister and grandma and grandpa and God knows who else in the stands, where it was definitely standing room as half-time approached.

Anyway, the marching band was great. My nephew played a couple of nice solos. Then we walked around to where my brother was working the concession stand and pestered him for a while. We had a great talk, then gathered up the clan and headed back to my folks only to discover that the station went to either commercial or a sideline interview during both of my nephew's solos and they didn't make the broadcast. I left my daugher there to spend the night with her grandparents and headed back to Casa Southern Man to do my tax homework for tomorrow morning. Exposure to the consession stand had left me with certain cravings, so said homework was done with the aid of a big bowl of popcorn and a beer - and of course it was a Miller. That is definitely the best way to deal with taxes.

Tomorrow after class the plan is to head to the State Fair. Stay tuned for tomorrow's update...

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Breakfast At IHOP

Southern Man's teenage daughter had a dentist appointment this morning, which created an unexpected opportunity to see her early, take her to breakfast and then to her appointment, and finally drop her off at school. Breakfast was just great; she sat and chattered on and on about her new school and classes and her gang of friends and an alleged boyfriend (I'll have to check in to that later) and I just sat there and listened and smiled and was just as pleased as can be to have an hour with her all to myself. She is a bright, lovely, talented, vivacious young lady who means the world to me and I don't get to see her nearly enough. If you read this, honey, know that your dad misses you terribly and loves you lots and lots!

And now back to work. Sigh. Well at least I get to have lunch with some of MY gang today. We are supposed to be putting a video together for church which is due in a month or so and we had better get cracking on it.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Seventh Day

On the recommendation of a friend I tried a new Sunday School class today. They're mostly an older crowd and the lesson was cobbled together from various passages in Proverbs (I generally don't care much for lessons drawn from the Old Testament) but was still pretty good. There was no evening service scheduled so that all of the Sunday School classes could gather for their own evening fellowship so I decided to go to theirs that evening as well.

The class teacher has a pretty good sized workshop with a truly impressive collection of antique blacksmithing and woodworing and barrel-making tools. We spent close to an hour in that shop just browsing around. There was a nice writeup about it a few years back in the local paper and if I can find it online I'll come back here and put in a link. I have a mild interest with blacksmithing myself and may make a trip back there just to look around again.

But what really counted for me was the devotional and prayers we had after our meal. I have hardly ever seen a group that cared so deeply for one another. And they are about the prayinest bunch of folks I've ever seen. The "service" went for well over an hour and it felt like about fifteen minutes. I've held on to my old class since the separation but now I think it may be time to let that part of my past go and look more towards whatever future God has in store for me. Lord, I thank you for your guidance and direction and healing. Looking back on the last few months I see how you have done great works and performed such amazing healing in my life. Now I pray that you would continue to guide me and direct me as I look forward to the new path to which You have appointed me. Amen.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Survival 101

Well, I see that this blog hasn't been updated in a while. The reason is simple: Southern Man has been busy, busy, busy for the last few weeks. However, not so busy as to deprive the blogosphere of the first edition of Southern Man's Survival Tips for Single Guys. Today's issue covers one of the most important needs in the single man's life, and that is food.

Oh, you were thinking of that other most important need in a single man's life? Sorry, got nuthin for you on that. Check back in a couple years, or post your own tips if you got 'em. Do remember that this blog is rated PG, not NC-17.

And I'm not talking about procuring food using the time-honored methods of VISA or Discover. I'm talking about actually preparing food in a kitchen. That's the room with the sink and the cooktop, by the way, if you've never actually been in there. At some point you have to quit eating out three times a day and learn to cook at least some basic meals. So here are some tips to get you started:
When milk is on sale, check the expiration date. There's a reason when milk that's normally $3 per gallon is suddenly marked down to $1.38, and that's usually it.

Ditto for soft drinks. When name brand soda is on sale for $2 a case, that means it was abandoned in a hot semi trailer for a couple of weeks and has been chemically transmuted into the equivalent of your middle school kid's science experiment. On the other hand, when you forget this rule you can call the toll free number on the can and complain and they'll send you coupons for free cases. Try to keep these requests down to one or two a month; more than that is just plain greedy.
The above are specific example of a more general rule: you get what you pay for. Consider the difference between name brand chili at $2.79 a can and the generic stuff at two for a buck. The first is sometimes edible; starving stray dogs will turn their noses up at the second. The only known exception to this rule are some of the generic cold cereals, which can actually be pretty good as long as you don't pour that $1.38 milk on 'em.
The little one is the "teaspoon" and the big one is the "tablespoon." Don't ask why, just remember it. While we're on the subject of kitchen measurement: there are three teaspoons to a tablespoon, two tablespoons to an ounce, eight ounces in a cup, two cups to a pint, two pints in a quart, and four quarts in a gallon. And you thought the damn metric system was hard. If you need more information than that, what you're trying to do is too complicated; throw it all down the disposal and go to Chilis instead.

When following a recipe, ignore terms like cream, blend, whip, beat, fold, stir, and sift. Just dump the stuff into a big bowl and bash at it with a tablespoon (that's the big one, remember?) until it's all mixed up.Your oven will never know the difference.

Lots of food has what's called a shelf life. That means it don't last forever. Be aware of this and eat things before they grow legs and walk away. Rotate your fruits and veggies (you are buying fruits and veggies, aren't you?) and keep an eye on your leftovers. In fact, write dates on your to-go boxes and throw them out if they get a couple weeks old. Take-out Chinese does not age as well as you might expect or hope.

However, some things can still be eaten fairly late in the game. In particular, overripe apples make good apple butter and mushy brown bananas make terrific banana bread. Find good recipes for apple butter and banana bread and learn to make them. Don't worry about cream, whip, blend and all that, just throw the stuff together and it'll turn out just fine. Trust me.

The directions for heating frozen foods are always for a microwave you don't have, so ignore them. Instead, nuke for two minutes and check. If it's not hot enough, do it again. Repeat until you're hungry enough to eat it anyway. Note that "nuke" is the only microwave setting you'll ever need.

If you're like Southern Man and have kids that deign to visit on occasion, keep plenty of kid food in the house. Southern Man's girls are content with Easy Mac and Kid Cusine and his son will eat canned clam chowder and ramen noodles and all will eat various flavors of Hamburger Helper. Find out what your kids like and keep plenty of it around. Also keep candy and chips and popcorn and ice cream and their favorite drinks in the house. You do want them to come back, don't you?

Learn to cook one meal well. You never know when you'll need to entertain and guests are impressed if you can actually produce something in the kitchen. Spaghetti is relatively foolproof, especially if you grab a loaf of hot garlic bread on the way home, make the sauce by dumping a jar or two of the cheap stuff into a pound of browned and drained hamburger meat, and buy Caesar salad mix in the bag. Dry spaghetti can sit in the pantry forever but don't forget about shelf life on that salad. No one is impressed by brown Romaine.

Note that a few enlightened companies now realize that there is a market for the kitchen impaired. That's you, by the way. Seek out their products and buy them. You can get some surprisingly good meals that require little preparation once you know where to look.

OK that should be enough to get you started. If you have your own tips, post 'em and I'll steal the best ones for the next edition of Southern Man's Survival Tips.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Cruzing with Edgar

The only thing that's really wrong with Labor Day weekend is when it's over you're right back to laboring again. But Southern Man did have an opportunity for some additional relaxation when reknown guitarist Edgar Cruz dropped by his place of employ for a Tuesday evening concert. It was just terrific. If you've never heard him play, it's well worth an evening of your time. He did a number of favorites from his many CDs, took a break (during which I purchased four CD and got them all autographed by Mr. Cruz), and then took requests (including mine, which he strung together into a sort of medley) and then ended the show with the Ten Greatest Guitar Riffs Of All Time. That alone was worth the cost of admission. Which was free, but you know what I mean.

Cruz is a "fingerstyle" guitarist and doesn't use a pick. His fingernails are as hard as...well, nails. You know how difficult it is to get that stupid plastic shrinkwrap off of a new CD? He just sliced them in half with a fingernail. It's like a super-power or something. That was almost as amazing as watching him play guitar.

Southern Man is a regular shopper at's used marketplace, but the best way to get Edgar Cruz CDs is at his web site. So please go buy some right now, and tell him Southern Man sent cha.