Southern Man

Monday, October 30, 2006

Grand Prize

Another day, another new car dealer to collect the grand prize!

I'm serious. The mail piece had one of those scratch-off things (little silver cases just like on Deal or No Deal - one wonders if the copyright police will notice) and when I dutifully scratched 'em off I found that I had won the grand prize. Wow. Imagine that. I double-checked the name on the piece and sure enough it said "Southern Man or current resident" and that's me.

A careful search of the fine print revealed that the "grand prize" was in fact a $1000 Internet shopping spree. Given that this was the only prize description on the piece one begins to suspect that there may be a lot of grand prize winners out there. However, there's not much Southern Man likes better than to spend someone else's money on the net, so he ventured to the local Dodge dealership to check it out.

He did waste a salesman's time for a bit looking at a slightly used Dakota and then made off with the goods. Turns out you go to this web site here and pick out a thousand bucks worth of crap and they mail it right to you. Except there's a shipping and handling fee associated with each piece of crap, in an amount roughly equal to what the same crap would sell for at Wal-Mart.

And the crap was so...well, crappy that Southern Man couldn't even give that crap away. Best refusal was by one secretary who took a look, laughed, and said "I may dress like trailor park trash but not even I would be seen in any of that crap."

Score so far: cheap four piece luggage set and a crappy grand prize. But the Buick test drive for the $50 gift card is yet to come...

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Working For The Weekend

As Southern Man usually works on the weekends, this old song never really hit home. But now with a rare Saturday off, I kind of see what Loverboy was talking about. I could really get used to the occasional Saturday off.

As previously mentioned, teenage daughter needed a lift to and from a party and I ended up with both her and her little sister. We dropped older sister off at a local park for her party and went shopping at the local Sams. Well, not so much shopping as food sampling. Our local Sams is pretty good about having hot food samples out on Saturdays and we made several complete circuits. Then we ended up back at the park and just played around while the party wound down. They were doing some sort of treasure hunt, which looked like a lot of fun. Then, sadly, I had to take the girls back to their mother.

But then later that afternoon teenage son called to bum a ride to the local guitar store and to the mall, so I ran back to "her" house to pick him up. We also had a good time. We looked at guitars for a while and then he was able to spend much of a mall gift card that I had given him for his birthday last week. I treasure every minute I can spend with those kids - all three of them.

That evening my dealer-baiting accomplice of Friday night got her revenge and dragged me to a family retirement party at a local VFW, where we (or at least I) feasted on cake and the veggie and meat trays. Then we ended up at a local bowling alley, of all places. I hadn't bowled for years and years but still managed to break a hundred. On the other hand, she managed to dump a jumbo sized Pepsi into my good dress shoes. I'll get her for that someday.

The feasting continued on Sunday. After lunch some friends and I went to a local buffet where I probably ate enough to last me three days. And then church that evening was a dinner in the fellowship hall. I kind of fell off the wagon last week and have got to watch my portions and work out every day this week to make up for it.

And tomorrow it's back to work. Sigh. But in five days I get the kids (or at least some of them) so now I'm working for the weekend!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Wheeling and Dealing

It has been a long and tiring week, but Friday has arrived at last!

I don't have the kids this weekend (although teenage daughter just called to bum a ride to and from a party tomorrow, which Southern Man will gladly provide) and the Saturday tax class is over (the corresponding job interview is tomorrow morning) so the search is on for some weekend entertainment. Tonight's target: car dealerships.

Y'see, it has come to Southern Man's attention that gazillions of simoleans are spent each day on new and used car advertising. You may have even seen or heard this kind of advertising yourself. Southern Man thinks it's high time they spent some of that dough on him so he's been on the looking for test drive perks and has several stacked up. One was delivered just the other day by a uniformed representative of the U.S. Government and promised a four-piece luggage set merely for setting foot on the lot, so Southern Man bribed an unwitting accomplice with the promise of a home-cooked meal and away we went.

Southern Man is kind of fascinated by the whole new and used car dealer phenomena and has read quite a bit on how to (and how not to) buy a new or used car, so he pretty much knew what to expect and played it cool. The dealership was decked out in the manner typical of all these dealership special sales - streamers and balloons, candy and hot dogs for the kiddies, lots of bright lights and shiny objects, all designed to confuse you into forking over a sum equivalent to the cost of your first house for some auction-house reject that didn't sell at the first few dealerships either. Now, Southern Man's current ride has about a quarter million miles on it and he is in the market for a truck so he had the poor unsuspecting salesman ('Wil' with one 'l') show him a nice used truck, one that Southern Man would probably be happy to own. It was "too dark" to copy the VIN, though - at least it was according to Wil - so we then went back inside, talked payments for a bit (can you imagine $4000 down and $400 a month for sixty months for a plain old four-year-old F150?) and then said we might "be back tomorrow." You could just see his face fall. But Southern Man got his free four piece luggage set. It's just cheap crap but he's kind of a junkie for stuff like that. Southern Man and free t-shirts or luggage is kind of like waving a red flag in front of a bull - he'll do just about anything to get it.

Then we headed back to casa Southern Man for a huge dinner of spaghetti and salad. Guys, this is such an easy meal to prepare and it feeds a small army. Just dump a jar of cheap pasta sauce into a pound of browned hamburger meat for a pretty darn good meat sauce. Add garlic bread and salad and beer and no one will leave hungry.

Tomorrow morning the only thing on Southern Man's agenda is that job interview and ferrying his teenage daughter to and from her party - and to hit the next automobile dealership on his list. This time the incentive is a fifty-dollar gift card...

Sunday, October 22, 2006

A Taxing Weekend

Well, after about three hours sleep and with ears still ringing after two consecutive nights of high-decibel rock, I hauled my exhausted carcass out of bed to finish my tax homework and study for the morning quiz and afternoon exam. Class was intense; no break at all and he kept us half an hour late to try to get everything in that he could. Lunch was a burger from the Sonic next door, and then the afternoon was spent grinding through that final exam. It was pretty tricky and I either did really well or really poorly. With that done I was exhausted and just barely made it home...and crawled straight into bed, where I would remain for pretty much the rest of the afternoon and evening.

So today I got up and showered and dressed for church and the following lunch (which I was really looking forward to as I would have been able to see my girls for a while), went outside, and found that my truck had decided to take the morning off. The battery was so dead it wouldn't even accept a charge. I had become a little suspicious of it lately anyway so I guess it's time for a new one. At least it got us back home from Texas yesterday! I suppose at some point this afternoon I'll bum a ride to Wal-Mart with someone and pick up a new battery. In the meantime I have yet another lazy Sunday morning to relax and read and play games and update the 'ole blog.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Concert Review: Nintendo Fusion Tour

With ears still ringing from the Def Leppard half of last night's concert, my son and I headed for Dallas (well, technically Grand Prairie, which is on the back side of Dallas from where we are) at about noon for the Nintendo Fusion Tour 2006 at the Nokia Theatre. This tour has been a going thing since 2003 or so and in the past has featured bands such as My Chemical Romance and Fall Out Boy, which I mention only because they're the only ones I know anything about.

The best part of the trip was the drive down 'cause my son and I actually talked for hours and hours and hours. Mostly about music, of course, but just to talk to him was wonderful. I so want a relationship with him and I'll do just about anything to get it. And it took hours and hours and hours, too, as I'm not much of a speedster and we did have to crawl through Big D during rush hour. But we arrived with plenty of time to spare.

The Nokia Theatre is a pretty nice venue, with plenty of outlets for food and drink and a nice big lobby. And since this was the Nintendo Fusion Tour, that lobby was just packed with live Wii demos with long, long lines of scary looking emo kids waiting to play them. The controller is also a pointing device and three-dimensional motion sensor, which makes for some pretty awesome gaming. I'm not much of a console gamer (I prefer PCs) but with Legend of Zelda as a launch title it is quite tempting to get one just for that. Don't laugh; I've built many PCs specifically to play single titles. TIE Fighter and Halo in particular come to mind.

But we were there for the bands, which were (in order of appearance):

    Much to my son's delight I had procured pit tickets for us, so we got our pit admission armbands and headed down to the front of the venue where we met all sorts of strange (and strangely dressed and pierced and coiffured) and fascinating people. But as the time came for the first band to appear I retreated back to the mid-level deck. There were several small clusters of seats up there and I asked a security guard if I could sit in one. He laughed and said "Got kids in the pit, do you?" I staked out a good seat and spent most of the evening right there, with a great view of the action on stage and in the pit and with easy access to the lobby and food and drink. My son would stay in the pit for pretty much the entire five hours.

    I'm not going to try to review the entire show. I didn't care much at all for The Sleeping; Plain White T's and Emery were both good, and I really liked Relient K. The Emery lead singer did some pretty decent crowd surfing, which was fun to watch. My son will scold me for this but I'm not much of a Hawthorne Heights fan. I did watch most of their set though. He's played enough of it around me that I actually knew about half the songs they did.

    Afterwards he wanted to hang around and try to catch the band as they came out (he and the Hawthorne Heights screamer, Casey Calvert, have the same birthday) but they didn't appear. He did get his picture taken with some of the other bands, though. I hope they come out.

    Coming back home was tough. I hate to make long drives without someone to talk to (or hold my hand or rub my neck and massage my shoulders...oh well...) My son had already been up all night at a church lock-in and had managed to stay awake on the way down to talk to me only with the aid of some serious chemical stimulus (three cans of Rock Star and a two-liter of Coke) so he was pretty much crashed before we left the parking lot. I had kicked my caffeine habit years ago but was able to stay awake (mostly) with the aid of some good old fashioned rock and frequent stops for snacks and hot chocolate. I got him home at about two-thirty and was asleep myself about ten seconds after my head hit the pillow. For about three hours. The tax class final exam is tomorrow...

    Friday, October 20, 2006

    Concert Review: Journey and Def Leppard

    Well, it's been quite a day for Southern in the morning, go to divorce court in the afternoon (actually everything was already signed and notarized and delivered and he didn't actually have to go to court at all, but he figured that since he was there when the marriage started he ought to show up for the bitter end as well), and a double-header concert tonight.

    Our seat were at the "club" level where lots of those little private suites live (memo to self - when Younger Brother becomes a wealthy businessman make him buy one), which basically boiled down to (a) a fairly well stocked buffet and (b) bars with actual mixed drinks. We availed ourselves of the former, then found our seats and got ready for the show.

    As expected, most of the crowd were (like us) forty-somethings reliving their concert-going youths. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I for one had missed Def Leppard back in the day (saw Journey at the State Fairgrounds Arena, which wasn't much of a venue then either, and which was memorable mainly for a near-riot when a bunch of ticketless fans tried to get in anyway) and was looking forward to hearing them both. But it wouldn't be too far from the truth to say that the girls were there to hear Journey and the guys were seriously pumped for Def Leppard.

    Journey opened the program with a professional, tightly-choreographed (but fairly predictable) set with matching light-and-video show. No one was surprised that they played a number of hits from the band's glory days, with current lead singer Jeff Soto doing a fairly credible imitation of former frontman Steve Perry. A highlight for us up in the stands (well, at least for the guys) was a couple of fairly good-looking girls just in front of us who spent much of the set dancing together in what one might call a somewhat provocative manner. In short, the concert was pretty good - nothing really special, just a pretty good show.

    During the break between sets we took advantage of the bar for overpriced but fairly tasty 'ritas and explored the club level a bit, then headed back to our seats. Our dancing girls were missing but (much to the delight of the guys) we were informed that they had also headed out to get "liquored up" and would be back for a return engagement. As The Who's Won't Get Fooled Again (a song so cool it has it's own page on wikipedia) blasted from the sound system, one of our newly-met friends urged us to sit down and watch, as he'd heard that the band would come onstage during that tune. And sure enough, the soundtrack was joined on that amazing downbeat by the heavy-metal guitars of Def Leppard and we were on our feet and shouting at the top of our lungs!

    Def Leppard is still largely composed of original personnel, with four of the five current members dating from their first hit album Pyromania. And those guys can rock! They put on one of the best concerts I've seen in a good long while. Like Journey, they played pretty much all of the hits from their glory days, and they sounded just great. Drummer Rick Allen was particularly amazing. The only down side was that lead singer Joe Elliot pretty much lost his voice about two-thirds of the way through the show - but he didn't back down one bit. They made us feel like they really wanted to be there playing for us and I left even more of a Def Leppard fan that I was before the show.

    Our now liquored-up dancing girls returned and got back into some seriously erotic dancing and just about when we (guys and girls alike) were paying more attention to them than to the concert, some security drone came down and hauled them away. It's just not the seventies any more; back then they'd have both had their tops off and the concert camera crew would have found them and projected them up on the screen (as happened more than once in my concert-going youth). We saw them later, though; either they just got griped at and released or they managed to slip back in.

    And this is just the first concert of the weekend; at noonish I pick up my son and we head down to Dallas to see a bunch of emo bands as part of my birthday gift to him. I'm looking forward to that one too.

    Thursday, October 19, 2006

    End Of The Broken Road

    Well, as of about two o'clock this afternoon I'm now divorced.

    It's been a long four and a half months and I'm glad that it's finally over.

    But I hate like hell that it had to happen.

    Hate it, hate it, hate it.

    Tuesday, October 17, 2006

    The Only Financial Advice You'll Ever Need

    Southern Man caught this on the web the other day; it's Dilbert's 9-point 129-word guide to everything you need to know about finances. It's pretty good. However, everyman's favorite geek didn't get it quite right, so here for your reading pleasure is Southern Man's Annotated Guide to Financial Health & Happiness. It only plagiarizes Dilbert's plan a little, so hopefully Scott Adams won't sue me for it.

    (1) Learn to live on 80% of your average monthly income.

    This is a tough one for most people because they don't realize that a Starbucks frappuccino every morning and eating out five times a week and cable TV are luxuries, not necessities. Cut out what you must and learn to live within that eighty percent. You may find that you don't have to eat out and drink overpriced coffee all the time to be happy.

    Can't manage to live on 80%? Then try 90%. Or 95%. Even that beats the hell out of living on 100% - or 105% - of your monthly income.

    Now here's what you do with that unspent twenty percent (or however much you're able to put back), plus whatever extra income you pick up on the side:

    (2) Pay off your credit cards.

    Do whatever it takes to pay them off and then don't use them except within your budget as convenient or for emergencies. If you use them regularly, pay them off in full every month. Then that card is working for you, not for them; you're not paying interest or fees and as a bonus you're cashing in on whatever rewards program you have associated with your card. On the other hand, that frap can taste pretty bitter when you have to pull out a high-balance credit card to pay for it.

    (3) If your employer provides a 401k or 403b plan, fund it to the max every year.

    At the time we separated about four months ago, our net worth was a cool quarter million - not bad for a couple of schoolteachers. Southern Man's 403b and strict adherence to this rule was the main reason. That 7% employer matching is easy, easy money; only a fool would turn it down.

    (4) Fund your Roth IRA to the max every year.

    No, you don't get to deduct it like you do a conventional IRA. But it's only four thousand or so at most per year (at least for those of us that are already "participants" in other plans) and the interest earned is tax free. Tax-free growth: that's potent stuff, there. As a bonus, you can also borrow against the principle without paying a penalty. The younger you are, the more important this one is. If you're just starting out but can still budget a Roth IRA every year you will see quite a substantial boost to your retirement income thirty or forty years from now - not to mention a nest egg from which you can borrow at will and pay yourself the interest. Think about that next time you make a car payment that pays interest to some bank or credit union or (God forbid) car dealership or finance company.

    (5) Keep two or three month's net income in your savings account.

    And don't touch it unless it's an emergency or an unexpected opportunity, like the $500 deductible on that fender-bender or the upcoming Journey / Def Leppard concert at $100 per ticket. Use this money wisely and enjoy it - and when you dip into this fund, pay it back pronto.

    The above five rules are for everyone. No exceptions. This means you. Disregard them at your peril.

    And as a reward, when you've arrived at Step Five Southern Man will allow you to relax on that 80% rule every now and then 'cause you've got no big credit card payments to worry about and plenty of money tucked away for emergencies and budgeted for retirement. You won't believe how much better that frappuccino will taste when you know you've got money in the bank and it's a well-earned and well-deserved treat.

    Now, the following two rules are optional but still worthy of serious consideration.

    (6) Buy a house.

    The rest of our net worth was in houses and land. We sold our first house for about twice what we paid for it; the net result was that we got back nearly everything we'd paid in (including interest) over all the years we lived there. Southern Man may be stuck in a crappy rental duplex for now but he's already looking at houses and hopes to buy an undervalued fixer-upper this spring or summer and build up some serious equity in not too many years. And he's keeping that land, too - his plan to turn that equity into a retirement home out there one fine day remains in full force.

    (7) If you must play the stock market, put two-thirds into a stock index fund and one-third into a bond index fund and then ignore them until you retire.

    Picking individual stocks and chasing hot tips are losing propositions even for most professionals, and face it, reader, you ain't one. Buy index funds and hold them, and don't fret about short-term market fluctuations. I usually only look at my 403b balances four times a year, and then only because they insist on sending me quarterly statements. If you don't like my suggestion, find a different lazy portfolio and go with that instead. But you'll find that they're all based on index funds, just like mine. Now, Southern Man doesn't invest directly in the stock market yet (he's got kind of a cash flow problem at the moment) but if and when he does this will be the way he does it.

    Well, there it is - the only financial advice you'll ever need. And only seven steps, too; that's 22% leaner than competing nine-step programs. Use it and let me know how it goes. Southern Man's plan got derailed to some extent by the divorce (Step Two in particular is going to need some work) but he hopes to be back to Step Five or Six within a year. If this blog is still going then he'll let you know.

    Sunday, October 15, 2006

    Rainy Sunday

    As promised, the rain, rain, rain came down, down, down and I elected to skip church and sleep in today. And had a nice lazy cool Sunday morning. Did a little housework and a little laundry, watched a little tube, and generally just lazed around and read and played on the computer.

    I did manage to get out at about one and head for my workplace - not so much to work, but to work out. Sunday afternoons are good for that; the weight room isn't crowded and I'm not pressed for time as I often am in the mornings, so I got in a full hour on the treadmill and worked my way through the entire line of weight machines. And then, happily enough, my guitar instructor (of all people) ducked in and asked if I wanted to shoot some hoops with him. So we did, and had a great time, except that at the end I was up HOR to HORS on him and he still beat me with a couple of incredibly lucky long shots. We had spent my entire lesson time last Friday talking about our divorces (he is also divorced and has two small kids that stay with him half the time and her the other half) instead of actually having a lesson. It is incredibly theraputic to talk about this to other people. And we ended up praying together, which was pretty cool. It also saved me from the embarassment of revealing that I wasn't remotely ready for my lesson. I definitely need to get in more practice time over the next couple of weeks.

    Got a busy and event filled week coming up, including a birthday party at what was once "our" house and a trip to Big D with my son to see his favorite screamo band. Happy upcoming birthday, son - I hope we have a good time.

    Saturday, October 14, 2006

    One Night With The King

    Another busy busy (but, sadly, kid free) weekend....although I did get to see my son for about ten seconds Friday afternoon. Just long enough to give him some stuff he'd left over here last weekend and say "I love you." Not living with your kids really, really sucks.

    Tonight was another first for casa Southern Man - I actually cooked a meal, of sorts, for someone else. Now recall that this is Southern Man talking here - any time I have to open more than two cans or turn on a burner, that's "cooking." But it worked out well. I've had half a dozen can of beans sitting by the cooktop for about a month now, waiting for an opportunity to make what I call taco soup. It was surprisingly easy:

    Brown a pound and a half of hamburger meat. When it's nearly done, stir in a package of taco seasoning. Drain the grease before using. Try not to burn your mouth while sampling the goods.

    Dump five or six cans of beans into a stock pot. I like a mixed variety - pinto, ranch, black, kidney, you name it. Add a jar of salsa and a can of tomato paste. When the hamburger meat is ready, add about a pound. Simmer on low heat for an hour or so. Mmmm, mmmm, good!
    Then use the rest of the meat on a couple of plates of super nachos - chips, cheese, jalepenos, black olives, tomatoes, sour cream, spicy hot hamburger meat...yum. Add a couple of beers for the perfect casual dinner. And I now have four tupperwares of delicious taco soup in the freezer for lunches next week. Next time I think I'll drop some dried onions in as well.

    The dark side of a late evening feasting on nachos and taco soup was that I was then up until two in the morning doing homework for my Saturday tax class. And when I got to class the next morning I found out that I did half of it wrong. Oh, well. Next week will be the end of that particular burden. Hopefully I'll pass the damn final exam and get on as a part time tax preparer and will make enough extra money for all this to have been worth the effort. They keep asking me if I'm going to take the second six-week course. The answer is a firm "no." I want my Saturdays back.

    But the fun never stops with Southern Man - after class and a nap I got an invite to see the new movie about Queen Esther, One Night With The King. This time the link goes to the movie home page, not rotten tomatoes; the tomatometer didn't much care for this one. And for good reason - the production was a bit uneven, and headliners Peter O'Toole and Omar Sharif never shared the screen (in fact, O'Toole appears only briefly in a 500-year-previous flashback as the prophet Samuel). But one of my favorite actors, John Rhys-Davies, is just wonderful as Mordecai and James Callis was equally terrific as Haman. In spite of the raking it's gotten from the critics, I give this one a thumbs up.

    We ended up at a local pub-and-grill for drinks and snacks and got to hear a few minutes of a local band that called themselves "Yes, No, Maybe." They did some nice Eagles and Zepplin covers. Alas, they came on as we were about to leave and we didn't stay for their entire first set. I kind of wish I had; I'm kind of a sucker for halfway decent cover bands.

    The forecast for tomorrow is rain, rain, rain all morning long. I'm already planning to sleep in.

    Sunday, October 08, 2006

    Paradise Lost

    It's Sunday evening and about the first chance I've had to sit down after a long but very fun weekend.

    I had all three kids for the first time in well over a month, which was just great. Our first stop was a local mall, where I cut them loose with a little pocket money and then wandered around with my youngest daughter for a bit. She found an overpriced but still cool drawing pad at the Disney Store. That girl is pretty big on any kind of drawing paraphernalia. In an unexpected reversal of roles, my older daughter bought computer games and my son bought clothes. Go figure.

    We ate at the mall and then headed home for the main event. They wasted little time before settling down in front of the tube for a lengthy session of Lost. That was pretty much it for the evening, and everyone folded by midnight or so.

    Next morning I had to rouse them all early, feed them (McDonalds) and get them out to my folks so I could go to my Saturday tax class. That done, the next event was dinner back at my folks combined with a quadruple birthday celebration - my son, my mother, and two of his cousins. That was a lot of fun as well and ended up with 'most everyone playing football until dark. We then headed back to casa Southern Man (with a brief detour at Wal-Mart so my son could blow his birthday money on Atreyu and Silverstein CDs) for baths and showers and lots more Lost. The girls faded early but my son lasted until nearly two a.m. and only quit then because I couldn't stay awake any longer and sent him to bed.

    Next morning I had to rouse them all early, feed them (waffles and bacon and cereal and toast) and get them to church in time for Sunday School. That done, I went to my own Sunday School class but then skipped out of our regular service early to attend the noon service at a local megachurch. This is an outfit whose music and video production staff probably outnumbers my little church's entire congretation. The opening "praise and worship" music was pretty spectacular and quite professionally done (and I believe is streamed live on their website); the message was prerecorded on video. I'm still deciding whether I like it or not. Then I ended up having a nice long lunch out with some new friends (who will probably give me a hard time when they read such an ambivalent review about their beloved church) so I didn't even get home until mid-afternoon.

    And tomorrow and Tuesday are Fall Break! Whoo hoo! I'm sleepin' in tomorrow morning!

    Tuesday, October 03, 2006

    Lost and Found

    In Southern Man's continuing quest to ensure that his older kids are adequately entertained when dragooned into enforced visitation with their Dad (which, for various reasons, is increasingly a problem) he ordered the DVDs for the second season of Lost a while back. The kids really like Lost (as does Southern Man) and it would probably amuse them to review the second season before the third gets underway. Besides, Southern Man doesn't watch much tube and never saw any of the second season episodes anyway. And don't you dare spoil it for him, either. That goes double for you, Goldie.

    Then it got interesting.

    Yesterday afternoon, Southern Man paid a visit to his order-tracking page and found, much to his surprise, that Lost showed as having been delivered on Saturday. Sorry, no. Insert joke about lost Lost DVDs here. Southern Man's duplex is served by one of those mailbox clusters down the street but there are a couple of lockboxes there too. Alas, no lockbox key was in his mail. However, the USPS often just dumps packages on the front doorstep instead of actually securing them in the lockbox like they're supposed to. Could Lost have been lost to a nosy neighbor? Delivered to the wrong doorstep? Orbiting somewhere in post office limbo? Only one thing to try, and that's to call and find out.

    After a bit of exploring on the web (no luck - and oddly enough the tracking link on Amazon worked fine but plugging the number directly into a USPS tracking page did not) Southern Man got the brilliant idea to call his local post office. Sometimes he gets so deep into the Internet that he forgets that there's a perfectly good hard copy phone book downstairs. Alas, all of the "local" post offices had the same 800 number. Oh, well, that was the only game in town, so he called,,,

    ...only to enter a maze of twisty voice menu options, all alike.

    Southern Man eventually said "lost package" at the right place and time and with the proper voice inflections and actually got a live human on the other end. And that live human actually offered to submit a "lost package" report to the local post office. That was more than was expected, so that offer was gladly accepted.

    And, believe it or not, today Southern Man got an early-morning call from yet another real live postal worker that worked right here in his home town. Amazing. After some checking this nice man reported that the package had indeed been left at Southern Man's doorstep, not on Saturday, but on Friday. And he distinctly remembers the dog barking furiously inside the house.

    Problem is, Southern Man doesn't have a dog.

    Hmmm, said the nice man. Let me talk to the sub that ran your route on Saturday and see if he knows anything. And I'll call you back today. I promise. That was good enough for Southern Man, who has the bad habit of taking people (even government bureaucrats) at their word.

    Like I said, it's a bad habit. Southern Man gave up at about five this afternoon and called the nice man back (thank the Lord for "recieved call" lists on cell phones). He wasn't there. The equally nice lady who answered the phone took my information and said he'd get the message in the morning. And Southern Man pretty much gave up his Lost DVDs and a hopefully pleasant surprise for his kids that weekend for lost.

    And then he got home after his evening class and, lo and behold, there was an Amazon package on the front step. And sure enough, the lost Lost DVDs were found again. How this was accomplished is a complete mystery (much like the plotlines in Lost itself). But it doesn't matter how or why - throw some popcorn in the microwave and open up the chips, it's gonna be a Lost lock-in on Friday night at casa Southern Man!

    UPDATE: Ran into the mail carrier on Wednesday afternoon; he said that they'd been left in a mail lockbox at the other end of the street. Mystery solved, but it does make one wonder how things like that happen.