Southern Man

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Geocaching on Black Friday

Some folks shop on the day after Thanksgiving, but Southern Man stays as far from the stores as he can on Black Friday. He grabbed his son, his brother, and a nephew and went geocaching instead.

We had a pretty good time. It was only the second time out for me, and the first for everyone else. I came prepared with printouts and Google Earth photos of all of the sites. The batteries on Southern Man's little borrowed GPS died early in the game but his brother had his aviation-grade Garmin GPSMAP 295 from his flying days and that was just great. We found five caches before we had to give up due to the park police giving us strange looks as we searched for the last one. Then we had a bit of car trouble and called it a day.

These last two days of Thanksgiving have been a lot of fun. I've been able to spend a lot of time with my son, which has been marvelous. The girls have also had a good time; they spent the night at my folks and went to movies with my sister while the boys and I were out and about. I still have them tomorrow, which will be a pretty unstructured day. Hopefully we'll put up my new Christmas tree and decorate it. But I'm looking forward to just having my kids around for another day.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

All In On Three Pair

Thanksgiving Day with the family recap to come, but one episode must be told immediately. We (that is, Southern Man, his two older kids, his brother, and his sister) commenced to playin' some serious Texas Hold'em after lunch. OK, not that serious; the buy-in was just five bucks. But, still, that's real money on the table. At any rate, one member of the family was a bit fuzzy on the rules (best five-card hand with the seven cards you have) and went all in on three pair. Three pair? Well, sorry, but you can't have three pair in a five-card hand. The look on his / her face when he / she was informed of this error was...priceless. And, no, the highest two pair he / she had wasn't quite enough.

What's even funnier is that this player had the most chips and so survived this error, and then went on to place third and got his / her five bucks back. On the other hand, Southern Man got taken to school and was the first one out. So Southern Man was a total loser but at least he didn't go all in on three pair.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Test Drives

The current crop of test drives ended today with a double-header. First stop was at a Buick dealership where the deal was to drive any vehicle with Buick's "in-car navigation system" (whatever the heck that is) to earn a $50 gift certificate but Southern Man ended up drooling over a gorgeous 2006 Rainier instead. Southern Man really is (sort of) in the market for a new vehicle, as his current ride (a '91 Explorer) is sixteen years old and has about a quarter million miles on it, but the Rainier hadn't even been on his radar until now. It was pretty enough to convince Southern Man that maybe he doesn't really want a pickup after all and should get another SUV. Across the lot, Southern Man's partner in test-driving-for-dollars crime drove a perky little G6. Yeah, just like the ones that Oprah gave away a while back. I ended up in the back seat and my only contribution was to note that said back seat had way more headroom than her daughter's new Mustang.

Southern Man knows fully well that he can't get a new vehicle quite yet and he was fully prepared (or so he believed) for the high pressure sales pitches, and still almost drove off in that Rainier. If it had been all-wheel-drive instead of just rear-wheel... And his partner was ready to trade her Grand Cherokee for the G6 right there on the spot. Kudos to the Buick sales team; they almost had both of us today.

Last stop was the Saturn dealership; test-drive any Saturn and get a $25 gift card. I let my partner handle this one and she played around with an Ion quad coupe, notable for putting the instrument cluster in the middle of the dash (which took some getting used to) and the cute little suicide back doors.

Since this is a car post, Southern Man will mention that his ex is rumored to have been looking at the PT Cruiser as a possible replacement for her '96 Grand Marquis. She doesn't ask Southern Man's opinion on much these days but he thinks that would be a pretty good vehicle for her and he hopes she finds a nice one. Southern Man's son thinks the same thing, since he has his eye on the Grand Marquis for his first set of wheels. He gets his permit in less than half a year...a frightening thought. On the other hand, Southern Man's daughter has had her eye on her grandpa's Maxima for some time now, but the trannie is making some unsettling growling noises and may not last long enough to hand down to her. You would not believe what they want to fix that transmission - more than what Southern Man paid for remanufactured Explorer and Grand Marquis trannies combined (older Explorers are notorious for chewing through the factory trannie in no time). But, one way or another, the next few years could see three or four new vehicles enter our combined fleets. It will be a shock after a good ten years of no car payments at all.

Cars Southern Man has loved:
  • '62 Chrysler Newport - owned by best friend in high school; a fabulous, futuristic car passed down to him by his grandmother.
  • '64 Mercury Comet - first car, a family hand-me-down in which Southern Lad had ridden as a child.
  • '72 Ford Maverick - first "bought" car and first car loan, for $900
  • '76 Buick Riviera - owned by best friend's dad; we used it for double dates.
  • '68 VW Bug - owned and wrecked by a girlfriend; bought the carcass from the insurance company and converted into a Baja Bug
  • '62 VW Bug - owned by best friend; taught us both how to rebuild carbs and adjust valves on our Bugs.
  • '68 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser - a family car, would love to find and restore one
  • '69 Ford Galaxy 500 - bought in college, drove for a while, then sold again
  • '75 Chevy Monza - neat little car, purchased first year of grad school to replace the Baja Bug and drove it 'till it dropped
  • '87 and '88 Honda Accord hatchbacks - Southern Man's first brand-new cars
  • '88 Chevy Corsica - ex's car when we married
  • '84 Pontiac Bonneville - bought used for $1400 and drove for many years
  • '88 and '96 Mercury Grand Marquis - both purchased from ex's dad
  • '91 Ford Explorer - an "almost new" vehicle bought in '92 at about 50K miles; served as kid-hauler and family vehicle for a long, long time; Southern Man's daily driver today.

We started with the Corsica and second Accord - both relatively new cars in great condition - then foolishly sold both when money was tight. They were replaced by the Bonnie and first Grand Marquis (which we bought from her dad after he bought a newer one). We added the Explorer when it became clear that two babies required more of a kid-hauler than the cars we had, then got the second Grand Marquis (again from her dad; he's now on his third) after Bonnie and the older Grand Marquis finally died.

Not that anyone actually reads this, but if you do feel free to post a comment listing the cars you have loved...

Monday, November 20, 2006

Movie Review: Casino Royale (Bond XXI)

Southern Man is a James Bond fan from way, way back. He's seen all the movies, read all the books, and even has a bunch of the post-Fleming novels by John Gardner and Raymond Bensen and such. So he was purty darned excited to hear that Casino Royal would finally make it to the big screen as an "official" Bond movie - but only middlin' excited as the last batch have been so-so at best. Not that it was really any fault of Pierce Brosnan; I just don't care for the way the last several Bond movies were directed or edited. Or written, for that matter.

For those unaware of such things, this movie is a "reboot" that starts the series all over again - to wit, a young and impetuous British agent has just earned his double-O "license to kill" and is loosed upon a terrorist organization bent on profiting from air disasters and on their banker, who had the poor judgement to lose his client's funds on the stock market and turned to gambling to win it back.

Suffice it to say that Casino Royale is certainly the best Bond film since, say, 1989's License to Kill with Timothy Dalton, which garnered only lukewarm reviews but is my hands-down favorite of the later Bonds. My God, that means that there wasn't a decent Bond movie produced during Southern Man's entire marriage. New Bond Daniel Craig portrays the epic spy with much of the intensity and charisma of Sean Connery (and, in my opinion, Dalton) and little of the humor or charm of, say, a Roger Moore or George Lazenby. It's a change in tone that Southern Man believes will do the franchise a lot of good. And Craig is, by far, the most athetic Bond ever and provides some terrific action on the big screen.

If you enjoyed the original novel you'll be pleased to hear that although the game is Texas Hold-em rather than the more elegant baccarat the movie follows Fleming's plot with fair accuracy (including the appropriate betrayals) and includes the disturbing wicker-chair torture scene. There are plenty of bones tossed to die-hard fans like Southern Man, such as the origin of the "shaken-not-stirred" vodka martini and how Bond acquired his first tailored suit and Aston-Martin. Southern Man's only real complaint is that the movie ran longer than it needed to. However, he is looking forward to the next one and hoping that the producers will invent a new recurring enemy for our new Bond that is every bit as sinister and evil as Connery's nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld and his shadowy organization SPECTRE.

Sunday, November 19, 2006


coming soon

Saturday, November 18, 2006

'Twas The Weekend Before Thanksgiving...

... and yet another weekend when Southern Man is supposed to have all three of his kids but only gets the youngest 'cause the other two are out of town on a Bible quizzing trip. Oh well, he gets them all for four days over the Thanksgiving holidays and that will be fun. And this weekend was fun, too. Southern Man must confess that he's in full Thanksgiving Holiday mode and chances are he won't work his students too terribly hard during the short school week to come.

He did get to surprise his baby girl today. She has a Casio CTK-551 keyboard at home that she just loves. In particular, she loves the built-in sound bank of songs and has worked out some fairly elaborate dances to many of them. Well, that keyboard is at her mom's house and Southern Man decided that this was just not acceptable. So, thanks to the wonders of ebay there was a used but quite servicable CTK-551 waiting for her at casa Southern Man when she woke up this morning. It was worth every penny to see her face light up when she saw it, and she played and danced for a good ninety minutes this evening.

We also headed out to the mall for a matinee showing of The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause this afternoon. The first half was pretty awful (though it did have the best line of the movie) and the second not so bad. Too bad they couldn't have gotten Jim Carey to play the part of "Jack Frost" rather than Martin Short. If you ever get dragged to this one you'll know what I mean. But she enjoyed it, and that's all that mattered. Of course being at the mall we had to shop and she dragged me into Build-A-Bear where she acquired yet another stuffed critter. The Godiva chocolate people were also out in force giving out free samples (including some most excellent peppermint hot chocolate) and that made the entire trip worthwhile right there.

Now we are home and fed (she made brownies tonight, yum yum) and are watching movies. Watching a good flick and cuddling with your baby girl with a plate of brownies and a glass of cold milk - life could be a lot worse.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Well Of Madness

Southern Man has found a new hobby - geocaching. This started out in early 2000 when the government turned off the "selectable availability" feature in the Global Positioning System (GPS), which allowed civilian GPS units to operate at higher precision. "Geocachers" will hide a cache (typically an ammo box or some other weatherproof container) and post the GPS coordinates on a web site such as Other geocachers then search for the cache. The cache generally includes a bunch of trinkets (you can take one, but then should leave another of equal or greater value) and a logbook to sign. Think of it as a high tech scavenger hunt.

The folks who got me into this (a friend from church with whom I often eat breakfast and his son, who collectively go by the handle "YukonMiller" at are the sorts that take their high-tech fun seriously. He's an IT administrator and has lots of cool toys anyway (he's always logging into a server somewhere using Windows CE on his phone when we're at breakfast). When we went out last Saturday he even had color printouts of Google Earth shots of the cache sites.

Traditional caches are rated in a couple of ways: difficulty and terrain. Our first cache of the day was rated 5 / 4 - highest degree of difficulty, tough terrain. Called "The Well Of Madness," it was - literally - in the middle of a wood, near some old abandoned shacks, at the bottom of a thirty-foot well.

Southern Man is not yet in the physical shape he desires but still managed to shimmy down a pipe to the bottom of the well, find the cache (an old ammo box), sign the logbook, and climb back out.

Then it was time for the younger half of YukonMiller to dive into the depths.

We spent a good hour at this site, took lots of pics, and had a great time. Then we headed to the next cache on our list: Temple of the Sun. Compared to the Well of Madness, this one was a piece of cake; it was in the middle of an open field (we had to trek through the woods to get there) and YukonMiller's GPS (a Garmin eTrex Venture Cx) led us straight to it. The cache was another ammo box, just sitting on the ground.

Yesterday Southern Man had lunch with his sister, who had been given a GPS reciever as a gift a few years ago and had never used it. Her little Garmin Geko 101 is now on permanent loan to Southern Man, who cannot wait to figure out how to use it and take his son out on a geocaching day.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Praise and Worship

After a Saturday morning at work and an afternoon geocaching (for the first time - post and pics to follow) Southern Man was able to snatch a few hours with his youngest daughter - met her and Mom and Dad and Sister's SO and their adopted child (my newest nephew) at the local buffet for dinner and conversation. The evening was pretty uneventful; we went back home and watched videos 'till she fell asleep.

The Sunday worship service ended with an unusual communion. The elements were available at the alter and anyone who wished to partake could do so alone or in company. I did so with a good friend (same fellow I went geocaching with) and then instead sitting there in the pew feeling sorry for myself and my own pain, I found another friend who I knew was hurting and offered communion to him. Somehow I knew that it would be the right thing to do, and it was. If you're reading this know that I am praying for you, as I know you have been praying for me.

I got to keep youngest daugher throughout the afternoon, which was (again) mostly spent watching DVDs and playing on the computer (she loves the games at orisinal; check 'em out if you like) until time for the evening service. I dropped her off, then instead of staying went to a small-group service with some of my new friends from the local megachurch. They are in the middle of a video series by John Bevere based on his book A Heart Ablaze, which I had purchased earlier on the recommendation of one of these friends) but not yet read all the way through. Given that there only about a dozen of us there, it was just like church; we sang for a good forty minutes, watched the video, and then discussed it for well over an hour. I tried not to say too much (better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt) but did end up talking a bit at the end. I find that I don't agree too much with Bevere (or with the general tone of preaching at the megachurch, for that matter) but it was still interesting and inspirational.

Southern Man can be an opinionated critter and he has an unfortunate tendancy to lecture, and he kind of let that get the better of him tonight. Hopefully no one was permanently offended. But it does remind him that other people do have other ways of praising and worshipping and believing and that he should perhaps have a bit more respect for that. Lord, remind me that Your ways are subtle and that my way of learning about You is not everyone's way. I pray that you would grant me the patience and the wisdom to both teach and learn as I continue to seek the path You have laid before me. Amen.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Veterans Day

Southern Man salutes all those who have and are currently serving in the United States armed forces. There are many in my family and I will mention only a few here:

My Dad (Army) and all three of his brothers / my Uncles (also Army)
My ex-Father-In-Law (Navy)
My Great Grand-Uncle Lloyd (RIP) / grandfather of neighborsman and neighborsgrrl (Air Force)
Goldie's SO (Air Force)

Never forget that we remain free because of men and women like these.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

I Voted!

With all the news about voting machine craziness it's kind of comforting to be in backwards 'ole Oklahoma, where we've been using nice big easy-to-read and easy-to-mark optical ballots pretty much since I was old enough to vote. You sign in, get your ballot and a big fat marker, vote (we fill in the arrows on ours), and feed it to the machine. If the machine accepts it, it makes a happy little beep and your're done. If not, it spits it back out at you, you sign a "spoiled ballot" form, feed your old ballot to the shredder, and get a new one from the helpful voting attendant. It's the same ballot in every precinct in the state and most of the newspapers print copies of it weeks in advance of the election. Partial ballots are just fine, so if you're lazy like I was this year and didn't research things like renewing judicial appointments you just leave that part blank. It's simple and secure and just about foolproof and I hope they stay with this system for a long, long time. About the only improvements I'd like to see would be some way to verify what the machine thinks your vote was on the spot, a tear-off ballot number so you can verify your vote online later if you like, and a requirement to show a photo ID when you vote. There was no ID check and I could have given just about any name I knew would be on the roll and voted that name.

So Southern Man encourages all readers to get out today and vote for the party and / or candidates of your choice. If you don't vote, as far as I'm concerned you give up the right to gripe about the outcome. But I voted - and I'll probably gripe about the outcome, so just stay tuned!

"Either we win or they cheated" - attributed to Nancy Pelosi, who, God willing, will not be the next Speaker of the House.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Another Busy Sunday

Well, the weekend with the kids ended Sunday morning when I took them to church and turned them over to their mom. Sunday School and the service were fine - then I headed to the noon service at a local megachurch as well (last visit blogged here). That service ran until nearly two o'clock. A friend and I had lunch and watched a movie together, then I headed back to church for the evening entertainment - a teen ice cream social / fund raiser / talent show back at church. My son MC'd and was in a hilarious skit and my daughter played her current recital piece on piano and my baby daughter sat on my lap and that was all just fine with me. Then it was back home to clean up the disaster they left behind - pick up a million gum wrappers and shake all of the crumbs out of my bed and work the gum out of the pillowcases and such.

And tomorrow is another workweek. Bleah. But it looks like I'm eating lunch with assorted friends and family three times this week. My sister promised me some juicy gossip that she doesn't dare say in email so I'm looking forward to that. "I don't repeat gossip," sez Southern Man, "so listen up the first time."

Saturday, November 04, 2006

A Busy Saturday

Yee Haw, another weekend with my kids!

Well, sort of. I picked up youngest daughter and oldest son, but had to drop son off at a teen event. As it turned out, I wouldn't see him again for twenty-four hours. Youngest daughter and I noodled around for a bit, then picked up her older sister after her activities for the day were complete. By then it was pretty late and they were content to watch Monster House and some Season 2 Lost. Son ended up spending the night with some of the other teens and their youth pastor.

Next morning my ex picked up our middle child to take her to a couple of musical performances (one violin, one piano; she's quite a talented young lady); we in turn picked up my mom and more or less followed them: first to a city about an hour south of home for a performance of the Central Oklahoma Honors Orchestra, then to another city about an hour east for a piano recital of recent competition winners. With both girls back in hand, we then headed to yet another city an hour west of home for a 50th-birthday surprise bash for our paster. Oh boy, was he surprised. We picked up oldest son (who had been at a Bible quiz for most of the day) there and finally headed back to Casa Southern Man.

Of course the bickering began as soon as all three were in the truck. The girls wanted to watch movies and more Lost; my son was adamant that Southern Man's sole TV be committed to the evening football game. Fighting over the TV is an ongoing problem so we dropped by Wal-Mart and picked up a cheap thirteen-incher. Oldest son watched the game on that while the girls had their choices on the other set. Peace was achieved but Southern Man, who seldom turns on the TV for himself, now has two of the dumb things. However, the new one has a pretty poor picture and it may well go right back to Wal-Mart tomorrow morning.

Now all three of them are engrossed in Lost. I'll probably just let them stay up as long as they want and deal with their gripes in the morning. Even though they're just watching DVDs it's still great just to have them in the next room. Divorce sucks.