Southern Man

Friday, May 30, 2008

Movie Review - Prince Caspian

'Tis Southern Man's weekend to have his girls and this evening we headed out to the fancy new Warren Theater in town for dinner (in the very nice theater diner) and Prince Caspian. Having really liked the first installment in this newest series of films based on The Chronicles of Narnia, we expected the movie to be pretty good and we were not disappointed. While not quite the equal of its predecessor it's a fine movie with well-cast characters and spectacular cinematography. Purists may lament several differences from the book's plot and a substantial watering-down of the Christian elements, but they certainly didn't spoil the movie for Southern Man, who notes with some interest that Voyage of the Dawn Treader is already in preproduction.

Southern Man Gets Hitched

Avid readers of this blog (both of you) might recall the events of Memorial Day when the transmission in Southern Man's SUV finally gave out and he bought a new Nissan Titan. While Southern Man loves his new truck, the poor Explorer has been sitting by the curb in front of Casa Southern Man where the tow truck left it last Monday. Southern Man was ready to call a salvage yard and just let the old SUV go but teenage son expressed an interest in keeping the truck for himself (an interesting change of heart, that - Southern Man used to threaten him by saying "shape up or your first vehicle will be the Explorer!"). So this morning Southern Man headed out to the local U-Haul and had them put a Class III hitch on the Titan and rent him a tow dolly.

Photo credit: Southern Man

It was something of an adventure getting the Explorer onto the dolly, but with a little help from his friends Southern Man finally prevailed and towed the remains out to The Land, where it will sit until (a) teenage son shells out two grand for a transmission, at which time Southern Man will chip in for a few other repairs and hand over the keys, (b) Southern Man's dad decides he wants the perfectly good motor for one of his trucks and we pull it, or (c) Southern Man gives up and calls a salvage yard and disposes of the carcass. Southern Man is keenly aware that Number Six on the list of "ways you know you are a Southern Man" is "every vehicle you have ever owned is up on blocks somewhere in your back yard" and he will try to avoid keeping the Explorer too long.

Photo credit: Southern Man
That's the west end of the barn in the background. As you can see it needs some repair. Not to mention paint. That's high on Southern Man's list of Things To Do This Summer.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Snakes on the Plains

Yes, another snake - or, perhaps, the same one from yesterday.

Photo Credit - Southern Man

The behaviour of this snake was unusual. Generally when a snake is threatened it will slither away if at all possible. This one stood its ground, hissed, buzzed, and struck even though it could have easily retreated to a woodpile a few feet away. No matter - The Land is a snake sanctuary and all non-venomous reptiles are welcome there.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Southern Man Buys A Truck

No kidding. Not even a month after Southern Man bought a car. Hey, he's doing his best to stimulate the economy, OK?

On the way back from The Land this afternoon (not long after
Southern Man caught the snake) the old SUV (or, technically, the old SUV's transmission) finally gave up the ghost. This is a truck with over a quarter million miles on it and running on its second driveline. The engine and rear end are relatively recent, but the rebuilt trannie is pretty old (the originals on that particular model were notorious for dying at about 120K, and this one was no exception). So Southern Man called the tow service that had rescued that truck many, many times over the years and had it hauled home. And he sat at the table and ate chips and salsa and pondered as to whether or not he should sink two or three thousand dollars into a third rebuilt transmission - he really wanted to get the new car paid off before buying a pickup - or just let it go.

It's Memorial Day. Lots and lots and lots of car dealerships running sales today. So Southern Man scanned the paper and decided he could probably afford a no-frills pickup ad made a list of places to check and hit the road.

The third dealership he visited was running a no-haggle "tag sale." And one of the trucks on that lot was a charcoal-grey '07 Nissan Titan with only 7K on the clock. And after a long test drive and a look at the CarFax report and noting that it was listed for 3K more than the tag-sale price on the dealership's web page Southern Man bought that truck (and the Nissan covers-everything-from-bumper-to-bumper-and-roof-to-road extended warranty) for more than he wanted to spend, but he's glad he didn't come home in some bare-bones Silverado or 1500.

So Southern Man goes from a over a decade of no car payments to two, which will certainly be a bit of a strain on the old budget, but it's certainly nice to have a couple of reliable vehicles. And it's great to have an actual pickup after years of hauling sheets of plywood on top of the SUV. He's already taken it out to the land. He can already tell that the mileage will be no better (and probably worse) than the SUV it replaced, but it's a nice truck to drive. Last month Southern Man gritted his teeth and bought the least expensive new car he could rather than something nicer and 15K more expensive, like the Accord coupe he so wanted; this Titan is his reward. May it serve him long and well!

Southern Man Catches A Snake

While cleaning out an old shed that's destined to be torn down and replaced with a bigger one, Southern Man stumbled across this fine specimen of pituophis catenifer sayi, better known as the Southern Bull-Snake:

Photo credit: friend of a neighbor who had been fishing in the pond behind The Land and happened to walk by at just the right time.

That was one unhappy snake. From the looks of the inside of that shed (which hadn't been cleaned out in a long, long time) it was pretty much a rat motel, with droppings and urine and nest material everywhere. So if that snake had good herd management skills it didn't have to move more than a few feet for meals, with pretty much no fear of predators at all. At least until Southern Man came along.

After the photo shoot Southern Man released the snake back by the lake - but was back on The Land later that evening (in the new truck) and saw a suspiciously similar serpent slithering into his workshop. Perhaps this particular bullsnake has acquired a taste for indoor living. If so it'll turn up again soon.

And Southern Man is pleased to announce that he is overcoming his fear of technology and is actually using the new digital camera.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Movie Review: Indiana Jones IV

Like Southern Man is going to type a title like Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull more than once.

The early reviews were fairly negative, and justifiably so. Yeah, it's fun and campy and self-deprecating and full of good old-fashioned swashbuckling. Heck, there's even a swordfight. Yeah, Indiana Jones pulls off a ridiculously large number of hair-raising escapes, some of which are preposterous beyond all imagination. No, you never really believe that he's in any real danger (which isn't really a flaw as the hero surviving such cliffhangers was a staple of the old
adventure serials that these movies deliberately imitate). Yeah, one of the characters is his up-to-then-unknown son (a hallmark of bad sequels). No, the son doesn't die (the usual fate of such newly-found sons in bad sequels). Yeah, there are references to the rest of the franchise (including, much to Southern Man's surprise, the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles) and a well-known line from Star Wars. No, the villians don't die horrible deaths - they're rather anticlimatic, in fact. And the body count due to cold-blooded murder is disturbingly high (although watching the giant ants eat the KGB agents was great fun).

No, it's not nearly as bad as
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Admit it, regardless of the reviews you're going to see it anyway and probably buy the DVD to boot. So go now and enjoy it. It's not a bad popcorn movie at all. And Southern Man got to see it wth his two daughters and his sister and a host of others and we all had a good time.

One disappointment: early in the movie, Indy's son is stung by a scorpion. Indy laughs it off, saying that it was the little scorpions that were deadly and there was no reason to fear the larger ones. So Southern Man was on the edge of his seat for the next ninety minutes waiting for the appearance of the giant scorpions. They never did. Damn it, Southern Man paid good money for giant scorpions and didn't get any. Southern Man sez that there had better be giant scorpions in Indiana Jones and the Padded Room in the Geriatric Ward, whenever that comes out.

Fear The Future

Southern Man thinks of himself as technologically sophisticated. He teaches computer science at the graduate level. His duties include the administration of both Windows and UNIX computer labs. When something doesn't work at work - a computer, a projector, whatever - he get called instead of the campus IT service. He owns plenty of high-tech toys. His VCRs have never blinked 12:00 other than briefly after a power outage. He's built dozens and dozens of computers, including the one he's using now. Shoot, back in the day Southern Man even built his own light pen - including acid-etching the required circuit board from a pattern in the magazine - for one of his early TRS-80 computers. And not just entered the accompanying program to operate it, but actually modified that program to make it work better. In Z80 assembly language. At age eighteen. Southern Man's techno-geek roots run deep.

The times, they are a-changin.

Southern Man picked up a cute little
GPS navigation system as a dealer perk after buying his new car. The box sits unopened on the nightstand in his bedroom. Southern Man glares at it when he walks by. He has two other hand-held GPS units. They're in a closet, somewhere.

Southern Man bought a new digital camera a couple of weeks ago, along with a memory card and tripod and other photo-related goodies. It's still in the Wal-Mart bag in the corner. Southern Man avoids even looking in that general direction. Southern Man had already given his older digital camera to his teenage son because he never used it.

Southern Man was given a really cool laser level for Christmas last year. That's something that is right down his alley, as he's always wanting to build things out at The Land and a laser level is a really, really handy tool to have. Southern Man doesn't even know where the unopened box might be.

Well, at least Southern Man is coming to terms with his
new phone. Or not. Sure, he calls and texts on the thing, but the USB cable and software and memory card that came with it remain unopened in their boxes since December. As is the little Ipod Shuffle that Southern Man got as a bonus with the phone.

The conclusion is inescapable. Deep down where it counts, Southern Man has developed a fear of technology.

So Southern Man did some "research" (accomplished by typing "fear of technology" into the
Google Toolbar) and found that people that suffer from technophobia are often characterized by two common symtoms: unable or unwilling to us a computer, and unable or unwilling to withdraw cash from an ATM. Well, there's strikes one and two for Southern Man's thesis: he uses computers all the time and knows the location of every no-fee ATM within a ten-mile radius. So the research continued (by clicking on "next" in the Google search results) and Southern Man found a list of physiological symptoms associated with technophobia:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Assymetrical heartbeat
  • Vomiting and queasiness
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Feelings of dread and trepidation
Well, the last two ring true. The air conditioning in Casa Southern Man isn't worth the expense of running it and Southern Man is sweating like a pig even as he types this. And, yes, there is a little taste of the last entry whenever Southern Man contemplates learning how to use that new GPS or camera. Really. He isn't sure why.

So maybe Southern Man isn't a total technophobe after all. Maybe he does get a little nervous when faced with the task of learning new technology. Maybe he does have a little fear that all this new tech is smarter than he is (which probably began in high school when that old TRS-80 with a whopping 4K of memory whipped his butt at chess on a regular basis) Perhaps it'll just take a little extra will-power to face his fears and set up his new toys and learn how they can make his life just a bit more enjoyable. Which is something that technology has done for him for most of his life.

And then again maybe he's not technophobic at all but just too lazy to break the stuff out and set it up.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sunday at The Land

There is no place on Earth that Southern Man would rather be than his ten acres northwest of The City. So what if there's nothing there but a workshop (still unfinished) and the old "temporary" woodshed (which is scheduled to be torn down and replaced with a larger one) and endless chores. Southern Man gets out there whenever he can. Today was spent working on an old riding lawn mower that hasn't been started in about five years and after much time and effort and repeated disassembly and cleaning and reassembly of carburetors and the expenditure of three cans of carb cleaner he finally got it running, only to have the motor seize up right at the end of the day. Damn. And he cleaned up a lot of debris from the flood of a few weeks ago and stacked a lot of driftwood in the to-be-processed-with-the-chainsaw pile and harvested several nice pieces of shale from the shoreline (he's collecting native rock for a goldfish pond, to be constructed out of a washout in mumble-mumble years) and generally had a most pleasant (if sweaty) afternoon. It'll be more pleasant once the new woodshed is up and the existing workshop is finished, though. Those are the major projects for this summer. Especially as finishing the workshop means running water and a working indoor toilet, which are still lacking at The Land at this time. And it looks like with the riding mower apparently dead Southern Man will absolutely have to find something to mow with this summer. That's actually the only real down side to The Land - about five acres of it has to be mowed on a fairly regular basis. But Southern Man would rather be out there mowing than sitting around Casa Southern Man with nothing better to do other than scheme about how to get Casa Southern Man out to The Land.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Saturday In The (Water) Park

'Tis Southern Man's weekend to have his precious daughters, but precious teen daughter opted out (note the "teen" part) and teen son opted to spend the day sleeping (again, note the "teen" part) so precious eight-going-on-nine daughter got to set the agenda. And since the local water park opens today, and since she and I already have our season passes...

It was a fine warm (but not too hot day) and the park was not at all crowded. Southern Man found a couple of beach chairs in the shade and spent the entire day reading and napping and playing games on his cell phone and eating overpriced but very good cheese fries while precious daughter played. We ended up staying almost until the park closed.

And then that evening teen son convinced his baby sister that a trip to the local mall would be a good thing, and so we went to the mall and then to the big chain bookstore by the mall, where Southern Man (as is his practice) bought everyone (including himself) a book. Southern Man's was a remaindered copy of
Neal Boortz's Somebody's Gotta Say It, which has been a fun read so far. Southern Man enjoys political humor.

And now precious daughter is asleep in the midst of the write-your-own-book kit she selected at the bookstore. She goes back to her mother tomorrow morning...weekends with her pass by all too quickly...

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Summer School I

Well, just a few days ago Southern Man had a two-week May "intersession" course drop into his lap. It's at the local community college where Southern Man has been an adjunct for nearly fifteen years, and it's a course he's taught before and has notes and exams and such already prepared. It's five hours of teaching a day for the next two weeks, and the main downside is that he will not be able to take his precious daughters to school in the morning and make sure teen son gets to the bus every morning. So Southern Man spent most of the evening at his home university updating and printing and copying materials to distribute tomorrow morning. It'll be brutal on the students (no one in their right mind takes a two-week science course, and Southern Man expects that a good third will drop after the first day when they figure out he really does cover an entire semester's worth of material) but given that the prep work was already mostly done Southern Man refers to a class like this as "easy money." And he'll still be able to work out on The Land in the cool of the day evenings if he wishes.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Graduation and Party!

Today Southern Man (who long-time readers may recall is "employed" in higher education) is contractually obligated to a long day of commencement activities - baccalaureate at nine, undergraduate ceremony at eleven, graduate ceremony at three... and what should prove to be a hell of a going-away party that evening, at the home of a colleague who is taking a position in North Dakota, of all places. So Southern Man came prepared with all of the ingredients and equipment for his magnificent (and now legendary) 'ritas (recipe here) and some kebabs for the grill.

The daytime activities were, as always, a crashing bore. Southern Man has yet to see a really good graduation prank at this university; they were an annual staple at his previous employer. But we are required to look sharp and pay attention for the sake of all those parents who payed six figures to send their precious snowflakes to our fine university and may well be on campus for the very first time to see them graduate. And the party that evening was terrific - plenty of food, plenty of drink, plenty of great conversation. Although Southern Man did get a little tipsy and may (or may not) have made a complete fool of himself. Not to worry, though - he is always careful to wait until he is only mildly impaired before attempting the hour-long trek back to Casa Southern Man. His only regret is that tonight will in all probability be the last party at this particular colleague's house. She's hosted many fine ones and Southern Man wishes her the best at her new job.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Southern Man Finds A Boat

On this beautiful Sunday Southern Man spent much of the day out at The Land, which is in much need of work after years of neglect. He mulched and fertilized and watered several trees and worked on his woodpiles (which have gained several beautiful large tree stump sections that will serve quite nicely as sitting places around the future fire-pit) and did a fair bit of mowing. And he found a boat.

OK, we must back up a bit. The Land backs up to a pretty little watershed lake that will from time to time overflow its usual banks and deposit large quantities of flotsam at the temporary high-water mark. And as Southern Man was walking the shoreline and picking up trash and fishing bobbers and driftwood and such he stumbled across what appeared to be a boat hull. Upon further inspection it turned out to be most of an eleven-foot sailboat, "most" meaning that the mast, the centerboard, the rudder, and (worst of all) the outer fiberglass shell was missing so what Southern Man really has is the foam hull and cockpit of what was once a sailboat. Since the outer shell is missing there are no identifying marks so he has no idea what make or model it is or who owns it.

So Southern Man will probably drag it up to higher ground and post a sign ("Found: Most of a Sailboat") and see what happens. If no one claims the wreck he may hang his trolling motor on the back and put it in the water sometime this summer just to see what happens.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Opening Day

Southern Man forgot to mention that this is his weekend with his precious daughers and that they were with him at Ironman. But precious teen daughter opted to return to her mother's house after the movie (busy teen day planned for tomorrow) and precious teen son had his own agenda as well, so precious eight-going-on-nine daughter and Southern Man did a little online shopping and obtained their double-park season passes (amusement park + water park) and headed to the amusement park for our first visit of the season.

As always, precious daughter headed straight for the
swirly rides. Sad to say but Southern Man is getting too old for some of them. Fortunately, there are a couple that precious daughter prefers to ride alone (over and over and over) anyway. And we had a lot of fun and got plenty tired, so it was just fine that we slouched on the couch and watched kid movies for the rest of the evening. Next time she's over (two weeks) is opening day for the water park, so weather permitting we'll hit that one then.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Movie Review - Ironman

Southern Man isn't much for comic-book movies. It's not that he was deprived of comic books; it's just that the (occasional) comic-book purchases made during his misspent youth were more along the lines of Sgt. Rock and reprints from the old Tales From The Crypt line than Spider-Man and Fantastic Four. Heck, all Ironman was to him until recently was an old Black Sabbath song. But he had his daughters tonight and the agenda was dinner and a movie and since it is opening night for the new Ironman movie...

It's pretty good. The cast is solid, the dialog snappy, and the real villian an unexpected surprise. The movie never takes itself too seriously (it is a comic book, after all) and maintains a good sense of humor throughout but manages to provide good semi-believable escapist fun for the grownups as well. For fans, the major players from the comic book are present or are at least forshadowed. The special effects are what you would expect from a movie like this. There's even a touch of romance and social commentary (the latter not overly heavy-handed, as they try to make an anti-war statement without being overly critical of the USA or the military). As comic-book movies Southern Man rates it as one of the better efforts of the last several years. If there's a sequel (and the setup for such was pretty obvious) Southern Man will take the kids on opening night.

Oh, and stay 'till after the credits. You won't regret it.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Pimpin' My Ride

Well, sort of. It is a low-end Hyundai, after all. So the pimpin' was courtesy of the auto accessory aisle at the local Wal-Mart. A fancy cup holder, a thing to go on the visor with pockets and stuff, a cell phone holder (as you can see Southern Man feels that there is a shortage of storage space in the new ride), a leather(ish) steering wheel cover, and a few other odds and ends. All black, of course. It was great fun; Southern Man hasn't purchased silly car stuff like this since the SUV was acquired back in '92.

The car is still on its first tank of gas and it looks like mileage in mixed driving is going to be right at thirty. Sure beats topping off that truck every two or three days...