Southern Man

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Southern Man vs the Hot Water Heater

It is a busy, busy time in the life of Southern Man and Wife. Summer school is finally out, but she's recovering from oral surgery and we have a scant few weeks to get the house in shape for Teen Daughter to move in before the fall semester begins. So of course the eighteen-year-old water heater chose this moment to break down. And by "break down" Southern Man means "spew water all over the laundry room floor." This is also the time that Southern Man discovered that Southern Wife's ex had capped the floor drain for said water heater so the leaked water was going straight into the den instead of outside. So Southern Man broke the cap out so that the water would refrain from flooding the west end of the house (a garage conversion that houses the laundry room, den and Southern Wife's office). But then we discovered that using the dishwasher and clothes washer also flooded the laundry room (or, rather, rediscovered; that's why Southern Wife's ex had capped that floor drain in the first place so Southern Man apologizes for some rather unkind and unjust thoughts that he might have had about that). And then the hot water heater leak got so bad that Southern Man had little choice but to shut it down and turn off the water supply.

So, there we are with no hot water, no dishwasher or clothes washer, and soaked, stinking carpet in the den. And Southern Wife really, really likes her hot bath every evening. And Southern Man likes to make Southern Wife happy.

This also rather upset our remodeling plans - the utility room wasn't slated for serious work until next summer - but now we had little choice. Southern Man went shopping and found that a new heater plus installation through one of the local home stores would run a good twelve hundred bucks or so - they have to pull a permit, make sure everything is done to code, and so on. Now, the new Casa Southern Man was a burnout purchased and more-or-less rebuilt by Southern Wife many years ago and is so far out of compliance with code that we'll have to burn it down again for the insurance money rather than sell it, so that wasn't going to work. But Southern Man did find a heater at a local home store on sale as a dented-and-dinged return for about half price, with full warranty. So that heater, an installation kit, a stand, and a few more odds and ends came home with Southern Man on Friday afternoon. He then hooked up a hose to drain the old heater into the back yard and ran out to The Land for his appliance dolly and plumbing toolbox and called it a day.

Saturday was spent removing the old heater, which was not all that difficult: hacksaw off the copper water pipes, remove the gas line (thankfully, it came off easily enough), and wrestle the thing outside. Installing the new heater didn't quite go as planned: the existing gate valve leaked and had to be replaced, and the heater was too tall to fit in the heater closet with a stand so said stand was disassembled and returned later. The $50 installation kit ("all you need but the wrenches!") was a near-complete waste of money - neither the water nor the gas fittings matched what we had - but a few trips to the store and the new heater was installed with only a single water leak. Now, Southern Man is no plumber and that three of his four compression fittings held on the first try is something he is quite proud of. So after messing with the leak for a bit he rigged a funnel and hose to drain the leak outside and fired up the heater and Southern Wife had her hot bath and Southern Man his hot shower and all was well.

The next day (Sunday) was supposed to go something like this: quickly take care of that last pesky leak, then go to church, have lunch, and spend the afternoon clearing out the den and pulling up carpet (which we have decided to discard and replace with tile or wood or something that doesn't absorb dog odor quite like that carpet, which was admittedly in pretty nasty shape even when dry). What actually happened was that Southern Man spent the entire day working on that leak and had to make eight - count 'em, eight - trips to the store before the day was done. But success was finally had; the plumbing is now tight, that floor drain re-capped (Southern Man will run a new drain line for the heater through the wall Real Soon Now), and all is well.

The home store Southern Man used throughout this adventure was a
Lowes here in the city. Now Southern Man usually shops elsewhere for the sorts of things they carry, but Southern Wife counts Lowes as a favorite and Mom and Dad had given us a Lowes gift card as a wedding gift. And everyone there - and Southern Man does mean everyone, from the appliance manager who gave him a great deal on the heater to the master plumber who tutored him in the finer points of copper and compresssion fittings and so on - was nothing but kind and helpful. Credit where credit is due - Southern Man will shop there regularly from now on.

And some day Southern Man will write a post entitled "Ode to Vice-Grips" in honor of what was by far and away the most useful tool in the box.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Fascist or Socialist?

One problem with name-calling is that the name-callers often don't know what they're talking about. One example that caught Southern Man's idea the other day was a speech in which RNC chairman Michael Steele referred to Our Glorious Leader's health-care proposals as "socialism."

Now, Southern Man isn't surprised that the party with which he as voted since earning his franchise is led by idiots but he does wish that they'd get their name-calling straight. Under a
socialist regime, the government both owns and controls businesses; for example, General Motors and Citibank are now effectively owned by the government and thus have been socialized. Fascists exert control but don't have actual ownership. In the proposed health care system the government would make the rules but not own the system, so the proposal plans are fascist rather than socialist. Please take note, Mr. Steele, and call it what it really is.

An economic system in which you work and which consumes all of your resources but in which you don't own any assets or exert any control is called "marriage."

Friday, July 17, 2009

Wii Olympics

Southern Man's father is one of those men who can do pretty much anything, from build a house to rebuild an engine to access the value of a collection of rare books to cheat at Rook without being caught (he would eat the color of M&M that he wanted Mother to lead). There is no room in this man's life for trifles such as video games; indeed, Southern Man and his siblings endured endless ribbing when caught wasting our time with such.

Then Southern Father and Mother got a Wii for Christmas last year. And they are completely, totally, hopelessly addicted.

The game at the ancestral manor is Wii Sports - particularly bowling, tennis, and golf. Southern Father can make that bowling ball do pretty much anything he wants; Southern Mother is invincible at tennis (much as she was in her younger days on the long-retired courts by the house). So given the competitive streak that runs through much of the clan it was inevitable that someone in the family (as it turned out, Southern Man's sister and her SO) would organize a Wii tournament. And they did so, with great success. There was even an opening ceremony, and gift bags for the competitors, and formal written rules (that were quickly amended if not shattered), and gameplay in two different rooms. Not to mention a magnificent dinner beforehand. So we had a grand time tonight eating and chatting and duking it out with all our might for the honor of Wii Champion.

Much to his delight, Southern Man's teen daughter took third. Southern Man's Mother took second to (there's no easy way to say this) the husband of Southern Man's first cousin once removed, who in an exhibition of Wii prowess seldom before seen edged out Southern Man's Father at bowling and Southern Man's Mother at tennis. They're both already calling for a rematch. Southern Man himself was delighted to finish no worse than the middle of the pack and promises to improve for the next games (there's that competitive streak again). So for good clean family fun Southern Man recommends that you have your own Wii Olympics.

Popular Science

Southern Man has been a long-time reader of Popular Science, which (like Wired) is vaguely futuristic and optimistic and pretty to look at but (unlike Wired) generally features lots of pretty pictures of high-tech gadgets that will never actually be built and lots of gushing reviews of fantastic technologies that will never actually exist. Yes, these are the folks that promised us that we'd have cities on the Moon and our own private jet helicopters and electricity too cheap to meter by the beginning of the next millennium so Southern Man views this magazine as cheesy (but entertaining) science fiction more than anything else. Until this month.

The August 2009 print issue dives into disaster preparedness. Now, Southern Man isn't a hard-core survivalist by any means but he has put a bit of thought as to how to manage the oncoming collapse of society that will inevitably follow much more governing by the Democrats so he read this article with some interest, only to find some of the most hilarious advice ever seen in print. Some of it was just silly, such as "fill several empty milk jugs with water" (Southern Man prefers "have a well down and windmill-powered pump up on your generator-equipped, provisioned, and fortified rural acreage") but here's Southern Man's favorite, copied directly from the pages of the magazine under the noble auspice of "fair use" and with emphasis added:
Situation: You're blasting down the highway when you notice something ominous in your rearview: a monster twister.

Solution: Your best bet is to take refuge in a permanent shelter, such as a basement. If you don't see one, get out of your car and lie low in the ditch next to the highway. If you have a few moments and a good wrench, you can improve your survival odds by anchoring yourself to the ground. Shimmy under your muffler and then locate and remove four U-bolts, usually found along the exhaust system. Return to the ditch, strip out of your shirt and pants, and use the wrench to pound the bolts through your sleeves and pant legs into the hard ground. Slide back into your clothes and watch for flying cows.
Freelance author Jason Daley (who is apparently paid actual money to write this stuff) has obviously never removed the U-bolts from around a tailpipe, an operation that requires approximately two hours, three pairs of Vice-Grips, and a full can of WD-40. Southern Man predicts that if you actually try this the tornado will be gone long before you're done and you'll be struggling to explain to the nice man in the Highway Patrol uniform why you're lying naked in the ditch pounding U-bolts through your clothes with a wrench. Take Southern Man's advice instead: if you see a twister while on the road, put the pedal to the metal until you either outrun it or reach an intersection and can turn away. Mr. Daley continues to give advice you'll surely need if you and your home are caught in a mudslide. Instead of heeding the wisdom of Southern Man (which would again be along the general lines of "run like hell") Daley suggests that you disassemble the vent over your hood, strip out the wire screens, and manufacture a pair of what he calls "mud shoes" but given the condition of Southern Man's vent screen might be better called "Slip 'n' Slides." It doesn't matter as you'll still be looking for a damn screwdriver when you and your home are relocated down the mountain. Southern Man bets that the adrenalin rush that comes with being trapped in a mudslide would enable him to run across molten lava without much difficulty and mud probably wouldn't slow him down all that much. Or instead of "mud shoes" just kick off your boots and run barefoot instead. Or, better yet, don't build on muddy hillsides (if you want to take home-location advice from a man who chooses to live in the center of Tornado Alley). And if you want actual useful advice on disaster preparedness, look somewhere other than MacGyver and Popular Science.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Movie Review - Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

After Southern Man's recent rant about midnight movies, it is with delight that he reports that the local 24-plex ran Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince on all twenty-four screens last night at midnight proper. Or this morning; the start times were staggered to 12:15 and 12:30 to accomodate the crowd, the likes of which Southern Man had never seen at that particular theatre. In fact Southern Man actually missed most of the previews while standing in the lenghy concession lines. Southern Man's teen daughter (and her friends) have had their tickets for the better part of a month and spent much of that time working on their costumes; Southern Man and Wife merely attended and basked in the general Harry Potter insanity, which is what makes midnight movies such fun.

The problem with movies based on popular books is that everyone knows how they end (unlike, say, 1980, when many of us had no idea that Darth Vader was Luke's father), so no one is surprise when...well, if you've read the book, you know, and if you haven't, Southern Man isn't going to spoil it for you. And the problem with movies based on the next-to-last-of-the-septalogy book is that they expend a lot of effort setting up the yet-to-come grand finale and thus often have rather incomplete plotlines of their own. The film gracefully handles these issues while delivering a version of the book that is both restrained and exciting, with more focus on character than on special effects, and achieving a good balance between dark suspense and lighthearted good humor. And more than anything, this film really, really has us champing at the bit for the final entry (or entries, as it looks like Deathly Hallows will be released in two chunks) of this remarkable series.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Concert Review - Lady Antebellum

Award-winning country / rock band Lady Antebellum, which hails from Nashville, is a relatively new outfit but they drew a large and enthusiastic crowd for their amusement-park appearance tonight. They have but one album and gave us most of that (plus a song for a new album); Southern Man particularly enjoyed All We'd Ever Need (the first song they wrote together), Lookin' For A Good Time, Slowdown Sister, I Run To You, and Long Gone as well as the their one big hit Love Don't Live Here Anymore. Southern Wife quickly pointed out that a theme that ran throughout their music was of lost love and broken relationships. With but one album to their credit the band did play several covers. Southern Man (being more rock than country) no doubt missed many of the "country" covers but certainly appreciated their rousing renditions of You Shook Me All Night Long by AC/DC, Long Train Running by the Doobie Brothers, and Hurts So Good (see? there's that hurtin' theme again) by John Cougar Mellencamp. They even encored with a cover of Otis Redding's Hard To Handle (a song probably better known through the popular cover performance by the Black Crowes). All in all it was a fine show and a good time was had by all (especially by Southern Wife, who smuggled in the better part of a bottle of wine to wash down the Subway sandwhiches we also snuck in).

Monday, July 06, 2009

Movie Review - Grand Canyon Adventure: River at Risk

About the last thing that Southern Man and Wife did at the Orlando Science Center before heading to MCO was watch the new IMAX film Grand Canyon Adventure: River at Risk, narrated by Robert Redford and featuring Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Southern Man is a sucker for this kind of film; he spent a few years of his early childhood in and around Tucson (both in town and in a little government house high up on Mt. Lemmon, a place for which he still holds vivid memories) not far from the Grand Canyon, and the very first movies he remembers his father taking him to were a Disney double feature of The Living Desert and The Vanishing Prairie. As one would expect of a film cast on an eight-story-tall screen and a wall of speakers, the picture and sound were...overpowering at times. The film is ostensibly about overuse of the Colorado River, but also offers bits of history, geology, biology, and ecology and lots and lots and lots of glorious cinematography of this beautiful canyon and the white-water-rafting fools that travel through it. So there's not much of a plot, and the "river at risk" narration is frequently belied by the sheer beauty of the river and canyon, but well worth the forty minutes if only to experience vicariously what few of us will ever actually do in reality.

Summer Vacation Day 9 - Science Museum

The end of our fabulous vacation is finally nigh...after a morning spent packing and loading the car we went to Youngest Daughter's favorite eatery for a leisurly breakfast and to the gift shop next door where Southern Man had already found t-shirts for his two teens. We spent some time shopping, then headed north to the Orlando Science Center to while away a few hours before the flight. Southern Man and Wife toured a fabulous dinosaur exhibition and then went to an IMAX film (reviewed in the next post) while Youngest Daughter and her grandmother watched the alligator feedings and explored the center. Then Southern Man got fretful (his father had taught him to be to the airport extra early long before 9/11 made it even more necessary) and we then headed towards Orlando International Airport, turned in the rental car, checked the bags, and made our way through security with nearly an hour to spare.

The trip home was uneventful; a long movie flight to Dallas (Youngest Daughter and Wife bought $2 headsets to watch and listen to Monsters vs. Aliens; Southern Man remained headset-less and just sort of watched so no review), an easy gate change and brief layover there, and then the short hop to home. Southern Man's father was there (for mother) as well as his ex and (surprise!) both teens for Youngest Daughter. A few gifts were distributed (the t-shirts from Orlando for the teens; seashells for mother) and everyone headed home.

The dogs were really, really, really glad to see us!

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Summer Vacation Day 8 - Animal Kingdom

Southern Wife was plumb wore out by yesterday's adventures - as was Gramdma - but Southern Man's mother bravely elected to spend another day with her granddaughter. The three of us had early lunch (we got up 'way too late for breakfast), picked up our tickets, and headed to Disney's Animal Kingdom. This time the name of the log was "Giraffe" and this time Southern Man had a bit of a scare with his second-hand tickets as this park used the fingerprint scanners, but they just waved us on through anyway.

Disney's Animal Kingdom was smaller and somewhat calmer than was yesterday's park and we had a more relaxed day there. Youngest Daughter was more interested in the attractions than in the animals, and we did the Kali River Rapids, a really neat 3D show called "It's Tough To Be A Bug" that plays in a theater hidden under the Tree of Life, and the Everest Expedition. Oh, boy, did we do the Everest Expedition, which is, hands down, the best roller coaster Southern Man has ever ridden.

The first time we rode it, the wait was about an hour. But then Youngest Daughter discovered the "single rider" entrance, where you could pretty much get on the ride with no wait at all. Southern Man rode four times and just couldn't take it anymore; she rode it nine times in the span of less than two hours. That's got to be some kind of record. And even the one-hour wait the first time we rode was fun, as the standby queue takes you through the fictitious "Yeti Museum" full of exhibits of artifacts and photographs and the remains of the Lost Everest Expedition. The Kali River Rapids wait queue was also richly detailed, winding through wonderful Asian and British Colonial exhibits, and the circular dock where we boarded the rafts was actually in motion so we stepped onto already-moving rafts. At Disney, everything is bigger and better.

That evening Southern Man and Youngest Daughter spent plenty of time in the resort's pool area and had a fine relaxing evening. Tomorrow we go home!

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Summer Vacation Day 7 - The Magic Kingdom

As one can imagine, Youngest Daughter was champing at the bit to get her first glimpse of Disney World. All four of us headed that way mid-morning, and the look on her face when we drove under the big sign on Disney World Road (I suppose "Disney World six-lane interstate-grade highway" was too much of a mouthful) and the entrance to the Magic Kingdom was worth it all.

Both photos cribbed from Google Image Search

From the parking lot (we were in Goofy) you take a brief tram ride to the transportation hub, where you can choose from the monorail or the riverboat. We took the former, made it through the front gate (much to Southern Man's relief, as he'd purchased used tickets from a broker back in Kissimmee), wandered through what appeared to be a olde towne square, turned a corner - and there it was.

Cinderalla's Castle is the focal point of The Magic Kingdom, and it is spectacular. I suppose it must be the most photographed location in the park; Southern Man certainly burned enough film on photos of Youngest Daughter with that castle in the background. But first we watched the first of what would be several spectacular parades down Main Street, which we all enjoyed very much. And then Youngest Daughter (who had been given a Disney book for her birthday) took charge and we headed for the attractions, which included:
  • Splash Mountain

  • Big Thunder Mountain

  • The Haunted Mansion (air-conditioned, so we did it twice)

  • Snow White's Scary Adventures

  • Peter Pan's Flight

  • It's A Small World (and that song is still ringing in Southern Man's head)
It was phenomenally crowded and the lines for many rides were an hour plus, so we couldn't do that many attractions. We snacked all day, had a fine dinner at the Pinocchio Village Haus and then saw the most spectacular fireworks show ever. Disney is famous for nightly fireworks, so you can imagine what it was like on the 4th of July!
We finally left the park at about midnight, just missing the tragic monorail accident that claimed the life of the young college student and train operator Austin Wuennenberg. Our prayers go out to his family.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Summer Vacation Day 6 - The Princess Arrives

With the honeymoon phase of our vacation winding down, Southern Man and Wife spent a relaxed morning and then wandered down to the Orlando International Airport to pick up Southern Man's Youngest Daughter and mother. They reported an uneventful trip but Youngest Daughter was just about beside herself with excitement. Southern Man's mother is not particularly adventurous when it comes to dining out and she chose a personal favorite chain (Red Lobster) for dinner; the meals (and dessert) were delicious. We then retired to the resort, where Youngest Daughter took one look at the pools (a large heated indoor pool, full of kids her age, with waterfall and adjoining hot tub, and an Olympic-sized outdoor pool also full of kids her age and with a sand beach on one side for her and a cabana bar on the other side for Southern Man) and could hardly wait to get into the water. So, Southern Man and Youngest Daughter spent the rest of the evening swimming and hot-tubbing and playing on the sand beach and just generally having a great time. Tomorrow is our first day at Disney!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Summer Vacation Day 5 - Orlando

Today is pretty much a day off, save the obligatory mid-morning resort tour during which we much admired our salesperson's very spiffy Saturn Sky and did not purchase a timeshare. To tell the truth, we spent most of the afternoon and evening lounging about the room and the hot tub and the pool and doing a whole lot of nothing. And that's the way at least one vacation day should be.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Summer Vacation Day 4 - Highway A1A

After a lengthy session of "hurry up and wait" while Homeland Security cleared the ship and passengers for re-entry into the USA, we disembarked and gathered our luggage and found our rental car and decided to take our time going back to Orlando. We were hardly out of the parking lot before Southern Wife spotted a beautiful fountain and hopped out of the car to take photos. We then meandered up Florida State Highway A1A, which pretty much hugs the coastline, and decided to just stop whenever the spirit moved us to do so.

Our first stop was at Jupiter Lighthouse, which had a nice gift shop and museum. We spent a good hour there just looking around and chatting with the tour guides and such (but didn't take the tour, as climbing lighthouse stairs is a little out of Southern Wife's league). We then wandered up the highway a bit further, ate in a little hole-in-the-wall seafood restaraunt in Port Salerno, walked a bit on the seashore at Vero Beach, and just generally took our time - to the point that when we got to Melbourne we had to turn towards Orlando instead of continuing up the highway to Cocao Beach and Cape Caneveral. As it was it was well past dark when we arrived at our new home for the next few days - a resort motel right in the heart of Disney territory.