Southern Man

Thursday, April 28, 2011


Well, after two years of the "most transparent government in history" Dear Leader finally releases his birth certificate. That should satisfy those obsessed right-wing birthers, right? And get this story off the lead so we can get on with more important business, right?

According to this article (which references the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism) news coverage last week (and this one, too) put Obama's birth story 'way down the list (4% of total coverage), far behind the economy at nearly 40% coverage. But of CNN's presidential coverage, fully 100% was devoted to the President's birth and religious background. MSNBC? Of their presidential coverage, 92% was concerned with birthplace and religion. And those right-wing nutjobs at Fox News? Of their stories on the president, a mere 8% of the total time was devoted to those issues.

It appears that it is the left, not the right, that is obsessed with Obama's religion and birth.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Movie Review - Atlas Shrugged, Part I

Before Southern Man sees a new film he always pays a visit to Rotten Tomatoes and in this case was struck by the disparity between the low critic's ratings (we're talking single-digit Ewe Boll numbers here) and the reaction of the film goers themselves (overwhelmingly positive). Southern Man understands that no working professional with a drop of liberal blood can ever, ever say anything good about Ayn Rand if he or she wishes to continue working (and that's true even here, in the reddest of red states) so that didn't bother him much. And the movie was pretty good; the much-disparaged special effects and stilted acting were fine and the film was silly in some places, spellbinding in others. Southern Man will probably see it again before the end of the theatrical run to do his part to finance Parts II and III, as watching Rand is much easier than reading her.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Beautiful Music

Way back in this post Southern Man mentioned that student pianists were appearing in his building to serenade us with beautiful music. Turns out that this is a program instigated by Our Dean, who's providing the funding, and over the past months Southern Man has made the acquaintance of several of these fine musicians. And as the semester winds down he's attended a number of their year-end recitals. Tonight was that of his favorite, a Chinese girl completing her Masters in Music; like her performances in our building, her recital featured Beethoven, Schumann, Liszt, Rachmaninoff, Debussy, and Chopin, representing a fairly narrow stylistic range from late classical to mid-romantic (Rachmaninoff composed in the early 20th Century but was an avowed romantic) but suiting Southern Man just fine. The highlight of the performance was a broken string during the Apassionata, which didn't slow the performer down one bit. Southern Man thoroughly approved; old Ludwig was also a notorious destroyer of pianos. Everyone should make it a point to relax and listen to beautiful music and witness a bit of grand piano demolition from time to time.

Daily Schedule

Hat tip to TigerHawk (from whom Southern Man is also stealing the image link, as he couldn't get it to come out right after more failed attempts than he cares to admit...)

Benjamin Franklin's daily schedule
...and who in turn credits this post at the Big Picture Blog, where the comments direct us to the original source, which is a marvelous essay in words and pictures of the life of Benjamin Franklin that is well worth a look. And from The New York Times, no less. Will wonders never cease? The source blog is called And The Pursuit Of Happiness and is one of the more original efforts Southern Man has seen in the blogosphere. Sadly, it hasn't been updated in years but the archives are worth exploring.

(image from Wikipedia)

Oh, and Ben's birthday was last week. Happy belated birthday, Mr. Franklin, and thanks for all the Benjamins!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Sunday

"Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?"
- John 11:25-26

Easter Dinner with the extended family and good conversation and a Scrabble card game afterward.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Will The Circle Be Unbroken

Hat Tip to The Agitator.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
- John 3:16

Worked half a day (Friday is a popular choice for AM meetings any week and there were a couple of those but the university shut down at noon today) then spent the rest of the afternoon and evening at The Land for more progress on The Workshop and fishing (caught several small bass on minnows) and fire-grilled steak.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

About Those Spending Cuts II

Southern Man's Computer Science department is part of the university's School of Business, and early this morning we held our regular executive board meeting at which faculty and local businesspeople and various university groupies gather to hear reports about our accomplishments and advise us as to what we should actually be doing instead and drink coffee and so on. They're a lot of fun. And a regular feature of these meetings is to end with an economics report from a new visiting professor who was recently a senior vice president of the Federal Reserve. Yes, we're talking about a man whose immediate supervisor was Ben Bernanke. He knows more about economics and fiscal policy and borrowing and debt and money in general then just about anyone and it was a real feather in our cap to land him as a professor.

So he gives us a brief update on the current state of the economy in general and QE2 in particular and then opened the floor for questions. And Southern Man asked:
"I'm a layperson when it comes to economics, with twenty-plus years to go before retirement and three kids bound for college. How can someone like me look at the big picture - not just QE2 but the spending, the borrowing, the debt, the entitlement obligations - and see anything other than utter ruin in the relatively near future?"
His twenty-minute response was as thoughtful and insightful an evaluation of the national and world economy that Southern Man has ever heard or read. And a dozen executives gathered to discuss that topic for another forty minutes after the meeting ended.

Is Southern Man still worried? Yes. As worried as he was? No (given predictions ranging from another Great Depression to Mad Max, the speaker tended towards the less apocalyptic outlook). But nothing was said to prevent Southern Man from remaining in full-blown Cassandra mode when it comes to our economic future.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

About Those Spending Cuts...

Adapted from this post at Philip Greenspun's blog...
The breadwinners of a family of four earned $65,100 last year. They have good jobs; their income has typically increased by four or five percent every year for the last several decades. However, they're not very good money managers; they're hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt and interest payments on that debt consumes more than a tenth of their income. Furthermore, they've promised their kids hundreds of thousands of dollars in future payments. Unfortunately, this year was more of the same; they actually spent $114,600 and had to borrow $49,500 on those already overextended credit cards to make up the difference between their spending and their income.

So this family decides to make "draconian cuts" in their spending next year - to the tune of $1100. And that will make everything all right.
Your homework essay questions are:
Can this continue indefinitely?
Will this family be able to meet their future obligations?
Will this family ever be out of debt?
The short answers are no, no, and no. But try to get anyone in DC to believe that. As Larry Correia says in his increasingly famous tax day rant (dutifully linked from this Southern Man post), expecting Congress to save money is like expecting a crack whore to save crack.

Hard times are coming, folks. Get ready.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Fishing At The Land

Southern Man and a friend went out to The Land ostensibly to get a little more accomplished on The Workshop and grill burgers but it was such a beautiful (and windless!) day that we ended up spending most of the afternoon fishing instead. We both caught a fair handful of small bass; nothing to write home about, but still a lot of fun. Then it was burgers over the firepit and cold beer until the sun was down. Good, good times.

Friday, April 15, 2011


Southern Man went bowling with some friends - first time he's hit the lanes in many years - and, just foolin' around, bested his previous lifetime high game by twenty pins.

King of the Lanes, tonight!

Happy Tax Day

Well, technically Happy Tax Day isn't 'till Monday this year but Southern Man revels in tradition so today it is. And Southern Man has been working for a few days now on a diatribe on the utter insanity that is Washington today and his frustration with those who think that cutting a fraction of the recent increases from the Federal budget (not from the budget itself, mind you, but from the recent increases in the budget) is "draconian" and that Paul Ryan's budget is the End Of The World As We Know It. He wants his two older children to know that they are fools if they expect to get back any of that money they're paying into Social Security and Medicare and he wants to take his hopelessly liberal sister and shake her by the neck until she understands that all of her caring and compassion and desire to help others will not pay the bills for these programs and tell his equally hopelessly liberal colleagues that the Department of Education has done nothing - zero, zip, nada - for education other than increase the price and even tell his sciency friends (and Southern Man is sciency if nothing else) that we cannot afford to spend money on this stuff any more and to shout from the rooftops that we have been lied to for forty years, that the bills are due, and, no, we aren't going to get what we were promised and anyone that tells us otherwise is just perpetuating those same lies. Unfortunately, doing just that is what gets you elected.

And of course someone else does it first, and does it so much better. So Southern Man will steal his title and link to his post and plead with everyone who sees this to click and read and read again and send it to all of your friends.

There is so much about that post that Southern Man likes but he will resist the temptation to excerpt it and again beg you to read it and simply end with a harsh truth: we must make hard choices today, or have much harder ones forced on us tomorrow.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Rich Man, Poor Man

Southern Man keeps hearing and reading that the "gap between the rich and the poor" is large, and widening, and that this is a bad thing.

The truth is, the gap between rich and poor has never been narrower.

What did it mean to be poor one or two hundred years ago? It meant that you had no home; no reliable access to food and clean water; no dental or medical care. It meant that you lived in filth and were generally wracked with disease and vermin. It meant that your toilet was a tree or a hole in the ground. You had no clothes; no possessions; no net worth. Most of the time, you were hungry. If you needed to travel, you walked. Your labor was barely sufficient to provide the basic necessities of your wretched life. Your wife had only a middlin' chance of surviving childbirth; your children, a coin toss as to whether or not they would survive into adulthood.

Now, what does it mean to be poor today? In the United States, the vast majority of the "poor" live in constructed homes, with indoor plumbing, with hot and cold running water, with kitchens and bathrooms and bedrooms. They have refrigerators and air conditioners and televisions. Most own at least one car. The majority have cable television and cell phones and access to the Internet. One of the greatest health problems among the poor today is not malnutrition, but obesity - and even the poor can afford to pay others to prepare their meals, often many times each week. "Poor" in the US today is "middle class" in modern Europe. "Poor" in Europe is a standard of living unheard of in much of the world. And all over the world people live far better lives than did their ancestors, with access to good food and clean water and shelter and clothing at an all-time high and increasing yearly. That is not to say that there are people who are truly poor; there are, and Southern Man finds it deeply offensive to be told that so many millions of his countrymen, who live in relative luxury, are "poor" when there are those who still live in what is, truly, abject poverty. Fortunately, that number is decreasing and will continue to do so. The good news about the poor is that never in human history have so many had as much access to so many resources as they do today, and never in human history has the average standard of living been as high as it is today.

That is why Southern Man claims that the gap between rich and "poor" (as defined in the USA and Europe) is narrow; both have about the same access to what we deem the basic necessities of life, and once you have them improvements don't scale with income. Sure, a rich man drives a Lexus while a poor girl makes do with a Chevy - but both drive, on the same roads and burning the same fuel. The rich man's refrigerator preserves food no better than does yours; the flame on his gas stove is no different than yours; his cell phone drops calls in the same manner as yours; his cold water no purer and hot water no hotter. Of course there are differences, but they tend to revolve about luxuries, not necessities. And money can't buy everything. A rich man may have a million times your net worth but cannot obtain food or water or gasoline or chocolate or paint or even health care that's a million times better than yours - or even ten times better. That's quite a contrast to the gap in years past, when the rich had access to doctors and the poor died alone; the rich had homes and the poor did not; the rich rode and the poor walked; the rich ate, and the poor starved.

Those who argue that the "gap" between rich and poor is a bad thing neglect to acknowledge that the standard of living for nearly everyone has risen to the point that
Tim Berners-Lee now claims that Internet access is a human right. Imagine the wealth of a world in which such a thing could be said and taken seriously and remind yourself of what it really means to be poor; and remember that, as Heinlein famously said, poverty is the normal condition of man.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


With the advent of fair weather and calming of the seemingly ceaseless winds Southern Man has made it out to The Land every evening so far this week - today should make it three for three - for more progress on The Workshop and dinner at the firepit. The garden-tool room is nearly done (enough that it's now full of garden tools and hoses and such; why Southern Man has six shovels and four rakes is beyond him but he tends to accumulate those sorts of things) and this evening should see more progress on the fishing room. By the weekend that should be finished and Southern Man will - finally - begin to gather all of his scattered fishing gear into one place so that it can be put to the use God intended. And it's also a pleasure to just sit and look at all of the green and listen to the fish hit the surface of the pond and watch the stars come out in the evening while eating freshly-grilled meat and sipping a cold beer and playing Words With Friends on the iPad. Life doesn't get much better than that. Walden is a favorite book and Southern Man aspires to that simple lifestyle but also has a deep appreciation for things that Thoreau didn't have; electricity and 3G coverage are foremost among them.

Friday, April 08, 2011


Southern Man's employer is host to an independent TED event today - indeed, in his very building - so the place is buzzing with excitement. The rotunda is packed full of exhibits - artists, entrepreneurs, students, you name it - and the main event is in the big auditorium a few steps from his office. When the news hit that we would be hosting a TEDx pretty much everyone applied for tickets but only a handful could be accepted and sadly Southern Man was not among them so he has been something of a TED groupie in the moments between today's lengthy slate of administrative meetings. Lots of fun.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Steak By The Lake II

As predicted, Southern Man was able to slip away from work early and get out to the Land for more progress on The Workshop and another delicious fire-grilled steak with peppers and onions and mushrooms. By sunset the lake was dead calm and Southern Man popped a beer and relaxed by the water and watched the fish hit the surface and waved at a couple of neighbors who were out in a flat-bottomed boat and listened to the sounds of the night. Which unfortunately includes a rather loud natural gas pumping station across the road. Does Southern Man profit from this reminder that his home state was once the oil capital of the world? No; only surface rights were available so someone else reaps the carboniferous harvest that lies beneath.

The Workshop project comes in roughly five interior sections: a little garden tool room (what Southern Man worked on over the weekend and Monday and today; it's almost finished) and the fishing room (next on the list), both of which were tacked on to the north side of the main building fairly late in the game; the downstairs (future wood and paint shop); upstairs east (electrical and plumbing tools and stuff); and upstairs west (with a big window overlooking the lake, it's already been dubbed the "Sunset Room" by eleven-year-old daughter and, unknown to her, is destined to become her personal playroom furnished with a twin bed, chair, bookshelf, play table, TV, video player, and air conditioner; he hopes to surprise her with it later this summer). On the exterior, all that remains is trim on all of the outside corners and gutters and paint. Lots of paint. Lots and lots and lots of paint. Southern Man is leaning towards a dark green. Once completed The Workshop will take a lot of pressure off The Barn, which is currently so stuffed full of boxes and furniture and junk as to be well-nigh unusable, and will serve as construction central for all future projects - which includes actually finishing The Barn after ten years of sitting at 90% completion.

Southern Man writes about The Land a lot because it is one of the few constants in his life. And to think he almost gave it up and sold it as part of the divorce settlement. There is no place he'd rather be and he's trying to figure out how to live out there in one fashion or another as soon as possible. The main hurdle is water; there's not yet a well down. Heck, he's only had electricity out there for a couple of years. But once a well is down Southern Man may well carve a little bedroom out of the upper floor of The Barn and plumb in a little bathroom and just rough it out there for a while. As if electricity and running hot water and a high speed 'net connection is "roughing it."

Monday, April 04, 2011

Steak By The Lake

The winds have certainly been sweepin' down the plains these last few days, to the extent that the state issued wind warnings and in a place as windy as this that actually means something. Yesterday Southern Man and a friend spent much of the afternoon at The Land working on The Shed - the friend's outside job was to stand on the sheets of plywood to keep them from sailing away while Southern Man ran the saw - and we didn't dare try to grill our steaks and ended up at Golden Corral instead. But the weather predicted that the wind would die down this evening so Southern Man went out after work today and got some wiring done and some more plywood up and sure enough by dark it was nearly dead calm so one of the two steaks that had been allocated for yesterday (along with mushrooms and green peppers) went on the fire to be washed down with a delicious cold beer. With any luck at all Wednesday will be a repeat with the second steak. And when Southern Man got home there was a water ski (non-slalom) in the living room. Life with teen daughter is occasionally rather interesting.

Generation Gap

You know you're in Southern Man's generation when a good classic rock tune comes on the radio and you talk about the group and other songs on that album and how great they were in concert and even the album cover art.

You know you're not when you identify classic rock tunes with the edition of Guitar Hero or Rock Band that includes them.