Southern Man

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Dude, Where's My Vacation?

Wow, that went fast. Summer teaching starts up at Southern Man's university today; next week at the local community college where he adjuncts on the side. At eight in the morning. So for the next nine weeks Southern Man will have his nose firmly pressed against the grindstone, dawn to dusk, but only four days a week. The upside is that like most teachers Southern Man has his nine-month salary distributed as twelve checks so summer work is "extra" money in the bank. The down side is that it's already earmarked and mostly for things that are necessary but not necessarily fun. But Southern Man is keenly aware that he has two jobs while many have none so he'll quit bitching and get back to work instead. Lord, You have blessed me beyond measure. Thanks! Amen.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day Picnic

Southern Man is a part of the small but growing singles ministry at his church and the Memorial Day picnic is one of our short list of "big" events. As one of the gofers Southern Man (assisted by eleven-year-old daughter) headed for the church in the big Titan to fill ice chests and water balloons and load up, then convoyed to the picnic site, unloaded, and got the tables set and the grills fired up and waited on the revelers to arrive.

There was lots to do. Southern Man and daughter took a small group out geocaching in the park and were three for three (with daughter scoring twice). And there were silly activities (such as water balloon volleyball) and silly games and such. It was great fun.

Eleven-year-old daughter leads the girls tug 'o war team to victory.

A silly pose. She won the silly glasses in a puzzle-matching game.

Water balloon volleyball was followed by water balloon war.

Memorial Day

Memorial Day greetings and thanks to all of our service-folks and veterans. In large part because of you we live in the greatest nation in the history of the world.

Today Southern Man's singles group is putting on the Memorial Day Singles Picnic, which is one of their major annual events. So, Southern Man and his pickup will appear at the church in a few hours to load up, and he'll be back home in eight hours or so with stories and pics.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Another Swimming Day

After church today Southern Man and eleven-year-old daughter decided to grab some take-out (rather than eat in) and spend the rest of the day at home and nurse their sunburns. So that's what we did. The apartment pool is now open so we did swim for a few hours but mostly we just relaxed at home. And that was Good.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Pool Party

After another day of work out at The Land yesterday Southern Man swung by his folk's house and acquired eleven-year-old daughter for the weekend. And today a local fitness club is opening their outdoor pool with a "free swim" so we did some birthday shopping (she will soon be twelve-year-old daughter) for swimwear and goggles and such and picked up one of her playmates and went there.

Turns out by "free swim" they meant "pool party" with burgers and dogs on the grill and tubs full of cold drinks and a DJ and prize drawings every hour, so we ate and drank and swam (well, they swam; Southern Man did a few laps but mostly ate and drank and watched the two mermaids frolic in the water and napped in the sun) and playmate won a handful of tickets to the local minor-league baseball team's next game and Southern Man got terribly sunburned.

Good times.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


The neighborhood was fairly busy today as families continued to take stock of the situation, recover what they could, and prepare for rebuilding.

This photo was taken from the southern border of The Land, facing southeast. The home two lots south of Southern Man lost a lot of shingles, but no sheathing; they spent much of the day yesterday covering the roof with those blue tarps. Note the capsized boat and trailer in the foreground. To the left are the contents of the immediate neighbor's tin shed, less the shed - that was about their only loss. The house on the other side of the street (in the center of the photo) is missing most of its shingles and a fair amount of brick facade but with almost all of the sheathing still intact. Whether due to differences in workmanship or just the capricious nature of tornadoes, the four houses north of that one suffered substantially more damage.

South of that house are eight lots of rubble.

The fury of Mother Nature is no match for a Southerner's indefatigable spirit and sense of humor.

The couple on the far southeast corner runs a rock-and-gravel service and they've already used their surviving heavy equipment to clear their slab. But not all made it through - that is a full-size gravel truck on its side in the background. Their truck barn was also completely blown away.

This pickup was picked up by the storm and dropped in the middle of the neighbor's yard...

...and here's a big truck in the middle of a field that started out in the truck barn mentioned a few photos above...

...but the most spectacular vehicular damage was this capsized motor home - which belongs to a family six houses away. Yes, the tornado threw a motor home half the length of our quarter-mile-long road. Of this house, only the eight-year-old boy's under-stairs closet survived. They attribute this to the sheer volume and weight of his toys. The storm took the house and garage, but left their car battered but unmoved. Also look at the ground in this photo (and in others above) and compare to the first photo in this post; the tornado plucked most of the grass right out of the ground.

Southern Man was deeply touched by the breadth and depth of the support these families have received. Yesterday Southern Man made a run to the local Sonic for a bag of burgers (when the manager heard what they were for, he halved the price) and had a hard time giving them away, there was so much food and water coming in. Today the ladies working a State disaster-services van were joking that more people were offered them food and water than were accepting theirs (but Southern Man, having put any number of nails through the soles of his boots in the last two days, took them up on a free tetanus booster). Everyone was in good spirits, openly thankful that no one in our neighborhood was harmed. The family from the home in the photo above were sitting under a canopy eating pizza and cracking jokes. Lord, keep us ever mindful of what is truly important. Amen.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Day After

The destruction wrought by the tornado near The Land is almost unimaginable. Only a single house was left whole. About a third of the houses in the neighborhood are damaged but largely intact, a third have just a few walls remaining, and a third are heaps of unrecognizable rubble.

A few houses to the south of The Land survived with light to moderate damage. Beyond them, every house was gutted or leveled.

On the east side of the road it's another story; almost every house is a total loss. One home, a cute little factory-built Victorian farmhouse that was assembled on the lot, was completely swept away; there's just a bare slab and a few pieces of debris remaining.

Not even the brick mailboxes survived the fury of the storm. Can you imagine wind so powerful that it can tear apart a brick mailbox? None in the southern half of the addition withstood the storm. Most of the phone and electric utility boxes there were also uprooted.

Southern Man was very, very lucky; a little damage to The Barn, a few broken windows and sprung doors, a couple of trees down - and that's it.

The half-million-dollar home across the street from The Land was eviscerated - there's hardly anything left on the inside at all. Just out of the shot on the right is an overturned full-sized pickup. In the background some of the surviving utility poles lean south; a half-mile down the road they're bent north, which gives you an idea of the size of the rotation. Even angle-iron fence posts were flattened by the twister.

Southern Man spent his day helping out his neighbors as best he could, assisting in the search for the missing boy (this morning the search was been widened to include our addition and the boy has still not been found as of this writing), and doing a little repair work and clean up. And counting his blessings. Trees were uprooted on the southwest corner of The Land, the home shown above is across the street at the northeast corner - and his two structures were hardly touched. Lord, why were my worthless buildings spared when so many homes were taken and so many families left with nothing? Help me to understand Your grace and mercy, that I might show it to others as You have to me. Amen.

[Added later] Didn't notice until this evening that the camera date was wrong; all photos taken 5/25/2011. The Wikipedia article on this outbreak is here. The body of the missing child was found the next morning, bringing the death toll for this tornado (now classified as EF4) to nine.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


One of the tornadoes that swept across Southern Man's state this afternoon plowed through the neighborhood around The Land and left devastation and ruin in its wake. Southern Man came out lucky; his two buildings have only light damage, and the home of his neighbor directly south of his lot is whole. Every other home in the neighborhood is damaged or destroyed. The house directly across the street is missing most of the upper floor; half a dozen homes in the south end of the neighborhood are pretty much gone. The roads are littered with twisted and broken power poles along with debris of every kind. Thankfully, no one in that neighborhood was injured (everyone has a storm room or a cellar out there) but a lot of people lost all that they own, and there were fatalities less than a mile away. Lord, thank you for your mercy and protection on my friends and neighbors. Be with us all as we rebuild after this terrible storm. Amen.

Mentions of the May 2011 tornado link to here; other tornado posts: The Day After and Recovery.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Talented Kids

Southern Man is pretty proud of his kids. Earlier this evening teen daughter demonstrated her keyboard skills at her senior recital with performances of works by Alberto Ginastera (a favorite composer of her mother, who is an accomplished pianist), Ludwig van Beethoven, William Gillock (a charming duet with a younger student), and with the other two seniors and their instructor, a thunderous eight-hand arrangement of an Edvard Grieg march. And the evening before eleven-year-old daughter knocked off one item on her summer bucket list by singing a Carrie Underwood song at her home church's talent show. Teen son is also quite the improviser and composer on piano and a true shredding guitar hero.Southern Man and his ex took care to surround the children with good music and to encourage them to take up piano and other instruments; the harvest from those seasons of planting has been sweet. Well, the shredding guitar isn't "sweet" but still...

Saturday, May 21, 2011


After teaching his ABD year in Arkansas Southern Man polished off his doctorate and kicked off a fourteen-year tenure at a professor at a mid-sized Christian college - his own alma mater, and that of his ex and both parents. And that was the year that 88 Reasons Why The Rapture Will Be In 1988 came out.

Not one professor or administrator at this profoundly conservative, Bible-thumping, evangelical college believed a word of it. The only real action taken was that we were all called into a meeting and given pointers by one of the psychology profs on how to effectively work with concerned students and parents. And that was when Southern Man began to understand the problems created by religious crackpots; to get the attention of the press you must be fairly nuts, so only nuts get the attention of the press.

So Southern Man's activity today to prepare for yet another Rapture was to treat himself to a long afternoon nap. Why take chances? Now well rested, he will head out to The Land with a load of construction material and will work and fish and cook and relax until well after dark, unless the predicted thunderstorms chase him off. Why not? Our Lord was a carpenter and hung out with fishermen and according to at least one account rather enjoyed cooking over an open fire as well. And it's also written that He had little fear of storms.

But if you need comfort from the Good Book...

Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man comes.

- Matthew 25:13

And if that didn't help, here's Rapture by Blondie:

Friday, May 20, 2011

Alma Mater

Southern Man spent a most pleasant evening at his doctoral alma mater this evening which hosted a banquet for six, count 'em, six retiring professors, almost all of who taught Southern Man at some point in the course of his first pass through grad school and some of whom number among his favorites. The turnout was astonishing; there were probably a couple of hundred there. Southern Man again got to re-connect with old friends, shake hands and reminisce with former professors, and even got to chat with his long-retired dissertation advisor. Those were good times and it's nice to see them all again.

Movie Review - On Stranger Tides

In keeping with long-standing tradition Southern Man and eleven-year-old daughter hit the 12:01 AM premier of the latest entry in the Pirates of the Carribean franchise and as is usually the case with midnight movies it was a lot of fun. We were treated to several movie-goers in full costume, including a couple of hot girls costumed as the Penélope Cruz character and a terrific young Jack Sparrow. They opened up an additional theatre just as we arrived so we were among the first in the new venue and found terrific seats. Eleven-year-old daughter, chagrined at having fallen asleep at our last midnight outing, took care to be well rested and had a great time.

It takes Southern Man a few viewings for these films to grow on him; he recalls not caring for the
third installment at all in theatres, but now it's his favorite. That said, he found the film entertaining if a bit convoluted in places. They left some fairly obvious hooks at the end for sequels, of which there may be one or two yet to come. If you liked the first three, you'll like this one as well unless the only reason you liked the others was to lust after Orlando Bloom and/or Keira Knightley or to laugh at the antics of Pintel and Ragetti, none of whom make this one. Too bad, as Knightley is Southern Man's second-favorite pirate after the indespensible Captain Hector Barbossa.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Movie Review - Paul

While casting about for entertainment today Southern Man and eleven-year-old daughter found themselves at the local $2 theatre (situated in the middle of a small but relatively upscale mall, of all places) and found that they ran a $1 special on Tuesdays. We saw Paul, which was chock-full of sci/fi and fandom references and which Southern Man found absolutely hilarious, enough so that he's already ordered the DVD. Yes, the humor was a bit rude for a tween girl but she found it equally hilarious (if for different reasons; toilet humor gets more mileage with her than with Southern Man) and a few bits from the film are now part of her usual banter. It'll be interesting to see how her mother reacts to a few of them. And after the film we found a yogurt-by-the-ounce place and had delicious double-chocolate yogurt with toppings. We may make this a fairly regular Tuesday outing.

Five Things I Want To Do This Summer

(Guest post by eleven-year-old daughter)

Well on the top of my list would be to have the perfect birthday of the perfect summer.

The second thing I want to do this summer is to get my very own lawyer briefcase so I can be a lawyer because I believe I am very good at it for I enjoy proving a point and I will not be wrong.

Now the third thing would be to be with my friends and family.

The fourth would most definitely be to show off how awesome I am at singing at a karaoke place.

Now last but not least I want to get that stupid homework packet done so I'll never see it ever again. Now that would be a miracle!

Monday, May 16, 2011

One In Five People Believe That...

The author of this article expresses amazement that one in five Americans don't believe that OBL was indeed brought to thermal equilibrium with his surroundings by the heroes of Seal Team 6 (® Walt Disney Corporation). The comments to that article expound on the notion that one in five Americans is...well, read them for yourself.

Southern Man observes that for every damn fool idea or conspiracy theory floating around out there, one in five people believe it. That's about the proportion who believe that we never went to the Moon, or that Elvis is still alive, or that 9/11 was a government conspiracy, or that JFK was murdered by a cabal of government agents and defense contractors, or that an alien spacecraft is hidden in Hangar 18, or that (insert politician's name here) stole the (insert year/location here) election, or that super-secret 100-mpg carburetors exist, or that (raising/lowering) taxes will (increase/decrease) revenue, or that eating less and exercising will cause you to lose weight. So, are one in five people idiots? No; the problem is that for every damn fool idea, it's a different one in five people.

Southern Man concludes from this that we are all idiots, laughing at the fools that fall for the conspiracy theory of the day while blissfully unaware of the particular falsehoods and untruths that we ourselves hold dear.

The article does give a clue as to why this is so:
This incredulity phenomenon is a curious creation of a high-speed global media so full of unverified and unverifiable information floating about, combined with a modern cynicism about political leaders masquerading as voter wisdom. After so many lies and misleading claims by politicians over the decades since the Kennedy assassination and its conspiracy theories ("I am not a crook" "I did not have sex with that woman"), the safest way to look wise and experienced these days is to dismiss virtually any public official's statement as a talking point and/or lie.
We are inundated with so much information - more every week than Aristotle was during his lifetime - and so much of it is unverifiable, or biased, or downright false - that we just don't believe much of anything anymore. Southern Man himself questions (and largely disbelieves) pretty much everything he hears or reads. Is this healthy skepticism, or planting one's head in the sand?

Dr. House was right; everyone lies. Everyone. Politicians, scientists, businessmen, auto mechanics, the police, your immediate supervisor - everyone. Remember "don't trust anyone over 30?" How about "Trust, but verify?" Southern Man says - don't trust anyone, period. Ever. About anything.

And he's willing to bet good money that one in five people agree with him.

Phone Call

(Southern Man) Hello?

(Voice with heavy Indian accent) Hello, Southern Man, this is "Bob" calling from Wal-mart. Congratulations, you have won a $400 gift card from Wal-Mart!

(Southern Man) This is the scam where I have to pay to get the card delivered, right?

("Bob" in a surprised voice) What, you know it's a scam already?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Graduation Day!

Congratulations to Southern Man's beautiful and talented and generally wonderful teen daughter! One more week of classes - just a formality, she assures me - and she's officially graduated and ready to take one more step out into the world.

This weekend has been All About Her, as it should be; a lovely reception for her at a friend's home yesterday and commencement today with her classmates, with the between-times sprinkled with dinners and parties and outings with her friends. If all goes as planned she'll be off to Chicago for college in the fall. Eleven-year-old daughter is already itching to take over her old bedroom.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Friday The Thirteenth... also the first official day of Summer Vacation, having knocked out the final lecture of the Spring semester last night. Well, still have to go through those final exams and turn in grades on Monday, so there's a half-day of work right there. And Southern Man will spend most of his free moments this weekend slogging through a paper since the principal author really wanted this final round of edits last week. So it appears that Summer Vacation has started but work has not yet ended. Well, Southern Man will take what he can get since summer school begins in a couple of weeks and if all four classes make that'll mean ten-hour workdays, easily. But today was spent relaxing and watching House with teen daughter and then an afternoon spent working and fishing and cooking and generally puttering around at The Land. Tomorrow is filled with various events - errands in the morning, a mid-afternoon graduation party for teen daughter, game night at a friend's house - and Sunday is also packed from morning 'till night with church in the morning and teen daughter's mid-afternoon graduation ceremonies (large enough that they rent a local convention center; Southern Man will be bringing the iPad) and a church leadership team meeting that evening.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Domestic Tranquility

Southern Man just loves it when both daughters are here and chattering and fussing and happy and generally acting like sisters. We went to the beauty salon where eleven-year-old spent two months of saved allowance on highlights and a layer cut, then to Wal-Mart and laid down a couple of Benjamins for a mountain of food and then we got pizza on the way home and now we're home eating said pizza and drinking beer (well, Southern Man is drinking beer; the girls drink overpriced bottled water) and playing Guitar Hero V (in which teen daughter has invented the "power truffle") and generally acting like an actual family. Which is a rarity, considering the last several years. Southern Man plans to enjoy it.

*The Power Truffle bears some explanation. After a particularly awesome run she cries out "Power Truffle!" and we feed her a truffle.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Mother's Day 2011

Southern Man was able to join both parents for lunch, and all three of us were at Mom and Dad's for home-made pizza this evening to celebrate our wonderful mom, who is also the World's Best Grandmother. Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, May 07, 2011


Today was that annual Spring rite of baccalaureate, undergraduate commencement, and graduate commencement, and all went about as expected. We sang the same two hymns we always sing at baccalaureate. A sitting US Senator jokingly warned us about politicians making long boring speeches, then commenced to make a long boring speech. The university organist conducted his twice-yearly battle with the Widor Tocatta. One of the soloists had to test the waters a bit before reaching an agreement with the orchestra on the key for The Star-Spangled Banner. A bunch of us lunched at a local Chinese restaurant where the associate dean consumed enough alcohol to become somewhat merrier than usual. More than one student asked if there was anything that could be done to improve the grades that Southern Man had just turned in to the Registrar (preferred response: build a time machine, go back four months, and work harder. Also, bring a CD of four months of stock market activity.) And now the semester is officially over.


Friday, May 06, 2011

Thinkers and Feelers

Some recent family drama has led Southern Man to reflect on the personality types of various family members. Today's lecture will focus on Thinking and Feeling. puts it this way:
Thinkers decide based primarily on logic, and when they do so, they consider a decision to be made. They tend to see the world in black and white and dislike fuzziness. Perhaps because people are so variable, they focus on tangible things, seeking truth and use of clear rules. At work, they are task-oriented, seek to create clear value. Interacting with them tends to brief and business-like. They may be seen as cold and heartless by Feelers.

Feelers decide based primarily through social considerations, listening to their heart and considering the feelings of others. They see life as a human existence and material things as being subservient to this. They value harmony and use tact in their interactions with others. At work, they are sociable and people-oriented and make many decisions based on values (more than value). They may be seen as unreliable and emotional by Thinkers.

When Southern Man and his ex were in post-divorce reconciliation counseling (with the incomparable Dr. Jim Talley) we did a lot of personality testing. Ex tested as a hard-against-the-wall feeler; Southern Man was nearly as extreme a thinker. In hindsight, this actually explains a lot and it taught Southern Man how to deal with her more effectively. In particular, it explained why any discussion with her based on reason and logic ended in raised voices and shouting and screaming and how to avoid those conflicts in the future.

So here is Southern Man's unprofessional evaluation of the rest of the family, in terms of his observations on how they differ from the norm:

Teen son got a healthy dose of his mother's personality and is much more a feeler than the average guy. Teen daughter, on the other hand, tends to be more of a thinker than the norm for girls, to the point that it upsets her that in some situations she doesn't feel as much emotion as she thinks she should. This actually makes perfect sense to Southern Man. Eleven-year-old daughter seems to be the most balanced of the three.

Southern Man's little sister is also a full-fledged feeler. Based on some of her Facebook posts Southern Man sometimes wonders if she thinks at all. Indeed, some of the aforementioned recent family drama was an argument with her in which Southern Man was judged to be unfeeling and insensitive. She's a terrific aunt, though, so all is forgiven. Southern Man's brother (the middle child) is probably the most balanced of us three in this regard.

Southern Man's father and mother both lean thinker, which explains their relatively emotionless relationship. They've been together for fifty-plus years, though, so whatever they do seems to work for them. And they are without a doubt the World's Best Grandparents. lists some tongue-in-cheek prayers for each of the sixteen Jungian personality types. Southern Man's is:

Lord, keep me open to others' ideas, WRONG though they may be. Amen!

Monday, May 02, 2011

Finals Week!

It is Finals Exam week at Southern Man's university employer. Last week all of the printers and photocopiers were removed, as the lease has expired. Today the new vendor is still deploying the new printers and copiers, few of which are function and none of which are mapped to the campus network. And there are several dozen professors all frantically trying to get their exams printed. Fortunately Southern Man is tight with the Dean's administrative assistant so he slipped away to Kinko's with a university VISA to get his own work done.

Or, as we call it around here, Monday. How this place manages to stay afloat at all is a mystery. But Southern Man hopes they do until he retires or is dismissed, whichever comes first.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Happy May Day!

“When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.”
— Proverbs 21:15