Southern Man

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Parallel Thinking Conference Day 0

Southern Man has arrived at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge for the parallel thinking conference. They have put us up in student apartments that have been cleaned and prepped for the upcoming semester but there are no linens. Which Southern Man expected. But there are also no towels and no toilet paper and that is a bit harsh. On the other hand, student housing is a far cry from what it was back in Southern Man's day; a quad with four private bedrooms, two bathrooms, washer and dryer, and a large common area with kitchen. In some ways it's nicer than Southern Man's apartment.

And on top of all that Southern Man's flight was late and so he had to hustle over to another building for the pre-conference meet-and-eat-and-greet, which turned out to be great fun. Our Leader is knowledgeable and entertaining and did a lot of pretty neat stuff this evening so it looks like Southern Man will learn a lot this week. Southern Man was also delighted to find an old friend was among the hosts and so he conned her into driving him to Wal-Mart for snacks and supplies after dinner.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

How Broke Are We?

Hat tip to this post by Dan Spencer at RedState, who calls himself a California Yankee but manages to make a lot of sense nonetheless. Some of the figures in the paragraph below are his.
Imagine a family of four in which the breadwinners bring home $50,000 per year. Unfortunately, they spent $79,000 last year and are on track to spend $86,000 this year. Incredibly, cutting back their "discretionary" spending won't balance their budget; their fixed payments alone exceed their income. They already have $330,000 in credit-card debt and have promised the two children that they'll eventually collect about a quarter million dollars in benefits. Each.
Now Southern Man asks four questions:
What would it take for this family balance their budget?
What would be required to sustain their current lifestyle indefinitely?
How can this family pay off their current debt?
How can this family make good on the promises made to their children?
This is (obviously) a scaled-down description of the state of our current national finances, similar to many floating about the 'net and many liberals argue that it is a poor analogy. We'll knock these arguments down one by one, beginning with this post on Political Animal, where the claim is that borrowing during hard times is fine and that you make up for it when the economy improves. Unfortunately, that hasn't been the pattern; the government borrows in both bad times and good. When families take on debt, they typically have a plan for repaying that debt; the government pays interest on debt but never principal. It is also argued that we can grow our way out of debt. Again, history shows otherwise; federal revenue rises, but spending rises more. Liberals gripe about the Reagen-era deficits without mentioning that in those eight years federal revenue very nearly doubled. You can't grow your way out of debt if you increase your spending at the same rate or more as your increases in revenue.

In this article at the Boston Globe Jesse Singhal calls the household analogy "inane" and scoffs at the notion that "at a time when so many families are struggling, it's only fair that the government should cut aid to struggling families." Jesse, if the forty-year War On Poverty has taught us anything at all, it is You Get What You Pay For. Government assistance has created a permanent welfare class, which requires permanent government assistance, which creates what the Democrats so dearly love, a growing population who can be counted upon to check the D box in every election. Not to mention the beloved Democrat notion of "fairness," which usually entails taking from one group (wage-earners, entrepreneurs,business owners, and other non-Democrats) and giving to another (Democrats or potential Democrats).

Daily Drew also takes issue at comparing government to households and argues that it's fine to incur debt if the ultimate goal is to improve your lot; the example used is to buy a second car in order for a family member to take on a second job. He's right - governments are not families. And he's wrong - while families may take on short-term debt in hopes for a long-term gain (houses and cars and tools and college educations come to mind) governments never do this; they take on debt to pay their current obligations, not as part of a long-term plan to eventually get out of debt.

So now let's answer the questions, for both the family and the government.

What would it take for this family balance their budget?

When a budget is unbalanced, one can increase revenue, decrease expenses, or both. The family can increase revenue by working harder (or smarter) and can decrease discretionary spending. Since their fixed spending already exceeds their income, they must do both. And if that's not enough, they'll have little choice but to default on some of their debt. The government has the same options. Unfortunately when it comes to revenue, they're already taking the largest percentage of GDP since WWII so their best option to increase revenue is to increase
GDP - an option that our family does not have. If Southern Man is correct and we are indeed on the high side of the Laffer Curve one way to increase GDP is to reduce taxes and this might actually happen in the current climate in Washington. As for spending - well, unfortunately, government spending never decreases; a "decrease" in Washington-speak is simply an increase that is smaller than originally requested. An actual decrease, as in "spending less money this year than we did last year," is unlikely but one can still hope. Defaulting on debt may put a bankruptcy on your credit report for seven years; the effect on the government will last a bit longer.

What would be required to sustain their current lifestyle indefinitely?

As some liberals argue, balancing the budget is irrelevant as long as the government can borrow money. And, so far, this has held true. But this is not the case for our hypothetical family; there will come a time when their creditors judge that they are no longer able to service their current debt, much less take on more, and the flow of money will stop. The result for our family would be catastrophic: they in all likelihood declare bankruptcy, suffer a sharp decrease in their standard of living, and default on not only many of their current debts but on most or all of their future obligations. Will this happen to the government? And what happens if it does? One might look to Europe for one set of fears; the primary reason that the US government supports yet another bailout of the Greek economy is that if a major nation defaults the entire house of cards might come crashing down, and that might occur with terrible swiftness.

How can this family pay off their current debt?

To pay off debt a family must principal as well as interest. To date, the government does not pay principal. However, the government has an option not available to our family - increase
inflation at a rate that exceeds interest on the debt. To mask that they are already making use of this option the government has continually altered the formula by which inflation is computed, generally by changing what is and is not included in the CPI - indeed, it is claimed that the CPI actually dropped in 2009 although food and energy costs rose dramatically. Using the same metrics as used during the Carter administration, inflation is currently running around 18%.

How can this family make good on the promises made to their children?

It has been pointed out that our government's current obligation to future generations is greater than the total sum of all of the money in all of the currencies in the world - estimated to be the equivalent of $60 trillion. This does not make meeting those obligations impossible; the total wealth of the world generally increases with time and one might note that there was far less than that amount of wealth in the world a half-century ago. The question is, will the increase be sufficient, or will the state be required to default on some of its promises?

Southern Man predicts most of the above; his taxes will go up and his benefits (both current and promised) will go down. Inflation will continue to increase and the value of the dollar will continue to decrease. The percentage of tax consumers will continue to increase and the number of tax producers will continue to decline. His plan is to hope that people's faith in the economy holds out long enough that he can get his youngest child through college and settle down on
The Land with a big garden, no debt, and some sort of long-term plan for TEOTWAWKI.

Hopefully Southern Man's neighbors do not have this particular plan.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Every Southern Man needs a truck...

...and a friend to help load it!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Two Speeches

This has been floating around the 'net for a while, usually in a version that is a bit biased against one of the speakers. But Southern Man is nothing if not Fair and Balanced so in the Southern Man version all personal pronouns and their subjects are highlighted.
The success of yesterday’s mission is a tribute to our men and women now serving in Iraq. The operation was based on the superb work of intelligence analysts who found the dictator’s footprints in a vast country. The operation was carried out with skill and precision by a brave fighting force. Our servicemen and women and our coalition allies have faced many dangers in the hunt for members of the fallen regime, and in their effort to bring hope and freedom to the Iraqi people. Their work continues, and so do the risks. Today, on behalf of the nation, I thank the members of our Armed Forces and I congratulate them.
And so shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al Qaeda, even as I continued our broader efforts to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat his network. Then, last August, after years of painstaking work by my intelligence community, I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden. It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground. I met repeatedly with my national security team as we developed more information about the possibility that we had located bin Laden hiding within a compound deep inside of Pakistan . And finally, last week, I determined that I had enough intelligence to take action, and authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice. Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad , Pakistan.
Both speeches were uttered by Presidents of the United States on the occasions of the capture (in one case) and justified assassination (in another) of sworn enemies of our beloved republic. One of these men is frequently described as a uniter and the other as a divider. One is frequently scorned for his inept public speaking; the other lauded as a great orator. Can you tell which is which, based on these speeches?

Hat Tip to Gay Patriot, from where the speech text was taken.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Glitter Glitter Everywhere

Teen daughter and a friend went to a Kesha concert last night. There were apparently pyrotechnic devices called "glitter cannons" involved. And now there is glitter everywhere. There glitter all over the bathroom, especially in the shower. There is glitter on the futon. There is glitter on the floor. There is, according to teen daughter, a substantial quantity of glitter in her car. There is glitter on teen daughter that will not come off. Which would seem to contradict the observation that there is glitter everywhere.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Three Fails of AutoCorrect

WARNING: This post is not for the easily offended. Well, one could say that about much of the 'net. But you've been warned.

Pretty much everyone knows about this site (from which all of the following images were brazenly stolen are presented under the auspices of Fair Use) in which people post their humorous text-completion fails. All are funny, some hilariously so. More than a few are unprintable if only for the heartfelt cursing that completes many of the submissions. But few recognize that this unintentional humor is the direct result of poorly-written software. In other words, the good folks who wrote the text-completion feature for the iPhone might be fair programmers but they're poor interface designers and while their efforts have generated many a laugh they've done their employers a disservice. Really - how often does autocorrect do what you want, and how often do you curse out loud when it does something incorrect or inappropriate? How much time does autocorrect really save you, and how much time do you spend un-doing what autocorrect incorrectly did?

Fortunately, Southern Man is here to tell you three things that are broken in autocorrect and how to fix them.

(1) The autocorrect dictionary is much too large.
The reason for this is because autocorrect was written by programmers who were enamored with solving the (admittedly interesting) problem of proximate-key pattern-matching against a large database of similar words in real time and put no thought into whether their database was appropriate - in other words, they solved the problem the way programmers would but not the way a linguist would. For most people, four or five hundred words suffice for 95% of their everyday conversational needs (a fact that is handy to know when learning a new language). The purpose of autocorrect is to complete words in text messages. Thus, the autocorrect dictionary should contain, at most, a few thousand words and no more. Sadly, this will never happen because no project leader will ever approve it. Off topic, but college textbooks have the same problem; they are much too large and contain far too much information because no reviewer or editor would ever approve of removing correct information from a textbook. Texts on the three subjects Southern Man teaches - physics, mathematics, and computer science - are frequent offenders here.

One of tens of thousands of perfectly fine words that shouldn't be in this dictionary.

One would like to see the code that allows this to happen. But, another word that probably doesn't belong in the vernacular of casual texting.
(2) The autocorrect dictionary contains many words that most people would never intentionally use in a text message.

Such as proper nouns...

No offense to the good doctoror the noted scientist or to Southern Man's favorite Russian composer but your names are rarely the subjects of text messages. Unjust, perhaps, but that's the way it is.

Names of countries also make unexpected appearances simply because they're in the dictionary. How often do you intend to write "Yugoslavia" or "Zimbabwe" in a text message?

Has anyone in the English-speaking world ever intentionally send the word "führer" in a text message?

Or the names of epic Wagner operas? Although that's actually not a bad subtitle for Deathly Hallows Part II, for which mid morning on June 14 was way too late to get tickets to the midnight shows.

...and sexually-explicit terms. Admittedly removing these would cost us a fair number of laughs. The challenge here was to find examples clean enough to post but Southern Man has your best interests at heart and willingly waded through hundreds of inappropriate submissions to select these few:

While there's some merit to this particular correction (regardless of administration) it's unlikely that anyone is going to ever intentionally text the word "whorehouse."

Another fine word that one rarely encounters in casual conversation. Perhaps the world would be a happier place if it was.
(3) The autocorrect dictionary should rank all words by common usage (and modify these rankings as they are used by the actual user) and refrain from suggesting lesser-used words.

An unlikely choice for non-farmers...

Like many men Southern Man may frequently experience both states but will generally text about only one of them and the frequency stats in the dictionary should recognize this. Come to think of it, when texting a girlfriend either will do just fine.
But give the user a chance to delete words that they've added, intentionally or not...

And now that song is stuck in Southern Man's head for the rest of the day.
All programmers who write text completion software now know what they need to do to fix autocorrect. Let us know when it's ready. Kardashian. Oops, meant KTHXBYE. Damn You Auto Correct!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Daughter Summer

It has been such a pleasure to have twelve-year-old daughter here all summer. It's a pleasure that twinged with concern as one reason for the extended stay is because her mother is suffering from serious medical problems - she was eight weeks in the hospital - and still faces many months of recovery. And now that part of summer is over as Southern Man took her back to her mother today and will be lucky to see her once a month between now and Christmas.

On the bright side (Southern Man does make an effort to see silver linings) weekends are now free to tackle the many summer projects out at The Land that haven't happened because he's devoted his weekends to his daughter. His enthusiasm is a bit damped as we are still in an extended drought and heat wave - weeks and weeks of no rain and 100-plus afternoons with no sign of relief anytime soon - but early mornings and late evenings are still quite bearable and Southern Man plans to spend as much time as he can out there with a mix of activites both useful and idle. A good friend's birthday party was tonight. Southern Man's gift was a new rod, reel, and tackle box and a promise that the fish are waiting for us.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

End Of An Era

Earlier today the Space Shuttle Atlantis landed safely at the John F. Kennedy Space Center, finally ending the longest-running failed program in the history of the U.S. space program.

Atlantis' final re-entry as photographed from the ISS. Photo credit: PhotoBlog.

Amos Zeeberg's article at Discover Magazine's web site says it best. Southern Man found that article through this link, also at Discover Magazine and worth reading as the very first comment is from the inimitable Uncle Al. And the failure is not so much the shuttle itself, flawed as it was, as in NASA's unrealistic promises: nearly a hundred launches a year (they actually averaged five) at a cost of $50 million per (actual cost was about half a billion per) with unparalleled safety (two catastrophic failures in 135 missions). And what was lost through what NASA didn't do because the Space Shuttle consumed their budget for a quarter of a century?

During the heady days of Apollo Southern Man was promised that the dawn of the Twenty-First Century would bring spaceship factories in orbit and cities on the moon and colonies on Mars and scientific outposts on Ganymede and crystal mining on Titan. OK, that last was romantic science fiction but still... Instead he teaches students who've never lived in a time when man ventured beyond low Earth orbit. Hell, he teaches students whose parents have never lived in a time when we ventured beyond LEO. The Space Shuttle is one of the principle reasons for that failure. Southern Man has the highest regard for the scientists and engineers who designed and built it and the brave men and women who flew it, but none at all in the bureaucrats who administered it (many of whom should be doing hard time in Federal prison for misappropriation of public resources) and the politicians who funded it (same comment). He's glad it's over. Can we get on with exploring the Solar System now?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Farewell to the Explorer

All Southern Men shed a tear when a loved automobile is no more. The '91 Explorer was a (mostly) reliable steed; we bought it (gently used) when eldest son was an infant and the teens more or less grew up in it while Southern Man and Southern Ex put a quarter million miles on the clock. But the second trannie died a few years back and it's been slowly moldering behind the barn ever since, kept at first on teen son's request ("I'll fix it, Dad!") and started weekly and then monthly and then neglected long enough that the battery died and as time wore on the old Explorer was slowly forgotten.

So yesterday evening Southern Man and a friend went out and aired up the one flat tire (a slow leaker) and turned the motor over a few times and cleaned it out and pulled it up to the front of The Barn and today Southern Man met The Scrapper and his friend (who said they regularly take similar-vintage Explorers with good motors) and they hauled it away.

Southern Man rigs a rope for one last tow (top) and the Explorer goes the way of all things (bottom). Photo credits - Southern Man's Friend (top) and Southern Man (bottom).

So Southern Man is a $175 richer and a car poorer which worked out pretty well considering he feared he'd have to pay someone to come out to The Land to haul the carcass away. And there goes a little bit of Southern Man cred: no more derelict vehicles behind the outbuildings. Unless one counts the dead Murray lawn tractor sitting in front of the barn...

Monday, July 18, 2011

Rich Man, Poor Man II

Southern Man is tempted to revisit this topic after a number of discussions on Facebook with people who are just outraged by the idea that one group of people can have more money than another.

This post by Michael Kennedy on Chicago Boyz presents a model of an artificial population that has absolute equity in income - that is, one in which every individual has identical income and savings patterns - and examines the distribution of wealth that emerges. His analysis of this simple model finds that the top 17% of wage earners have five times the income and twenty-five times the savings as the bottom 17%, as well as 45% of the total wealth. Go ahead, check it out; we'll still be here when you get back.

Now this model is even too simple for Southern Man's simple tastes but he too is an Excel wizard so he ran his own. The main difference is that instead of holding subsistence constant at $5000 the Southern Man Model™ increases it by $500 per year to account for inflation and the demands of spouse and children and such. But the results weren't much different; at the end of the day the SMM has about a quarter of the population holding about half the total wealth.

This is not a matter of inequity or unfairness. This is a simple observation that the longer you work and save, the more you have. It's really that simple.
But ask any liberal if a system in which the upper quarter of the population had nearly half the wealth is fair. Then (assuming that they're capable of rational thought and logical analysis, which in Southern Man's experience is not a common trait among liberals) run them through this model and see if their head asplodes.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Family Reunion Day 2

Much to Southern Man's surprise the parents decided not to stay an extra day so we all left the hotel early and more or less followed them home. Southern Father took a back-roads route that was far superior to the horrors of trying to skirt around Dallas and we made good time. Eighteen-year-old daughter chattered all the way home, which was a lot of fun. One of the best moments: Southern Man was pumping gas and trying to admire the pair of Harleys at the pump ahead of him without drawing the attention of the leather-clad biker when she tapped on the window and hissed "Dad! Look! He has an iPhone 4!" She has been putting on the pressure for Southern Man to ditch T-Mobile, get an iPhone, and join her plan on the grounds that it'll be less expensive. For her.

Now it's time to take a long, hot shower and a short nap. Tonight is singles group leadership meeting and prepping for class tomorrow.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Family Reunion Day 1

Placeholder -Big lunch with fifty or so relatives, took a bunch of cousins to a nearby geocache. Updates and pics later.

Southern Father (far right) and his brothers. Photo by Southern Sister.

The Next Generation. Photo by Southern Sister.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Family Reunion Day 0

Much of Southern Father's clan will be gathered in his hometown this weekend for a brief family reunion so Southern Man and teen daughter got on the road mid-morning and headed for the pine woods of East Texas. One would think that having a teen passenger would mean that one would not have to to much driving but one would be mistaken; she napped most of the way down and ignored a number of both subtle and not-so-subtle hints to take the wheel. After all, we only got a few hours of sleep after HP7 last night / early this morning.

Seven hours later we arrived at the hotel and met up with Mom and Dad and twelve-year-old daughter (who rode with them) and Sister and Sister's SO and adopted nephew and wasted no time investigating the hotel pool and whirlpool. Southern Man would spend a fair amount of time in that whirlpool over the weekend. Then after a family meal at a nearby IHOP Southern Man pulled up a few nearby geocaches on the iPad and he and the young 'uns went after them.

The well-armed LauraCroft stands guard as Agent K explores and makes the second find.

The first cache was in the IHOP parking lot; Agent K quickly spotted the likely location and coached her cousin (who adopted the caching name LauraCroft) to his first find. The second was tougher and Southern Man was ready to give up and head back to the whirlpool but she refused to do so and eventually made the second find. She is really pretty good at this.

We then headed back to the hotel and spent a few hours swimming and playing Quiddler and then finally hit the sack for a much needed full night's sleep.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Movie Review - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

[Noon] This will not be a review as much as an experience. It's noon and the midnight premier isn't for another twelve hours and according to Teen Daughter the lines are already stretched around the mall where our favorite 24-plex is housed. Fortunately Southern Man experienced a rare moment of foresight and purchased tickets for himself and twelve-year-old daughter a few days ago; according to the web they're showing HP7-2 on every screen they have and they're all sold out. This may be a midnight movie to put all previous midnight movies to shame. Southern Man predicts that the previous opening-day record will not merely be beaten but shattered into a million tiny fragments by the magic of Harry Potter.

[6:00 PM] They weren't kidding - this is quite an event. The line wraps around the mall twice, starting at the middle level and then continuing upstairs. Teen daughter and her posse are about a quarter of the way back. There are more costumes than one can count, many quite imaginative (a two-person Buckbeak, for example, and a surprisingly large number of folks came as Draco and Bellatrix, but Southern Man's favorite was the Asian guy with the appropriately-dressed sister and a t-shirt that read "Parvati Patil's Handsome Muggle Brother"), and we walked the length of the entire line to admire them. Then we split up - younger daughter to shop, Southern Man to make a Starbucks run for the group - and then we just generally puttered about for the next few hours.

Both daughters as house elves. Why, yes, they are wearing pillowcases. One might think that with two house elves Casa Southern Man would be tidier than it is but one would be mistaken. Photo by She Who Must Not Be Named.

[11:30 PM] They opened the theater at ten and it took well over an hour to get everyone inside. Southern Man and twelve-year-old daughter took advantage of the chaos and managed to insert themselves into the line about midway back. Once inside daughter headed to our assigned theater to grab seats while Southern Man waited in the concession line which was also long but we were in our (excellent) seats with our goodies by 11:45.

[3:30 AM] The movie was pretty good, too.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Brain Busters

Twelve-year-old daughter loves brain busters, so here's a bunch. To play, the host gives the statement, then answers yes or no to questions from the guests. More will be added in the future. To see the answer, mouse over the puzzle...
A man lies dead - brutally murdered. Scattered around him are 53 bicycles.

A woman pushes her car up to a hotel and says "I'm bankrupt."

Little Jimmy wants to go home but he's afraid because a man with a mask is waiting for him.

Katie leaves home, and when she returns a few moments later two men in masks are waiting for her.

Jimmy and Susie lie dead on the floor amid shattered glass and a puddle of water.

Laura comes home to find Katy suffocating on the floor in a puddle of water and surrounded by broken glass while John cowers in the corner.

A man walks into a bar and asks the bartender for a glass of water. The bartender reaches under the bar, pulls out a shotgun, and points it at the man! After a moment, the man says "Thank you!" and leaves.

Rescuers find a yacht adrift in the ocean. In the water around the yacht are several people in swimsuits, all dead.

A man lies dead with a beetle on his chest. Nearby is a pile of bricks and a book.

A horse leaps over a tower and lands on a man, who vanishes.

Three large people are crowded under an umbrella, but no one gets wet.

A hunter aims his rifle at a deer and shoots. Seconds later, he realizes his mistake. Moments later, he's dead.

A man marries two women in a state where polygamy is illegal, yet he isn't charged with a crime.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Problem Solving

Problem-solving skills are important, or so say those who moan about the lack of such in today's college graduates. And Southern Man had an interesting experience with problem-solving skills today.

The college physics class he's teaching is studying fluids, pressure, density, and so on. Southern Man handed them a worksheet today (for small-group work; noisy but fun) which, among others, contained the following problem:
A blimp, with air bag volume 12000 cubic meters, cruises through the air. The blimp carries a total mass of 2000 kg. What is the density of the lifting gas within the blimp?
It's a straightforward calculation involving the relationship between volume, mass, and density. Every group completed this problem; most did so correctly.

A bit further on they encounter a second problem involving the same principles:
Estimate the mass of the air in this classroom.
Not a single group attempted to solve this problem.

Do you see how these problems are the same, and how they are different?

The similarity is that the exact same knowledge - the relationship between volume, density, and mass - is required to solve both problems. The difference is that the needed volume was given in the first problem, but not in the second. Not one student had the wit to get out of their chair and walk off the length and width of the classroom to acquire the information they needed to complete the problem. Not one. Instead they stared helplessly, at a complete loss as to how to proceed, and then moved on to the next problem on the worksheet.

Southern Man weeps for the future of our nation.

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Daughter(s) Weekend

The summer schedule is that Southern Man works his tail off Monday through Thursday, then fetches twelve-year-old daughter from Southern Grandmother and keeps her through Sunday evening. And we did the usual things: a movie on Friday afternoon (Thor, which was okay but not good enough for a separate review), the water park and their "dive-in movie" on Saturday evening (Grown Ups, which was also okay but Southern Man was happy to nap through most of it), church and an after-service lunch to support the teens going to summer camp and lazing around at home on Sunday. But this weekend teen daughter made a rare appearance - she does live here but you wouldn't know it other than from the horrific mess in our lone bathroom and the ransom notes on the 'fridge ("buy more water or the tribble gets it!") - and we had a long talk about science and college and finances and life and she even played dominoes with us, which was great fun. There won't be many more like this: next weekend is family reunion in TX and at the end of July twelve-year-old daughter goes back to KS to her mother. It makes for a very full life but it's so, so worth it!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

You Be The Judge

Yesterday Southern Man got word that a good friend, 'bout his age and 'bout in the same shape (or lack thereof), was in the hospital for chest pain and shortness of breath. It's not the first time that he's had these problems and we worry about it as his own father passed before his time of heart problems. So Southern Man went by the hospital and talked to him for a bit and then as friend was to be taken to surgery for inspection of his arteries Southern Man went on to our singles group monthly morning coffee meeting. Of course the first thing he did was tell them where he had been and the first thing they did was pray. This is a pretty prayin' group - as an old-school Nazarene Southern Man finds them a bit charismatic for his taste and the occasional praying in tongues makes him nervous - but prayer is prayer. And one of the members prayed specifically for my friend's arteries to be supernaturally cleared of all blockages.

Friend checks in later that afternoon. His report: "The doctors said they'd never seen cleaner arteries."

You be the judge.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

How To Get A Million Hits On Your Blog

Southern Man would be happy with a half-dozen regular readers and a couple of comments every now and then. But "getting hits" seems to be the theme in the last day or two. Even the mighty Instapundit took a few moments to point us towards advice to a young blogger. So Southern Man is going to read all of this advice and see what it takes to get a little traffic or a comment or two.

Last night Southern Man was halfheartedly grading exams bored and surfing commenter links at Roissy when he stumbled across Single White Alcoholic Seeks Same (mostly hilarious stories of drunken debauchery) and found a post in which the author claims that the vast majority of his hits came from Google searches on the word "threesome." Threesome. Threesome. Threesome. We'll see how it goes.

An xkcd cartoon that may or may not be about a threesome. Not that Southern Man would know anything about that. Threesomes, that is. He knows quite a bit about physics, though. That's actually a little discouraging, isn't it?

Many bloggers advocates the occasional application of cheesecake so here's some vintage nose art:

And then there are those who promote all of this boring advice like "post many times each day" and "focus on a single interesting topic" and "hump the Google search algorithm like a 50¢ whore on cowboy payday." Sounds too much like work for Southern Man's taste. And then there's "send me money and I'll drive traffic your way but don't ask how, you don't want to know." No thanks.

The final word is of course Stacy McCain's now legendary "How To Get A Million Hits On Your Blog" which gives a five step process consisting of...well, read it for yourself. Part of that advice was "steal content" and "make enemies." Well, one of them was, anyway. Thanks for the title, Stacy!

But, traffic or not, Southern Man will take to heart the blogger's creed...

...and will happily continue to post trivia about his life and stories about his kids and movie reviews and the occasional political comment whether anyone reads it or not.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011


Southern Man was reading an amusing comment thread about plagiarism (actually, more about failures to successfully plagiarize) and this one caught his eye:
The old academic truism is that these people are only cheating themselves. And, like many truisms, it's true. I remember one kid I worked with when I was at Digital, who managed to get a CS degree without actually learning anything. He lasted a couple months and then the fact that he was woefully underprepared for the workforce sunk in on both him and his supervisor. After that he bounced from job to job, always getting a position based on his qualifications, then getting laid off when his lack of skills became apparent. Finally, he got a job working for the government, where, no doubt, he is to this day.

posted by
Marcus Ranum.
Explains a lot about government, doesn't it?

Top Five Web Annoyances

Want that coveted link from Southern Man? Don't break these rules.

Slide Shows

There is no reason to put the "Best 100 Rock Songs By Artists Whose First Names Start With The Letter C" (or whatever) on a hundred slow-loading ad-ridden pages. Nor is there any reason to put a seven-paragraph news article on three pages, or a five-item list on two. Yes,, I'm talking to you.

Videos that starts on page load

The offenders are many but local news station pages are the worst. If I want to play the video I'll play the video myself, thank you very much. There is nothing so annoying as to be surfing through your favorite news aggregater and opening tabs to read later only to have half of them start spouting video.

Ads or banners that obscure the page until they are dismissed

Yes, we accept that the Web is ad-driven. But believe me when I tell you that no on, and I mean no one, is going to click on an ad that is blocking the rest of a page you're trying to view. That's right, and, no one clicks on those. No one. And the sub-annoyance is hiding the close control in an unusual spot. And the rare uber-annoyance is the fake close control that opens the ad page instead.

Bad / Missing / Too Many Links

No links, or irrelevant links, or missing links. If your story is about a hot new dot-com or someone's web page, give me a link. And if you run a blog, update your blogroll every now and then. I see blogs I once read that have been inactive for sixteen months still listed on big-name blog sidebars. And some of the blogs on my own sidebar are notorious for having a link to a story that goes to another link to the story that goes to yet another link to the and are frequent offenders here, which is doubly annoying when the former links to the latter.

Background Music

It is not 1995. Stop it, right now. People around me may be trying to work.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Holiday Weekend Day 4

After spending a few hours at the water park (we have amazing tans now) and relaxing at home we went to the main event of the evening - the concert and fireworks show at Southern Man's home town (well, he claims it as home; it's to where the family moved when he was in first grade, and where his parents live to this day).

Photo by Google Earth.

Today this is City Park, with the sidewalks outlining a stylized boot and the state-shaped parking lot. Forty years ago it was forty-ish acres of undeveloped land. The strip of houses on the right was on the edge of town; Southern Boy lived in the upper-right corner and that big open field full of bike trails and gullies and washouts and that almost inaccessible pond down on the south end was his back yard for about a decade, before the move out to the five acres northeast of town where his folks live today. Good times, those were, back in the day when we could head out right after breakfast and the only command from Mom was "be home by dark."

Daughter with Southern Man's Father.

Southern Man's little home town (well, medium-sized suburb today) always gets the big-city philharmonic orchestra and chorus for Independence Day and they put on a rousing program with the usual favorites:
Sousa and Copland and Gershwin and...Abba. Yes, we were treated to a medley of Swedish pop. No doubt the children were a bit taken aback to see their parents happily dancing and singing to such strange music.

The orchestra and chorus at the Grand Gazebo. Why, yes, that is
Sandi Patti there in the red. Sadly, she wasn't in on the Abba medley.

They always close the concert with Stars and Stripes Forever and launch the first rockets at the piccolo obbligato. The kids broke out the glow-sticks (no sparklers this year due to widespread drought and subsequent burn bans) and pranced about and a good time was had by all.

Daughter and her cousin.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Holiday Weekend Day 3

Since Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest, that's mostly what we did. Daughter went to Sunday School and Children's Church (where they played the traditional Children's Church game of "Mafia") and we hit the store for a few supplies and then chilled at home for much of the afternoon. Then teen daughter returned after a week's absence (she has been house-sitting for vacationing relatives and now swears that she will never, ever have dogs and cats) and as she had a fistful of food-freebie coupons we went out for cheap Mexican food (Taco Bell) and ice cream (Freddies) - the coupons all made reference to "congratulations graduate" and such but when it comes to free food Southern Man is without shame - then hit the pool for the rest of the afternoon. Now we're settled down, puttering about and watching Titanic on AMC and nursing our (mild) sunburns acquired over the past few days.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Holiday Weekend Day 2

Armed with their freshly-minted park passes Southern Man and daughter spent the first part of the day at the amusement park where we rode altogether too many swirly rides - Southern Man's stomach didn't settle down for hours - but also took advantage of the unusually short lines for the river-raft and log flume. After watching a clever Wild Wild West show (complete with several Lady Gaga references, much to her delight) we headed home for a brief rest, then ventured out for an evening movie (Cars 2) followed by an hour relaxing at a chain bookstore where we consumed a gift card given to Southern Man by his other daughter for Father's Day. It's less than a month before Southern Man has to send her back to her mother and he's going to grab every minute he can with her before then.

Movie Review - Cars 2

Cars is one of Southern Man's favorite Pixar films, mostly because of the affectionate treatment given to the locale; Southern Man grew up in Arizona and lives on good red Southwestern dirt today, not far from a piece of Route 66 that takes him to his folk's home. That said, he knew very well that Cars 2 was going to be a rather different story, and it was. In short, if you don't care for Mater / Larry The Cable Guy, stay away; he, not racer Lightning McQueen, is the main character here - but even if you don't care for that particular brand of slapstick humor, it works well here. They have a lot of fun with the mistaken-as-a-spy subplot (think particularly tongue-in-cheek Bond, with Michael Caine voicing a suave British secret agent) and there are lots of laughs and sight gags of the wacky world that is modern Tokyo. The opening features a touching tribute to the Fabulous Hudson Hornet (Paul Newman having passed away) but they kept the late George Carlin's Fillmore with a new voice actor. The critics like this one even less than they did the original, but, let's face it, the first mediocre movie from Pixar rivals the best of many other studios. The Cars 2 DVD will get plenty of spin time in the Casa Southern Man DVD player.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Holiday Weekend Day 1

Today we finally bought our double-park season passes (one amusement park, one water park) and spent most of the day at the water park. Then on the way home we hit a pawn shop where daughter spent her allowance and most of her remaining birthday cash on an iPod Nano and we spent the evening loading it up with CDs and mp3s. Well, Southern Man spent the evening cursing at the unholy abomination that is iTunes and she spent the evening singing and dancing to Carrie Underwood and Selena Gomez and Ke$ha. And even now she's peering over my shoulder begging for more music downloads...