Southern Man

Wednesday, August 31, 2011


While wearing his professor robes Southern Man has tried something different this semester. He'll give a surprise quiz on the topic to be covered that lecture - graded by participation - collect them, and then present lecture and entertain discussion. Then at the beginning of the next lecture he gives the exact same quiz, this time for a grade, and to see the effect that lecture and discussion has on whatever preconceptions or misinformation the students brought into the class.

The outcome has been the same in every single class: the answers don't change much at all. Student misconceptions are apparently impervious to correction.

This isn't entirely a surprise; Southern Man has known for years how deeply rooted world views can be, even for kids, and works hard to get the students to challenge their existing pnotions before introducing new ones. What is surprising is just how resilient these views can be. It does, however, make teaching eternally interesting.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Float Trip Day 2

After a good night's sleep we got up and had breakfast and got ready to hit the road. But Southern Man slipped out to enjoy some morning tranquility...

There is really nothing quite like sitting by the water in the early morning.

...and then we were off for home. Southern Man picked up another geocache at a rest stop and found his very first travel bug (an item designed to be taken by a geocacher and placed in a new cache) and is looking forward to finding a new (temporary) home for it.

After a bit of rest Southern Man headed out to The Land with a small load of stuff and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening leveling the trailer (done!) and fiddling with the electrics (still not done - apparently the rooftop air conditioner is wired through the breaker intended for the microwave oven, and vice versa). So there is still no reliable AC out there. But step by step progress is being made...

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Float Trip Day 1

Placeholder, waiting for photos from the rest of the group. The float trip was..well, let's just say that many of the men came heavily armed and numerous acts of piracy were committed. Great, great fun.

[added later] And here are a few photos!

Preparing for departure. Note the array of weapons on the table. One of the aforementioned acts of piracy was boarding the singles director's raft to steal that hat. Photo by Victory Singles.

Lunch break on the river. Photo by Victory Singles.

Back Home. Photo by Southern Man.

Chef Paul mans the grill. Photo by Southern Man.

Dinner Time! Photo by Southern Man.

Fireside Service. Photo by Southern Man.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Float Trip Day 0

This afternoon Southern Man and twenty-odd folks from church were scheduled to head out for our annual Float Trip on the Illinois River so Southern Man worked hard and left early and dashed home and got packed and headed to the designated meeting point at the church. We divided ourselves among the available vehicles and headed out, stopping about half an hour outside of town for dinner as many had come straight from work...

...and Southern Man took a few of them to a nearby geocache. Geocaching is fun! Right, girls?

We finally arrived at our cabin and unloaded the goods and staked out our bunks and then gathered rocks from a nearby streambed to build a firepit, which hadn't been done all season long due to the long-standing but just-lifted burn bans.

Darren tends the first fire. Yes it's still nearly a hundred degrees out and no there wasn't any reason to have a fire but we'd hauled a bunch of wood in from the city and we'd just build a firepit and by God we were going to have a fire. Accelerants may have been involved.

And by then the combination of a long workday followed by several hours on the road caught up with everyone and we hit the bunks for the night. Tomorrow, the river!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

They're Back With A Vengance

Yesterday was easy, eh? No, they were just saving all of their problems for today. And there is one faculty member in particular that Southern Man would like to strangle with his bare hands. Well, not really, but when a memo goes out early January to verify the Fall teaching schedule and look for problems and a professor replies with a long list of issues at 5:00 PM on the freakin' first day of Fall classes there is temptation to do some bodily harm.

Monday, August 22, 2011

They're Back

The first day of school with students is always something of a circus and between teaching his courses Southern Man had to put on his Department Chair hat and run around putting out fires. But there have been worse first days (much, much worse!) and Southern Man even got to leave by five. And he actually got up early and hit the gym before work. Southern Man has little will power and hopes to compensate for that weakness with a rigorous schedule.

Then it was out to The Land where the evening agenda was to get some jacks and blocks under the RV and get the wheels off the dirt and up on concrete pavers and level the whole unit. Southern Man worked on that project until dark then relaxed inside under the AC for a while and considered spending the night there (he hasn't yet done so) but came back to the city apartment instead for a shower.

The lack of well water at the land may prove inconvenient. It'll be easy to rig a waste line from the RV to the bottoms and a temporary cesspool. The toilet will do just fine on buckets of lake water (when Southern Father moved us into the house they live in today there was no water for months and one of our chores was to carry buckets of water to the upstairs bathroom for washing and flushing) and gallon jugs of potable water will serve the kitchen and bathroom sinks. However, the shower will have to wait for a source of pressurized water and that won't happen until next summer at the earliest. Thus the desire to maintain a morning workout habit - the showers at the gym are just fine. But Southern Man does hate to go to bed dirty and may rig up a camp shower for quick evening rinses. He'll give thirty days notice to the apartment folks when he pays rent this weekend.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Electrics III

After a day of fussing around and cleaning contacts and such the RV AC runs but still pops the breaker when it cycles on and off. But it runs, so that particular problem is moved down the list for a while. Speaking of AC, Southern Man also finally got the window unit installed in the Sunset Room (so named by twelve-year-old daughter, and destined to be her personal playroom at The Land) and will get to work on sheetrock and light fixtures and carpet and such to finish that room out. He has one more window unit (both purchased for the post-divorce Casa Southern Man, a two-story duplex that never did get cool upstairs) and will put that in the top of The Barn as he begins to carve out a living area in that space. So in a relatively short time he will have gone from zero to three air-conditioned spaces. And just in time for fall, too. All kinds of heat records were broken this summer and we came within a whisker of besting a streak of consecutive 100-degree days that's stood for over a century.

It's been a happily full weekend - bowling last night with the gang, men's prayer breakfast this morning, game night with friends earlier this evening. And tomorrow will be spent working and relaxing out at The Land, as is fitting for a day of rest. Life is good. Oh, wait - students arrive on Monday. Well, life is still good.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Electrics II

Well, the electrical work isn't done; the RV AC keeps throwing the internal breaker, which is a sign of undervoltage. So Southern Man will gather up some test gear and do some debugging sometime this weekend to figure out what's wrong. He did turn on the gas and verify that the cooktop works.

And after a long day at work (meetings, meetings, and more meetings) and a short evening working on various problems Southern Man relaxed for a bit in the trailer and then stepped outside and remembered why he so loves it out there. Sure, it's still nearly a hundred degrees out and the mosquitoes were particularly hungry for human flesh but the ever-present wind had died down and the sounds of the night echoed across the still waters and the stars were scattered like ice diamonds across the clear sky...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


After work today Southern Man hastened out to and finished the electric line to the RV and soon had the 'fridge and AC humming. Next trip out he'll check the gas appliances (cooktop, oven, heater) and make sure they're working. And at some point he needs to fill the fresh-water tank and see if he can have at least a little bit of water inside; if that works he'll rig a temporary line for sewage and check the hot-water heater and try the shower.

He also chatted with his neighbor to the south and found that the May tornado had actually lifted their roof a few inches (which required extensive repairs) and that they had a lot of water damage inside. And the other day he noticed trees snapped off at the base in the common lot northwest of The Land. So there is extensive storm damage on all four sides of The Land, yet Southern Man's buildings were nearly untouched. "Miracle" would be an understatement.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Back To Work

Well Summer Break is over and Southern Man must report back to work today. And with a new toy parked out at The Land just calling to him to play, too. That aside it was a busy and productive day. And there are compensations, such as free lunch and dinner (beef brisket and chicken both times, though). As a single man Southern Man has a keen sense for free food. The oddest news to report was that one of Southern Man's peers, a Korean who likes to spend his summers scuba-diving in and around the Philippines, was unable to do so as all of his favorite dive spots were off limits due to radiation from the Fukushima disaster. And the good news is that enrollment in Southern Man's department looks pretty good, especially for this early in the week. This bodes well for future employment, which Southern Man considers to be a Good Thing.

Monday, August 15, 2011


For some time now Southern Man has known that he'd have an empty nest between teen daughter moving out and youngest daughter (possibly) moving in so he has long considered relocating out to the peace and quiet of The Land for a couple of years. This is even more primitive than it sounds; electric service is in place but nothing else - in particular, no water or septic system or cable tv or internet. But especially no water. Nonetheless Southern Man has been RV shopping for a while now and stumbled across this one on Craigslist last week:

32 ft Gulfstream Camper For Sale - $4800

Date: 2011-08-08, 12:54PM CDT

32 ft Camper for sale
Make: Gulfstream
Model: Cavalier
Yr Model: 2006

This is a nice camper, very simple but in good condition. It has a
bedroom with a full sized bed and it also has bunk beds on the opposite
end of the camper, nice sized shower, couch, kitchen table, stove,
microwave & full size refrigerator. Everything is spread out so it
is pretty spacious and roomy.

Please e-mail with any questions for more info.
So Southern Man went out to take a look last Tuesday. It's a FEMA trailer from the Hurricane Katrina days that wasn't used at that time, bought by a dealer, sold to a fellow southeast of the city who intended to resell it to one of his workers who lived in for one week and then quit, and never titled - for less than half the price of used FEMA trailers at the local RV dealers. As claimed, the floor plan is unusually open for that size trailer and even has a decent-sized shower and full-sized toilet and a full-size fridge and a nice tile floor instead of cheap carpet. So Southern Man said he'd take it but could the seller wait until Monday?

So today Southern Man and the owner met at the credit union where money changed hands, then at the tag agency where paperwork was processed (kind of complicated but Southern Man ends up as the original owner, at least on paper), then out to the seller's place to slap on the tag and hook it up and tow it to The Land.

And there she is, in much higher resolution than the CL ad. Of course the camera died after this shot.

After getting her hitched up to the Titan Southern Man cautiously (having never pulled anything quite that large before) embarked on the fifty-mile journey, keeping to side roads and lesser-traveled state highways as much as possible, and arrived without incident at The Land...

The RV in her new perch behind The Barn, which suffered even more damage in a storm last week. The yellow stuff leaning against the wall is scaffolding retrieved from Southern Father's place last night; roof and siding repairs are high on Southern Man's to-do list.

So Southern Man spent the rest of the afternoon running trailer-related errands: removing the door lockset and taking it to town to have it re-keyed (the RV came without keys) and buying a few odds and ends at the home store (such as 50 feet of 10/2 and an RV-30 outlet and such) and charging the camera and then headed back out to The Land to re-install the lockset and run the aforementioned wire from the service box in the front of The Barn to the newly-installed outlet at the back and almost got it all done before dark.

And in the middle of all this Mike the Brush-Hog Guy appeared...

Hogging the Grassy Knoll

...and performed his monthly service, except that it's been over two months due to the drought and most of the lot didn't really need to be mowed even then but Southern Man doesn't mind staying on his good side. Good Brush-Hog Guys are hard to find.

So if all goes according to plan Southern Man will soon give notice to his apartment and Casa Southern Man will at last be at The Land. And for the first time in five years Southern Man will live in a place that is truly his own.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Restful Day

It always takes Southern Man a while to recharge but today he got up and cleaned the kitchen and did laundry and went out to ran errands and did some shopping and ate lunch with the singles group...
Some of us at Swadley's BBQ. Photo by the singles director.

...and took a load of Teen Daughter's boxes out to storage and had dinner with the folks and headed out to The Land after helping a fellow with a flat tire. Tomorrow may prove to be a busy day as Tuesday Southern Man must report back to work.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

College Road Trip Day 3

After a restful night in Eureka Southern Man and Southern Sister hit the road yet again for the eight-hour drive back home. We hit one more geocache (her first) and had an otherwise uneventful drive. And while Southern Man has already shed a tear or two at the thought of his daughter so far away it is good to be home!

Friday, August 12, 2011

College Road Trip Day 2

After a good night's sleep and a leisurly breakfast the three of us got back on the road for the last leg of our road trip and the first day of Teen Daughter's grand adventure...

Arrival...Music Registration...Financial Aid...One Last Pic...
With Southern Sister at The Lamp...
All photos by Southern Man and Southern Sister

We started at the Music building (she's at college early for band camp and drill team) to check in and pick up keys, moved her posessions into her (temporary) dorm room, and went to Admissions and Financial Aid - after which she was quite ready to be rid of us, so we got a few last pics and got back on the road.

It had been Southern Man's plan to drive all night but saner heads prevailed and we stopped in Eureka for the night where Southern Man stumbled across a bar-and-grill with the same name as his son where he shot pool and consumed nachos and 'ritas, then hit the shower and went to bed.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

College Road Trip Day 1

The big day has arrived and Southern Man, Southern Sister, and Teen Daughter headed northeast on the first leg of our journey to deliver daughter to Olivet Nazarene University. And frankly there's not a lot to tell as we did little other than drive for eight hours or so and pick up a geocache or two on the way and take the wrong exit and end up in downtown St. Louis...

...which allowed Southern Sister to lean out the window and snap this nice pic of The Arch. While driving.

Southern Sister had reserved a room for us just north of St. Louis so we stopped there for the night where the two girls shopped and ate and Southern Man nabbed another geocache (his first in IL) and shopped and ate and then returned to our suite for a leisurly hour in the whirlpool. Tomorrow it's just a short hop up to the college.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


As one can imagine this week has been filled with packing and all manner of errands related to eighteen-year-old daughter's upcoming relocation to a college fourteen hours away. Well, she's been doing the packing and Southern Man's been running the errands. But both yesterday and today we went out together and got everything done that needed to be done. Now she's in her bedroom to do a few last-minute things and spend what is almost certainly her last night under this particular roof. Tomorrow morning - road trip to Chicago! Well, as far as St. Louis, anyway.

Sunday, August 07, 2011


Due to financial arrangements that Southern Man does not yet understand (but for which he is grateful) teen daughter will indeed be able to attend college at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, IL (near Chicago). So last night we had dinner with Southern Parents and arranged with Southern Sister for the two of us to drive daughter up next weekend for band camp and then after dinner went to Wal-Mart for "essentials." No doubt there will be much more shopping in the days to come. She is nervous and excited and worried and happy, all at the same time. She'll be in temporary housing that first week as the Chicago Bears, who use ONU's facilities for winter training, are currently occupying her assigned dorm!

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Parallel Thinking Conference Day 6

A brief morning session where all of us made brief presentations on the models we constructed...

Southern Man describes a model that yields a numerical solution of a system containing seven coupled partial differential equations. Photo credit - Erin.

...and then it was off to the airport and a lot of "hurry up and wait" for modern transportation to whisk Southern Man across the country, which it did with its usual tedious efficiency and Southern Man was quite happy to be home again.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Parallel Thinking Conference Day 5

Southern Man got up early and picked up a couple of geocaches on the far side of campus, then got to work on his aquaponics model.

The model involves fish production, their waste (ammonia), the bacteria that convert that ammonia into nitrites and nitrates, and the plant biomass that consumes the nitrates. The model accurately mimics the behavior Southern Man has observed many times when setting up new aquariums: a spike in ammonia (occasionally accompanied by some fish die-off) followed by a spike in nitrites, then the nitrates spike, and then equilibrium when the bacteria population settles down. He got the model to work pretty well by mid-afternoon and spent much of the rest of the day divided between fine-tuning the model (that is, add new features that break it, revert to backup, and try again) and slipping out to pick up a few more caches. But given that presentations are in the morning we all voted to stay in the lab this evening so they ordered pizza instead.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Parallel Thinking Conference Day 4

They work us hard and fed us well: lots of work with model simulation software during the day...

Erin, by far the cutest of the instructors, illustrates a predator/prey model in NetLogo.

...followed by dinner at
Serannos where Southern Man feasted on Cuban steak and Mojitos, then returned to the lab to write the first part of his aquaponics simulation in VenSim.

Both photos by Southern Man. Why, yes, that is his Mojito in the foreground. What number, he isn't saying.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Parallel Thinking Conference Day 3

Today is the scheduled half-day - work in the morning (we spent a lot of time with NetLogo and Southern Man was delighted to learn that they still call the objects "turtles") and free to do as we please in the afternoon so after the morning conference activities Southern Man made a big circle around the LSU campus hitting geocaches (with a lot more DNFs than smileys) and dropping into whatever shops or buildings caught his eye and generally enjoying a long afternoon walk which ended up lasting about six hours. There are now a couple of caches near the apartments that he's made several passes at and come up short so he emailed the CO of three of them begging for hints and got a reply late in the evening. Geocachers are good folk.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Parallel Thinking Conference Day 2

We're using a number of tools both familiar and new. Southern Man learned a number of new Excel tricks (not to mention card tricks) and was introduced to VenSim, AgentSheets, and Sage. We then had dinner at Reginellis where Southern Man consumed vast quantities of Italian food and washed it down with his share of many pitchers of the aforementioned delicious Abita Amber. And then one of the conference hosts has also come through with linens and towels which makes Southern Man's life a bit more comfortable.

Lifting our glasses at Reginellis. Photo Credit - another very capable server.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Parallel Thinking Conference Day 1

After an early-morning stroll with geocaching on the LSU campus we had our first full day at the conference where the topic is not so much parallel programming as it is parallel thinking. We talked a lot about how one could distribute problems across many nodes and what the various advantages and problems with that approach might be, got a nice introduction to the Shodor website (our host is the "short dork" for whom it is named) and played with a lot of tools (the lead instructor's philosophy is to introduce a tool, work with stuff other people wrote with that tool, and then write your own. It's both effective and fun. Then at the end of the day we all went to a local diner called Chives where Southern Man ate delicious baked catfish and Caesar salad and was introduced to a delicious local ale called Abita Amber that he will definitely try again.

Much of the gang at Chives. Photo Credit - our very capable server.