Southern Man

Friday, September 30, 2011

Daughter Weekend Day 2

After a morning run to the chiropractor Southern Man and tween daughter just relaxed around The Casa, snacking and watching movies and generally just fooling around. The real entertainment had been reserved for that afternoon where we met Southern Sister and her adopted son (who we call "cousin") for a few hours of rock climbing (an activity that daughter had been begging to repeat for some time).

The intrepid adventurers. Tween daughter generously shared her climbing gloves so they have one each.

The rock-climbing gym is downtown at an old grain mill which provides some spectacular climbs both inside and out and tween daughter took several all the way to the top. We elders were content to stay on the ground and belay and let the young 'uns have all the fun.

The problem with photographing climbers from the bottom is that you end up with a lot of pics of climber bottoms. But these three came out OK. By common consent none of those of Southern Man or Southern Sister huffing and puffing at the belaying end will ever see the light of day.

While we were there we got an update on teen daughter - ill but not strep throat (as she had earlier feared) and enjoying the tender care of Southern Parents for another day. Then Southern Sister kidnapped tween daughter for the rest of the evening and said she wouldn't be returned before lunchtime on Saturday so Southern Man came home to eat and drink and play freecell and blog and contemplate a run out to The Land for the night and pray for a decent night's sleep tonight.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Daughter Weekend Day 1

This is of course a working day so Southern Man kissed tween daughter "good morning" and headed to work (thankfully both classes are having exams today, which are already written and sitting on his desk ready for distribution) and gave the first exam, then swung by the chiropractor, then back home to pick up daughter for the afternoon shift, then back to work to give the second exam and handle a few administrative odds and ends and then on to his evening teaching job at a local community college. And tween daughter did just fine, "helping" the faculty administrative assistant and playing games on the computer and exploring the buildings and such. But then it was finally her turn so after the last class we went to Toys "Я" Us where she spent her accumulated allowance on something called "Orbeez" (yes, Southern Man usually provides links but he's warning you right now, don't click on that one) which she then played with for the rest of the evening. And as for Southern Man, he had already arranged canceled his Friday-morning lab so he made himself a stiff drink and relaxed and enjoyed the sights and sounds of his youngest at play. Other than one more chiropractor appointment in the morning the rest of the weekend is ours to do with as we please, and that is good.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Daughter Weekend Day 0

A bright glimmer of joy in the midst of all this suffering - tween daughter flew in at five this afternoon and Southern Man picked her up at the airport and met much of the family at our favorite eatery for dinner and that was much fun. Parents head out in the morning to visit teen daughter up north and Southern Man transferred some boxes and mail and such to them for the trip. Then we hit the grocery store for supplies and headed home. Daughter took much delight in boxing up the rest of her sister's stuff and establishing that bedroom as her own turf; Southern Man limped to his own bedroom to suffer in relative silence. He's been to the chiropractor every morning this week for adjustments and electrostim treatment and acupuncture and massage and just wishes that his damn leg would quit hurting all the damn time. OK, Southern Man is through whining about his damn leg now. Maybe. But he would give damn near anything for three or four hours of uninterrupted sleep.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Southern Man Is An Idiot

In the previous post Southern Man mentions that he's had lower back problems for decades. Occasionally it would "go out" (as they say) and he'd limp to the chiropractor, who would do a fairly rigorous adjustment and set things right. And often in the past his lower back and right leg would hurt so much that he could barely get out of bed. And as regular readers know he was pretty much out of action all weekend with severe back and leg pain.

That right leg has been a problem for a long time as well - it's always tense, or numb, or tinging, or burning, or just plain aching. Ice and heat and various ointments never helped so Southern Man just accepted that he had a bum leg from all those years of competitive running back in grad school. Why, yes, he does have a good-size box of trophies from that era. But it's always bothered him that his right leg hasn't been - er, right for a long, long time.

And on top of that a lifetime spent hunched in front of computers has given him a fair case of upper cross syndrome which was finally diagnosed a few years ago and which he's been treating with physical therapy and is much reduced.

Anyway, last week (before the events of the weekend) he'd just found a new chiropractor and had already been in for the initial exam and X-rays and arranged for regular treatment (which he thought of at the time as "preventative" as there had been only minor back pain issues for a year or so) so he was already scheduled to go in Monday afternoon so he hobbles in and updates the doc on the events of the weekend and the conversation went something like this:

Doc: <much pointing at X-rays and technical talk about how Southern Man's hip was way out of whack and how screwed up the nearby vertebrae had become trying to cope with it and that was (a) why you have all these lower back problems and (b) why your right leg hurts all the time and (c) why you're the perfect choice for the letter "C" when doing the "YMCA" dance.>

Southern Man: [thinking, must be more lifestyle issues and age] What caused my hip be like this? What am I doing to cause this problem?

Doc: Oh, this isn't a lifestyle issue like your upper cross syndrome - this is the result of trauma. Something hit you hard on the right hip when you were young and your spine has been trying to compensate for the dislocation ever since. What happened?

Southern Man: <blank stare>

And it finally occurred to him - as a teen he had been a passenger in a car that was t-boned at an intersection. Southern Man's head went through the side glass and his body tore the passenger door clear off the hinges. He was black and blue and sore as hell for a week but after that everything seemed fine so in the manner of indestructible young men everywhere he didn't bother to see a doctor and just forgot about it.

"Something hit you hard on the right hip when you were young..."

This explains everything. It explains why Southern Man always favors postures that curve a bit to the right - always sleeping on his right side, always carrying burdens with his left arm (and leaning to the right for balance), always leaning a bit to the right while standing or sitting (and yes he just caught himself doing it right now). It explains the constant issues with his right leg and why the leg doesn't respond to ice or heat. It explains why he's suffered from insomnia since college. It explains a variety of lateral abnormalities throughout his spine.

There appears to be no explanation of why it took him thirty years to put two and two together, other than plain old stupidity.

So the chiropractor did an adjustment that got the pain down to where Southern Man can drop the hydrocodone (teaching on Monday while high on painkillers was an experience he does not care to repeat) and Southern Man and his chiropractor are on a program to do what they can to correct problems in the hip and spine that have been set for a third of a century. His hope is to relieve the pressure on that lateral cutaneous nerve and actually have a pain-free leg and an occasional full night's sleep. And to no longer look like the letter "C" from both the front and the side.

And don't think for a second that Southern Man feels sorry for himself. He's so very fortunate compared to many others in his own family. Lord, thank you for a lifetime free of serious illness or injury. May Your healing touch be upon all of us. Amen.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Weekend, Interrupted

Friday began with promise - a run out to The Land to assemble scaffolding and begin on the long-delayed repairs to the south side of The Barn with some cleanup and mowing on the side, back into town to pick up more shingles and roofing nails, to Casa Southern Man for a shower and more stuff, and then back to The Land for the night.

And Saturday morning began with the indolent pleasure of waking in cool comfort and realizing that actually getting up is optional and drifting back to sleep. And then up for a light breakfast and working a crossword puzzle and listing to the CD player and generally enjoying the peace and tranquility that is The Land.

And then a pinched nerve flared up (Southern Man has had lower back problems for decades) to the point that he could barely drive back into town to the weekend clinic for examination (his own general practitioner was not even on call) and to the pharmacy for medications and now Southern Man is confined to The Casa in pain that vacillates between on-the-verge-of-crying to scream-out-loud searing and spends most of his time counting the minutes until his next pain pill.

So it will be a stay-at-home weekend spent watching movies and surfing the 'net and searching for postures that aren't unbearably painful. Oh, yes, and drinking. Southern Man is not a heavy drinker - heck, he's not even a moderate drinker - but he will make every effort to maintain a pleasant buzz until bedtime. Southern Man has not indulged in home-made 'ritas for a while but a pitcher of 'em might be in his future tonight.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Königsberg Bridge Problem

The city of Königsberg is divided by a river that contains two islands. The various parts of the city are connected by seven bridges. The Königsberg Bridge Problem is: can you make a tour of the city that crosses each bridge once and only once?

Leonhard Euler, whose towering awesomeness in mathematics is almost beyond the comprehension of mere mortals, solved this problem and invented the fields of graph theory and topology at the same time by representing the city in terms of "nodes" (places you can be in the city) and "edges" (the paths you take between them) as such:

Image from Wikipedia.

Now look at any of the nodes with three edges. If you begin at such a node, you leave by one edge, return by a second, and leave by the third. This turns out to be the case if the number of edges is any odd number. But if while on your journey you enter such a node, you leave by the second edge, but eventually must return by the third and end your journey. Again, this is true of any node with an odd number of edges. Euler used this observation to determine that to traverse each edge once and only once the number of nodes with an odd number of edges must be either zero or two - and in the latter case, you must begin and end at the nodes with the odd numbers of edges. Since this is not the case with the Königsberg bridges (all four nodes have an odd number of edges) the problem has no solution; it is not possible to cross each bridge only once.

This is the first in what may become a long series of "homework help" posts. If your dad is a professor and you ask him a question about your schoolwork, chances are you'll get a lecture in return. Make sure you cite your sources!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

102 Geocaches

For having blogged about geocaching for as long as he has Southern Man really hasn't done all that many. But this afternoon he hit several while on the way out to The Land (mainly to put that Cache Buddy that he picked up a while ago into a new cache) and passed the century mark plus a couple more.

It has been an uneventful week other than a couple of fairly spectacular political threads / flame wars on Facebook (he even got comments deleted and hisself booted off a thread on Southern Sister's FB, bringing the score to three sites where he's been deleted and/or banned. All liberals, of course; the conservatives seem fairly willing to put up with his BS even when he goes full Tea Party on them). Work goes on as it always does and Southern Man reminds himself every morning how thankful he is to have such a well-paying job. He's joined a Monday-evening Yoga class there, which is...different. Teen son is so busy with work and girlfriend that Southern Man seldom sees him or hears from him even though he lives ten minutes away. Teen daughter appears to be settling in nicely up north at college (Southern Man sends her care packages every now and again) and tween daughter (who also got a care package last week) will fly down here at the end of the month for a few days of Dad Time. It will be her first time to fly alone, so she's pretty excited. Last night was the monthly meeting of the bowling gang where Southern Man rolled mediocre scores but had a good time with his friends anyway. Today he spent most of the afternoon and evening out at The Land intending to stay the night but felt so dirty after working outside that he came home to the apartment for a shower instead. He has got to rig some sort of temporary water supply out there, if for no reason other than to make it easier to wash his hands. And now he's messing around on the 'net and half-watching Star Wars (the original, of course, not the abominable Special Edition or the even more special Blu-Ray edition). Tomorrow he'll pick up a few odds and ends and head back out to The Land, again with the intention of spending the night. We'll see how it goes.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Four Aces

In the debate last night there was a bit of poker word-play when Candidate Romney noted that Candidate Perry had been "dealt four aces" when it came to the Texas economy.

If Texas was four aces, then California was a Royal Flush. What the hell happened to that hand?

Actually, Southern Man understands. He has vivid memories of a grad-school game of spades in which he was dealt ten - yes, count' em, ten - of those black beauties. And two of the three non-spades were face cards, including an ace. It was the best spades hand he's ever seen, before or since. And then he mis-bid it, and then he mis-played it. It's surprisingly easy to blow a good thing.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Is Social Security A Ponzi Scheme?

Well, let's hear from the "experts," shall we? Here's a quote from this source (Wikipedia links not in original source):
Social Security is structured from the point of view of the recipients as if it were an ordinary retirement plan: what you get out depends on what you put in. So it does not look like a redistributionist scheme. In practice it has turned out to be strongly redistributionist, but only because of its Ponzi game aspect, in which each generation takes more out than it put in. Well, the Ponzi game will soon be over, thanks to changing demographics, so that the typical recipient henceforth will get only about as much as he or she put in (and today's young may well get less than they put in).
But a bit later that same person wrote:
Social Security’s attackers claim that they’re concerned about the program’s financial future. But their math doesn’t add up, and their hostility isn’t really about dollars and cents. Instead, it’s about ideology and posturing. And underneath it all is ignorance of or indifference to the realities of life for many Americans...The program won’t have to turn to Congress for help or cut benefits until or unless the trust fund is exhausted, which the program’s actuaries don’t expect to happen until 2037 — and there’s a significant chance, according to their estimates, that that day will never come.
Wow, that's kind of a 180-degree turn there, isn't it? Wonder who it was? Can you guess, without peeking? Southern Man loves multiple-choice questions, so here are your choices (for the non-peekers):
Just so you know, Social Security now runs at a deficit. The much-discussed "trust fund" is a stack of IOUs at the Treasury Department. Yes, those IOUs are as good as money - but the money they're good for has already been spent as part of general revenue and must be raised anew. That's going to be a tough sell given that the people from whom it must be raised have paid it once already. And if I owe you $20,000 but don't have the means to pay you, what good is your note?

Social Security is a demographic disaster. It's also the retirement plan for many Americans. We can fix it now - which will be quite painful - or we can continue to pretend that everything is all right (as Dr. Krugman does above in his post-Ponzi apologetics) and reap an even more bitter harvest later. In past years this has been a taboo subject. At least we're talking about it now. and that's a start. In the meantime Southern Man will continue to prepare for his golden years as though SS won't be around. He rather suspects that those who had the foresight to prepare for their own needs will be the first cut from the rolls anyway. Or have their private retirement assets seized...

[added later] And now the Good Doctor is complaining that his earlier quote was taken out of context by those evil conservatives and writes this rebuttal in which he re-posts the exact same paragraph as Southern Man and then explains that it actually doesn't mean at all what it says. Read his post and the comments that follow; it's actually rather educational.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


There is little that Southern Man can add to the many who have commemorated the tenth anniversary of this day other than to say that he will never, never, never forget the innocents who died and never, never, never forgive those who perpetrated this act of terrorism against my beloved United States.

The rest of you can continue to hide but our righteous wrath will not be denied.

Friday, September 09, 2011


As the tenth anniversary of one of the most devastating attacks in our history approaches, many unsettling questions remain.

(1) The Rebel pilot who allegedly destroyed the Death Star did so using a single missile which struck a two-meter-wide exhaust port - a location that potentially represented a unique vulnerability unheard of in space station design - with a shot that was alleged to be "impossible, even with a computer," yet it is claimed that the pilot turned off his targeting computer before making firing the fatal shot. Never in history has a capital ship or space station been lost to a single torpedo. And photographic evidence shows multiple small explosions on the surface of the Death Star just prior to its destruction. This suggests that the design and placement of that port and indeed the entire attack was a cover-up and that strategically-placed explosives and controlled demolition, not a single missile, brought down the Death Star. It is also strongly suspected that the few available images of the Death Star's destruction have been digitally altered by an agent known only as "Lucas." What really destroyed the Death Star, and why does the Empire wish to hide the nature of the original explosion?

The Death Star even has turbolaser turrets inside this maintenance trench, a location where no enemy could be expected. Why?

(2) This pilot and his supporting fighters approached a battle station with a proven planet-destroying superlaser, armament capable of withstanding an assault by a fleet of heavy cruisers and defended by hundreds of TIE fighters manned by the Empire's finest pilots, yet the Rebels were able to approach the Death Star with ease and only a handful of defensive fighters were launched - and those far too late to make any difference. Was Grand Moff Tarkin under orders to permit the Rebel ships to make a convincing attack the Death Star?

Grand Moff Tarkin with Senator Leia Organa and Lord Vader on the Death Star a few days before the attack. Organa, who at one point had been sentenced to death, left the Death Star under mysterious circumstances shortly after this image was recorded. Why?

(3) Lord Vader himself, once known as the "best star pilot in the galaxy" but who had not flown in combat for many years and was alleged to be unqualified on the latest spacecraft, manned an experimental TIE fighter - possibly the only one on the Death Star equipped with hyperdrive - and joined in the defensive effort, only to flee seconds before the fatal explosion, making him one of the very few survivors of this catastrophe. And there are disturbing rumors of a transmission between Vader and the Emperor shortly after the attack which ended with the Emperor simply ordering Vader to "come home." Was Lord Vader part of a larger conspiracy to allow the Death Star to be attacked - and knew (or suspected) enough to make a timely escape?

A single example of this advanced TIE prototype was on the Death Star. Why?

(4) This conspiracy theory is strengthened by the many ties between Lord Vader and the attackers. The pilot who allegedly destroyed the Death Star was known to be associated with two droids once owned by Lord Vader himself - including the astromech droid that both had carried on their fighters and which was suspected of transporting crucial documents concerning the design of the Death Star to the Rebellion. Were these documents intentionally leaked by someone high in the government - perhaps by Vader himself, the former owner of that droid? These droids and the rebel pilot were seen on the Death Star itself a few days before the attack - and in the company of several stormtroopers. Obi-Wan Kenobi, Lord Vader's former instructor who was thought to have perished in the Jedi Purge, was also seen on the Death Star shortly before the attack - and is said to have mysteriously vanished while in the company of Lord Vader. The ship of a notorious smuggler was seen near the Death Star during the final moments. That figure, possibly an associate of the underworld kingpin Jabba the Hutt, was known to be on Tatooine at the same time that Darth Vader's Star Destroyer and the suspected droids were in the system, was seen before the attack in a bar with a figure who may have been Kenobi, and was seen on the Death Star itself - and who is alleged to later have been Vader's dinner guest on at least one occasion. These many connections are troubling. But most important are the whispers that the rebel pilot is a close relative to Lord Vader - perhaps even his son. What were Lord Vader's connections to the Rebellion, to the criminal underworld, and to that pilot?

Lord Vader with shadowy "businessman" Lando Calrissian (a known associate of the mysterious smuggler) and bounty hunter Boba Fett. Note the uniformed stormtrooper in the background. What was the purpose of this meeting?

(5) The Emperor assured us that the Death Star was the "ultimate power" in the universe. Yet when the Death Star was destroyed the Emperor had already secretly begun construction of a second, even more powerful battle station. Did the Emperor arrange the destruction of the first Death Star to guarantee funding and support for the second and to encourage escalation of the war against the Rebellion?

Comparison of the two Death Stars. Was destruction of the first a ploy to increase military spending and escalate the war?

(6) And when the second Death Star was destroyed in the so-called Battle of Endor witnesses report that Lord Vader not only disobeyed a direct order from the Emperor to remain on the Super Star Destroyer Executor - whose loss is rumored to be due to the actions of a single Rebel starfighter - but also abandoned the battle station moments before its final destruction in the company of a man suspected of being the very pilot who fired the torpedo that allegedly destroyed the first Death Star. Lord Vader has not been seen or heard from since that day. Has Vader been an agent of the Rebellion this entire time and now resides comfortably in secret retirement, having been instrumental in the destruction of not just one but both Death Stars, the loss of a Super Star Destroyer, and the assassination of the Emperor himself?

Where is Darth Vader today?

The truth may never be known. But those who seek it should never cease to examine the narrative that is accepted without question by so many.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Weekend Update

As anticipated Southern Man was able to spend most of the holiday weekend out at The Land, and just as the heat wave finally snapped. The RV's air-conditioning problem is finally resolved (the microwave oven and AC were wired to the wrong breakers) and between that and the cold front ("cold" being a relative term here) the RV was nice and cool every night. There was a bit of excitement with a mouse that first night but no others have been caught so perhaps that won't be a big problem (but there are always mice in the barn and as soon as Southern Man moves out there permanently there will be barn cats). A fair amount of progress was made on The Workshop and Southern Man cleared out a never-before-mowed section back by the lake in anticipation of moving some firewood piles back there. Southern Man is less suited for the full Walden experience than he thought so there is now a TV and video player in the RV, perched on a little Wal-Mart half-height shelf cut down to fit in the only open corner in the unit. And there is nothing like stepping outside at three in the morning to the dead calm of a crisp cool Southern night with a thousand stars glittering overhead and the only sound that of - the dang natural gas pumping station across the road. Well, you can't have everything, and that includes the subsurface rights to your own land.

Thursday, September 01, 2011


Well, Southern Man finds that his landlord is going to make him pay an arm and a leg to get out of his current lease so the move out to The Land will be delayed for some months. Oh, well, that just gives Southern Man more time to get things prepped out there. Starting this holiday weekend, during which Southern Man plans to spend one or two nights in the new trailer.