Southern Man

Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Years Eve

After a lazy morning (neither of us were up at a single-digit hour) Southern Man ran a few errands and did a little shopping, then headed out to an industrial park northeast of the city for a truckload of pallets found on Craigslist, that cornucopia of free stuff. There was a big undeveloped field nearby with three geocaches hidden within so Southern Man spent a pleasant hour stomping through the brush and scrub pines to find them, then delivered the truckload of booty out to The Land and fooled around out their for a while, then headed back to La Casa for dinner and videos with Teen Daughter as we prepared for the evening's festivities at the ancestral manor.

Southern Man noticed that a couple of brand-new caches popped up on his map right on the route from La Casa to the manor so we tried for them on the way out. Southern Man held the flashlight while Teen Daughter braved the cold and wind and climbed a tree for her very first geocache and Southern Man's very first "FTF" or "First To Find." She kept the dollar coin left as a prize and we then went on to Southern Parents' home for snacks and puzzles and good clean family fun.

The party never stops at the ancestral manor.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Countdown to New Years 1

Another beautiful day spent outdoors geocaching and fooling around out at The Land. All of the trailer bedding was a little suspect due to the recent mouse problem so it is all currently spinning round and round in seven (yes, seven) laundromat washing machines (the little stackable at La Casa can barely handle blue jeans so bedspreads are out of the question) so tomorrow Southern Man will have crisp clean bedding and may very well stay out there to ring in the New Year. And tonight no one was in the mood to cook so Southern Man and Teen Daughter are feasting on Domino's pizza and chocolate lava cakes.

Teen Daughter would like for everyone to know how clever and witty and beautiful and amazing and fabulous she is. And modest. Let's not forget modest. And angry, because she ordered Southern Man to not publish these pics but he did it anyway.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Countdown to New Years 2

Southern Man hates working with sheetrock with the white hot fury of a thousand exploding suns.

OK, so the little room that Southern Man has been working on now has all the sheetrock up on the ceiling and the light fixture installed, meaning that there is now plenty of light and no more excuses to not work on that room after dark. Actually both floors of The Workshop are now adequately illuminated. He also did a number of outdoor chores including a fair bit of mowing and hogging (there's still lots of places at The Land that have never felt a blade and the shrubs and five-foot-tall Johnson grass comes down a lot easier in December than in June) and re-organizing of woodpiles, which are slowly but surely getting moved further back as part of a general cleanup of the various stacks of stuff around the structures. He also finally figured out where the mice were getting into the trailer and has hopefully dealt with that particular annoyance. And it wasn't really work as it was a beautiful day. Tomorrow promises to be the same.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Countdown to New Years 3

A day that began not with a bang, but with a whimper: on the way to an early AM chiropractor's appointment Southern Man was happily contemplating what he might buy with his Christmas Benjamins when the "check engine" light came on. It didn't return for the rest of the day but the CBs are now tucked away in the emergency fund, just in case. Modern automobiles seldom break down but when they do it's seldom cheap.

Southern Man then got a call from his favorite partner in crime: "I'm on your side of town, wanna do something?" Oh, boy, did Southern Man have an answer to that.

We grabbed a snack and headed out to The Land and got a few pieces of sheetrock up on the ceiling in The Workshop, a task that Southern Man had begun a few times but just couldn't manage by himself. Well, we played around a bit as well. Then he had to get home to his girlfriend fiancée (apparently she was recently upgraded) so Southern Man did a little shopping and got a few supplies for tomorrow and returned to La Casa only to find Teen Daughter headed out the door so Southern Man has the place to himself for a while for a long hot shower and movies and the rest of twelve-year-old daughter's homemade lasagna and salad and an Italian 'rita. That little six-pack of 'rita mixes Southern Man found in his stocking is coming in right handy. And tomorrow there is nothing on the schedule so Southern Man is looking forward to a productive and fun day outside after not waking up to an alarm clock.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Countdown to New Years 4

Southern Man isn't sure what happened to that "not much will happen this week" plan. He had an appointment to give blood this morning (his German-Irish A+ blood has miraculous restorative properties and is therefore in high demand) and then dropped by a friend's mother's house just in time to not help chisel a couple of tiles out of the shower to prepare for the plumber so we went to lunch instead. And then Southern Man switched to The Titan and headed out to the ancestral manor to pick up Southern Father so we could go into town, rent a tow dolly, go back to the manor, coax Southern Daughter's disabled vehicle onto said dolly (we ended up pushing it onto the dolly with Southern Father's pickup), tow the car to a repair shop in town, return the dolly, go back to the manor, and then (since we were on a roll) use the truck to pull one of Southern Father's numerous restoration projects (this one's an early 60s Bel-Air) up near his workshop. And upon returning home Southern Man was about to dig into his leftover lunch when he was reminded by Southern Daughter that he'd promised to actually cook that night so we had baked lemon chicken breasts and rice and Southern Man made himself a delicious strawberry 'rita and we watched Tangled, which is surprisingly good. It was a beautiful day, cool but not at all windy, and the forecast calls for much of the same all week so Southern Man hopes to get out to The Land later this week and both get some chores done and just plain relax before the new semester kicks off next week and Old Man Winter finally makes his appearance.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Countdown to New Years 5

Yes, another countdown for no other reason than to give Southern Man an excuse to blog every day this week. Not that much happened today, or will happen this week. Which is entirely according to plan. About all Southern Man got done today was to get both vehicles serviced and do a little light geocaching. But then we got an invite to Southern Parents for dinner where we ate delicious homemade cornbread and stew...

...and then Southern Mother schooled us all in Scrabble.

Is there a more pleasant way to spend an evening?

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Day

The plan was to meet at Furr's, a cafeteria chain favored by Southern Parents, but the line was reported to be "out the door and around the block" so Plan B was a nearby Chinese buffet.

Unlimited crab legs. Mmmmmm.

Southern Man picked up a few Christmas geocaches and meandered home, where Teen Daughter arrived a bit later. We relaxed and played more chess and watched more Lord Of The Rings and ate (leftovers, to her chagrin; Southern Man wlil not cook new meals until the old ones are gone). Then she retired to her room not long after dusk, leaving Southern Man to contemplate Christmas past, present and future.

Tomorrow begins the real week off: no schedule (well, hardly any schedule) until New Year's Eve, so he hopes to get a lot done. But it's cold outside so less may happen out at The Land than he has planned. First on the agenda tomorrow: long-overdue oil changes and fluid checks on both vehicles.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve

After a relaxing morning and afternoon with Teen Daughter (the younger one stayed with Southern Parents after last night's gathering) and we spent a quiet afternoon playing chess and watching The Lord Of The Rings until it was time to load up the sleigh and set out over the river and through the woods.

Our long-standing family tradition is for Southern Man and his siblings and our families to gather at the ancestral manor and spend Christmas Eve with our parents. They set up a magnificent tree in the Atrium and the gifts accumulate all week. With such a large group we have a gift lottery; Southern Man drew one of his computer-geek nephews this year and had a good time shopping for an appropriate gift. Another tradition is to fill everyone's stockings with presents from "Santa" and Southern Man takes great delight in choosing gifts that the recipient will like but won't necessarily be traced back to him. This also gives us ample opportunity to break the one-gift rule and load our parent's stockings with tokens of love and affection. Other stocking stuffers (like Southern Man's sodas and Southern Sister's framed photos) have run for so long that the secret is out but we continue to give them anyway.

Stockings under the tree. Those tall bags are for the gifts; the "stocking" stockings usually hold Benjamins.

There is always a table of finger food and cookies and candy and treats of every kind...

Sister-in-law and eldest nephew in the Dining Room examine the Christmas Eve feast.

...and we always gather in the Library for a reading of the Christmas Story from Luke Chapter 2...

"And, lo, an angel of the Lord appeared before them..."

...and then move to the Living Room and the Kitchen (this is beginning to sound like a live game of Clue) for food and conversation...

Teen Daughter and her cousins occupy the kitchen nook.

...and finally the opening of the gifts.

Teen daughter's gift came in one of those puzzle boxes where you have to complete a maze to open it.

It took her a while but eventually the box was defeated and the gift was in hand!

Teen daughter really likes puzzles.

Twelve-year-old daughter and a new video camera.

Southern Man shopped for computer-geek nephew at the XKCD store. Nephew is in the background; Southern Brother admiring the shirt.

Southern Parents smooch in front of the fireplace. The podium in the foreground was hand-crafted for Southern Mother by Southern Father.

Southern Son was the last to arrive - he had to work late - so he was the center of attention for a while. Which suits him just fine!

And while waiting on Teen Son we played a rousing game of Taboo. The girls won, as the always do; Southern Man holds that they have some sort of ESP when it comes to games like this. "You know, that actor!" "Richard Gere!" "Yes!"

Twelve-year-old daughter racks up another point for the girls.

And then Southern Sister always takes over and poses us for family photos. She's a much better photographer than Southern Man so when he gets his copies he may add a few here.

The festivities didn't end until nearly eleven and then only because Southern Man's children needed to get on the road for a two-hour drive to join their mother. And that was the only sad moment of the evening. Five years ago Southern Man thought his life was over and that his children would hate him forever. Yet here we are, gathered as always for a joyous family Christmas. Life does go on after divorce. It sometimes even gets better! Lord, we thank you for your countless blessings on all of us and ask you to continue to bless us all in the coming year. Amen.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Countdown to Christmas 1

Another relaxing morning, then out and about to buy the rest of the stocking stuffers, to the bank for Christmas Benjamins, and to pick up teen daughter from her extended stay with a friend. Then that evening, a family gathering at a cousin's home.

Everyone's favorite room is the kitchen!

Some sort of Wii Sports tourney always breaks out at these gatherings.

There was even live music! We're pretty sure it was "Jingle Bells."

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Countdown to Christmas 2

Teen daughter is off with friends so it was just younger daughter and Southern Man today. Since we didn't make it to the movies yesterday we did so today, starting with a mid-morning showing of Mission: Impossible and then (having carefully studied the schedule) slipped in to The Muppets (no review; it was OK but no Muppet Treasure Island). That took us until mid-afternoon when we picked up a geocache near the theatre (Southern Man is getting a little compulsive about his streak) and headed back to La Casa for dinner and more movies. We just started a Matrix marathon; should be fun.

Movie Review: Mission: Impossible franchise (so far)

The first Mission: Impossible film with Tom Cruise as IMF agent Ethan Hunt was a good action-adventure movie with impressive stunts and an interesting plot which stands up well today. It gets plenty of spin time in the Casa DVD player.

Mission: Impossible II was so bad as to be unwatchable. Southern Man saw it once in the theatre and has had no desire at all to repeat the experience.

Mission: Impossible III was an improvement over II but not by a whole lot. The DVD is somewhere in La Casa gathering dust.

And that brings us to Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, produced by J.J. Abrams and directed by Brad Bird. And this fourth entry in a tired franchise starring a fifty-year-old actor and directed by a cartoonist is way better than its two predecessors and perhaps even surpasses the original. It's a lot of fun, with a clever and witty script that's serious but not too serious, excellent acting performances by all, plenty of Q-worthy gadgets that don't always quite work, hair-raising stunts, and lots of intense physical action. Bird's stylish direction provides the same flair to MI IV as he gave The Incredibles, and it works well. Given the mess that was Quantum of Solace the Bond team would do well to give Bird a turn in the director's chair of that series as well. Southern Man gives this one two enthusiastic thumbs up and hopes that Bird brings us many more action films. Like MI V!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Countdown To Christmas 3

Ah, Christmas Vacation. No schedule, no deadlines, no worries. A few errands (ran out to The Land to grab a few things, to the grocery store for a few other necessities (having three children in the house (yes, three; one of teen daughter's friends has more or less taken up residence) runs through food at a remarkable rate)) and then went to a nearby park with twelve-year-old daughter for an afternoon of geocaching. She found them all! Then she insisted that we stop at a grocery store on the way home where she selected all the materials and then at La Casa made lasagna from scratch all by herself and served it up with French toast and salad. And it was all delicious!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Countdown To Christmas 4

A relaxed morning followed by a few errands, a little work in the office (including dealing with below-average students demanding above-average grades) and a post-surgery visit to the back surgeon (and even though it was a bitterly cold day made an easy grab to keep his geocaching streak alive) and then went to the movies with twelve-year-old daughter (Alvin And The Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, which was every bit as bad as the reviews said unless you have a thing for Chipmunks and Chipettes singing Lady Gaga), and then back to La Casa for an intense game of Monopoly (teen daughter eventually wiped us out but it took a while as all four players had immunity agreements with each other) and baked-potato soup. Tomorrow will probably be another movie day (twelve-year-old daughter picked (and paid for) today; Southern Man will pick (and pay for) the next choice, which is currently a tossup between The Muppets and Mission: Impossible 4 or perhaps even both) so it should be another fun day.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Countdown To Christmas 5

Southern Man finished his grading over the weekend and turned everything in today so it is now officially Christmas Break! The dress shirts and slacks are at the dry cleaners and the ties have been hung on the tie rack with care, not to be disturbed until 2012. And no alarm clock for two weeks!

Teen Daughter flew in Friday evening and was so excited to be back that she chattered nonstop all the way home. But Southern Man hasn't seen much of her since as all of her friends here miss her as well and have dragged her away at every opportunity. The only sour note was that when at a party that night someone got into the closet where all the girls had put their purses and stole all their cash and phones so teen daughter is out nearly two hundred bucks (painful) and her iPhone (very painful). There is a special place in hell for thieves like that and Southern Man hope he roasts for eternity. How's that for holiday spirit?

Twelve-year-old daughter flew in Saturday noon and has been having a grand time ever since. She finally settled on her Christmas present and it has been ordered so now it is up to the minions of Amazon and the Post Office to get it here on time. She spent last night with Southern Parents but couldn't wait to return to Casa Southern Man where we cooked spaghetti and sauce and French bread for dinner, which we are eating while having a Tremors marathon. Why, yes, we do have all four. Later it was popcorn and hot chocolate with whipped cream and chess and Clue with both girls and one of teen daughter's friends. What a life! And the best part is that after a mid-afternoon doctor's appointment tomorrow Southern Man has nothing on the schedule until Christmas Eve!

A little good-natured catfight at the Dirty Santa party Saturday night.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Finals Week Day 5

And another busy one - in to the office early for a couple of meetings, met with students desperate to get some kind of credit on their projects, a working lunch with the Deans and other assorted strategic planners (Southern Man has little strategy to contribute but he's on the committee and it's a free lunch) - and then Southern Man plans to ditch the afternoon commencement ceremony, race home, and do a little more cleaning. Then bowling with the gang this evening and then to the airport to pick up teen daughter to officially kick off the holiday break.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Finals Week Day 4

A long, long day: at work before seven for an extra-early-morning "final exam" (a class presenting their final project reports; we elected to meet early to ensure that we'd get out on time as many of them had a difficult theory exam later this morning), lots of individual student appointments for their project presentations (and as the deadline approaches the panic becomes more apparent and the plagiarism more blatant), the final at the evening Astronomy class, and then (sadly) to a funeral home south of the metro to visit family for a while (a loved great-aunt passed away a few days ago). So Southern Man will be home at eleven or so this evening and will no doubt pour himself a drink and ponder mortality, both his own and that of his loved ones. Lord, you promised us our days would be three score and ten but we can never know what time we have. Please grant us the wisdom to use that time well. Amen.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Ten Myths About Southern Man

Surfing the 'net this afternoon led Southern Man to this post on The Anchoress (who in turn references this post at Carl Kingdom (as you can see Southern Man is most fastidious with his references (as well as with his deeply nested parentheses))) which was entitled (in case you haven't tired of this very long sentence and clicked it already) "Ten Myths About Introverts." And what caught Southern Man's attention was the very first comment in that first post in which "Jenny" laments that she always tested as INTJ or "as my professor strongly implied, all the wrong types." After picking himself up the floor from laughing Southern Man (who almost always tests as INTJ with a soft N but with I, T, and J hard against the wall) took pause to reflect on the Ten Myths and how they applied to his own life.

Now Southern Man has long known that he was quite introverted (or "reserved," as he prefers to say) which means, in a nutshell, that he is drained by social interaction and energized by solitude. That doesn't mean he doesn't like to socialize - quite the opposite - but he prefers his socialization in small doses and with relatively small groups, and the solitude of The Land always leaves him refreshed. Southern Man has also long known that he was more rational and considerably less emotional than most folks. In post-divorce reconciliation counseling with the incomparable Dr. Jim Talley Southern Man and his ex-wife took some fairly comprehensive personality tests that showed (among other things) that Southern Man was about three standard deviations off the norm on the objective side and his ex was something like 99% subjective (a combination which explained a lot of our communications issues) and we talked quite a bit about how our different personality types had contributed to our marital difficulties. Introverted, rational, unemotional - is it any surprise that Southern Man found himself in careers that emphasize structure and order and inflexible rules and logic? Or from the age of ten or so began a lifelong fascination with Mr. Spock? But the qualities that make him a terrific computer science professor and Star Trek trivia expert are rather a hindrance when it comes to social interaction and relationships.

So Southern Man will imitate The Anchoress and riff off (not "rip off") the Ten Myths as posted by Carl Kingdom.

Myth #1 – Southern Man doesn't like to talk.
This is not true. Introverts just don’t talk unless they have something to say. And Southern Man hates small talk; he does not do phone chit-chat well at all (just ask teen daughter). But get Southern Man talking about something he's interested in (Star Trek, or geocaching, or politics, or his dreams for The Land...) and you can hardly get him to shut up.

Myth #2 – Southern Man is shy.
Shyness has nothing to do with being introverted, but Southern Man needs a reason to interact. If you want to talk to Southern Man, just start talking. And don’t worry about being polite; he'd be so focused on content that he probably wouldn't notice anyway.

Myth #3 – Southern Man is rude and uncaring and cold and unfeeling.
Southern Man doesn't see a reason for beating around the bush with social pleasantries so people whose communication is more emotion-based (Southern Sister comes to mind) finds Southern Man to be downright heartless. Indeed, she has mentioned Southern Man and Asberger's Syndrome in the same sentence many a time. And Southern Man admits that his preferred mode of communication is not the best choice in many settings and he often feels a lot of pressure change the way he communicates so that he can better fit in, which is one reason that he finds social interaction so exhausting. So this one occasionally seems to be true but he's working on it. But the truth is while introverts may seem this way their love and emotions run very deep and very strong; they just struggle to express them.

Myth #4 – Southern Man doesn't like people.
On the contrary, introverts intensely value the few friends they have; however, they can usually count their close friends on the fingers of one hand. If you are lucky enough for an introvert to consider you a friend then you probably have a friend for life. When it comes to relationships introverts (and Southern Man) are serially monogamous; they focus (often intently) on one person at a time, which makes the ending of relationships particularly painful. Another downside of his introverted nature is that Southern Man's social circle is fairly thin. He's working on it.

Myth #5 – Southern Man doesn't like to go out in public.
Nonsense. Southern Man just doesn't like to go out in public for as long as extroverts. Twelve-year-old daughter knows this well; by the end of an outing she's just warming up when Southern Man is ready to return home and recharge. Introverts also like to avoid the complications that are involved in public activities; they take in data and experiences very quickly and as a result, don’t need to be there for long to “get it” - they’re ready to go home, recharge, and process it all. In fact, recharging is absolutely crucial for introverts like Southern Man.

Myth #6 – Southern Man always wants to be alone.
Southern Man is content with his own company and comfortable with his own thoughts. He thinks (and plans, and daydreams) a lot and he loves to have problems to work on or programs to write or puzzles to solve. But introverts can also get incredibly lonely if they don’t have anyone to share their discoveries with. While Southern Man considers himself off the dating market at this time a part of him craves an authentic and sincere connection with the one person with whom he can share his thoughts and dreams. And he would love that person with a depth that few extroverts could match. Sadly, at his age this will probably not happen and he's working to accept it and move on. That's quite a challenge for someone who's been in long-term relationships almost continuously since high school.

Myth #7 – Southern Man is weird.
Introverts are often individualists. They don’t follow the crowd and prefer to be valued for their novel ways of living. They think for themselves and because of that they often challenge the norm and they don’t make decisions based on what is popular or trendy. Southern Man's plan for the next five years, which involve improvements to The Land and living out there to the greatest extent possible, are not what most men think about. And Southern Man doesn't care one whit.

Myth #8 – Southern Man is an aloof nerd.
Geek, perhaps, but not nerd. Introverts are people who primarily look inward and paying close attention to their thoughts and emotions. It’s not that they are incapable of paying attention to what is going on around them, it’s just that their inner world is much more stimulating and rewarding to them. Southern Man often catches himself lost in that inner world (particularly when dreaming of what he wants The Land to become someday) and must work hard to bring himself back to reality - and then do something in the real world to bring that dream closer to reality.

Myth #9 – Southern Man doesn't know how to relax and have fun.
Southern Man typically relaxes at home or outdoors or at The Land rather than in busy public venues. And like many introverts Southern Man can spend an hour at a big party standing in a corner talking to a few people and be having a great time. And Southern Man is getting better and better at relaxing and enjoying himself during the day; he's rarely as stressed out as he once was, and that's a Good Thing.

Myth #10 – With therapy and medication Southern Man could become a perfectly normal person.
Why? Southern Man is content with the way he is!

And there you have it - ten myths about Southern Man, dispelled for your pleasure. Read them carefully; to know him is to love him!

Finals Week Day 3

Ah, the rigors of university life. Breakfast with a candidate for an open business-school position, a handful of appointments with students to check their semester projects, lunch (off-campus!) with the same candidate, an easy drive home (yes, Southern Man only put in half a day today as tomorrow and Friday will both be extra long) geocaching along the way (five for five today!) and some light grocery shopping and now the afternoon and evening spent...well, not cleaning La Casa. For that matter, not doing anything constructive at all, unless experimenting with new mixed drinks could be considered constructive. Everyone should try that every now and then. Next up - a new post written while mildly intoxicated!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Finals Week Day 2

Another very busy day; student appointments all morning (including one with a student who tried to pass off an openly copied program as her own, and yes, she did leave the office in tears), administered a final early afternoon, and then headed for the evening Astronomy class. But still managed to work in a few geocaches along the way. The geocaching website now shows various statistics like "longest streak" and to someone with a touch of CDO that's like waving a red flag in front of a bull. The streak must not be broken!

CDO? Oh, that's like OCD, but the letters are in alphabetical order, just like they should be.

And now Southern Man is home and it's time to follow up last night's entertainment with The Return Of The King. Yes, the high-fantasy film that was nominated for eleven - count' em, eleven - Academy Awards and won every one of them. Even though the extended cut of The Fellowship Of The Ring is the best of the three. Southern Man pays little attention to the Academy but even those knuckleheads couldn't withstand the pure awesome that was twelve hours of Tolkien on film.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Finals Week Day 1

In keeping with Southern Man's tradition of post sequences and since there are no other events on the calendar for a while, Finals Week it is. If nothing else it gives him an excuse to post every day.

Today started with a visit to the chiropractor (Southern Man is down to one visit a week now and yes his back is feeling much better now, thanks) and a trip by the public library for movies and CDs and then to the office to contemplate the horror that is the week's schedule and then sigh and get to work. The next eight hours were consumed by grading and evaluating student projects (by appointment) and writing finals and giving finals and grading finals. But then Southern Man met up with friends for dinner (Chinese buffet) and that was a lot of fun even though for a pack of guys we are extremely boring. And now he is home trying not to think about the vast number of calories consumed at the Chinese buffet and trying to work up enough will-power to continue the cleanup. But he may end up on the futon watching The Two Towers and consuming even more calories in the form of popcorn and beer instead. Yeah, that's the ticket, right there. You...shall not..pass!

And as a special treat for those who choose to emulate Southern Man's choice of entertainment tonight - Disk 1 (extended version), scene selection, chapter 30, and arrow down until you see a gold ring.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

One More Deep Breath

Tomorrow we plunge into Finals Exam Week at Southern Man's university so it will be a busy time of writing and administering and grading exams as well as taking care of the thirty-odd appointments students have made to demonstrate their final programming projects. That goes clear through Friday, which is packed from morn 'till night: breakfast with a candidate for an open Dean spot, academic meetings later in the morning and early afternoon, Winter Commencement, and various receptions afterwards. There is an hour that evening when Southern Man needs to be in three places at once and that doesn't count the airport as teen daughter flies in that day; it is not yet determined who is free to pick her up. Twelve-year-old daughter arrives on Saturday. And that means that during the week before Christmas Southern Man will have both girls at home and the usually quiet Casa will be filled with chattering and laughing and music and cooking and (occasionally) fussing. It Will Be Good.

Yesterday Southern Man dropped by our monthly "Coffee Talk" which is usually at the singles director's home but he is down for knee replacement surgery so we met at Panera Bread instead, which Southern Man usually avoids but made an exception this time. There was a geocache in the parking lot so he dragged a couple of the girls out to find it...

Two happy cachers and proof that Southern Man has a social life. A small one, to be sure, but it is there.

It was a cold but beautiful day so Southern Man was determined to spend a good deal of it outside. He went after another cache that had been nagging him for a while and couldn't find it on the third try but he knows it's there somewhere (this is what they call an "extreme" cache out in a wooded area) so he will hit it again later. Then he went out to The Land and fooled around a bit but it was too cold to do anything really productive and he decided to come back into town instead of spending the night in the (cold) trailer. He either needs to fix the trailer's gas heater or pick up a couple of electric heaters pretty soon now. And get an electric blanket. Today will be much of the same - it's cold but not too windy so it will be another outside day.

The evening's entertainment was...well, let's say that no one throws a Christmas party quite like a charismatic megachurch. It was big and crowded and loud and while Southern Man is and will always be Nazarene he can't quite imagine any of his former pastors standing in front of a high-octane rock band and dance troupe proclaiming that "Santa is in the house!" and then witness the Merry One himself zoom overhead to the platform on a zip line. So that was great fun and Southern Man was in such high spirits that he even did a little night caching on the way home. And in an hour or so a delicious pot roast will come out of the oven (his secret broth recipe includes a beef bullion cube and a bottle of beer) and Southern Man will have his own private feast. It's not too early to say "Merry Christmas!"

Friday, December 09, 2011


Earlier this evening Southern Man was installing an operating system (in an effort to get that last busted PC up and running) and chatting with a friend on the phone who asked "What are you installing?" and upon hearing that it was Windows XP responded with (more or less) "WTF?" So here is a brief history of operating systems and why Southern Man uses what he does.

The earliest desktops had their OS burned right into the hardware but pretty early in the game they gained the ability to load enhancements to their built-in OS from a disk drive - thus the "Disk Operating System," an OS loaded from external media and including the ability to manage that media. Southern Man's very first computer, a TRS-80, originally loaded programs from cassette tape (!) but eventually gained an external floppy-disk drive and the TRS-DOS operating system; the TRS-80 Model III that replaced it had a couple of built-in drives and could run both TRS-DOS and CP/M. When Southern Man was running his beloved Amiga 1000 and the marvelous AmigaOS operating system at home
Microsoft was up to MS-DOS 3.3 or so and Southern Man ran that on PC-XT and PC-AT computers in grad school (where he spent most of his computing time on PDP-11 and VAX 11/780 mainframes playing Empire and Moria and (in his spare time) writing and using data-analysis software in FORTRAN and where he even got to play with the little-known PC-RT and IBM's Academic Operating System while working with a professor that had one) and in his first years teaching. The Amiga was eventually replaced by a fairly decent no-name Windows 3 386 box. It cost about $1000 at a local warehouse store and was Southern Man's first personal computer that had a hard drive. His introduction to working on and eventually building PCs was when he purchased and installed a CD-ROM drive all by himself.

DOS and early versions of Windows were what we tech-heads called real mode, flat-memory, single-tasking operating systems. They could do one thing at a time and that one thing owned the entire computer. Exceptions were things like print spoolers and TSR programs like SideKick which let you do two or even three things at a time, sometimes. The DOS user interface was initially a simple command prompt like older operating systems but eventually evolved into something of a Graphics User Interface or GUI; DOS Shell was a DOS GUI. Windows 3.1 with 386 Enhanced Mode introduced protected mode, virtual memory, and multitasking and could (to some extent) do many things "at the same time" and keep those many things more or less isolated from one another. This was vastly improved in Windows 95 and had been tweaked considerably by Windows 98 2nd Edition, which is Southern Man's choice for old programs that just won't run on a modern OS. Windows ME was a step backwards and Southern Man never used it, but he always keeps a Windows 98 2nd Ed (along with DOS 7 for the really old games) box up and running. No, it never even touches the 'net.

In parallel with the Windows 9x line Microsoft was developing an entirely new OS line called "NT" that was (more or less) built from scratch (or, given that Microsoft had hired a lot of DEC employees, built on VMS) to be a protected-mode, virtual-memory, pre-emptive multitasking OS from the outset. The first version was NT 3 (an advertising gimmick, as "regular" Windows was also in version 3) and was fairly well recieved even though the more advanced OS couldn't run a lot of earlier Windows software that required direct access to resources that the OS now controlled (such as the aforementioned SideKick; later versions of NT gained "compatibility modes" to deal with such older and ill-behaved software). NT 4 was well regarded for its stability as a workstation and server. NT 5 was released under the name Windows 2000 and got an upgrade to Windows 95's look and feel instead of the somewhat clunkier Windows 3 GUI. Invoke "version" on Windows XP and it says "5.1" and Vista claims to be version 6. You can guess where Windows 7 gets its name. Of these the high-water mark is XP with Service Pack 2. Vista was so full of suck that many establishments (including everywhere that Southern Man worked and taught) refused to use it at all. Windows 7 is Vista with much of the suck removed but with some entirely new suck added. Southern Man uses it at work because he doesn't have a choice; all of his (admittedly older) PCs at home run XP SP 2 and good old Office 2003. Don't get him started on the steaming pile of suck that is Office 2010. But it is a tribute to Microsoft's dedication to "backwards compatibility" that Southern Man's copy of Empire, with a compile date of 1988, runs just fine in a Win 7 command-line session. Do not tell the people at work how he knows this.

So Southern Man has one machine running Windows 98 2nd Edition with DOS 7 and a bunch with XP SP2. If he builds a new machine this summer (he hasn't built a new computer in over six years so it's about time) he'll grit his teeth and put Windows 7 on it, but then he gets to run XP in virtual machines which is really the best way to safely touch the 'net. And given that he's hardly a Microsoft fanboy he's kind of chomping at the bit for a Windows 8 touchscreen laptop in a year or so; the iPad has really gotten him hooked on large touchscreens but he'll be happy to replace the Apple toy with an actual computer. Given that his most recent laptop is a Celeron 300 running Windows 95 it's probably about time for that as well. But it is a safe prediction that Casa Southern Man will always house more computers than any one person really needs.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Airplanes in the Day Sky

While working scouting for geocaches to try on an upcoming drive to Dallas Southern Man stumbled across the following...

There's a cache marker in the lower-right corner, but what is that at the upper left?

Why, yes, that is a commercial jet photographed in mid-flight from outer space. Anyone care to identify it for us?

This also betrays how satellite photography works: four images taken in rapid succession using a black-and-white CCD: first through a blue filter, then through a green filter, then through a red filter (note how green plus red = yellow, just like we learned in primary school), and unfiltered for luminosity. The four images are then combined to form a full-color picture.

Posted because Southern Man thought it was cool. That is all.

[added later] SR (consulted by email) points out some details that make it a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 and that's good enough for Southern Man.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Remembering Pearl Harbor

Two of the battleships lost at Pearl Harbor that never returned to service were named after the states Southern Man loves best.

One might expect more on the seventieth anniversary of the attack that finally pulled our nation into the cauldron of WWII but Southern Man has seen or heard little. And perhaps it is time. The Pacific War always had a nasty racist overtone; cartoons of the era made it clear that our war in Europe was against Hitler and Mussolini but in the Pacific the enemy was almost always depicted as a generic yellow monkey-man rather than Emperor Hirohito or (more appropriately) Prime Minister Tojo. The Japanese paid dearly with the loss of a generation of young men and the incineration of dozens of cities, the final two by atomic hellfire. But in her wisdom the United States transformed her shattered enemy into a valued partner and staunch ally. Japanese tourists shower the waters of the Arizona memorial with flowers; Japanese navy ships were quick to adopt the custom of "manning the rails" when passing her hallowed grave. War was followed not just by peace, but by civility and even friendship. And Pearl Harbor is slowly but surely receding into history.

But one lesson of Pearl Harbor should never have been forgotten: when the United States rises in righteous wrath her enemies should tremble. Too bad we have.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Southern Man Fixes A PC

Given that he's something of a tech-head Southern Man's broken computers seem to stay broken for an inordinately long time. Anyway, this one locks up after a while and it's obviously a bad video-card fan but Southern Man just hadn't gotten a round tuit until today when he opened it up and verified that the fan was stuck and unstuck it. Southern Man picks up a surprising number of giveway PCs that can be fully repaired with a 99¢ fan.

The tragedy was that when he moved the PC he found a Christmas list from last year under it. The irony is that he needs it again this year (it's the list of everyone's preferred drinks for stocking stuffers).

So now that he's on a roll he may try to fix the other broken PC (which may have a bad hard drive) today as well and that would give him four operational machines at home. Does he need that many? Apparently not; he's been limping along with two for months now, hasn't he? One of which was a cast-off from work that had (ta da!) a bad video-card fan and now does yeoman work as the main multimedia PC. But the one he just fixed is the fastest machine in La Casa and the other one was the main web-browsing PC so it will be good to have them back. Don't get him started on the half-dozen (half operational, half not) he moved out to The Land last week.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Everything's Amazing And Nobody's Happy

Everyone should watch this video. Hat tip to Instapundit.

Planet Earth in the Year Of Our Lord 2011 is an amazing place!

And, yes, Southern Man cursed at slow load times while publishing a video on his blog that anyone can read across a world-wide communications network using a computer that's thousands of times more powerful than the ones used to guide the Apollo 11 astronauts on their journey to a landing on another planet.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Watch Party

After a relaxed day half-watching movies and net-surfing and game-playing and cleaning (yes, cleaning) Southern Man headed to the south side for the watch party where he had a great time with his friends. Southern Man is usually bad luck for the home team when he deigns to watch and tonight was no exception as they found themselves on the wrong end of a truly epic ass-kicking. But he doesn't even care about sports so he laughs while the faithful suffer the sting of losses courtesy of two nobodies (earlier in the season) and the hated in-state rival (who no doubt tasted blood in the water and came after 'em tonight with everything they had). There will be no goalposts standing in that field tomorrow morning!

Friday, December 02, 2011

Office Party

Tonight was the School of Business Christmas party, hosted at the home of one of the long-time professors. The address was in the most upscale neighborhood of the city and on arrival Southern Man was impressed; a mansion designed for entertainment in which the fifty or so of us were not at all crowded. Turns out that the professor's husband is a successful architect and builder. All of the deans were there so Southern Man was on his best behavior and hopefully performed the appropriate amount of elbow-rubbing and schmoozing with his various bosses. Much food and drink were consumed (a hostess and bartender were on hand to keep us well supplied) and then the main event was a rousing game of Bad Santa, a party game at which Southern Man and his ex once excelled. Without a capable partner it was tougher but Southern Man drew a good position and ended up with one of the best gifts - a bottle of locally homemade green-apple wine (the label is "Red Neck" in French and has a picture of two - well, rednecks in a pickup-truck swimming pool), a loaf of summer sausage, and a big slab of chocolate. Much hilarity ensued when he revealed that the Red Neck and summer sausage would be consumed in a FEMA trailer out in the sticks. To tell the truth Southern Man isn't much of a wine drinker but it will make a nice addition to the wine rack as a conversation piece. A surprise was what turned out to be a roll of George W. Bush toilet paper which was quickly stolen twice by two female professors who were evidently both proud and unashamed to show their disdain for #43.

But the best moment was when Southern Man spotted the Dean enter with a striking young woman that he didn't know and the following conversation ensued with one of his colleagues:
Southern Man: Who is that with the Dean? His wife?
Colleague: I don't know if it's his wife or his girlfriend.
It turned out to be less scandalous than we thought (it was his fiancée) but that wasn't surprising; we're really a fairly boring bunch. But we had such a good time that the party ran nearly two hours past schedule.

Two Weeks To Go

The weekend is here, with only two weeks remaining of the semester - and the second of those is final exams week with no lecturing required. Southern Man can assure you that the only people more excited than the students about semester's end are the professors.

And it is going to be a full weekend - office party tonight, singles party tomorrow night, Sunday School on Sunday - and since the weather forecast for the entire weekend is "don't go outside unless you want to die" Southern Man will grit his teeth and stay indoors and start the long-delayed massive cleanup of La Casa.

There, he wrote it in the blog for all three of his readers to see. That's accountability in action; now he has to actually do it. Maybe. We'll see how it goes.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

A Day In The Life

Teen daughter has asked Southern Man a couple of times "Just what do you do?" She seems to be under the impression that Southern Man has no life, which is more or less true at this particular time. But at any rate here is a typical Working Thursday in the Life of Southern Man.

6:00 - Got up, showered, had breakfast (two eggs, bacon, juice), tuned in a classical-music radio station and browsed the 'net for morning news and entertainment.

8:00 - Arrived at the office (often picking up a geocache or two along the way; just got one this morning) and "worked" as defined below for an hour.

"Work" is more or less evenly divided into five chunks:
(1) Course-related routine work; lecture prep, grading, writing proof-of-concept code, writing and copying handouts and worksheets, record-keeping, posting to the course web sites, syllabus updates, and so on.

(2) Administration-related routine work (Southern Man is both a department chair and member of the Dean's leadership team, so there's plenty of that!); writing and editing assessment and accreditation reports, book orders, course scheduling, catalog updates, writing recommendation letters for students, various committee duties and meetings, and so on.

(3) Putting-out-fires work; work that pops up out of nowhere (usually initiated by a phone call or email from one of the deans or other administrators) that has to be dealt with right then. Varies from routine ("Can you come over and evaluate this transcript?" or "Can you help Student X with his schedule?" or "Can you review this press release about your new supercomputer?") to urgent ("We need to meet because Student X has a complaint about Professor Y" or "We have an honors code violation and the Student Affairs Committee (of which Southern Man is a member) needs to meet today" or "Can you install this program for me? Campus Tech tried and couldn't do it!").

(4) Professional development; reading and studying to keep current in the field (no small task in computer science!), working on whatever research paper is currently at the top of the pile, developing and writing learning modules, and working on one of a couple of large-ish software projects.

(5) And about a fifth of Southern Man's office time is spent in meditation, listening to music (orchestral Christmas music is the current selection), browsing the 'net, dealing with personal issues (such as posting allowance to teen daughter's checking account and scowling at a weather forecast which predicts "no outside fun this weekend"), walking the building (offices of friends or to listen to the pianist - yes, we have paid pianists performing for a few hours each day) or the campus (the library, bookstore, and coffee shop are frequent destinations) and writing blog posts.
And now on with the day...

9:00 - 10:40 - Taught the Advanced Object-Oriented Programming class. Today they gave progress reports on their projects so it was mostly them talking and Southern Man listening and asking questions.

10:40 - 11:30 - Worked.

11:30 - 12:00 - Had lunch at the cafeteria (very inexpensive for faculty, and quite good; today it was spaghetti (cooked to order) and garlic bread sticks and Caesar salad and ice cream for dessert.

12:00 - 1:00 - Worked.

1:00 - 1:30 - Had a staff meeting with other faculty about our new LittleFe supercomputer.

1:30 - 2:30 - Worked.

2:30 - 3:45 - Taught the Logic class. Today we finished a series on fuzzy-logic controllers and reviewed for their upcoming midterm exam. Yes, Southern Man is that evil - midterm next week, comprehensive final exam the week after.

4:00 - 4:30 - Drove to evening job at the local community college, geocaching along the way (got one today that's part of a geo-chess series that Southern Man is slowly working through).

4:30 - 5:30 - Held office hours at evening job, which is usually spent on last-minute course prep, chatting with early arrivers, and surfing the 'net; tonight one of the handouts had about twenty URLs to photos so Southern Man had twenty browser tabs loaded and ready to show.

5:30 - 7:20 - Taught the Astronomy class; opened with a lecture on galaxies and cosmology (with lots of pretty pictures on the projection screen) and finished with a video on active galaxies.

7:30 - 8:00 - Drove home. No geocaching; it's dark and cold and Southern Man is tired after all that "work."

8:00 - 11:00 - Had dinner (homemade beef stew and a beer), took care of dishes and laundry, generally tidied up a bit and relaxed with books and music and movies and video games.

11:00 - Went to bed, continued to read and play simple games on the iPad (the current addiction is Jumbline 2) for half an hour or so, then went to sleep. Or tried to; insomnia is still a problem.

Yes, Thursdays are mostly work due to that evening class, and mostly indoors since it gets dark so early this time of year. But it's not terribly difficult work and Southern Man has plenty of free moments during the day to relax. And the lack of social life isn't much of a concern; he'll have plenty of friend time on the weekend (Christmas party Friday night, football watch party Saturday night, Sunday School on Sunday) to make up for it.