Southern Man

Monday, January 30, 2012

Diet Week Four

That Phase One target weight is tantalizingly close but not quite there yet so Southern Man will continue with the protein shakes and one meal a day regime for at least another week before continuing to Phase Two. Hopefully all that rock moving will make up for the fact that he's not working out at all.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Southern Man Got Mail

Well, more like the potential to get mail.

Last weekend the fellow offering that load of brick also had a mailbox but when Southern Man arranged to pick up the brick said mailbox had already been spoken for. Well, when Southern Man went back the second day for another load the mailbox was on the trash-heap; whoever had asked for it was a no-show and did Southern Man want it? So we tossed it in the truck on top of the brick and left it along the front of The Land (it was a box and post with a big blob of concrete on the bottom and very heavy). Well, today Southern Man went out and put up more sheetrock and mined a few more rocks out of the common-lot rock vein and put that mailbox in the ground.

The Land, looking west; in the background that's The Barn, The Workshop, and between them the north end of The Trailer. And, yes, that dirt is red.

So Southern Man finally has a mailbox up with his name and (hopefully) future box number (derived from looking at the pattern of numbers up and down the road) and a nice note inside to the mail carrier asking what he has to do to make it official. Given the rather casual attitude in that county he's guessing not a whole lot and that's the way he likes it.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Beautiful Day

It looks like Old Man Winter has forgotten about us and that is just fine with Southern Man. It was a beautiful calm day, a little chilly (well, it is late January) but not bad at all. He spent most of that beautiful day out at The Land putting up sheetrock and working on the wood piles and scrap piles and generally puttering about and enjoying himself. The Trailer was surprisingly free of evidence of mouse incursions with only one little one caught in a glue trap. Southern Man left a radio on last weekend; he'd read somewhere that mice don't like it when there's enough background noise to mask the sound of a predator. He'd also read that hip-hop works better as rodent repellant than does classical but classical it was. Then it was back to La Casa where we are more or less out of food (well, not really, but more or less out of food that picky Teen Daughter will eat) so at her suggestion picked up a Papa Murphy's take-n-bake pizza that was absolutely amazing and they even tossed in a free batch of cookie dough so our diets are on moratorium for the evening as we feast on pizza and salad and cookies. Cookies!

Friday, January 27, 2012

More Rocks

In preparation for the upcoming three-day weekend Southern Man got online last night and did his usual perusal of his favorite cornucopia of free stuff and lucked into a pile of landscaping boulders. "Very heavy!" waned the ad. "Bring several men!" So Southern Man arranged a time to go take a look and this morning he headed out to The Land and after a few chores tossed a dolly and a couple of 2x4s into The Titan and headed 'way up northeast figuring that if they the rocks weren't too big he and some unsuspecting friend could get them later.

Well as it turned out the rocks weren't too big and Southern Man managed to wrestle most of them into the truck before the homeowner appeared and gave him a much-needed hand with the last three.

But Southern Man loaded these all by himself. Why, yes, they were heavy. They're big rocks. What did you think?

It was another full load and The Titan was sitting pretty low on his springs but he's a big tough truck so Southern Man headed back to The Land but stopped for half-a-dozen geocaches and a little sightseeing along the way.

You know you're in Southern Man country when you see signs like this!

Back at the land the rocks were unloaded and stacked by backing the Titan up to a pallet and dumping them off the tailgate...

That's a big pallet of rocks! Or a pallet of big rocks. Whatever.

...and all that took Southern Man until dark so he headed back to La Casa to shower and fix dinner and watch over her shoulder as Teen Daughter efiled her taxes and played Guitar Hero and had a delicious meal of veggies and rice and lemon chicken and began to plot tomorrow's fun!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Southern Man Takes A Test

The BlogFather linked to a Volokh Conspiracy article on what he called the "elite ignorance of ordinary Americans" - that is, how completely out of touch our ruling class is with us ordinary working folk. The article had a link to a 25-question quiz to assess just how in (or out) of touch the quiz-taker is with mainstream America. Southern Man took it, read the comments, and found that he had scored higher (that is, more in touch with middle America) than almost anyone who posted a score.

This was surprising as Southern Man's background isn't that unusual; the well-educated son of middle-class white-collar professionals whose mothers stayed at home and whose blue-collar fathers worked as butchers and union laborers and made sure their children had a chance to go to college. Southern Man missed a lot of points for not watching TV and his almost complete ignorance of (or indifference to) staple Southern activities such as smoking and sports and NASCAR but made up ground for having grown up in a small town and going to movies and owning a pickup and having worked in an actual warehouse and frequent fishing. Southern Man's take on this is that he lives in the best of both worlds: a white-collar professional job during the week and tooling around the country on weekends.

So take the quiz and post your score. Southern Man's was a 54. What was yours?

Monday, January 23, 2012

System Administration

A cooling fan went out on our LittleFe mini-supercomputer so our crack team of experts went right to work:

Southern Man could use a more different kind of screwdriver right about now...

Inspecting a troubled board...

A job well done!

All photos by Dr. A, who was laughing so hard throughout this circus that he could barely hold the camera.

Diet Week Three

Well, Southern Man cheated too much last week and there's been little change since last weigh-in so he's going to continue the protein shake regime for another week. It is entirely not his fault that Teen Daughter and Gay Boyfriend made a devil's food cake and then refused to eat it (citing some nonsense about dry cake mixes being "expired") and who is Southern Man to let perfectly good food go to waste? But as promised he did have to punch a fresh hole in his belt to keep his pants up.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Weekend Update

Well, that went by all too quickly. Southern Man had a three-day weekend so he started out by heading to a town a bit south of the city for some free brick (construction leftovers) and a little out-of-town geocaching, then met with the church single's group that evening for our monthly bowling outing. Southern Man was paired with a friend who is really the better bowler but beat him three games out of five - and two of those by one pin. There was plenty of brick left so Saturday morning he rounded up a friend (well, the same friend), went to men's breakfast at the church, and headed out to pick up another load and we did more out-of-town geocaching. We got it all back to The Land and unloaded and sorted and stacked and headed back to La Casa where friend's car refused to start - a balky starter that had been acting up for about a month - so we had to call for a tow truck and have it hauled to the nearby dealership that services it. A new starter will be nearly six hundred bucks (a far cry from the days when a starter was forty bucks plus the old core and could be installed in an afternoon with a flat-head screwdriver and one wrench and little fuss other than the inevitable bloody knuckles - not to mention that when our cars broke down we pulled them home or to the shop with another car and a rope) so Southern Man is glad that his vehicles haven't acted up lately. Southern Man drove his friend home and stayed for dinner (crackers and home-made chili) and conversation. Sunday morning proved chilly and blustery but he headed out to The Land anyway (geocaching on the way, of course) and cleaned up The Trailer after the latest mouse incursion (they did take three casualties but Southern Man still hasn't found how they're getting in so all he can do right now is make sure there's no food out and set more traps) and stacked more construction material and firewood, then came home and showered and headed out to the ancestral manor for Sunday evening dinner with parents and brother and sister and both older kids and son's girlfriend and a couple of nephews. Brother has a new job and Teen Daughter finally got her car back and starts her new job tomorrow. And tomorrow it is back to work for Southern Man as well but if the deans refrain from scheduling any meetings on Friday it will be another four-day workweek.

[added later]: friend's problem wasn't the starter but a malfunctioning anti-theft system, which turned out to be a lot less expensive to...well, disable. I think they put a underdash switch on it for him. The same thing used to happen all the time to a former gf's Jeep and we'd be stuck wherever until it decided to recognize the key again.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

SOPA and PIPA Blackout

No, Southern Man is not joining the rest of the 'net in the blackout (after all it would affect only his three readers and no one else) but he'll tell you why he agrees with it. SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act) have nothing to do with online piracy or intellectual property and everything to do with deep-pocket lobbyists (in this case, former D-CT Chris Dodd) and and their bought-and-paid-for congressmen on both sides of the aisle (including Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT)) who ram through legislation (which is as often as not written by the corporation) to benefit them at the expense of everyone else, and Southern Man hates that with a burning passion. But SOPA and PIPA aren't the problems - they're the symptoms of a deeply corrupt government. If you knew - really knew - how your government operated there'd be elected officials hanging in every tree from here to Washington.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Land

Since Google Earth has new imagery (from October 12, 2011, to be precise) it is time for an update on The Land. This post supersedes this older post with the same name. For a much larger and clearer image, click on the photo.

Points of interest, clockwise from upper left, are The Cove (a small portion of the much larger lake), the firepit where many burgers and brats and steaks and s'mores have been grilled and roasted and washed down with copious quantities of beer and where a small boat dock is currently under construction, a small grove of redbud trees and proposed site of a not-yet-built gazebo, The Workshop, a large depression that Southern Man has always had marked for a fish pond, The Barn (followers will see that the south roof has been repaired), The Trailer, a washout that will one day make a lovely goldfish pond and water garden, and the Grassy Knoll, which is Southern Man's favorite fishing spot (The Cove is shallow, but just off the Knoll there's a ten-foot dropoff). And scattered throughout are many piles and stacks and pallets of building materials that is slowly becoming more organized.

That's most of the interesting terrain. To the northwest the spit of land with the firepit juts well out into the lake. North of that is the "Common Lot" with a boat ramp and picnic area shared by all landowners in the division; no one uses it and Southern Man's two five-acre lots border it on two sides so it's really part of his back yard. To the north is another depression that will be the northern part of the future fish pond; just east of that is a pretty solid hackberry treeline that grew up around an old fence. And to the east of that is five or so acres of flat land on which some day, God willing, Southern Man will build a proper Victorian farmhouse.


Southern Man always kicks off his gen-ed science classes with a lecture on what science is and what it isn't. He figures that his Astronomy and Physical Science courses are the last college-level science these kids will ever see (for many, it's the only college-level science they'll ever see) and so the given subject occasionally takes a back seat to what one might call Intro to Philosophy of Science with excursions into How Things Really Work and the inherent fallacy of the term "scientifically proven" and the difference between science and pseudoscience and why understanding what's really going on in the world of global warming "science" is important for them to understand.

To warm up he's been reading an interesting list of "elegant explanations" on a wide variety of subjects. It's well worth reading, but pace yourself, it'll take you several sessions. And some of the physical-science ones had wording that, well, annoys Southern Man. So he'll pick on Roger Highfield who opens his essay on Einstein's Theory of Relativity with this:
"General relativity is one example of a beautiful explanation of the way nature works."
Now try these on for size:
"Ptolemy's geocentric model of the heavens is one example of a beautiful explanation of the way nature works."
"The Five Classical Elements (earth, water, air, fire, aether) is one example of a beautiful explanation of the way nature works."
Do you begin to see Southern Man's issue? None of these are explanations; they are descriptions. And they're all good descriptions. Socrates would have no problem explaining a Space Shuttle launch in terms of the Five Elements. And of these three Ptolemy's is probably the most remarkable; a mathematical model of the heavens so accurate and so precise that stood for two millennia. And that is one thing that Southern Man pounds into his gen-ed science students over and over and over again: the role of the physical sciences is to describe what we see. Southern Man would much rather write
"General relativity is one example of a beautiful description of the way nature works."
Which it is, and it's beautiful in many ways. But it's not an explanation any more than Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation or Plato and Aristotle's understanding of Levity and Gravity were explanations; they were and are descriptions of what nature does, not explanations of how nature does it. The former we do with increasing skill; the latter may be ever beyond our understanding. And it is the role of science to provide the former but never the latter. As one of Southern Man's favorite professors used to say:
"I can use the tools and descriptions of physical science to plot the trajectory of this thrown ball to whatever accuracy and precision your budget will allow. But I cannot tell you why it moves the way it does. For an answer to that question you must go to the Department of Philosophy; they are just across the mall. Science can tell us what will happen; it cannot tell us why it happened."

Monday, January 16, 2012

Diet Week Two

The current phase of The Diet is three or four protein shakes per day with one small meal (and no caffeine, no alcohol, no sweets) and Southern Man is doing well. He's not using the recipes in the book but he did look them over to get a feel for the content and his own cooking is pretty close to the plan; in fact many of the recipes were higher carb and higher starch than he cares for. The protein shakes are actually fairly bearable if hot so winter is definitely the time to be trying this and if the scale in the bathroom is to be trusted he weighs less now than at any time since the birth of his twenty-year-old son. And although his middle-aged middle still looks hideous in the mirror all of his pants are noticeably looser and he may have to take an awl to his belts fairly soon. These are all Good Things. Onward to Week Two!

Four Day Weekend Day 4

Another bright and beautiful Southern Winter day; cold and a bit blustery but by no means unpleasant and as it is the last day of the holiday Southern Man will get out and enjoy it. Southern Man spent the morning chasing after clues in a multi-cache in which you go to a location, which contains the GPS coordinates for another location, and so on until you find the final treasure. This proved more adventurous than usual. First off, today's location appeared to be private property with barbed wire on three sides and signs on the fourth:

Southern Man is a hypocrite: he hates it when people trespass on his property (well, he doesn't mind that as much as he hates people who trespass on his property and break or steal his stuff) but since his own heart is pure he went in anyway only to find the path guarded by a sleeping troll.

That's all his food trash strewn around him; looks like he's been there for at least a week.

Perhaps that's unkind. Southern Man hope he finds a better home soon. But after slipping around him and finding the cache Southern Man emulated the Three Wise Men and returned by a different route.

Then it was out to
The Land and another battle in the endless war against the trailer mice. Southern Man still can't figure out how they're getting in and this last batch must have been tougher than the last as they managed to escape the glue traps. So Southern Man will get the larger variety of glue trap next time he's at the store and in the interim set a couple of snap traps as well. He does not like mice in his trailer, especially having just washed all that bedding that he doesn't want soiled again.

Tomorrow it is back to work and the start of fourteen-hour days but only for four days a week. That's not bad considering that it includes two evening classes on the side as an adjunct. And this week it's only a three-day week unless some dean or committee head schedules a meeting on Friday.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Four Day Weekend Day 3

A lovely day (although not quite as nice as yesterday or Friday) that Southern Man began with a little geocaching (he's chasing a trail of clues on what's called a "multi-cache") and then out to The Land (just as the day became a bit overcast and blustery) and did a few outdoor chores and then back to La Casa to shower and pick up Teen Daughter and head out to the Ancestral Manor for our traditional Sunday evening gathering with Southern Parents and Southern Sister and (as it turned out tonight) Southern Son and his girlfriend for home-made pizza and salad and games (tonight it was Quiddler). But that broke up promptly at eight as three of the ladies present are addicted to some new British mini-series so we headed back home to plan tomorrow's outings. Planning is required as we are to some extend a one-car family on weekends as Teen Daughter was traumatized by her earlier lessons and won't drive The Hyundai so we compete for The Nissan. With any luck her car will be out of the shop in a week or so. For tomorrow Southern Man has little planned other than a little caching and an afternoon out at The Land.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Four Day Weekend Day 2

An even more beautiful crisp Saturday began with a meet with good friend RCJ at his older sister's house (and, yes, Southern Man did have a terrible crush on her way, way back in the day) for a few repairs: a dislocated dishwasher and a busted kitchen-drawer rail mount. We re-located the dishwasher and took the broken mount with us but stopped for a late breakfast and a little geocaching first...

Southern Man had searched for this cache on three previous visits and the rookie found it. He found the next one as well making him two for two on the day.

After a quick stop at Wal-Mart for Gorilla Glue we headed out for The Land where we unloaded all those windows and repaired the busted drawer-rail mount (and very cleverly, too!) and did a few easy chores and fished and talked and generally relaxed for a few hours and then went back to sister's house to finish the drawer-rail repair and then parted company briefly (during which Southern Man picked up Teen Daughter and Gay Boyfriend from the friend's house where they'd spent the night and brought them home) only to meet up with good old friend again that evening at his place where his fiancée had prepared a delicious dinner for all of us after which Southern Man spent another pleasant hour in conversation and half-watching The Big Bang Theory and helping resolve a wireless printer issue and playing with their cat. And now he is at La Casa planning tomorrows adventures!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Four Day Weekend Day 1

A beautiful crisp Friday began with a leisurely drive to a town about an hour southwest to pick up the aforementioned windows, which turned out to be a very full pickup load of various size single pane house windows (the homeowner had just replaced all of her windows). They are earmarked for the future greenhouse but some may be good enough for the addition planned for The Barn. Then as is Southern Man's habit he geocached for a bit on the way home until he got back into cell phone coverage range (yes, it was that far off the beaten path) and became aware that Teen Daughter was rather annoyed by his absence and lack of communication. Or, rather, annoyed by the lack of available transportation as her car is still in the shop and she is not yet comfortable with The Hyundai. So Southern Man reluctantly let the rest of the caches on his list slide and came on in to La Casa and he and Teen Daughter and Teen Daughter's Gay Boyfriend (we'll refer to them as TD and GB from here on out) went out in The Hyundai for stick-shift lessons, which was quite funny. In all honesty she had only a few hiccups and did fine and in Southern Man's estimation needs only a few more trips before she can solo but TD was quite shaken that other drivers had honked and yelled at her and was afraid to try so Southern Man took her and GB by Starbucks (she's hopelessly addicted and during which time kept us amused with a running commentary on the shortcomings of the drivers around us) and then to another friend's house. Since by then it was dark Southern Man decided to wait to run the windows on out to The Land tomorrow and went home and plans to spend the evening tidying up and doing laundry and surfing the 'web and playing games and blogging and generally relaxing. Tomorrow is another day!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Four Day Weekend Day 0

Well the Spring semester kicked off with more of a whimper than a bang; enrollment is way down and Southern Man fears for the future of his job. But probably not for a year or two anyway so he'll put that particular worry on the back burner and move on to more relevant issues, the first being that the students in his oddly-scheduled Tuesday-Thursday-Friday class all have conflicts on Friday and voted to meet an hour earlier on the other two days and therefore Southern Man ought to have most Fridays off this semester, which he will not spend conducting academic research or enhancing his soon-to-be-needed real-world job skills. What's hilarious is if the class had been originally scheduled that way they'd have screamed bloody murder but since they cooked it up themselves it's just fine. And don't think that Southern Man is slacking off; with his adjunct work he goes in at eight like most people but doesn't get home 'till eight four days a week. And he likes it that way. And this week (and this week only) Monday is a national holiday, thus the four-day weekend. And the weather forecast says cold but slightly warming, not much wind, and no rain for the long weekend.

So Southern Man is plotting his weekend, hampered a bit (well, a lot) by a fairly acute shortage of cash (a problem that will be largely remedied at the end of the month and completely so shortly after taxes are filed) but there's enough to keep gas in The Titan and that will have to do. Tomorrow morning he's driving down to a little town about an hour south to pick up a load of free windows (a Craigslist find) and will geocache on his way home (he spent a productive hour at work today plotting them out and printing maps) then run the windows out to The Land and that's about as far as he's planned. Well, Saturday evening he has an invite to dinner with a friend and his fiancée. It's going to depend a lot on whether the weather allows a lot of outside activity or not. But at any rate four-day weekends are a rare treat and Southern Man plans to enjoy this one to the fullest. At least to the extent that he can while on this diet (which by the way is going well and thanks for asking). One advantage: for the first time in his adult life he doesn't think about sex all the time.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Diet Week One

This is all about accountability: Southern Man is bound and determined to lose that "last twenty pounds" and get rid of the roll around his middle and blogging about it every Monday will at the very least make him feel guilty about not doing what he should. So today was Day One of the six-week diet proposed in The Six-Week Cure for the Middle-Aged Middle by Micheal and Mary Eades. The theory they espouse follows Gary Taubes' recommendation of a low-carb, low-starch, low-sweets diet. It was his book Why We Get Fat that got Southern Man started on this particular regime.

So here's the back story. In graduate school Southern Man's metabolism burned everything he consumed with the greatest of ease. He ate and drank what he wanted (which included tons of sweets and liters and liters and liters of sugary cola every day) but also ran regularly and even competitively (thanks, Wayne!) and couldn't top 140 lbs soaking wet. Then he married a girl who was probably the best country cook in three states and she put a hundred pounds on him the first year and it stayed. After the divorce he lost about forty pounds fairly quickly but was still at least forty overweight.

Then a year ago he read Taubes' book and did nothing more than cut 'way back on the carbs and starches - only one piece of garlic toast with a meal instead of ten, no more toast and jelly and pancakes for breakfast, no more massive plates of homemade nachos three times a week, more meat and veggies, and no watching portions or counting calories or any of that nonsense - and twenty pounds just melted away.

The theory is that our bodies evolved for both feast and famine. Most of the time we got by on lean protein, nuts, and the occasional berry; starches and carbs and sugars were rare treats. That's famine mode; your body burns what it gets and supplements with body fat as it can. But when on a steady diet of the good stuff our body goes into "feast" mode and packs as much of that nutrition away as it possibly can to get us through the next famine. What our bodies never expected was today's land of plenty where good food is abundant and cheap so your body tends to be in "feast" mode all the time. Thus, Eades proposes that to shed that curse of the middle-aged male you must put your body in famine mode for a while, reduce your fat store to the desired level, and then go on a maintenance diet that's not too different from what Southern Man eats now - plenty of meat and veggies and taking it easy on the pasta and breads and sweets. In other words, the traditional food pyramid turned upside down and with sweets still on the bottom.

The other idea Southern Man finally learned is that you don't control your weight with exercise. You control your fitness with exercise. You control your weight with diet.

Southern Man knows so many overweight women who watch (and even weigh) their portions and count their calories and drink only diet soda and spend hours on the treadmill every week and can't lose weight. Well, women have it tougher as their feast-and-famine modes also pack fat away to feed the babies. But Southern Man now observes what they eat and it's all small portions of carbs and starches which is the worst thing you can do to lose weight as your body thinks "feast and small portions, must pack as much away as possible for tomorrow which may be famine." One woman he knows that constantly moans about the failures of her rigorous diet actually picks the meat out of her pasta and won't eat it because "meat makes you fat." And the diet sodas make it even worse; there's lots of evidence that fake sugar increases cravings for the real thing. Ladies - stop kidding yourself with the Diet Cokes and the calorie counting and the portion weighing and just cut back on pasta and bread and eat your meat and veggies.

The first two weeks of this diet are fairly radical from Southern Man's point of view: one small meal and three or four protein shakes per day, and that's all. No caffeine (no problem, Southern Man kicked caffeine a decade ago), no sweets (damn), no alcohol (damn!), all intended to convince your body (and particularly your liver, which is lord and master of your food metabolism) to go into famine mode and start shedding fat. At least the meals are pretty much what Southern Man eats anyway. And (interestingly enough) at the end of the two weeks Eades says give blood to dump 20% of the newly-liberated fat that is now in the bloodstream. Southern Man is a regular donor anyway so that will be no problem at all.

We'll see how it goes. Southern Man is counting on all three of his readers to comment and encourage him to keep on the straight and narrow!

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Five Conjectures Of Socialism

Five statements attributed to various folks including the great late Ronald Reagan, whose vision for our country ushered in an era of unprecedented prosperity:

    You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity.

    What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.

    The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.

    You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it.

    When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation.
That last one reminds Southern Man of the tale of the college professor who failed an entire class by grading according to socialist principles. Like Aesop's fables, it's probably not true but teaches a memorable lesson.

According to
this article at

    The 1%-ers hold a fifth of the wealth of the USA, but pay two-fifths of the taxes.
    The top 10% holds a third of the wealth and pays more than half of the taxes.
    The 53%-ers hold 85% of the wealth and pay 98% of the taxes.
Now, if you ask Southern Man, that sounds about right; our tax system is progressive enough and perhaps even too progressive (especially when you consider the tax-to-wealth ratio carried by the top .1%). The problem is twofold. First, the government always outspends revenue. Second, a big chunk of the population has no skin in the game and therefore doesn't care. To solve both, Southern Man proposes that the Earned Income Credit (which he despises but isn't going away anytime soon) be indexed to the annual deficit. When the government overspends, your EIC goes down. Of course that will never happen as the EIC's main purpose is to buy Democrat votes and neither party has any desire to be accountable to the public but Southern Man can dream.

Disclaimer: even after his finances were shattered by divorce and crippled by debt Southern Man is comfortably perched just inside the top 1% worldwide and in the top 5% USA. And in about four years his finances will have recovered and that debt will be paid!

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Teaching CS1 With Processing Workshop Day 3

As is usually the case the last day is little more than a brief morning session. We all showed off what we had developed yesterday and the instructors showed us some really remarkable art projects that had been done at least in part with Processing. Southern Man is convinced that this will be the way to go in his Programming I course next fall and he'll probably have his Programming II kids do something with it this spring as a warm up. The funniest moment was at the very end as we were breaking up and one of the other participants asked the room if anyone knew who [Southern Man's geocaching name] was! A fellow cacher, he'd seen a comment from someone attending a workshop at SMU and wondered if it was one of us. Although he began this blog and that hobby at about the same time, for various reasons Southern Man doesn't geocache as Southern Man.

Then it was back home and Southern Man again took his time and did a fair amount of geocaching (again upping his personal one-day record by one) and finally arrived at La Casa at about dark-thirty where he will be more than happy to spend the night in his own oh so comfortable bed.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Teaching CS1 With Processing Workshop Day 2

The sessions were pretty interesting today, with the main focus on graphics. They finally dug up a loaner laptop so Southern Man had a computer to play with.

Conference attendees at play.

The highlight of the afternoon was a tour of the computational music lab and demos of some pretty cool computer art and music. Afterwards Southern Man did a little geocaching and had steak and 'ritas at the
Rockfish Cafe.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Teaching CS1 WIth Processing Workshop Day 1

The workshop is about teaching the introductory programming course with Processing, which is an open-source language that's used for visual programming such as images and animations. It basically sits on top of Java,a popular language in which it's already fairly easy to do graphics, and makes those graphics even easier. In particular, hides the complexities of threads and allows the programmer to easily create simple animations. Southern Man will consider using it for his CS1 course as the visual feedback will help students quickly understand the use of loops and branches.

That said, Southern Man will now fuss about the workshop itself as he has high (well, high-ish) standards for such things. In particular:

    No computers provided; everyone has to use their own laptop.
    No hard-wired network; if your laptop doesn't have wireless networking, too bad.
    No books provided. Southern Man expects free books with his workshops.
    Box lunches. When a workshop says "lunch provided" he expects a hot meal.
    Poor preparation. The presenters seem to be making it up as they go along.
    Poor schedule. The sessions are short, with no night labs at all.
    Poor organization. They didn't even have nametags for us.

    And SMU had only one geocache on campus. One. That's pathetic
OK, so that last item isn't their fault but the organizers get low marks for, well, their organization. But they mean well and other than the above it's been a lot of fun.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Teaching CS1 With Processing Workshop Day 0

Southern Man kicked off the Spring 2011 semester with a drive to Dallas for a two-and-a-half day workshop. Normally a four-hour trip, Southern Man took about eight and did a lot of geocaching along the way, edging (by one) his previous personal one-day record. It would have been even more but the geocaching website went down for maintainence at a critical moment.

Two monuments, in two different states. The first was near a physical cache; the second was a "virtual" cache.

As always the most frustrating part of such a trip is battling Dallas traffic, which was at even more of a standstill than usual due to an accident. But Southern Man finally arrived at the Radison and checked out his luxurious accomodations and relaxed in front of the massive flat screen TV for a while and then took a long walk around the block to see what was around and then treated himself to salad and steak and 'ritas at the hotel restaurant.

SMU (where the workshop is actually held) is only half a mile away. Indeed, one purpose of the walk was to make sure that Southern Man could get there from here, as a major interstate cuts between the hotel and the campus, but it looks like an easy stroll. Southern Man is looking forward to picking up the few caches on campus and learning new stuff tomorrow!

Tuesday, January 03, 2012


One of the nicest things about evenings out at The Land is the spectacular night sky, often dark enough that one can see 6th-magnitude stars and orbiting satellites with the unaided eye. And this month all five of the visible planets are available for your viewing pleasure!

Images borrowed from

In the evening The Moon, Jupiter and Venus dominate the southwestern sky. Uranus and Neptune could be seen through a small telescope or even a good pair of field glasses; Galileo himself recorded sightings of Neptune in his journals without realizing that he'd spied a new planet. And in the morning one can get a glimpse of elusive Mercury as well as Saturn and Mars.

So find yourself a partner and go lay out under the cool crisp night sky and cuddle and talk and admire the splendor of the night sky.

Monday, January 02, 2012


Southern Man resolves to cherish every moment with his children and his parents and his other family and friends; to be more disciplined in diet and exercise; to maintain a strict budget and be out of debt in three years; to take roads less traveled; to learn and think and read and draw and sing and dance and play and pray some every day!

Oh, yes, and get laid. 2011 was the first dry year since high school. That has got to change.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

New Years Day

What a beautiful way to kick off a new year especially remembering that last Christmas was cancelled (well, delayed) due to a blizzard. Geocaching in the morning, lunch with Southern Parents and Teen Daughter, and then a phone call that sent Southern Man to the south side of the city to help a friend fix his car. That took 'till nearly dark but now we are home relaxing and pretending to tidy the place up and eating and watching videos.

Southern Man is taking tomorrow off; he'll check in at the office on Tuesday, drive four hours south on Wednesday for a conference that will run Thursday through Saturday, drive back Saturday evening, relax on Sunday, and then we're off and running with the new semester on Monday.