Southern Man

Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Shed I

Good friend RCJ called the other day and said, hey, I've bought this metal shed and would you like to give up your entire weekend to help me assemble it? Of course, happy to help. That's what friends are for. Lord knows he's put in plenty of time on Southern Man's projects out at The Land.

Southern Man assembles the subfloor. That's RCJ's brand new singlewide in the background.

The Titan tailgate makes a handy saw bench.

RCJ screwing around on the floor.

The Dynamic Duo hard at work. Photo by RCJ's SO, who'd just gotten home from work.

RCJ finishes a wall.

We got the floor and walls done today; tomorrow tackle the roof and hang the doors. Southern Man hopes that there will be steak as a reward for our labors.

Friday, March 30, 2012


Disclaimer: Southern Man' s entire professional career has been professor at various private church-affiliated liberal-arts colleges. That's right - the "real world" to him is the ivory tower of academe. His passion is good teaching, and by most accounts he is a good teacher. His desire is that every student be exposed to the liberal arts as he was and grow and learn beyond the narrow confines of a particular discipline as he did, in the context of both a scientific and a Christian world view, and with respect and appreciation for the many arts and sciences beyond his own.

That said, Southern Man's profession - teaching at a Christian private liberal-arts college - is dead. Or, at the very least, it's dead in it's current form. His university operates on inertia and nothing more. The Titanic is sinking and neither the crew nor the passengers have a clue; only a handful have the wit to head for the lifeboats before it's too late.

Why is this, you ask? Southern Man will give you three or four reasons.

The first is interest. Students simply don't care about the liberal arts anymore. They want to get their diploma (and hopefully some knowledge or skills along with it) and get a job. Anything unrelated to that goal is unimportant.

The schools agree. Southern Man is even now involved in curriculum review and the consensus is jack up the hours in the major and leave nothing for liberal-arts electives. Indeed, the consensus is leave nothing for in-major electives, either; rather than ten required courses and three electives (chosen from a large pool) they want thirteen required courses with no leeway. And there goes seminar and selected topics and directed research and practicum and any last wisp of creativity in the department. But Southern Man isn't complaining - it's actually easier that way. Why work at being creative when you can just teach the same classes every year?

The next reason is economic. For reasons having to do both with debt from past relationships and his own financial errors (you can't buy your children's love but newly-single dads always try) Southern Man must moonlight at a local community college. This sideline earns him about a sixth of his total income, but produces two-thirds of his student-credit hour teaching load. That alone tells him that the private-college model is unsustainable. For how much longer can his home university continue to pay him six times what the community college does for half the product?

But even the community-college model is ultimately unsustainable. The model of professor and students worked well for two thousand years, ever since Socrates started us down this road, and still works well today, but why would twelve students (or forty) pay Southern Man for a series of lectures in logic (or astronomy) when they could join ten thousand in a subscription to a series of professionally-produced videos led by a master in the subject for a tenth the cost? Southern Man has long held that the role of "professor" would soon become that of "content provider" and he's frankly surprised that it hasn't happened more quickly and in more fields. It's already happening - for example, most first-semester foreign-language courses are no longer taught in the classroom but are implemented using language labs running Rosetta Stone or some other tool. Only the lack of college-level credit for such mass-enrollment video-series courses (although some new certificate programs show promise), the unrelenting awfulness of instructor-led online courses (in both teaching them and taking them) and the endless government subsidies for traditional education (student-loan debt has now eclipsed home-mortgage debt) has prevented the Internet from a complete takeover of traditional universities. But it will happen. Later, apparently, than Southern Man once thought, but it will happen.

The third: students either cannot or will not write. Southern Man has long been a champion of "writing across the curriculum." He used to require a little writing (weekly essays on some topic related to the course) in all of his classes, for no other reason than to encourage students to do a little reading outside of class and to improve their writing skills. And for a long time it worked well. But today? Plagiarism is so rampant that he finally gave it up. It doesn't help that today's students are no good at it, with mixed fonts and imbedded hyperlinks and "Copyright 2011" right there in their papers. And that's a little odd, considering that in today's world of email and Facebook and unlimited texting students actually write more words in the normal course of their day than we did. Perhaps Southern Man should have his students tweet their essays instead.

The fourth is, specifically, plagiarism, which is entirely out of control. In his advanced programming classes Southern Man always assigns projects based on well-known number problems, from Numbrix to Sudoku to Magic Squares. And he always gets one or two project submissions per semester that are copied right off the 'net, and plenty more that are obvious derivatives of the work of the few productive students in the class. Students don't care about learning. They just want to get their ticket punched and graduate and get a job. The last one said (in tears) "I copied that program to impress you." Do they just not comprehend it when Southern Man says over and over and over that he wants to see their ideas, from their heads? And not their neighbor's ideas on their paper with their name on it? Apparently not. It's all about the "marks," not about learning. And don't hold the free market blameless; forbidden by law to administer intelligence tests to applicants (because that would be racist, you know) they long ago elected to use college as a means of qualifying applicants. No diploma? No interview, and thus no job. But now everyone needs a diploma, and their value has plummeted.

Yep, that Bachelor of Arts in Feminist Studies isn't worth the toilet paper it's written on but surely a STEM degree still has some value. Right? Well, this post was (in part) inspired by an article in which it was revealed that a doctoral student had his dissertation more or less written for him by the professor. Now in Southern Man's view this is nothing new; education and the humanities and social sciences have allowed such corruption for decades. But this was a mathematics degree. Yes, STEM, the last bastion of academic integrity. But no more. We have fallen so far that we are writing dissertations for our STEM students. But who's surprised, when the physics gods at CERN publish on faster-than-light neutrinos based on data from a faulty cable and climate scientists routinely resort to distortion or even outright fabrication of data to further their agendas?

Just so you know: Southern Man earned the MS and PhD degrees in nuclear physics and an MS in computer science. And he wrote every word of his two masters theses and his doctoral dissertation himself. They may not be all that good, but they are his and he is damn proud of them. Ask him anything - anything at all - about the properties of tungsten or odd-A nuclei near mass 100 or ring-mesh topologies. Unlike many of today's students, he is intimately familiar with the content of papers that have his name on them. As opposed to the student he questioned the other day about the nature of the program that he had copied off the 'net and submitted as his own for a mid-semester project.

But students always look for the easy way out. Southern Man has long had a policy for research: when a grad student approaches him with a request to do research under his direction, Southern Man hands him a form that instructs that student on how to write a proper research proposal. This requires driving half an hour south to the Enormous State University library and actually browsing a citation index and pulling some journals to write a proper proposal with the required references. He gets three or four or five such requests per semester but in ten years no student has returned with the required work. Not one. However, the professors down the hall have an endless stream of research students. One wonders why. No, Southern Man knows why; it's easier to go with the flow (and avoid student complaints and the subsequent tense afternoons with the Dean) than fight for integrity. In today's economy, "keeping your job" trumps "doing the right thing" every time.

Southern Man still enjoys what he does, and he'd be happy teaching until retirement. But it's not going to happen. The higher-ed bubble will burst, sooner or later, and Southern Man often wonders what he will be doing for a living next year, or in two years, or five. But he's willing to bet it won't be teaching - at least, not teaching as it's typically done today.

And now you know why this blog doesn't name any names!


For whatever reason Southern Man is cautiously dipping his toe back into the dating pool. Why? He probably couldn't even answer you. Men seek relationships for three reasons: physical pleasure (and, yes, that does include lots and lots of hot steamy sex, although these days Southern Man would happily forgo sex for a good footrub), emotional support, and children. Southern Man has had his children (although he might go another round if the right one comes along), got along without much emotional support for most of his relationship life, and finds plenty of pleasure in other activities. There's no reason for him to want to date again. But he's more or less keeping an eye open nonetheless.

To little avail. Frankly, there's not much of a dating pool from which to select. He won't date students or co-workers or the girls in the church singles group and that's pretty much the entirety of his work and social life outside La Casa. And since he doesn't go clubbing or bar-hopping or hit on girls at Wal-Mart, that leaves online. So every now and then he surfs profiles or inbox messages (yes, Southern Man has a few profiles out there, on the free sites) and if one catches his eye he responds.

The result is always the same. There will be an exchange of emails and interest will grow and Southern Man will suggest a meet for coffee or drinks and the girl will flake on him. Every time.

It is no doubt the nature of online dating; in the online world guys outnumber girls by a large margin and a lot of guys play a numbers game and message hundreds of girls a week hoping for two or three dates so anyone with a profile that indicates that she is (a) female and (b) breathing gets an endless avalanche of interest in her in-box (and Southern Man has a couple of test profiles to prove it). Southern Man is lost in the crowd. Too bad for them; he'd be an awesome catch. Perhaps. Perhaps not. There are certainly a couple of exes that would say "not."

Oh, well. It's probably for the best. It's hard to get used to the single life - Southern Man was pretty much continuously in some kind of LTR from high school until two years ago. And, frankly, he rather likes his freedom and has pretty high standards for any potential girlfriend. In all probability he's going to be single for the rest of his days. But knowing that probably won't stop him from trying to date again, every now and then.

Another Workout

Southern Man's personal trainer has him on Wednesday and Friday mornings and this morning he again put Southern Man through the wringer. And It Was Good.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Richard Feynmann

The incomparable Richard Feynmann is a legend in physics, and deservedly so. In addition to his numerous contributions to theoretical physics he had a gift for explaining complex topics in simple terms. He was never much in the public eye until the Challenger tragedy when in an otherwise boring hearing he revealed, in the simplest possible way, the vulnerability of the booster O-rings to low temperature.

So here is a link to seven of his brilliant lectures. Southern Man doesn't expect any of his readers to listen to them, but he wants to, when he has time, and this is his way of both bookmarking the lectures and reminding all three of his readers that giants once walked among us. Let us always remember them.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


This morning was the second session with Southern Man's Personal Trainer. It was hard; Southern Man hadn't done forty minutes of cardio in a long, long time. Southern Man wants to go home and take a nap now. But it felt good too!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Diet Week Twelve

Considering that over Spring Break Southern Man pretty much ignored any sort of diet plan, not too bad. He did work out once, though, and that's good. This week it should be easy to stick to it.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Spring Break Day 10

All good things must come to an end, and today Southern Man was tasked with taking twelve-year-old daughter a couple hours northeast to rendezvous with her mother and stepfather.

With half-sister and brand new step-grandmother (wife of her mother's father.) Former father-in-law even came out to chat, roughly doubling the total number of words he's spoken to me since the divorce.

The original plan was to take Teen Daughter with us and drop her off for a few hours of Mom time while we geocache in town but Teen Daughter had to work so Southern Man bade a tearful goodbye to twelve-year-old daughter (who called out as he left "find all those caches!") and hit the trail himself. He found five of six, including one on the turnpike that he and daughter had tried for on Wednesday.

Some geocaches are clever. Others are subtle. And this one hangs in plain sight fifteen feet above a stream and dares you to figure out a way to retrieve it. Southern Man walked the pipe.

And now Casa Sothern Man is all too quiet. Southern Man will catch up on the blog and grade what's left of the ungraded homework and read more Hunger Games and plan out his next week at work, which should be relatively uneventful. He's already looking forward to the next weekend.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Spring Break Day 9

After a lazy morning spent watching movies twelve-year-old daughter got a hankering to see, would you believe it, Ghost Rider II which is still (barely) in theatres. So that's what we did. Southern Man was sorely tempted to sneak into John Carter next (it was just letting out as we were leaving) and daughter put in her bid to see The Hunger Games again but we came home instead after dropping by a Wal-Mart to pick up a paperback of that last one. The rest of the evening was quiet as we both curled up in our favorite reading places.

Movie Review - Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

It would have been helpful if the director or scriptwriter or someone had actually watched the first film before making this one. Now, mind you, the original Ghost Rider film wasn't particularly good but it was still good silly fun. Spirit of Vengeance is an incoherent mess. It has its moments but they were few and far between (the scene with the Twinky being one of the few). This one will wait until it shows up in the $1 DVD bin at Wal-Mart before it's added to the collection. Which, judging from reviews and box office, should be sometime in the next few months.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Spring Break Day 8

After sleeping in this morning much of today was spent engaged in twelve-year-old daughter's favorite activity.

Twelve-year-old daughter in her native environment.

We hit a number of stores (where Southern Man made a rare purchase for himself, picking up the Hunger Games trilogy in hardback), pestered Teen Daughter at her workplace, and finally ended up at Academy where twelve-year-old daughter spent her accumulated allowance (plus next months) on a new set of Heelys as she's long outgrown her older set.

All of Southern Man's photos of daughter with the Heelys in action are too blurred to post so he made her pose for this one.

Twelve-year-old daughter again made lasagna from scratch but we didn't have bread so we walked a mile up the road to a grocer to break in the new shoes. It was great fun and a good workout and we got back with the bread just in time to take the lasagna out of the oven and feast on lasagna and hot bread and salad.

Eldest son had invited us to see his new trailer so we went out there in the late evening after he got off work.

The kitchen - heck, the entire trailer - is a step up from the current Casa Southern Man.

By then it was close to midnight so we went home and collapsed into bed after a good day together.

Movie Review - The Hunger Games

Most of the women in the extended family (including both daughters and Southern Mother) have read the book so there wasn't much doubt that we'd see The Hunger Games at a midnight premier. It's quite good, with balanced direction by Gary Ross and a skilled and enthusiastic cast that make a fine foundation for the inevitable franchise. The setting is a dystopian future in which the working-class losers of a civil war must provide annual "tribute" in the form of young men and women for a high-tech bread-and-circuses fight to the death. The subtext is downright subversive and the constant images of huddled masses laboring under the jackboot of a central totalitarian government aided by a compliciant media will not please those up for re-election this year. For that reason alone Southern Man hopes it is immensely popular.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Spring Break Day 7

The first full day with twelve-year-old daughter was a busy one! By mid-morning she was itching to see Southern Parents so we headed to the Ancestral Manor. An old family friend was there so Southern Man and Southern Father and Family Friend sat at the kitchen table for a good hour talking. Then after heading back to La Casa (snagging the obligatory geocache along the way) Southern Man took advantage of an unexpectedly free afternoon and ran several errands, including dropping by the office for a bit. Apparently the entire CS faculty is collectively unable to grasp the concept of "Spring Break" as we were all there for a bit. Dressed in jeans and with family in tow for the most part, but still...

The evening's main event was the Spring birthday celebration at Outback.

Twelve-Year-Old Daughter demonstrates one of her many skills.

Is that a dog on you head or are you just glad to see me?

The Next Generation

Twelve-year-old daughter and a cousin got an invite to Youngest Cousin's home for the evening...

Apparently it went much like this for about three hours.

Southern Man picked up the two young ones at ten, dropped his nephew off at Southern Sisters, and then he and Twelve-Year-Old Daughter headed out to the next main event, which was the midnight premier of The Hunger Games. The big twenty-four-plex was running the film on every screen so you can imagine the crowds, but this also meant that Southern Man could waltz in at eleven (as opposed to waiting in the day-long lines with the rest of the fans), get tickets and snacks while Twelve-Year-Old daughter snagged our favorite seats, and be settled in well before the previews rolled. We got home at three-ish.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spring Break Day 6

Morning spent out at The Land putting up drywall (oh how Southern Man hates drywall) and cleaning brick and working through a bit of the scrap-wood pile; mid-afternoon was the run to pick up twelve-year-old daughter and bring her home; evening spent putting away groceries (we hit the grocery store as well) and cooking and relaxing.

High water after three days of rain.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring Break Day 5

Much the same as Day 4, with less rain: graded papers in the morning at home, went into the office (geocaching along the way, and stopping by a sporting-goods store to look at shoes) to file them and do a few other chores (including looking up those shoes on amazon), worked out at the school gym, headed home (purchasing running shoes and hiking boots on the way as it turns out that shoes are generally not cheaper on the Internet), and graded more papers and watched movies all evening. About eighty percent of the grading is done! Hopefully it will be dry enough tomorrow to get out to The Land for a while. And tomorrow evening Southern Man will scoot a couple hours out to nab twelve-year-old daughter!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Spring Break Day 4

Rain, rain, go away!

Yes, the state needs the rain. But Southern Man would prefer that it rain during all the other weeks when he has to work and not the one week he has to play out at The Land. However there is lots and lots and lots of office work that must be done so Southern Man signed and went in and worked a half-day there and brought a couple boxes of work home and spent the evening grading papers and exams and watching movies. He's perhaps half-way done with the grading chores, and rain is predicted for a couple more days, so it'll all get done before the second half of the week when he gets twelve-year-old daughter.

Diet Week Eleven

No protein shakes, just following the Southern Man's Platter guidelines. Weight holding steady at a few pounds above all-time low. And about to cut yet another hole in the belt!

Sunday, March 18, 2012


An anonymous commenter, noting Southern Man's sarcastic references to the current president as Dear Leader, cited these verses and asked if they applied to our current political situation.
He will cause deceit to prosper, and he will consider himself superior. When they feel secure, he will destroy many and take his stand against the Prince of princes. Yet he will be destroyed, but not by human power. Daniel 8:25

May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership. Psalms 109:8
Southern Man's opinion is no. These verses were written about 2600 years ago on the other side of the planet for an audience and culture almost completely unknown to us today. To claim that they apply specifically to us, today, is the height of arrogance. To understand Biblical prophesy we must understand the times and audience for which they were written before we can have any idea what message the prophets intended to convey, and even then Southern Man doubts that we will have any more than a vague notion of their message.

That leads to a more general question: what is the value of Biblical prophesy? That's one Southern Man cannot answer. But it's a fine question to ask nonetheless. Lord, open our eyes and our hearts, that we might be mindful of the meaning of Your Word. Amen.

Spring Break Day 3

Southern Man got an early start, picking up a couple of geocaches and then heading out to The Land to tackle his endless list of chores there. Which got reshuffled a bit when the neighbor's wife came over and complained about an unsightly woodpile. For cryin' out loud, it's in my back yard a hundred feet from the property line. So Southern Man was not in a particularly good mood after that. But Sunday Evening means Family Dinner!

On arrival we found Southern Youngest Nephew in the gazebo with a pretty little snake.

A brief visit to Southern Father's extensive library identified the critter as a common garter snake.

Southern Sister got a good pic as well.

Instead of the usual pizza we had takeout from a favorite BBQ place - chicken, brisket, brats, corn, potatoes - plus the usual home-made salad and dessert. And then the games began...

Southern Father and Southern Mother.

Southern Sister collects shots for the Christmas slide show.

Southern Daughter and Southern Eldest Nephew.

Dominos (we play a variant called Wagon Train) ran long and late tonight! The competition was fierce and the top finishers were only a few points apart. Why, yes, Southern Man was among them. Southern Man and Southern Daughter got home at elevenish where Southern Man pouted at the long-range weather forecast (rain, rain, and more rain) and retired to bed to ponder tomorrow's options.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Spring Break Day 2

And it is also Saint Patrick's Day, which Southern Man celebrates as his namesake and gggfather came over from Ireland sometime in the mid-nineteenth century. Pretty much all of Southern Man's lines trace back to either Ireland or Germany.

The morning was spent relaxing at La Casa but when another load of firewood (along with the rack!) popped up on Craigslist Southern Man sprang into action. After grabbing the wood...

The metal black wood rack matches one he already has!

...he stopped by a local park for a church picnic. However, the picnic got moved to a different location before he arrived and he never found it so the geocaching activity he had (informally) planned out for the group became a solo run.

Geocachers have a fondness for trees that look like they came straight out of Middle-Earth.

The evening was a Saint Patrick's Day blast thrown by the singles group.

Green Hats!

We ate vast quantities of brisket and played Bunco, which was lots of fun. Sadly, the luck of the Irish was not with Southern Man today and a moment's carelessness on the way to the party means he will enrich the coffers of the local city government. But a happy St. Patrick's Day to all!

Non Sequitur Of The Day

Friday, March 16, 2012

Spring Break Day 1

And it has been a busy one: early morning appointment with the personal trainer, a few hours in the office to organize and grade (which will have to be repeated a few times over the week), errands at two banks (geocaching along the way, of course), and then home to grab The Titan and hit a nearby neighborhood for a free load of wood.

They'd taken down a pretty big tree and this load wasn't a fifth of what they had stacked at curbside. Southern Man may make a second pass later this week. These big logs are destined to become seating around the firepit.

On the drive back to la casa Southern Man figured he had a good hour and a half to get ready for a family dinner so he sauntered in and made up a batch of spicy bean soup and then sat at the PC and only then realized that he'd neglected to reset the pickup clock and was an hour behind so after a quick shower he dashed to a local pizza place to meet Southern Parents and various cousins and relations for family dinner.

Great Uncle, Great Aunt, Southern Father, Southern Mother.

That cutie is Southern Man's second cousin; her equally cute mom is Southern Father's first cousin. Or Southern Man's first cousin once removed. Or something like that.

No one is really quite sure where she got that umbrella.

And then it was off to the monthly Friday Night Bowling! Southern Man was an hour late and the attendant at the lanes just waved him through without charging him. He managed to squeeze in three mediocre games and as always we had a good time.

Photographic evidence that Southern Man has a social life that occasionally includes girls.

And finally Southern Man arrived home in time to see the 'fridge stocked with a new brand of beer and a sign from Teen Daughter: Don't Drink My Blue Moon! Of course Southern Man drank one anyway. It's pretty good, especially with spicy bean soup. She came home after the evidence had disappeared and we had a nice chat before we both drifted back to our bedrooms for the night.

Personal Trainer

As regular readers now Southern Man has struggled with the "workout" portion of his current diet-and-fitness plan, so some time ago he signed up for a program offered by his university's kinesiology-and-exercise program and last week things finally got moving and Southern Man got assigned to a KES student. It's win-win; the student gets practical training with a real client and Southern Man gets a personal trainer and the expertise and accountability that goes along with it. We met on Wednesday morning to go over the program and then this morning where PT put Southern Man through the wringer. It's going to be good.

Intent and Outcome

"We intend to create new opportunities for certain hard-hit groups to break out of the pattern of poverty."
That's from President Lyndon Johnson's special message to Congress 'way back in 1964 to launch the so-called War On Poverty. Go ahead, read the whole thing. We'll wait.

It is clear that President Johnson's goals were well intended. However, rather than eliminating patterns of poverty, it institutionalized them. The War on Poverty has created a permanent underclass, forever mired in a web of government handouts from which they cannot escape.

But just try to criticize social spending today. You'll be accused of hating the poor, or being selfish, or racism (the preferred all-purpose liberal smear applied to anyone with whom they disagree). But listen carefully to these attacks. Liberals always defend the intent of social spending, regardless of the actual outcome. Indeed, a near-universal characteristic of liberals is their belief that intent is more important than outcome.

Look at the track record of nearly every program in government. Head Start? One of the longest-running government programs intended to assist and educate poor children, Head Start was re-funded in 2007 despite the US Department of Health and Human Services's own reports that Head Start had no lasting impact beyond first grade. But don't dare criticize it (or any other failed government attempt at top-down education reform) or de-fund it because it's for the children. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac? Intended to increase home ownership, their well-intended policies led to the housing bubble and subsequent collapse and recession. The Department of Energy? Created to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, the DOE has fought domestic energy production tooth and nail for forty years, with predictable results. As a reward, their budget was increased 75% under Dear Leader's stimulus package. Job Corps? The Department of Labor recently published a report that concluded that Job Corps had never even made any systematic measurement of outcomes. But don't dare criticize it; that would be racist, or something. Indeed, Southern Man challenges all three of his readers to find any government social or educational program that had outcomes that were consistent with intent. Hint - he knows of at least one, so they're not complete failures. But a record of one and many isn't very good.

And that leads to another defining characteristic of liberals: intent is so important that even when well-intended programs fail the funding must continue, because surely it will work next time. Won't it?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Spring Break Day 0

Okay, Day Zero is pushing it but Southern Man let his evening class out an hour early so it is now officially Spring Break - ten days of not working. Well, actually there will be about a day of work in there but it will not be in jacket and tie and will be at an hour of Southern Man's choosing. And it began with Southern Daughter begging to use that Outback gift card that's been sitting on the shelf since Christmas so we (plus Gay Boyfriend and Random Girlfriend) went out and had food and drink and played games and had a great time. And the best part was that Teen Daughter agreed to clean the kitchen on return!

They did a good job, too.

So Southern Man is home for the evening with a nice happy buzz from his dinner 'rita listening to the children as they play and clean and plan out the rest of
their evening. Horray for Spring Break!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Pi Day

3.14 has long been celebrated as π Day in celebration of the ratio of any circle's circumference to its diameter.

More digits of π than you really need to know.

We celebrate π Day with games and puzzles and all sorts of π-related fun...

Why, yes, Southern Man does consider this sort of thing to be fun. Don't you?

We will take a moment to reflect on the profound meaning of π...

"Reflections on π" stolen from the π Day Fark Iron Photoshop Contest.

And Southern Man will now defend the Bible's assertion that π = 3. The verses usually cited are 1 Kings 7:23 and 26 which read
And he made a molten sea, ten cubits from the one rim to the other it was round all about, and...a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about....and it was a hand breadth thick....
π is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. In the passage above the circumference is given as 30 and the diameter as 10. These numbers have one significant figure, and the result of any computation made with these numbers may claim only one significant figure. Thus, the Bible says, sort of, and correctly, that π is 3.

And people take the Bible much too seriously anyway. Let Southern Man paraphrase that passage for you:
Temple Tour Guide: And here we have the great bath that Hiram made for King Solomon. It's ten cubits across and thirty around! And look how thick the sides are! You could hardly get your hand around the rim!

Tourists: Ooooohhh! Ahhhhhh!

Temple Tour Guide: And on the left we see...
If you want to use these verses to make long convoluted arguments about π and the Bible, go right ahead. But they'll all be wrong, like this one at Purplemath that siezes on that "hand breadth thick" and goes through all manner of convolutions to extract three significant figures from one-sig-fig numbers. Lord, thank you for the wisdom found in Your Word. May we have the wit to understand it! Amen.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Body Double

If there's anything better than Princess Leia sunbathing in her ROTJ metal bikini, it's got to be Princess Leia and her body double sunbathing in their ROTJ metal bikinis.

Diet Week Ten

Considering the dietary abuses of the weekend (chocolate pancakes and birthday brownies on the same day!), not a bad weigh-in; a few pounds up from previous lows but not too bad. Southern Man has got to start working out to get this next phase going but it hasn't happened yet.

Sunday, March 11, 2012


Today is Southern Man's birthday!

He was going to haul a box of grading in to the office and work until mid-afternoon at which time he was to pick up a friend at the airport but Teen Daughter was adamant that celebration was in order so instead of cooking breakfast at home we went to IHOP for steak and eggs and chocolate pancakes, during which time Southern Man got a call that his friend had kind of forgotten about the time change and had missed her flight and would be in at ten instead of four. This actually made Southern Man's schedule much more relaxed so he didn't mind at all. Then we went to the mall where Teen Daughter steered him into Express where she bought him two very nice dress shirts and a tie and then we came back home.

Then we went to the Ancestral Manor for the usual Sunday evening festivities.

Southern Sister and Eldest Southern Nephew in the kitchen. Why, yes, that is a red barn in the back yard.

Dinner was, as usual, home-made pizza and salad.

Teen Daughter, Southern Father, and Southern Mother.

There were birthday brownies!

Southern Brother and Eldest Southern Nephew play with fire.

The game of the evening was dominos.

Eldest Southern Nephew and Southern Daughter plot their next moves.

Youngest Southern Nephew and Southern Sister's SO mug for the camera.

Southern Man had to leave mid-game to head for the airport to pick up his friend, a former co-worker that is going to do a little consulting at Southern Man's university employer over the next few days. But after a long day of travel she was content to retire to her hotel instead of our previously planned birthday dinner and drinks. And now he is home staring wistfully at the liquor cabinet but settling for popcorn and a beer. He picks her up at 7:30 in the morning for breakfast; first appointment with the deans is at nine.

What is Southern Man most thankful for on this birthday? Family! Lord, thank you for blessing me with such a wonderful family. Bless us and keep us, always. Amen.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Road Trip

A friend at church has gotten the itch to buy some lake property so she and Southern Man headed a few hours west to check it out.

It's about thirty years old but sprawls across four lake lots, with a dry stone-lined creekbed (fed by a culvert under the road, for water runoff when it rains) and two nice firepits. That little structure in front of the porch is the well house. The asking price is about what Southern Man paid for his first house.

Inside it's pretty nice, with a large open kitchen and living room. There were a few soft spots in the floor and a little water damage here and there, but nothing too catastrophic.

What had attracted her to this particular listing was the "bunk house" which turned out to be a standard home-store prefab shed with loft, with room for six or so beds. That would really come in handy for weekend or summer outings.

The inside of the bunk house showed promise. Southern Man would have liked to stolen that bunk bed for his own use.

We spent about an hour there with the realtor poking about. There is lots and lots of rock on the property, including some really large ones that couldn't have been moved by anything smaller than a full-sized dozer; Southern Man would love to get up there with his pickup and bring several loads back. We also dropped by the development office and had a nice chat with the ladies there. They told a harrowing tale of a cartel of guys who, years ago, had tried to intimidate people into moving out so that they could by up all this area with threats and burning down homes and such.

Of course we geocached on the way up and on the way back, allowing Southern Man to tick off a couple more counties on his state to-do list. It was her first time and she found all three herself, and even said if you want to go out and do this again please call me. IOI, or not? Only time will tell. As regular readers know Southern Man is not in the least interested in dating again any time soon but that time may come again. And the rain held back until after Southern Man got home, where he made chili and banana bread and added a bunch of film-camera pics to the blog (mostly here) and relaxed for a few hours. Tomorrow is his birthday!

Friday, March 09, 2012

Marriage and Divorce

Dalrok has a post up that every married man, or every man considering marriage, should read concerning the ease with which women will destroy their families out of nothing more than "feeling unfulfilled." From the article he cites:
The common factor amongst all of these women is that they say that their husbands are really solid, good, nice men. They are not victims of physical or emotional abuse. They are not married to felons. They are not married to alcoholics or drug addicts. Their husbands are not having affairs. In fact, they tell me, there really isn’t anything “wrong” with their husbands … they just don’t want to be married to them anymore because they have fallen out of love.
The social contract used to be simple: men want someone to bear their children and keep their home and provide emotional support and sex; women want a man who loves them and children and the security of a home in which to be kept. But now the rules have changed. There's no need for all that demeaning cooking and cleaning and sex; just divorce your husband - no reason required - and the law requires him to support you and the children. You'll have the house and the car and the furniture and the appliances, and a good chunk of his income, and even the ability to restrict his access to the children. As you should, as he probably now lives in a shabby apartment and sleeps on a mattress on the floor. You wouldn't want the children exposed to that kind of lifestyle anyway.

Which takes Southern Man to a business deal that he was asked to consider a while back. Paraphrased from this post at Danger And Play:
Hey, Southern Man, think about this. We work well together and I think we should sign a lifetime employment contract. I’m an honest person, so let me make some disclosures. You will remain employed at-will. This means I can fire you for any reason or no reason at all. I can fire you if you bore me. I can fire you if I'm in a bad mood one day. I don’t even need to explain my reasons. I don't even have to have a reason. You’ll just show up to work one day, and your stuff will be gone.

Now, this arrangement has a 50% chance of failing within ten years. If it does fail, for any reason at all, you’ll pay me 50% of your net worth outright. You’ll then, depending on the judge enforcing our contract (and, yes, this particular type of lifetime contract is enforceable) pay me anywhere from 30% to 70% of your earnings, in the form of a monthly check, each month for the next ten or fifteen years. Sounds like a great deal, doesn't it? Sign here!
Surely there's an upside to this, isn't there? Right? Sure, there is. But is it worth the risk?

Southern Man's (admittedly jaded) opinion: any man would have to be absolutely stark raving crazy to sign such an agreement in today's climate. Yet they do, every day.

Feminists love no-fault divorce. It's destroyed countless millions of families for no reason. And Southern Man suspects that feminists love that as well.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

The Chart Democrats Hate

The original chart was comes from a document that was released by White House economic advisors Christina Romer and Jared Bernstein on January 10, 2009. Based on these predictions, Dear Leader easily convinced the Democrat-ruled House and Senate to spend $878 billion dollars, promising four million new jobs at a cost of 200K each.

The guarantee was that if the stimulus package passed unemployment would go below 8%. It hasn't been near that since the stimulus passed.

Keynes was wrong. Government spending of borrowed money cannot "stimulate" the economy. It didn't work for Dear Leader in 2010. It didn't work for Bush in 2008. It didn't work for Japan, which tried all manner of stimulus packages and got a "lost decade" or two for their troubles. It isn't working in Europe, which is about to collapse like the financial house of cards it is. It doesn't work, period. It has never worked anytime or anywhere it was tried. But every US taxpayer shelled out about two grand each in the hopes of trying the same thing over and over in hope of a different result.

And Southern Man hopes that his inept Rs cram this down their throats every chance they get.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Super Tuesday In A Nutshell

Hat tip to Incendiary Insight.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Hope And Change

Courtesy of the entirely fair and balanced non-partisan Facebook page "Liberals are Hypocrites..."

But somehow it's all Bush's fault.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Diet Week Nine

Well, well, well. After the previous week's slide Southern Man sort of gave up on the strict diet for a while. No, he didn't stuff his face with bread and pasta but he did follow the guidelines of his Southern Man Platter: didn't watch portion sizes at all, had an occasional beer with dinner, and even broke out the long-hidden candy stash for an occasional treat.

Net result: Monday morning weight back down to the all-time low of two weeks ago.

So Southern Man is going to do a couple of "strict" diet days this week (those yucky protein shakes) and see if he can shake off a few more pounds. And now the next goal is weight redistribution. Southern Man is still not happy with the size of his belly relative to his chest but he's been quite lax on the workout portion of this regime so he's going to try to lift at least a little bit three or four evenings this week.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Sunday Drive

Today was just about a perfect day!

Southern Man headed out mid-morning in The Titan to pick up a couple of freebies found on Craigslist - a load of brick (mostly fill quality but still useful) and an unopened box of coiled roofing nails (that's thirty-five bucks at the home store, right there, and they'll get used this summer if not sooner) and then worked his way back to The Land picking up geocaches as he went, one of which resulted in a good story. Many of the caches were off little bridges by creeks and Southern Man had a grand time stomping about exploring and nature-walking. And there really is nothing quite like tooling about rural Southern Land in a big pickup with a loud stereo belting out singing classic rock on a beautiful mild Spring day.

Once at The Land he unloaded the bricks and nails and puttered around for a bit, then headed back home (missing Southern Father by moments on one of his rare visits to The Land) to pick up a few groceries and wash The Titan (five tokens spent on the bed alone, and it's still not clean) and shower and head out to Southern Parents for Sunday Evening Dinner.

He and Teen Daughter (who was working this afternoon) were the last to arrive but the pizza was still warm and the ice cream cold. And after a most pleasant ninety minutes with family Southern Man and Teen Daughter are back home relaxing and preparing for another week. Two to go and it's Spring Break and a full week off!

Bagworm Inspector

With a pen behind my ear and a clipboard of geocache descriptions and Google Earth printouts in hand I head to the likely hide, ignoring the three-year-old-boy on the nearby playground and the man watching him. I'm searching one of the evergreen trees when they wander up.

"What'cha doin'?" he asks.

I don't even look at him. "Bagworm inspection."

He does a double take. "Huh?"

"Bagworm inspection," I repeat, and point out one of the little critters. "We're trying to find out what kind of infestation we're dealing with here."

He glances at my clipboard, which has a color Google Earth satellite image of the playground on top, with GPS coords and crosshairs right where we are.

"Yeah, we can spot them from outer space," I say, "but then one of us has to check the site in person." Now I'm methodically searching branches and pointing out bagworms and writing cryptic notes on the clipboard (mostly about our conversation) and trying to keep a straight face. We chat for a bit longer.

"You do this on Sunday?" he asks.

"Yes, sir," I say. "The Government pays double-time for work on Sundays."

He eventually takes his boy back to the playground and I finally spot the cache. Watch for angry letters to the editor about government bagworm inspectors pulling down double time on Sunday!

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Movie Review: Act of Valor

Act of Valor has garnered poor critical reviews but positive audience ratings and good press on lots of the blogs read by Southern Man so he gambled a Hamilton and dragged a friend to see it. The film used real-live SEALs instead of actors and the production had the full cooperation of the Navy, which results in some painful dialog but tremendous action scenes. Southern Man read somewhere that the SEALS set up the action just like they would on an actual mission, told the director what they were going to do, and then the director determined how to do the camera work. The result is pretty intense. And it does a Southern Man good to watch the best of the best kick enemy ass. As low-budget action films go this one is a lot of fun even though the plot is so predictable that you know who's going to die at the end within the first ten minutes.

The film ends with Chief Tecumseh's poem "Live Your Life" (which is also attributed to Wabasha, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse and Wovoka) and it's worth repeating here.

So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and Its purpose in the service of your people.

Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide. Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and bow to none. When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and nothing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision.

When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.