Confession Time

Yes, it’s confession time here. I make no great effort to hide it, I’m a geek. Geeks come in a lot of varieties. I’m in quite a few of the categories. The most recent one is obviously blogger geek. I’m also a reading geek (of the even worse science fiction geek category), a video gamer geek, and a (slight) movie geek. For several years I’ve been a geek of another variety that just doesn’t go well with all the above mentioned categories.

What am I talking about? I’m a dance geek too. Not so much the ‘go to a club and grind it’ kind of dance. I’m talking more about the ballroom kind of dancing. Waltz, tango, salsa, rumba, and swing, that kind of dancing. See what I mean about it clashing with my other geekdoms? All those other kinds sort of passively discourage female involvement, but this one requires active participation by the Other Gender.

I’ll admit it. One of the reasons I decided to become a ballroom geek was to meet people, especially people of the female variety. I was pretty new in Nashville, so I was willing to be open minded about how to meet new people. And cultivating a hobby that most women have at least a passing interest in seemed like a good way to meet some of them.

It worked too. I started taking ballroom dance lessons, and I definitely met people. The thing was, most of them were widows my grandmother’s age, or the young hot instructors who were nice to you so you’d pay them for lessons. Still, it was a good start, and once I got some rhythm I branched out to nightclubs and places dances held around town. I made lots of interesting friends of both the male and female variety that weren’t trying to sell me something or be my grandmother.

I once had a girl I was romancing at the time tell me that “Dancing with you makes me feel like Cinderella.” Now let me tell you imaginary male readers, making a girl feel like a princess is pretty much never a bad thing. Imaginary female readers, back me up on this one please. Things didn’t work out with her, but we both have some very excellent memories of that night. I imagine the security guards at Opryland Hotel have some pretty interesting memories of that night as well.

I’m rusty these days, but I used to be pretty good. Ballroom instructors don’t work on the cheap (apparently all those spangles and rhinestones are expensive), and you have to actively look in order to find a place to use your skills, so those have fallen by the wayside. My swing skills are still pretty good though. It’s not too hard to find some place to swing. So I can’t waltz very well anymore, but I can still pull off a sweet inside dip. There’s few better ways than that to sweep a girl off her feet.

It isn’t all about meeting women, that’s just the most fun. I’ve personally made a few dollars (emphasis on few) at it, and known people that made more than a few. HBO once hired me to dance at the Fort Campbell reception for the premiere of Band of Brothers. The United Way hired dancers for their annual banquet to honor their donors. The pinnacle was probably when several friends were hired to be in the Brad Paisley & Allison Krauss video Whiskey Lullaby.

Whenever I confess to that hobby I automatically hear, “So where do you go to dance?”. Like I said, unless you’re actively taking lessons, you have to work a little to find places for ballroom dancing, but it’s possible. And there are a surprising number of places you can go for swing dancing. I know where to find a swing dance on pretty much any Saturday night.

Back in the days when I started learning swing was having a bit of a comeback with Brian Setzer and the Gap commercial, so there were lots of clubs sponsoring swing nights. Some of my earliest public dancing was at Bar Nashville, and swing night at Dancin’ in the District. These days though, most of them are sponsored by one church or another. That has both ups and downs. The atmosphere is very different at a church sponsored event. It doesn’t feel as much like a night out on the town, but the crowds are much more friendly and less predatory (though usually a lot younger).

Anyhow, I went through all of that to essentially say one thing. Pink Kitty has gotten to me. I haven’t been out to dance for a long time, but reading all her stories has convinced me I need to get out this weekend. So this weekend I’m going dancing in Brentwood. This dance is at the newly named Otter Creek Church on Franklin Road. They have free lessons for newbies starting at 7:30 and a live swing band from 8:30 to 11:00 so come down and try something new.

Oh yeah, and find places to try the other ballroom styles here. Also stop by Centennial Park on Saturdays nights in the summer and you’ll find a big band playing and lots of people dancing at the band shell. Metro sponsors free big band concerts every week from June 3 through September 30. They always draw a crowd.


Now That's How You Protest

Last week I posted my thoughts on the protest by disabled folks at the capital. I admired the logistics and organization of that protest, but I still think they went about it the wrong way. And I agree with Kleinheider, it matters whether or not the protesters live here.

Yesterday we had a huge gathering for an entirely different cause. This one was about immigrant rights. (See NiT for Brittney’s experience and a local blog round-up) Those folks know a little more about how to throw a protest rally. The created enough of a fuss to get plenty of attention, but didn’t disrupt the life of everyone that works downtown. Most importantly, they held it at 6 PM, after people were done with their work day, so they didn’t foul up the life of everyone who works downtown. Sure streets were closed, but they told everyone ahead of time what was going to happen, rather than just jumping out into the middle of the street. Inconveniences aside, that’s just safer than pushing a bunch of wheelchairs into the street in order to stop traffic.

All in all, I think it’s much more persuasive for your cause if you don’t cause people a lot of grief, and you don’t come off as a bunch of professional protesters. But then again, maybe I just feel that way because I walked through the ADAPT protest, but was no where near the immigration one.

It's completely useless to this post, but everytime I hear protesters chanting I think of "We're not going to protest!!" from PCU. Great movie. Jeremy Piven's best pre-Entourage work.


Happy Birthday I-40

This year some people are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Interstate system. In June of 1956 President Eisenhower signed a bill into law which created the Interstate system and authorized the building of 41,000 miles and authorized a nationwide standard of design. It also set the funding as 90% federal with a 10% matching requirement from states. A separate at that same year set up the Highway Trust Fund as a user funded way of building highways on a pay as you go system. So 2006 has been designated the Year of the Interstate.

In honor of I-40’s birthday, and in my never ending quest to educate all you imaginary readers on engineering matters, I present a few facts about our interstates.

  • It was Tennessee's own Al, Jr. his dad is is “the reason that I-40, I-65 and I-24 all meet at Nashville”. Nashville is one of only four cities that actually has three interstates converge inside the city boundaries. I suppose this is good for Nashville’s growth as a city, but all of you who commute downtown every day please join with me in saying “Thanks Al”.
  • The total Interstate system is now 46,733 miles long. Routes with odd numbers travel north and south while routes with even numbers travel east-west. Three digit routes are loops or spurs, and are generally named according to their parent routes like I-640 in Knoxville, and I-440 and the now defunct I-265 in Nashville.
  • I-40 is the longest route in the country, and Tennessee has more miles of it than any other state. Tennessee also has two routes which cross the entire width of the country, I-65 and I-75.
  • I-40 actually has a missing link in Memphis. If you I-40 takes a big loop around the outside of downtown Memphis. It was originally planned to go right through the center of the city as it does in Nashville. The Federal Highway Administration approved the route, and TDOT bought the property from the city of Memphis, but a citizens group filed suit and stopped construction in order to save Overton Park. So since 1967 there’s been a green swath through a heavily urbanized portion of Memphis because the state owns the property, but has never been able to construct the through route. In the last 10 years or so TDOT has actually been constructing a spur road on this property called Sam Cooper Boulevard. Driving on it would cause you to think it’s an Interstate, until it suddenly ends before it gets to the park. Your illustrious blogging host actually worked on that project a little.
  • Memphis will finally get its very own Interstate right through town. Despite the misgivings of this blogger, the future route of I-69 will most likely go right through downtown Memphis. The exact alignment is undecided, but due to pressure from the city of Memphis, it looks like they’ll get it. I think most of the city will regret it when all that intercontinental NAFTA inspired truck and drug running traffic starts passing through. Not to mention construction.

It turns out that Tennessee has its very own webpage to celebrate the Year of the Interstate. Most of my facts above are from there, though they are influenced by my own experiences working and living in Tennessee. The website even has what they’re calling an Interstate Blog. It’s not technically a blog, but TDOT is collecting stories about the early days of the Interstates and posting them. So far it’s mostly TDOT employees, politicians, and a few local celebrities. But they’re willing to post stories from ‘the traveling public’. I haven’t seen any press on this outside of the TDOT newsletter yet, so go see it and send in your own stories.

The original reasoning for the Interstate system was two fold. The first major reason was for purposes of defense. A good network of highways means we can rush troops where we need them to keep out invading Mexicans, or those dang Canucks. Okay, so that means less now, but when the Interstate system was originally envisioned the country was recovering from World War 2 and some very honest fears that the Japanese might invade the west coast.

The other major reason was the all encompassing economic growth. Personally, I think we’ve become a victim of our own success in that regard. A lot of things were sacrificed for urban renewal and economic growth and the legacy has been a ginormous amount of urban sprawl which was enabled by these wonderful highways.

Not to mention the tremendous amounts of traffic which seems to be self generating. It’s a never ending cycle of new lanes drawing more traffic, which then requires new lanes. I think the simplicity of Interstate travel has caused the slow death of most other forms of shipping cargo. You see more and more trucks on the road these days replacing barge and rail shipping. They’ll never die out because you can just ship a lot more by rail or barge, but they definitely seem to be suffering the slow death. And no, I have no numbers to back that up, though I could probably find some if I felt like looking.

So in short, I’d say the Interstate system has made us what we are today. Overall it’s definitely brought more bad than good just by connecting people and making it possible for me to visit Death Valley. Don’t believe what I say when I’m on the death mile of I-40 between I-24 and I-65.


Civil Disobedience

Today I got a new exposure to civil disobedience en masse. All afternoon I heard the buzz around the office that there were some protesters around blocking streets. When I left the building sure enough, there was a line of wheelchairs at the end of the street blocking access to the legislative plaza. There were contingents all along Charlotte Avenue as I walked to my parking lot.

It looked pretty well planned. They managed to block the ways out of all the parking lots the big shots use, so they managed to get the attention of the movers and shakers in the legislature and bureaucracy. The logistics of getting so many disabled people in the right place must have been terrible. And judging from the number, I wouldn’t be surprised if they bussed quite a few in from out of the Metro area. Props to them for setting things up. They obviously did a lot more than just announce it on their radio show.

The protest was apparently related to TennCare. According to Channel 5 they’re protesting the lack of personal in home care because TennCare concentrates on nursing facilities.

If Channel 5 is right, then I question whether or not I could strictly call this civil disobedience. To my knowledge, the term was coined by Thoreau in his 1849 essay of the same name (though apparently it was originally titled something else). The first lines of the essay are:

“I heartily accept the motto, "That government is best which governs least"; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe--"That government is best
which governs not at all"
The part you see the most often is “The government is best which governs least”. In my mind that very much does not apply to this particular cause. These protesters are interested in more governance so that they can have a higher standard of living.

I’m really not sure how I feel about it. Ideally, everyone should be able to live in their own home and have adequate care instead of having to live in some sort of ‘warehouse’ as one protester termed it. I can accept the idea that the rest of us have some responsibility to look after people who are disabled and don’t have the financial means to live the way they want to live. So where do you draw the line?

I think the level of care is the real issue. Do I have to take money from my mortgage payment in order to let them live the lifestyle they want? My gut instinct is that they should be happy with what they get since they aren’t providing it for themselves. I feel guilty about that, but then I consider my tax bill. I’m not exactly educated on this topic, so I don’t know exactly what they get now, and how much more they want. They may be deserving of better than what they get, but there is such a thing as asking too much.

They Did It To Me Again

You’d think I would learn. I spent my childhood in east Tennessee in the shadow of Knoxville. We didn’t live there, but Knoxville was where we went when we wanted to go to the city. So the Volunteers were big. I watched a lot of Vol football over the years so I ought to know better now that I’m an adult. They sucked me in and got me a little excited. I actually felt a little March madness.

If you haven’t figured out what I’m talking about……… I mean the performance of the men’s basketball team in the NCAA tournament. They got upset in the second round in typical Tennessee fashion. Folks less cynical than I are still proud of them for doing as well as they have this season. Not me. I shouldn’t be disappointed though. I thought I had developed my cynicism enough to know better. But they were doing so well. They won the eastern half of the SEC, beat several hard opponents, and scored a 2 seed in the opening round of the tournament.

Mediocrity is tradition for athletic teams with Tennessee in their name. It’s most well developed and noticeable in football. I’ve personally been following the tradition since the Johnny Majors days. They have the most frustrating tradition of playing to their opponent. This weeks team is 0 for 10? No problem, we’ll just phone it in. No need for the A game, we’ll just do barely as much as we need in order to get by. I suppose this is an efficient philosophy, but it has a major flaw. Barely getting by has no room in it for a little bad luck, or for the opponent to bring it up a notch. If you have a three touchdown lead, then a fumble on the four yard line isn’t so bad. If you’re ahead by a field goal, then you have a problem. It leads to a lot of really embarrassing moments. Even the football team’s national championship in 1999 was so close it could have went the other way if the ball had been less slippery or the official had saw the play from a different angle in the game against Arkansas.

For years I thought it was only college teams, but that was because we didn’t have any professionals. Now the Titans are also afflicted with the mediocrity malady as well. Even the UT baseball team is infected. The only team that seems to have any immunity is the Lady Vols basketball team. Personally, I think their immunity is based solely on the strength of Pat Summit’s personality.

The most unforgivable thing of this whole situation…… I was actually paying attention to basketball.


Anatomy of a Power Shift

I recently took over responsibility for a particular program. This means I review the work of consultants a lot. We don’t pay the consultants ourselves, but we provide the money to another agency who does pay them, and it’s all contingent on our review of the work. Since he doesn’t get to complete the project until I sign off, you’d think I would have some authority over the work, right?

After two projects I get a call from the consultant. “The Partner wants to have a meeting with you since we haven’t worked with you before.” The Partner is one of those fellows who has the same name as the company, so he’s fairly big.

So a week later I walk into a meeting at their office in another city. The Partner looks at me and says “Okay, W is here, get the bats out.” Right then I knew how that meeting was going to go. I almost physically felt the power shift from me to him. I have to admire him for putting me on the defensive that way from the very beginning. The entire meeting went in a similar fashion. He was condescending and smarmy and kept trying to tell me how things ‘work in the real world’. He seemed to assume I was fresh out of school with the ink still wet on my print-it-yourself diploma and treated me like the new intern. I have no idea why he would get this impression because I certainly don’t look like I’m 20 years old. I can’t match his 30 years on the job, but I have been around the block a few times. My favorite line of the meeting, “You should come down and look at a few projects with me. I like to get my young engineers out to look at the monsters we design.” How very patronizing. At this point I’d had enough and had to share with him a few of my projects he drives across on the way to work every day.

The moral of the story…….. don’t patronize someone who reviews your work. It never ends well. Call me a small person but I look at the work I get from them a lot more closely than I did before this meeting. The only reason I’m able to work with them at all is because one of his minions is my usual contact.

The next time, they’re coming to me. Home court advantage is important.

Tales From Under The Bridge Part 1 – The Business

You see a lot of weird things under bridges. So I’ve decided to start this semi-recurring, semi-entertaining series of posts to share with all you imaginary readers.

This actually happened here in Davidson County. A large bridge over the Cumberland River had just been finished, and we were done with our project early so we decided to stop and take a look to see how it turned out. This particular bridge is in a fairly residential area, and there was a road that went underneath the bridge. The area between the road under the bridge and the river was hidden by a pier (column) and a big pile of dirt. So there was a nice secluded area that was also easy to get to with your car. In retrospect we should have expected something like this, but it was a big surprise at the time.

We pulled up under the bridge by the big dirt pile. Looking out the window we saw a big, nice SUV parked way in the back with one guy sitting by himself in the driver’s seat. He seemed to be nicely dressed. We figured it was some businessman taking a break before heading back to the office so we waved. No big deal.

We got out of the car and suddenly the SUV starts revving its engine and pulls out at a high speed throwing gravel all over us. I looked again and noticed a passenger had suddenly appeared. A young lady’s head and shoulders were just coming up over the dashboard. Now under normal circumstances I would be mad that some guy was throwing gravel all over us, but this time I was too busy laughing to care. I don’t know if it was business or personal, but we definitely interrupted someone enjoying themself.

We were there for about 20 minutes, and by the end both of us were laughing so hard we could barely stand up. The guy drove by every 5 minutes or so just to see if we were still there. We waved and gave him the thumbs up with our biggest grins each time.


Note To Self

Church Street is now a two way road again. Forgetting this may result in a situation which is unpleasant to me, and all the homeless people who would be splattered when a car coming from the way I wasn’t looking creams. Books are good, but not worth getting the new pavement all gross.

That is all.


A Ginormous Post

It’s ginormous. I’m talking about the word itself. Everyone is using it these days. I’ve been seeing the word ginormous online for a long time now, but when I heard it on a radio advertisement I decided I just had to look into it.

For research purposes I did searches on several major engines. Google came up with ‘about 648,000’ and Yahoo had ‘about 545,000’, so apparently we’re taxing the limits of both. In order to get the local perspective I checked around to see if any Nashville bloggers were using it. Ginormous seems to be a favorite. The great Kleinheider used it at least once. It has showed up several times at Brittney’s site (though strangely, all the posts were in May or June of last year). The brilliant Jag used it just the other day. And it seems to be a favorite of Chris Wage both at his own site, and at the Nashville Metroblog. I even caught Sarcastro using it in the comment section of Thursday Night Fever.

Obviously it’s a combination of giant and enormous. The Wikipedia entry for ‘ginrmous’ names it as a neologism. Now, I was never an English major, so I had no idea what a neologism is. Psychiatric uses aside, it’s just a term for a new word. The Merriam Webster Dictionary doesn’t list it, but the folks at M-W did a survey of favorite words not in the dictionary, and our good friend ginormous came out on top.

This whole research (and I use that term lightly) experience was an interesting reflection on the affects of media on language usage. The further back in history you go, the more distinct languages and dialects there were in use. Even the same languages are distinctly different now, from what was common a thousand years ago. Reading Shakespeare illustrates that rather well.

Since the invention of the printing press and the move toward literacy, I think languages have been drifting closer together. Standard mass production of reading material that can be widely distributed goes a long way toward stabilizing a language. I suspect our language now will be a lot more recognizable to English speakers in 500 years than Shakespearean era English is to us now. And perhaps thousands of high school students will thank us for that down the road.

The internet is well on the way to making this a global trend. I suspect over the long haul that languages with only a small population of speakers will start to fall by the wayside as less people are interested in using them because they can’t find the information and entertainment they need in their native language. I don’t really ever foresee a universal world language, but I expect that a lot of dialects will die out.

This post has been a surprise for me. I started out merely intending to comment on how some words like ginormous, blog, and Google were creeping into everyday usage thanks to the internet and somehow ended up with one world language. I guess that’s the joy of blogging. You never know where you’ll end up.

Irregardless, I’d like to see Tim’s ginormous thoughts. Once it gets used on Mother Tongue Annoyances, it moves from a neologism to a real word in my book.


How do you woo a cynical woman? Part 2

Transcript of an actual conversation between myself and the lady friend.

The Lady Friend: You know, you are so much better at wooing me by email than in person.

W: Ouch. What the hell does that mean?

TLF: Well you’re just more charming and witty in your emails.

W: You know why? Because if I get all sweet and sappy in person you’re more likely to make fun of me.

TLF: (thoughtful look) True. And you never know what will cause me to make fun of you.

W: That’s a good story. Now take your top off…

Okay, that’s not exactly a transcript, but it captures the gist of the conversation as I remember it. It’s another good illustration of the challenges one encounters when wooing a cynical woman. Little does she know (unless she reads this) that I was intentionally wooing her by email.

See here for part 1.


On Being Good

Remember my inaugural post about why I decided to blog? I lied. None of that crap has anything to do with it. I just started a blog so I can get free stuff. And Todd A is the first man to hook me up. Todd has been giving out free electronic copies of his book, Being Good, to any blogger who asks, so of course I had to take him up on the offer.

The hero of our story is named Slav O Sle. (He’s Irish, go figure.) He’s a late 20’s English teacher at a private girls high school. There’s lots of potential for shenanigans there, but Slav ain’t that kind of guy. Well, he is that kind of guy, but he has grown up tastes.

Slav and his grown up tastes are what make the novel such a great read. He makes no bones about his pursuit for pleasure, and he’s very up front about what he thinks. A case in point, he tells us early on “If there’s one thing I won’t abide, it’s buttfucking.”

The plot is pretty loose. A lot of it happens without Slav’s direct involvement, and since the story is written first person, without the reader’s involvement. But that’s okay, this is mostly about the funny. The story resulting in the buttfucking pronouncement above really had nothing to do with the plot, but I didn’t care because it was funny. What kept me reading straight through in essentially one sitting was Slav himself. He’s that friend that everyone knows, or as heard about, and is a little bit jealous of. The guy that does whatever he wants, screw the consequences. The guy that can pick up a girl in the grocery store or the strip club, and say good bye easily when he’s done. Essentially what every guy would be without guilt.

My only complaint was the ending. I can’t really fault the way it happened, but it felt mightily rushed. Sort of like Star Trek when Scotty performs some technological miracle and pulls everyone out of the fire just when the alien ship is about to blow them up. I think it would have been a lot more satisfying to see the villain go down in flames first hand instead of just hearing about it. But given the choice between more ending and the funny, I pick the funny.

The novel includes a short prequel of sorts which is read after the main story, but takes place four years before. Just in case you were thinking ill of Slav at the end of the main story, you read this and see how far he’s come, and how his life outlook is expanding as his waistline does.

I’m not sure if he’s still giving away copies, but I recommend you ask him. If he shoots you down, or you don’t have a blog of your own………. buy the dead tree version.

Todd, great story. I’m looking forward to the sequel, and I may just start describing myself as ‘bespectacled of the ocular organs’. Thanks for the free copy, I just wish I had more readers to tell about it.


Dog Blogging

Everybody is talking canine these days. Exador worries about his, Aunt B is singing with hers, Katherine abuses hers, Brittney listens to hers, and the Knucklehead medicates his. Between all this dog blogging, and my own brother thinking about getting one, I’m starting to think about it myself. I do miss having a dog, and I’m buying real estate next month so the rent problem is solved.

The brother has a problem with his dog buying dreams. The sister-in-law is deathly afraid of them. They seem to have come to an agreement that he’ll get a puppy and she’ll be comfortable with it as it grows up. He’s thinking pure bred because of the great dog my parents had until fairly recently. I was recently visiting the family and we were all trying to make the sister-in-law more comfortable with the idea of getting a bull mastiff by telling her about Titan (he had the name before the football team). It occurred to me at one point we were basically having a wake for our poor dead dog. So now you imaginary readers get to participate as well.

My parents got Titan as a W replacement. Or so the family joke goes. I moved out to go to college and about three months later they got my replacement. He had more personality than any dog I’ve ever met. Oh yeah, and he was a ginormous dog.

- Apparently he was on the wagon. If anyone opened a beer in his vicinity, or he caught a sniff of alcohol, he went nuts. Barking and glaring like only a recovering alcoholic could.

- He had a huge vacuum cleaner fetish. If anyone tried to run the vacuum cleaner in the house while he was around he barked and pounced on it. The only exception being if you ran it over him. Maybe it was just an unusual grooming habit because of the fur shedding.

- He used to love to sleep on my brother’s full motion waterbed. It was a trip watching this huge dog climb on a madly bouncing waterbed. It was a regular occurrence to hear someone fall off if the bed was already occupied when he tried to get on.

- He knew when you were trying to get him into trouble. He wasn’t allowed on the couch, and my mom is scary when you get into trouble. My brother and I used to make a game out of trying to get him on the couch. He climbed right up when nobody was home, but if my mom was in the other room he would just bark at you and swat you with a paw.

- He came within an inch of dieing as a puppy when he ‘marked’ my dad’s big screen TV one day when he was home alone.

- He was an amputee. Somehow the crazy dog got his tail run over by a car. Just his tail. It was very disturbing because there were bone shards and blood everywhere. In the end the vet had to amputate about 12 inches off. Everything on the low shelves was much safer.

But all this brings me back to the dilemma I was getting toward earlier. When I move next month I’ll be able to get a dog of my own. So do I go the pure breed route and get a bull mastiff? It may just be nostalgia, but I love the breed now. Or do I get a homeless dog who needs a place to crash?

Oh yeah, and does anyone wonder why a blog called Tiny Cat Pants has so many posts about a dog?