Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

Special Rights For Churches

July 5, 2007

Dan’s already highlighted this story about opposition in Hoover (a white-flight suburb of B’ham) to a proposed Muslim center. The stated reason for the opposition is fears of increased traffic in a residential area. We can all guess what the real reason probably is. Let’s assume, though, that these folks would be just as upset if something like Six Flags Over Jesus wanted to build in the neighborhood. They just do not want the increased noise, traffic, lights, and etc. that come with a big church, of any type.

So what could the good neighborhood folks do to stop it? Nothing, other than hoping the church will on its own find another location.

What about zoning laws, you ask? If the area is strictly residential, won’t that prohibit the church? Or couldn’t they change the regs so as to prohibit things like a church? No, and no. If it was any other type of business, the city would be free to protect the integrity of its neighborhood through zoning laws. Thanks to something called the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, however, churches get special protection from zoning laws. To apply a zoning law to a church – a law to which every other business and person is subject – the city has to show that the law is essential to a compelling city interest. That’s called strict scrutiny. It comes from ConLaw, and anyone even passingly familiar with it knows that strict scrutiny is almost never satisfied. In other words, if the church wants to build bad enough go to court, the church is going to win.

And if they win, guess who pays the attorney’s fees? The city.

In short, Hooverites, I hope you like your new neighbors.

I’m Still Here

June 22, 2007

First, I’m still here. We’re now not only in S’port, but pretty well unpacked and settled. So why is this the first post since Monday? Like I said, I hate phone companies and I hate cable companies.

We gave up on using the cable for internet access when Comcast told us we could not get service in our area. That in spite of the fact that we are in the middle of the city and THERE IS A CABLE BOX ON THE POLE OUTSIDE MY HOUSE WITH WIRES RUNNING TO THE HOUSE. Comcastic my a**. Anyway, we won’t even get cable tv until Monday, a full ten days after moving into the house and about three weeks after we first called them.

As for the phone, they were supposed to hook us up yesterday, but someone, somewhere – not us – cancelled our order. After much arguing, we managed to get the phones going, but the internet tubes won’t flow until next Thursday. Grhhh.

Time was, being without access to the interwebs might not have bugged me too much. O.K., so I have to check the box scores in the paper, no big deal. But things are different when you’re a blogging addict. The other problem is school related. To be certified to teach, I had to enroll in an 18 hour program at LSUS (like UAB, but LSU and Shreveport, and no sports teams). My classes this summer are 100% on-line. In short, I’m spending way too much time and money at the local coffee shop.

The moral to the story is that though I have lots of stuff I want to say, posts will be infrequent until late next week.

In the meanwhile, here’s some pictures from the move and of the babies.

Merton, making sure we don’t “forget” him:

Scratchy helped, too:

Allie and I in the truck:

The fleet ready to roll:

Saying goodbye to our house:

Now for the kids.

“Hey dad, are you posting about us?”

Saw this quote on father’s day:

Certain is it that there is no kind of affection so purely angelic as of a father to a daughter. In love to our wives there is desire; to our sons, ambition; but to our daughters there is something which there are no words to express.

Lots of stereotypes in there, but . . .

Here she is modelling a more casual hat:

And with her puppy:

Her brother’s allright, too. Here’s Malcolm standing up:

And Malcolm falling over:

Malcolm and Moby, my step-sister’s basset hound puppy:

And finally, brother and sister in their Memorial Day outfits:

I Haven’t Quit Yet

June 19, 2007

We’ve moved: Packed up Thursday, drove Friday, unloaded Saturday.

A few quick points:

1) I hate phone companies. Weeks prior to the move, we started trying to get service, yet it will be Thursday before we have a phone or internets. (Hence, spare posting until then).

2) I hate cable companies. Not only do we not have service yet, but they told us it was not even available in our area. WTF? We’re in the middle of the city. My neighbor has cable. That’s not even an across the street neighbor; I could spit from my window and hit their house. Yet we can’t get service? DirecTV, anyone?

3) My neighbor is my step-sister and her partner. We grilled out at my house on Sunday, and then did the same at their house in Monday. Stuff like that is pretty much why I moved.

4) For anyone who wants a more detailed explanation of my decision to chuck my career and move to another state, it’s forthcoming. But I’ve about reached the point where I respond to questions about the move with a simple “because it’s what I felt like doing.” Trust me, there is no issue about the move that I have not already considered in fifty different ways. We decided this was best, and you know what? We’re the humans who are best equipped to make that decision.

That’s not to say that it will all work out well. We could end up miserable and forever regretting the decision. But that won’t be because we made a bad choice given all that we knew at the time of the decision. It will be because of some unpredictable change in circumstances. We did what we thought best, but you never know how things will work out.

5) Jenny and I went for a ride this morning. That’s remarkable for two reasons. One, it’s the first time we’ve been able to ride together since about eight months before the babies were born. Two, it was twenty miles with 300 feet of total elevation gain. By way of comparison, I had a ride from Crestwood over to Vestavia and back that gained 2,100 feet in twenty miles.

6) Coolest thing to hit S’port since I left it seven years ago? KCSL 91.3 FM:

Welcome to the homepage of Centenary College’s student programmed and operated radio station. We see it as our job to provide the community access to music and programming that can’t be heard anywhere else, including local music, new artists, and national artists who haven’t quite gotten their chance in the spotlight yet, all within various genres of music from Rock to Hip-Hop to World and everything in between.

I’m serious, when we were debating the move, one of the major cons to S’port was that it is a complete musical wasteland. Other than Reg – and that’s only four hours a week – B’ham radio blows (as it does in every city, thanks to Satan) but at least Birmingham will get decent live shows. You don’t even get that here. No kidding, the local rock station (i.e. Clear Channel-Rock-Shreveport; think B’ham’s 99.5) is all excited that Cheap Trick is coming to one of the casinos. Cheap Trick! At least City Stages managed to get has been stars. Here, we get never were’s. So having a local station play good music is wonderful.

7) I think I’m going to keep blogging. So, though I plan on finishing my Goodbye series, it’ll be more of a goodbye to the “Ala” and the “blawg” than to blogging in general.

Goodbye, Part II: Closing Shop

May 31, 2007

My office is empty, I’ve deleted all trace of myself from the computer, and I just sent my last e-mail to my co-workers.

Feels weird. Of course I’ll miss the folks I worked with. But part of me is saying that the years (and money) I spent on law school, and the time I’ve spent since then working on my career, are now wasted.

I don’t know, though. Those are sunk costs; I can’t let them determine how I’m going to live in the future. And right now, the future as a teacher in Louisiana looks a lot better than the future as a lawyer in Alabama. I had my chance to really commit to practicing law here, and I couldn’t do it. Don’t know if the problem was Alabama or the law, but whatever it was, I just could not see myself here five years from now.

I know, the scientific way to decide the cause of my malaise would have been to either change locations or careers, but not both at once. You can only test one variable at a time. Life isn’t a laboratory, though. The double-whammy was my best option.

How will it work out? I don’t know, but I feel really good right now.

(BTW, I’ll be out of town until next Tuesday or Wednesday. Light – or no – posting until then is because of my absence, not because the blog is done. I’ve still got a few more posts to go.)

Goodbye, Part I: Stuff I’ll Miss

May 30, 2007

Opening my latest water and sewer bill and seeing a $65.00 sewer fee (that’s for the sewer ALONE; it doesn’t include the water) almost made we write a post about stuff I won’t miss. But I’ve already griped plenty enough. So here are some of the things I really loved about Alabama in general and B’ham in particular.

I just returned from lunch at T-bones, my favorite lunch place, so I’ll start with the eats. I know it’s not a B’ham native, but for breakfast the Original Pancake House in five points is our favorite. (Hmmm, peach pancakes with whipped cream, hmmmm). V-Richards is a close second, though. (Hmmm, Greek Omelette and cheese grits, hmmm). For dinner, if we want to eat outside, it’s either Rojo, the Grill, or Mellow Mushroom. We really aren’t cool enough for Rojo, and the Grill ain’t the Mill, so usually it ends up being Mellow Mushroom. Like the Pancake House, it’s not a B’ham native, but the pizza is good and they have a great selection of draft beer. For Mexican, it’s El Cazador on Montclair. Alfredo’s has the best pizza in town. Never heard of it? That’s probably because they are hidden back by the Burlington’s in the rear corner of the festival center on Crestwood Blvd (US 78) and they don’t deliver. I could go on and on, (Fish Market, Silvertron, DaVinci’s, Crestline Bagel) as B’ham has plenty of good food.

I like to eat, so I need to exercise, and another thing I’ll miss is the great riding and running opportunities. The Mercedes Marathon is a great event. I was in my third year of law school when I ran it for the first time. The feeling upon completing the marathon – my first – was infinitely better than what I felt when I finished law school. If you want something shorter, the Vulcan Run has all the community spirit, but only a quarter of the distance. For cycling, granted, it doesn’t start in Alabama, but the 3-state 3-moutnain challenge – my all time favorite bike ride – does go over Alabama’s Sand Mountain on it’s way through Alabama and Georgia back to the starting place of Chattanooga. Locally the best ride is the weekly Tuesday Night World’s, starting from Homewood Cycles at around 5:00. It’s thirty miles of race-intensity action.  

I don’t need organized events, though. I have plenty of my own running and riding routes, all of which start from my front door in Crestwood. My favorite running route is an eight mile run going from my house over to Highland Ave and then up to Key Circle before hitting Altamont and then snaking back down through Forrest Park and South Avondale to my house. As for the bike, I don’t know. Turkey Creek, Brookside, Bessemer: Each is great in its own way. Then there’s the PTA ride, which takes me by various roads (Essex, Stone River, Karl Daly, AL 25) up and over Red Mountain, Shades Mountain, Oak Mountain, and Coosa Mountain, and then back the exact same way. PTA stands for Pain, Torture, and Agony. For off road rides (and runs) my trail of choice is the JCC. Being able to ride your bike to a trail is a rare treat.

O.k., now I’ll just list random stuff.

1) Do Dah Day. In Shreveport, or any other decent sized city, I’ll still be able to do stuff like everything else on this list. But Do Dah Day is sui generis.

2) The Sipsey Wilderness. Every time I go, I look forward to the decent from the rolling hill tops down into those amazingly beautiful, cool, moss covered, water-fall filled canyons.

3) The Alabama Theatre. It doesn’t matter what’s playing, the Showplace of the South is a treat by itself.  It makes a fantastic show – for instance the Nickel Creek concert we saw there a few years ago – even better, and a painful one – I first saw Gone with the Wind at the Alabama – endurable.

4) WorkPlay. Another outstanding venue. Among other great show we’ve seen there are Josh Ritter, HEM, the Damnwells and Catlin Cary.  

5) Laser’s Edge. All the attributes of a local music shop with none of the Jack Black in High Fidelity attitude. I’m a dork, yet they always talk to me when I go in there.

6) Continuing the music theme, Reg’s Coffee House. “Wakey, wakey, eggs and bakie. It’s time once again for Reg’s Coffee house, your weekly trip into the world of the singer song writer.”

7) The Black & White and the B’ham Weekly. It’s always been my blogger’s dream to one day be popular enough that I could get someone like Courtney Haden or Kyle Whitmire to guest post.

8. The woodpeckers who live in the little stand of trees across the street from my house. Really cool birds, except when one of them decided to announce his presence by banging on the downspout next to our bedroom window at 5:30 in the morning.

9) The trees. Redbuds, Tulip Trees, Dogwoods, Cherries, Bradfords, Magnolias, I’ve never lived anywhere with as many beautiful flowering trees. I love riding my bike in the spring when the dogwoods and cherries are blooming. There’s parts of Mountain Brook and Redmont that look like it’s snowing when the wind blows through those things. The fall ain’t bad around here, either.

10) Here’s a list of stuff I already miss, these things having gone the way of the buffalo: Highland Coffee Company, La Reunion (I know it’s still there, but in name only), the movie theater in the festival plaza, the bookstore in forest park (Bought my first Wendell Berry book there, yet I’ve already forgoten the name).

11) The Iron Man. I know he’s also a symbol of federal pork, but hey, you gotta love Vulcan.

12) Local television loonies: Suzuki Man, James Spann (well, pretty much all the weather guys), and the endless parade of Reverend Apostle Bishop Doctor Blowhards on the public access channel.

13) St. Paul’s Cathedral. That’s where we joined the church and where our kids were baptized. Fr. Donahoe gives religion a good name. It’s a beautiful building, too. What I’ll always remember is that during the spring, and again in the fall, there’s a moment or two in the Saturday Evening mass when the sun shines through one of the stained glass windows so brightly that you can’t even look at it. You have to sit in the southeast corner (that’s rear right, if facing front) to see it. The window is in the northwest corner (front left, if facing front). The window is red surrounding a gold grail. The sun at that time of day and that time of the year also sets in a reddish gold color, hence the spectacular results when the sun crosses in front of the grail. Beautiful.

14) Walking. Thanks to geography, racism, balkanization and non-existant planning, the metro area is seriously car dependant. However, our little corner of the world, featuring sidewalks and interconnected neighborhoods, is pedestrian friendly, if you don’t mind a few hills. Most Sunday afternoons, we load the kids in the jogger, grab the dog and head off to explore. The route will usually involve some combination of Crestwood, Avondale and Forest Park. Occasionally we make it all the way to Highland. No matter where we go, though, the old homes, carefully maintained gardens, and picturesque views make for a great trip.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten things, but this is what comes to mind when I think about leaving. What about you? What do you like about Alabama?

“I probably won’t ever kill anything else that big.”

May 25, 2007

I hope not; as an unarmed backpacker, I’d like to believe this is as big as it gets in the woods of Alabama:

An 11-year-old Alabama boy used a pistol to kill a wild hog his father says weighed a staggering 1,051 pounds and measured 9-feet-4 from the tip of its snout to the base of its tail.

Here’s the pics:

I’m not a hunter, so I’ve got nothing to offer here. I will admit, though, that if during a backpacking trip I ever cross paths with anything that big and ugly, and my dog can’t outrun me, well, she was a good dog.

Why I Like Bob Riley

May 25, 2007

How do you suppose Fob James, or if he’d succeeded in last year’s guber election, Roy Moore, would have handled this?

The Legislature adopted a resolution Thursday apologizing for Alabama’s role in slavery but restricting the use of the resolution in any lawsuits. . . .

Immediately after the votes in the House and Senate, Gov. Bob Riley’s spokesman, Jeff Emerson, said the Republican governor would keep a commitment he made earlier to sign the resolution as soon as he receives it.

I’ve already said I think the resolution is a good idea, and that any legislator who objected on reparations ground is either ignorant or putting forth a pretext. But the reason I like Riley is that even if he’d decided not to sign the thing, I think he would have refused in a dignified and reasonable manner.