Gaining Momentum

Last night, I had dinner with friends. That doesn't sound like a big deal, but last night was different. Last night, we filmed our dinner.

I created a project called WhyBHM at the beginning of this year. WhyBHM is simple. I ask a local resident to sit down with me and answer two questions: why did they come to Birmingham in the first place and why have they stayed. It's been a fun project and I've met a ton of wonderful, passionate people through it. After recording and posting over a dozen stories to the site, I've gotten to the point where it's pretty easy for me to maintain the project. So what's next?

After I spoke at TEDxRedMountain in May, Mark Kelly approached me about his new venture, Weld. He'd seen the WhyBHM project and wanted to know if I'd consider contributing to Weld. I told him I'd consider it and get back to him. A few days later, Andrea Walker and I sat at Rogue Tavern and brainstormed the next evolution of WhyBHM. We called it Momentum. Mark, I suppose I still owe you an answer on the original question.

WhyBHM is a lovely little project. It has a very defined scope. It's self-contained. I like it and I don't want to change it. But I look around this city and, especially after the civic involvement we witnessed after the April storms, I see the opportunity for its citizens to be active participants. WhyBHM is not a project centered on activism, but on reflection. I wanted a different venue, and out of this desire was born Momentum.

Momentum is a riff on Jon Favreau's Dinner for Five concept. In this show, Favreau sits down to dinner with four friends from the entertainment field and tell war stories: what it was like to work on this film, how they landed that job, how they approach their work. It's one of those shows that makes me stop and watch every time I come across it when channel surfing. There's something about people joining together over food and telling stories that's absorbing. Andrea and I took Dinner for Five, added a big gob of community activism and a sprinkle of agile methodology and came up with Momentum.

I've spent the last month calling up friends, acquaintances, and strangers asking for cameras, lights, microphones, riggings, make-up, flowers, set design, great food, and most importantly, time. Incredibly, all of these things came together on the first try. We started late and ran long and there were technical hurdles to leap over (and partially stumble on) but in the end we succeeded in what was important: we started.

I owe huge debts to: Robby Melvin, Michael Marlow and the whole crew at Salt Fine Catering. Seriously, that was one of the top three dinners in my life.

Ned Boggan, Noah Williams, (Dan) Greenough, Kenn McCracken, and Chris Hilleke for manning and remanning cameras, figuring out how to light a tiny room, and being able to rig out three sound configurations until we got one that worked.

Chance Shirley, Wade Kwon, and all of the folks at Vazda Studios for trusting me with some *really* expensive equipment. Celine Russell and Erin Street for making us all look fantastic.

Jen West, Shaun Chavis, Jamie Sandford, and Christopher Davis for not grumbling about a late dinner. And for being lovely dinner companions.

And an pre-emptive thank you and "dude, we have a lot of work to do" to Joe Walker, editor extraordinaire. Joe, we have a lot of work to do.


Kili 7

2 Sept

Jambo (Hello)

Started the morning nicely with eggs, sausage, beans, and toast. Slept well though I woke early. Sitting at the Outpost waiting for the guide to arrive. Still haven't met any of the other hikers. Overcast today but it feels like it will burn off soon. Great temperature at 18c. Found a wifi spot here in the lobby and was able to tweet and post on Facebook. Should probably take pictures but I'd rather just sit here and rest.


Guides showed up at 09:00 and we set off at 10:00 for Machame Gate. Still overcast and haven't gotten a clear view of the mountain. Met the other six hikers: Anis and Angie from Chicago, Tom and Bec from Adelaide, Australia, and Macca and Nikki, also from Adelaide. Seven of us, with 28 guides, cooks, and porters in support. What a crew! .


Make it to the gate at 12:15, where we unload and get registered. We'll check in each day at ranger huts in each campsite. We need to get moving. We have 18km to cover and it's already 13:00.


15:30 - 2244m

Stopped for lunch of bananas, cookies, fried bananas, and some kind of odd sandwich - peanut butter and carrot? Still cool but sunny now. Lush rainforest greenery, and yes, we spotted monkeys! I can go home now.

17:15 - 2695m

Break time. Calves barking and I'm already planning on what I can drop out of the day pack tomorrow. Everyone's slowing down - except the guides and porters. Feet are sore but ok.

21:00 - 2918m

Day one complete! We did around 18km today with ~1200m elevation gain. After dropping our packs off we hit the mess tent for hot drinks and popcorn, then dinner. Dinner was quite good: zucchini soup, potatoes, fish, and stewed veg. Tomorrow we go to Shira camp, about 5.3km away and 818m up. Shorter but steeper climb.

Just after my last entry (17:15), Macca spotted the peak for the first time through the trees. It was both inspiring and daunting. All the progress and pain today only accounts for 1/5 of the journey. But tomorrow will count for another fifth and so on. Every day.

A bit more on my fellow hikers. Anis and Angie are married and in their early thirties. He's a lawyer at Abbot Pharmaceuticals and is bold and driven. She's in IT at JP Morgan and gentle and caring (though turns out she has quite the independent spirit!). Tom and Bec are in their late twenties and have been dating for seven years. He's a web developer (yes, they're everywhere) for a shop there in Adelaide and is goal oriented. Very heads down and let's plow through this attitude. Bec is a mental health nurse in the Australian government health system. Sharp wit and no nonsense kind of gal. Macca (real name Anthony) and Nikki are a new couple. He's late 20s, she's 21. Macca plays drums but has an IT job to pay the rent as well as some great tats. He's quite aware of his surroundings and very open and friendly. Nikki is full of verve and joyous. Even when she's not feeling great, she can still laugh and crack jokes.

3 Sept

Voombe (Dusty)

Camp is awake and moving at 06:00. I wash up and pack before breakfast. Anis started having head and stomach troubles yesterday and they're continuing today. He's hanging tough though, and everyone else seems ok so far.

14:50 - 3839m (Shira Caves campsite)

Today was a short day - shortest day hike overall. It was fairly steep and we made heavy use of the trekking poles (thanks Jimmy!). There were even times when we had to forego the poles and use our hands to clamber up. So much for the "no real climbing" thing - sorry mom.

It was extremely dusty on the trail. I had some sneezing fits until I made use of my handkerchief. Got dirt everywhere and I assume it will stay that way through the rest of the hike. We can't really get clean out here, just a little less dirty.

Tom really struggled today with headaches. Peter (one of the guides) ended up carrying his pack after lunch. Macca had a bad nosebleed start in the afternoon and just couldn't get it to stop. I imagine it was a combination of altitude and dust. He finally just stuck a tampon up his snout and carried on. Australians are a resourceful bunch. Anis is still fighting altitude sickness; it doesn't seem to be getting any better. The ladies and I are fairing well so far!

Lunch was in a large rocky field with a nice view and a lot of birds. White throated ravens, to be precise. One of them took up residence on the rock just behind me and watched me, well, like a hawk waiting for me to drop something. A little disconcerting. And rude, really.

Just after lunch, we passed a porter on the trail suffering from altitude sickness. You could tell he was in excruciating pain, jaw and fists clenched, skin pale, eyes screwed shut. He was being tended to by a couple of guides. You wonder that if a porter can suffer like this at only 3300m, what's going to happen to us?

I really like our group. No uber-jocks or ultra competitive types. We're getting along well with good conversation, cracking jokes on each other, and an overall good mood. One of the effects of altitude sickness is irritability, so I hope we can keep this up.

I'm feeing good overall. I get a slight headache from time to time but nothing unbearable. My left hip tweaked a little this morning but it worked itself out by the end of the day. My left ankle is sore. I may need to pack the tape tomorrow.

4 Sept

Mawengu (Clouds)

07:00 - 3839m (Shira Caves campsite)

It's chilly but warming up as I wait for the sun to rise over Kibo. My fellow hikers are waking up slowly. I have my silks on today; it's the first time I've needed them.

I had a slight chest cough this morning so I'm going to go ahead and break out the Cipro. I can't afford a sinus or chest infection up here. I think it's probably my sinuses brought on by all the dust yesterday.

The first battery for the video camera is already dead. I'll have to be careful about using it the rest of the way. I have to make sure I have enough power for the summit.

I'm looking down at the clouds this morning.

10:00 - 3964m

Quick stop above the Shira plains for water and a snack. Everyone seems to be doing ok so far; no improvements but no worsening. The route's getting a little crowded. Still warm but clouds are rolling in.

13:30 - 4620m (Lava Tower)

Lunch at Lava Tower. 4620m is just over 15000 feet so this is my new high water mark. Hopefully I'll be breaking that mark later in the week. The group spread out today; Anis, Angie, and I in the lead pack, then Tom and Bec, and finally Macca and Nikki. I'm worried about Nikki. She was up all night with gastric distress and she's running on empty today. Hopefully she'll recover by the time we get back down to Barranco. Everyone's drained from the hike up here.

Today's hike has been the most physically challenging. Foot placement has been tricky at times with all of the rocks. Made heavy use of the poles for that. And of course, the altitude makes everything more difficult.

20:00 - 3986m (Barranco Huts campsite)

Made it to the campsite around 17:00 today after a very difficult descent from Lava Tower. Tom's still feeling poorly with headaches, but Macca's nose finally stopped bleeding. It only took two tampons.

Barranco camp is pretty. We're at the base of the big Kibo wall; I can see it from my tent door. It's cold and windier than I expected. We bedded down early and while my thermometer says it's 18c, it feels closer to 10.

I'm feeling good. The ankle's still a little tender but not swollen and my right shoulder is bruised from the backpack strap but my GI system and my head are fine so I'm in the positive column overall.

I had a nice hike with Anis and Angie today. I'm really enjoying their company - they're smart and interesting people. Anis and I got into a fun discussion about agile systems and teams and how they can be applied to any sized company. Yes, I talked about agile process while hiking Kilimanjaro.

Todays scenery was magnificent, the best of the trek so far. It's arid and chilly, with lots of low scrub and thousands of tiny yellow and white flowers. There were some great views of Kibo. We ended up walking through clouds at some points.

I'm exhausted after today, especially after the descent from Lava Tower. Going to try to read for a while but I know I'm just going to go straight to bed.

5 Sept

Rafiki (Friend)

Happy 40th to me!

Slept well last night and I'm feeling good this morning. It's a chilly 5c but it's warming up quickly as the sun rises. Today we go over the Barranco Wall, a nice 90 minute scramble. Today's total hike is around 6km so we should reach Karanga (the next campsite) by lunchtime. Anis took a bad turn last night and is really struggling. Tom and Nikki have bounced back and Macca's nose bleed started again necessitating the use of another tampon. I think he's keeping it in just for show now. We're on the trail at 08:45.

13:15 - 4034m (Karanga Valley campsite)

Fun hike today! Lots of technical challenges and LOTS of rock climbing. It was a short day, only about 5.5km in around 4 hours but the best hiking by far. Had lots of fun on the trail not only with the hiking but also with the others, including singing Eye of the Tiger. Yeah. Goofy.

Anis is *still* fighting bad headaches but everyone else seems well aside from minor headaches and gastro distress. Karanga is not a pretty campsite, dusty and bleak.


Just finished dinner and bedded down for the night. Tomorrow is a short hike, only 4km or so, but quite steep. We have lots of elevation gain to make Barafu camp, where we bed down briefly before the summit attempt the morning of the 7th.

Today has been spectacular. As I mentioned, it was the most fun hiking day of the trek along with incredible views of both Kibo and the surrounding landscape finished off by a gorgeous sunset just before dinner. On top of everything else, the guides and cooks came into the mess tent and sang to us. They started with the Kilimanjaro song, then the Jambo song. Next they all sang Happy Birthday to me. The rest of the hike group joined in. It was very touching and unforgettable.

The only down spot of the day was Anis. He's still battling altitude sickness and the diamox isn't working for him. I really hope he can overcome this thing tonight and be ready for tomorrow. He's so close and I'd hate to see him miss the summit.

Finally, just before bed, we left the mess tent to see Kibo in moonlit glory. After some wrestling with the tripod (which got broken in the flight over) and the exposure settings, I think I got a great shot. Still, there's no way to do it justice. Awe inspiring.

A good night after a good day.

6 Sept

Porteza (Loss)

10:15 - 4025m

Stopped for a maji (water) break on the trail. Anis was forced to descend this morning. He simply can't keep anything down. He came into the mess tent for breakfast and after a small bite of plain toast had to jump outside to chuck it all back up. Agger and two of the porters are escorting him.

We left camp around 08:30 this morning. Today's hike is cold, 7c or so.

11:30 - 4218m

We're closing in on Barafu, our base camp for the summit attempt. Stopped for a water break at a ridge covered in broken shale. There was an altar of sorts; a heap of shale with slabs leaned against it with other groups' names. I scrounged a nice sized stone and made a "Kili 7" slab for us. Everyone signed it, and Angie included Anis. Even though he had to descend he's still part of our group.

12:50 - 4662m

Arrived at Barafu Huts campsite. The whole place is surrounded by clouds and covered in dust. No plants up here except very short weeds and the only fauna is a small chipmunk looking rodent. We saw a young woman being helped back down the summit trail by her guide. She looked completely out of it; if the guide weren't holding her up, she'd have simply fallen over.


Our campsite overlooks a valley with other campsites. It's chilly - around 9c - and we're about to have lunch. Our site is sheltered on two sides by rock walls so hopefully it won't get ridiculously cold tonight. The whole camp consists of dust, dirt, and shale. Walking back from the ranger hut to our site, Angie said it "sounded like we're walking on xylophones."

Still feeling pretty good. I have a slight headache but I think it's mainly from hunger. Feet and legs are good and I'm breathing well. Fingers crossed.


I think I'm ready for the summit attempt. My head is a little achy, but otherwise I'm good. I have all my clothes and gear laid out, and I've even made a playlist to try to pump the group up at tea before we head out.

I'm not nervous, but I reread the description of the summit route in Steadman's guidebook. It's going to be difficult, harder than anything I've done before. I'm afraid we may have more drop out before this is done. I hope not.

I'm tired, but sleep's not coming. It's noisy here at the site but maybe it is nerves after all. Ravens keep quorking outside. That must be a good sign, right?

7 Sept

Uhuru (Freedom)

I wake up at 23:30 (on the 6th) for tea and a snack before setting off on the summit attempt. We line up, all wearing at least four layers of clothing as it's neg 5c. Everyone had their iPods in; we know there won't be the socializing during today's hike like there has been on previous days. This will be heads down.

Times and altitudes are all estimated from here out. My altimeter started freezing up and giving bad readings.

00:00 - 4662m - neg 5c

We start off well and on time for once. I start off with Fleet Foxes in my ears. I'm following Angie. I told Anis we'd see her up the mountain and I intend to do so.


We see our first "descender" - what I mentally term the hikers that can't summit and are forced to turn back. It was an older woman being assisted by a guide and they were coming down quick. Within the first 20 minutes, we've all shed a layer. Body temps are keeping us as warm as can be but temperature control is difficult. I don't want to start sweating and then get chilled.

There's nothing to see here and it's not a good idea to lift my eyes from the trail so I occupy my mind with details. For instance, my grips on the poles are different for each hand. My left hand grip is a standard fist clutch but my right is in a joystick grip with thumb on top. I experiment changing up but nothing else feels right so I leave it.

01:30 - 4750m

Our order keeps shifting but I stay behind Angie. I listened to Avett Brothers and now the Veils. Had another descender go by a few minutes ago, slipping and falling as he passed. Focusing on the ground in front of me: Angie's heels a step ahead, the points of my poles digging into the dust, the shadow of my ski pants backlit from the guide's head torch.

02:45 - 4900

Just passed Kosovo Camp. Stop for a rest and snack. Everyone's dragging but advancing. I feel much better after the snack. Have to keep pumping in calories. Orion is rising over Mt. Mawenzi to the East.

03:30 - 4950m

Bec can't catch her breath and has to stop for a rest on the side on the trail. She's back up and moving after a few minutes though. Angie's stomach is really bothering her and her inability to keep anything down over the last day is starting to show in her energy level. The two of us are starting to fall behind the rest of the group.

Broken Bells' The Mall and Misery comes on the iPod. I choke up a little from the beauty of the stars.

04:00 - 5100m

Another stop for a snack. Bec had to stop again about 100m back. I was last in line at the time. When Tom came back to check on her she just said, "Go on, Tom." She sounded defeated. Daniel spoke to Tom briefly, quietly, then Tom turned around and got in line behind me and continued up the trail. This time the tears did come. They froze on my cheeks.

05:00 - 5300m

Been going up switchbacks for what seems like forever. Bec managed to catch back up to us at our last rest break but fell behind immediately. Temps remain between neg 5-7c but there's not much wind so it's bearable.

Been focusing on walking. Focus on every step. Make each one deliberately. A misstep means wasted energy and oxygen at best. An injury and becoming a descender at worst. No stupid moves. Always take the easy step. Use both poles on the ups. Don't worry about speed, the mountain's not going anywhere.

I haven't been using my head torch. It washes out the landscape in front of me and I lose dimensional perspective. I rely on the moonlight and the other's lights.

05:30 - 5500m

The sun's beginning to rise over Mt. Mawenzi and I'm looking forward to its warmth again. The familiar weight of my day pack keeps me pressed forward, pushing me up the slope.

It's still neg 5c. I'm wearing my camelbak under my parka so the reservoir hasn't frozen but though I blowback after drinking, I have to chew the mouthpiece to free it from ice with every sip.

I've been checking for Bec on every switchback. Each time, her head torch fades a little further and further back. Daniel and Raphael are with her, supporting her in the climb. I hope they can get her to the top and not have to turn around.

Macca is feeling drunk, stumbling around. Angie is beyond exhausted. I give her some of my glucose spiked water which seems to help. Tom is completely heads down. Nikki is tired but seems ok otherwise. She reacts quickly enough during a rest stop when I accidentally spotlight her with my head torch as she's, ah, taking care of business.

06:15 - 5600m

The sun has risen now. Angie is really struggling to find any reserves. She's moving on sheer willpower now. Tom is lagging now too. For a while, maybe 30 minutes, it's been Macca, Nikki, and me with Peter guiding us up the trail. The landscape is gravel and scree, hard going and treacherous footing, we're digging in with the poles. I have to remind myself to walk with the poles and not simply drag myself up the hill with them.

07:00 - 5745m (Stella Point)

We make Stella Point. The peak is another hour away. Tired, very tired, but finally warm again. I strip off another layer of clothes, now down to silks, long sleeve shirt and trekking pants and the parka. Gloves are off, literally and figuratively.

We rest here for a bit before making the final push to Uhuru. Angie made it just ahead of me; I'm not sure when she passed me. Nikki and Macca just after us. Thrilled to see Tom and Bec make it up around 07:30.

I strap the day pack back on and plug in the earphones. Music for the final push? What else: Muse, Resistance.

08:30 - 5895m (Uhuru Peak)

I made it.

I'm here at the top of Africa. I'll admit it, I shed numerous tears on the final walk and summit. It hit Macca pretty hard too. As we hugged he said, "I didn't think it would be like this." All six of us made it all the way up within minutes of each other, Bec last with Raphael holding her up the same way we saw the woman yesterday. I wander around stunned for a bit, taking pictures and video then it's time for the group picture in front of the famous sign.

We're not supposed to stay long but it's hard for me to leave. Angie, Tom, and Bec are already headed back when Macca grabs my arm and points back at the sign. When we first got to the peak, there were two dozen people milling around it waiting for their picture. Now there's no one! He thrusts his camera at me and says, "Last one for luck?" I snap photo of he and Nikki and then he returns the favor. I have a picture of just me, the sign, and the mountaintop.


The final hike up took just over eight hours to cover 4.86km and 1233m of altitude. The average temp going up was around neg 4c.

After summiting we now have to get back down. There's a separate path for part of the descent that I call the "scree slope." It's a 30-40 foot wide swath of loose scree, gravel, and dust with occasional stones poking up out of the morass. It all slides under your feet so a single stride turns into 6 feet of movement. Peter guides Angie and I down the slope and we cover nearly half the descent in about an hour. It's really quite fun though absolute destruction on the knees.

Angie and I make it back to Barafu around 11:00 and I immediately collapse in my bag and fall asleep. I nap until around 13:30 then awake for a late lunch with everyone before we continue down to Mweme Camp, another 6.5km down, where I collapse a second time for the night. Total distance traveled today: 16.5km with a total of 4022m in altitude change.

8 Sept

Museke (Music)

We got up at 05:30 to make our last descent and exit Kilimanjaro National Park. Everyone is tired and sore but giddy happy. It turns out Bec was hallucinating during the entire trek up and Tom and Angie have spotty memories of the ascent. We swap stories over breakfast including was has now become the inevitable discussion of our bathroom habits. Or as we call them, poo stories. Aussies are a strange folk.

Around the third day I started bringing my iPad or iPhone to the mess hall for meals so we could have background music. I mentioned I made a playlist for the night before the descent. Now I made another for this, our last breakfast on the trail. I'll spotify both when I get back to the states. And no, neither one had Toto's Africa. Shut up.

The hike down from Mweka was hard but pretty. Muddy and slippery, we moved through the cloud forest and into the rain forest. The trees and other flora got bigger the lower we got until we saw some absolutely massive boles. Birdsong was everywhere as well as an occasional hoot of what I suspect were monkeys. It's always monkeys in my book.

We made it to Mweka Gate at 09:30 and made our final check in with the ranger hut. The hawkers swarm us and we all bought a few trinkets. I had an orange Fanta and it was the best thing I've ever drunk. About half and hour after our arrival, Agger shows up with Anis in tow. They both look so CLEAN.

We all loaded up on the bus and drive back to Arusha. It was a long trip but I sat next to Macca and we got to talk about things other than the condition of our bowels.

Back at Outpost, we all retired to shower after saying farewell to Daniel, Agger, Peter, Raphael, Saimon, and all the rest. Fresher and at least somewhat cleaner, we met in the cafe for drinks, snacks, and just chilling time. Macca and Nikki were flying out to Nairobi to start their safari in the evening so after a final group shot by the pool we say goodbye and they're off.

Anis had spent the time waiting for us to come back down scouting Arusha and suggested Mt. Maru for dinner. It's a new, posh hotel with a very nice buffet. After celebratory champagne poolside, we hit the food, the first meal we'd had in a week that wasn't cooked over a tiny propane burner. As we finish up dinner with pudding and creme caramel, the power flickers off and on as it had been doing throughout the meal. When it comes back up, you know what's playing on the overhead speakers?




Cough syrup fever dreams

Dreams are strong mojo. Add in exotic ingredients like tequila, love, or cough syrup, and you can get some really strange results. Hell, mine are pretty odd to begin with.

I've had the good old SWINE FLU this week. Came down with it last weekend and I've been nested on the couch with Tamiflu, juices of all types, and waaaay too many hours of SportsCenter. Normally, I get sinus infections which means a lot of crappy sleep and antibiotics. The flu is different. Aside from Tuesday being a complete blur, the flu has been weird periods of sleep, semi-sleep, and being not-quite-awake-enough-to-read (thus the overload of SportsCenter). I got through the worst of it by Wednesday but I'm still feeling crappy tonight. The cough picked back up a little today, probably because I got tired of taking the Hydromet. Smart move, Chester.

So I just had this strange dream that started with me at work about to head to lunch with friends and ended with me jogging down the street into the night in too-big dress pants held up by twine suspenders. It was one of those that was so truly surreal that when I woke up it not only took me a minute to realize I had dreamt the entire thing but that I was currently on the couch at home and not in a hotel somewhere. It's already starting to fade a bit but one of the things I remember is that when I gave someone my twitter account, they recognized this blog. When I woke up (and after I realized I wasn't staying at a Holiday Inn Express), I started remembering how fun it was to write this damned thing. I guess I've been missing it a little. Don't expect me to write as much as I used to...

So to the girls of my dream - Obby the WoW chick with the absent son and Tracy with the four dogs in Tupperware - if you're reading this, I think I may be back.


Death and Rebirth

I've had a number of dogs as companions in my life, and the one I'm closest to is still with me, fortunately. But as Clooney is a man's man and an actor's actor, Casey was a dog's dog. Last year on October 6th, I came home from game night and took her and Hannah out to do their business. Mrs. P woke up when I got in (at midnight) and came outside with us. Casey was obviously not well. She seemed very tired and not her normal happy self. We checked her out; her normally pink nose was very pale and her mouth was dry. We knew something wasn't right and so loaded her up in the car and took her to the emergency vet. After checking in and telling the on-duty vet what was going on, they took her back for some testing. After a half hour or so, the vet came back out with a syringe full of blood. She had extracted it from Casey's abdomen and told us that they needed to go in. We went back into the prep room and held her while they sedated her. She was in good spirits (as always) and simply fell asleep. The last time I saw her was when the vet carried her out of prep and into the OR. She died a few hours later.

The diagnosis was splenetic tumors that ruptured. She had had a small tumor on her leg a year or so before, but regular check-ups hadn't picked up anything else. We went home around 6AM to a very empty house. The wife took a Xanax; I abstained in case anything else needed to be done. We laid down to try to get some sleep. I think I slept a couple of hours, but I kept waking up. Casey always laid in between us at night when we slept and I couldn't get used to it. For some reason, Muse's "Sing for Absolution" kept rolling through my internal radio.

The next few weeks were really hard, both for us and for Hannah. Hannah is quite a smart dog, maybe the smartest I've known. But she couldn't understand why Casey wasn't around. Of course, neither could we.

Halloween and Thanksgiving rolled by; we had our Christmas cards made. Each year, we have our picture taken with our dogs. Last year it was just the two of us with Hannah. Sending them out was tough, especially knowing that some of the folks we sent them to wouldn't know about Casey until they got the card.

We kept having to tell the story of what happened.

Mrs. P made me promise to post about Casey. I had already decided that I wouldn't post again until I could. Even now it's difficult to do, but it's time.

After a few weeks, I had started thinking about finding another dog. Obviously not a replacement, but a new companion. Someone that needed a home; we certainly needed a new pack member. Hannah had problems adjusting to being an only dog. We had problems adjusting to being a pack of three. But I didn't want to rush things and I didn't want to do anything without the wife's OK.

A few weeks before Christmas, we were out having dinner when she said she had been thinking about maybe getting another dog. I knew then that it was time.

One of Mrs. P's old friends has started a dog rescue non-profit called Two by Two Rescue. I emailed her and told her I was looking for a new dog. I went out a couple of times and looked at the pups needing homes and finally made a choice: Wilber. He was a big sloppy puppy - half St. Bernard, half Labrador. At nine weeks he was nearly 20 pounds. Because of our holiday schedule, we were going to be out of town on Christmas day, so I convinced a couple of our friends to hold him until we got back the day after.

I went on the 23rd to pick up Wilber. It didn't go quite as planned. First, I was running a bit late. Second, the couple was also going to keep Hannah while we were gone and I ended up forgetting to bring two crates - one for Hannah and one for the new pup. Next, I forgot to bring the collar and tag I had gone and had made for Wilber; Two by Two's policy is that you bring an ID tag when you come to pick up your adoptee. So after I dropped off Hannah, I drove back to the pet store and had another tag made. Except I misspelled my own damn name on this one. Since I didn't know if we were going to change Wilber's name, I decided to just put "Pierce" on the tag with out cell numbers. Unfortunately, I left off the "C" a it simply read "Piere." Yeah, that's a running joke now. Finally, I was all ready and made it to the kennels. However, the lady with the rescue operations was running late and I ended up standing around for nearly an hour until she showed up. Which really worked out for the best; I picked a different dog and our life hasn't been the same since. We ended up with Zoey.

Sometimes I feel like I'm projecting. Zoey has so many of Casey's traits it's stunning. She's playful. She gets the worried "Casey-face." She loves everyone she meets. She's the same build and color (that really wasn't planned!). She loves the cats. She sleeps between us at night.

There are differences. Zoey chases her tail; Casey never did. Casey always tore straight into her dinner; Zoey gets distracted too easily and will leave half her bowl at times.

I know that Zoey isn't a replacement. She's even better. She's what Casey would have wanted us to have.


At the beginning of August, the Wife was driving around running errands and came across a stray barely hanging on to life. After a number of vet trips and nursing, we now have another member of the pack: Lulu.


Happy Anniversary, Shakes

Shakespeare Sister turns 1 today. Here's Morrissey singing the Ruby O'Friday's "Happy Anniversary Song."


NBC13's online Poll has Baxley ahead

Birmingham's NBC affiliate has an online gubenatorial poll today. With ~1400 votes in the survey, the results are:

Baxley-D - 29%
Riley-R (I) - 28%
Siegleman-D - 19% (ex-governor)
Moore-Crazy - 19%
Nall-I - 5% (US Marijuana party!)

My post on earlier polls can be found here.


It's on!

al.com: NewsFlash - Ousted Ala. justice to run for governor: Roy Moore, who became a hero to the religious right after being ousted as Alabama's chief justice for refusing to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from the courthouse, announced Monday that he is running for governor in 2006."

No surprise at all. I just want to re-emphasize this blog's subtitle:

Whenever 'A' attempts by law to impose his moral standards upon 'B', 'A' is most likely a scoundrel.



Wow, two nights in a row of great sports stuff. I'm not a huuuuuuge sports fan, but I love baseball and college football. Last night's Tennessee come from behind win coupled with tonight's division clinch makes for a happy, happy Pierce.

That's not me in the photo, by the way. I wish it were.


Meme from Rook's Rant:

I think that's gonna clash with your shoes, your Honor

I just know it's going to get pushed all the way through the court system wasting resources just like Reverend Judge Moore's plaque and monument cases were.

The good news: McKathan's robes haven't wasted taxpayer resources going through the courts.

The bad news: It looks like nothing's been done about it. I can't find any news on this at all.

Meme instructions:

1. Go into your archive.
2. Find your 23rd post (or closest to).
3. Find the fifth sentence (or closest to).
4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.

From the "I shit you not" files...

CNN.com - Brown serving as consultant to FEMA - Sep 27, 2005.

Brown told congressional investigators Monday that he is being paid as a consultant to help FEMA assess what went wrong in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, according to a senior official familiar with the meeting.

So they're keeping him around to tell them in great detail just how badly he screwed up.



Happy Birthday to Me!

Many thanks to Mrs. P for my cool cool present!


President Nero!

Come get your commemorative t-shirt! I've set up a CafePress storefront to help raise money for Katrina relief. Come on by and pick up a shirt!


Recurring Behavior

SEPTEMBER 14, 2001

Over now familiar refrains of "that's unreal," and "I can't believe it," and pregnant moans of "wow," a spectacle of a different kind captured unblinking New Yorkers yesterday afternoon. Out of Manhattan's Union Square came a welcome and commanding sight: former President Bill Clinton, surrounded by a growing mass of people.

Shortly after 4 p.m. Clinton walked south on University Place, starting at 14th Street. He immediately drew a crowd, most of whom just happened to be walking by. Others emerged from stores and apartments. Many snapped pictures or waved flags in a spontaneous moment of patriotism and giddiness over a celebrity. For his part, Clinton restrained himself from returning smiles, greeting people instead with earnest expressions of concern.


Many said Clinton's short appearance both magnified and made up for what they called President George W. Bush's shortcomings during this crisis. The White House announced that the president would visit New York, for the first time, today.

"So far he has not been a comforting presence," said Emily Vacchiano, 26, who lives in SoHo. "He has not conveyed compassion or strength. Just the sight of him [Clinton] cheered everyone up today."

Michael Siller, 38, also of Manhattan said, "I didn't vote for Clinton but at least I always felt he was in charge. That feeling has been missing here."

DECEMBER 29, 2004

President Bush said Wednesday that he has formed an international coalition to respond to the massive tsunami disaster along coastlines of the Indian Ocean.

The president interrupted his vacation at his Texas ranch to speak with reporters for the first time since Sunday's earthquake-triggered waves killed tens of thousands of people.


This time, Bush has been just as flatfooted. He couldn't seem to break off his schedule in San Diego, where he was commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Allied victory over Japan, while New Orleans filled like a bathtub. His remarks to the country from the Rose Garden yesterday about the Katrina disaster seemed oddly terse; his litany of aid meaningless without context. Sending five million military MRE meals sounded impressive until you realized there may be a million American refugees at this point. Does that mean we're only handing out five meals per person? And his interview with Diane Sawyer of ABC News seemed weirdly out of touch. His smirk came back; he stumbled into jargon like SPRo, the nickname for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and said things that seemed patently out of touch, including the now-infamous remark that no one could have foreseen the levee breaking. His inability to see any moral distinction between those who steal water and those who loot TV sets seemed odd—and at odds with local politicians like New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu. Then where was the call for sacrifice? While southern governors like Georgia Republican Sonny Perdue worried publicly about gas shortfalls as soon as this weekend and begged for conservation, Bush seemed to do so only as an afterthought.

Bush's behavior shouldn't surprise anyone anymore. It's only stunning that he keeps getting away with it.


Condi's showing her true side as well

I'm spittin' mad

No explanation necessary:

President Bush plays a guitar presented to him by Country Singer Mark Wills, right, backstage following his visit to Naval Base Coronado, Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2005. Bush visited the base to deliver remarks on V-J Commemoration Day.

via BoingBoing



I have a feeling that one day in the future I'll be able to tell my unborn children that I watched the destruction of New Orleans on TV. From NOAA's site:







This is going to be bad.